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Lessons From Listing Photos: An 80-Year-Old Ranch Gets a Rustic-Modern Makeover

January 17, 2020

lessons from listing photos

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. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.

Within California’s capital city lies the posh neighborhood of East Sacramento, an area filled with historic and diverse homes, ranging from Tudors to bungalows. Some homes, like this 80-year-old, four-bedroom, four-bathroom ranch, are badly in need of an update.

When the property hit the market in 2018 for $900,000, it was clearly a very valuable place.

When they bought it in 2018 for $900,000, the new owners quickly zeroed in on its considerable strengths. The original architectural touches, like built-in cabinets and an arched soffit over one of the bathtubs, give it a unique charm. It’s also located in the tony enclave known as the “Fabulous Forties” (the streets are named after numbers in the 40s). But they also realized it would need considerable work to bring it to its full potential.

An eight-month renovation returned the home to a level of sophistication it hadn’t seen in decades. And when the refurbished house went on the market, it was eventually sold for $600,000 over what the sellers paid for it just a year earlier.

So what design choices worked to the sellers’ advantage the most? We went straight to our experts to find out what they did right, and how you can have that same success in your space.

Before: Front of the home

front yard_landscaping_before
The house was hidden by overgrown greenery.

After: Front of the home

front yard_landscaping_after
After renovations, you can’t miss this gorgeous entrance.

You’ll have to look pretty hard to find any similarities in these before and after images, but we promise that it is the same house. It’s simply come out of hiding from behind all that overgrown greenery.

According to our experts, it’s really just several small changes that made such a huge difference in the appearance of the front of the home.

Kobi Karp, principal at Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design, loves the way the dark roof, door, and shutters contrast with the white panels on the house.

“The color palette makes the home pop,” says Karp, who’s also a big fan of the new landscaping.

“The lighting creates warmth, and the addition of potted wildflowers usher in the farmhouse vibe without going overboard, and creates a welcoming entrance,” he says.

Of course, nothing sells a house better than an entrance that welcomes prospective buyers, right?

Before: Living room

living room_before
The old living room was closed off and outdated.

After: Living room

living room_after
Opening a wall—and losing the fireplace—makes it larger and improves flow.

The sellers may have added a ton of style to this living room, but they also took away something fairly major: the fireplace!

So how do our experts feel about losing a feature than many consider central to the room’s design?

They don’t miss it at all. In fact, Nisha MacNeil, design manager at Kerr Construction & Design, thinks the room greatly benefits from letting the fireplace go, as it helps gain more of what really matters: space.

“This is a beautiful and bright space made even larger by removing the fireplace and opening up the wall between the living and dining rooms with an arch, enhancing the architectural details,” she says. “I love the added stained-wood casing around the other door to warm up the space. The new stain color of the floor is perfect for the update. The previous oak floor was too yellow and orange.”

Karp admires the universally flattering and stylish decor choices.

“While the color scheme is still neutral, the space is brought to life with plants and wooden accents,” he says.

Before: Office

This old room held hints of its former charm.

After: Office

A few simple touches created an inspiring office.

This room didn’t see as many changes as the rest of the house. But our experts agree that the modifications made the room more stylish and functional.

“This is a perfect example of how designer staging completely transforms a space,” says MacNeil. “With the placement of some key furniture, art, and an area rug, the space now has purpose.”

“The floors were also darkened to match the rest of the house and add warmth to the room,” says Karp. “All these elements make this a space where you can create, reflect, and feel inspired.”

Another nice touch: keeping the original built-in cabinet. It’s a nod to the house’s historical roots and provides more storage space.

Before: Bathroom

The old bathroom had nothing going for it.

After: Bathroom

Mosaic tiles and a wooden vanity give this space life.

Perhaps the most genius move in the whole house was transforming the arch above the bathtub into a unique design element.

“I am in love with this bathroom,” says MacNeil. “The original arched soffit over the tub looks stunning clad in this small mosaic.

It “is an element that would typically be removed during a renovation, and I am so happy they kept it,” says MacNeil. “It brings an architectural design feature that speaks to old European design.

The rustic sink vanity also gives a nod to the modern farmhouse aesthetic that crops up in other rooms of the house.

Before: Backyard

The old backyard was overgrown.

After: Backyard

A new patio and grass make this a place you’d want to spend an afternoon.

The original backyard looked a bit like a wasteland with no place to sit and relax. But several additions make this area a comfortable place to enjoy that California sunshine.

“A covered patio is such a great selling feature,” says MacNeil. “They took this one to the next level by creating two massive, open gables in a gorgeous stained wood. I love the exposed steel fasteners that give an edge to the design.”

Karp sees this outdoor space as the perfect complement to the renovation.

“Ultimately, they created a space that thrives on rustic details and pure functionality,” he says.

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: An 80-Year-Old Ranch Gets a Rustic-Modern Makeover appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: 1950s Dallas Home Goes Ultramodern

October 23, 2019

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. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pics highlight the home’s best assets.

In homes built during the 1950s and 1960s, we can usually expect to see classic characteristics, like clean, angular lines and minimal finishes. Many buyers go gaga for this type of architecture, so you can only imagine our surprise when we took a look inside this 1950s home in Dallas. The “before” photos clearly show it was full of mismatched features (stucco arches in the living room! Three different types of tile!) that didn’t reflect the trends of the period when it was built.

Thankfully, the most recent sellers knew how to make sense of the space. They purchased the home for around $700,000 in 2017, completely modernized it, and turned it into the treasure it was meant to be all along. And buyers noticed, because just two years later, it was listed again for around $1 million—and sold.

So how did the sellers make such massive changes in such a short time, and what renovations made the biggest impact? Our design experts spill their thoughts on the makeover, and on how you can pull off a similarly successful overhaul in your own space.

Before: Living room

living room_before
The old arches dominated the living room.

After: Living room

living room_after
The new living room is clean and modern.

The big change in the living space is easy to pick out in these photos—gone are the strange, out-of-place arches in front of the windows. Our experts agree that those arches had to go.

“Removing the arches is the smartest thing they could have done to make the room larger and more modern,” says Katie Stix, partner and design director at Anderson Design Studio. She also applauded the sellers for replacing the outdated floor tile with hardwood, as it gives a much more luxurious look that’s consistent with the rest of the house.

Nisha MacNeil, design manager at Kerr Construction & Design, believes that the finishing touches really bring the living room together.

“This space has made a huge transformation into a beautifully textural and monochromatic space,” she says. “The trick with schemes like this is to layer lots of texture, and this is done perfectly with the rug, pillows, oversized artwork, upholstery, and finally with the contrasting black steel door system.”

Before: Staircase

The old staircase was big and bulky.

After: Staircase

The new staircase is sleek and stunning.

The original staircase in the entryway of this home was an eyesore. Big and bulky, it spiraled out and took up most of the space. Plus, the newel post was far too large for the room and didn’t match the style of the house.

Luckily, our experts say the renovation was perfectly executed.

“This staircase goes from pure function to form and function,” says MacNeil. “I absolutely love the steel spine staircase that gives the treads a floating effect. It becomes a sculpture in the space, accentuated perfectly with simple steel spindles.”

Notice anything unique about the hardwood?

“I love that they used the same hardwood in the entry but did it in a herringbone pattern!” says Stix. “It makes the entry feel special and important.”

Before: Kitchen

The original kitchen had a ’90s vibe.

After: Kitchen

The new kitchen is ready to entertain.

The footprint of the kitchen didn’t change all that much—part of a wall came down, and there’s a new island. But some significant cosmetic changes made this room sing.

“These simple moves had a huge impact on the space,” says MacNeil. “Also, losing the ceiling fans removes the visual clutter and allows your eye to rest on the stove and backsplash tile.”

“The biggest benefit here is the layout of the island,” says Stix. “The previous L-shape screamed ’90s renovation. The large island centered with the range wall seems much more practical and functional for eating quick meals.”

Tiffany Fasone, owner and CEO of Voila Design Home, agrees that continuing the hardwood flooring into the kitchen is a smart way to make the design feel consistent with the rest of the house.

Before: Dining area

dining area_before
The old dining room seemed more like a sunroom.

After: Dining area

dining area_after
The new dining room feels like part of the home.

The biggest change to the dining area—aside from the fact that we’re no longer haunted by the memory of those unsightly arches—is that it’s now on the same level as the living room.

“Getting rid of the arches was majorly impactful,” says Stix. “It completely takes the room from old to new.”

Although a rectangular dining table would fit, the circular table looks great with the new chandelier and gives a softer feel to the modern space.

Both Stix and MacNeil are in favor of the oversize windows and doors.

“They give an industrial feeling and allow a great view to the freshened-up backyard space,” says MacNeil.

Before: Backyard

The old backyard was a fairy tale gone wrong.

After: Backyard

The new backyard is clean and crisp.

Speaking of the freshened-up outdoor space, it’s nearly impossible to tell we’re looking at the same backyard. The transformation is apparent—but not everyone is happy with the changes that were made here.

“The backyard prior to the renovation was something I would have kept intact,” says Fasone. “I really love how secluded and private it felt. With updated modern furniture, the original theme would still have been able to fit into the new style of the home.”

Stix is more on the fence about this one, but agrees it may have been the right step for a house on its way to being listed.

“I personally think the ‘before’ image is quite charming.” she says. “I love the quaint, ‘Secret Garden’-type vibe. But the renovation certainly cleans it up. Removing a lot of the foliage might be attractive to potential homeowners who’d prefer not to mess with the upkeep.”

MacNeil, however, is a big fan of the changes.

“This is a great backyard, with many levels of area to entertain, and a great patch of grass for kids to play,” she says. “The designer has given it a great modern update by clearing away some of the flora and allowing the new doors to be a showpiece.”

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: 1950s Dallas Home Goes Ultramodern appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Lessons From Listings Photos: Reviving an Outdoor Kitchen Helped This CA Craftsman Nearly Double in Price

September 26, 2019

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. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.

In Northern California’s East Bay area, Craftsman bungalows are a dime a dozen. Their Frank Lloyd Wright–influenced aesthetic was popular from 1905 to 1929, and over time they have attracted even more fans.

This home, built in 1922, showed all of its age in the form of outdated—sometimes deteriorating—original features. But the seller, who bought the house in April 2019 for $833,000, saw it for what it was: a diamond in the rough.

The 1,266-square-foot home in the desirable city of Berkeley had a backyard begging to be built out for entertaining, so the new owners knew that a remodel could make it something special without taking away any of its original charm. And apparently, their efforts impressed buyers—they sold the home just five months later for nearly $1.35 million. Now that’s what we call a sweet profit!

So why was this renovation so successful, and how can you re-create this success in the parts of your home that are in need of a refresh? Read on.

Before: Front exterior

The front of the house lacked curb appeal.

After: Front exterior

Now it looks much more approachable.

Before the renovations, most buyers wouldn’t have given the front of this home a second glance. Fortunately, the sellers knew they had to make the exterior stand out.

“The updated color scheme and patterned tile on the steps bring a young and trendy vibe to this Craftsman bungalow,” says designer Laura Davis of hpd architecture + design.

Tiffany Fasone, owner and CEO of Voila Design Home, agrees.

“Updating the color scheme of the home and removing damaged railings and the bars from the window immediately make the home seem more modern and welcoming,” she says.

It’s not just the paint and windows that have changed, though. This flip makes a real case for the power of landscaping.

“Trimming the trees on either side of the house makes it seem bigger, and adding the plants makes the home feel more well-kept,” says Fasone.

Paul Trudel-Payne, founder and creative director of Casa Consult+Design, says the landscaping and color scheme are the perfect pairing.

“A low-maintenance yard and a black and white color palette is the perfect backdrop to create amazing curb appeal,” he says. “I love the details of the patterned tiles in the stairs and the pops of color in the greenery.”

Before: Living room

living room_before
The living room was a bit of a blank slate.

After: Living room

living room_after
Now, it’s a fabulous, cozy corner of the house.

There are a lot of changes to digest in the living room, so let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.

“The carpet. Who knows what lived in that mauve nightmare,” says designer Katie Stix, partner and design director at Anderson Design Studio. “Getting rid of that and replacing with wood is the most essential part of this before-and-after.”

The sellers also made the brilliant decision to knock down the wall between the living room and the kitchen and to put in a breakfast bar.

“The addition of the breakfast bar is a nice way to add functionality to a space that may otherwise feel small,” says Fasone.

According to Davis, the painted fireplace was the key to this room’s success—and it saved the sellers from possible disaster.

“One mistake homeowners can make when they remove walls is to not keep a strong focal point to anchor the room,” she explains. “The new charcoal paint turns the original fireplace into an interesting, textural piece that catches your eye as you walk in the front door.”

Before: Kitchen

The kitchen was plenty spacious but not much to look at.

After: Kitchen

Now, it’s stylish and functional.

It’s hard to imagine that these two kitchens are in the same home—or that the pictures were taken just months apart. To accomplish this look, the sellers took down multiple walls, and swapped the kitchen and eating areas.

“The original floor plan was divided up into separate rooms, with the kitchen pushed to the back of the house,” says Davis. “By taking down walls and moving the kitchen forward, it becomes a natural extension of the living room.”

“Continuing the wood flooring throughout the space makes it feel larger and more open,” says Fasone.

Stix is impressed by the new cabinetry.

“Taking the cabinets to the ceiling is way more aesthetically pleasing,” she says. “The white cabinets with open wood shelving are extremely trendy yet classic. It sets a neutral palette for potential homeowners, and is a feature that everyone can get behind.”

Stix also couldn’t get enough of the new lighting in the kitchen.

“Adding can lighting in place of flush mounts is another major way of making the home feel more upgraded and modern. It is a cleaner look and gives off more even light—and we all know a well-lit home is a happy home,” she says. “Which brings me to the skylight—it is something unexpected and not always considered, but the addition of natural light is major.”

Before: Master bedroom

That wood paneling had to go.

After: Master bedroom

The new master bedroom is now a place to relax.

Let’s just address the elephant in the room. That wood paneling was a lot to handle, especially in a bedroom. Clearly, it had to go. The renovated master bedroom, however, is a perfectly put-together, calming oasis.

According to Fasone, the sellers made all the right choices in this space.

“The paneling really closed in the space. Removing it, painting the walls, and replacing the carpet with hardwood make the space feel more updated and modern,” she says. “Mirrors often read as windows to the eye, so adding one above the bed is a good way to open up the space and make it feel bigger.”

Trudel-Payne says it’s furniture that makes this master bedroom really shine.

“I love what they did with the bedroom, particularly the furniture choices,” he explains. “Using this modern box-framed bed brings so much height to the room, and choosing a dresser and nightstands with white frames and wood fronts help those pieces blend in more than stand out—the perfect combo for making a room read much larger.”

Before: Outdoor kitchen

outdoor kitchen_before
The backyard was in a sad state of disarray.

outdoor kitchen2_before
Surely something could be done with this fireplace.

After: Outdoor kitchen

outdoor kitchen_after
The newly revamped outdoor area, complete with kitchen

outdoor kitchen2_after
Who wouldn’t want to spend their summer nights out here?

The original backyard looks like an ideal spot for entertaining, but it just needed a face-lift and some new landscaping. With a brand-new cabana and kitchen, it has a second chance at helping the homeowners be hosts with the most.

“This space has the most impact,” says Fasone. “Finishing the interior walls and ceiling makes the space feel cleaner, like a cohesive extension of the house. The path of pavers, the curtains, and the mulch make everything feel clean and new.”

Stix agrees that the mulch looks great and is an attractive feature for homeowners who don’t want to mow the lawn (or live in a drought-prone part of the country like California).

And while Stix doesn’t necessarily think an outdoor kitchen is a make-or-break feature (it is a nice bonus, though), Trudel-Payne thinks it’s an essential feature when you’re talking about high-end properties.

Buyers in expensive markets like the San Francisco Bay Area like to see special elements like an outdoor kitchen that make the property stand out, says Trudel-Payne. These sellers went about it the right way and, in turn, stand to make a lot more for their efforts.

“This transformation is a good example of how making smart, affordable updates that focus more on visual styling can still impact your photos in a great way,” he explains. “Going with a white and black color palette helped this outdoor kitchen read more modern. The finishing detail of the curtains around the sitting area also help the space read higher-end.”

The post Lessons From Listings Photos: Reviving an Outdoor Kitchen Helped This CA Craftsman Nearly Double in Price appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Should You Sell Your Home As Is, or Spring for a Renovation? Here’s How to Decide

July 3, 2019


When you decide to sell a house that desperately needs updating, you basically have two choices: Sell it as is—in its current condition without improvements—or make upgrades in the hope of reaping bigger bucks down the line.

While renovating your property will inevitably sell your home faster and for more money, listing your property as is has its perks, too—including not having to fork over lots of cash for major improvements you won’t get to enjoy, and not dealing with the headaches of those improvements.

Deciding what to do can be overwhelming, but we’re here to break it down for you. If want to unload your property pronto and for maximum cash, here are some things to keep in mind.

Out of house often means out of mind

If you’ve already purchased another home and have one foot dangling out the door, things can get challenging. Between work and family obligations—plus dreaming about decorating your soon-to-be new home—chances are you won’t have the time or energy to reimagine your old one.

If you’re set on upgrading your old home to get top dollar, you’ll want to find the right professional to guide you through the process, says Eric Stewart, a Realtor® with Eric Stewart Group of Long & Foster Realtors.

“Unless you find a real estate agent whose experience you can trust, someone who has a very good track record preparing homes and understands how to do the work, you’re often better off to sell the property as is, so that you don’t get involved in chasing the market,” Stewart says.

Assess the potential workload, time, and money it’ll take to upgrade

Get an expert opinion—or better yet, several opinions—regarding how much updating and repair work would be required to boost the home’s bottom line: Does the place just need a good scrub, or an entirely new kitchen and three new bathrooms? And more importantly, do you have the cash, the time, and the patience to see the project through?

“It’s all about whether people want to deal with renovations or not,” says Paul Morse, a licensed contractor and owner of Paul’s Carpentry Workshop in Stoneham, MA.

Morse, who’s worked for several clients who wanted to spruce up a neglected home prior to listing it, suggests that sellers should identify three projects that need doing, and then consult their agent to crunch the numbers.

“Sellers should ask what their return would be if they fixed the bathroom and kitchen, for example, versus what the investment would be,” he says. “Then, get three prices from three qualified local contractors.”

And don’t forget to factor in the cost of owning the home during major renovations. Depending on how extensive your revamp is, you might need to find temporary housing while your property is being gutted, so add that fee to your bottom line.

Take your location—and the market—into account

If your home sits on a great lot in a sought-after loascation, buyers—especially investors—might line up in droves. When the land is more valuable than the structure sitting on it, you might be better off selling the property as is, Stewart says—there’s little point revamping a house that will probably be torn down as soon as the ink on the purchase agreement is dry.

Stewart recalls a recent listing priced at $650,000 in a hot market.

“We sold it as is for $655,000, and the seller was able to leave everything they didn’t want in the house, lock the door, and say goodbye, which provided tremendous freedom for them,” he says. “The work they would have had to do would never have got them the return they got by doing nothing.”

‘As is’ doesn’t mean ‘falling down’

Of course, doing some inexpensive repairs often helps sell your home faster, notes Lynn Pineda, a Realtor with eXp Realty in Southeast Florida.

“Even when buyers say, ‘I’m going to sell my home as is,’ that doesn’t mean you have to present your home in shoddy light to a buyer; you still need to prepare it and make it look good,” she says. “Otherwise, you will sell for less money, or the house will sit on the market and you’ll lose money in the long run.”

If you just want to do the bare minimum and are willing to shell out a few thousand dollars, Morse suggests painting the entire home and resanding hardwood floors, if there are any. These upgrades would take about a month to do, but will make a huge difference in listing photos.

Selling your home as is won’t stop buyers from trying to negotiate

A house that hasn’t been updated in years—or even decades—often attracts builders or investors looking to gut or tear everything down and construct a new home. These “fix and flip” buyers always want to maximize their profit, Stewart says, and might try to haggle down the purchase price.

Find a real estate professional who can help you maximize your profits; look for one who’s had considerable success selling homes like yours, in your specific area of town. Some good questions to ask include how long comparable properties have stayed on the market before selling, what kinds of houses are selling fast and what condition they’re in, and which neighborhoods are most desirable.

Together, you can weigh what your home’s worth—and negotiate a better bottom line.

The post Should You Sell Your Home As Is, or Spring for a Renovation? Here’s How to Decide appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

5 Nonlazy Reasons to Skip Remodeling Before You Sell

April 24, 2019

reasons to skip renovation before selling

Home sellers often hear that if they ever hope to find a buyer, they must whip their house into perfect shape—fix this, paint that, overhaul your horribly outdated kitchen. But just looking at the list of renovations is exhausting!

This leads many to wonder: Do I really need to do all that just to sell my home?

If that’s how you feel, here’s some good news: There actually are some good reasons—meaning reasons other than sheer laziness or lack of budget—to not bother renovating before you sell. Really.

Surprised or secretly relieved? Here’s why you should give yourself permission to skip certain upgrades before putting your house on the market.

1. You can’t read your buyers’ minds

Talia McKinney, a licensed real estate salesperson for Nest Seekers International in Brooklyn, NY, once had a seller who updated her kitchen floors and countertops and splurged on high-end, stainless-steel appliances in the hopes of getting more money for her sale.

Unfortunately, “the buyer who got into contract wanted a different color floor, different countertops, and black matte appliances. They basically wanted to rip out and change everything my seller just renovated,” says McKinney.

The moral of this story: Don’t assume you know what can drive a potential sale.

“When a buyer comes into a home, they have a vision of what they want. Just because something is new and renovated doesn’t mean they’ll pay a premium on that,” McKinney says. “Leave the property as is or do minor touch-ups rather than put a lot of money into upgrades.”

2. Renovate on the cheap, and it’ll show

It’ll make a difference all right—but not for the reason you may think.

“Every time I walk with a buyer through a home that has laminate floors, Home Depot light fixtures and vanities, or cheap cabinets, there is a visceral disappointment factor—an ‘Add that to the list of things I need to budget for once we close,’” admits Courtney Poulos, broker-owner of ACME Real Estate in Los Angeles.

“Rarely does the cost of any home renovation increase the value of the property enough to offset the renovation costs, time, and energy,” says Terrie O’Connor, broker and president of Terrie O’Connor Agency, which handles luxury real estate listings in Saddle River, NJ, and other towns.

3. Small upgrades won’t change the house itself

“I have seen instances in which a flipper buys a cute, little house that needs work, and thinks that just by some painting, tiling, and a new builder-grade kitchen, they can sell the house for two-thirds more than they paid,” says Lori Hoffman-Chlapowski, a licensed real estate broker for William Raveis Real Estate in Chappaqua, NY.

They seldom do, she says. “The house is still small, and buyers are keenly aware when a renovation is cheaply done.”

And so, the property sits on the market. Until, she adds, “the seller can finally find a buyer willing to pay just a bit more than the renovation itself cost.”

4. Taking the DIY route might make things worse

Jose Hernandez, a real estate consultant in Chicago, once had sellers forgo professional contractors and redo bathrooms themselves to save money.

“But while the tile and vanity were new, it was all improperly installed,” he remembers.

Cheap repairs don’t add value, Hernandez cautions. Rather, “sometimes they negatively affect the value because the buyer sees it as another project that has to be redone.”

5. You might end up going overboard

First, you fix the floor. Then you realize the kitchen cabinets need to be replaced. And the countertops. And the sink. And, hell, you might as well do the appliances, too. Once you start fiddling with stuff in your kitchen (or bathroom, or any other room of your house), you may realize you keep finding more and more stuff that needs to be (cheaply and quickly) redone.

“I’ve seen plenty of clients overspend or design too specifically and then net less money than they would have if they had just sold the home in its prerenovation condition,” says Mark Cianciulli, a Realtor and a co-founder of the CREM Group, in Los Angeles.

And while a full renovation can return you a lot of money when you sell, there’s no guarantee. And by the way, did you really mean to do a full renovation?

What you should do instead

Want to get your house ready to sell without going overboard? Here’s how to tread that fine line.

Take care of major problems: First things first, “fix any maintenance issues that might prevent a future buyer from getting financing,” says Amine Aghzafi, managing partner and real estate agent with the Sheehan Agency, in Jupiter, FL.

If your roof, water heater, or plumbing are ancient, consider replacing those items before they cause issues at inspection time.

Not sure of your home’s problem areas? “Consider having a presale inspection before putting the house on the market,” says Aghzafi. “This will bring to light any major points that need addressing and help prioritize costs if your budget is limited.”

Go for truly easy DIY upgrades: Swap out old light fixtures, switch out new handles on your kitchen cabinets, and paint the trim in your home to instantly improve the contrast with the current paint. These are all “inexpensive upgrades that add significant value to your home and will cost a fraction of a full or partial remodel,” Cianciulli says.

Stage your home: Home stagers systematically pack up your personal items, clear out your clutter, and rearrange (or remove) furniture to optimize your home’s flow. Then they bring in their own gorgeous furniture and accessories.

“The proper furnishings showcase the home’s best features, while drawing attention away from any negatives,” says O’Connor. “It creates a mood for the buyer.”

A staged home will also shine in the online listing, which is crucial.

“Buyers today are getting that big first impression of a property long before they physically see it,” says O’Connor.

Choose a price buyers can live with: “Price your home in a way that allows buyers to accommodate making personal choices,” says Poulos. “Some buyers really want to put their own stamp on their new home.”

Don’t think of this strategy as “giving up.” After all, the faster your home sells, the more money you’ll save in the end.

The post 5 Nonlazy Reasons to Skip Remodeling Before You Sell appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Flipping a House? How to Flip a House the Right Way

February 15, 2019

how to flip a house

Stephan Zabel/iStock

Wondering how to flip a house? In real estate, flipping houses has become all the more popular thanks to TV shows such as HGTV’s “Flip or Flop” and “Masters of Flip.” The goal is to buy a run-down home, put money into renovations, list it on the real estate market—and profit, big-time! For real estate investors, flipping houses may have hit its peak in the bubble years leading up to the 2007 housing market crash, but this is one dream that definitely hasn’t died. Many investors are still making money. However, just because you’ve watched a lot of HGTV shows doesn’t mean that you know how to flip a house for a profit.

Earlier this year, RealtyTrac reported that investors who had flipped a property in the first quarter of 2016 had yielded the highest average gross flipping profit—the difference between the property purchase price and the flip price, not counting the cost of renovations—in 10 years. The magic number: $58,250.

But just how much money you make will hinge on taking the right approach—so be sure to check out these pointers on flipping houses. For real.

How to flip a house in real estate to make money

“Stick with the age-old adage of buying the cheapest property in the nicest neighborhood,” says Eric Workman, senior vice president of marketing at Chicago-based Renovo Financial, a private lender specializing in the real estate house-flipping space. But don’t pick just any old shack—look for a home with  “good bones,” Workman says.

Translation: Look for a property that’s structurally sound and has a decent roof, newer windows, and an HVAC system that’s less than 10 years old, as well as modern electrical and plumbing.

Next, an ideal flip should need only cosmetic changes such as new cabinets, countertops, flooring, and paint. Any other renovations will be more costly and cut into your profit on the property.

“These renovations can usually be done without the delays of permits, plus the upgrade costs will be relatively fixed, helping to eliminate unforeseen expenses,” says Workman.

And always look for a house in a neighborhood close to public transportation or in a good school district as these properties tend to sell quickly.

How much should you pay for a house you’ll flip?

Investors should set a goal of making a 10% to 20% return on their investment. So how do you crunch the numbers? For starters, find out what your fixer-upper will sell for once you’re done with it by looking at the sales price for similarly sized real estate in the same neighborhood that are move-in ready, says broker Bobby Curtis at Living Room Realty in Portland, OR.

Let’s say, for instance, that homes in tiptop shape in the area sell for $300,000. To get a ballpark figure for a run-down property, cut that price by three-quarters (75% of $300,000 = $225,000). Then subtract the cost of repairs (if repairs cost $30,000, that would be $225,000 – $30,000 = $195,000). That’s about the most you should pay for your flip without cutting too much into the money you’ll walk away with.

As for financing a flip, it isn’t that different from buying a regular home. You’ll either pay cash or take out a mortgage—just consider going for a 10- or 15-year mortgage, which will offer a lower rate. If you’re right on the money, odds are you won’t own this house for long anyway.

Hard money loan

You can also acquire a hard money loan, which is simply a short-term loan secured by real estate.

“It’s synonymous with a private investor,” says Don Hensel, president of North Coast Financial, which specializes in hard money loans. “A lender could be an individual, a group of investors, or a licensed mortgage broker who uses his own funds. This differs from a bank that uses money from its depositors.”

Getting a hard money loan is generally less of a hassle than a standard mortgage, and they’re especially popular with people flipping houses who prefer not to go through the hassle of taking out a 15- or 30-year mortgage on the property.

How fast should you flip a house?

Don’t kill yourself (or more accurately, flip yourself into an early grave) to rush your real estate flip. But also note, you don’t want this house sitting around for long.

Curtis recommends looking for a property that will take four to six weeks to renovate. A short deadline ensures you’ll buy and sell the house in that same housing market. Plus, owning a house for less than two months keeps costs like interest and taxes at a minimum.

This means that finding contractors who do quality work quickly is key to your success. For that reason, it’s crucial that you do your due diligence before you hire one: Make sure to meet with at least a few contractors, and get their license number, references, and real estimates of what they think renovations on the property will cost.

Keep an eye out for red flags—e.g., contractors who ask for money upfront or in cash aren’t playing by the usual rules, and might be trying to take your money and run.

That said, you should accept the fact that the cost of repairs will almost always run over. As such, “you absolutely, positively must overbudget” so you have a financial cushion for those inevitable overruns, says Joseph Chiera of The Realty Cousins of Poughkeepsie, NY. Design backups will also help you solve your money problems.

“If you’re planning to use high-end hardwood flooring priced at $5 per square foot, have a nice backup at $2 per square foot,” he adds.

Here’s a list of renovations and how much they pay off at resale.

The post Flipping a House? How to Flip a House the Right Way appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

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

December 21, 2018

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 |®.

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

December 10, 2018

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 |®.

Move or Improve? These Scenarios Will Help You Decide How to Spend Your Dough

August 3, 2018

move or improve?

Lex20/iStock; LightFieldStudios/iStock;

There comes a time when every homeowner will spread their arms, look around, and say, “This house feels too small.” Perhaps your kids have outgrown their bunk beds, or your partner’s startup blew up, and now every inch of your bungalow is occupied.

One way or another, you need more room. But do you break ground on your current home or break your budget on a new house? The decision to move or improve can be complex and emotional. On one hand, you love your neighborhood and the memories you’ve made. But on the other hand, you love space. So how do you choose?

The answer depends on your neighborhood, your budget, the housing market, and (sorry) your mom. Here’s how to tell whether you should start over in a new place—or transform your existing property.

First, ask yourself the tough questions

You might be salivating over the houses for sale or dreaming of your double-size, custom-built master bedroom—but don’t make a snap decision based on a fantasy.

Instead, start by making a classic list of pros and cons. What is it about buying a new home that tickles your fancy? Or does the process stress you out? Are you pumped for renovation—or would you rather ditch the dust?

“Essentially, these are two different paths to the same destination: a home to love,” says Michael Hausam, a Realtor® in Irvine, CA.

Hausam suggests that the mere act of listing your ideas might make the decision. Maybe your “move” column vastly outweighs your “stay” list—but you want that new bedroom, dammit! Then you have your answer.

And if you’re struggling still? We’ve done the heavy lifting for you. Take a peek at the following scenarios to determine whether you should move or improve.

Move: If your city gives your plans the thumbs-down

You’ve drawn up elaborate plans for popping the top of your two-bed bungalow. But your city might not be on board. Before breaking ground, find out if your proposed idea meets zoning requirements.

“The local government is where you’ll need to go to find out if you can even expand your current living space,” says Realtor Kaylin Richerson of Prime Real Estate in Valparaiso, IN.

To figure out if your new expansion will pass muster, you’ll need to gather a pile of documents. Plan to get a property survey and detailed drawings just for the permit alone. And if your city says no—well, it’s time to start house hunting.

Improve: If your home is unique

Your first house hunt was hard enough. Now you want to do it again? Oh, but where will you find the perfect home? You need only an indoor-outdoor shower, built-in library (of real mahogany), and double-vanity bathroom for the kids.

If your current home already comes with the special features you require, add on instead of buying new.

“The more unique the needs and requirements, the more difficult it may be to find another home with those features,” Hausam says.

Move: If your current home is in a seller’s market

The best part of being in a seller’s market is taking advantage of the seller’s market. If your home has dramatically increased in value during your tenure, it could be “more beneficial to sell your home and buy a bigger and better home than to expand,” Richerson says.

But make sure to check with a local real estate agent before finalizing your decision.

“In certain areas and price ranges, some houses are sitting on the market a bit longer,” she says. If that’s you, a renovation may be in order.

Improve: If you love your location

Time for a caveat: Just because your home is in a seller’s market doesn’t mean you should always sell. If you love your location and home prices are skyrocketing, remodeling may be the only way to stay put in your neighborhood.

After all, if your home increased in price, every other house in the area did as well. You might be profiting $100,000 by selling your place—but good-stinking-luck finding anything else in your price range, especially if you want to upgrade. Adding a wing might be the cheapest way to get space without sacrificing your A-plus location.

Move: If renovating will be an ordeal 

Say you’re snug in a three-bedroom ranch, but you’d like at least five bedrooms and a new playroom. That’s a lot of work. Figure out how big the gap is between what you have and what you want. If it’s enormous, undergoing a massive renovation might not be worth it.

Start by considering remodeling costs, the length of time your home will be under construction, and whether you plan to live in the home during construction, Hausam recommends.

“A significant remodel project is an extremely big deal—far more involved than would be packing up your things and moving them,” he says.

Improve: If your parents want a say

“But my folks don’t get a say in my house!” you might be thinking.

Except when you need additional space to accommodate aging parents. You’ll likely be looking for an in-law unit—which can be tricky to find on the market, much less one that said mother-in-law actually likes.

“We deal with many people struggling with this decision,” says Christina Souretis, a Realtor in Duxbury, MA. “The ones that decided to expand usually have parents that need to move in with them, so there are more people involved in the home-buying process. Not everyone can decide on a house.”

Expanding makes it much easier to take your parents’ taste into account by designing an add-on specifically for them.

Move: If you’d be building the biggest house in the neighborhood

Take a look around. Have a lot of your neighbors expanded? Or are they mostly chilling in the original square footage?

“Before expanding, families should make sure they’re not adding on in a neighborhood with smaller homes,” Souretis says.

Why? When it comes time to sell, unloading the priciest home on the block typically will be a challenge. If you expand and decide to sell in the future, you might be restricting your buyer pool. So before you make any decisions, think about the long-term consequences—not just what makes you happy right now.

The post Move or Improve? These Scenarios Will Help You Decide How to Spend Your Dough appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

What to Look For in a Fixer-Upper: Signs the Home Isn’t a Money Pit

August 3, 2018

Home renovation

Vladimir Vladimirov/ istock

Renovating a fixer-upper is not for the faint of heart. It takes money, hard work, and patience. But if you’re able to pull off a successful transformation, you’ll reap the benefits.

“Fixing up a house is an incredible opportunity, but should never be viewed as a TV show. It’s real life,” says Elizabeth Enright Phillips, a financial coach at Running Creek Properties in Lancaster, OH, who has renovated nearly a dozen properties.

Best-case scenario: You’ll end up building your dream home and increasing the value of the property. But fixing up a ramshackle house can cost a fortune. Unforeseen problems can surface that will make your fixer-upper a real money pit.

When looking at real estate listings, you’ll notice that no two fixer-uppers are the same. One may have sat vacant for a while, another may be in desperate need of a new roof, and another may have a mold infestation. Each of these scenarios will cost money to rectify, but some situations are more manageable than others.

To help you out, we tapped experts to identify the features and characteristics you should look for in a fixer-upper, to make the renovation go much more smoothly. On your hunt for that hidden gem of a fixer-upper, keep your eye out for the following signs.

Strong structural elements

A solid structure is ideal for any home, but it’s especially critical when you’re buying a fixer-upper. If the home has a crumbling foundation or serious roof problems, you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to pay to repair this type of damage.

These are the five important structural elements:

  1. Roof
  2. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC)
  3. Plumbing
  4. Electrical
  5. Foundation


Mike Coughlin, owner of Summit Design Build in Stoneham, MA, says you can get a good idea of the house’s structure by exploring the basement, attic, and unfinished areas. Focus on those areas rather than the pretty, recent additions to the home.

“You want to look at the basement rather than the granite counters and new bathroom fixtures. All of that shiny stuff is really easy to fix,” says Coughlin, who is working on a nearly 300-year-old home that he bought with his wife, Francine. “The stuff behind the walls is what’s more important. As long as the bones are good, you can pretty much do anything.”

Only minor plumbing problems

There’s a good chance that your fixer-upper will need plumbing work. Depending on the scope of the project, the work will be either a quick fix or a significant undertaking that will eat into your budget. Some fixer-uppers may have low water pressure (fairly minor problem), while others may have pipes that need to be replaced (a big problem).

Before buying a fixer-upper, make sure you’re comfortable with the amount of plumbing work required to bring the place up to snuff.

That said, you shouldn’t immediately flee any fixer-uppers that need plumbing work. If you really love the house, it’s all about balancing costs and diverting money from one project to another.

A sound layout

A logical layout is important in any home (no one wants to walk down a long hall to get to the guest bathroom), but it’s especially critical when you’re looking at an old home. Older homes are often divided into small rooms, but many people in this decade favor an open floor plan.

“The entire family wants to be connected; no one wants to be stuck back in the kitchen when everyone else is hanging out. With an open floor plan, there is no separation between the zones of the house,” says Jean Brownhill, founder and CEO at New York City–based Sweeten, which matches people who have major renovation projects with general contractors.

If you envision needing to knock down walls to create a more open, airy interior, know that the job can be expensive, time-consuming, and dusty.

Little to no infestations

It’s not uncommon to encounter a fixer-upper that has an infestation, be it mice, termites, mold, dry rot, or asbestos. A minor issue such as mice can be resolved by putting out traps and filling holes in the house. However, severe termite damage could require a costly solution, including lifting the house (yes, right off the ground) to access the foundation and check for further damage.

A seller is required to disclose such infestations, but a home inspector will also uncover any issues during the inspection that may occur after the house goes into contract.

If you find any of these problems in your fixer-upper, it’s a good idea to get an estimate from a contractor to resolve the issue.

Recent occupation

Buying a foreclosed home that’s sat dormant for a few years might get you a low sale price, but it may also present a challenge when you start renovating it.

“You never know what’s going on with plumbing behind the walls,” Coughlin says of homes that stand empty for an extended period of time. Maybe the water wasn’t turned off properly in the winter, which can cause the pipes to freeze, split, and leak.

A home without humans can also become a refuge for critters such as squirrels and bats.

“We have found dead mice and rats and a live mother possum feeding her two babies in attics,” says William Begal, president of Begal Enterprises, a disaster restoration company in Rockville, MD.

All of these problems can be fixed—they’ll just add more to your bottom-line costs.

The post What to Look For in a Fixer-Upper: Signs the Home Isn’t a Money Pit appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.