Living Smart: Curb Appeal

Curb appeal has always been a key component of selling a home. A well-manicured lawn, fresh paint on the front door and a clean exterior — from siding to windows to driveways and sidewalks — can immediately entice or repel a prospective buyer.

 Nowadays, with the majority of buyers shopping for homes online before ever stepping foot on a property, the trick for sellers is to capture that curb appeal through photographs. Jim Hughes of Greenwell Realty and Property Management in Andover, Minn., recommends homeowners hire a professional photographer to help them capture their curb appeal to lure in buyers.

 “The quality of the photograph is almost as important as the curb appeal itself,” Hughes said. “We’ll see great pictures that are taken in dim light or from bad angles all the time and they’ll get dismissed just as quickly as those (homes) that are not well-prepared (in curb appeal). That first glimpse might be the only shot you’ll get at the buyer having interest in your home.”

 Once you get that prospective buyer on your property, how the home looks from the outside and immediately upon entering is key to drawing in or turning off a buyer, Hughes said.

 “You want to make darned sure your entryway is super clean,” Hughes said. “People should feel comfortable walking in your house in their (socks). The first impression is the main reason for that, but the second reason is they’re really looking for a critical reason to eliminate the house while their Realtor is (unlocking the door). At that time, the buyer’s senses are overwhelmed. They’re absorbing everything they see with a lot more detail than once they get inside.”

 Aside from general exterior maintenance — cleaning cobwebs, clearing the yard of any weeds, debris or decorative ornaments (think pink flamingos) — homeowners looking to sell should repair cracked windows or screens, fix small nuisances like a broken doorbell, and add fresh mulch or stones to garden beds. Cleaning asphalt roofs of black streaks, power washing siding and sidewalks, or sealcoating an asphalt driveway, can all enhance the appearance of the home.

Adding a fresh coat of paint is another cost-effective way to freshen up a home, inside or out. If your home is older and in need of updates, kitchens and bathrooms are the rooms that generate the most return on your investment. Consider upgrading laminate countertops with quartz or granite; changing out old light fixtures or replacing brass fixtures with brushed nickel, said Robin Burrill an interior designer and CEO of Curb Appeal Renovations in Keller, Texas.

Before embarking on any remodeling project, though, it’s important to talk with your contractor and real estate agent to make sure the project makes sense, will generate the return you’re seeking and fits with the other existing properties in your neighborhood.

“I think the most important facet is making sure whatever you do, that the remodel looks like it goes with the house,” Burrill said. “So many times, we’ll see people do a room addition or an outdoor living space and it doesn’t look like it goes with the home. A perfect example would be a patio cover. They’ll do a shed roof or a flat roof for a patio cover, whereas, if they had gone ahead and spent the money and went with (a style) that fits that home, it would add so much to that curb appeal and to the value of the home.”

Hiring a good real estate professional can help you decide the right projects to get the most out of your curb appeal. Hughes retains a professional home stager on staff to help prepare his clients homes for sale.

“Good curb appeal is like having an auction to sell everything you own,” Hughes said. “If, on the day of the auction, you get a big rainstorm, you’re not going to get much money for your items because the audience will be smaller. Essentially, the same is true with curb appeal. If you do a good job on curb appeal, you’ll have more buyers that are interested. Though they might not make offers, you’ll have a larger audience of buyers.”

———before-after-curb-appeal

ABOUT THE WRITER

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care.

STAGING TIPS AND TRICKS

Most people know that staging a home is important — especially where the competition for home sales is stiff. With an abundance of properties to look at, your home needs to impress buyers. While you might know the basics when it comes to staging a home (like deep cleaning every nook and cranny and tidying up your lawn) there are always little adjustments you can make to entice buyers. It never hurts to go above and beyond to make your home as appealing as possible. Following are four staging tricks you might not know.

Buy a New Welcome Mat

Most potential buyers will enter your home through the front door. Your lawn and front door will be the first thing seen by buyers. Beyond commonly known advice like keeping trees, bushes, and your lawn tidy and trimmed, little details matter, too. Forbes recommends looking at your welcome mat (if you have one). Is it worn down by weather and sun exposure? Is it looking dingy? Consider replacing your welcome mat. For less than $20, a new welcome mat will make buyers feel welcome and leave an impression that your home is well taken care of.

Spruce Up Your Foyer

Again, like your front entrance, the foyer is the first room inside the house buyers will see. While this room might be small, little decorative touches and an impeccably clean appearance can set the stage for what the rest of your home has to offer. De-clutter your foyer of shoes and piles of mail. Do a deep clean and throw away or store anything that doesn’t add to the space. Better Homes and Gardens advises home owners to place a small table against the wall with an arrangement of fresh flowers on it or replace dingy, dated light fixtures to modernize the room. This will lend a welcoming and homey atmosphere without crowding what is already a small space.

Float Your Furniture

The way you place your furniture is important, and the positioning of couches, chairs, and tables can affect the perception of a room’s size. Most folks’ instinct is to push furniture against the walls to open up space in the center of a room. While this is common and instinctual, you should actually do the opposite according to Better Homes and Gardens. Pull sofas and chairs away from the walls and place them in cozy, conversational groups. This will define a room’s space while also making it appear larger and more inviting.

Keep Bedrooms and Bathrooms Gender-Neutral

Spaces that appear overly masculine or feminine can turn off buyers and narrow your home’s mass appeal. Whenever possible, it is best to stick to a neutral color palette with gender-neutral textures and designs. For instance, if you have floral, pink bedding, swapping it out for beige and gray tones will appeal to more buyers. This is especially important in master bedrooms, according to HGTV.

These four tips along with standard advice like cleaning and de-cluttering should help you get a decent start with staging a home. For more tips, give me a shout!

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18 Mistakes Most Sellers Make When Putting Their Home on the Market

  1. Pricing your home too high: Have a professional determine comparable sales and listing competition. You want top dollar, and you want all the buyers to see your home.  The top agents know how to walk that fine line.
  1. Small repairs bring big profits and fast sales: Have a professional give you low-cost solutions to minor repairs that will yield big profits. I arrange for a professional inspection for my sellers so we are actually selling “pre-inspected properties”, which is another reason why I get more showings for my sellers.
  1. Not considering other financing terms (besides cash): Have a professional give you options that may be better than cash for you, the homeowner, and financing options that excite a buyer. All of my sellers have a flyer that we give them on the “Fifteen Ways a Buyer Can Finance” detailing how new buyers can finance your home.
  1. Market Timing: Have a professional determine if the market cycle is poised to net you the most money. At least ask to be shown how you make profits in a down market.  There are opportunities in good and bad markets.  At Sanford Systems, we study market trends and know what is around the corner.
  1. Providing easy access for showings: There are many ways to show a home. Appointment only is the most restrictive; lock boxes are the least restrictive.  Have a professional help you determine which is best for your lifestyle.  I have a full-time staff that will make sure your home is shown when that buyer is ready.  Another exclusive service of Sanford Systems is that we train each of the agents in our office on how to best show your home.
  1. Staging your property correctly: Can you put items in storage? Create more light or music?  Walter can help you with ideas, a handyman, or designer.  We have the experience and ‘know how’ to make your property a better value every week.
  1. Choosing the right REALTOR®: If your home didn’t sell last time, make sure and get it right this time with someone who knows the market and how to create a customized marketing plan to bring top dollar.
  1. Believing that selling property is seasonal: Do not base selling decisions on the seasons. Property is always selling.  In fact, in the traditional “off times” there is less inventory, and, therefore, more activity on individual properties as a result.  One of my biggest months for sales and seller success has been XXXX.
  1. Pricing their home too low: One reason to hire Walter is to make sure that no money is left on the table. We will make sure all of the features and benefits are not only brought out in a real world marketing campaign, but also that you get paid for them.
  1. Not using current marketing technology: Make sure your agent is on the “Information Highway” with 800 interactive voice recognition systems, personal web sites, search engine technology, and the latest in buyer communications. Check out our web site and buyer resources here XXXXX.
  1. Re‑evaluating the marketing plan every 10 days: The market, you, and your property require intuitive changes on a regular basis. That is why we schedule a meeting with our seller clients every ten working days.
  1. Believing the agent is not doing the job: Do you know that 80% of buyer activity comes from signs and the MLS? Even the most mediocre agent can bring these tools.  So if you lack showing problems look at your price, terms, and staging first.  At Sanford Systems we can add value to your property in many ways.
  1. Ignoring first impressions from the buyer: Sales are often hampered by unkempt lawns, cluttered closets, unpainted front doors, hard‑to‑work locks, dead light bulbs, bad colors, stains, unlit areas, and unusual smells. Spend time on the little things; double up on your gardener, keep things cleaner than usual and “marshal” the pets.  Understanding you still have a life, I will give you a simple list of small items to consider.
  1. Not giving the sales effort enough time: You should never give too little time to something that is inherently a long process. Estimate the time you have to sell and then add some time so that you are never put in the position of having to do something based on deadlines. Walter can help you with the average time on market in your area in your price range.  We do, however, pride ourselves on beating the average days on market, as published by our Multiple Listing Service.
  1. Dealing with unqualified or unsavory characters: One of the best reasons to hire a real estate professional is they have the ability to pre‑qualify a prospect before valuable negotiation time is lost. More importantly, they have the tools to discover if a prospect’s motivation to see your home may be other than purchasing a house.  Understand that I use a team approach in achieving your goals as a seller.  One of my team members is a local lender who I will involve in your sale early who will pre-approve every buyer that I show your home to.
  1. Believing they are powerless to make a difference: Top agents in the industry report that sellers themselves are responsible for one out of six sales. You can network with your business and personal friends, hand out flyers to your personnel department, and keep the house “ready to move into.”  Your professional real estate agent should be ready to hand out all sorts of easy assignments to make the “team effort” successful.  I have a list of thirty items you can help with, if you are so inclined.
  1. Testing the market: Never put your property on the market unless you really want to sell. Get ready for a professional sales effort if you list with a great agent.  If your plan includes indecision, be prepared for frustration because top dollar sales success is Walter’s objective.
  1. Not setting up expectations with their agent: Your agent needs to guarantee how fast the return phone calls are made, how many websites your home will be on, numbers of showings, and a myriad of other goals. Sanford systems provides these guarantees (as many as 300 marketing points) in writing.

by Walter Sanford

5 kitchen design trends you may want to rethink

Serious home chefs, or just house-proud owners, might consider the kitchen their showstopper room—the one that will stop potential buyers dead in their tracks. And that’s why they add all the upgrades, accoutrements, and trendy new finishes they can possibly find. To some extent, they’re absolutely right—a great kitchen can make a buyer fall deeply in love.Open Kitchen Storage

But it doesn’t always work that way.

An inherent danger of taking a deep dive into modern design is accepting the harsh fact that today’s trends may be tomorrow’s “Oh, God, remember that?” fads such as fake brick or hideaway appliances. With the average kitchen remodel pushing $20,000, designing without foresight can be a costly and embarrassing mistake.

Some trends such as subway tile and granite countertops have a long tail: Designers expect they’ll be in style for the foreseeable future, so you’re safe giving them a starring role in your makeover.

Others are doomed to fade hard and fast. Such as…

Mixed metals

Combining bronze and copper in the kitchen might give the room an “eclectic” look, but in a few years, chances are good it will just look confused. Same goes for stainless steel and gold, or nickel and brass.

“Anybody who mixes metals besides Rolex is an idiot, and maybe Rolex is an idiot, too,” says Chicago kitchen designer Scott Dresner of Dresner Design. “Some people think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s just not. I think it’s appalling.”

He should know: Dresner has designed more than 7,000 kitchens, and his airy Chicago renovation won K+BB’s 2014 Kitchen of the Year Design Award.

Still want the look? Try mixing in different metals with replaceable hardware such as drawer pulls and towel rings, so you can easily ditch them if you put your home on the market.

DIY concrete countertops

Making your own concrete countertops is all the rage on Pinterest, but kitchen designers think the trend is already passé.

“The DIY concrete countertops have become a nightmare,” says Yarmouth, ME, designer Jeanne Rapone. “Every call I’ve had about those counters  is all about people calling me wanting them ripped out of the house they just bought. They hate the concrete.”

Because countertops are the kitchen’s primary focal point, it’s important to ensure their longevity. Picking a trendy material will—at best—annoy the hell out of you in a few years. In a decade, it might make your home impossible to sell. Better to spend a bit more on a surface you’ll love for a long time.

Open shelving

There’s a time and a place for open shelving—a few simple marble-and-steel slabs can look stunning. But swapping all of your cabinetry for open shelving is a soon-to-be-outdated fad.

“Open shelving is a thing that could be done very elegantly or very cheaply,” says Dresner. Simply pulling off the cabinet doors to mimic the effect is a surefire path to an unattractive, dust-collecting kitchen. If you’re interested in the look, a designer can help you combine minimalism, style, and functionality.

Rapone believes open shelving was a “complete economic response to the 2008 recession,” when homeowners wanted to redesign their kitchen but lacked the budget for extensive cabinetry upgrades. Under financial strain, “they’re willing to do stuff like open shelving in the kitchen, which saves a lot of money. It came out of good intentions, but now people say, ‘No, Jeanne, I’m tired of dusting shelves. I’ll pay for the doors now.’”

Reclaimed wood

Another recession response that’s fast approaching (or already surpassing) its sell-by date, reclaimed wood can look either superb or terrible, depending on its application.

As an accent, it’s perfect: “I love reclaimed wood. I love the idea of reusing something,” Dresner says. “Reclaimed wood on your island top could be gorgeous.” But what happens when you go beyond accents? “If you’re using it to make cabinets, I think it’s garbage. It looks horrible, and it’s not the right way to use that type of wood.”

So if you’re itching to integrate repurposed wood into your kitchen style, focus on horizontal surfaces, where it has a tabletop effect.

“We see people going a little overboard with the reclaimed look,” Rapone says. “A reclaimed wood island countertop will last a lifetime, but reclaimed cabinetry with barn doors and a real rustic look—that’s a trend that will be way out of style soon.”

Industrial style

Unless you’re living in a loft, skip the stainless-steel countertops, exposed Edison bulbs, and aluminum shelving.

“The industrial look is making its way out,” Rapone says. If you want the effect without the commitment, she recommends finding an industrial-looking lamp that can be easily swapped out when the trend passes its prime.

“In five years—when everyone’s, like, ‘Wow, remember when we did that in 2014?’—you can take it down and replace it with something else,” she says. “That way, you’re not changing out $30,000 in cabinetry.”

But whatever you do, Dresner strongly recommends avoiding the exposed-lightbulb look.

“There are so many cool lights at Restoration Hardware that have that industrial feel, versus something that looks like it should be in the basement of an old building hanging from a block,” he says.

Jamie Wiebe has written about home design and real estate for House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Veranda, and more. She loves vintage furniture, collecting fluffy blankets, and DIY-ing everything.

 

Posted from Crystal Edgerly

6 Rules to Follow When Pricing Your Home

It’s time to move on. You’ve decided to sell your home and embark on a new adventure.

Unfortunately, potential buyers don’t care about how long you obsessed over choosing the perfect bathroom tiles or the number of carpenters you interviewed to make the perfect built-in bookcase. To the buyer, those items may not matter to the value of the home, even if you think they should.

When it’s time to sell, you have to price your home right, using tangible factors. Here are six rules to remember:

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1. Price is king

Your asking price determines how long the home will sit on the market. Pricing the home too high may reduce the number of interested buyers, which can cause your home to sit on the market too long. If your house is on the market too long, it may create the perception that there’s something wrong with it. It can also lead a buyer to think that you’re desperate for an offer. You want to avoid these outcomes and not overvalue your home.

On the flip side, pricing the home too low may create some skepticism and raise unwanted questions about the home’s true value. This will hit you in the bank account if multiple offers don’t drive the price up to its true market value.

2. Use comparable sales 

The simplest way to figure out the right price for your home is to compare similar homes that have sold in your neighborhood. Instead of skulking in the shadows and casing the neighbor’s house, use realtor.com to check out nearby stats.

Compare your house with those with the same number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage. If you find comparable homes with similar floor plans and outdoor space, all the better. See how many homes in your area have sold recently and what they went for. You can also work with a real estate agent to help you compare houses.

3. Compare fairly

Make sure your comparison is fair. If there are neighborhoods in your city that are more desirable, consider that in your comparison. Also consider your location and what buyers want. If a similarly sized new-construction townhouse sold for top dollar down the block, you may not get the same amount for your cute ’40s bungalow.

4. Check the market history

To get a more comprehensive picture of the real estate market in your neighborhood, check the listing history of a home. Compare the original asking price with the final sale price, and note the amount of time the house was on the market until it sold. A REALTOR® can help you with this step.

If you’re looking to speed up the process, you may want to price your house a bit lower. However, if profit is your motive, you may need to wait a few months for a sale on the high end of the spectrum.

5. Consider special improvements

Consider whether major improvements you’ve made warrant a higher asking price. If you’ve remodeled the kitchen and put down a new parquet floor, or if you really feel the special woodwork details will clinch the sale, make sure those enhancements are reflected in the price of the home. Be reasonable. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get as much money as you expected—improvements don’t always recoup their cost.

6. Don’t ignore supply and demand

In a buyer’s market, with many homes for sale and sellers competing for attention, you may want to ask a bit less for your home to make it more attractive to potential buyers. In a seller’s market, where there is little home supply and much buyer demand, you may want to ask a bit more and maximize your profit.

Updated from an earlier version by Aviva Friedlander

Craig Donofrio lives in New Orleans, where he writes about real estate and finance news. He enjoys books, football, Scotch, unusual video games, Southern architecture, and learning new random subjects.

Posted from Crystal Edgerly

More Sellers, Buyers Say: We Need an Agent

Fewer home sellers and buyers are opting to navigate their home sale or purchase on their own, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report. Nearly 90 percent of respondents surveyed say they worked with a real estate agent to buy or sell a home.

That has pushed for-sale-by-owner transactions to the lowest share ever, according to the survey.

Eighty-nine percent of sellers said they sold their home with an agent, while for-sale-by-owner sales only accounted for about 8 percent of transactions (down from 9 percent the last three years).

“Although the Internet and digital technology have created several channels for sellers to market their listings to a wider cast of potential buyers, the preference to use a REALTOR® to sell a home has never been stronger,” says Chris Polychron, NAR’s president.

The majority of home buyers reported that the Internet was their first step in their home search. Still, 88 percent of buyers who searched for homes online ended up purchasing through a real estate agent.

“Although buyers between the ages of 18-24 were the most likely to use an agent (90 percent), over 85 percent of buyers in each of the other age categories also used an agent during their home search,” Polychron says. “With tight inventory conditions leading to stiff competition in several parts of the country and what’s found online sometimes not entirely accurate, buyers are turning to REALTORS® for expert advice and assistance in navigating today’s fast-moving housing market.”

The home search resources that are gaining the most popularity lately are mobile and tablet applications, increasing from 45 percent in 2013 to 61 percent use among buyers this year.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

Solo Sales: FSBOs’ Costly Mistake

Forty-eight percent of home owners who sell their home without a real estate agent believe that if they sell themselves they’ll have to just do a little extra work and then be able to save on having to pay a commission or closing fee. But research shows that for-sale-by-owners actually end up having to spend a lot more time than they ever imagined and tend to end up with a final selling price that is lower than comparable listings that were sold by an agent, according to research by the National Association of REALTORS®.

Eighty-nine percent of all homes sold this year were sold with the assistance of a real estate professional, according to NAR’s 2015 Home Buyers and Sellers Profile report. But for a small number of people, they still prefer to do it alone. Eight percent of home sellers chose to list themselves – a record low of for-sale-by-owner transactions, according to NAR’s survey, which dates back to 1981.

“In reality, homes sold by the owner make less money overall,” according to NAR’s Economists’ Outlook blog.

Take a look at the numbers from NAR’s survey: The median selling price for all FSBO homes was $210,000 last year. When the buyer knew the seller in FSBO sales, the number sinks to the median selling price of $151,90. However, homes that were sold with the assistance of an agent had a median selling price of $249,000 – nearly $40,000 more for the typical home sale.

Source: “Selling Your Home Solo to Save Money? You’ll Actually Make Less Than You Think,” National Association of REALTORS® Economists’ Outlook Blog (Nov. 9, 2015)