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How Airbnb Is Helping Me Figure Out What I Really Want in a House

August 11, 2020


Jillian Pretzel

When the coronavirus hit New York City, my husband and I panicked.

We were living in Brooklyn, and I was in my second trimester of pregnancy. Terrified of getting sick—and possibly passing the virus on to my baby—we decided to play it safe. We left the city, and booked an Airbnb listing in a small town in Pennsylvania.

We’ve been staying in this temporary home for months. It’s a nice house, but very different from any of the suburban homes or city apartments I’ve lived in. It’s older, larger, and much farther from the center of town than I’m used to.

But I sort of like it.

This move has given me a new perspective on homes and, as I’m searching for a place to live after the virus clears up, I’m starting to reevaluate my housing must-haves. After going from a big city to a small town, I’m figuring out what I really want in a home, learning which things I need—and what I can do without.

Here are some surprising lessons I learned about what I want once I’m ready to buy a house.

Having room helped me realize I don’t need that much room

living room
This is one of the rooms we barely use, ever.


I chose our Pennsylvania rental in part because it had many rooms and a lot space. After quarantining in a studio apartment in New York City, I thought a big house with lots of space would be a luxury for my growing family.

So I was shocked to find that, once we’d settled in, it was way too big.

In fact, this four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home (which included a finished basement) felt unmanageable after only a few weeks. Though I was happy to be out of our cramped Brooklyn apartment, I hated climbing two flights of stairs throughout the day. I hated trying to clean such a large space. And I hated needing to call out to my husband to find out which room he was in.

In the end, I realized that I probably could have saved some serious cash renting a smaller house. But at least I know this before I rent or buy my next house!

Outside space is gold

This house has big front and back yards.


I loved the extended outside space of our rental. In my family home growing up, we had a square yard big enough for just a table and chairs. In New York City, I had nothing but a window.

I was never bothered by this, though. If I ever wanted to spend time outside, I’d simply go to a park or drive to a hiking trail.

But when I got to Pennsylvania, I appreciated the patio, the large front and back yards, and the nearby nature trail. I went on walks nearly every day and loved being outside.

While I thought the appeal of being out in nature would wane after the weather started getting warmer (and the mosquitoes started biting), I found that, even in the middle of July, I still loved sitting on the porch and going on daily walks.

With a baby on the way, I started to realize how much I’d value that quiet nature trail when I wanted to walk with the stroller. I wouldn’t have to worry about crossing busy streets or loud noises, as I would in Brooklyn.

Now I know I’m ready to compromise on some home perks for a big yard.

More bathrooms are not necessarily better

It turns out we don’t need as many bathrooms as I thought.


Our Brooklyn apartment had just one bathroom, which seemed so inconvenient to me.

In our Airbnb rental, I expected having three bathrooms to be a serious luxury, but I soon learned that we basically had the same problem: We were always waiting to use the downstairs bathroom, because neither of us wanted to go upstairs. Plus, we preferred that same bathroom’s shower/tub combo, so I once again found myself rushing to get out of the bath so my husband could take a shower.

In the end, I decided that apartment living, with just one bathroom or an extra half-bath, was probably just fine for our family. It also means fewer bathrooms to clean.

A central location isn’t all that important

When we first leased our Brooklyn apartment, we loved being close to shops, restaurants, and subways. But I soon realized that being “close to the action” isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. With the coronavirus raging, those shops, restaurants, and subway stations became liabilities.

In Pennsylvania, far away from everything, I worried we’d be bored. But surprisingly, I loved it.

I was happy to be farther away from people, and felt safer in regard to the virus. But that wasn’t the only reason I liked living in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve learned that the most centrally located home isn’t necessarily the best one. There can be perks to living a little more out of the way, like cheaper real estate, more land, and more bang for your buck.

With so many people working from home and commuting being less of an issue, a more remote location may not be just acceptable, but also preferable.

Don’t buy a home before you rent something similar in the area

I’m not sure if we’ll head back to Brooklyn, or find a home somewhere else.

Jillian Pretzel

Staying in a new place can give anyone valuable perspective.

Using a friend’s swimming pool might make you wish you had a pool. Or visiting the suburbs might have you thinking you should move there, too. But to really know if a place is right for you, you should ideally stay there for a while, because only then will the pros and cons truly sink in.

As such, before you purchase a house anywhere, you should first stay at an Airbnb, VRBO, or other short-term rental in the area that’s similar to what you want. It works as a road test to help you figure out what you want.

Personally, I’m feeling better prepared for the home-shopping process than ever before. I’m excited to see where we end up.

The post How Airbnb Is Helping Me Figure Out What I Really Want in a House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

7 Crazy Things in Your Outdoor Space That Can Freak Out Potential Buyers

June 12, 2019


When you put your home on the market, your to-do list expands by about 1,000 items. You want everything in your home to be perfect, or as close to it as possible. So you get to work scrubbing the kitchen and bathrooms, clearing out the clutter from your closets, and putting fresh flowers in all the right places.

But for goodness’ sake, in all of your indoor hustle, don’t forget to give some TLC to your outdoor space. Not only will potential buyers most certainly check it out, but what they find there (cue the spooky music) could make them walk.

Or run.

Here are a few true stories of things that have turned off buyers before.

1. Spiders

Ryan Fitzgerald, broker and owner of UpHomes in Charlotte, NC, remembers touring a property once with an enthusiastic client. An offer seemed likely to happen. And then, “That’s when we ran into massive spiderwebs and spiders,” Fitzgerald recalls.

Not only were they all over the exterior siding of the house, but they were hanging between trees.

“It became clear that no one had been to this home in a while,” Fitzgerald says.

And his clients couldn’t see past it.

“They said, ‘Ew, I hate spiders. No thanks,’” Fitzgerald says.

2. Ants

Are you sensing a theme here? Just a few weeks ago, Cassie Nichols, president and owner of Origen Realty in Baytown, TX, was walking around the backyard of a home with potential buyers when she stepped into an anthill.

“A huge pet peeve of mine, that I’ve seen all too often, is a neglect for pest control,” Nichols says. “It’s hard to look professional while kicking off your shoes and slapping ants off of your feet.”

After that debacle, the numerous other ant beds all over the yard were impossible to ignore.

“It certainly didn’t leave [my clients] with the best impression,” Nichols says. “When a homeowner doesn’t take care of their yard, which is clearly visible, it’s not a leap for a buyer to question if other home maintenance was also ignored.”

3. Fresh kill

Talk about killing the deal. Dusko Sremac, a real estate professional at Re/Max First in Calgary, Alberta, recalls recent clients who were interested in properties with lots of acreage, with a price point over $1 million. More specifically, they were shopping for newer homes, with cabin-style features.

“These buyers weren’t the outdoorsy type, but liked the idea of a space outside the city with a rustic, outdoorsy feel,” Sremac explains.

But when they got to one property, “They immediately felt the vibes that ‘A hunter lives here,’” Sremac recalls.

It wasn’t hard to see why. In the backyard, a recent kill—a big buck deer—was prominently strung up, and still being worked on.

Sremac’s clients asked to leave.

“Sellers should keep in mind that what’s normal or acceptable to them isn’t always going to be OK for everyone else,” he says.

4. Squatters

You already know dead animals and live pests are sure to freak out potential buyers. But just in case it’s not clear, make sure to keep wayward people out of your outdoor space, too.

Several years ago, Michael McGraw, president of Northcap Residential in Las Vegas, was showing a client a home.

“When it came time to go to the backyard, we noticed it was a complete mess, but decided to walk the property anyway, because my client felt it had potential,” McGraw remembers.

Then they noticed a blue tarp, with legs and boots sticking out from under it.

“After my client and I grabbed onto each other, I called 911, thinking it was a dead body,” McGraw says.

Within minutes, several police cars arrived, but it turned out to be a homeless person, alive, but fast asleep.

“Needless to say, my client passed on the property,” McGraw says.

5. Confusing smells

When Bob Gordon, a Realtor® with Berkshire Hathaway in Boulder, CO, toured the property of a potential client, he noticed a door on the barn had several padlocks and warnings to keep out. Of course, he asked the seller why.

“That’s my marijuana grow,” was the answer.

“I suggested he just keep it locked and remove the signs,” Gordon says. “Nope, he had to have the signs, and said the last Realtor didn’t address the smell or grow space.”

As a result, a string of would-be buyers complained about the pungent, skunklike odor.

6. A real-life pet cemetery

Lewis Friedman, a licensed real estate salesperson with the Friedman Team at Compass in NYC, didn’t lose a deal because of a property’s odd outdoor environment. But maybe that’s because his clients didn’t realize what was in it.

The brownstone that Friedman’s clients purchased had previously been inhabited by four generations of the same family.

“The backyard was a jungle—completely overgrown,” Friedman says. “You could hardly walk 2 inches.”

Not until they did a renovation did his clients cut all the weeds back.

“That’s when they saw all these strange little stones,” Friedman says. “A few generations of the previous owners’ dogs were buried in the backyard.”

7. Mysterious holes

Justin Riordan, interior designer, architect and founder of the Portland-based home staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency, still vividly remembers walking through the house of a new client.

“He gave me super creepy vibes, but wanted us to look at the backyard for our opinion,” Riordan says.

Once Riordan and his team went outside, the client showed him a very large hole he had dug that was about 6 feet deep, 3 feet wide, and 6 feet long.

“I kid you not,” Riordan says. “It looked just like a grave.”

The client then prodded Riordan to guess what he thought the human-sized hole was for.

“I seriously expected to get hit over the head with shovel at any second,” he says. “The only thing that would have made it creepier was if he’d been wearing a kimono, and ‘Goodbye, Horses’ was playing.”

Riordan faked a phone call on his cell, said he had to leave, and did so ASAP.

Moral of the story: If anything on your property makes visitors think “Silence of the Lambs,” your home’s probably not going to be a quick sell.

The post 7 Crazy Things in Your Outdoor Space That Can Freak Out Potential Buyers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.