A Staged Home

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To translate an old saying, when it comes to preparing your home for the market, an ounce of staging is worth a pound of regular old cleanup.

Forbes magazine says that homes that are staged sell for about 17 percent more, on average than non-staged homes—and much faster, to boot. That ought to tell you all you need to know about the value of investing in a little staging before potential buyers show up. Here are a couple of pointers:

Bare only the essentials. When it comes to presenting your home to buyers, art and science join to present a home that looks lived-in, cheerful and fantastically neat. That means more than cleaning up though. It means placing flowers, books and even throw pillows either centered or symmetrically on tabletops, shelves, countertops and furniture. And keep it simple—no clutter, everything in a certain place for a reason. It’s about visual simplicity and completeness. You want to create a mental picture of peace and harmony in every corner of your house—kitchen, living room, bedrooms and bathrooms.

Make a path. Be a good guide and create a clear pathway through your home, even if people think they’re wandering about. You want furniture and even visual cues to guide people through your home in a way that feels natural and uncluttered. That way, they get through seeing what they want to see without ever feeling like they’ve intruded or had anything but a smooth journey through your house.

This and other staging tips can help you sell your home faster and for more!


Kitchen Trends: The Heart of the Home

Kitchen Interior with Island Sink CabinetsTiled Floors in New Luxury Home

Oh, the possibilities for revitalizing the heart of your home—the kitchen. Here are some of the latest trends:

Epoxy countertops. While stone and marble countertops will always win fans, they can cost you. Big. But with poured epoxy, you can get a solid, silky smooth countertop in virtually any color or pattern you desire for pennies on the dollar compared to granite. You can even do it yourself with some tutorials and a little courage.

Pendant lighting. Whether it’s teardrops from high up or a cluster of lantern-type lights, pendant lighting (especially above islands) has captured a lot of imaginations of late. They’re easy to install, have a timeless look about them and can put out an amazing amount of light.

Hidden storage. Slide-out organizers have been popular for a while, and for very good reason—they work. With limited space, these organizers keep pots, pans and trays in one spot, handy and out of sight. They also give you flexibility in storing other items like smaller appliances.

However, if you like having some kitchen items on display (and conveniently within reach), try some floating shelves. Rough-cut wood on black pipe is a popular choice of late, as are shelves that provide pops of color in what might otherwise be an all-stainless or white room.


Getaway Ideas for Spring Break

happy family having fun outdoors

Spring Break is just around the corner. The kids are vowing to be bored. You don’t have a ton of cash to spend, either. Nowhere to go? Try these ideas:

National parks. While only 26 states have national parks, a huge percentage of people in the U.S. live within a day’s drive of one. They’re inexpensive, they’re beautiful and they’ll provide sights, sounds and photos you can’t really get anywhere else. The inescapable beauty of Glacier, Yellowstone, Great Smoke Mountains and Shenandoah national parks will take your breath away and give your family something to reminisce about forever.

Go someplace new. Speaking of traveling, maybe all you need for a good time is to spend two or three days someplace none of you have ever been. It might be a new city or a nearby beach. It might be someplace with fun things to see and eat and do that you’ve never thought of. Search the web and spontaneously pick something. What do you have to lose?

Explore your hometown. If you live in or near a big city, there are always places you haven’t been. Make a list of 20 and go to one or two each day of spring break. The amount of fun stuff you’ve been missing right under your nose might just surprise you!


Top Wishes for First-time Home Buyers

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What do first-time home buyers really want in a house? It’s not like it used to be, when first-timers bought fixer-uppers with the expectation of months (or years) of building sweat equity. For better or for worse, expectations have changed, and that means young buyers are looking for:

Low-maintenance living. Because far fewer people are growing up on farms or in blue-collar families, fewer homebuyers are entering the market with a taste for home repair jobs like they were in times past. Buyers now are looking for homes with updated kitchens, bathrooms and amenities that won’t require the elbow grease of the past.

High-tech havens. In addition, younger buyers consider smart accessories like thermostats, electronic hubs and security systems more and more standard equipment rather than luxuries.

Proximity to attractions. First-time buyers also are looking for places closer to things to do. With couples getting married and having kids later than their parents and grandparents, proximity to good schools isn’t as important as perhaps it once was. The easier it is to get to the fun, the better for these buyers.

Modern or nostalgic interiors. It’s a toss-up with young buyers: They either honor the retro-chic of the 1920s and 30s or opt for ultra-modern. Sorry, 1970s—you’re not as cool as you think you are. So, if your home was built when Nixon was still in the White House and you’re thinking about selling, take a tip and upgrade: first-time buyers will likely give you a pass.


Front Entrance: Create a Memorable Welcome

Front entry door with concrete floor porch and flowers pot. Northwest USA

First impressions mean a lot, and that goes for your home, too. To make a good impression with front entrance, here are some tips:

Clean sweep. Before people get into your house, they have to walk up. A simple few pushes of a broom can do wonders for the overall appearance of your front walk. Make sure it’s kept clear of branches, leaves and debris.

Color it up. In addition, as guests are ringing the doorbell, make sure they see a dash of color by way of flowers or flowering shrubs. Wreaths or garlands on the door add a nice touch.

Light touch. A well-lit entrance is a welcoming entrance. Keep it well-lit with the brightest bulbs that you can and consider more than one light source if a large fixture is out of the question.

Extras. In addition, make sure there are immediate spots available for coats, shoes and winter gear. Welcome mats inside and out give people a place to both wipe their shoes and remove them (if you want them to).


Home Warranty 101

expensive kitchen remodel with open concept

Home warranties can be a very good idea, and they’re often used as a cherry on top by home sellers—but both parties in a sale should read the fine print to determine if the policy in question is worth the expense.

For starters, some home warranties will not cover work done by a contractor that they have not previously approved. So even if it’s an emergency and you hire the only plumber who’s available to fix your burst pipe, you may not be able to get the claim paid under the warranty. Check with the insurance company before buying the policy to find out what their rules say about emergency situations.

Second, find out what incidents are actually covered by the policy. Different companies have different regulations about flooding, mold, appliances and even storm damage. Check it out before you buy.

Home warranties also must be renewed annually. Make sure you know what happens to your premium after that first year.

Warranties are a good idea if there are a lot of new items in the home that would be expensive to replace. Do your homework to see if the premium is worth the price!



Housing Market Trends 2020

3d render image of houses with graph growing

Despite distress signals from some market watchers, the real estate market in 2020 shows no real signs of slowing down anytime soon, making it a continued seller’s market for the foreseeable future. How can that be, after so many continuous months of growth?

Let’s start with government policy. Home ownership continues to be one of the pillars of the American economy. Quite simply, banks depend on mortgages to provide regular cash flow, and the federal government knows it. That’s why rates continue to be historically low, and it’s why they only went up slightly (briefly) in 2019, only to drop again.

Speaking of rates, they continue to draw people into a market in which renting is becoming more and more difficult to afford, especially for families. With many banks requiring as little as 3 percent down, the enticement to take out a mortgage compared to renting is too strong.

That has made and will continue to make the housing market a seller’s market. Buyers will continue to clamber for a housing supply that has and will be less than adequate relative to demand, which will keep housing prices going up in most markets across the U.S., with no relief in sight for buyers looking for bargains.

Housing’s strength will continue to mean steady business for construction companies and their legions of contractors, too, boding well for most blue-collar construction-related trades (electrical, plumbing, HVAC) in major housing markets for many months to come.


Creating a Smart Home

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If you’re looking to make your home a smart home in 2020, there are plenty of gadgets that can make your house a voice-activated, app-driven model of the internet of things (IoT).

Let’s start with smart plugs. The idea behind smart plugs like the ones from Samsung SmartThings or TP-Link Kasa is to control anything you connect to the smart plug via your Wi-Fi network, whether that’s controlled Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa or whatever. Even if your devices aren’t IoT ready, smart plugs are.

Smart hubs are the next logical choice. Hubs like the Echo Plus, Google Nest Mini and many others have made voice-activated control of any network-connected device simpler and simpler, including security cameras, locks, thermostats, garage doors, appliances and lights. Which platform you prefer, Google or Amazon, doesn’t really matter—multiple snazzy devices work for both.

Smart bulbs have shone brightly the past couple of years, but they’ve also introduce an easy target for hackers looking for a way into your home network and the information stored in devices connected to it. These bulbs can make your house a multicolored light showcase, but be sure they have the latest firmware to prevent infiltration.

Visual hubs, smart speakers and other accessories are making building a smart home more and more fun. Get your feet wet soon and try them out!


What Millennial Home Buyers want in 2020

Couple with real-estate agent visiting house for sale

Set to exceed Baby Boomers (the largest generation of their time) in numbers now or very soon, Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) aren’t the market of tomorrow. They are setting the market today.

What do Millennials value? Technology, environmental awareness and either modernity or nostalgia (nothing in-between).

Technology. Smart climate control, security and home management systems (lighting and entertainment) fit the bill here. Energy efficiency via a Nest or other smart thermostat system is a must for many younger buyers. Ring or other smart, app-controlled security systems have become prevalent enough to qualify as standard in many people’s minds.

Environmental awareness. Along with smart thermostats, an eye toward energy-efficient appliances and renewable energy (read, solar) options also pique the interest of younger buyers. This may mean an investment on the part of sellers wanting to widen the pool of potential buyers, but the potential cost-savings in the meantime can make that investment worth it now and when it comes time to sell.

New or very old. Millennials have shown a taste either for vintage (WWII-era or before) or very recently-built homes. 1970s and 80s? Out. 1920s or 2010 (or newer) are in. So, if you’re selling a home built in-between, you may want to think about modernizing to the modern earth-tones or blacks-and-whites that are popular right now for interiors and losing the shag carpet.

Millennials are buying. And with the right features, they might be the ones buying from you.


Real Estate Romance: Find a Home to Love

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Maybe you’re wondering, “What do we really want in a house? What kind of home should we really buy?”

First, write out a three-column list: Gotta Have, Would Like to Have, Would be a Dream if We Had. Then list every facet of a home you can think of: Two stories, two full baths, hardwood floors, quiet neighborhood, big backyard, whatever. Be very honest with yourself. Don’t leave out any significant detail. Everything should go into one of those three columns, and if you can’t decide, stick it in the third.

Then, research, research, research. And share your list with your agent. If you’re in a hot market, set up as many prompts from that Gotta Have column as you can on a web search and subscribe to alerts. When something fitting your Gotta Have list hits the market, you and your agent will hear about it immediately.

Finally, set time aside to look—as much as you can. If you’re moving to a new city, burn whatever time off you can to do a hot-and-heavy barnstorming tour of all the possibilities. And stick to that original list. That’s your go-to crib sheet. When you walk into the right place, you’ll know. Having that list in your mind will make all the difference when the right home is staring you in the face.

Just remember: Taking the time to be honest early on will help so much when the pressure is on to make a decision!