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Staging Provides Vacant Homes with Character

October 6, 2011 12:09 pm

Real estate agents agree that vacant houses are a growing segment of the real estate market and pose unique difficulties for showcasing and selling a home. There is a misconception that a vacant home is easier to sell, but professionals in the field understand that an empty house can scare prospective buyers away.

Most home buyers cannot see beyond an empty home. With no furniture to focus on, a buyer will be much more inclined to narrow in on any imperfections—spotting the scratch on the floor, the nail holes in the wall, grout in the kitchen or the coldness that an empty room can convey.

“People aren’t looking to buy a house, they are looking to buy a home,” said Birgit Anich, a home stager with Connecticut-based Staging & Interiors. “Without furniture, wall art, rugs, lighting and décor, there are no emotional connection points in the house. The house does not show its soul or offer any lifestyle that buyers can aspire to.”

When a prospective home buyer perceives flaws and can’t focus on the home’s potential, there will be fewer offers, greater price reductions, more days on the market, higher carrying costs, and less profit.

Additionally, prospective buyers beginning their search on the Internet are less likely to look at your online photos if all they see are empty rooms.

Chances are, if you’re already paying a mortgage on a new home, you’re going to want to sell your old home fast. A vacant home conveys this message to potential buyers and sets the stage for a better negotiating strategy since they know you want to sell quickly.

There is a lot of money on the table because of ongoing costs related to the mortgage, maintenance, insurance, and other carrying costs that need to be paid for while the property is sitting on the market without any income stream.

If you are in the process of selling a vacant home, take the time to bring in a stager to fill the space with furniture and make the home look lived in. By providing prospective buyers with a welcoming atmosphere, they’ll be more apt to see themselves living in the home rather than pointing out what they don’t like about the place. Staging will help to emphasize the positive features of the property while downplaying the negative features.

“Never sell a home without furniture. In my experience, I’ve seen tremendous results when staging a vacant home,” said Los Angeles home stager Elizabeth James. “Buyers become overwhelmed by a lack of vision in each space with no identifiable purpose.”

By taking the time to stage a vacant home, you will create that vision and get a quicker and hopefully more profitable outcome.

For more information about selling a vacant home, contact our office today.


2012 Color Predictions Offer Fresh Perspective within Home's Interior Design Scheme

October 6, 2011 12:09 pm

While getting your home ready to put on the market can be a huge undertaking, sellers shouldn’t overlook the importance that color plays in the process. To help sellers understand the effects that certain colors will have on prospective buyers, Pantone LLC, a global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries, recently released its forecast for the most popular interior colors for 2012.

This forecast is important for anyone getting a home ready to sell, especially in today’s difficult market as it will help sellers choose interior paint colors and furnishings that appeal to the masses.

“This is the road map to color for 2012, which is filled with interesting new directions. Some paths lead to exhilarating tones that encourage the prospective buyer to forge ahead into adventures with novel color combinations, while others invite them to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, relax and consider the more classic hues in a different kind of mix,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “The continuing challenge and goal will be in keeping the consumer visually engaged by blending the playful with the practical. To reach that destination, color is the compass.”

In its Nonchalance palette, Pantone is suggesting simplicity and casual ambiance in creating an attractive look.

“The reassuring colors coax a feeling of tranquility and relaxation with no suggestion of anxiety in the surroundings,” Eiseman said. “The comforting pastel pinks, ethereal blues and soft egret white wrap us in carefree baby blanket colors, harmoniously blending with the more mature taupe, gray and grape tones.”

One prediction for 2012: a glossy finish and color will be a magical coupling, drawing the eye and riveting attention.

“Metallic or glassy surfaces undulate and move and twist and turn, taking colors to new dimensions,” Eiseman said. “Turkish sea, blue moon, garnet, beluga, cloud dancer and the classic silver and gold will all be popular.”

Another palette worth noting: the colors of the Nouveau Neon set. Unlike the neons of the last 20 years, these exuberant shades bring a fresh new perspective to combinations.

“Asian-inspired bamboo yellow-green plays with orange, Popsicle and berry purples, while citrus colors toy with pink and raspberry,” Eiseman said. “A flavorful butter-rum tan is the unexpected accompaniment to all of the vibrant colors in the palette.”

Barb Schwartz, founder/chairwoman of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, stresses the importance that the right color can add to attracting a buyer.

“Having the right colors can make a huge difference,” she said. “By following the latest trends and appealing to the buyer with colors that accentuate a room best, you can help connect someone with the house, making for an easier sale.”

The Indigo Effects palette evokes a mood of broad expansiveness and depth, which can help give a room an added appeal. The colors are variations on a blue theme—celestial and majestic blues, purple and deep blue indigos—all deftly brushed with contrasting strokes of maroon, mauve and moody gray.

For playrooms and children’s bedrooms, an effervescent palette called The Comics will be trendy in 2012.

“Funny paper hues pop off the page in whimsical ways that bring a smile and create the need to take some time to play,” Eiseman said. “Ominous phantom black provides the backdrop for sulphuric yellow and fiery red. A flash of green provokes a strong blue while an inky cyan plays up to honeysuckle and primrose. It’s quirky joy and spontaneity.”

For more interior painting trends, contact our office today.


In this Edition: 2012 Color Predictions, Short Sales, Technology

October 6, 2011 12:09 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)® - Leading Companies Providing Leading Information – examines what colors are predicted to be the most popular when it comes to interior decorating as we approach the New Year. We also bring you some other timely pieces this month on selling vacant homes, incorporating fall décor as you prepare to list your home for sale, and more. As a benefit of our membership in RREIN, you will receive these relevant, powerful real estate articles each month that you’ll find timely and helpful in your real estate interests and pursuits. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!


Mobile Users Have Mixed Feelings About Location-Based Coupons

October 5, 2011 10:57 pm

Sharing their location with retailers in order to receive discounts may be worth the privacy risk for the majority of mobile consumers. Sixty-seven percent somewhat/strongly agree that location-based coupons are very convenient and useful according to a recent mobile survey among smartphone and tablet users conducted by Prosper Mobile Insights™. Respondents answered questions directly on their mobile devices.

Further, one in four (25.6%) mobile users say they would prefer to receive coupons on a smartphone or tablet automatically when they are near a store. However, double that number (51.1%) would prefer to receive coupons on their device via email. Manually searching for coupons, scanning QR codes and receiving promotional texts/IMs also rank higher than automatic location-based coupons. Receiving discounts on the spot, though, appears more popular than “checking in” through social media (only 10.3% would prefer this method):

Coupon Preferences on Smartphones/Tablets
Receive via email: 51.1%
Manually search for them: 32.2%
Scan a QR code when inside a store: 31.9%
Receive via text or instant message: 31.0%
Receive automatically when near a store: 25.6%
Check-in through social media: 10.3%
Don’t want to receive coupons at all on device: 18.1%

While 81.9% are open to receiving coupons on their smartphone or tablet in one form or another, location-based coupons do raise privacy concerns—44.8% are somewhat/very concerned about their location being tracked or other security issues. 29.6% are neutral while 25.6% are not concerned.

The majority of Mobile Users engage in shopping behaviors on their smartphones or tablets. Most conduct research: 76.4% browse or look for a product or service; 73.0% use their device to locate a store or store hours; 48.9% research specific products; and 45.7% read customer reviews on their smartphone or tablet. Interestingly, 42.2% have used their smartphone or tablet as a coupon (scanning a bar code, showing a text to a cashier, etc.) Nearly two in five (39.7%) have also made a purchase directly on a mobile device and 36.2% have scanned a QR code.

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Experts' Forecast for 2011 Prices Improves

October 5, 2011 10:57 pm

The home price picture for this year is shaping up to be a little better than it looked in June, according to the September 2011 home price expectations survey of 111 leading housing economists and experts sponsored by MacroMarkets LLC.

With just three months to go, the average prediction for the price decline this year from last year’s levels improved from a 3.52% price decline predicted by the experts in June to 2.53% in the latest survey. The survey is based upon the projected path of the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index over the coming five years.

However, longer term price prospects registered by the experts were less clear and varied widely, from a 19.2% increase by 2015 to a 5.7% decrease. The average prediction called for an average annual rate growth rate of only 1.1% through 2015.

“Relative to historical norms of average annual home price growth rates, the projected 1.1% nominal figure is dim, especially if broader inflation picks up (as many people think it will) within the coming five years,” says Terry Loebs, founder of Pulsenomics LLC, the firm that conducts the survey for MacroMarkets.

Loebs notes that the data still reveal a wide variety of individual views among panelists regarding a recovery in the U.S. housing market. Loebs says, “The erosion of price expectations in the face of record-low mortgage rates and the wide dispersion of views among many professional forecasters are symptoms of persistent dysfunction and imbalances in this country’s housing market.”

In the September survey, the panelists also offered their views of the likelihood, desirability and necessity for further government intervention in the U.S. housing and mortgage finance markets in the coming 12 months. Almost three-quarters (73%) of the respondents who shared a view think that further policy action is “highly likely” or “likely,” while more than half (57%) said such action is undesirable, and almost half (49%) said additional government action is unnecessary.

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Is it Worth the Cost?

October 5, 2011 10:57 pm

A stressful part of putting your home on the market is trying to figure out what to fix and upgrade to get the very best price. An experienced agent will recommend projects to consider and ones to avoid. After all, just because you put money into a renovation project doesn’t mean you will recoup the money in a sale.

Caprice Atwell, a REALTOR® from Florida, recommends consulting Remodeling Magazine’s annual “Cost vs. Value Report” for a breakdown of typical returns on renovation projects large and small. The 24th annual edition, published earlier this year, contains input from some of the country’s top remodeling professionals and ranked 35 remodeling projects for highest returns. In many cases, smaller-scale renovation projects recoup more of their initial cost than larger, pricier ones, according to the report. For example, a minor $20,000 kitchen upgrade returns 72.8% of renovation costs, but a more expensive $58,000 kitchen remodel only retains 68.7% of its value on resale.

Surprisingly, the report noted that exterior upgrades recoup more of their costs than interior renovations -- a trend that’s been building for the past five years. What’s the hottest exterior upgrade according to this year’s report? Replacing the front door with a steel entry door, which typically returns more than 100% of its cost.

The report also lists garage doors as a wise investment, returning up to 83% of their original cost when the home sells. Other prudent outdoor renovations include siding and window replacement, returning 80% and 72.4 %, respectively.

Interior improvements retaining the most value include attic renovations and basement remodels, recouping 72.2% and 70%.

“Just like an addition to the home, an unfinished space—such as the attic or basement—will instantly add value and livability to your home, as it increases the square footage and changes the way your family lives in it,” says Will Tomlinson, owner of a North Carolina-based renovation and remodeling company. “You will be transforming a space that likely gets very little use into a fully functional area for your family to enjoy.”

The report also notes that non-essential features have less resale value. Sunroom additions recoup only 48.6% of renovation costs; home office remodels, 45.8%; and backup power generators, 48.5%.

Of course, homeowners’ needs and budgets dictate their choice of home improvement projects. Still, it helps to know projects’ cost vs. return ratio when making the final decisions.


Setting the Stage for a Home Sale

October 4, 2011 4:59 pm

“You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.”

This saying strikes a chord in the real estate industry, where many buyers are quick to jump to a conclusion about a potential home after just one glance. That’s why an increasing number of homeowners are employing professional home stagers to prepare their homes for sale.

“Much of what staging accomplishes happens on a subconscious level,” says Carla Grammatica, a consultant with a New York-based staging company. “You are trying to create a positive association between your house and the prospective buyer. Anyone can change a paint color after they move in, but first impressions are difficult to undo.”

"With 91% of buyers searching first on the Internet for homes, MLS photos and virtual tours are extremely important in the selection process," says Melanie Tisdale, a media coordinator for a brokerage in Florida. "Staging, as a priority instead of as a last resort, will give sellers key advantages."

Stagers help eliminate clutter, give advice on adding colors, help in rearranging furniture and bring in various items to help spruce up a home.

“One of the most important things is getting rid of things that look messy,” Grammatica says. “Life can get messy, especially with kids and storage issues, but you have to pretend that’s not how you live. You have to pretend your house is [always] neat and well-maintained.”

That means picking up shoes from the hallway, removing papers from tables and furniture and even taking down personal items—such as diplomas, pictures and trophies.
—that clutter the walls.

Professional stagers take into account buyer demographics and buying psychology, and they use design elements in planning out the rooms, space and lighting.

“Some people think that staging is simply cleaning and packing up some of your things, but it is so much more than that,” says Linda Barnett, an Indianapolis–based certified staging professional. “Understanding traffic patterns and highlighting the positive attributes of a home while downplaying its negative features, all go into play.”

One tip Tisdale recommends is packing away unneeded items—such as seasonal clothes and old books—and put them in storage. It’s also important not to overwhelm potential buyers with wild colors and furniture, she says, even if you think it makes your home “special.”

Remember, making your home look like a model rather than lived-in can make all the difference in selling a home.


Soggy Spring and Scorching Summer Add to Fall Home Maintenance Needs

October 4, 2011 4:59 pm

Thirty-three of the forty-eight continental states experienced above-average rainfall last spring (not to mention more rainfall in the past few weeks for much of the South and North). An extremely warm summer followed "hot on the heels" of all that rain. The result? Many outdoor spring cleaning projects did not get marked off the homeowner's to-do list. Fall offers one more chance to get outdoor spaces and gear clean and protected before winter's arrival puts the deep freeze on outdoor projects.

Start at the top. For a small space, clogged gutters can cause big damage, because water doesn't drain properly. Instead, it can damage everything from the foundation, wood and landscaping to the roof – and it can even find its way indoors to cause damage there. Check out tools that allow you to bypass the ladder and clean the gutters from the ground.

Wet paint. Jeff Wilson, host of multiple programs on the DIY network and HGTV, says, "I worked for a painter who said a paint job would last twice as long if you cleaned the siding every two years. Removing dirt and killing the mold, mildew and algae on a surface helps to eliminate some of the paint's enemies."

Take the opportunity to check for bare patches of wood where the paint has blistered and peeled. Since exterior coatings like paint and stains shouldn't be applied when temperatures are over 90 degrees, fall is a good time for touch-ups.

Don't pay the price for snow and ice. Wood decks and fences, as well as concrete walkways and patios, can all be damaged over the winter by water absorption and repeated freeze/thaw cycles (or wet/dry cycles), which cause cracking. Clean them, then apply a waterproofing coating to stop water absorption over the winter. These types of products do recommend minimum temperature guidelines for application, so check the label on the product you are using.

Bring it on inside. It's also a good idea to clean any outdoor furniture, cushions or hammocks that you're going to store and bring in fragile garden decor or pots. Put your lawnmower to sleep for the winter by sharpening the blade, changing the oil, and adding a bit of fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank. Do the same for trimmers, tillers, etc. All other gardening tools should be cleaned, sharpened if necessary, and lightly oiled before putting them away, too.

Next, drain hoses. Any water left in them may freeze, expand, and burst the hose, so this is a critical step. While many newer homes will have frost-free spigots outside, older homes won't. Shut them off from the inside if possible or cover them with an insulated cover if it regularly falls below freezing.

Clean-up on good deals: Reward yourself and get ready to greet spring 2012 in style. Fall is the time retailers offer great clearance discounts on all types of outdoor furniture, cushions and accessories. Check online as well as at traditional "brick and mortar" stores.



Tips to Prevent Ice Dams This Winter

October 4, 2011 4:59 pm

With winter fast approaching, now is the time to take action to prevent the type of ice dams that caused tremendous damage – and resulted in expensive repairs – for many homeowners last year.

“Ice dams that form along your roof can cause major damage,” says Sean Welch, a senior assistant vice president for an insurance company. “As ice builds up, it prevents water from melted snow and ice from draining off the roof, so the water leaks into your house and goes under your roof and inside your home, causing costly damage to walls, ceilings and insulation.”

Homeowners can take the following steps to help prevent ice dams from affecting their homes:

-Make sure the ceiling is airtight, so warm, moist air doesn’t flow into the attic space.
-Increase ceiling and roof insulation to minimize the amount of heat that rises into the attic.
-Use weather-stripping around entryways to the attic.
-Seal around attic ducts, light fixtures, chimneys and fans to prevent heat from melting snow.
-Make sure the attic is well ventilated so that any warm air is replaced with cold outside air.
-Clean debris from gutters and drains to allow for proper drainage.

“Proper insulation and roof ventilation can help prevent ice dams from forming, helping protect homes from damage – while also helping to reduce energy bills,” Welch says.

Anyone building a new home or re-roofing an existing one also should install protective membranes under the roof covering, to help prevent water from leaking through. These are watertight barriers that extend from the lower edge of the roof up the slope at least 24 inches past the exterior wall line. This protective layer is often required by building code for new homes and re-roofing in areas where ice dams are known to occur.

With early preparation, homeowners can prevent ice dams from happening even before winter arrives.

Source: Amica Insurance


Remodeling Activity Reaches Record Levels

October 3, 2011 4:57 pm

With millions of Americans either unable to secure a mortgage or having to remain in their current home because they cannot sell the property, remodeling activity continues to soar. BuildFax has unveiled its BuildFax Remodeling Index (BFRI) for July 2011 and it shows that remodeling activity reached a record high during the month. The data also indicates that as consumers are putting more discretionary income into their homes, there are now a record number of under-insured properties from coast to coast. 

The latest BFRI shows that July 2011 became the month with the highest level of remodeling activity since the Index was introduced in 2004. During these historically difficult economic times there has been an upswing in the sales of building materials and the number of renovations greater than $10,000. These factors, and the fact that many consumers have not increased the insurance on their homes to account for the remodeling, puts many homes at risk as owners are not carrying the proper level of insurance for the new, true value of their homes. 

"As millions of Americans believe that they will not be able to secure a new home due to a variety of factors, including tight credit, limited buyers and challenging job prospects, they are more and more turning to renovating and remodeling their current properties, sending remodeling activity to record levels," says Joe Emison, vice president of Research and Development at BuildFax. "However, this remodeling boom is leaving many of these properties under-insured, as the value of these renovations are often not being captured by the homeowners’ insurance companies." 

July Signifies 21 Consecutive Months of Industry Growth
The latest BFRI, detailing remodeling activity from July 2011, indicates that residential remodeling activity registered the 21st-straight month of year-over-year gains, demonstrating that many Americans are continuing to remodel their current homes, rather than purchasing new homes. 

The July 2011 index rose 24% percent year-over-year—and for the 21st straight month—in July to 130.4, the highest number ever in the index to date. 

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