Quick Updates to Your Home

It happens to all homeowners.  Rooms that once looked fresh and contemporary have aged themselves into drabness.  For some it is an excuse to redecorate.  For others it is a chore.  Either way, homeownership is an ever-evolving process.  As one project ends, another peaks its head around the corner.

To bring your rooms current, as well as to update worn and disheveled items, consider these five room freshening tips:

1.  Paint: Paint is number one on the list because it is relatively cheap and easy to do yourself.  Getting a professional finish is simple, thanks to a myriad of products now on the market for the do-it-yourselfers.  From tape to edgers to color changing paint, you are sure to get a quality finished product.  “In” colors change every few years, so be sure to do some homework on what hues are in style.  While you are at it, research zero-voc  (volatile organic compound) paint before starting your project.  Traditional paint leaches fumes into your home for years.  Zero-voc paint, however, exposes you to fewer odors during the painting process and fewer risky fumes in the years to come.  This is well worth the effort of searching out zero-voc and the cost difference per gallon is minimal.  Paint does wonders for hiding dirt, wear, and tear.  Bring your home into the new decade with a fresh coat.

2.  Trim: The current trend for trim in the rooms of a house is to be white instead of natural wood.  It is contemporary and clean.  If your trim work is in good repair, simply puttying holes, sanding scuffs and painting can update the look.  Dated trim that is too thin for your large rooms can be replaced with new baseboards.  An amateur handyman can tackle this task with table and coping saws.  Trim is all about getting the angle out correctly.  If you already have current looking trim, upgrade your room with crown molding.

3.  Cabinet Hardware: From oil-rubbed bronze to beautiful vintage pieces, old is in.  Hardware can easily be added to any existing cabinetry or changed to bring a new feel to a tired room.  Shop your local home improvement stores, online and at local auctions to find the pieces that truly speak to you.

4.  Decorative Accents: Curtains are the frame to any well-designed room.  Choose colors and patterns that fit the scale of your room.  Heavy curtains made from chenille or jacquard work best in large rooms with tall ceilings.  Lighter weight fabrics, such as silk and chiffon, are great choices for small or airy rooms.  Decorative pillows and throws are also an inexpensive way to change the accents of your room.  Bright is in; do not be afraid to play with color.

5.  Flooring: While flooring is not a simple fix and may require the help of a professional, it can make all the difference in a dated room.  Scratched and worn wood floors should be sanded and refinished to show the natural beauty of the wood.  Laminate wood flooring is an inexpensive and easy solution for homeowners who want a clean and modern update.  I recommend that you do not over-do this type of flooring; it should be in a room or two but not the entire house.

If your rooms are looking tired, be sure to wake them up with a few new colors, paints or accents.

 

 

When Should You Sell Your Home?

Years of experience have led me to believe that the best time of year to put your Palos Verdes home on the market is March through July.   However, I decided I wanted to see some statistics from our Multiple Listing Service to support or dispute my theory.  Unfortunately, the study is not entirely scientific, as I am not able to see historical data about open sales like I am able to see with closed sales.  So, I took a look at properties in escrow as of today, May 17, 2013.  There are currently sixty-five properties in escrow (pending sales).  There were no pending sales in January; there were three in February; only two in March; twenty-seven in April; and thirty-three so far in May.

I recommend listing your home in the months of April, May, or June.  Another very slow month for open sales is August, as many take vacations that month and listing in July may be too close for comfort.

Other factors to consider include the number of competing properties on the market in your neighborhood; whether your home is in marketing condition; and of course, the price you will be asking.  Be sure to look not only at comparable homes that have sold over the last six to nine months, but also those that are currently pending.  Many home sellers believe they need to ask a higher than market price so they will have room to negotiate.  This strategy is not a good idea, as you may never get an offer to negotiate at all.  I think a good thing to remember is that it is hard to under-price your home.  If the asking price is less than buyers and their agents know it is worth, the property will most probably receive multiple offers, often for more than the asking price.   The bottom line is that properties sell at their market value.  Another thing to remember is, “timing is everything”.

 

You Can’t Sell It If You Can’t See It

Marketing a home can be extremely difficult if there are too many restrictions on the showings of the property.  I believe it is a good idea to have a plan that will enable the most showings of your property, which will probably bring the best price.  I am presently working with a buyer and plan to show properties that fit his needs during a three hour window.  Every home that I want show has instructions to meet the agent to show.  One property requires 48-hour notice to show.  The difficulty that arises is how to time the showings to allow the buyer to fully view the homes and try to calculate driving time from house to house.  I really do not want to have to say, “I know you like this house, but we have to go now so we won’t be late for our next appointment.”  If we are running ahead of time and reach the next house before the other agent gets there, I really do not want to sit in the car and wait.

When you list your property, it is wise to install a lock box.  The lock boxes we use today are electronic and our openers are updated daily.  In addition, the listing agent is e-mailed after the showing with the buyer’s agent’s name, contact information and showing time.  If you decide you really do not want to use a lock box, it might be a good idea to set apart certain times each day that an agent can call first and then just go to show your home.

Open houses for brokers are another effective way to show your home and these should be held throughout the listing period for maximum exposure.  I had a listing that I held open every week.  The last one brought only one agent, but she sold the house!  Public open houses should be held on Sundays, when you plan to be away for the afternoon anyway.  I always hold public open houses with my real estate partner so we can properly represent the property to multiple groups.  We require that each person log in to our guest book.

I know it is still difficult to have people streaming through your home.  Keep your home as clean as possible and then have a set regimen for what to do when you get an agent calling to show your home.  Clean the kitchen counters; make sure there are no dirty dishes in the sink; wipe down the bathroom sinks and toilets; make sure everything is put away.  One of my clients had five young children.  When an agent would call to show her house she would take a big garbage bag and throw any toys laying around and even half-eaten peanut and jelly sandwiches into it and toss the bag in the garage and off she would go.  The agents were able to show the house with little notice and it sold quickly.  Even if your home is not as perfect as you think it should be when shown, it is probably better to let the agent show it.  One listing I had was shown when the owner was not expecting anybody; she was very upset that there were toys strewn everywhere.  Well, that person bought her home for full asking price.  The important thing to remember is, “You can’t sell it if you can’t see it.”

 

Easy Steps for Removing That Musty Smell from Your Home

Because many of our Palos Verdes homes are on a hillside, lower stories are often below the grade and often there is mold growing in the rooms of the lower level.  This musty smell is repugnant to prospective buyers.  A few years ago, I learned from a home inspector that mold prefers natural materials on which to grow.  First, check inside the downstairs closets to see if there is mold on old leather jackets, boots, purses, shoes and remove them from the premises.  Next, visit your local Home Depot or Lowes and purchase bags containing a desiccant and hang them in the closets.  You will see shortly the amount of moisture there is in those spaces.  These bags will need to be replaced every month or so.  Open windows to get fresh air circulating throughout the lower level.  To add a very pleasant and not overwhelming scent, I recommend infusers that can be purchased at most department stores.  The plug-in varieties of deodorizers are obnoxiously strong and I would not recommend your using them.

Boost Your Home’s Value: 4 Projects with the Greatest “Bang for Your Buck”

No matter if the housing market is up or down, you always want to ensure home remodeling projects are wise investments.  According to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report 2011-2012, there are several home improvement projects that will provide significant enjoyment to you now and could recoup a majority of your dollars whenever you decide to sell.

Beautiful bathrooms:  According to the report, a mid-range bathroom remodel ($16,000) can recoup up to 62% of the investment when it is time to sell…and in the meantime, add significant enjoyment with a new, relaxing retreat.  To start determine which updates matter most and how much assistance you will need for each.

Complex projects, such as structural, electrical or plumbing changes or installing countertops or flooring, may be best left to the professionals.  However, there are many updates you can tackle yourself.  Painting is an easy and ideal do-it-yourself task that can make a large impact with minimal cost.  Similarly, installing new faucets, accessories and showerheads can be simple, even for a novice. 

Classy kitchen:  Once you have updated your bathrooms, the kitchen is a rewarding home renovation that when done moderately can recoup up to 72% of your investment.  Based on your budget, you will need to determine whether to update with a lower-cost laminate or a higher-priced option, such as granite or marble, that can offer an upscale look, added durability and functionality.

Lighting, while functional, also adds a significant style element to a kitchen.  Replacing fluorescent fixtures with recessed cans or pendants will add ambiance and luxury to your room.  Update your old appliances.  Add a splash of paint to the walls and trim for a polished look.  Finish off the counter area with a new high-end kitchen faucet.

Envious entry:  It is the first thing your guests and future home buyers see when they approach your home, so if your front door is not appealing or does not have significant features, it is time for an upgrade.  A new entry door adds instant curb appeal for a minimal price and can recoup up to 60% of your investment.

When choosing a new door, fiberglass options are an ideal choice.  The material resists denting and scratching, is easy to maintain and can make your home more energy efficient.

Wonderful windows:  Similar to the front door, replacing your existing windows with new vinyl windows will give your whole home a new look and feel, both inside and out, and payback of up to 68% of your investment.  As a larger-scale project, this is likely a project left for the professionals.

Look to your local window distributor to refer you to a reputable contractor to ensure your new windows are installed properly.  When it comes to selecting windows, vinyl is an all-around excellent choice.  Unlike wood, vinyl windows resist rotting and do not require repainting.  Unlike aluminum, vinyl windows will never pit or flake.  Plus, you can enjoy a pay off immediately with increased comfort and lower utility bills, while potentially adding significant resale value to your home in the future.

 

Prepare Your House for Sale

Every seller wants their home to sell fast and bring top dollar.  It is not luck that makes that happen.  It is careful planning and knowing how to fix-up your home that will send homebuyers scurrying for their checkbooks.  Here is how to prepare your home and turn it into an irresistible and marketable house.

Disassociate Yourself With Your Home: Remember, once you put your home on the market, it becomes a house for sale-a product to be sold.  You must make the mental decision to let go of your emotions and focus on the fact that soon this house will no longer be yours.  This is an exciting time, and emotions can get the better of you if you do not take the time to make this separation, mentally and physically.

De-Personalize: Pack up those personal photographs and family heirlooms.  Buyers can not see past personal artifacts, and you do not want them to be distracted.  You want buyers to imagine their own photos on the walls, and they cannot do that if yours are there.

De-Clutter: People collect an amazing quantity of “stuff”.  Consider this:  If you have not used it in over a year, you probably do not need it.  If you do not need it, why not donate it?  Remove all books from bookcases, pack up those knickknacks, clean off everything on kitchen counters and put essential items used daily in a small box that can be stored in a closet when not in use.  Think of this process as a head-start on the packing you will eventually need to do anyway.

Rearrange Bedroom Closets and Kitchen Cabinets: Buyers love to snoop and will open closet and cabinet doors.  Think of the message it sends if items fall out.  Now imagine what a buyer believes about you if he sees everything organized.  It says you probably take good care of the rest of the house as well.

Rent a Storage Unit: Almost every home shows better with less furniture.  Remove pieces of furniture that block or hamper paths and walkways and put them in storage.  Since your bookcases are empty, store them.  Remove extra leaves from your dining room table to make the room appear larger.  Leave just enough furniture in each room to showcase the room’s purpose and plenty of room to move around.

Remove/Replace Favorite Items: If you want to take window coverings, built-in appliances or fixtures with you, remove them now.  If the chandelier in the dining room once belonged to your great grandmother, take it down.  If the buyer never sees it, he will not want it.  Once you tell a buyer they cannot have an item, they may covet it , and it could cause the deal to fall through.

Make Minor Repairs: Replace cracked floor or counter tiles, patch holes in the walls, fix leaky faucets and fix doors that do not close properly and kitchen drawers that jam.  Consider painting your walls neutral colors, especially if you have grown accustomed to purple or pink walls.  Take a long, hard look at any wallpapering in the house; if it is too bold in color, it will probably not appeal to most buyers.

Meake the House Sparkle: Wash windows inside and out, clean out cobwebs, re-caulk tubs, showers and sinks and polish chrome faucets and mirrors.  Consider removing window screens while showing the house for sale; this will allow for lighter rooms and prettier views to the outside.  Clean the refrigerator, wax floors and dust furniture, ceiling fan blades and light fixtures.  Hang up fresh towels (bathroom towels look great fastened with ribbon and bows).

Scrutinize: Go outside and open your front door.  Stand there.  Do you want to go inside?  Does the house welcome you?  Linger in the doorway of every single room and imagine how your house will look to a buyer.  Examine carefully how furniture is arranged and move pieces around until it makes sense.  Make sure window coverings hang level.  Does it look like nobody lives in this house?  You are almost finished.

Check Curb Appeal: If the buyers will not get out of their agent’s car because they do not like the exterior of your home, you will never get them inside.  Remember to keep the sidewalks cleared, mow the lawn and paint faded trim.  For a punch of color, plant yellow flowers or group flower posts together.  Use yellow to evoke emotion.  Make sure potential buyers can clearly read your house number.  If your mail box is unsightly, replace it with a new one.

There will be future posts with more tips for preparing and showing your home.