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Top 10 Worst Home-Showing Offenses

When it comes to presenting a home to buyers, some sellers are clueless.  Don’t leave potential buyers with a bad impression of your home?
Oh No They Didn’t!

Here are the 10 most common responses from buyer’s agents when asked about the worst mistakes they see when presenting for-sale homes to clients:
1. Leftover home owners
By far, one of the top offenses cited by buyer’s agents was home owners still lingering around when agents arrived with clients to preview the home. Awkward encounters ranged from buyers finding sellers taking a shower, asleep in the bed, to even the “stalker sellers” who liked to follow buyers and the agent all over the home to see what they thought.
2. Pets and their messes
Numerous agents also cited the not-so-friendly dog and kitty encounters as a top offense. Even pets left in a crate can pose a distraction since they might make noise the entire time others are in the house. Plus, if they seem mean, the buyer might not even step in the room.
3. Bad smells
A displeasing smell can really turn buyers off. Common offenses include cooking smells lingering around the home, such as garlic, fried bacon, or fish. Also, watch for cigarette smoke and animal smells, agents say.  Sellers get immune to the smell that their pets have embedded on their property, but anyone opening the door will smell it immediately, even if there are air fresheners trying to cover up the smell. If you have a pet, there will be an odor. Don’t send your buyers away: Paint, and clean the carpeting. Take the odor seriously and do what is needed, even if it means replacing the carpet.
4. Critters running wild
Wild animals and pests roaming around is a surefire way to send buyers running. Agents described worms crawling on the floor and bats and raccoons lounging in the attic.
5. Odd home makeovers
Do-it-yourself disasters were also prevalent, like doors opening the wrong way or unprofessional paint jobs. Also, rooms not being used for their intended purposes can confuse buyers, such as an office being used as a bedroom even though it has no closet.
6. Dirt and clutter
There were a number of offenses cited when it came to cleanliness: Dirty laundry piles, un-flushed toilets, dishes on the counter or in the sink, un-made beds, clothes scattered about, soiled carpets, dirty air conditioner filters, and overflowing trash cans.
7. Personal information left in plain sight
Sellers should be careful not to leave in plain sight important documents that may pique buyers’ curiosity. Some agents say they’ve seen personal information like bank and credit card statements, even mortgage payoff notices, left on the kitchen counter.
8. Too dark
Dark or dimly lit houses aren’t showing the home in the best light.  Be careful with CFL bulbs as by the time the bulbs light up, the buyer is gone.  Energy efficient bulbs need time to warm up before they are at their brightest, so staging professionals usually recommend agents arrive early to a showing to turn on any light fixtures with CFL bulbs at least 10 minutes prior.
9. Keys missing from lockboxes
All too often, agents arrive at a listing appointment with their client only to find there’s no key to get in.
10. Distracting photos
Watch the photos displayed on the walls too, agents warn. An agent from Kentucky, recalls showing a family a home that had life-sized, nude photos hanging, which left her clients racing for the door covering their eyes.  Another agent recalled showing a home to a client, who was staring at a painting in the master bedroom of a woman in lingerie. It was the owner of the home…and the listing agent!
October 2012 | By Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Outdoor Lighting for Curb Appeal and Safety

Outdoor Lighting for Curb Appeal and Safety

Well-planned outdoor lighting improves curb appeal, safety, and security for your home.

Mimicking moonlight
Much of the success of exterior lighting hinges on its design. Hang around lighting designers long enough and you’ll hear a lot of talk about “moonlight effect.” That’s a naturalistic look that features light no more intense than that of a full moon, but still strong enough to make beautiful shadows and intense highlights.
Other techniques outdoor lighting designers use:

  • Highlight trees: Whether illumined from below or given presence by a light mounted in the tree itself, trees make stunning features.
  • Use uplights: Uplighting is dramatic because we expect light to shine downward. Used in moderation, it’s a great way to highlight architectural and landscaping features.
  • Have a focus: The entryway is often center stage, a way of saying, “Welcome, this way in.”
  • Combine beauty and function: For example, adding lighting to plantings along a pathway breaks up the “runway” look of too many lights strung alongside a walk.
  • Vary the fixtures: While the workhorses are spots and floods, designers turn to a wide range of fixtures, area lights, step lights, and bollards or post lights.
  • Stick to warm light: A rainbow of colors are possible, but most designers avoid anything but warm white light, preferring to showcase the house and its landscape rather than create a light show.
  • Orchestrate: A timer, with confirmation from a photocell, brings the display to life as the sun sets. At midnight it shuts shut down everything but security lighting. Some homeowners even set the timer to light things up an hour or so before dawn.

Adding safety and security
Falls are the foremost cause of home injury, according to the Home Safety Council. Outdoors, stair and pathway lighting help eliminate such hazards.
Often safety and security can be combined. For example, motion-detecting security lighting mounted near the garage provides illumination when you get out of your car at night; the same function deters intruders. Motion detecting switches can also be applied to landscape lighting to illumine shadowy areas should anyone walk nearby.
Even the moonlight effect has a security function: Soft, overall landscape lighting eliminates dark areas that might hide an intruder, exposing any movement on your property. Overly bright lights actually have a negative effect, creating undesirable pockets of deep shadow.
Switching to LEDs
Once disparaged for their high cost and cold bluish glow, LEDs are now the light source of choice for lighting designers. “They’ve come down in price and now have that warm light people love in incandescent bulbs,” says Paul Gosselin, owner of Night Scenes Landscape Lighting Professionals in Kingsland, Texas. “We haven’t installed anything but LEDs for the last year.”
Although LED fixtures remain twice as expensive as incandescents, installation is simpler because they use low-voltage wiring. “All in all, LEDs cost only about 25% more to install,” Gosselin says. “And they’ll save about 75% on your electricity bill.”
Another advantage is long life. LEDs last at least 40,000 hours, or about 18 years of nighttime service. With that kind of longevity, “why should a fixture have only a two-year warranty?” asks Gosselin. He advises buying only fixtures with a 15-year warranty, proof that the fixture’s housing is designed to live as long as the LED bulbs inside.
Innovations
The growing popularity of exterior lighting has led to innovative fixtures. Here are some bright new ideas:

  • Solar lighting: When first introduced, solar pathway lights produced a dull glow that rarely made it through the night. They do much better now that they are equipped with electricity-sipping LEDs, more efficient photovoltaic cells, and better batteries. Still, they have yet to measure up to hard-wired systems.
  • Hybrids: Porch lights now come equipped with LED lighting for all night use, and a motion sensor that clicks on an incandescent bulb to provide extra illumination as you approach the front door. Hybrids use about 5% of the power a solely incandescent fixture requires.
  • Barbecue light: Tired of grilling steaks by flash light? Now you can buy a gooseneck outdoor light, ideal for an outdoor kitchen.

How accurate is Zillow & Trulia?

Today, many of my clients, sellers and buyer, ‘refer’ to Zillow or Trulia to try and pick up some knowledge about their local real estate market.  I agree that both of these sites provide great information about the buying or selling process, but relying on these two sites for accurate, real time, data on the local real estate market is a mistake.
According to a recent study, 36% of the ‘active’ listings posted on Zillow were actually no longer available.  It was 37% for Trulia.  These properties were either already under contract, sold, expired, or withdrawn and were no longer actively for sale.  For buyers, this means you are excited about a property that is no longer available.  Ever been told you can’t have something you really want?  It sucks!  For sellers, only the atual ‘sold’ price provides a true picture of what buyers, lenders, and appraisers, are giving for the home.  Just because something was listed for $200,000, doesn’t mean it sold, or appraised, for that.
In addition, this study found that Zillow only contained 79% of the local market’s active listings anyway.  It was 81% for Trulia.  Hey buyer!  Do you want to know about all the homes available for sale that match your family’s needs, or just 80% of them?  Don’t worry about the other 20%.  I bet they weren’t that good of a value anyway. Oh yeah, seller, don’t worry about the 20% fewer buyers who know about your house.  I’m sure that won’t affect your sales price or time on market much, well maybe by 20%, but that isn’t much, right? (20% x $200,000 = $40,000 less).  Chump Change!
Because Zillow and Trulia are third party, for profit, companies and not real estate firms or agents, they can not provide all the current, real time, information concerning active and sold homes.  Only a local agent, as a member of the local Multiple Listing Service, can provide real time, accurate date concerning your local market.  And local can mean your specific neighborhood.  Each neighborhood is different in style, in demand, in age, etc and each neighborhood has a different real estate market.  Just because a home only 1 mile away sold for X dollars, doesn’t mean your home will sell for X dollars.
Buying, or selling, a home is a family’s single largest financial decision and has great influence on all aspects of the family and its members.  Before making such a huge decision, I recommend that you get ALL the information….All the CORRECT and ACCURATE information, so you can make an educated decision.  Don’t make a decision based upon speculation, or partial data.  This could cost you greatly in the form of higher days on market, and incorrect ‘most likely sales price’.
 

Do it Yourself Projects that really add up

According to a recent survey, the below projects are cost-effective improvements that provide a positive Return on Investment toward the value of your home.  These are VERY important steps to take when preparing your home for market.  Even though these are ranked in order of greatest ROI, all of these need to be conducted prior to putting your home on the market for sale.

7 Smart Strategies for Bathroom Remodeling

7 Smart Strategies for Bathroom Remodeling

Here’s how to get the bathroom of your dreams without making your budget a nightmare.

A mid-range bathroom remodel is a solid investment, according to Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report. An average bath remodel of $16,500 will recoup about 62% of those costs when it’s time to sell your home, and a more extensive $52,200 job returns about 55.5%. In addition, you can maximize the value of your investment by using these smart strategies, which will create a stylish yet budget-friendly bathroom.

1. Stick to a plan

A bathroom remodel is no place for improvisation. Before ripping out the first tile, think hard about how you will use the space, what materials and fixtures you want, and how much you’re willing to spend.
The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends spending up to six months evaluating and planning before beginning work. That way, you have a roadmap that will guide decisions, even the ones made under remodeling stress. Once work has begun—a process that averages 2 to 3 months—resist changing your mind. Work stoppages and alterations add costs. Some contractors include clauses in their contracts that specify premium prices for changing original plans.
If planning isn’t your strong suit, hire a designer. In addition to adding style and efficiency, a professional designer makes sure contractors and installers are scheduled in an orderly fashion. A pro charges $100 to $200 per hour, and spends 10 to 30 hours on a bathroom project.
 

2. Keep the same footprint

You can afford that Italian tile you love if you can live with the total square footage you already have.
Keeping the same footprint, and locating new plumbing fixtures near existing plumbing pipes, saves demolition and reconstruction dollars. You’ll also cut down on the dust and debris that make remodeling so hard to live with.
Make the most of the space you have. Glass doors on showers and tubs open up the area. A pedestal sink takes up less room than a vanity. If you miss the storage, replace a mirror with a deep medicine cabinet.

3. Make lighting a priority

Multiple shower heads and radiant heat floors are fabulous adds to a bathroom remodel. But few items make a bathroom more satisfying than lighting designed for everyday grooming. You can install lighting for a fraction of the cost of pricier amenities.
Well-designed bathroom task lighting surrounds vanity mirrors and eliminates shadows on faces: You look better already. The scheme includes two ceiling- or soffit-mounted fixtures with 60 to 75 watts each, and side fixtures or sconces providing at least 150 watts each, distributed vertically across 24 inches (to account for people of various heights). Four-bulb lighting fixtures work well for side lighting.

4. Clear the air

Bathroom ventilation systems may be out of sight, but they shouldn’t be out of mind during a bathroom remodel.
Bathroom ventilation is essential for removing excess humidity that fogs mirrors, makes bathroom floors slippery, and contributes to the growth of mildew and mold. Controlling mold and humidity is especially important for maintaining healthy indoor air quality and protecting the value of your home—mold remediation is expensive, and excess humidity can damage cabinets and painted finishes.
A bathroom vent and water closet fan should exhaust air to the outside—not simply to the space between ceiling joists. Better models have whisper-quiet exhaust fans and humidity-controlled switches that activate when a sensor detects excess moisture in the air.

5. Think storage

Bathroom storage is a challenge: By the time you’ve installed the toilet, shower, and sink, there’s often little space left to store towels, toilet paper, and hair and body products. Here are some ways to find storage in hidden places.

  • Think vertically: Upper wall space in a bathroom is often underused. Freestanding, multi-tiered shelf units designed to fit over toilet tanks turn unused wall area into found storage. Spaces between wall studs create attractive and useful niches for holding soaps and toiletries. Install shelves over towel bars to use blank wall space.
  • Think moveable: Inexpensive woven baskets set on the floor are stylish towel holders. A floor-stand coat rack holds wet towels, bath robes, and clothes.
  • Think utility: Adding a slide-out tray to vanity cabinet compartments provides full access to stored items and prevents lesser-used items from being lost or forgotten.

6. Contribute sweat equity

Shave labor costs by doing some work yourself. Tell your contractor which projects you’ll handle, so there are no misunderstandings later.
Some easy DIY projects:

  • Install window and baseboard trim; save $250.
  • Paint walls and trim, 200 sq.ft.; save $200.
  • Install toilet; save $150.
  • Install towel bars and shelves; save $20 each.

7. Choose low-cost design for high visual impact

 
A “soft scheme” adds visual zest to your bathroom, but doesn’t create a one-of-a-kind look that might scare away future buyers.
Soft schemes employ neutral colors for permanent fixtures and surfaces, then add pizzazz with items that are easily changed, such as shower curtains, window treatments, towels, throw rugs, and wall colors. These relatively low-cost decorative touches provide tons of personality but are easy to redo whenever you want.

What it takes to sell your home!

What it takes to sell your home!
This is not rocket science these days, but it isn’t always what you see on HGTV either.  Today’s market is a “Price War” and a “Beauty Contest”, the first time we have been in both, at the same time.
Everyone thinks their home is the best in the neighborhood, but for most of us living in a developed neighborhood or subdivision, in a home built by a generic builder, your home is most like 99% of the homes in the neighborhood in terms of features (flooring style, crown molding, trimwork, etc), and probably the same exact house as yours is every 3rd houses down the street.  It is a big ‘awakening’ when I take my sellers and show them other homes for sale in their neighborhood.  Usually, the comment is “yeah, our house is just like theirs”.
In Central Arkansas for 2012, we are experiencing a high inventory of homes for sale, which has kept us in that “buyer’s market” mentality.  I say ‘mentality’ because whether your neighborhood has a stable, declining, or increasing market, the buyers today still think it is their market.
So, what does it take to sell your home?  Focus on the main areas:  Curb Appeal, Kitchen, Bathrooms & Staging/Detailing.
The goal is to eliminate any ‘negative’ thoughts from a buyer.  Yes, ‘any’!  Why, because most people ‘overestimate’ the cost of fixup by at least double the actual amount, and if they get ‘negative vibes’ from your home, they will just go to the next one.
Curb appeal is your first priority.  If it doesn’t appeal to the buyers from the outside, it will be hard to convert them with the inside.  Not impossible, but definitely a challenge.  I had buyers recently, who didn’t even want to go inside just because the outside was not appealing to them.  Good lawn, good landscaping features, clean exterior, pickup, fresh colorful flowers, fresh mulch, etc.  Most of this is easy stuff.
Once inside, buyers go ‘ga-ga’ over kitchens and bathrooms.  To have the limited buyers choose your home over the others, look into updating plumbing and lighting fixtures in these two areas, and keep them spotless.  New cabinet knobs and hinges go a long way.  What about a fresh paint job on cabinet doors, and maybe a little effect like ‘glazing’.  It seems stained cabinets are the ‘in’ trend right now for buyer preference, with granite countertops.
Finally, stage the home.  Clean it, declutter, properly place furniture to maximize space perception and flow.  You may even have to eliminate some furniture.  Put it in storage, or move it to another room that doesn’t have enough furniture.  This would be an excellent opportunity to bring in an interior design professional.  (Insert ad here – Have I mentioned that all my clients have access to a licensed Interior Designer, at no charge.)
Buyer are different these days.  They want the perfect house at a fair market value….maybe even a little discount!

Secret Weapon to Boosting Home Values

Secret Weapon to Boosting Home Values
A recent study came out from the Center for American Progress, showing that home values in an area can get a big boost by reducing the amount of violent crimes in that area.  Communities that reduce violent crimes by 10 percent could potentially see billions of dollars in home price appreciation for the community or about a 0.8 percent increase in home prices, the study says.
Researchers found that reducing murders in a particular ZIP code followed a “predictable and significant increase in housing values in the same ZIP code in the next year.” For example, reducing crime by one homicide in a ZIP code in a year can lead to a home price jump of 1.5 percent for the next year, according to the study. Researchers also found that reducing homicides by 25 percent could lead to an estimated 2.1 percent increase in housing prices over the next year.
“The basic idea is that crime has a big negative effect on property values, and if you do a cost-benefit analysis, it will be a good investment and the impact on home values is statistically significant and very large,” Kevin Hasset, director of Economic Policy studies for the American Enterprise Institute, said during a conference call.
What’s more, the study finds that a 10 percent decrease in homicides and increase in home values could also drastically expand a community’s revenues from property taxes.
Wow, what a coincedence!  On June 11, 2012, Little Rock was ranked as the 6th Most Dangerous City in America due to violent crimes!
6. Little Rock, Ark. Violent crimes per 1,000: 14.9
Our city officials had better find a way to lower the violent crimes in our communities by finding ways to lower the poverty rates, lower unemployment, and increase the household median income, or our local housing market is going to have an even harder time recovering.