Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Seven Days, Seven Projects for a Kitchen that Sells

(ARA) - In today’s market, selling a home involves much more than posting a “for-sale” sign in the yard. Preparation is key. In fact, experts agree that property appearance and condition play a big role in the home-sale process.

While home improvements can increase buyers’ interests, most sellers hesitate to renovate, fearing they may not recoup their costs in the sales price. However, with strategic updates in key rooms, such as kitchens, sellers can increase the value of a home – giving them a leg up on their neighbors to sell more easily and command a higher selling price.

With just a week's time, a small investment and a bit of elbow grease, you can easily turn your kitchen into your selling feature with these seven projects.

Clean Up!

Although you may love your children’s artwork or favorite magnets on the fridge, prospective homebuyers want to envision a home as theirs – not yours. Start your kitchen update by making a clean sweep of the room. Remove everything from the top and sides of your refrigerator and clear off countertops. By eliminating clutter and personal effects, your kitchen will look neat, clean – and even larger.

Fix Up Your Faucet

The faucet is the workhorse of the kitchen – and a focal point. So add new life to your sink area with a fashionable and functional new faucet. For an affordable price, you can find beautiful pulldown models, such as Moen’s Solidad pulldown kitchen faucet (available in LifeShine Classic Stainless finish at The Home Depot for $219). Potential buyers will be amazed with the functionality and the updated styling that it brings to the whole room.

Pull it Together

Once you’ve updated the faucet, pull the rest of the finishes in the room together by updating the hardware. Drawer pulls and knobs in a beautiful stainless finish are a simple project and can add a finishing touch that dramatically updates the look of new or older cabinets.

Become Ultra-Organized

Be prepared! Potential buyers will open your closets, cabinets and drawers to assess the storage availability in your home. Be sure that you organize each of these areas to make your kitchen look like a storage dream – not a nightmare. Many cabinet manufacturers, such as Masterbrand cabinets, offer custom shelves to help organize, or you can find simple organization systems at local retailers. No matter what system you choose, your organization won’t go unnoticed.

Curtain Call

Windows are a selling point in any room – allowing nature into a home by providing a source of sunlight. Be sure that windows and blinds are free of dust, fingerprints or pet nose prints for a bright and cheerful display. Adding a neutral, but classic curtain can be a nice touch to frame these focal points of the room.

Follow the Light

Does your kitchen still have the “builder-basic” or outdated brass lighting fixtures? As a focal point above your kitchen table, be sure to update your hanging chandelier with a model in a finish that coordinates with the rest of the room. A variety of classic-designed light fixtures in stainless steel or oil rubbed bronze finishes are available at local home improvement stores and will instantly light up your kitchen décor -- literally.

Cosmetic Cover-ups

You’ve lived in your kitchen so long that you may not notice the small paint chips in the trim or stain on the carpet, but to prospective homebuyers, these stick out like a sore thumb. A fresh coat of paint on walls and trim will always add more value than its cost and let buyers know that your home is well kept and clean.

Within a week you can easily increase the value of your home in the eyes of potential buyers – as well as provide an enjoyable space for yourself until you sell!

For more information on the Solidad pulldown kitchen faucet or other Moen products, visit www.moen.com or call (800) BUY-MOEN (800-289-6636).

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sell in a Buyer’s Market!

It’s a buyer’s market. While that’s great news for all home buyers, it seems to leave little hope for home sellers. But, fear not sellers – all is not lost. There are still some great tips to help give you a selling edge:

Prepare yourself – you have to accept what the market is and make the most of it.
Get ready for picky buyers – curb appeal and other details are vital to entice a buyer into your home.

Get educated about your neighborhood’s real estate market.
Hire an inspector – they can impartially let you know what needs to be fixed before your home is on the market.

As a Real Living agent, I can help you prepare for every step of the home selling process. Simply contact me today to get started!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cities Where Home Owners Spend the Most

Almost 15 percent of American home owners with a mortgage spend half of their income or more on housing costs, according to 2007 data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. That is up from nearly 7.1 million in 2006.

Traditionally, the government and most lenders consider home owners spending 30 percent or more of their income on housing costs to be financially burdened. That definition now covers nearly 38 percent of American home owners with a mortgage – 19 million of them.

Here are the top 13 areas where the most mortgage holders spend more than 30 percent of their income on their homes. The information is an estimate based on an analysis of Census data by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.
  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach, 58 percent
  • Stockton, Calif.,57 percent
  • Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., 55 percent
  • Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., 55 percent
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Calif., 54 percent
  • Modesto, Calif., 54 percent
  • San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif., 53 percent
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif., 53 percent
  • Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice, Fla., 52 percent
  • Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif., 52 percent
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., 51 percent
  • Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev., 51 percent
  • Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, Calif., 50 percent

Source: The Associated Press, Adrian Sainz and Alan Zibel (09/23/08)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Buying or Selling in Today’s Market? Internet Paves the Path to Real Estate Success

(ARA) – Home buyers and sellers – the relationship may seem like it should be more adversarial than ever, given the current market. Coming at the real estate equation from opposite sides, buyers and sellers may feel they have little in common. The truth is, however, that both groups share a common path to real estate success – the Internet.

The Internet has been revolutionizing real estate for years now; more than 80 percent of buyers look at homes on the Internet, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). “More homes than ever before are being marketed on the Internet,” says Kendra Todd, of HGTV’s “My House is Worth What?” and season three winner of “The Apprentice.” “Whether you’re buying or selling, it’s essential to work with a real estate expert who is on the cusp of the latest trends, especially the Internet.”

Even the most techno-savvy among us may feel overwhelmed by the volume of real estate information – and listings – available on the Internet. How do you sort through it if you’re a buyer? And how do you find the right agent who will know how to maximize Internet marketing value, if you’re a seller? Here are tips from real estate experts – Todd, Saul Klein, CEO of Point2 Technologies, the company behind a leading real estate Web site, Point2 Homes, and Brady Pevehouse of Lynk Mortgage and Perrone Realty in central Florida.

Tips for Sellers

* With home prices still falling in many areas of the country, it’s probably tempting to try to sell on your own and avoid paying a commission to an agent. “But homes represented by agents historically sell faster and for a better price than those sold by owners,” Klein points out. “It’s harder and riskier to try selling on your own.”

* Select an Internet-savvy real estate agent to represent you. Questions to ask any agent you’re considering include: Do you plan to use syndication to publish my listing widely? Do you cover Craigslist, Yahoo!, Google, etc.? How many sites will my home be on? What kind of traffic do those sites receive? Will you purchase ad space on the Internet?

Tips for Buyers

* Take full advantage of the Internet’s research power. “The Internet can give you more relevant real estate information than just listings,” Todd says. “You can use it to evaluate price trends in areas of interest, access city hall records on development plans for your area, check out crime statistics, school facilities and noise issues.”

* “Begin with a clear vision of why you’re buying and how long you intend to be in the house,” Pevehouse advises. “This will help you determine what kind of home you’re looking for and what mortgage product is right for you.”

* Working with an Internet-savvy agent is as important for buyers as it is for sellers, Todd says. “Does the realtor provide dynamic info? Is he or she comfortable communicating with e-mail, text messaging and other technology tools?”

* While you’re researching online, keep in mind the difference between blogs and information, Todd advises. “Blogs are just opinions.” Look for fact-based sites and be sure the information you find is not outdated.

* “Real estate is intensely regional,” Todd says. Be sure to learn about the market in your area, because it may not necessarily be following national-level trends.

* Don’t be afraid to negotiate terms with the seller. “With inventory levels high, sellers can be very accommodating,” Pevehouse says. “Many are willing to contribute towards closing costs as an incentive for buyers.”

* If you’re even thinking about buying, do it now. “Jump on it now,” Todd advises. “It’s a buyer’s market, perhaps the best in years,” Klein agrees.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Refrigerator Out?

The American Red Cross advises using a digital quick response thermometer to check the temperature of frozen foods. If food is above 40 degrees, consider it thawed, and the clock is ticking on how soon it should be used.

Here is a chart from the American Red Cross, advising what foods to keep, and what to discard. http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/0,1082,0_564_,00.html#foodchart

More advice here: http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/0,1082,0_564_,00.html

Monday, September 15, 2008

Avoiding Predatory Lending

Predatory lending is especially prevalent among first-time homebuyers and consumers unfamiliar with home financing. How can you avoid the pitfalls of predatory lending as a prospective homebuyer?
According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), homebuyers need to ask the right questions when shopping for the least expensive loan. These questions may include:

What is my credit score? Can I have a copy of my credit report?

What is the best interest rate today? Do I qualify?

Is the loan's interest rate fixed or adjustable?

What is the term (length) of the loan?

What are the total loan fees?

What is the total monthly payment? Does this include property taxes and insurance? If not, how much more will I need to pay for taxes and insurance?

Is there an application fee? How much is refundable if I don't qualify?

Are there any prepayment penalties? If so, what are they and how long do they last?
It's important to understand all the details of your loan before signing anything, so ask questions! Also, the NAR offers these other strategies that homebuyers can follow to protect themselves from predatory lending:

Check out lenders with the Better Business Bureau®, government Web sites or other consumer groups. How long has the lender been in business? Have consumers filed many complaints? Does the lender belong to a trade association with ethics requirements for its members?

Ask for an estimate and compare with other lenders.

Refuse to participate in transactions that may be fraudulent.

Avoid unnecessary contract extensions that could cause your loan commitment to lapse.

Get educated on the value of your home by asking your Real Living agent for a comparative market analysis.

Review the HUD-1 closing settlement statement before closing. This statement itemizes all charges imposed upon a borrower and seller for a real estate transaction. Upon request, homebuyers have the right to see this information 24 hours before the loan closing.

Report possible violations to appropriate federal, state and local officials.
If you're considering a home purchase and want to make sure you'll be safe from predatory lending, working with a Real Living agent is a wise move. Contact me for more information.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Why This Autumn is a Great Time to Buy

This fall could be a particularly great time for first-time or buyers long out of the market to jump in, say a variety of real estate professionals.
Here are the reasons why:
  • Prices are probably as low as they are going to go as the market stabilizes, thanks to the government takeover of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

  • Interest rates are likely to decline as Freddie and Fannie get government help.

  • The Federal Housing Administration recently boosted its loan limits to $729,750 in expensive areas. It's going to take some of that back come Jan. 1, when the loan limit will shrink to $625,500.

The FHA allows down payments of as little as 3 percent, but that will rise to 3.5 percent as of Oct. 1. People scraping dollars together for a down payment should try to set their closing for the end of this month.

  • The tax credit will shave $7,500 off a first-time buyer’s federal tax bill due April 15. Buyers who don't owe tax, will get the money as a refund.

The government's definition of a first-time buyer is anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the last three years.

Source: The Washington Post, Elizabeth Razzi (09/07/08)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Making the Most of Natural Lighting

Balance is key for any home, but specifically for each individual space in a home. A good rule of thumb is to make sure major rooms in your home are illuminated from two different directions. Don't try and achieve relentless light, but rather balance light with shadows. This contrast brings a powerful dynamic to living spaces. If it's impossible to achieve this balance of light from two different directions, consider implementing a skylight. Skylights are great at subtly bringing more light into a room and diminishing harsher shadows.

Natural light also brings warmth to a room in more than one sense. Temperature wise, light contributes added heat that may be of interest during winter months. During the summer, intense mid-afternoon sunlight can be oppressive and unappealing. Take these situations into consideration when designing a room. Make sure rooms receive light at appropriate times of the day. For example, a porch should typically be shaded during the afternoon. Or, in a master bedroom, you may want your windows on the east side of the room so sunlight can enact as a natural wake-up call. It's worth plotting the course of the sun in a drawing of your site. Take into account trees, overhangs and other objects that may provide shade. Natural light also brings warmth, in an inviting sense, to spaces in your home. As humans, we are drawn to illuminated areas. If you want to improve the flow of your home from one room to another, use natural light to highlight staircases, walkways and other transitional spaces. By doing this, you're inviting individuals to move through your home while being guided by subtly marked pathways of light.
Finally, natural light can be used to play with textures, materials and colors in your home.

Consider implementing aluminum surfaces, glossy woods or white walls into your décor. These surfaces allow light to reflect in an inviting and intriguing manor. If you feel like light needs to be diffused in a room, consider purchasing sandblasted glass. When light hits this texture, it creates a glow that warms a room, yet cuts back on the sun's intense rays. Experiment with patterns. How does light filter through a trellis? A vine covered trellis can provide just enough relief from the sun to shade a porch or sitting area.

Natural lighting has an important impact on how things are illuminated in your home. Work with an interior architect in order to maximize your home's potential for capturing sunlight. For more tips on how you can illuminate your home with natural light, contact me today!