Monthly Archives: December 2018

5 Ways You’re Sabotaging the Sale of Your Home

upset real estate agent


So you’ve finally decided to put your home on the market. You’ve planned your first open house, begun searching for new digs, and even made a mental packing list. Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for the offers to roll in, right?

Well, sellers, we don’t mean to freak you out, but we’ve got bad news: You just might be sabotaging your home sale. Obviously, that’s the last thing you’d want to do, but one wrong turn—or wrong decision—could hurt your chances of landing a buyer. And the most unsettling part? You probably have no idea you’re doing anything wrong.

Below are some of the ways you may be turning off buyers without even knowing it.

1. Bad color schemes

Photo by DEANE Inc | Rooms Everlasting

When your house is on the market, you want to make it appeal to as many people as possible. And while your kitchen painted in your favorite shade of neon green might be attractive to you, it could repel buyers.

“When a buyer comes into your home, you want them to imagine it as their future home. The more difficult it is, the less likely they are to buy,” says James McGrath, licensed real estate salesperson for Yoreevo in New York. “The more muted the decorations and color schemes, the broader the reach and the better off you are.”

2. Too much personal taste

It’s not just bold colors you should avoid; beware of showing off too much of your style—at least while your home is on the market. (Yes, we’re even talking about your beloved lion statues on the front porch.)

“Odd decorations divert buyers’ attention away from the home itself,” McGrath says. “I once saw a home with a stuffed peacock in the bedroom, and every buyer would go in and note the peacock, but not the bedroom itself.”

When in doubt, think neutral: Replace loud patterns with muted ones, and put eccentric decorations and personal knickknacks in storage before your next open house.

3. Bad odors

Photo by

You might have become nose-blind to cigarette or pet odor, but savvy buyers will instantly pick up on funky smells—and that’s a sure way to drive them away.

If you smoke—or used to smoke—inside your home, know this: Residual nicotine can still be present in the drapes, furniture, carpets, and on walls and other objects long after you’ve put out the last cigarette, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And this isn’t a problem that can be solved with air freshener. You’ll need to either wash or dry-clean your fabrics, shampoo your carpets, and wash your walls. If washing the walls doesn’t work, you’ll need to repaint.

Pet urine on baseboards and in carpets and rugs is also problematic. Bleach, vinegar and water, or specially formulated cleaners can combat these smells. No matter what, expect to do a deep, deep clean before you list your home.

4. Not being flexible for showings

The real estate market moves quickly, so if you want to sell your home you need to cater to the potential buyers’ schedules.

“I get it, getting kicked out of your house for showings isn’t fun, but to maximize the activity on your home, you have to be accommodating to potential buyers,” says Jim Stevenson, a real estate agent at Realty ONE Group in Doylestown, PA.

If possible, require only a few hours’ notice before showings, he recommends.

“It’s so much easier for me and my buyers if we’re able to schedule a showing when it’s most convenient for us,” Stevenson says. “The sooner a buyer can see your house, the sooner they can make an offer, which lessens the chance of them finding something else.”

And remember: One thing buyers definitely shouldn’t see during a showing is you.

“When owners are home during a showing it adds a layer of uneasiness since buyers don’t really feel free in the space,” says Louisa Gillen, co-founder and principal broker at the Simple Real Estate Co. in New York. “They feel like a guest in someone’s home, and … you want them to feel like it’s their home.”

5. Disguising problem areas

In your quest to have a show-ready home, don’t cut corners. A fresh coat of paint might temporarily hide the appearance of mold, but it’ll likely crop up in the home inspection.

“Savvy buyers know to look for mold, which is a fungus that could be toxic,” says Tina Tyus, real estate broker at Town Square Realty in Birmingham, AL. “If they don’t find it, a home inspector will.”

Structural issues are another concern for buyers.

“Hairline cracks over doorways could be a sign of settling, but they could also be a sign of structural issues,” Tyus explains.

Instead of trying to hide these problem areas, be sure to address them before you put your house on the market—and be upfront with buyers if you decide to sell the home as is.

Bottom line: Don’t try to use paint, rugs, or fancy lighting to mask problems that a buyer will probably uncover.

The post 5 Ways You’re Sabotaging the Sale of Your Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: A Modernized 1950s Home Is Now a Buyer’s Dream

Listing Photo Lesson

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. “Lessons From Listing Photos” is our new series in which we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes and how their listing pics highlight the home’s best assets.

Most people don’t mind buying a house that’s in need of a few updates; in fact, taking on a couple of home improvement projects is practically expected. But when an entire house needs an upgrade, it can be intimidating.

Case in point: This two-story, single-family home in Rockville Center, NY, built in 1952. When the most recent sellers purchased it in 2017, it still held onto a lot of its original charm—and its original decor. Dark wood paneling, floral curtains, and wall-to-wall carpeting all made the inside of the home into a time capsule. While this vintage vibe might appeal to some, the owners made the smart decision to bring the decor into the 21st century with modern flooring and neutral tones that make it fit for a much wider array of buyers.

So, did the changes work? The house sold in August, so that’s a success in our book. Find out which interior updates made the most difference in this home, and why you might want to consider them for your own place.

Dining room (before)

dining room_before
The dining room was dark and dated.

Dining room (after)

dining room_after
All this light makes the dining room look brand-new.

Peace out, wood paneling

Although it doesn’t look like it, this is, in fact, the same dining room. The most obvious change is removing the retro wood paneling and replacing it with a fresh coat of paint and wall moulding that still has vintage appeal.

“Some people may think the wood paneling adds charm, but this look left the harbor a long time ago,” says property stylist Karen Gray Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP.

Leslie Saul, interior designer and founder of Leslie Saul and Associates, calls the space “transformed.”

“The gray and white walls help make the room feel expansive and appealing to most potential buyers,” Saul adds.

Another fan of the new dining room is Sandra Funk, designer and founder of House of Funk in Montclair, NJ.

“What was once screaming ‘project’ is now a blank slate that home buyers can see themselves making their own,” she says. “This room feels twice as big as the original design thanks to a newly stained hardwood floor, lighter paint on the walls, a statement light fixture, and updated door and window detailing.”

Bathroom (before)

This vintage bathroom won’t appeal to everyone.

Bathroom (after)

This new modern bathroom has universal appeal.

Refresh the retro bathroom

In the bathroom, the sellers opted to keep the same layout and spend their money on modernizing every square inch instead. This included doing away with the Millennial Pink sink, toilet, and tub.

Pink fixtures are trendy, but you are limiting your buying market by leaving a bathroom as is. Bathrooms weight heavily in a buyer’s purchasing decision,” says Gray Plaisted. “Buyers know that renovating a bathroom is a big expense—one many don’t want to make when first purchasing a house. When selling, updating a bathroom in the right finishes equates to hassle-free in a buyer’s mind.”

Funk says the makeover has wide appeal. “Classic subway tiles, a vanity with tons of storage, and simple, clean hardware” are all features that will impress buyers looking for a clean, updated home.

“The marble vanity top adds elegance, and the medicine cabinet is endlessly functional,” she adds.

Basement (before)

The dark basement lacked purpose.

Basement (after)

Now, this basement is a perfect place to gather.


Make the basement a blank canvas

This basement was spacious even before the makeover, but painting it white really showed potential buyers its true potential. Not only did this eliminate the to-do work of neutralizing the color palette of the room, but it also helps the buyers envision themselves in the space. No more wondering if their couch will look good in this basement play area—everything matches when a seller gives them a blank slate to start from.

The sellers also replaced the fluorescent ceiling light fixtures with modern-looking recessed lighting with LED bulbs.

“If you look closely you will see the paneling was just painted over, which likely saved the sellers some money,” Gray Plaisted says. “All the updates done to this room will give the seller bang for their buck.”

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: A Modernized 1950s Home Is Now a Buyer’s Dream appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

7 Reasons to Accept the First Offer on Your House

House Sold


How do you know you’ve found The One? The one offer on your home worth taking, that is. It’s entirely natural for sellers to consider multiple offers from interested buyers, but in certain circumstances, the first offer you receive may actually be the one you should accept.

Why? Because for many of us, selling a home is about more than getting top dollar—it’s about a smooth transaction and moving onto the next phase of your life.

Here are some specific instances when accepting the first offer makes the most sense.

1. If it’s the most un-wonderful time of the year for real estate

The sweet spot for home sales is the spring. As the months tick by and the weather cools, the real estate market tends to do the same.

“If you find yourself selling between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, you will want to consider the first offer, as it might be a while until you receive another,” says Nancy Wallace-Laabs of KBN Homes in Texas. “This is typically a slower selling season, and many buyers will wait until the new year to start their home search.”

2. If your house has been on the market more than three months

When properties sit on the market, whatever the reason, buyers will assume there’s something wrong. So when an offer rolls in—assuming the number’s not an extreme lowball—it means you may have finally found the best possible buyer, says Carolann Newton, a broker at Jackson Stanley in Easley, SC. You don’t want the property to continue to lose value by being on the market longer than it should be.

3. If you get an all-cash offer

Even if a buyer comes at you with an all-cash offer that’s lower than you’d hoped for, you may want to accept it.

“Cash buyers are a safe bet since they don’t have to wait on the loan processing to be approved,” says Wallace-Laabs.

And cash buyers usually don’t come with any contingencies, like having to sell their current home before they can buy yours. Just be sure to vet buyers to ensure they have the cash on hand.

4. If you’re going through a major life event

Starting a new chapter in your life? You may want to accept the first offer it you’re experiencing a major life event like relocating for work or going through a divorce. Closing the book on your home sale will ease what can be a difficult transition.

5. If the buyer goes the extra mile

Dora Hererra accepted the first offer she received on her house in Los Angeles two days after listing because the buyers had a complete package together when they made the offer. Not only did they have solid financials and a pre-approval letter from the bank, they also included a letter explaining why the house would be ideal for their family.

“We received a higher offer that same day but went with the well-prepared offer instead,” says Hererra.

6. If you have no skin in the game

Perhaps you’ve inherited a home from a deceased loved one and you plan on selling it. It’s likely that your main concerns will be getting a fair price and unloading the house as soon as possible so you can move on. The first attractive offer that comes your way may be the one worth accepting.

“We recently helped a client who inherited a house,” says B. Cornelius Charles, co-owner of Dream Home Property Solutions in Ventura County, CA. “Her only care was that she wanted to break even after paying off the remaining mortgage.”

7. If you’ve already found a new home

Most sellers are also involved in their own home search, and there’s a chance they’ll find a house before a buyer comes around for theirs. If you find yourself in that situation, you can either pay two mortgages (not ideal) or make a contingent offer on your new home that’s dependent on your finding a buyer.

“If the seller has a contingent offer on another property they’re purchasing, then time is of the essence,” says Justin Potier, a broker at Carrington Real Estate Services in Great Neck, NY.

The post 7 Reasons to Accept the First Offer on Your House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

9 Horrible Home Staging Fails You Have to See to Believe


Home staging, when it’s done right, can help sell a property quickly and profitably. But, what happens when it’s done wrong? Well, first, it can provide plenty of laughs, and then, second, it may offer some serious lessons about what not to do when you’re prepping your home for sale.

If you’re wondering what types of things you should avoid, look no further. From creepy marionettes to overcrowding an area so it screams “cramped,” Instagram is rife with #stagingfails. These photos, shared by real estate agents who couldn’t quite believe their eyes, illustrate how the wrong decor can potentially dissuade buyers from taking a longer look. Sneak a peek and make a mental note to skip these staging faux pas in the future.

1. Too much matching can backfire

It’s natural to want your home furnishings to complement each other, but this is taking it a wee bit too far. Here, the bed almost seems like an optical illusion. Make no mistake, it’s real—and it’s not working.

2. Don’t MacGyver your chandelier

Points for creativity, but still. Rigging up your light fixture with a dog leash and collar, even if it’s to center it over the table, makes buyers wonder what other unusual hacks this homeowner’s got going on.

3. Not everyone wants a bear hug before bed

Taxidermy isn’t every buyer’s cup of tea. It’s best to take down any creatures that would potentially scare off interested parties.

4. And more taxidermy does not make it better

You have to agree with the agent on this one: That hyena does look pretty smug.

5. Unless it’s a rubber duck, toys don’t belong in the bathroom

Aside from the bizarre fact that this marionette is dangling above the toilet, it’s safe to say that toys should almost always be relegated to a playroom or a child’s room. Though we suppose this might at least keep home buyers from taking a quick pee break during their tour.

6. Statement ceilings can be taken too far

Many consider the ceiling a room’s fifth wall, a veritable blank canvas just waiting to be adorned. While statement ceilings are making a comeback, this is just a little too much. If you’re drawing the eye upward, you want it to be for a good reason. This isn’t it.

7. Keep your over-the-top decor on the down-low

Even if you’re a feline fanatic, you may find this bedspread to be a little in your face. Most stagers agree: When in doubt, keep decor neutral. Anyone with a cat allergy is bound to run right out of this place.

8. Don’t draw attention to tight spaces

It’s natural for homeowners want to make the most of every inch of their property, but unless one person is willing to hop over the table to dine, this cozy setup only points out that there isn’t a whole lot of room here. It would’ve been better to leave it empty.

9. Good intentions only go so far

View this post on Instagram

Plants are great! Just remember to actually plant them…

A post shared by Brad Speck (@meetbradspeck) on Feb 23, 2016 at 10:17am PST

We get it, staging the interior and exterior of your home can be exhausting, but you can’t stop here, at least not without raising some eyebrows.

The post 9 Horrible Home Staging Fails You Have to See to Believe appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

5 Times It’s Smarter to Sell Your Old Home Before Buying a New One

Steve Debenport/iStock

If you own a home but are ready to move onto a bigger and better abode, one of the most important questions to ponder before you embark on this transition is this: Should you sell before you buy, or buy before you sell?

Allow us to set you straight on this: Selling your old home before buying a new one is probably the better way to go.

There are many reasons why selling before you buy is what the majority of homeowners choose to do. Here’s a rundown of them all so you can decide with confidence whether this move is right for you, too.

1. You don’t want to risk carrying two mortgages

In a perfect world, you would buy your new house, sell your old one, and the timelines would match up perfectly. No muss, no fuss, no risk. For most of us, though, things rarely go that smoothly.

“Imagine purchasing a new home before selling,” says Brad Malow, a real estate broker with Compass in New York City. “The market then turns, perhaps you run into employment or financial troubles, an unexpected world event happens, a pipe bursts in your home—whatever it may be, you’re now stuck carrying two properties for longer than you anticipated.”

If you don’t have the savings to carry two mortgages for at least a few months, if needed, you’ll want to sell before you buy.

2. You can’t qualify for two mortgages

To buy a home before you sell, you need to either have the cash on hand or qualify for a second mortgage. Understand that lenders won’t consider your plans to sell your current home when reviewing your second mortgage application.

Your “debt-to-income ratio will need to fit the criteria of the loan requirements at the time of purchase,” says Lukasz Kukwa, a real estate agent in Westfield, NJ.

Your lender assumes you will keep both homes, and so your debt-to-income ratio needs to be able to support two mortgages. This means that your monthly debt payments should total less than about 36% of your monthly gross income.

If you don’t think you meet the criteria, you may have an easier time selling your home before buying a new one.

3. You’re buying in a competitive market

In some real estate markets, people are practically climbing over one another to get their hands on desirable properties. Although this means that your house may sell faster, if you’re living in the same market you’re buying, you also need to be able to put in a competitive offer.

If you haven’t already sold your home and you can’t afford two mortgages, you may need to put in an offer that’s contingent on selling your current home. This means that the seller has to wait for you to sell your current place before closing the sale.

Understandably, that’s not an appealing option for sellers.

“If [the offers] are contingent, they may not even be considered in the running for a house if there are multiple offers in on it,” says Cari McGee, a real estate agent in Kennewick, WA.

Selling your home before buying a new one allows you to bid on a house without it being contingent on a sale. That’s critical in a competitive market.

4. You’re selling in a sluggish market

If your present home is in an area that isn’t exactly selling like hotcakes, you may want to sell first. This is for two reasons: One, it could simply take a long time, leaving you with two mortgages, and two, you may not get the sales price you want, which will affect your new home purchase.

“If a client is anticipating selling their current home for a given price, they may stretch their budget on their next home with that in mind,” says JW Roeder, a real estate agent with Reece Nichols Realtors in Overland Park, KS. “However, if that anticipated sales price doesn’t come to fruition, the client may be stuck with a higher payment than they had planned for.”

5. You’re just not ready to commit

Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to buy. You may want to get the feel of a neighborhood before you live there permanently. Buying is a big commitment, but if you want to take advantage of the schools or amenities of a new place, renting temporarily makes sense.

“Many sellers nowadays actually enjoy renting for a year. This allows them to confirm the neighborhood is the right fit and gives them the time to find something,” says Martin Eiden, a real estate agent with Compass in New York City. “Sure, you will never see the rent money again. However, buying a property only to discover you don’t like it, and have to sell, is much, much more costly.”

Protecting yourself when selling first

If you’re selling your home before buying, but you want to avoid potentially having to rent while you’re between homes, consider adding a lease-back contingency to your home sale. This works best in a seller’s market, where buyers are willing to wait to get into a new home. With a lease-back contingency, you sell the home to your buyers, but lease it back from them for a set term (typically 30 to 90 days) while you look for a new home. This improves your chances of finding a new home before you have to move out.

Another strategy is to enlist the help of an experienced agent. Follow your agent’s recommendations for getting your house ready to sell and familiarizing yourself with the market where you want to buy. As soon as you have a contract on your home, look for a new home. If all goes well, your agent can help you line up your closing dates so you have to move only once.

Just keep in mind that not everyone should sell before they buy: Here are six surprising reasons to buy a new home before selling the old.

The post 5 Times It’s Smarter to Sell Your Old Home Before Buying a New One appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

6 Times It’s Actually Smarter to Buy a New Home Before Selling the Old


You should never buy a new house before selling your old home … at least, that’s the conventional wisdom. Because if you buy before you sell, you run the risk of owning two homes at once—and carrying two mortgages! What if your first home doesn’t sell anytime soon? The financial ramifications are too scary to even consider, right?

Not necessarily. For some home buyers, it actually does make more sense to buy your new home before you sell your old one. Here are six times to seriously consider this option, along with tips for handling the challenges you might face along the way.

1. You’re buying in a seller’s market

A seller’s market refers to times when there are more buyers looking for houses than there are houses available for sale. And this puts buyers at a disadvantage.

“In a strong seller’s market, buyers face stiff competition with multiple offers and little available inventory. In that environment, it can take several tries before getting an offer accepted,” says Christine McCarron, a real estate agent and investor in Brookline, MA.

Since your efforts to buy a home may be a long and arduous slog, it may make sense to secure a deal on your new digs before you put your current house on the market. This is especially true if your old home is also located in a seller’s market, which is likely if you’re buying a new house in the same area. This means you’ll probably have plenty of interest in your home, and no problem selling it once you’re ready.

Not sure what kind of market you’re in? Here’s more on seller’s markets and how to tell if you’re in one yourself.

2. You want to remodel your new home (or your old one)

If you’re living in a fixer-upper or you have your eye on one, buying before you sell may actually make a whole lot of sense. The reason: This strategy gives you a place to live while renovating the other residence. That way, you and your family don’t have to live in a construction zone!

And here’s another perk: If you’re fixing up the house you currently own, it could boost your home’s value, which positions you to receive top dollar for it, according to Ralph DiBugnara, vice president of retail sales of Residential Home Funding in New York City.

3. You have kids

Let’s just say it’s not easy to sell a house that’s overrun with children, and all the toys and messes that crop up in their wake. It can even hurt the odds that your home will sell at all.

“With an active family, the pristine condition that home buyers expect—due to TV shows that display staged, model-like homes—just doesn’t happen unless everyone is out, everything is cleaned, everything is repaired, and the home is staged with furniture with no worries of it getting covered in grape juice,” says Cari McGee, a real estate agent in Kennewick, WA.

Getting your home sales-ready, and keeping it that way, may be simpler if you’re already living in your new home (plus, you don’t have to uproot your little ones more than once).

4. You’re downsizing

Downsizing is an especially challenging task. You’re faced with sorting through the contents of your current home, which tends to be a time-consuming and emotional ordeal. Buying a new home before selling gives you time to sort through your belongings and simplify the process.

Lukasz Kukwa, a real estate agent in Westfield, NJ, has seen this approach work well for his older clients, particularly since with downsizing, the second mortgage is probably a smaller one.

With downsizing, “it is a good idea to take this approach—buying before selling—since the financial burden of carrying two mortgages will be of smaller significance since you’re buying a cheaper, smaller home,” Kukwa says.

5. You’ve found a great deal, or your dream home

Some houses are just too good to pass up. If you’ve found an amazing bargain or the home of your dreams, you may want to snap it up! If not, you might regret how playing it safe meant you missed out on this once-in-a-lifetime deal.

6. You can deal with moving only once

Here’s one huge downside to selling home No. 1 before buying home No. 2: You’ll probably have to endure the wholly unpleasant process of moving twice.

“If the homeowner sells their existing home first, it requires them to move out and find temporary housing and storage. Once the new home is purchased, it would require moving again,” says Jeffrey Hensel, broker associate at North Coast Financial in Oceanside, CA. “Moving twice is inconvenient and costly.”

According to the American Moving & Storage Association, the average cost of moving in state totals $1,170. An out-of-state move will cost much more: $5,630. If moving and coughing up that amount twice is a major turnoff or an all-out deal breaker, then you’re certainly a candidate for buying before you sell.


How to buy a new home before selling your old one

Even if you have good reason to buy before you sell, that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. For one, would you even qualify in lenders’ eyes to carry two mortgages at once? And would you want to? Here’s how to navigate these challenges.

Can’t carry two mortgages? Consider a bridge loan

First off, let’s face the fact that even if you’re fine having two mortgages, lenders may not feel the same way about your prospects.

“Because of debt-to-income ratios, it may be impossible to qualify for the second mortgage before paying off your first,” says Eric Sztanyo, a real estate agent in Cincinnati.

Your debt-to-income ratio refers to the amount of your debt payments compared with the amount of your gross monthly income. Lenders are typically looking for a low debt-to-income ratio, with less than 28% of your monthly income going to mortgage payments. If a second mortgage will take your debt-to-income ratio over this percentage, you may not be able to qualify for a second mortgage.

In this situation, Sztanyo recommends considering a bridge loan.

With a bridge loan, “you are able to buy the second home using the equity of the first home,” he says.

A bridge loan is a short-term loan based on the equity and value of your current residence. You typically need at least 20% equity in your home as well as good credit to qualify. These loans often have high interest rates, though, and if your home doesn’t sell quickly, you may be stuck making loan payments on top of your new mortgage payment.

Add a home-selling contingency to your contract

Even if you do qualify for two mortgages, that doesn’t mean you’ll be comfortable doing so. If the very idea of stressing your finances like this makes you break out in a cold sweat, consider adding a home sale contingency to your home purchase contract. This contingency gives you a set amount of weeks or months to sell your current home before your new home purchase goes through—thus buying you some much-needed time.

The downside? This contingency is not particularly appealing for sellers who want to move soon. That said, some may be willing to opt for this option if they don’t have many offers or are on a flexible schedule to move out.


Not sure if buying before selling is for you? Tune in tomorrow for the other side: why it may be smarter to sell your old home before buying new. 

The post 6 Times It’s Actually Smarter to Buy a New Home Before Selling the Old appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: This L.A. Bungalow Masters the Art of Using Color in a Modern Way

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. That’s why it’s so important to get your home photo-ready before showing it off. Whether it’s with simple decor changes or major renovations, we love to see how sellers changed their homes for the better. So we created “Lessons From Listing Photos,” a new series in which we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes and—most importantly—why those changes highlight the home’s best assets.

Most sellers are reluctant to use color in their home before putting it on the market. They’re afraid (with reason!) that certain shades will turn off potential buyers: The rule of thumb is that neutral interiors rule when it comes to real estate.

But a colorful home shouldn’t automatically be pegged as a tough sell. Case in point: This 1912 Craftsman-style bungalow that embraces color in all the right ways. Sans color, this one-bed, one-bath West Hollywood, CA, house was still a gem, with historic architecture any buyer would notice. But the sellers took it one step further, and made careful changes that set it apart from other listings in the area. Although we can’t say so with certainty, we wouldn’t be surprised if the skillful use of color and interior renovations were the reason why the house sold in less than a month.

We asked experts to take a look at the “before” and “after” photos and comment on the design changes they thought were most effective in this charming Southern California home.

Entry (before)

Entry before
A porch that lacks personality

Entry (after)

Entry after
After, the entry is welcoming and full of color.

Punch up the porch

The entry of your house is so much more than a front door—although the homeowners did an A-plus job of choosing a cheery yellow paint for the main threshold.

Interior designer Tyler Hill of Mitchell Hill in Charleston, SC, thinks the sellers made some good choices. “I like how picture windows were added, flanking the vibrant yellow door that gives the home charm,” he says.

Another charming feature worth noting is the pendant lantern. San Francisco designer Cynthia Spence of Cynthia Spence Design believes it’s much more effective than the old flush mount light fixture.

The new concrete porch is also a positive change. “The landing is great in concrete, because it is classic and easy to maintain,” says Sandra Levy, designer and founder of House of Funk, which has offices in New York and New Jersey. “The stone walkway is maintenance-free and much more interesting with the new landscaping.”

Levy added that the new look makes the home feel “clean, modern, and open.”

Kitchen (before)

Kitchen before
The former kitchen was a blank slate, with an awkward layout.

Kitchen (after)

kitchen after
After, the kitchen flows with the rest of the home.

Go bold (but don’t forget to balance)

You might think that listing your house means you need to strip your home of color and any unique touches, but these “before” and “after” photos of the kitchen prove that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“I like that they opened it up. You don’t see the refrigerator first,” says Spence. “I am a fan of appliances not being the first thing your eye meets.”

Property stylist Karen Gray Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP says the new layout created better flow, explaining that “buyers like easy access to adjoining rooms.”

She’s also a fan of the color choice. “Yes, the blue is bold, but balancing the bold color with the neutral backsplash and countertop draws your eye around the kitchen. It’s modern, on trend, and updated,” she says.

Some may feel that having an all-white kitchen would be more favorable, but it all depends on the market you’re in, and the tastes of the people you’re selling to. Bold color like this is definitely a go in Los Angeles.

Preserve the original elements of the house

Spence says that the wood floors make the biggest impact, and she praises the decision to preserve the original wood.

“I love the soul behind it. It doesn’t look like a spec house,” she says. “This house has been here and has lots of memories and history. Like an antique rug, these floors have been walked on and lived on. The patina is beautiful.”

Bathroom (before)

The previous bathroom design was clean, but it felt cramped.

Bathroom (after)

After, the bathroom looks more luxurious.

Open it up

The old bathroom design was functional, but it wasn’t using the space to its full potential.

“The new bathroom is fabulous,” says Plaisted. “The layout makes it feel more spacious, which is what buyers want.”

Eliminating the countertop, putting in a pedestal sink, and relocating the toilet allowed the owners to open up the shower. If your bathroom is short on space but you really want to impress buyers, Plaisted recommends eliminating the bathtub altogether and putting in a large shower, like the one above.

Let the architecture be your guide

Levy loves the new look, because it adds to the personality that suffuses the rest of the house.

“This bathroom has a ton of vintage charm. There’s personality woven throughout in the fixtures and fittings,” says Levy, who thinks the renovations help show off the house’s natural beauty.

“I have to give them kudos for the 1920s-era faucet and toilet seat; they work with the architecture of the home,” she says. “What’s trending now (thank goodness!) is design based on the architecture—and that is truly timeless.”

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: This L.A. Bungalow Masters the Art of Using Color in a Modern Way appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

8 Things to Never, Ever Put on a Table If You Hope to Impress Guests


Do you have visitors coming over or, egad, home buyers you hope might purchase your place? Then you’d better watch what you put where—particularly on tables, countertops, and other highly visible surfaces. Let’s face it: A candle or vase of flowers might be considered fine DIY home staging. But choose the wrong kind of place setting or decor, and buyers will take note!

Don’t believe us? One need look no further than Instagram, which is bursting with horrifying sights that, for some reason, the sellers thought might be OK to display. Luckily, real estate agents couldn’t help but snap some pics to document these snafus.

Consider this a list of what to not place on a table if you hope to impress, well, anyone!

1. Your dirty laundry

“Laundry, it’s what’s for dinner!” said no one ever. That little toy bus doesn’t seem too appetizing either. The rest looks like a dollar store’s clearance bin exploded. Yikes. Any would-be buyer is bound to make a U-turn after seeing this. Holiday guests, too.

2. Nonfood items on a plate

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What a delicious meal #stagingfail

A post shared by Lindsay Barnes (@lindsaybarnes) on Jan 6, 2016 at 1:57pm PST

Even squirrels might struggle with this meal. You could see where a bowl of lemons or even an array of pine cones could add a nice touch to this kitchen. But together on a plate? Not so much.

3. Wine is fine, but can that can of cashews

You don’t have to go “nuts” to make your dining area appealing. That simple white runner alone may have done the trick.

4. Toilet paper as a centerpiece

We don’t want to know what this suggests about the homeowner’s cooking abilities. Still, it’s safe to say prospective home buyers probably saw more than they wanted to after spying this.

5. Wrinkly tablecloths and slipcovers

Slipcovers and tablecloths? Aren’t these home sellers fancy?! Alas, unless you’re holding a wedding at your house, it’s entirely too formal. And surely smoothing out the wrinkles on those ghostlike slipcovers would have helped a bit.

6. Fake ice

Having fake ice in a glass bowl is weird enough—wouldn’t that money have been better spent fixing that gaping hole in the ceiling? In fact, skip the fake ice entirely; you don’t need a professional stager to tell you that fake foodstuff is just not a good look.

7. Unusual food tableaus

The breakfast tray alone would’ve been plenty. No one needs to know that the seller needs more fiber in his diet. And while we’re at it, that still life of plastic fruit should go back to art school, and that beauty product display back to, um, Bloomingdale’s. As this listing agent explains, it all amounts to “motel staging” at its worst.

8. Nativity scenes

It might be fine for Christmas, but even then, this is a bit much (particularly combined with that bear motif and “Rock the Day” inspirational message on the wall).

The post 8 Things to Never, Ever Put on a Table If You Hope to Impress Guests appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

6 Presale Home Improvements Sellers Wish They’d Never Made


Every seller wants their home to stand out from the crowd, and that often means beefing it up with shiny new improvements before putting it on the market. But sometimes owners go overboard, and the repairs become more costly and time-consuming than they’re worth.

To help you learn from others’ mistakes, we gathered real-life stories of home sellers who woefully regret the presale renovations they took on.

Regret No. 1: Going too trendy

Photo by Sweetlake Interior Design LLC

Beware of falling for decor fads when it comes time to pretty up your home.

“I had a seller whose home’s original lighting fixtures were pretty standard brushed nickel and oil-rubbed bronze, circa the 2000s,” says Monica Weddle, a real estate professional in Raleigh, NC. “They were nothing offensive, just boring.”

The seller, thinking the home needed more of a “wow” factor before she put it on the market, swapped out all of the perfectly serviceable lights for bold midcentury fixtures, to the tune of around $2,000.

“That’s great if you’re sure your buyers are going to love that style,” says Weddle. “But her eventual buyers didn’t. In fact, they made an appointment for the day after closing to replace every single one.”

Regret No. 2: Smart house, dumb decision

We live in a plugged-in era, but living in a house surrounded by technology is not everyone’s cup of tea.

“One seller of mine decided to make his home high-tech and had the lighting, window shades, and sound system all controlled from his phone,” says Steven Gottlieb of New York’s Warburg Realty. “He paid a lot of money for these expensive bells and whistles. But none of the prospective buyers who came in cared.”

Instead, buyers were all focused on the space itself—and the lack of light and poor views.

The eventual buyer turned out to be a person interested in tech and smart homes. But by the time the deal closed, he felt the apartment’s technology was outdated and therefore wasn’t interested in paying extra for the existing features.

Regret No. 3: Adding a guesthouse

Not every home shopper dreams of bringing in extra income by renting out the guesthouse. Joel Bennett of the vacation platform of found this out the hard way when selling his first house in Merida, Mexico. His real estate agent convinced him finding a buyer would be tough, so a week after listing the home, he made the rash decision to renovate the detached guesthouse to function as a vacation rental property, thinking this would add value.

He spent about nine weeks—and $3,000—on the project while the property was on the market. The exterior was painted, interior floorboards were resurfaced, and the stairway was replaced.

“I did a lot of the work myself, since I had a bit of free time back then,” says Bennett, who was proud of the restored space.

“Then some eccentric character approached my real estate agent with an offer right on the nose,” says Bennett, who accepted the offer. But lo and behold, the buyer ended up demolishing the guesthouse.

To add insult to injury, Bennett says the buyer put in “a swimming pool where the guesthouse stood with a gaudy stone wall waterfall at the shallow end.”

Regret No. 4: Rehabbing the roof

At first blush, rehabbing a major system in the house—like the roof—may seem like a no-brainer way to attract a buyer. But it’s not always worth it.

“I worked with sellers who were told by numerous buying agents that if they replaced their roof, then they could sell their house quicker,” says Shawn Breyer, owner of Georgia’s Breyer Home Buyers.

Without talking to their own agent, the sellers tore off the roof and installed a new one—a decision that cost $11,390. When the project was done, the house sat on the market for months, despite the brand-new shingles.

“To move the property, the sellers ultimately had to reduce the price by $17,000,” Breyer says.

Not only did the roof not make a difference in the home sale, but the decision to sink money into the repair led to a total loss of $28,390.

What the sellers should have done, according to Breyer, was to look at the recently sold houses—not just those that were listed—in their area to determine what to fix or leave alone.

Regret No. 5: DIYing to cut corners

Some home improvements are better left to the pros. It’s a lesson Debra Carpenter learned the hard way when she put her first house up for sale.

“I thought I was going to easily flip it for a giant profit,” the Idaho-based real estate agent says. “Instead, I made all kinds of unneeded improvements that didn’t increase the home’s value. They only narrowed my profit margin!”

Her biggest mistake was purchasing four “granite-look” painting kits to redo the counters in the kitchen and bathrooms on a budget.

“It turned out terribly—gray and black paint blotches that looked nothing like granite,” says Carpenter.

The counters all had to be redone, costing thousands of dollars more than she had originally budgeted.

Regret No. 6: Opening Pandora’s box

It’s common to want to complete some home improvements before putting your house on the market, but doing so might plunge you head first into a mess of expensive repairs.

“I had a seller who wanted to renovate his two-family home before putting it on the market,” says Rebecca Haines, account coordinator at New York’s Relevance International.

The seller wanted to install new insulation throughout the home, despite the contractor’s warning that gutting the walls could lead to plumbing problems.

Sure enough, the difficulties started piling up. The seller had to install a new sprinkler system throughout the entire house to meet new building codes. This ended up costing thousands of dollars, and the seller did not receive a good return on the investment.

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