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When Do You Need to Get a Quitclaim Deed?

November 9, 2019


Are you curious about the terms “quitclaim,” “grantor,” and “grantee”? These types of deeds and specific terms may come up if you’re transferring property between family members or spouses.

If you are selling your home now, you may not remember that you signed and received a deed when you purchased your property, such as a warranty deed or quitclaim deed.

The particular real estate deed provides proof of ownership for the buyer and transfers the title or deed to you, regardless of who the property owner (or co-owner) was before you.

2 types of deeds to transfer ownership of real property

The legal document that transfers ownership of the property can be a warranty deed or a quitclaim deed.

Warranty deed: Used in most real estate sales transactions, this deed says that the grantor (previous owner) is the owner of the property and has the right to transfer the property to you (the grantee). In addition, the deed serves as a statement that there are no liens against the property from a mortgage lender, the Internal Revenue Service, or any creditor, and that the property can’t be claimed by anyone else. Title insurance provides the financial backup to the warranty deed, and requires a title search to verify that no other claims, encumbrances, easements, or liens on the property are outstanding.

Quitclaim deed: Used when a real estate property transfers ownership without being sold. No money is involved in the transaction, no title search is done to verify ownership, and no title insurance is issued. A quitclaim deed real estate transaction sometimes occurs between family members.

When to use a quitclaim deed

Quitclaim deeds are most often used to transfer property between family members. Examples include when an owner gets married and wants to add a spouse’s name to the title or deed, or when the owners divorce and one spouse’s name is removed from the title or deed. In other cases, a quitclaim deed can be used when parents transfer property to their children or when siblings transfer property to each other.

Some families or parties opt to put their real property into a family trust, and a quitclaim deed can be used then as well.

Another time that a quitclaim deed might be used is when a title insurance company finds a potential additional owner of a real property and wants to make certain that this person doesn’t make a future claim of ownership.

In that case, the insurance company would ask that person to sign a quitclaim deed.

It is important to recognize that a quitclaim deed impacts only the ownership of the house and the name on the property deed or title, not the mortgage. For instance, in the case of a divorce, if both ex-spouses’ names are on the home mortgage loan, they are both still responsible for the mortgage payments, even if a quitclaim deed has been filed.

Quitclaim deed basics regarding grantors and grantees

The rules about how a quitclaim deed is handled vary by jurisdiction, but generally you need to include the legal description of the property being transferred, the date of the transfer, and the names of the “grantor” and “grantee.”

Not all states require you to record a quitclaim deed, but it’s wise to have the deed signed by the grantor and grantee and notarized in front of a notary public, then copied and recorded at the county recorder or county clerk’s office.

The post When Do You Need to Get a Quitclaim Deed? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: A Once-Stale Tudor Is Now the Portrait of California Charm

November 6, 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.

Built in 1926, this Tudor-style home in San Diego is packed with all the original charm of homes built in that era. The main living room is centered around the fireplace, the front door is arched, and there are tall, narrow windows throughout the house.

But before the sellers got their hands on the property, the interior design was heavy and stale, and pulled the focus away from the home’s best assets. They purchased the home in April and quickly brought the interiors up to date, and then put the refreshed home back on the market in July.

As you’ll see in the photos below, their hard work paid off. The home sold in a quick 49 days for $300,000-plus more than their original purchase price. So how did they pull off this success story? We asked our design experts to point out all the right moves they made so you can bring these ideas to your next renovation project.

Before: Living room

living room before
Even with white walls, this room felt dark and closed-in.

After: Living room

living room after
After the renovation, it’s light and bright.

In true Tudor fashion, the hearth is still the star of this room, but our design experts called out the design changes that made this room feel more comfortable, modern, and stylish.

“It’s great that they squared off the drywall opening leading to the dining room,” says Katie Stix, partner and design director at Anderson Design Studio. That change, while a small one, updates the room and allows your eyes to land on more interesting features of the room—and there are lots of those.

Nisha MacNeil, design manager at Kerr Construction & Design, points out the white color palette and the decor choices that complement it.

“The key to making this all-white palette pop is bringing in some color through nature like the fig tree as well as the beautiful art over the fireplace and pillows,” she says.

Before: Kitchen

kitchen before
The old kitchen was classic in all the wrong ways.

After: Kitchen

kitchen after
Now the kitchen is a home chef’s dream.

The original kitchen was quaint, but honestly, it’s not a place where anyone would like to spend a few hours cooking for a crowd. The new kitchen is now a home chef’s dream—and a nice place to hang out.

“Homeowners want bigger kitchens than in the past, and almost all of the clients I’ve had want an island,” says MacNeil. “By reconfiguring the layout and incorporating the dining area into the kitchen, this space is open and allows for a more functional kitchen. This space now becomes the hub.”

Stix agrees that this is a better use of the kitchen space.

“Combining the two rooms to create a larger kitchen with an island is way more practical,” she says.

Changes like installing hardwood flooring, removing the cased opening, and adding can lights help to modernize the kitchen, but Stix says a splash of color could have given the kitchen a bit more originality.

“I wish they incorporated some color—however, this kitchen is a nice neutral base for a potential homeowner to expand upon and make it their own,” she says.

Before: Dining room

dining before
The dining room was practically begging to be brought into the current decade.

After: Dining room

dining after
A fresh coat of paint and clean lines completely transformed the dining room.

The updates in this room took it from grandma’s dining room to a place you’d be proud to entertain guests.

“This shows you how small changes can have such big impact,” says MacNeil. “By painting out the trim to all white and updating the furniture and lighting, this space feels totally different. It’s now clean and modern, light and bright.”

Tiffany Fasone, owner and CEO of Voila Design Home, notes how the removal of the window treatments brightens up the room. After overhauling the room behind the windows into an office, there’s no reason to cover up a beautiful space like that up.

Before: Bathroom

bathroom before
The old bathroom was drowning in outdated tile.

After: Bathroom

bathroom after
Now, it’s modern and bright, but still retains classic features.

Our experts agree that this is by far one of the best room transformations we’ve seen in a while. Now, the bathroom looks clean, elegant, and more spacious.

“The space literally doubled in size by removing the enclosed shower and making it glass,” says Stix. “It’s much nicer to shower in natural light versus a deep, dark hole.”

She also endorses moving the toilet to the other side of the vanity. “It blocks the view of the toilet, so it’s not the first thing you see when you walk in,” says Stix.

“I absolutely love the serene palette of all white with a dove gray vanity and brass hardware,” says MacNeil. “The mix of the soft gray with the warm metals keeps the room feeling warm and not clinical.”

Before: Backyard

backyard before
Too much furniture clutters this small backyard space.

After: Backyard

backyard after
Decluttering does wonders for this outdoor space.

In a sunny place like San Diego, the backyard is basically an extension of the living space—which means it has to be just as great as what you see indoors. But a plethora of outdoor furniture—including chaise lounges and a fire pit—and a cumbersome pop-up tent made the backyard look crowded.

Part of the backyard transformation included packing the heavy furniture up and leaving a clutter-free, wide-open space for the new owners to enjoy the Southern California sunshine. Lesson learned? Less is more when staging a house to sell.

“This is a testament to what just a little cleanup can do for your space,” says MacNeil. “Decluttering this backyard has really brought it to life!”

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: A Once-Stale Tudor Is Now the Portrait of California Charm appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

The One Thing Home Sellers Forget to Hide Before an Open House

November 5, 2019


When getting ready to sell your house, there’s a lot to worry about—home staging, repairs, keeping rooms tidy for home tours, and more. But there’s also one important thing that many sellers forget to do: hide their prescription drugs.

Sorry to break it to you, but some “buyers” touring your home might just be rooting around for valuables, and you might be surprised by which medications fit the bill.

Here’s what sellers need to know about the risks of prescription drugs at open houses, and how to keep all of their belongings safe.

Which drugs to hide during an open house

When preparing for an open house, plenty of homeowners put away their expensive jewelry, electronics, and checkbooks. But prescription drugs often get overlooked since they’re generally tucked away in medicine cabinets and drawers.

Although the painkiller OxyContin may be the most commonly abused prescription drug (and at highest risk for theft), also high on the list are attention deficit disorder medications like Concerta and Adderall, depression and anxiety medications like Zoloft and Xanax, and sleep aids like Ambien.

Plus, prescriptions aren’t the only drugs that could get swiped for recreational use. For example, over-the-counter cough suppressants (e.g., NyQuil) can be abused by being mixed with alcohol or other drugs. And sinus medications containing pseudoephedrine, like Sudafed, can be used to make meth. Even the heartburn medication Prilosec has been known to be abused due to the euphoric effect it has when taken with methadone.

Make sure these, and all other medications, are removed from your medicine cabinet. Even if a medication seems innocuous, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

How to keep your belongings safe

If you’re getting ready to show your home, walk around the house thinking like a stranger. What’s easy to pick up? What might be easy to sell? This is a great guideline for medications, but also for hiding any valuables in your home. Think about wine, perfume bottles, expensive lotions, even your designer tie collection.

Since it can be hard to know what thieves are looking for, try walking around the house with a real estate agent to make sure you’ve noticed everything. Make sure you don’t leave your checkbook in an unlocked drawer; and hide your laptop, tablet, and cellphone.

The safe way to discard old pills

After a good sweep of your medicine cabinet, you might find yourself with a few bottles of pills you don’t need anymore. While your instinct might be to simply trash them before an open house, there’s a better way to dispose of them.

Many homeowners are making use of Deterra bags, and other drug-deactivation systems, to safely dispose of medications. Deterra bags work by using an activated carbon pod, which, when mixed with warm water, absorbs the active ingredients in pills, patches, and liquids, rendering the drugs inactive.

“We’re giving them to agents to give to homeowners when they’re buying or selling homes,” says former Nevada Realtors president Heidi Kasama, a supporter of RALI, the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative.

According to Nevada Business, RALI partners are distributing 500,000 pouches to residents of Nevada. Many other supporters of the initiative have had the opportunity to pass them out as well.

If you don’t have access to a drug-deactivation bag, there are other ways to dispose of your unused medications. Drugs can be flushed down the toilet, but only if they are on the FDA’s flush list. If they are not on the list, the FDA recommends mixing the drugs with an unappealing substance like cat litter or dirt, putting the mixture in a sealed plastic bag, and throwing it away in the trash.

The FDA also states that it’s important to make sure you scratch out the information (like your name and what drug you were prescribed) on the prescription bottle.

If flushing and throwing medications away are not possible, you can always turn unused drugs into your nearest drug take-back location.

Why ‘hidden’ isn’t always ‘safe’

Once you’ve found everything of value, you may be wondering what to do with it. Your first instinct might be to hide valuables in a closet or in a drawer, but buyers often look in closets (to see how much storage space there is) and they can easily open drawers.

“When I tell owners to put valuables away, I recommend to not hide them in some obvious place, but put some thought into it, or put items in a safe,” Kasama says.

But if you don’t have a safe, you might consider locking valuables in a desk drawer, buying a large (and heavy) trunk with a lock to store your valuables, or even putting them in the trunk of your car. If you have friends or family you trust living nearby, you might even ask if you can store a few boxes of your most precious items there.

Ask your real estate agent to keep an eye on buyers

Even if you think you’ve cleared out all your valuables, it’s still important to watch potential buyers in your house.

Of course, most of the time, the homeowner will be away when the house is being shown, so make sure your real estate agent is keeping an eye out for you.

Allison Jung, a real estate agent in Las Vegas, says she finds power in numbers when it comes to preventing theft in open houses.

“I have another agent, escrow or lender partner attend the open house with me,” Jung explains. “That way we can station ourselves in different parts of the house to keep an eye on things.”

Kasama says she’s always on the lookout for suspicious activity.

“We had a showing once, and four people came in,” she recalls. “They immediately split up and took off in two directions and didn’t seem to want to listen to anything about the house. A big red flag. We called after them and said they had to all stay together and we would tour them through the house. They left very shortly after that, which tells me they were not there to look at the house.”

The post The One Thing Home Sellers Forget to Hide Before an Open House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: These Absurdly Easy Interior Updates Added Value to a Townhouse

October 30, 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.

The owners of this Arlington, VA, townhouse had been renting it out since 2007. In 2019, however, they decided to leave the landlord life behind them and put this property on the market.

With just a few cosmetic changes—mostly paint and staged furniture—the sellers were able to breathe new life into this dated property without the cost or hassle of major construction.

As you’ll see in the before and after photos below, these updates made a huge impact on the quality of the listing photos. It just goes to show that increasing the value of your home doesn’t necessarily require a pricey renovation. The home sold in September 2019 for more than $200,000 over what the sellers paid for it.

So what changes made the most difference? And more importantly, how can you replicate these simple—and successful—methods in your own space? Our experts weigh in.

Before: Living room

living room before
The living room before was very ’90s.

After: Living room

living room after
Now the same space is light and bright.

This living room proves that just a little bit of effort can make a difference when you’re redesigning a space for listing photos.

“The color on the wall [in the after photo] is much more modern,” says designer Katie Stix, partner and design director at Anderson Design Studio. “The previous color screamed ’90s! Pairing the light walls with light furniture and a natural rug allows the room to feel light and fresh. The room gets a lot of light, which is great, and the lighter walls allow you to appreciate the two-tone color of the blinds.”

Nisha MacNeil, design manager at Kerr Construction & Design, focuses on the new accessories in the space.

“Texture is playing a key role here. The tortoiseshell on the wall, the pillows, the jute rug, and the hammered-nickel coffee table are the elements that bring life to the space,” she says. “That is how you achieve a perfect monochromatic design, by playing with textural elements.”

She also points out one of our favorite decorating tricks: layering rugs. An easy way to pull off this look is to use a sisal or jute rug as the base and layer a faux animal skin rug (like the cowhide above) on top.

Before: Dining room

dining room before
The dining room was dark and like a cave.

After: Dining room

dining room after
The room looks more spacious.

The biggest changes in the dining room are the new paint color and the brand-new dining furniture. So what do our experts think of this transformation?

“When in doubt, go light!” says Paul Trudel-Payne, founder and creative designer of Casa Consult+Design. “Removing the dark paint and opting for the perfect shade of gray make this room finally look alive.”

Stix says painting the fireplace wall the same shade as the other walls makes the room feel much bigger.

“It makes the room feel like it connects with the rest of the house,” she says.

The sellers also made quite a difference by switching up the bulky furniture with more modern, mismatched pieces.

“The benches are a good solution for more seating and also take up less visual space,” says Tiffany Fasone, owner and CEO of Voila Design Home.

And we can’t tell if the spot above the fireplace has been filled with a TV that doubles as a work of art or an actual painting, but removing the screen makes the room feel more refined.

Before: Bedroom

bedroom before
The bedroom before was just plain boring.

After: Bedroom

bedroom after
Now it’s a luxe place to rest your head.

This after photo proved that strategically arranged furniture can have a huge impact on the appearance of a room. What felt like a college apartment is now a luxurious, glamorous master bedroom.

“Changing the color scheme and layout in a room is often one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to update without the need for any outside help,” says Trudel-Payne.

The light gray and white palette is key to bringing the relaxing vibes in this bedroom, but MacNeil also loves the small accents of black in the lighting, pillows, lamps, and console table in the sitting area.

“It takes it from beige and boring to hotel chic,” she says.

Speaking of the sitting area, Trudel-Payne says the revamped alcove off to the side of the bed “helps show buyers the function of the oddly shaped room.”

And while some people think putting a bed in front of a window is taboo, this after photo proves that it’s actually an effective way to make the room feel more spacious. The sellers used a black room divider as a headboard in this room, but you could use any headboard you have on hand.

Before: Bathroom

bathroom before
This bathroom was dated and clunky.

After: Bathroom

bathroom after
With only paint and new decor pieces, the space feels like a spa.

It’s hard to believe there were no major renovations in this bathroom, because it looks like a completely revamped space.

“Painting the room all the same color is genius! It makes the room way more cohesive,” says Stix. “The dark paint made the room feel extremely choppy, and it accentuated the dated fixtures. The white palette draws your attention away from those elements and brings the focus to the airiness of the space.”

Fasone agrees that the contrasting black and white parts in the before photo made the bathroom feel very ’80s.

“The new color choice, serene artwork, and white fluffy towels make the bathroom feel more spalike and more inviting,” she says.

Before: Parlor

parlor before
The bulky sectional sofa does little more than provide a comfortable place to sit.

After: Parlor

parlor after
After, the parlor is a light-filled dream.

The revamped parlor follows the rest of the house with light paint colors and more on-trend furniture that brighten up the room.

“The last wall color was very dull and depressing,” says Fasone. “The new color on the walls and the white trim feels modern and crisp and brings life to the room.”

After looking at the before photo, most of our designers were focused on the elephant in the room: the giant sofa.

“That massive leather sofa soaks up every ounce of light,” says Stix. “The before image looks like a man cave where you’d binge-watch Netflix and never leave the house.”

Most home buyers like to see pictures of rooms where they could entertain guests or spend time with friends, and this makeover certainly achieves that.

“In any room that does not have an excessive amount of breathing room for a larger sectional, do yourself a favor and just say no,” says Trudel-Payne. “This sofa/chaise lounge combo is the perfect alternative to increase seating and maintain comfort in the room.”

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: These Absurdly Easy Interior Updates Added Value to a Townhouse 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 |®.

How to Throw a Halloween-Themed Open House That’ll Scare Up Buyers

October 17, 2019

Halloween open house

Katja Rovinowicz/iStock

Selling a house with Halloween on the horizon can be tricky. Maybe you want to decorate, but you’ve been told over and over again to keep your space neutral, so buyers can picture themselves in your home.

It’s good advice. But before you give up your grand plans for carving jack-o-lanterns and start stuffing the scarecrows back into storage, know this: There is a way to indulge in the holiday and make your home stand out from the crowd at the same time.

To the rescue: a Halloween-themed open house! Read on for expert tips on using this holiday as a marketing tool that’ll help you scare up potential buyers.

Don’t actually scare the buyers

Although it’s tempting to make your home the spookiest on the block, the experts advise against it.

Take it from Benjamin Ross, Realtor® with Mission Real Estate Group in San Antonio, TX, who has a graveyard with an animated pumpkin head and a zombie coming out of the ground.

“My granddaughter came over and was afraid to get out of the car,” Ross says. “Luckily for me, I’m not selling my house.”

When it comes to decorating your home for the big event, the best thing to do is keep it simple.

“Keep it tasteful and light,” says April Struhs, Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Schmitt Real Estate Co. in Key Largo, FL. “For example, a couple of pumpkin spice candles would be a great idea; then the buyers would remember the house that smelled like pumpkin spice.”

Of course, you can always stock up on the pumpkins, fall leaves and wreaths, Halloween throw pillows, and orange twinkle lights. You can even add in a Halloween doormat and some themed music. Jon Tetrault, partner and Realtor with the Nick Slocum Team in Warwick, RI, even recommends giving your buyers a laugh by writing “Not Haunted” on your For Sale sign.

But the creepy decorations? Consider skipping those this year.

“I would strongly stay away from blood and gore decorations,” Struhs says.

“My advice is to keep it fun-scary, not deathly scary,” Ross adds.

Keep it kid-friendly

Halloween ring toss
Set up activities to entertain the kids while parents tour the home.


One of the best ways to make your event memorable is by having some fun activities prepared for the kids who might be traipsing along with their parents to your open house. Simple games that are easy to win (for a modest prize, of course), like a pumpkin corn-hole or ring toss, are always a hit.

But something even better? A game that keeps kids engaged—while also ensuring that their parents can see the entire house.  For instance, you could set up a mini-scavenger hunt, says Seattle-area real estate broker Valerie Burmester.

“While the parents look around, the kids will be on the lookout for those painted pumpkins, fall pillows, photos of a pet in a costume in the bedroom,” Burmester says. “It will be well worth the effort, because both parents and kids can get in on the games while still looking at the home.”

You might also consider having a small arts and crafts table where kids can entertain themselves while parents have a look around. (Struhs recommends Halloween-themed coloring books with crayons.)

And be sure to make up some small goody bags, or stock up a “treasure chest” of prizes that kids can pick from after every game. If your prizes include candy, get the parents’ permission before handing them out.

Stock up on the snacks

Halloween open house snacks
Spooktacular snacks


Speaking of treats, it’s an old adage for good reason: The way to buyers’ hearts might just be through their stomach.

“A lot of time kids get bored looking at houses, which can mean the parents don’t get a good viewing,” Struhs says. “One way to keep them entertained is with food.”

While candy is fine, chances are kids will get plenty of it while trick-or-treating. Opt instead for fresh and homemade treats.

“Fall-themed cookies, homemade pumpkin bread, and apple cider all give a home warmth,” Burmester says. “And they’re delicious for adults and kids.”

Pick the best room in your house to set up a snack table. Be sure to stage it with some fun Halloween decorations and a few pumpkins. If you have a coffee maker, brew up some java for your buyers. Most likely, yours isn’t the only home they’re visiting that day, and you’ll stand out even more by making it a fun and relaxing experience for both them and their children.

And if you needed another reason to feed your guests, consider this: “Giving the buyer something to drink and eat will help them stay longer at the house, which gives the real estate agent more time to really talk up the property,” Struhs says.

Don’t overdo the decorations

The goal of any open house is to sell the home—so just be sure to keep this top of mind when planning your event. Costumes, games, and decorations are all fine and good, as long as they don’t detract from the house, or negatively affect your buyers’ experience while they’re visiting it.

“Stay away from anything satanic or demon-inspired, and any race-appropriating costumes, like Native American or geisha,” says real estate agent Regine Nelson of Wealthward Realty in Austin, TX.

And always avoid anything political—during Halloween or any other time of the year, Ross adds.

No matter how you choose to plan your spooktacular event, stay focused on why you’re doing it.

“You want to make sure the buyer is focused on the correct things, like the house,” Struhs says. “Not how great you decorated for Halloween.”

The post How to Throw a Halloween-Themed Open House That’ll Scare Up Buyers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Lessons From Listings Photos: Cosmetic Changes Transform This Edgy S.F. Victorian

October 16, 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.

Not every home needs a major renovation to make a profit, and this gothic San Francisco Victorian property proves just that. It was built in 1908, and its architectural charm was still very much apparent when it was purchased in 2016. Just a few simple cosmetic changes made all the difference, though—helping the sellers to rake in a profit of $650,000 when they unloaded it just three years later.

So how did the sellers make such a tidy profit without knocking down any walls? We went to our experts to find out exactly what changes made the biggest impact—and how you can apply the lessons learned to your own space.

Bedroom (before)

lessons from listing photos
The bedroom before was basic.

Bedroom (after)

Now the bedroom is edgy and fun.

Before renovations, the bedroom was nice, but very basic. This space was calling for more.

“The bedroom before just felt … blah. And now has a total cool vibe with a deep denim blue on the walls and a trendy neon lit skeleton art piece,” says Nisha MacNeil, design manager at Kerr Construction & Design. “The designer mixed decades, with ’20s mirrored furniture, traditional bedding, and a midcentury chair and rug.”

The biggest change in this room is definitely the paint color, and the designers approve.

“This room didn’t need a ton of work,” says designer Katie Stix, partner and design director at Anderson Design Studio. “The blue wall color was a very simple way to make a huge difference. Painting a darker color below the molding lowered the room, making it feel more grounded instead of a huge white expanse. You can appreciate the beautiful molding more with the contrasting colors.”

Great room (before)

great room_before
Before, this space was trying to be too much.

Great room (after)

great room_after
Simplifying this space made it much more functional.

The freshly painted navy blue fireplace anchors the room, and other small pops of color vastly improve the look of the space.

“The all-white look is just fading out, in my opinion,” says Tiffany Fasone, owner and CEO of Voila Design Home. “The new arrangement and furniture choices add more life to the room. The midcentury modern dining table and chairs also make the beautiful floors stand out more.”

Stix reminds us that sometimes, just changing furniture can totally change a room.

“The dark dining chairs define that space,” she says. “And simply removing the lounge chairs across from the sofa make it feel like two separate spaces instead of a sea of chairs.”

“This space has far more impact now with its contrasting elements, versus the very monochromatic scheme it had before,” adds MacNeil.

Kitchen (before)

kitchen_before (1)
The previous kitchen was bright, but boring.

Kitchen (after)

kitchen_after (1)
The new kitchen is a much more fun place to cook.

Some of the changes that happened in this kitchen go against the usual rules.

“Removing storage is usually a big no-no. And going from bright and airy to dark and industrial is rarely heard of,” says Paul Trudel-Payne, founder and creative designer of Casa Consult+Design. But rules are made to be broken, right? Trudel-Payne wholehearted supports the changes made in the kitchen.

“Metal counters, dark base cabinetry, open shelving storage throughout, and even the small sconces about the sink play up the new effortlessly chic lifestyle they have created,” Trudel-Payne says. “It showcases a home with true originality.”

Thankfully, the original layout of the kitchen was sound, so all the sellers had to do was put in their personal touches.

“The designer simply removed the upper cabinets in favor of oak floating shelves and a new marble backsplash,” says MacNeil. “This instantly lightens and updates the space. Then by painting the lowers a deep blue and adding new hardware, the space is instantly refreshed!”

“I love the change from white to navy cabinets,” adds Fasone. “It adds more depth and dimension to the room.”

Parlor (before)

This space started out as a boring bedroom.

Parlor (after)

It has found new life as a popping parlor.

As you can see, what started as a bedroom is now a parlor. Located on the first floor, this room is actually adjacent to another sitting room, meaning that all the bedrooms are now upstairs.

“Transforming a space from a bedroom to parlor is so rock ‘n’ roll—and I love it!” says Trudel-Payne. “The space is filled with dynamic patterns and bold colors we rarely see in listing photos. And I would bet it’s this exact stark contrast to the norm that attracted large amounts of interest with buyers.”

As for the other impressive design choices, Stix notes the art and the fiddle-leaf fig, which add life and color to the room and help people visualize a homey environment.

Sitting area (before)

sitting area_before
This small room didn’t serve a lot of purpose.

Sitting area (after)

sitting area_after
After the renovation, it’s a perfect place to rest.

This little room just off of the kitchen used to serve as a formal breakfast area, but our experts agree that transforming it into a comfortable seating area was the right move. We love the idea of curling up on the couch to read the news and enjoy a cup of coffee.

“Adding the small corner sofa and ottoman make the room feel more cozy,” says Fasone. “Previously, it just felt like a pass-through area.”

Trudel-Payne agrees that this new sitting area matches the chill, effortlessly chic aesthetic in the house.

“This home is a great example of how simple updates can drastically change a space,” says MacNeil. “There are no structural changes in any of these spaces, but it shows the impact a coat of paint and good design choices in furniture and accessories can have.”

The post Lessons From Listings Photos: Cosmetic Changes Transform This Edgy S.F. Victorian appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

6 Home Staging Essentials Every Seller Should Buy at Walmart

October 15, 2019

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If you want to sell a house quickly and for the best price, make sure your prospective buyers never stare at empty rooms and bare walls. The deserted warehouse look is definitely out!

Enter home staging—the practice of using furniture and home accessories to create vignettes that will help home buyers imagine what life would be like in that house. If the real estate you’re selling isn’t staged attractively, you’re losing out, since plenty of other houses on the market will be.

Yet as important as home staging is, there’s no need to break the bank buying expensive items to make a house look great. In fact, you shouldn’t put pricey items in a staged house, where they can get damaged from being moved around or could even disappear. Buy things that look good, but that you can get for cheap.

Granted, some of these items might not feel as luxe as the fabric at a high-end department store, but who cares? Buyers shouldn’t be touching them, anyway. You’re looking for new and crisp and inviting—not irreplaceable treasures.

One unexpected place to look for staging props: Walmart. A few dollars can go a long way here! Check out these bargains that home stagers and real estate agents often buy to kick up your home staging without shedding too much money in the process.

Fluffy white hand towels

Walmart white towels
Go-anywhere white hand towels

Next to kitchens, “Bathrooms are the second most important room and selling feature in any home,” says Jimmy Zarate of eXp Realty in Houston, TX. Freshen up all of your bathrooms with a six-pack of premium soft white hand towels (, $14.99).

“It’s the perfect accent,” Zarate says.

Chrissy O’Donnell, associate broker and real estate agent at Re/Max West End, in Northern Virginia, says, “I would place them in all bathrooms, accompanied by a clear dispenser filled with a warm-colored soap. If there is a master suite with a tub, I would fold them by the tub, adding a spalike feel.”

Bathrooms aren’t the only rooms that you can spruce up with fresh towels.

“Home gym or fitness room?  I would roll these up and place them in basket and add some water bottles,” says O’Donnell.

Round accent mirror

Anchor an arrangement with this classic round mirror.

This mirror (, $58) will not only make your home look bigger, it’s also the perfect “safe” decor—mirrors go with any style or age of home.

“This is the perfect accent piece and would be perfect above an entryway or hallway table,” says O’Donnell. “Mirrors can open up a room and create more light, brightening things up! I sometimes mix and match different sizes of mirrors to fill up an empty wall, and this would be perfect to add to a collage.”

Fake plants

Attract attention with a simple fern.

Can’t keep real plants alive? Go with faux, which have come a long way these days and look strikingly realistic.

“I love adding greenery to any space and prefer using understated pieces just like these,” says O’Donnell. Placed in a vase, these ferns (, $20.16 per six-pack) are a good bet.

“They could guide a buyer’s attention towards a certain area or piece and would be perfect for a living room or family room area,” O’Donnell says.

Flameless candles

LED flameless pillar candles

Add a warm glow with these safe LED candles (, $19.88).

“I love using candles. They add warmth and character, and this motif adds some style!” says O’Donnell. “I would use these on a coffee table and place them on a tray.”

Don’t forget to make outdoor spaces look inviting, too.

“If the home had a screened-in porch, I might add these to a side table outside as well,” she says.

Chic art prints

A large art print creates a focal point.

If your walls are covered with personal mementos, photos, anything personal or even remotely controversial—or maybe just too much stuff—consider packing it all away for now.

“Any wise real estate agent or stager would tell you to take down any personal pictures or family photos, no matter how cute they are,” says Zarate. A great substitute would be the Designart ‘Skyline with Brooklyn Manhattan Bridges’ Art Print (, $192). “It is the perfect size, while adding a sleek, modern feel.”

Colorful pillows

Colorful pillows

When the room looks almost perfect, but still missing something, don’t be afraid to add some color. These three-button pillows (, $13.84) have enough style and pop to make a statement, without being fussy. Keep a selection of these on hand, and you can swap out accent colors and soften edges of furniture as easily as you can toss a pillow.

The post 6 Home Staging Essentials Every Seller Should Buy at Walmart appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Keeping the Heirloom House

October 11, 2019

Julie Bidwell for The Wall Street Journal

Jeremy Wolff, a photographer based in upstate New York, is part owner of a six-bedroom beach house near Hyannis on Cape Cod in Massachusetts that has been in his family since the 1940s. His co-owners? Nearly 30 relatives, including eight cousins and their families, who book their visits on a family website.

“There’s sometimes some tension—like, ‘You always get the upstairs front bedroom’—little squabbly things like that,” Mr. Wolff said.

The joy of having an heirloom vacation home in the family sometimes comes with a side order of angst: costly upkeep, perpetual repairs and ancient yet enduring sibling rivalries. A legacy lake house or mountain lodge may be shared by scads of siblings and cousins, who have to figure out how to divvy up prime vacation weeks and holidays, to say nothing of property taxes and maintenance responsibilities. Basic decisions—like reupholstering Grandma’s sofa—are anything but basic when a dozen or more relatives have to sign off.

“The process of the family deciding and agreeing on replacing the fabric literally took five years,” said Mr. Wolff.

Elisha Cooper, an author whose children’s book “River” was just published, owns one-sixth of a 2,000-square-foot, four-bedroom cottage with a wraparound porch on Black Point in East Lyme, Conn. that his great-grandfather built in 1913.

“It’s basically a porch with a cottage attached,” said Mr. Cooper, 48, who lives with his wife and two daughters in New York City. The house, which was placed in a family trust in the mid-1990s, is shared by three branches of his extended family, in New York, Massachusetts and London. “I split my branch’s share with my brother,” said Mr. Cooper, adding, “at some point, we’re each going to own a toilet.”

The living room of the cottage is lined with pictures, family mementos and books.

Julie Bidwell for The Wall Street Journal

The uninsulated cottage occupies a prime 1.3-acre spot on a grassy hill overlooking the salt marsh and ocean. In 2016, the town assessor appraised its value as $945,000. Mr. Cooper’s share of taxes and insurance comes to several thousand dollars a year. This year, it is his turn as manager of the Black Point property, which involves overseeing its maintenance and the schedule: each branch gets 42 prime spring, summer and fall days, to be meted out among its individual members (the home is boarded up for the winter). Major holidays are divvied up, “so if somebody takes Labor Day, someone else is going to take July 4th,” Mr. Cooper said.

There are pitfalls to sharing an heirloom home that happens to be full of heirlooms. “My cat got obsessed with this old wooden model boat and knocked it off the piano—that was a family drama,” Mr. Cooper recalled. “I had to spend $3,000 to re-rig and fix the boat because it was an antique.” Some of his relatives prefer a more low-tech approach to home repairs: “There’s a broken chair and it’s just left with some tape on it—or twine, done in a nice bow.”

Family summits take place on Memorial and Labor Day weekends.

“We all gather—my aunt flies in from London—and we sit on the porch and we talk. These are big decisions, like ‘Do we cut the field?’ and ‘How is that going to affect the monarch butterfly migration?’” Mr. Cooper said. “We never argue, that’s because we are New Englanders. We silently and very politely disagree.”

The blue plates in the dining room were once loaded as ballast in clipper ships full of tea from China by one of Mr. Cooper’s seafaring ancestors.

Julie Bidwell for The Wall Street Journal

Some farsighted matriarchs and patriarchs endow trusts so that legacy properties will stay in the family with minimal discord or generational financial strain. Gerry and Del Carrier, who own a 5,000-square-foot mountain ski home in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, created a trust in 2013 so that their five children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren can enjoy the house “in perpetuity,” in Mr. Carrier’s words.

“We estimated taxes, we estimated the maintenance—we are leaving them with very adequate financing so that it will not be a burden,” said Mr. Carrier, 84, a retired dentist who owns a second home in Vero Beach, Fla.

The great room of Gerry and Del Carrier’s ski home in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Rachel Sieben for The Wall Street Journal

Mr. and Mrs. Carrier, who is 83, acquired the half-acre lot with views of Mount Washington for $1,500 in 1968, building a modest three-bedroom home where they brought their children every weekend. In 2005, they embarked on a $750,000 remodel and expansion, adding a wraparound porch, a dining room spacious enough for 25, a large bunkroom for the grandchildren and a bedroom suite for each of their children—a critical element for maintaining family harmony. There are seven bedrooms in all. At the time they established the trust, the house was appraised at $1.2 million, Mr. Carrier said.

His children and grandchildren use the house throughout the year, coming for the fall foliage, skiing in the winter, hiking and kayaking in the summer. The entire clan gathers there every Christmas.

“For as long as I can remember, every Friday night my father piled his five children into a station wagon to go to a retreat where we could just bind together as a family,” said Michelle Carrier-Trial, 59, a lawyer based in southeastern Massachusetts. She and her younger brother are the home’s two trustees: ultimately, each of the siblings will own an equal share in the house. “After my parents are gone, we hope to keep it the same way for our children,” she said.

The Carriers created a trust for the home in 2013, so their five children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren can enjoy it for years to come.

Rachel Sieben for The Wall Street Journal

Sometimes, however, a beloved home can become an albatross for the current generation. As a child, Schuyler Grant spent every summer at her grandparents’ seaside vacation home—just down the beach from her great-aunt Katharine Hepburn—in the Connecticut borough of Fenwick, an enclave of grand Victorian-era cottages on Long Island Sound. Built in 1868, the six-bedroom shingled house has a deep porch, its own pebbly beach and four generations of Grant and Hepburn family history.

“Every time I would come through the door, I was bathed in this smell of the house—it was like a portal to this whole other world of tennis lessons and duck belts,” said Ms. Grant, who lives with her husband and three daughters in Los Angeles. “It was extremely buttoned up—I used to have to dress for drinks every night in Laura Ashley smocks.”

Schuyler Grant’s cottage on Long Island Sound in Fenwick, Conn., built in 1868, has been in her family for three generations.

Julie Bidwell for The Wall Street Journal

Ms. Grant, 49, founder of Kula Yoga Project, in New York, and her husband Jeff Krasno, 48, founder of Commune, an online learning platform, bought the 5,400-square-foot Fenwick home in 2009 from her aunt, the actress Katharine Houghton, for $1.8 million, public records show. Their family shares the house with Mr. Krasno’s father and stepmother, Richard and Carin Krasno, who contribute toward the costs of maintaining the property and who visit every August and September from their home in Coral Gables, Fla.

“Everybody has to be their highest self—it can get really difficult,” Ms. Grant said of the dynamics. Plus: “There’s always one leak in the house that they haven’t been able to fix in 160 years, so it comes with a certain amount of buckets.”

The family spends nearly $50,000 annually in property taxes, including a Fenwick borough tax. Standard maintenance and upkeep adds another $27,000 every year. That doesn’t include the cost of reshingling the house or replacing its rattling, circa-1970s windows; the latter cost about $100,000. Ms. Grant, who offsets these expenses by renting out the house for part of the summer, reluctantly put it on the market for $3.375 million last year.

“The expense is so great, the emotional and financial upkeep is so massive, that if you are not really there then it’s so hard to justify,” said Ms. Grant. “Our dream is that we find this awesome family that wants to buy the house, but they are a little cash-strapped and have to rent it back to us in August.”

Ms. Grant with her husband, Jeff Krasno, and three daughters on the porch of the Fenwick cottage, which is listed for sale for $3.375 million.

Julie Bidwell for The Wall Street Journal

Tips for Keeping Grandma’s House in the Family

1. Make sure your descendants actually want the house. “It’s common sense: the heirs don’t always have the same values,” said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants. He advises clients “to really survey their family and have a talk about it—the children should be an active part of the planning.”

2. To head off family feuds, spats over remodeling, prime holidays, or a push to sell, transfer ownership of the house to a limited liability company, with a user agreement that sets out terms and conditions. Or create a trust for the property with its own bylaws. That way, Grandma can make sure that everyone plays by her rules for the cottage long after she’s gone.

3. That roof is going to spring a leak sooner or later. Create a dedicated fund for maintenance, taxes and other costs, supported by annual contributions from family members. Note: If you break a lamp or a doorknob comes off in your hand, fix it yourself or prepare for frost at the Labor Day clambake.

4. Have an exit strategy. Any long-term plan should factor in the possibility that descendants may need to sell. Outline provisions for doing so. “Personal situations are going to change,” said Mr. Miller. “Many of these owners are between a rock and a hard place, trapped between nostalgia and hard economic reality.”

5. Remember: It’s just a house. “It’s really more about the family itself than the real estate,” Mr. Miller said. “Those Thanksgiving meals and family get-togethers were special because of the occupants of the house—not the house itself.”

The post Keeping the Heirloom House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

3 Fast Fixes for the Home Features Millennial Buyers Hate

October 9, 2019


When it comes to selling a house, you want to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible. For years, that meant targeting baby boomers and Gen Xers; but today, millennials are buying homes in larger numbers than ever. In fact, by early 2019, they represented 42% of all new home loans. This means that any seller would be wise to keep millennial buyers in mind when getting a house ready to show.

While there are definitely upgrades that sellers can make to catch the eye of millennial home buyers, there are also some home features that are known to send millennial buyers running. Curious if your own home has any of these features? Check what these real estate agents say repel millennial homes buyers today—and how to fix these problems with minimal money and effort.

1. Wood cabinets in the kitchen

Interior decor choices might seem trivial, but they can have a big impact on buyers. For instance, Yuri Blanco, the owner of Re/Max Executives in Idaho, says that old-fashioned wood cabinetry in the kitchen is a huge turnoff for most millennial home buyers.

“Millennials aren’t looking for oak cabinets like we saw in the 20th century,” she says. “They like more clean lines and cabinets with flat doors.”

The fast fix: If your budget doesn’t allow for tearing out dated cabinets, there’s still hope. Consider other ways to update the kitchen, such as sanding and painting the existing cabinetry.

2. Closed floor plans

Blanco says the classic closed floor plan is a turnoff for most millennials, and suggests that sellers take whatever steps necessary to fix the issue.

“Before selling, try knocking out some walls,” she says. “Millennials want wide, open spaces.”

The fast fix: Of course, not everyone can afford to knock down walls when preparing a home for sale.

If your budget doesn’t allow for major remodels, do what you can to emphasize the flow between rooms. Removing doors in favor of open archways between common spaces, for example, can help.

3. Formal dining rooms

Some home trends are especially generational—and experts put formal dining rooms firmly in that category. Millennials as a group tend to favor flexible spaces, Blanco explains.

“A generation ago, formal dining rooms may have been on every buyer’s wish list,” she says. “But today there really isn’t much appeal to the formal dining room. An open space that can easily transition from kitchen to TV room is high on the list of the perfect home for young buyers. We are seeing upticks in areas with bar stools and breakfast nooks instead.”

The fast fix: If your property has a formal dining room and you can’t afford to change the layout, consider staging the space creatively to show how it could be used in a more modern, functional way. For instance, you could stage the space as a home office or entertainment room instead.

The post 3 Fast Fixes for the Home Features Millennial Buyers Hate appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.