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Dressing Up the Dining Room: Successful Staging Tips to Create a Memorable Look

June 7, 2013 5:42 pm

Staging your home is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to putting your home’s best foot forward when preparing for a sale. While the process of staging may seem overwhelming, it’s crucial that you pay attention to each and every room—even the dining room.

When it comes to preparing the dining room, don’t overlook the table. While some people believe that setting out a full place setting for four is the way to go, others think a more subtle approach—incorporating flowers or a glass pitcher of water—is the best way to draw attention to the room.

While a full place setting might be nice, it can actually take the attention away from the size of the room and may even set the wrong mood that the house is “too fancy.” If you do decide to use dishes, make sure anything you set out follows the color scheme of the room. Be sure to complete the set with cloth napkins and nice glassware.

If you choose not to go with a place setting, set out a bowl of fake fruit to add color to the room. In addition, use neutral placemats and always use flowers in a decorative vase if you can.

Additionally, many home stagers will recommend that you remove the leaf in your table (if it seats eight or more) and instead display six seats. This is a simple way to make sure prospective buyers have enough space to walk around and really get a feel for the room.

Regardless of what you decide to do with the table, there are plenty of other things to consider when staging a dining room. A dining space should look comfortable, have good lighting and make the prospective buyer imagine entertaining their friends over an elegant meal or dining with the family during the holidays.

If you’re dealing with a smaller room, it’s important to accentuate the table, perhaps illuminating it with an antique chandelier. Hang a mirror on the wall opposite the window to add light and make the space seem larger.

When it comes to incorporating light into the space, candles are always a nice touch. You may even want to think about placing an antique-style floor lamp in the corner to create a memorable look.

It’s also a good idea to ensure that the walls of the room aren’t left empty. Display large artwork or plateware and make a big statement with the room. And be sure to repaint your personal color choices with warm neutral tones.

The last thing you need to pay attention to when staging your dining room is making sure there isn’t too much furniture crammed into the area. While a china closet can be lovely to look at, you don’t want the space to look cluttered, so pick a few key pieces that make the room stand out. A wine rack is a great addition to the dining space, but you may want to remove the wine refrigerator if you have one. The same goes for excess chairs. Use them elsewhere in the house or store them out of the way.

While a dining room may not be the most important area when it comes to attracting prospective buyers, it’s a room that can get people thinking about special events and family gatherings. Creating an area that dazzles potential buyers can set the stage for a successful sale to come.

Contact our office today for more tips on staging your home.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Understanding Real Estate Comps - What You Need to Know When Pricing Your Home

June 7, 2013 5:42 pm

Determining a listing price is one of the most important items you’ll have to tackle when it comes to getting your home sold without it languishing on the market. While coming up with a price that isn’t too high—or too low—may seem daunting, looking at comps can help when it comes to making an educated decision.

What a lot of people who put their house on the market don’t realize, is that when you look at comps, you need to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. That means that even though you may be neighbors, the four-bedroom, three-bathroom home with a pool and finished basement isn’t comparable to your three-bedroom, one-bathroom house with an unfinished basement. In fact, a house six blocks away may be a better comp if it is a similar age and size with a similar number of rooms.

Your agent has the tools to present you with the best comps in your area, and once they do, you can decide on the best price together. They get their information from the MLS database, looking at all the properties in a given area that have been listed “for sale,” are pending or have already sold.

A number of factors go into a comp to justify a listing price, including being located in the same neighborhood and school district. Additional factors include the street, similar housing features and size. If two houses are similar in these areas, then a comp can be used to provide a current estimated value of your home.

When it comes to working with comps, the best one would be from a home that’s the same age, on the same street, with the same number of rooms and one that closed in the last 90 days. However, it’s important to keep in mind that things don’t always work out this way, and comps are sometimes taken from “close” properties or sales from further back. Both can be detrimental when it comes to establishing a true value.

When presented with the comps, take some time to look at what features are common among all of them so that you can begin to get an idea as to what people in your area are looking for in a home. Are houses with Energy Star appliances selling? Maybe updated bathrooms are big. Perhaps those with gardens are going strong. Reviewing the comps can provide a lot of insight about sales in your neighborhood.

Your agent will most likely have seen many of these houses up close if they work regularly in the neighborhood and their expertise will provide them with an understanding in regard to what works best and sells fastest. Listen to their advice.

In the end, it’s important to keep in mind that if a house on your block sold for $400,000 last week and another close by sold for close to the same amount a month earlier, that doesn’t mean that your house will automatically be valued the same.

For more information about comps, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Languishing on the Market? 5 Tips to Up the Ante and Gain a Competitive Edge

June 7, 2013 5:42 pm

For home sellers across the board, there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing your house sit on the market day after day, week after week or even month after month. If your home has been languishing on the market, it may be time to up the ante. Instead of simply lowering your asking price, the following tips may just give your home the edge it needs to stand above the competition.

1. Try holding an open house on a weeknight. While house hunters typically set aside time on the weekend to house hunt, there will always be people who can’t make those Saturday and Sunday appointments. Holding an open house on a weeknight is a great way to attract this crowd. With less competition for weeknight open houses, prospective buyers will be able to spend more time imagining themselves living in your home.

2. Paint and depersonalize. If your house is full of rooms that feature bold colors and lots of “interesting” furniture, it may be time to go more neutral and basic. Hire a professional stager to furnish the home so that it appeals to a wider range of buyers. By changing up the house a little and posting new pictures online, you’ll bring in more potential buyers.

3. View your home through the eyes of a buyer. Take your iPhone—or any other video app you may have—and record yourself walking through each room of your house, taking on the role of a potential buyer. Make sure to go in every room, check out every closet and pay attention to appliances and fixtures. After, watch the tape and take an objective approach to what looks good and what doesn’t. Often times we are blinded by our love for our own home and can’t see the forest for the trees. This simple exercise is an easy way to put yourself in a potential buyer’s shoes.

4. Upgrade the kitchen or bathroom. You might not want to put any more money into a house that you hope to be out of in a month’s time, but sometimes, spending money in one of these areas will pay off in the long run. Make these rooms memorable and people will want to buy. Even if you don’t get your full investment back, if it helps you sell your home, it’s a win.

5. Review comparables. Sit down with your agent review the details regarding homes that have sold within the last three months and see if anything has changed. What may have been a fair price when you put your house up for sale, may seem overvalued now. If your price is out of line with the neighborhood comps, be ready to adjust.

For more tips on gaining a competitive edge in today’s market, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Playing with Light - Brighten Up Your Space and Create an Inviting Atmosphere for Prospective Buyers

June 7, 2013 5:42 pm

With all the tasks that go into preparing a home for a showing, many sellers often overlook the effect that light has on creating an inviting atmosphere for prospective buyers. In fact, even if you have natural light streaming in through the windows, it’s also a good idea to take advantage of the various light sources within the home.

As any real estate agent will tell you, a home looks more inviting when the lights are on. Not only do lights prevent harsh shadows from the sun and brighten dim areas, they also add dimension to rooms and bring out all the best features that you’ve worked so hard to clean and get ready for the showing.

In addition to brightening up a space, lighting experts reveal that lights can play tricks with the mind, helping to enhance the physical size of a room or hide any shortcomings. For example, if a room is on the smaller side, you can “push” one wall open by washing it with light. If a room is on the narrower side, illuminate the wide sides of the room to give it size.

When it comes to lighting, there are three areas that must be considered. General lighting, which provides the majority of light to a room; accent lighting, which highlights and draws attention to certain aspects of the home; and task lighting, which helps light a specific area to help complete a particular task.

For example, high-hats or recessed down-lights are a great choice for ceilings. For bedrooms, additional lighting can be added to the space by incorporating floor lamps or table lamps. Bathrooms should have vanity lights next to the mirror and the kitchen should have strong task lighting, with down-lights shining on countertops and the sink.

You should also include decorative lights in the living room, dining room and any other rooms with something to highlight. Chandeliers make a great light source, especially if they have bright light emanating from them.

If you’re in the process of getting your house ready for sale, be sure to purchase new light bulbs for all lamps and lighting fixtures. Go with higher wattages and crisp white light, and stay away from any tints. You may also want to think about removing (and saving) florescent LED lights and installing brighter bulbs.

The same is true with exterior lights. Flip them on before prospective buyers show up so that they can see everything your house and yard has to offer.

When it comes to lighting, it’s important to remember that strong lighting can make a home memorable and desirable.

To learn more about incorporating light into your space, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Seller Concessions Ease Financial Burden Associated with Home Purchase

June 7, 2013 5:42 pm

As anyone who has purchased a home can tell you, buying a house is an expensive proposition. From saving for a down payment to setting aside money for closing costs and everything else associated with a home purchase, your bank account is undoubtedly feeling strained. If you find yourself in this situation and you’ve already been approved for a loan, seller concessions may help when it comes to alleviating the final cost.

These concessions can either be a set dollar amount or percentage of the purchase price that a seller agrees to contribute to the buyer to help the closing go smoothly and keep the sale from lingering while the buyer tries to find the extra money.

It’s always a good idea to talk with your real estate agent about your desire for a seller concession before making an offer on a home. Your agent can then put these concessions in the sales contract so that you don’t catch the seller by surprise when asking for concessions later on.

In some cases, your mortgage lender can include your need for a seller concession in their pre-approval letter, although this could scare people off from accepting your offer.

A conventional loan contract generally allows sellers to offer assistance with the buyer’s closing costs up to three percent of the total price of the property. The FHA allows up to six percent of the price and VA allows up to four percent.

The good news for sellers is that they’ll be able to deduct some of their concession money from their taxes. For example, discount points and real estate taxes most often will be tax deductible.

For buyers, it’s important to remember that you must use all the money offered by the seller, as anything not applied toward closing costs will be credited back to the seller. To keep this from happening, the money can be applied to home owner’s insurance, taxes or even dues for an HOA. The remaining concession can also be used to buy down the interest rate, lowering one’s payment and saving thousands of dollars over the life of a loan.

Seller concessions are beneficial to both parties in the transaction as they help when it comes to closing a sale quicker while giving the buyer some funds to buy things for their new home. When used properly, seller concessions can be the difference between closing a home sale and losing one.

To learn more about seller concessions, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Real Estate Comps

June 7, 2013 5:42 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines how seller concessions are beneficial to both parties within a real estate transaction as they help when it comes to closing a sale quicker. Other topics covered this month include tips to give your home a competitive edge in today’s market and how to successfully stage your dining room to create a memorable look. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Find the Perfect Retirement Destination

June 7, 2013 5:02 am

Searching for the perfect active adult community to enjoy during retirement creates all sorts of questions. Do you want to live somewhere else? If so, where? Do you want warmth and sunshine? Do you want to stay close to family? Do you want a condo or single family home? With questions like these, doing your homework is important, and so it's best to start early.

According to research conducted by ProMatura, a global market research and advisory firm specializing in 50+ consumers, active adult home buyers visit an average of 4.6 active adult communities before making a final purchase decision, and they visit the community that they ultimately choose an average of 3.8 times before making that final decision. Unless you’re Lori Rust and her husband Kevin Jordan.

Lori and Kevin began their search for the best retirement location at age 50. Six years, six states and thirty-five communities later, they believe they have found “home.” The two, living in Denver, Colo. at the time their search began, thought about the longevity of their careers and what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives.

“We’re both analytical people,” says Jordan, who is now working in real estate sales. “We needed to take the emotion out of the process and focus on things that would enhance our lives, and so we created a list of important characteristics and applied a weighted score.”

It wasn’t an easy process. Kevin, a New York native, wanted to be close to the action with cultural and retail offerings, while Lori, who grew up in Montana, wanted open spaces, beautiful views and clean air. “We started with a blank canvas,” says Kevin. We were willing to consider most everywhere in the country. We looked at the Carolinas, Florida, Texas, California and Arizona. We had to decide what areas would we enjoy, and then drill down to what state, what area, what community, and then the home. It ultimately has less to do with the house and more to do with everything else,” he notes.

Also among their many considerations were a warm climate, access to quality golf and the ability to get on the course during peak season. Plus, they wanted a good value that allowed them to live within their means and still enjoy the extras. And, they wanted to be in an area attractive to fellow baby boomers.

For this couple, as they looked ahead to the next phase of their life, being in an area appealing to aging baby boomers was important. They knew they wanted to be working and interfacing with this huge demographic, the first of the 78-million boomers began turning 65 last year. Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 and 10,000 a day are now turning 65.

“When researching communities, one of the most illuminating things you can do is talk to the people who live there. You’ll learn more than you can imagine,” says Lori.

Below are some more important things to go over when searching for the perfect retirement destination:

-What are your weather and climate preferences?
-If interested, is there quality golf and the ability to get tee times in peak season?
-What is the average age of the residents?
-What is the proximity to commercial services, culture and restaurants?
-Is the cost of living reasonable?
-How well-built is the home?
-Do the onsite amenities, if any, match your lifestyle needs?

Source: ProMatura

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Real Estate Spending Trends - Grounds, Lawn and Landscape Care

June 7, 2013 5:02 am

A new U.S. online survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of PLANET, the national trade association of landscape industry professionals, shows that consumers are looking to increase spending on hardscapes (outdoor kitchens, patios, decks, water features, and walkways) and other specialized services (irrigation and lighting). Hardscaping is comprised of outdoor living spaces and paved, non-living components of a landscape.

The study surveyed 2,219 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 1,830 have a lawn or landscape. Consumers were asked about their spending on professional lawn and landscape services from lawn care and landscape maintenance to tree care, water features, and outdoor lighting.

Overall Spending Trends

While overall consumer spending is expected to remain steady in most categories, landscape maintenance (mowing, edging, leaf cleanup) will see a modest increase in spending ($700 on average in the coming year vs. $600 in the past year), while spending will increase to hire a professional for hardscapes and specialty services ($2,300 on average in the coming year vs. $1,680 in the past year).

“Despite the sluggish economy, our core landscape maintenance services are holding steady, while consumers are deciding to increase their investment in projects that encourage ‘staycations’ and outdoor entertaining, and ultimately improve the resale value of the home,” said PLANET CEO, Sabeena Hickman, CAE, CMP.

Who is spending the most on landscape services?

Men outpace women when it comes to hiring professional landscape help over the past year (39 percent vs. 32 percent), and younger adults, ages 18 to 34, stand out as most likely to have hired professionals for the building of outdoor living spaces, patios, and walkways over the past year (9 percent vs. 3 percent of those age 35+).

In general, 35 percent of those with a lawn/landscape have hired professionals to do lawn and landscape services over the past year, with those in the South (38 percent) and West (40 percent) being more likely to have hired a professional than those in the Midwest (29 percent.)

Why do consumers find value in hiring landscape services?

The most often cited reasons for hiring a professional for lawn/landscape services are as follows: “They don’t have the knowledge, skills or physical ability” (42 percent), and “they don’t have the right equipment” (42 percent) to do the landscape work themselves.

Interestingly, younger adults (18 to 34) were more likely than their older counterparts to say “don’t have the patience” as a reason to hire a professional.

“Eighteen to 34 year olds might be more digitally connected than their parents, but they are still putting a high priority on outdoor entertainment areas. They are looking to landscape professionals to take on work that is not only time-consuming, but also requires a high degree of expertise to be done well,” added Hickman.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Easy Ways to Tackle Interior Project Planning

June 7, 2013 5:02 am

Home remodeling and redecorating can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also be an awful lot of hard work. Among the many areas of focus for project work are stages of planning, getting any required licenses or permits, interviewing subcontractors and getting proposals with bids, looking over materials and making selections and making sure the entire project is on track and remains that way through completion. And many people find enjoyment as well as fulfillment with making material selections: choosing just the right color combinations and patterns, the best products and service for the budget and top quality providers to help build your projects. Consider the following suggestions when planning your interior project plans:

1) Budgeting Basics--Start by seeing if you have to completely remodel or if perhaps you can redecorate instead, and save money and time. Remodeling often means ripping apart old structures and then building new ones; like for extra space for a new window or set of shelves or a new room, ceiling or floor. However, with redecorating, you can frequently add simple new structures to those in your existing environment like a new bookcase, new curtains and plush carpeting, or new textured ceiling paint with all paper plus new hanging pictures and plush cushions.

2) Contractors, Invoices, Project Materials and More—Next, you will have a lot of decisions to make: which project materials to buy, which vendors to use, which subcontractors to hire, how to agree to payments, how to handle problems and other important issues and emergencies along the way, etc. So start a project notebook with an accompanying folder specifically for this project. Keep all important documents, receipts, bids, business cards, designs, paint colors, fabric swatches and other info there, to ensure that everything is in one place.

3) Project Parts - Some areas of your project may have sub-categories or basic design elements that will involve work with different areas of focus for each part. For example, you may be remodeling one floor, so you'll have several main areas of focus under this heading like: bedroom walls, hallway and bedroom floors, all window treatments, upgraded lighting and new wood furniture. Use dividers in your notebook, extra folders or extra see-through sleeved pocket folders that fit into your binder to handle these separate areas of focus, so you can concentrate on specific tasks within each area.

With the proper planning, you can choose the easiest and most affordable redecorating or remodeling options that best suit your home's needs.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Things Parents Should Know before Paying for College

June 6, 2013 4:58 am

From $20,000 to $65,000 a year – that’s the tuition cost for one year of college, says John McDonough, a money expert who helps retirees and parents plan for their families’ futures.

“For the 2012–2013 academic year, the average cost for an in-state public college is $22,261. A moderate budget for a private college averaged $43,289,” says McDonough, CEO of Studemont Group College Funding Solutions. “But for elite schools, we’re talking about three times the cost of your local state school. Either way, your kid’s higher education can easily shoot into six figures after four years.”

Along with worrying about rising tuition prices, parents also fear for their own futures if their retirement savings are drained by children’s college costs, McDonough says. Only 14 percent, for example, are very confident they’ll have the money to live comfortably in retirement, he says, citing a 2012 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

“Families feel they’re faced with conflicting goals, but there are numerous ways to pay for college while investing in your future retirement,” says McDonough, who offers insights for parents to keep in mind while planning for their child’s education:

The ROI of a college education: At a time when so many American families are financially strapped, college is an especially stressful topic because parents know higher learning will help their kids succeed. College graduates earn 84 percent than those with only a high school diploma, according to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Here is how earning breaks down over one’s life time, based on education: a doctoral degree-holder will earn $3.3 million over a lifetime; $2.3 million is estimated for a college graduate; those with only a high school diploma can expect $1.3 million.

Move retirement assets to qualify for grants: Most parents know about the 529 savings account, but that’s not necessarily the best or only option. Reallocating your retirement assets, such as 401(k)s, can better position a child to qualify for grants and scholarships. This legal and ethical maneuvering may be the single most important factor when considering how to pay for college.

Know your student’s strengths and weaknesses: Consider independent and objective analysis of your future college student. Assessment might include a personality profile and a detailed search for a future career. Also think about a more nuts-and-bolts approach, including scholarship eligibility, SAT and ACT prep courses, review of admissions essays and an in-depth analysis of chances for enrollment in a student’s top four choices of colleges.

Make a checklist of financial aid forms: In order to maximize a fair price of higher education, remember there is plenty of data to review. McDonough recommends a checklist with a timeline and notable deadlines. Be ready to troubleshoot the “alphabet soup” of data forms: FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid; CSS profile – College Scholarship Service; SAR – Student Aid Report; and more. Think about this process as a second job, or find professional help you can trust.

Published with permission from RISMedia.