Disclosing the Ghosts

I’m superstitious and want to avoid buying a haunted house.  Does a seller have to disclose that information?

We live in an old town, with homes dating back to the early 1800s.  With old homes comes a lot of history, and sometimes a ghost story or two.  While approximately half of our states do require disclosure of paranormal activity, Pennsylvania is not one of those states.  Pennsylvania also does not currently require a seller to disclose if someone has died in a home, although they cannot affirmatively lie if asked.

Many other states have adopted far more comprehensive disclosure laws.  In our neighboring New York, paranormal activity must be disclosed.  In California, any death in a home in the preceding three years must be disclosed.  And in Massachusetts, the law is even more comprehensive, requiring disclosure of paranormal activity, as well as whether the home was ever the site of a felony, suicide or homicide or whether someone with HIV ever lived in the home.

Our disclosure simply asks whether there are any material defects, which is defined as anything that could significantly impact value. Material defects would clearly include any major problems with the physical structure, as well as pending tax assessments and disputes over property boundaries with adjoining landowners.  But what about those ghostly apparitions or eerie cries in the night?  According to a well-known California appraiser who specializes in diminution of value, a well-publicized murder can reduce value by 15% – 35%.  Does a ghost reduce a home’s value and need to be disclosed?  Right now, the answer is no in Pennsylvania, although sellers wishing to avoid lawsuits would be well advised to disclose anything that could be seen as stigmatizing a property, including paranormal activity and deaths in the home.  For some buyers, value actually increases with the prospect of living among ghosts.  But before disclosing the ghost in your attic, be sure there isn’t a rational explanation for what you are experiencing.

Buyers, if you don’t want to move into a haunted home, what can you do to protect yourself in the absence of required disclosure?  You can start with the internet – do a thorough search of the property address and sellers’ names.  That will likely turn up information on any more recent concerns with the property.  You can also pay for a property report at Diedinhouse.com, but I can’t vouch for its accuracy. Some recommend burning sage to rid the home of spirits, and if all else fails, you can always call Ghostbusters!

305 Chestnut Road, Edgeworth – New Listing 

Utterly charming historic Village colonial set on a large lot with fully fenced backyard and private back patio, ideal for warm weather entertaining.  Nicely remodeled throughout.  Large kitchen with huge walk-in pantry and mudroom. Finished lower level includes large walk-in closet and full bath. Beautiful architectural detail and wood floors throughout. Dramatic ceilings, sun-drenched rooms.  $475,000  See more…

 

 

 

415 Orchard Street – New Listing 

A fabulous renovation of this incredibly spacious Village home.  Three finished levels including lower level with full bath. Beautifully renovated kitchen with breakfast “café,” coffee bar, mudroom with lockers.  Beautifully finished wood floors. Delightful covered front porch.  Quiet back patio. Fenced rear yard is ideal for pets. Exceptional condition throughout.  $795,000  See more…

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I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
 
 
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
Associate Broker
HOWARD HANNA
REAL ESTATE SERVICES
401 Broad Street
Sewickley, PA 15143
Cell: 412-779-6060
Office: 412-741-2200 x238
kbarge@howardhanna.com

Making the Right Choices When Remodeling

We are thinking of renovating our master bathroom – is that a good investment to make? If you are thinking of remodeling a portion of your home, it is important to first consider what is currently going on inside your home from a design perspective. It is not possible to overstate the importance of consistency in design when selling a home.  Buyers uniformly respond favorably when a home flows in a consistent “theme” through the home.  What does this really mean? In an ideal world, your color palate would move smoothly from room to room.  Every room does not have to be the same color, but the colors should harmonize.  In other words, you should not be using both the 1980s burgundy & green palate along with today’s grays and browns in the same home.  As soon as you begin to move a newer color palate in, the old one must disappear completely. Smaller details must also blend seamlessly.  If you like the nickel and chrome (silver based) colors, use them throughout for cabinet knobs, lighting and bathroom/kitchen fixtures.  Do not choose nickel for one bath and brass for the next. Buyers will subconsciously feel the home needs work as they will sense the lack of consistency.  The same is true for the bathrooms themselves.  If you decide to renovate your master bath, that does not mean you need to renovate every bath, but you would be well-advised to plan your master bath so it also harmonizes with what is already in your home.  If the “hardscapes” in your baths (counters, floors) are in the beige family, it would be a bad idea to do your master in white carerra marble, no matter how “in” that might be, unless you are prepared to update all baths.  Choose instead travertine, beige granite or a beige based marble that will blend more smoothly with your existing baths.  The impact to a buyer of “wonderful new master bath” will have the added benefit of helping to harmonize the entire home and will make the entire home feel more updated.  So yes, renovating bathrooms are an excellent investment, as long as your investment harmonizes with the rest of your home and does not make everything else look dated.  If that happens, you may be walking down a slippery slope where you need to take on more than just the master bath in order to recoup your investment!

49 Woodland Road –   New Listing! Boasting newer kitchen and baths in a sought after Village neighborhood, 49 Woodland offers a unique opportunity for newer construction in the heart of Sewickley Village.  The main level master offers hard-to-find convenience – with 3-5 additional bedrooms upstairs. The beautifully remodeled white kitchen opens to family room and sunroom, with 3 walls of windows overlooking the private backyard.  The three car attached garage offers another hard-to-come buy amenity in the Village, as does the finished lower level! $1,625,000.    See more…   

 

 

 

213 Chestnut Road Beautifully remodeled Sewickley Village Victorian with high ceilings, open floorplan and fabulous original architectural detailing.  Wonderful newer master suite with stylish newer bath.  Four finished levels of living space including lower level gameroon. Flat backyard, two car detached garage.  A very easy walking distance to Village shops and restaurants. $825,000  See More…

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I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
 
 
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
Associate Broker
HOWARD HANNA
REAL ESTATE SERVICES
401 Broad Street
Sewickley, PA 15143
Cell: 412-779-6060
Office: 412-741-2200 x238
kbarge@howardhanna.com

Finding the Sweet Spot

Dear Kathe:

You often write about making sure to price our home correctly for a better chance of a successful sale.  How do we do that?

We all know the story of Goldilocks – be it the porridge being too hot, too cold or just right, or the beds being too big, too small or just right, or the chair being too hard, too soft or just right, the winning combination was not an extreme but the “just right” spot in between.

The same is true when pricing homes, and in particular, Signature homes.  Price them too low, and they fly off the market, most likely far below a price you could have achieved. Price them too high and they sit for months or years. The trick is finding that sweet spot in the middle that will drive in an offer in a reasonable time, maximizing your return.

But how to find this sweet spot?  If I could invent an App for that, I would be rich!  Zillow has tried, but their Zestimates are often hopelessly flawed for unique communities like Sewickley, and particularly for our Signature homes.  A computer in a remote location simply cannot translate all of the high-end amenities you may have added to your home into a realistic number. Human judgment is required. And yet your agent may not have the most objective opinion – you may be friends, for example, and he may not want to hurt your feelings. And it is certainly not wise to rely on your own opinion – we are least objective about our own homes!

That is where the appraiser comes in. Having your home pre-appraised may be your very best course of action. For approximately $450, you can have an objective analysis that will not only allow you to most accurately price your home but will allow you to say to buyers “this home was priced based on an independent appraisal.” That will carry a lot of weight when buyers are assessing how realistic your price is and usually drives in a price close to the appraisal.  Please do note, this appraisal must be independent of a refinance – it must simply be done for pricing guidance for it to be truly objective. But if you take the time to get it “just right” out of the gate, after the buyers have tried on all the “too highs” yours will be the one they pick!

 

188 Sweetwater Drive –  New Listing

Kiss old house “problems” good bye and still live in Sewickley!  Sound too good to be true?  Check out 188 Sweetwater Drive.  Only 6 years old, this wonderful home is sited on an awesome half-acre lot at the end of a cul-de-sac in a fabulous Sewickley neighborhood!  Incredible outdoor spaces include Trex deck, patio and two firepits, all backing to natural woodlands. Three finished levels include huge finished lower level with full bath.  Gorgeous design aesthetic throughout unifies this incredible open floorplan.  4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car attached garage. $599,000.  See more…

 

 

518 Irwin Drive – Home of Distinction

Exceptional opportunity to own one of Sewickley’s landmark homes! Recently remodeled with a current design aesthetic, this notable home is architecturally impressive and yet incredibly comfortable for today’s lifestyles.  Outstanding main level space includes a huge kitchen open to a large family room, spacious “homework room” adjacent to the kitchen, and living room, dining room and den.  Finished lower level. 6 bedrooms, 4.5 baths PLUS a nanny/in-law suite.  Incredible yard with room for a pool.  So close to all Village amenities and yet giving you the perfect amount of privacy.  $2,900,000. See more…

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I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
 
 
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
Associate Broker
HOWARD HANNA
REAL ESTATE SERVICES
401 Broad Street
Sewickley, PA 15143
Cell: 412-779-6060
Office: 412-741-2200 x238
kbarge@howardhanna.com

To Remodel Or Not

We’ve lived in our current home for 16 years and have kept up with maintenance but haven’t done much else – how much remodeling do we really have to do before putting it on the market?

You’ve lived in your home long enough that you have probably “used up” a lot of the value that you bought with your home and will need to restore some of that value if you hope to protect your original investment.

Carpeting is a really good example. I’m sure you are aware that colored carpeting must be replaced with neutrals, but even the most neutral of carpets should be replaced if they are 16 years old. Even if you don’t have pets and absolutely never eat or drink outside the kitchen, avoiding spills that could stain, after 16 years your carpets will have had more than a lifetime of use and the value that might have been there when you bought the home is long gone. In fact, the old carpets might even have a negative impact on price, even if there are not visible stains. The buyers will assume that they need to be replaced and will deduct their view of what that will cost from what they are willing to pay you for the home. Several of the “big box” stores have affordable neutral carpets in stock for quick delivery and installation, making this aspect of prepping a home for market reasonably straightforward.

You should also consider whether you have used up all of the realistic useful life that might have remained in your mechanicals. For example, if you haven’t replaced the water heater in 16 years, then even if it was new when you bought it, you have used up all of its value – it has outlived its expected useful life. It would probably be a good idea to replace it with a new water heater – you benefited from 16 years of use from the old one – when you replace it you should think of it as simply restoring the home to its functionality before you used its systems for the past 16 years. The same can be said for furnaces – while their useful life is longer than a hot water heater, if its pushing past 20 years old, buyers are not going to look favorably on it. In fact, as you can imagine, this thought process can be applied to anything with a predictable useful life, such as kitchen appliances and roofs.

How much remodeling you will need to do after living in the home for 16 years will depend on how quickly you want to sell it and how aggressive you want to be on price, but the higher the price you hope to achieve, the more “pre-listing” remodeling you should do, returning old mechanical systems to a full life expectancy for the new owner.

 

 

49 Woodland

Located on one of Sewickley’s most sought-after streets, with sidewalks to everywhere and within a very easy walking distance to Village shops and restaurants, this home is in impeccable condition and offers an outstanding opportunity for your family! 5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, garage attached by breezeway, newer slate roof, gorgeous private yard, large eat-in kitchen, two gas log fireplaces and so many more wonderful amenities make this home a Sewickley Village best buy! $1,000,000   See more…

 

 

625 East

625 East Drive is the opportunity of a lifetime! Tastefully remodeled, elegant yet comfortable! Located on one of Sewickley’s finest streets. Built and maintained with impeccable attention to every detail. Richly appointed throughout. Beautiful kitchen loaded with amenities. Private study. Family room with arched windows flood the room with light. Restful owners suite with luxurious his and hers baths. Amazing dressing room. Four to five additional bedrooms, three laundry areas, finished lower level with game room and home gym. Two-car garage with bonus room above. Beautiful, private grounds with large stone patio. $2,500,000  See more…

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I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
 
 
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
Associate Broker
HOWARD HANNA
REAL ESTATE SERVICES
401 Broad Street
Sewickley, PA 15143
Cell: 412-779-6060
Office: 412-741-2200 x238
kbarge@howardhanna.com

Giving the Buyer Space

My home has so many special features.  I think it would be best if I were at showings so I could explain them to prospective buyers.  Is that ok?

When you are selling your home, its normal to think that only you can fully convey your home’s fine qualities to a buyer.  This leads some sellers to consider the possibility of being home for showings, so that they can make sure that the buyer prospects appreciate all of the home’s amenities.  While this may seem sensible to a seller, nothing could be further from the truth!

When buyers visit your home, it is important that they be allowed the space to imagine the home as their own.  This starts, of course, with home staging, so that the home is not overly personal when the buyers arrive.  But it extends to allowing them to tour the home alone with their buyer agent.  For buyers to buy a home, they must bond to a home.  For buyers to bond to a home, they need to be free to relax in your home and chat with their agent about what they would do to make the home their own.  This will not happen if you are present. So what can you do to make sure they appreciate your home’s qualities?  Hire a listing agent who will design a custom brochure for your home that is available when buyers visit your home.  Such a brochure is your best ammunition – they can take it home and recall all of your home’s wonderful features and get their questions answered as well.

Giving the buyers their space extends to the home inspections as well.  The period during the home inspection is one of normal buyer remorse.  Did we buy the right home?  Will a better home become available? Allowing buyers the freedom to return to your home alone will allow them to bond again to your home and stay committed to it during the sometimes difficult inspection process.

In fact, the only time you should interact with your buyer is at the closing.  From initial showing to return visits, inspections and walk-throughs, you should always vacate your home and give the buyers their space!

 

1410 Pennsylvania Ave- NEW PRICE

Looking for a change of pace? How about a move into the city? Rare Gothic Revival
home on Pittsburgh’s North Side showcasing remarkable architectural features and
grand rooms. Meticulously renovated. 11’ ceilings on main level, hardwood floors,
grand staircase, impressive fireplaces and woodwork. Remodeled kitchen with
48” Wolf commercial grade gas range, well-designed and appointed butler’s pantry/mud room.
Master suite w/ dressing room is a dream come true! Beautifully remodeled bath includes
marble floor, soaking tub, custom shower w/ seamless glass enclosure. Three add’l bedrooms
and two new baths plus upper level laundry room, game room. Professionally landscaped yard,
private back patio, covered front porch. 2 car garage. $659,000   See more…

 

439 Oliver
Located in one of Sewickley’s most sought after neighborhoods, once inside you will be surprised how big this home is! Beautifully remodeled, it offers three spacious finished levels of living space, including a main level bedroom suite! The newer kitchen is open to both the dining area and large family room. Walls of windows overlook the beautiful backyard – French doors open to the private patio. A convenient mudroom provides access to the attached garage. The lower level includes a finished game room, full bath, fifth bedroom and a spacious storage/mechanics/laundry area. Close proximity to all village amenities and schools. Freshly painted interior…move in and enjoy all that Sewickley has to offer. $665,000  See more…

 

 

QUICK SEARCH

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
 
 
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
Associate Broker
HOWARD HANNA
REAL ESTATE SERVICES
401 Broad Street
Sewickley, PA 15143
Cell: 412-779-6060
Office: 412-741-2200 x238
kbarge@howardhanna.com

Neutral is the Way to Go!

Everyone says we need to “neutralize” our home before we try to sell it, but what does that mean?

If you watch HGTV or read my weekly articles, you likely know how important it is to neutralize your home before you sell. But what exactly does that entail? Paint color is obvious. Your home is far more likely to sell for top dollar if its painted in a neutral color palate. This does not mean your home must be nothing but white. It does, mean, however, that you should remove most strong colors in favor of “colored” neutrals – colors such as greige or light gray. A colorful room or two is fine as long as the color was chosen in the past couple years (trends in color change quickly, but when you live with a color daily and are not in the design business, you probably don’t realize when a color is no longer “in”).

Neutral colors in floor coverings is also key. Colored carpets are extremely difficult to sell. Be careful with ceramic tile –when it goes out of style, it is painfully obvious that you have dated tile and its expensive to replace. However, neutralizing a home goes beyond paint color and floor coverings. Consider the age of your most likely buyer. Buyers these days in their 20s, 30s and 40s as a general rule favor clean lines to florals. If you have floral drapes, silk flower arrangements or large floral prints on your upholstery, this could be a real turn off to a buyer even though these items do not convey with the home. The impression says dated even if the structure itself is not. This is pretty simple to address, however. Pack these things up – you are moving – get a head start.  Drapes are great for decorating but unless they are very recently installed, they are unlikely to help your sale – most buyers prefer to see your windows. Slipcover furniture if it’s fabric trends toward yesteryear’s design styles.

Neutralizing also goes to removing personal effects – family photos being the most obvious. And of course, its important to neutralize odor. If you have pets, keep litter boxes perfectly clean and pet beds, blankets and toys frequently laundered. Have a friend double check – you should not be able to tell you have a pet when you enter your home. If you smoke, don’t smoke inside. If you like to cook with spicy food, avoid it while your home is on the market. If musty odors emanate from your basement, run a dehumidifier 24/ 7. If your refrigerator stays with your home, make sure it is clean and smells fresh.

A neutralized home may seem impersonal to you, but try to remember, you are moving! While it may not be your style, it is far more likely to attract a buyer and a good price!

439 Maple Lane New Price – Its time to think summer! It might be cold outside, but come spring you will love the endless hours of family fun you can have in this incredible pool complex! Heated pool, hot tub and bar will make your new home party central! A top-to-bottom remodel of this timeless Edgeworth colonial, with gorgeous new white kitchen with granite tops open to stunning dining room. Hardwood floors unify great room, study, entry hall and mudroom. Up to eight bedrooms, 4.5 baths, 3 car detached garage. $1,275,000

 

16 Highview It’s time to start planning your summer pool parties at 16 Highview! Nestled on a private 3.87 acre lot in an established neighborhood and featuring a beautiful in-ground pool, the views of sunsets off the back deck are spectacular! Exceptionally open floorplan is ideal for entertaining! Newly remodeled kitchen features granite countertops and stainless appliances. Two story great room. Main level also features a large den/home office, inviting dining room, laundry adjacent to the kitchen, inviting screened back porch and main level bedroom with remodeled full bath, perfect for a nanny or in-law! The upper level is home to a large master suite with en-suite bath and two additional bedrooms. The lower level is finished with two gamerooms, full bath, sauna, wine room and three car garage! $625,000

QUICK SEARCH

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
 
 
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
Associate Broker
HOWARD HANNA
REAL ESTATE SERVICES
401 Broad Street
Sewickley, PA 15143
Cell: 412-779-6060
Office: 412-741-2200 x238
kbarge@howardhanna.com

The Pre-Inspection Power

I’ve heard that agreements on many homes have fallen through lately from home inspections – why is that?

Our market has traditionally been one where buyers know they are buying old homes and allow the seller some leeway in not presenting a “perfect” home from an inspection standpoint. However, in many parts of the country, this is not the case. Sellers are expected to remedy all issues noted by home inspectors prior to closing. As more and more people migrate here from other parts of the country, our prices are going up, but so are the buyers’ expectations as to a seller’s responsibility for concerns discovered on a home inspection. At the same time, inspectors are getting significantly more particular. And so yes, it is absolutely possible to have purchased a home only two years ago and have new concerns arise that clearly existed and were overlooked when you bought your home. And yes, it is equally possible that you will be expected to fix them and if you refuse, your sale might fall through.

This can often leave a seller feeling like they are the unlucky one who got stuck holding the “hot potato.” As the years pass, the list of “hot button” issues mounts and if you are the owner when the issue is discovered, you will be the one paying the bill even though the home was bought and sold many times in advance of your ownership. These hot button issues include items such as old sewer lines, radon, mold, damp basements, lead water lines, asbestos (fireplace inserts, duct tape, pipe wrap or flooring) knob and tube wiring and pushmatic electric panels. If your home has any of these issues, you should figure you will be the one footing the bill and address them before they become an issue on a home inspection.

The best way to prevent an inspection fall through or an unexpected bill for defects is to have your home inspected before you put it on the market. A pre-inspection will allow you the opportunity to fix those items that can be fixed and disclose the rest to save yourself from a laundry list of requests. Be sure not to ignore the small stuff that comes up or that you know is wrong. For example, when I list a home, I specifically ask sellers if all of their windows open, stay open, shut and lock, and if any are cracked or have broken seals. Sellers more often than not disclose no issues with their windows and yet it is one of the most frequent inspection deficiencies. Take the time to do your homework – get your home inspected – repair or disclose any possible concerns – and save yourself from a long last-minute repair list and potentially even from losing your sale.

518 Irwin Drive –  New listing!

One of Sewickley Village’s most spectacular homes, this classic estate is majestically sited on a nearly one acre lot within easy walking distance of Village amenities – an oasis in the middle of our vibrant walking community. Beautifully appointed and maintained, it showcases rich architectural elements, including a breathtaking spiral staircase that connects all four finished levels of this amazing home. Incorporating an updated design aesthetic, this home seamlessly interweaves its historic architectural beauty with modern amenities including the beautiful huge kitchen open to the fabulous family room, mudroom connecting to the heated garage, “homework” room adjacent to the kitchen, finished lower level gameroom and home gym, and above-garage guest suite. A very special Sewickley Village opportunity. $2,900,000  See more…

16 Highview

It’s time to start planning your summer pool parties at 16 Highview! Nestled on a private 3.87 acre lot in an established neighborhood and featuring a beautiful in-ground pool, the views of sunsets off the
back deck are spectacular! Exceptionally open floorplan is ideal for entertaining! Newly remodeled kitchen features granite countertops and stainless appliances. Two story great room. Main level also features a large den/home office, inviting dining room, laundry adjacent to the kitchen, inviting screened back porch and main level bedroom with remodeled full bath, perfect for a nanny or in-law! The upper level is home to a large master suite with en-suite bath and two additional bedrooms. The lower level is finished with
two gamerooms, full bath, sauna, wine room and three car garage! $625,000 See more…

QUICK SEARCH

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.