By Julea Joseph, Reinventing Space
You have worked tirelessly preparing your home for sale. Don’t let all your hard work fall short with the often forgotten, most overlooked step in a great home staging – The Pre-Photo Shoot Styling. Before those photos are taken, your home needs one last interior makeover before making its grand debut on the internet. I often compare it to going to the hair salon before a big event, getting a great color, cut and style, only to go home and wash it. Don’t stop short right before you publicly introduce your home to potential buyers by not making it perfectly groomed for its Internet close-up.
Home Stagers are experts in styling homes for photo shoots. In an hour or two, we can whip and flip a home into a stunner. Your on-line photos are the #1 advertising element of your for sale home. Here are a few of our tips and techniques.
- Remove all scatter rugs from floors. Have cleared counters and make the space extra inviting with a bowl, vase or pot of something fresh.
HOME STAGING TIP: Room look bigger and spacious in photos without rugs or counter clutter breaking up the room’s lines or distracting the eye.
- Set a spectacular bed. Perfectly tucked, primped and pampered – the bed is the trophy of every bedroom.
HOME STAGING TIP: Create added interest on a bed with a colorful accent pillows and textural throws.
- Every bath needs fresh, clean, fluffy towels, a seat down, glistening surfaces, and not a personal product present.
HOME STAGING TIP: Nothing says fresh and super clean than a stack of fluffy white towels.
- Light it right. Showcase rooms and the home by making sure the space is lit well by turning on light, opening shades and pulling back drapes.
HOME STAGING TIP: Photograph the home at the time of day that allows just the right light in.
This post originally appeared at Julea: Reinventing Space. Copyright Jan. 4, 2015.
The average cost of a midrange bathroom remodel is nearly $17,000, according to “Remodeling” magazine’s “Cost v. Value Report.” That may be just the tip of the expense iceberg for buyers considering purchasing a fixer-upper.
Help buyers plan wisely before purchasing a home that needs TLC by branding, printing, and hand-delivering a free article on “How to Assess the Real Cost of a Fixer-Upper House” from the REALTOR® Content Resource.
Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.
Copyright 2015 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
That’s just one of five free articles to help clients from the “Start Your 2015 Home Search Smartly” theme that you can brand, print, and hand deliver (or post to Facebook, Twitter, your website, or blog; email; or add to your e-newsletter).
REALTOR® Content Resource is brought to you by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. With it, you can download free homeownership content from HouseLogic to your marketing materials.
HouseLogic is a comprehensive consumer website — from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® — geared to helping homeowners make smart decisions to enhance, maintain, and protect the value of their home.
By Sam DeBord
Government entities often attempt to place additional restrictions or costs on the transaction or transfer of real estate. While there are often good intentions involved in the creation of these “point of sale” mandates, most proposals for new or increased transactional hurdles have serious negative consequences.
Point of sale mandates are a concern not only for real estate industry professionals, but also prospective and current home owners in a community. Barriers to the transfer of real property slow down the marketplace and often reduce home owners’ equity through transactional costs. Point of sale mandates can also create overall market depreciation by increasing failed transactions.
There is a wide range of point of sale restrictions on real estate transfers across the country. Some are minor in nature, while others are significant. Any restriction adding costs, inspections, or bureaucracy to a real estate transaction is a drag on the industry and on home owners, but the effects of some mandates are much more severe than others.
Some point of sale mandates are intended to improve the community. Sausalito, Calif., has a mandate that requires owners to inspect their sewer laterals (which connect to the street sewer lines) and repair them before selling the home. While a buyer can (and often should) have a sewer scope inspection independently, the city has created a broad mandate that is sometimes unnecessary for certain property types, ages, and situations.
Municipalities in some areas, including Seattle, require inspection of on-site sewage systems or septic tanks to ensure they meet state regulation standards for operation. This point of sale mandate, much like the sewer lateral mandate, is intended to protect the groundwater and the health of the local community, but it only applies to those home owners who are selling.
This often causes an uneven distribution of responsibility and cost. Consumers can already get their own septic inspection independently when they buy a home. The governing authority may truly believe that all sewer lines or septic systems need to be inspected regularly to promote healthy groundwater. If so, they should propose a policy for all residents’ systems to be inspected on a regular basis and let the community decide if they agree.
Full Home Inspections
Some of the most concerning mandates include some form of government-managed home inspection at the point of sale. These can create fines, repair requirements, and even loss of occupancy rights if they are not adhered to by the home owners.
In Marin County, Calif., home owners are subjected to resale inspections before they can close escrow on a sale. These inspections can call for remediation or charges for items which are not in line with current code or permitting. This often leads to current building standards being applied retroactively to work that was previously done without a permit but according to the building code as it was written at the time.
In Austin, Texas, an energy performance audit is required to be performed and delivered to the buyer before a closing. These pricey inspections must be paid for by the seller. They rate the home’s windows, insulation, ducting, HVAC equipment, and even appliances for energy efficiency and make suggestions to buyers for improvements. They can generate significant repair requests from buyers that can scuttle sales agreements.
In Berkeley, Calif., resale inspections are focused on energy improvements as well. Toilets, shower heads, faucets, water heaters, water lines, duct work, chimneys, insulation, and weather stripping are all required to meet city standards. The cost to the home owners can reach thousands of dollars in many cases.
Point Of Sale Mandates Taken To The Extreme
The Cleveland area has some of the most heavy-handed point of sale mandates that exist in the country. In at least 20 of the metro’s suburban cities, inspections must be done before selling, and in some cities even before the home owner enters into contract to sell their home. If the inspection finds code violations, they must be repaired by the home owners even if they decide not to sell.
The onerous nature of these inspections is exemplified by the city of Maple Heights’ mandate. When home owners receive their point of sale inspection report, if there are code violations, they are granted a 90-day temporary permit to occupy. The city has taken the authority to revoke the home owners’ occupancy rights if they don’t fix the violations within that time frame. Even if the sellers never received an offer from a buyer, they are required to make the repairs to the home at their own expense.
Home owners may have to fix basement floors, electrical wiring and outlets, lighting, hot water tanks, window screens, gutters, fences, or even a concrete slab with three or more cracks. There are more than 40 categories of potential violations which a city-approved inspector can call out for repairs. If sellers can’t finish the repairs before closing, they must put the money for the repairs into an escrow account managed by the city to ensure they will be done. The occupancy permit for the home is dependent upon it.
Sensible Policy For Point Of Sale
Home buyers certainly want their homes to be safe, but they need to be able to make their own decisions about asking sellers for repairs or doing repair work themselves. Some neighborhoods are full of homes built in the 1920s or earlier. These homes have many features that would be considered outdated to an inspector and inefficient by new energy standards, but are often perfectly acceptable to the buyers.
Forcing a person who has lived in a home for 50 years to upgrade all of its systems before selling to a buyer who would have been happy with its previous condition is inefficient and an overreach of authority. It creates a significant financial detriment to the participants in the transaction and to real estate values as a whole in that community.
Our focus through REALTOR® policy has been to continue to educate the public on important safety and energy concerns about their homes. We educate home buyers about energy efficiency options and costs. We implore our buyers to have home inspections and, where appropriate, specialized inspections for sewer lines, septic systems, etc. We’ve taken on the primary role in advising home buyers and sellers about the dangers of lead paint, mold, and other hazards.
We don’t need point of sale mandates from government agencies to make these ideas into costly blanket inspection requirements for all home owners. Buyers and sellers already have the opportunity to research relevant information about their homes, and make their own decisions as to what kinds of features are valuable and necessary to them.
Point of sale mandates, at their very core, are not an effective way to make policy. They put an inordinate weight on the small part of a community that happens to be selling a home that year, while others who stay in their homes for decades don’t share in the cost. We need to continue to educate our clients, as well as our politicians, that empowering home buyers and sellers to learn more about the safety and efficiency of their homes is a far better way to promote those values than adding roadblocks to the sale of their homes.
Sam DeBord is a director for Washington REALTORS® and Seattle King County REALTORS®, and managing broker with Coldwell Banker Danforth. Connect with his team, Seattle Homes Group, at SeattleHome.com and SeattleCondo.com.
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine
Dated kitchens are getting a makeover in many homes this year. About a quarter of about 3,500 home owners recently surveyed say they are remodeling kitchens that are more than 30 years old and another 41 percent are updating kitchens that are 16 to 30 years old. Wow, have styles changed in three decades too – when red oak cabinets, laminate countertops, and brass fixtures were “in.”
Here’s an interesting stat: Home owners seem to be more committed to their kitchen than their spouse. Most kitchens last two to four times longer than the typical U.S. marriage – which is 8 years, according to Houzz’s Kitchen Remodeling Survey. That means when home owners remodel a kitchen, they devote a lot of time to making sure it’s just right since they’ll likely stick with it for many years to come.
“We already know that kitchens are the biggest driver of discretionary spending in the remodeling market,” says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz. “As the economy has improved, many home owners who delayed spending on kitchen updates feel like they now have the means to remodel. We should continue to see an uptick in discretionary spending on home improvements into 2015.”
So, what are home owners’ kitchen renovation plans?
Classic finishes: Home owners mostly are sticking to the classics, with finishes like white cabinets (49 percent) in shaker (37 percent) or raised-panel (22 percent) styles. They’re also staying loyal to granite countertops (45 percent) and stainless steel appliances (83 percent).
Added storage: Ease of storage (65 percent) is a top priority driving remodeling trends. Organization features like a built-in pantry (44 percent), pull-out shelves (62 percent), deep cabinet organizers (38 percent), and built-in pet bowls (6 percent) are popular.
Entertainment spaces: An open-concept layout (52 percent), bar with seating (27 percent), and built-in wine storage (21 percent) are making kitchens a gathering place for family and friends.
Big makeovers with big dollars: When home owners choose to undergo a kitchen remodel, the majority are going big with projects requiring substantial construction (68 percent). As such, home owners are spending big too, with 36 percent planning to spend between $25,000 and $75,000 on updating their kitchens. More than half of home owners budget $25,000 or less for their upcoming remodels.
Complimenting the rest of the house: Home owners want their kitchens stylish and beautiful (59 percent), but they also want to make sure that the remodel integrates with the rest of the home too (55 percent). Other characteristics they say are important is that it is filled with natural light, adds to the resale value of their home, energy-efficient appliances, and pro-style cooking set-up.
By Bill Gassett
So, you’ve finally joined Twitter. How do you know what to tweet about to maximize your time and energy on this rapid-fire platform? How often can you tweet without annoying people?
Your followers’ Twitter feeds moves at lighting speed, so it’s okay to post up to 10 times per day or more. Just don’t do all your postings at once, as this floods people’s feeds and is considered spamming. Spread your tweets out through the day and evening for maximum visibility. Switch up the types of posts so it doesn’t get too boring for your followers. Since you are a real estate professional, it’s expected that you’ll post about real estate topics much of the time. However, you can also tweet about other things that are interesting or helpful to your followers.
Here is a typical day’s worth of Twitter posts:
- Post around five informative articles or interesting pictures/videos from around the web.
- Re-tweet interesting posts from people you follow (see below for more on this).
- Respond to a couple of tweets from others. This is especially effective if you can find people asking questions about real estate, and answer them.
- Post personal comments about real estate or links to content you have written on your blog. It doesn’t have to be a recent piece, either. For example, here is an article about the inaccuracy of Zillow home value estimates. Most real estate agents are constantly explaining why a “Zestimate of value” should be ignored to both their buyer and seller clients. We all know how far off base Zillow can be! This is the kind of helpful information your followers will enjoy and gladly re-tweet. You can even add some humor into your tweets. Here’s a popular tweet I sent along with the blog link: “You have better odds of seeing Big Foot than an accurate Zillow estimate.”
It is important to understand that you shouldn’t just broadcast your own content on Twitter. To be successful with Twitter and grow a following, you have to share others people’s content and engage with them. Keep in mind the social aspect of social media. When someone tweets your content, the best way to return the favor is to look over their profile and re-tweet something they have shared that you find interesting.
Follow Important People and Industry Leaders
Who you follow is just as important as who follows you. It gives you a chance to interact with people, build relationships, and perhaps even get a shout-out. Seek out local news anchors, hot-shot agents (besides yourself, of course), or anyone else you would love to mingle with. If you are lucky, they may even follow you back. You will also want to follow your past or present clients, other agents, mortgage brokers, builders, and anyone else with whom you want to build a connection.
Twitter is absolutely a two-way street. It’s not just about getting your message out, but building lasting relationships. Whenever you are mentioned, reply. If you are new to Twitter, send out a quick thanks when you get a new follower. If you see something interesting in your Twitter feed, comment on it. It’s a pretty simple concept, yet it’s one that often gets ignored.
Manage Your Time
I often get questions from real estate agents such as, “How do you manage your time on social media?” or “How can I possibly be thinking about tweeting real estate articles if I am out selling houses and meeting with clients?” Time management is always an important consideration when it comes to social media. Fortunately, there are some great tools that can help you manage your time on Twitter. One of my favorite applications is Buffer. Buffer allows you to set what you want to tweet throughout the day on auto-pilot. You could schedule ten articles you want to share and Buffer will tweet them out for you.
Additional Twitter Tips and Advice:
Update Your Profile
When someone views your profile, they instantly form an opinion of you. Can they trust you? Are you a professional? Do they want to interact with you? Make sure that both your profile and header picture give the right first impression. You also get 160 characters to summarize who you are, so come up with something different and catchy that still makes your profession apparent.
Sure, you might gain some website traffic from people viewing your profile, but it is more likely that people will click on interesting blog posts that you share on Twitter (in moderation, of course). In addition, include the Twitter icon—linked to your profile—on your marketing materials, your email signature, and your website.
Add a Period
Did you know that if you start a tweet with someone’s Twitter handle, only that person (and people who follow both of you) will see your tweet? To get your comments to your entire fan base, put a period before the @ symbol if you’re beginning a tweet with someone’s profile name.
In summary, Twitter is all about making connections and staying relevant. As long as you are active on the site and really consider whether or not your tweets add value to your followers, you should be golden. Before long, you will notice an increase in website traffic, and you may even gain a client or two. If you are interested in learning more, read my previous post, “6 Twitter Rules for Real Estate Agents.” You will be a social superstar in no time!
Bill Gassett is a nationally-recognized real estate leader and one of the top RE/MAX salespeople in New England. See all his real estate articles at www.maxrealestateexposure.com.