Is Remodeling Necessary?

We’ve lived in our current home for 20 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 20 years old.  After 20 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 12 or more years, 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. 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 20 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 will need to do, returning old systems to a full life expectancy for the new owner.  Of course, if you are willing to discount the price upfront to allow for more than enough room for the needed updates, you can skip the remodeling and move straight toward listing your home!

515 Spanish Tract 

Simply spectacular renovation of this inviting home – nestled on 7+ private acres in close-in Sewickley Heights.  Expansive windows bring the stunning natural surroundings into every room. Open floorplan, with new kitchen, baths, flooring, windows, roof, generator… four outdoor venues to enjoy the beauty of the location from.  5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. Incredible pool. Turn-key ready for you! $1,750,000.  See more….

 

 

63 Thorn

Expertly remodeled, 63 Thorn paints a modern landscape on a charming traditional palate to create an exceptional home for the millennium home buyer. Sited on a large lot with fully fenced back yard. The expertly designed and crafted kitchen (which is open to the family room) is flooded with light from an entire wall of windows that bring the private backyard into this warm and inviting space.  The dining room has also been opened to the back yard through an impressive wall of windows and doors, and spills effortless out onto the new back deck.  The second level is home to a new master suite with large closet and spa-like private bath.  Four additional bedrooms, two full baths and a convenient second floor laundry room complete the upper levels.  $1,399,000  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

Getting Top Dollar Might Start with TV

What do you think about all of the TV shows that focus on home buying and selling homes?

If you follow my column, you have undoubtedly noted me mentioning for what seems like years now that our market is hot and our inventory has never been lower.  It certainly couldn’t be a better time to sell.  You may in fact have just heard that your neighbor’s home sold for top dollar in record time.  How do you make that happen?  Start by watching more TV!

Surprising advice, perhaps, but TV sets our style expectations and our aspirations of how we want to live our lives.  Your potential buyers are watching TV and then coming to your home and expecting to see what they saw on TV.  Want to make the most money?  Meet their expectations!

This is easy to do if you also watch a healthy dose of HGTV.  There you will quickly find the latest trends and tips on how to achieve them in a cost-effective manner.  You will see what home designers are pushing and know what buyers will be looking for in your home.  House Hunters is a particularly good show to learn from.  You will get insight into buyers’ thought processes – you can listen in on their conversations and take note of the factors that affect them in both  positive and negative ways.  Armed with this information, you will be ready to spring into action and create a home that buyers are instantly attracted to.  And why are they attracted?  Because they saw it on TV!

As a full-time real estate broker, every day my job lives like an episode on House Hunters.  Through countless hours listening to my clients as they evaluate potential homes, I am easily able see how HGTV has greatly impacted the home selling process.  Those sellers who choose to take to heart the lessons espoused on HGTV are rewarded with more money in less time.  They create instant attraction by making their homes appear as if they were pulled straight from an episode of HGTV.   So whether you plan to sell next month or next year, start watching more TV, put the advice into action and pocket more money when you sell!  And if you’re not a fan of these shows, give me a call and I will come out and give you an abbreviated version as it applies to your home!

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. Open Sunday 1-4pm. $1,295,000  See more…

 

1432 Beaver Road

Complete architect-designed interior renovation of this elegant Sewickley Village Queen Anne Victorian. Private 1.7 acre lot in the heart of Sewickley Village.  Meticulous renovation. 5000SFF+. Remodeled kitchen seamlessly incorporates new cabinetry and granite tops while integrating refinished antique glass cabinet doors into the design. Completely redesigned master suite, with sitting area, turret reading nook, luxurious bathroom and exercise room. Impressive development of the lower level. $1,150,000  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

To Update or Not to Update

We last updated our home twenty years ago and are now ready to downsize.  Does it make sense to put it on the market at a lower price or do we have to make updates before we list?

You absolutely do not need to update your home before you list! I’m sure that comes as a relief to you.  However, if the last significant updates you made were twenty years ago, you must price accordingly.  Even if your bath tiles are white, for example, and not a turn off, the size and style of tiles has changed in two decades and the baths, although neutral, will feel dated to buyers.  One of the biggest mistakes sellers make is to note what their neighbor’s home sold for and price theirs accordingly.  If the neighbor had new baths (as opposed to neutral baths) or a new kitchen, or new paint colors… they will get significantly more money for their home.  The key to selling with no updates is to get a likely value in “as is” condition from a local expert – I can help you with that! It is important to be clear when pricing, however, what you intend to do before listing – some sellers have projects planned but not completed and that would be important to take into account. As long as you price your home right, your home will sell without updates.

Before deciding to list “as is,” however, it is a good idea to consider what the cost of recommended updates would be and what they might yield you if you make the investment.  Usually, when updates are made right before a sale and are in line with current design preferences, your home will sell faster and the higher price you receive will be far greater than the cost of the updates. If this is something you would like to consider, I would be happy to meet with you to discuss what you might update and how the updates might increase your value.  You could then make an informed decision about whether or not to list “as is” or update.

In the end, you may decide that you value the simplicity of an “as is” listing and the increased price realized is not worth your time and the stress of a project.  Even in that case, it’s a good idea to still stage the home for sale by decluttering and giving it a good scrub down (including windows and carpets).  Homes that are clutter free and have been recently deep cleaned will also sell faster and yield a higher sales price, even if they are not as updated as buyers might prefer.

 

100 Buhlmont Drive

Seeking newer construction but want a home in the Quaker Valley School District?  Check out 100 Buhlmont Drive!  Featuring 4 bedrooms 3 full and two half baths and the convenience of an attached garage, this beautiful brick home offers an open floor plan with large kitchen opening to great room with built-ins and fireplace.  Main level laundry room offers additional convenience. Finished walk-out lower level.  Large yard with plenty of play space.  $647,500  Read more….

 

319 Scaife

Exceptional Sewickley Heights home will take your breath away with its unparalleled beauty. Sited on 5 private acres, it combines the authentic charm of a Sewickley Heights carriage home with modern amenities and stunning design.  Magazine perfect kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances and granite tops opens to a captivating dining room with fireplace and relaxing family room.  French doors open from the gorgeous living room, also with fireplace, onto the sprawling stone terrace, which spills out effortlessly onto the manicured grounds.  Enjoy coffee or wine relaxing under the wisteria-draped trellis. Incredible master suite with three walk-in closets and remarkable custom bath with radiant floors, Victoria and Albert soaking tub and large shower with custom glass enclosure.  Charming enclosed courtyard. Three car attached garage.  $2,150,000    Read More…

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

Selling During the Holidays

The holidays are here and our home is on the market – any tips for selling during the holidays?

The holidays can be a challenging time to sell your home – the number of people looking for a home is much lower than almost any other time of year. But those who do look around the holidays are usually very serious buyers and so it is worth making sure that your home presents as well as possible.

Start with a good fall cleanup! It’s definitely time to put your yard to bed! Make sure your yard is well raked and all dead plants removed. Curb appeal is even more important in colder months when the landscaping is less lush and appealing to a buyer. Make sure gutters are cleaned and everything outside is looking crisp.

Make sure you keep your thermostat up for showings – walking into a cold house for a showing can be a real turn-off. Warmer homes will cause buyers to linger when its cold outside – which will allow them time to admire your home’s wonderful amenities.   And of course, with as gray as Pittsburgh can be in the winter, be sure all of your lights are on for showings (and that you have working lightbulbs in all of the lights). Its also a good idea to put a few lights on timers if you are away so the home always looks cheerful from the street.

Holiday decorations always add cheer to a home, but be careful not to overdo it! Keep your decorations this year on the more minimal side, and try to avoid religious themed decorations. Be sure that you de-clutter BEFORE you decorate and also be sure that your decorations coordinate well with your décor scheme. And of course, avoid large inflatables in your yard!

Finally, don’t forget that if it snows, you must keep your driveway and walk clear of snow so that the buyers can easily get inside!

 

1 Ohio River Boulevard

Outstanding opportunity to own this signature commercial building with over
4000SF of space. Formerly the popular Schrman’s Kitchens, this property offers
great visibility at the prominent intersection of Route 65 and Beaver Road
immediately at the entrance to Sewickley Village, with off-street parking for 8-10
cars. This high traffic location is only 2 minutes from I-79 and only 11 miles from
downtown Pittsburgh. Surprisingly large inside and suitable for many uses, the two-
story space is currently configured with several offices and conference spaces,
mezzanine area, additional open areas and two restrooms. An excellent investment
opportunity, this is a versatile building with a flexible layout, high ceilings, a
multitude of possible uses and an ideal location. $195,000  More Info Here…

 

319 Scaife

Exceptional Sewickley Heights home will take your breath away with its unparalleled beauty. Sited on 5 private acres, it combines the authentic charm of a Sewickley Heights carriage home with modern amenities and stunning design.  Magazine perfect kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances and granite tops opens to a captivating dining room with fireplace and relaxing family room.  French doors open from the gorgeous living room, also with fireplace, onto the sprawling stone terrace, which spills out effortlessly onto the manicured grounds.  Enjoy coffee or wine relaxing under the wisteria-draped trellis. Incredible master suite with three walk-in closets and remarkable custom bath with radiant floors, Victoria and Albert soaking tub and large shower with custom glass enclosure.  Charming enclosed courtyard. Three car attached garage.  $2,150,000 More Info Here…

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 Importance of Going Neutral

Is it necessary to neutralize our home to sell it and what exactly 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 harvest beige 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 litterboxes 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 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!

 

907 Nevin

Fantastic remodel at a great price! Top to bottom renovation to this adorable Village home! 4 bedrooms, 3.5 new, stylish baths, 3 finished levels, new 2 car garage. Incredible open floorplan unified by new hardwood floors.  New kitchen with white cabinetry, granite tops, stainless appliances. Doors open to large and inviting, private rear deck.  Move right in and enjoy! $399,000  SEE MORE…

 

 

625 East

625 East Drive is the opportunity of a lifetime! Nowhere else in Sewickley Village do all of the elements of the ideal Village experience merge so beautifully in one home! 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 with richly molded walls and handsome wood-burning fireplace. Family room/morning room with arched windows flood the room with light. Restful owners suite with luxurious his and hers baths. Amazing dressing room with mahogany center island is loaded with storage and anchors this stunning space; walls of mirrored custom closets affording incredible storage ring this impressive 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. $2,800,000   SEE MORE…

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 Almost Perfect Home

We have been searching for our new Sewickley home for about 9 months with no luck – there doesn’t seem to be much of a selection and we cant find our perfect home – any advice for a family of weary home lookers?

Sewickley is a small town which makes it a unique and wonderful place to live, but with it’s small town appeal comes a definitely smaller number of homes to begin with and yes, in some price brackets, inventory has been far tighter than it has been in the past. It is beginning to feel like Sewickley is such a great place to live that no one wants to move!

When we moved here 25 years ago from D.C., we had a long list of “must haves” that we searched the greater Pittsburgh area for. Our real estate agent showed us only one home in Sewickley – that’s all that was available in our price range at that time! It met very few of our must haves – it did not have a master bedroom, it did not have a two car garage, it did not have central A/C and it did not have a family room. But it did have tree lined streets and sidewalks to everywhere and that was our #1 criteria, so we bought the home despite all of its perceived shortcomings.

In the intervening years (and in the two Sewickley home purchases we have made since then), I have learned that if one wants to live in Sewickley, he or she will ultimately need to bend on the must haves a bit. Price will not help – no matter what the price point, there are simply no perfect homes. It is important to evaluate each home through a slightly different lens. Consider how close a possible home comes to meeting your needs. If it meets about 80% of your “hope to haves” and if you could change another 10% over time to be much closer to what you hope to have, with the remaining 10% being things you wish you could change but realistically cant and will have to learn to live with, then the home is likely a home run and one you should seriously consider buying. I call this the 80/10/10 rule – and I have observed that once buyers come to terms with this concept, they can finally find their place to call home. Those that hold out for “perfect” – looking for the home that meets 90%+ of their hope to haves – will find themselves sitting on the sidelines as one home after another sells – that needle in the haystack simply does not exist.

And so, for example, if you have found a great home with the space you need that is in terrific condition in a nice neighborhood and with a great yard, but you don’t love the kitchen and you think it is a bit too far from Starbucks, give it another look. 80% is likely a yes. The kitchen (10%) can be changed over time. And you can learn to adjust to the extra ½ mile to Starbucks – its still walkable! My best advice to you is to start looking at homes through this 80/10/10 lens – you may be surprised to find that “perfect enough” has been waiting for you all along!

63 Thorn Street

Expertly remodeled, 63 Thorn paints a modern landscape on a charming traditional palate to create an exceptional home for the millennium home buyer.  Sited on a large lot with fully fenced back yard. The expertly designed and crafted kitchen (which is open to the kitchen) is flooded with light from an entire wall of windows that bring the private backyard into this warm and inviting space.  The dining room has also been opened to the back yard through an impressive wall of windows and doors, and spills effortless out onto the new back deck.  The second level is home to a new master suite with large closet and spa-like private bath.  Four additional bedrooms, two full baths and a convenient second floor laundry room complete the upper levels.  $1,595,000 More Info Here…

219 Orchard

A spectacular Sewickley Village transformation!  Large two-story addition of 1000SF+ incorporates a new large family room, mudroom and luxurious master suite. This complete renovation included all new wiring, zoned central A/C added to the home, 2.5 new baths including a gorgeous master bath, addition of main level laundry and new kitchen featuring abundant white cabinetry topped with Quartz, stainless appliances, and large center island overlooking the large great room. New master suite includes vaulted ceiling, spacious walk-in closet with laundry chute, Fenced rear yard with patio. $599,000 More Info Here…

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

Getting Your Home Market Ready

We watch a lot of HGTV and aren’t sure what is the most important thing to tackle when getting our home ready for the market.

Presenting a market ready home is the most important thing you can do to help your home sell quickly and for top dollar. Market ready is not, unfortunately, necessarily what you would choose if you were staying in the home and will not necessarily reflect your personal tastes. In preparing your home for market, it is important to keep in mind that you are moving and prepare your home for the tastes of your most likely buyer. The price point of your home will give you a good idea of who that buyer will likely be and that will help you and your agent strategize as to modifications necessary to attract that buyer.

The one thing that is reasonably universal across all price points is the general dislike of wallpaper, and so the most important thing you can do to prepare your home for market is to remove all of your wallpaper (including borders) and paint in a current color palette (which does not necessarily mean beige, but could include grays and greiges). Wallpaper is so very personal – I liken it to asking someone to wear your wedding dress – it is just not something that many people will want to do. There will be some buyers who might tolerate your wallpaper, but the likelihood is that most buyers will view it as too much work to take it down and move on to another home where they don’t face the issue. It is therefore prudent to remove your wallpaper and give yourself the greatest chance of a sale with the most buyers possible.  Yes, wallpaper is making a comeback — for your personal design.  But with buyers nothing has changed – it reflects your personal taste and should be removed before selling.

The paint color you choose to paint in (and please, do NOT paint over your wallpaper!) is also key. It is not advisable to choose paints that complement your furnishings (you are moving, remember?). It is very important to avoid choosing colors that could possibly be viewed as dated (such as peaches, pinks, burgundies, teals). Gray or greige remain great choices. Not a gray person? You might change your mind if you saw how fast homes painted in a gray or greige palette sell and how much over market buyers will pay for a gray/greige palette universally applied throughout a home.

So yes, we understand that your wallpaper works perfectly with your décor scheme. But we also know that the vast majority of our buyers don’t want it – so prepare yourself for success – take your wallpaper down before you enter the market and paint in a current and reasonably neutral color palette.

625 East Drive

625 East Drive is the opportunity of a lifetime! Nowhere else in Sewickley Village do all of the elements of the ideal Village experience merge so beautifully in one home! 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 with richly molded walls and handsome wood-burning fireplace. Family room/morning room with arched windows flood the room with light. Restful owners suite with luxurious his and hers baths. Amazing dressing room with mahogany center island is loaded with storage and anchors this stunning space; walls of mirrored custom closets affording incredible storage ring this impressive 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. $2,800,000  More Info Here…

439 Oliver Road

Located in one of Sewickley’s most sought after neighborhoods, this home is beautifully remodeled and offers three spacious finished levels of living space, including a main level bedroom suite! Gleaming hardwood floors unify the main and upper levels of the home. The newer kitchen is open to both the dining area and large family room with vaulted ceilings. Walls of windows overlook the beautiful backyard – French doors open to the private patio. A convenient mudroom provides access to the attached garage. Upstairs there are three bedrooms including the restful master suite with beautiful bath. The lower level includes a finished game room, full bath, fifth bedroom and a spacious storage/mechanics/laundry area. Fully fenced backyard with fire pit. Close proximity to all village amenities and schools. Freshly painted interior…move in and enjoy all that Sewickley has to offer. $689,000 More Info Here…

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

Moving On Before Moving Out

We are thinking about selling the home we have lived in for more than 20 years but it seems like such a daunting task.  Do you have any advice?

If you are like most people who live in their homes for multiple decades, you have undoubtedly collected a lot of treasured memories in the form of physical objects.  Your son’s first “big boy bed,” your daughters first bike.  The furniture from your first apartment that you saved, certain one of your children would want it some day.  Whatever it is, a move to a smaller home means that you are going to have to part with much of what you have collected.

For starters, you need to give some thought to how much you will be downsizing.  If you are planning to move from a 4000 SF home to a 1500 SF condo, you have a lot of clean-out to do.  If you are moving from 3800SF to 3000SF, you will not need to dispose of as much.  I do recommend that you start your clean-out right  away.  Your home will show much better if it is emptied of your “collections” and presents in a more minimalist way.

If you need help, a professional home organizer is your best first step.  An organizer can help you break down the process into manageable pieces and formulate a plan for the coming months.  You should anticipate that the process will take several months, maybe even a year.  Whether you use a professional or not, you should review all of your belongings to determine what you really NEED for your next adventure, and discard the rest.  If you have items that hold treasured memories, consider photographing them and creating a “Memories” book on a website such as winkflash  where your memories of these items can be compactly stored in a photo book.

Even if your move is years away, now is a good time to get started on those areas of your home that you don’t regularly use anymore, such as adult children’s rooms.  Pack up their favorite things in Rubbermaid bins that you can easily send to their new residences someday and re-home the rest!

For all of your “no longer needed” items, there are so many wonderful charities that will take them, and in addition to getting a home ready to sell and easily moved, you will get a tax deduction as well for your benevolence!  If you need help finding these organizations , or a professional organizer to get you started, feel free to give me a call!

 

 

907 Nevin

Fantastic remodel at a great price! Top to bottom renovation to this adorable Village home! 4 bedrooms, 3.5 new, stylish baths, 3 finished levels, new 2 car garage. Incredible open floorplan unified by new hardwood floors.  New kitchen with white cabinetry, granite tops, stainless appliances. Doors open to large and inviting, private rear deck.  Move right in and enjoy! $399,000  More Info Here…

 

 

319 Scaife

Exceptional Sewickley Heights home will take your breath away with its unparalleled beauty. Sited on 5 private acres, it combines the authentic charm of a Sewickley Heights carriage home with modern amenities and stunning design.  Magazine perfect kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances and granite tops opens to a captivating dining room with fireplace and relaxing family room.  French doors open from the gorgeous living room, also with fireplace, onto the sprawling stone terrace, which spills out effortlessly onto the manicured grounds.  Enjoy coffee or wine relaxing under the wisteria-draped trellis. Incredible master suite with three walk-in closets and remarkable custom bath with radiant floors, Victoria and Albert soaking tub and large shower with custom glass enclosure.  Charming enclosed courtyard. Three car attached garage.  $2,150,000 More Info Here…

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

What About the Basement?

After renovating our 100+ year home inside and out, all that remains is our basement. Our stone foundation is in decent shape.  How important is it (or worth it) to clean this space up and how far should we go?  Would I get the return on my money?

 A basement often reveals more about a home than any other part of your home. It is therefore, more important than you might think that your basement present well. Most of what needs to be done to basements doesn’t need to be very expensive. Your basement should be easy to access. Whether you are staying or selling, excess clutter is not your friend –if you have a damp basement, it will harbor mold. Clean out now while the weather is still nice! Your basement must be dry. If your basement just feels humid, then you must run a dehumidifier 24/7. If you have ever had water seepage in your basement, you will need to solve the problem. The quickest, easiest and most common fix is to make sure your gutters are kept clean, your downspouts are properly diverted at least 3 feet away from your foundation and that when it rains, water does not drain toward your home (in which case you would need to add soil to change the slope around your home). If that doesn’t work, you will need to invest in a professional waterproofing company.

Your basement should be light and bright – adding a few extra bulbs to the ceiling is something easily done inexpensively that will dramatically improve the feel of your basement. A fresh coat of paint on the floor will also help and is cheap to do (use porch floor paint). Glass block windows are a good investment – they are not very expensive and they add extra security and protection against termites and water intrusion to your home (I recommend including a vent block in each window so you still have the ability to circulate some air). Cleaning up old and unused wiring and plumbing is also a good idea if you have a handyman who can do it cheaply for you – it will certainly make inspections go more smoothly.

Getting your basement up to basic safety and code standards will also save you on inspections down the road. You should have a smoke detector near the furnace, any plugs should be GFCI outlets and if your basement connects to the garage, the door connecting them should be a steel door. Some of the more expensive fixes are unlikely to yield much of a return. Some people choose to spray their ceilings black – it’s a fun effect but unless the basement is being finished, it is unlikely to yield dividends. Others choose to parge their walls – this actually makes a sandstone foundation look much better, but unless you can do it yourself, it can be expensive. I do not recommend painting walls with dryloc, however. Paint is food for mold and this might only cause more problems!

 

FEATURED HOMES

111 Skymark  – New Price! 

Gorgeous all brick newer construction in wonderful Sewickley neighborhood. 2 acre private lot, beautifully landscaped with plenty of green space. Fully-equipped newer kitchen with custom cabinetry, high end appliances including Sub-Zero, Wolf range, double ovens and Dacor warming drawer open to great room and amazing three season porch with impressive stone fireplace. Mudroom access to attached three car garage. Upper level laundry. Incredible master suite w/ spa-style luxury bath plus three additional bedrooms and three additional baths. Fun for all in the lower level with home theater, game room, exercise studio, full bath and indoor “endless” pool. $1,450,000… See more

 

1432 Beaver Road

Complete architect-designed interior renovation of this elegant Sewickley Village Queen Anne Victorian. Sited on a private 1.7 acre lot in the heart of Sewickley Village.  Meticulous renovation and transformation into a home that works perfectly for millennial families. 5000SFF+. Remodeled kitchen seamlessly incorporates new cabinetry and granite tops while integrating refinished antique glass cabinet doors into the design. Completely redesigned master suite, with sitting area, turret reading nook, luxurious bathroom and exercise room. Impressive development of the lower level incorporates a family room, office, kitchenette/bar area and powder room into the home. $1,200,000.  See More

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

Zillow Information Not Always Correct

The information on Zillow is incorrect about our home.  Should we address this?

Zillow is relied upon by millions of consumers for their real estate information and so it is important, if you plan to sell your home, that the information be correct.  Incorrect information can lead to poor buying decisions on a buyer’s part and might also adversely impact your Zestimate.  On their website, in the very fine print, Zillow itself admits that its Zestimate reliability in Pittsburgh is not particularly good, but most people don’t read the fine print.  So before you list your home for sale, take the time to check it out with Zillow and correct the errors you see by clicking on the “Correct Home Facts” tab, setting up an account and submitting the requested error corrections.  It is possible to dispute the Zestimate as well, so if you are listing your home for sale and the number is significantly lower than you anticipate it is worth, it may also be worth your time to do this before you list.

It is important, however, to be aware that whatever you post to Zillow stays there. As tempting as it might seem to try a “For Sale By Owner” to “save” the real estate commission (and I say this with emphasis because it is the buyer, and not the seller, who is paying the commission – if you are a FSBO they expect you to deduct the realtor fees you are not paying from your price, so the savings is theirs), I do NOT recommend listing FSBOs on Zillow.  Once they are there, they become part of a price history on the home, and if you ultimately employ an agent and try to raise the price, the buying public will be able to see online your earlier price and you will struggle to get traction at the higher price point.

Zillow is a popular online tool for many consumers (my preference is howardhanna.com as it is not owned by a publicly traded company reporting to shareholders  and is not selling space to make money for shareholders, which in some instances may not be in a consumer’s best interests). Given that many consumers use Zillow, I do recommend you take the time to get the information about your home correct before listing!

FEATURED LISTINGS

1432 BEAVER ROAD

Complete architect-designed interior renovation of this elegant Sewickley Village Queen Anne Victorian. Sited on a private 1.7 acre lot in the heart of Sewickley Village.  Meticulous renovation and transformation into a home that works perfectly for millennial families. 5000SFF+. Remodeled kitchen seamlessly incorporates new cabinetry and granite tops while integrating refinished antique glass cabinet doors into the design. Completely redesigned master suite, with sitting area, turret reading nook, luxurious bathroom and exercise room. Impressive development of the lower level incorporates a family room, office, kitchenette/bar area and powder room into the home. $1,200,000

444 WOODLAND ROAD

Privacy in the heart of Sewickley Village!  2.973 Acres with mature landscaping, sprawling lawns, in-ground pool, private patio and natural woodlands that provide a year-round buffer for this magical property, yet Village shops and restau

rants are just a few blocks away! Renovate to restore the home’s original relaxed elegance, reminiscent of New England seaside homes.  Or replace with your own 21st century home of your design and creation!  A rare opportunity in Sewickley!  $725,000

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
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

SPRING HOME SELLING TIPS

With the weather starting to warm up outside, any tips for selling our home?

Spring is in fact on it’s way!  The bright sunshine and warming temperatures will unlock our yards from their winter nap soon and it’s a great time to be focused on making sure the outside of your home looking great for prospective buyers. Curb appeal is critical to attract buyers – if your home doesn’t look great from the street, buyers (who often drive by before making an appointment to see a home) may decide they aren’t interested before stepping inside.  Start with the front of your home and work your way back to your non-public spaces.  On our sunny days, head outside and make sure you have cleaned out your beds from the fall.  Rake out any leaves, trim back shrubs.  Order fresh mulch to be delivered the first week in April.  Keep an eye out for pansies when you are at the store and add them to planters out front.  In early April review your lawn and make sure it is in good shape.  If there are bare spots, have them reseeded.   If you have large trees on your property, make sure they are all healthy and any dead limbs are removed.

This is also a great time to make sure your gutters are clean – gutters full of leaves suggest a homeowner isn’t up on their maintenance.  Also be sure to have your windows cleaned inside and out.  With the sun streaming in through the windows, squeaky clean windows are very appealing to a buyer.   Take the time to put out your outdoor furniture and any warm weather yard items (such as planters).  Be sure patios and porches are well swept.   Step back from your home and see whether your paint is in good shape- – if there are areas that are peeling, have the scraped and repainted.  Be sure the front door is clean and nicely painted.  Remove all seasonal décor (Christmas wreaths and lights).   Ask a friend to stop by and do a quick walk-around for any areas that need attention – a fresh eye is always likely to catch those things you have gotten used to and overlook.

The spring market is in full swing!  Take advantage of the next few weeks and make sure your home is well-prepared for the strongest market of the year! If I can be of any service answering any of your real estate needs, please feel free to get in touch with me.  Real estate is what I do!! Kathe Barge, Call or Text 412.779.6060

FEATURED HOMES

1432 Beaver Road

New Listing – Complete architect-designed interior renovation of this elegant Sewickley Village Queen Anne Victorian. Sited on a private 1.7 acre lot in the heart of Sewickley Village.  Meticulous renovation and transformation into a home that works perfectly for millennial families. 5000SFF+. Remodeled kitchen seamlessly incorporates new cabinetry and granite tops while integrating refinished antique glass cabinet doors into the design. Completely redesigned master suite, with sitting area, turret reading nook, luxurious bathroom and exercise room. Impressive development of the lower level incorporates a family room, office, kitchenette/bar area and powder room into the home. Top to bottom, this charming yet modern home is ready for your millennial family. $1,200,000

180 Summerlawn Drive

Beautifully remodeled open concept 17 year old home on ½ acre wonderful lot with large backyard in a delightful Sewickley neighborhood close to Village. Four finished levels of living space including finished walk out lower level. Kitchen with new stainless appliances open to family room.  Main level laundry.  Large master suite. Four bedrooms, 3 full and 2 half baths. Third floor gameroom.  New roof. $599,000.

 

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
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

UN-DECKING THE HALLS

If our home is on the market, how long is it OK to keep holiday decorations up?

 

 In this incredibly dark time of the year, festive holiday décor certainly helps to brighten everyone’s day, so if your home is on the market, it is certainly a good idea to tastefully decorate for the holidays.  Even if your home is vacant, a seasonal wreath on the front door is a nice touch to welcome guests.  We have been unusually busy this December, so presentation remains important, even when its cold and snowy outside.

Once we start 2018, if your home is on the market, it is important to have your holiday decorations down and stored as quickly as possible, ideally by January 2nd! Our spring market should jump into high gear as soon as we hit mid-January.  Buyers themselves will have put the holidays behind them and will enter the new year with a new sense of urgency to find their new home.  Once the holiday celebrating has past, decorations quickly look tired, so take them down and store them for another year.  If you enjoy door wreaths, that could remain as long as it is more “wintery” and less holiday.

And don’t forget my other wintertime showings tips – lights on for showings, and use the highest acceptable wattage.  Keep walks and driveways free of snow and ice. If you’re not going to be out or too long, a fire in the fireplace is also a nice idea. Thermostat at a warm, cozy temperature (Buyers will not embrace a home if it feels chilly). Boot mats by the front door to save your floors.

Enjoy the holidays – stay warm and safe!

Time to Downsize?  Check Out These Great Options or Call Kathe For More Information!    Call/Text: 412.779.6060

 

102 American Way —   The living is easy in this absolutely wonderful Sewickley Ridge one-level townhome. Less than one year old and in move-in condition – ready for you to call home!  2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 car garage, open concept floorplan, delightful screened porch. Chic ascetic with white cabinetry, granite tops, hardwood floors. Community clubhouse with pool, tennis, Bocce court, community garden, gym, and meeting/socializing space. Why delay your downsize any longer?   $389,000   See More photos and details….

 

316 Beaver Street #204 –  Luxury and convenience seamlessly blend in this chic central Sewickley Village condo. Just steps to the shops and restaurants, this beautifully renovated unit features 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, large living room with built-ins, dining room, family room, eat-in kitchen and private balcony.  In-unit laundry plus 2 indoor parking spaces.  New hardwood floors unify the living spaces. Secure building. $435,000.   See More photos and details…

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
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

KEEPING YOUR HOME SHOW-READY!!

Fall is upon us!  Any tips for presenting our home well in the fall market?

Fall can be such a wonderful season here in Pittsburgh, but sometimes sellers forget that they need to take a fresh look at their home to make sure it is still presenting at its best as summer ends.  Start with your yard.  It’s the first thing a buyer sees! Make sure you have trimmed away all of Summer’s dead blooms and that your garden beds are looking ready for their long winter’s nap.  Put down fall fertilizer so your yard looks great again this coming spring! Be sure to give your lawn its final mow, and as we move into fall, keep your leaves raked! 

Don’t forget to keep your gutters clean – if your home is actively on the market, you may need to do it more than once – you don’t want a buyer to see clogged gutters and mini-trees emerging! Give porches and patios a final thorough cleaning.  If your windows aren’t really clean, get that done too – as we go into our grayer time of the year, its really important to get as much sunshine inside as possible!

Inside, check all of your lightbulbs and make sure they are all at the maximum possible wattage and in good working order. As days grow shorter, it will be important for your home to be bright and cheerful inside. Clean out your garage.  You will need it once snow flies, and you won’t want to be out there in 30 degree weather! Be sure that if you choose seasonal decorations like mums or wreaths, that you remember to rotate them as we move through the season so that you reflect the current season!

And of course, if you know now that you want to list in the coming Spring season, which kicks off in January, give me a call now so we can get photography done while there are still leaves on the trees!

FEATURED HOMES

178 Backbone

Stone and timber seamlessly blend in this California-style contemporary.  Beautifully sited on a 7 acre wooded lot, this striking home melds perfectly with its natural surroundings.  Walls of windows flood the home with natural light. Two authentic stone turrets add to the romance this home evokes.  The end result is an exceptional custom built home that will stand the test of time. Comfortable and relaxed, it is a home you will love coming home to.  6 bedrooms including main level suite, 4.5 baths, 3 car garage. $895,000.  See more photos and get more details here… 

 

102 American Way

The living is easy in this absolutely wonderful Sewickley Ridge one-level townhome.  Located in Ohio Township’s highly popular and sought-after Traditions at Sewickley Ridge community, it is less than one year old and in move-in condition – ready for you to call home!  2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 car garage, open concept floorplan, delightful screened porch. Chic ascetic with white cabinetry, granite tops, hardwood floors. Why delay your downsize any longer?   $389,000  Get more details and see more photos here

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
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

Updates do make a difference

In your May 11th column, you also mentioned that updates may not affect a home’s value but may affect the chances of getting it sold.  Can you clarify what you mean by that? 

Upon reflection, that statement, which I quoted for a real estate website, may be a little broad.  I meet with many sellers who are simply in shock with what this market requires to generate a sale.  In many cases, its not a case of the updates being required to increase the chances of a home selling quickly – they are required for a home to draw an offer at all.  Do the updates increase the value of the home?  Technically yes, because without them the home is almost unsalable, except at perhaps the deepest of discounts.

This era of home buyers simply do not want to do any work at all. Perhaps my generation of parents did it all wrong when we handed our children life on a silver platter! They watch too much HGTV and expect to see that when they walk into a home.  I have been on my soapbox many times before about many of these topics, stressing the importance of addressing them, but not from the perspective that updates are important to even generate an offer. Buyers really don’t want your wallpaper no matter how stylish.  Nor do they want your colored carpets or shiny brass, to name a few other deal killers.  They aren’t going to do the “few projects” you left behind for them – they are just going to move on to another home.

A recent case in point is a listing I sold after just over a month on the market.  It had been on the market previously for two years with no offers.  It is a fantastic home in a great location on a great piece of property, but it just didn’t sell.  The sellers removed wallpaper and draperies, painted the interior in my favorite ‘greige‘, updated plumbing and lighting to a silver palate and were rewarded for their efforts with a quick offer.  As frustrating and costly as this sounds, unless you remodeled your home within the past ten years, this is the price you may have to pay to get a home sold in today’s competitive market, unless you are willing to price it at, or accept, a deeply discounted price.

Featured Homes

928 Blackburn Road

928 Blackburn Road

Located “up the hill” on a private 5 acre lot backing to the Allegheny Land Trust but less than 1 mile from I-79!. This immaculate Sewickley Heights home was transformed from an historic barn just two decades ago!  Main home features 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, expansive great room with soaring ceilings and wood-burning fireplace. The property also conveys with a newly remodeled guest cottage with 3 BRs, 3baths. $1,050,000

 

Lot D Sycamore Road

Lot D Sycamore Road

Only one lot remains in this new subdivision in Osborne!  The lot is .46 acres – build your Sewickley dream home – a unique opportunities in Sewickley! Bring your own builder! Pre-paid Sewickley tap in fee conveys with the lot.  $77,500

 

As an Associate Broker at HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICESKathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.  Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

For What It’s “Worth”…

In your May 11th article, your first item you noted about real estate is that a home is worth what a buyer is willing to pay.  I thought a home is worth what it appraises for?”

In my May 11th article (available to those of you who missed it on my website), I did list 12 important things everyone should know about real estate, the first being that yes, a home is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay.

Appraisals are typically done in conjunction with a mortgage application, although they are sometimes done as part of an estate administration or by a homeowner who wants to get a better sense of what a home is worth.  Many appraisers are not experts in the neighborhood they are trying to appraise a home in and miss the block by block nuances that greatly affect value.  However, even if they are well versed in a particular area, they may not have been in every home and may not understand the special circumstances surrounding why one buyer may have paid a premium and another buyer may have purchased at a discount.  Appraisers often don’t have their finger on the pulse of buyer expectations – unlike Realtors, they do not interact directly with buyers and don’t have the opportunity to hear them complain about wallpaper, colored carpets, dated lighting and outdated kitchens and baths.  They don’t see firsthand how eager buyers are to purchase newly remodeled homes and the premiums they will deliver for those homes and they aren’t privy to the conversations Realtors have trying to convince a buyer to take on a project. So sometimes they are just too high and that price will not be achievable absent a sizable remodel.

It is also irrelevant how much money a seller has invested in a home.  It is important to keep in mind unless renovations were made in conjunction with a home-staging professional in an effort to sell your home, improvements were made for the homeowner’s enjoyment and may not carry any value for a home buyer.

In the end, Buyers in 2017 America are quite savvy.  Most view all inventory for many months before choosing a home.  They probably know better than a home seller how a home stacks up against what has recently sold.  If they don’t, it is all readily available online.  So in the end, the price is determined by how convinced a buyer is that the value is in the home.

FEATURED HOMES:

7 Harvester Court

7 Harvester Court

 

Beautifully remodeled custom built home offers 3 new luxury baths, newer kitchen, new roof, new HVAC, new deck, new paint in modern aesthetic and more. Totally turn-key for you and your family! 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car garage, finished walk-out lower level. $775,000.

 

 

 

1008 Beaver Road

1008 Beaver Road

Less than .5 miles to central Sewickley Village yet sited on private 4 acre lot. Inside, discover a modern  home with beautiful finishes. Stylishly remodeled kitchen w/ Subzero fridge, Viking professional range, charming butler’s pantry. With six bedrooms, two home offices, a formal study, cozy family room with fireplace, living room with semi-circular bay window, sunroom, enormous recreation room/gym, and a 2 attached car garage (and much more!), this home is a show stopper!  $1,950,000

 

 

 

 

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.  Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Selling During the Holidays

The holidays are here and our home is on the market – any tips for selling during the holidays?

The holidays can be a challenging time to sell your home – the number of people looking for a home is much lower than almost any other time of year. But those who do look around the holidays are usually very serious buyers and so it is worth making sure that your home presents as well as possible.

Start with a good fall cleanup! It’s definitely time to put your yard to bed! Make sure your yard is well raked and all dead plants removed. Curb appeal is even more important in colder months when the landscaping is less lush and appealing to a buyer. Make sure gutters are cleaned and everything outside is looking crisp.

Make sure you keep your thermostat up for showings – walking into a cold house for a showing can be a real turn-off. Warmer homes will cause buyers to linger when its cold outside – which will allow them time to admire your home’s wonderful amenities.   And of course, with as gray as Pittsburgh can be in the winter, be sure all of your lights are on for showings (and that you have working lightbulbs in all of the lights). Its also a good idea to put a few lights on timers if you are away so the home always looks cheerful from the street.

Holiday decorations always add cheer to a home, but be careful not to overdo it! Keep your decorations this year on the more minimal side, and try to avoid religious themed decorations. Be sure that you de-clutter BEFORE you decorate and also be sure that your decorations coordinate well with your décor scheme. And of course, avoid large inflatables in your yard!

Finally, don’t forget that if it snows, you must keep your driveway and walk clear of snow so that the buyers can easily get inside

Selling Your Vacant Home

Dear Kathe:

We may move out and leave our home vacant and for sale – is there anything special we should know?

First and most importantly, you must consider your insurance coverage. If you have a loss and you have not notified your insurance company that you have vacated the home, they may deny coverage for your loss. Some companies may not provide coverage for your vacant home and you will need to switch insurers. Some will provide coverage for a limited amount of time, and some will provide coverage as long as you leave your furniture in place. However, most will deny coverage for any loss related to water, so whenever you leave a home vacant for any amount of time, its important to turn the water off at the main. If its winter time, you should consider having a plumber professionally winterize your home.

Second its rarely a good idea to leave a home totally empty. Some homes do show better without the owner’s furniture, but even in those cases its important to leave bathrooms, the kitchen, fireplace mantles… staged so that the home feels loved and inviting to prospective buyers. Be sure to have a few lights on timers – buyers often drive by homes at night and you don’t want yours looking haunted! Of course, there are professional home stagers that can help you with any level of staging, whether its working with your existing furnishings, accessorizing bathrooms and the kitchen, or bringing in new furniture to fill the empty space.

You should have a house keeper who comes monthly to keep the home fresh and bug free and a yard service to keep the yard freshly mown and free of weeds, as well as leaves rank and snow shoveled. Finally, you should be sure to keep the temperature set at a comfortable temperature – in the winter no lower than 60 degrees and preferable 65 degrees.

Leaving a home vacant certainly makes showings easier, but it does require some extra attention to make sure the home does not feel abandoned and remains appealing to prospective buyers!

Partnering for the Sale

Dear Kathe,

 Our home has been on the market for a while – we are getting a fair amount of traffic but so far, no offers. We are concerned that others are selling and ours is not. What are your thoughts?

 Selling a home is a partnership – a realtor cannot waive a magic wand and make a home sell. An agent’s initial primary job is to make sure that your home is well advertised and to provide honest advice and feedback about condition. If you are getting a reasonable amount of showings, then that’s a good sign that the marketing is working well. Hopefully, you have gotten feedback from these showing and have taken steps to overcome any perceived drawbacks. Some things can’t be overcome – if a buyer needs an extra bedroom or garage, there isn’t much to do about that, but if there are concerns that you can address, be sure that you do.

Take a quick tour of your home, invite a neighbor over for a look or visit other open houses to make sure your home is presenting as well as your competition. Take staging to a new level. If you have checked all of the typical boxes (no wallpaper, neutral carpets throughout, neutral paint, no clutter, removing personal items such as family photos and religious décor…) take the time to consider what else YOU can do to help improve the chances of an offer. If your rooms don’t look open and spacious, remove more items to a storage facility. Did you remember to clean your windows this spring? Dirty windows can make a home very dull inside. In this heat, have you been watering your landscaping so that it is alive and thriving? How about your lawn? Green or dead? Have you removed the signs of your own wear & tear – are switch plates and walls clean and smudge free? Have you de-cluttered too much making your home sterile? Pottery Barn is still the easiest look to sell—make sure that while your home is reasonably free of personal items such as family photos, it has some warmth – fluffy white towels in the bathrooms, attractive throw pillows on couches and beds… Unsure of what you need? Bring in a home stager for some professional advice. Remember, selling a home is team work – you need to be doing your part!

Finally, price must constantly be evaluated. Keep in mind the oldest rule of thumb in the book – 13 weeks or 13 showings – if you still don’t have an offer, its probably price. Yes, improving condition can improve price. But if you are getting the showings and you aren’t drawing an offer and can’t make significant changes to the home to overcome objections, you must reduce your price, or be very patient waiting for what could be years for that one buyer to come along.

A Pre-inspection is Your Best Offense!

Dear Kathe,

Friends of mine just had the sale of their home fall through because of a home inspection. How can that be prevented?

 Yes – sellers should have their home pre-inspected before listing to prevent these kinds of issues! Finding a buyer and agreeing on a purchase price is only one small component of a real estate transaction and yet it is often all that sellers focus on.  What happens between then and closing, however, is often the more difficult part of the process.  Issues with a home uncovered on an inspection often cost a seller thousands in unexpected repairs and when sometimes even result in a terminated transaction.  Inspectors are incredibly thorough (sometimes even finding problems that aren’t problems) and so every home seller should anticipate that the home inspector will find deficiencies and that the buyer will expect correction.

All home sellers should seriously consider having their homes pre-inspected.  For as little as $250 – $500 for a basic pre-inspection you will quickly have an insiders view of how a buyer’s inspector will assess your home.  Use the inspection as a maintenance check list – find a handyman to come in and fix all of the little things so that they don’t come up again on a buyer’s inspection.  If there are larger items that you do not have the ability to repair, such as a roof nearing the end of its useful life, get an estimate or two for the repair or replacement.  Note the issue on your disclosure and include a copy of the estimate.  This should prevent you from having to credit the buyer for the repair later – buyers are supposed to review the disclosure and take any disclosed items into account in making their offer to you.

Of course, if your inspection is good or just has a lot of little items that a handyman can fix, attach the handyman’s receipt showing the repair provide a copy of the inspection in the house for buyers to see with a note indicating that the home has been pre-inspected and repaired and that they buyer can buy with confidence knowing that they are buying a house in great shape!  In a town full of older and aging homes, this will really help your marketing!

So before you list your home – consider a pre-inspection.  It will give buyers the confidence they need to move ahead with a purchase, may combat concerns that there are likely problems that would lower their initial offer to you, and will hopefully result in a smooth transaction once you do have your home under agreement.

 

Is It Really Love at First Sight?

It sometimes surprises me that homes which look great on paper – well priced, good condition – do not sell, and I often wonder why not?  After reviewing statistics, the question often remains.  All the data suggests that the home should have sold.  So why then is it not sold?  This can be a very difficult question for frustrated sellers and their agents.  Recent studies show that greater than 60% of buyers (both men and women) know whether a home is right for them the first time they walk in the door – they just have a “gut instinct.”    This is consistent with what I often tell home sellers – more often than not, people are guided by emotion in making their buying decisions and emotions are rarely something we as professionals can reduce to a clear-cut action plan.

What does this “emotional buying” mean for you, the home seller.  First and foremost, it means that “first impressions die hard” – you will probably only get one chance at a buyer.  Revisiting prospects later with news of a kitchen update, home staging or offer of a carpet allowance is usually a complete waste of time with respect to those buyers – they saw your home, had a negative gut reaction, and moved on.  The focus needs to be, instead, on buyers who have yet to have that “first impression.”

If you are not yet on the market, it drives home the message once again – the message I have been sharing for years now – it is critical to enter the market ready to create an emotional “wow.”  Partnering with a home stager, many of whom offer reasonably priced consultations, gives you the best chance of meeting current market expectations.  An experienced agent should be able to give you some suggestions as well.  Many of the basics I have covered in the past include:  remove all wallpaper and paint with a neutral color palate; replace colored wall-to-wall carpeting with neutrals or, if possible, remove entirely to expose hardwoods; declutter and remove personal effects.  The trick comes in not sterilizing décor too much – it’s important for the home to still create a warm and inviting feeling – just not one that feels too dated or too personal.  Feel free to give me a call if you would like advice on how to best create the “wow factor” in your home.

Do Your Floors Tell a Story?

Dear Kathe, 

We live in a somewhat dated home we would like to get ready to sell — we have older caret and flooring — an advice of what direction we should head in when updating?

These days, the trend in interior design is to unify interiors.  Flooring is seen as a base on which to build a room.  The most universally liked flooring style is one that remains the same throughout an entire level of a home.  Unlike the 70s & 80s, when the trend was to choose a floorcovering for each room, these days it is far more popular to just pick one (or at most two) per level.  You will therefore often find that the entire main level is hardwood.  The entire second level may also be hardwood, but it could also be a neutral unifying carpet.  The design scheme then builds off this neutral base, perhaps layering on area rugs to add personal style.

In light of these trends, nothing dates a home faster than if there are a multitude of different floor coverings on one level.  It could be that each bedroom has a different color carpet.  It could be that there are four different materials on the main level – tile in the kitchen, marble in the foyer, hardwood in the family room and carpet in the living and dining rooms.  These floors all tell a story – the person who chose them was seeking a specific look in each individual room.  Those days are gone, the person has likely moved on, but the floors still hint of stories past.  Interestingly, when buyers visit homes like these they cannot usually pinpoint what they don’t like – they just say “its not for me,” or maybe “its too dated.”  What they can’t usually put their finder on is that they are missing the harmony that generally comes from unified floor coverings.

What does this mean for you, the home owner?  As you update your home, keep your floor coverings uniform throughout a level (up to two choices per level are usually ok).

Where Did All the Color Go?

Dear Kathe,

Why does it seem that almost every home we view online is so neutral? What happened to all the color?

 I recently reviewed a portion of a local market in the mid-price ranges and interestingly, almost every home that is under agreement has zero wallpaper and is painted in a neutral color palate (including beiges, grays, greiges and a few other nearly neutral tones). Only one of these homes had any true color on its walls, and that home took nearly a year and several price drops to go under agreement.

Professional home stagers have been counseling for years to remove all wallpaper before putting your home on the market –asking someone to buy a home with wallpaper is as personal as asking them to buy someone else’s wedding dress. No matter how beautiful, it’s rarely done and appeals to very few. Stagers are also quick to recommend neutralizing your paint palate. While there are some warmer neutrals, these days the cooler neutrals like gray and greige are the more popular tones with the buying public. Even having a more colorful child’s room can be a big turnoff.

It seems the selling public has in large part heeded this advice. The homes that are actually selling for the most part have been stripped of their wallpaper and painted in a more current, more neutral paint palate. Absent a compelling reason to choose a home that is not “sale ready” such as a severely discounted price, buyers are far more likely to overlook other “road blocks” to a sale such as a lack of a garage than they are to look past a personalized and colorful decorating scheme.

Does this mean that we must all live in color-free homes? Of course not! Your home should reflect your personality and your personal furnishings undoubtedly tie your color choices together. But it is important when we move toward a customized design scheme to remember that when its time to sell, part of the cost of selling will be repainting these spaces back to a more neutral palate!

My Magic Wand

Dear Kathe,

Our home is on the market and not sold – where are the buyers this spring? How can we get it sold?

 Our spring market has seen some very unusual fluctuations.  In some weeks there have been surges, with several houses going under agreement in a week, and other weeks have been quiet.  The one million dollar price range has been hot for the first time in a couple of years.  The under $300,000 market is also moving very well.  If you’re home is in the “middle” then yes, it’s been slower than expected and it’s hard to know why.  Speculation has included the election, of course, as well as cutbacks in some oil and gas companies.

Sadly, real estate agents don’t have magic wands that we can wave to make a buyer appear for your home.  If it’s been on the market for more than a few weeks it’s likely the local prospects have seen it and determined that its not a fit for them.  The most likely buyer is someone currently outside the area, and there is just no predicting when a company is going to relocate someone who might be looking for a home.

 Therefore, what you must do is make sure it is the best choice in the price range when a buyer does arrive on the scene.  It is important to make sure that it shows perfectly – there is a lot of competition – other sellers who really want a buyer as well.  I have written many articles that you can find on my blog at www.kathebarge.com that cover critical topics like de-cluttering and staging, and updating your home.  It might be time to bring in a professional stager.  It might be time to update paint colors, freshen any dated carpets, update lighting fixtures or baths. Many of these things can be done very cost effectively and could give your home the edge with the next buyer through town.

 It may also be time to have a professional appraisal done of your home, both to check to make sure that you have it priced competitively and to give any buyer prospects confidence that the value is there.

 In the end, homes with completely updated features and current design palates continue to be the first ones to sell.  If that’s not your home and changes aren’t possible, then review price, do the best you can to stage and de-clutter, and then be patient.  Buyers can be very fickle – your buyer will come!

The Fine Line

Dear Kathe,

How important do you think it is for us to make repairs around our home before listing it?

The process of selling and buying a home involves many fine lines. How far do you take preparing your home for sale? Do you really need to address all of the items suggested by your agent, the home stager or the home inspector who did a pre-inspection? Anything that could come up on an inspection, if you know about it, really must be repaired or disclosed. My vote is repair. Even with items that are very obvious, when an inspector gets involved, he may blow the issue out of proportion and something that might have cost you $1000 to repair before you listed ends up costing you $3000 on the inspection request. If its something an inspector might find, you can bet he will find it and you will be expected to cover the cost of repair anyhow, so you might as well repair upfront.

Many buyers actually get quite nervous during the home inspection (also known as buyers remorse). If you happened to have gotten one of these buyers, it is possible that they could walk away from your deal if the inspection concerns feel too weighty to them. After you actually receive and negotiate the offer, the last thing you want to do is lose the buyer over items that you could have fixed but didnt think anyone would notice or care about! In todays market, they notice, they care. Sometimes they are willing to let you pay for the repair. Sometimes they just walk. Dont take any chances. If you suspect it is likely someone would seek a repair, get it done!

Buyers, as much as I advocate for sellers to take care of the wear and tear items on their homes, it is important for you to be reasonable on your inspection requests as well. If you see an item that needs to be fixed while you are touring the home, take that into account when you make your offer and do not revisit it on the inspection. Inspection requests are supposed to be for items you didnt know about and didnt have a chance to adjust for in making your offer. It’s a fine line buyers also walk in deciding what are fair and appropriate inspection requests of a seller.

Brass is Back?!

Dear Kathe:

Is brass making a comeback?

I’m not an interior designer, but yes, after many years of all silver, all the time, brass is starting to come back. However, the brass that is “in” is not the shiny brass from 15 years ago. The new brass color that is gaining popularity has a softer, non-shiny texture, not the glossy brass of days gone by. Does this mean we all need to run out and change our silver out for the new “soft” brass? Absolutely not! Silver tones are still fashionable, but if you have a house full of shiny brass, it may be possible to replace some of it with the newer brass finish and blend the new with the old to create a harmonious look, for a more trendy look without a total overhaul.

The important take away here is that more than anything, consistency sells. When working on your home, whether it is to prepare it for market or remodeling just to live in with a possibility of a sale some day, choose a theme and stick with it. Home buyers always respond more positively when an entire home “sings the same song.” For example, if you use silver tone metals, use them everywhere – in the lighting, faucets… throughout the whole home. If its burnished bronze, make it all that. Selling difficulties start when one bath is silver and the next is brass.

If you have hardwood floors, unify the stain color. One room should not be light and the next dark. Unify carpet colors (its fine to use a berber in one area and plush in another, as long as the color tones are the same). Every room does not have to be painted the same color, but the colors should complement each other and flow together. If you use grays and greiges, for example, then having a gold living room might feel out of place. Having an overriding design theme that carries through your entire home, whatever it is, will make your home more appealing to buyers, and bring you a faster sale for more money. And so yes, its true, brass is making a come back and if done correctly, can be used to create a trendy feel in your home.

 

Who Left Toothpaste in the Sink!!

Dear Kathe,

It’s snowing outside – hard to imagine this is a good time to list our home. When is it a good time to get our home on the market? Any last minute pointers?

The holidays are behind us and we are ready to start a new and exciting year.  Just two weeks old, the 2016 real estate market is already abuzz — ahead lies the promise of another great year.  If you thought we were in the slow real estate season then you thought wrong!  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Pittsburgh’s inventory levels have never been lower for longer and there has never been a greater opportunity to sell your home.  Homes that are coming on the market now are moving fast.  In prior articles I have discussed the importance of readying your home for sale and there could be no better time to dig out those articles and start getting your home ready to sell.  The spring market has started — there is no doubt and there is no time to lose!  In the next few articles, I will focus on the details of getting your home ready to sell, so be sure to check in each week.  This week I will address your bathrooms.

Bathrooms are a key component to selling a home.  It is critical that they be both clean and as updated as possible.  Clean is less obvious than you might think.  In addition to the basics, grout should be clean (consider renting a steamer), tubs and showers should be caulked.  Everything should be in good working order.  Commodes should be firmly bolted down, lids should match the toilet, sinks should not drip, drain stoppers on sinks and tubs should properly close and all plumbing hardware should be in good condition and should not be significantly tarnished or corroded (if they are, you can replace them with a reasonably inexpensive fixture).

The bathrooms should also be as updated as possible.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot to give a bathroom a fresh look.  Remove all wallpaper and paint in a color that is reasonably neutral and brings out the best in the tile.  Change lighting fixtures (there is a huge selection of inexpensive bathroom lights online) and cabinet hardware if it is dated.  Consider painting old cabinetry either a shade of white or black.  Replace old mirrors, or repaint their frames for an easy update.  New tile and granite tops may be necessary to bring out the full value in your home if it is in a higher price bracket, but for many homes this level of expense is not necessary to create a fresh, updated and welcoming look.  Take the time to take this list into each of your bathrooms for a detailed review (or call me and I will be happy to walk through with you and help you with this review) and it will pay dividends this spring in a fast and lucrative sale.

Should you “Deck the Halls”?

Dear Kathe,

Our home is on the market – is it ok to show it decorated for the holidays or should we take it off the market?

Buyers who are shopping during the holidays are some of the most serious buyers we see each year – most people don’t bother spending their precious holiday time looking at homes unless they have a need to buy. So keeping your home on the market over the holidays is generally a good idea!

Decorating for the holidays while your home is on the market is also not a bad idea – homes often look their best decorated for the holidays – as long as a few basic guidelines are followed. Briefly stated, when decorating this holiday season, keep your decorations more neutral and reasonably simple.

Start by taking a more minimalist approach. You may have bins and bins of holiday decorations like I do, but when your home is on the market, its best to leave some of those decorations packed away. Choose decorations that have less of a religious theme. Snowmen, evergreen wreaths, poinsettias and nutcrackers, for example, have broad appeal. Be careful that the decorations that you do choose compliment your décor.   You may have changed the color scheme in your home since buying your holiday decorations and it’s important that they don’t clash! Don’t over-decorate the exterior of your home either. A few well placed, tasteful strands of lights or an attractive evergreen wreath can add sense of warmth to your home, but keep your inflatables packed up!

If you bring in a tree, make sure it doesn’t overwhelm the room. This year a tall, skinny tree might be the best choice so that the room doesn’t feel small. And of course, consider using decorations to highlight some of your home’s special architectural features, such as using candles to draw attention to an attractive fireplace.

When showings are scheduled, a brewing pot of mulled cider or a plate of freshly baked cookies is not only seasonably appropriate but will go along way toward creating an inviting feel for your buyers. And don’t forget – even if you normally keep your thermostat down, be sure to turn it up for showings so that buyers are comfortably warm!

Too Early For Spring?

Dear Kathe,

We’re getting ready to put our home on the market this spring and have read all of your prior articles on staging – any new do-it-yourself ideas to maximize saleability?

Now is the perfect time to be readying for Spring – our Spring market starts in January so you have a couple of months to make final preparations. I cannot say often enough how important it is to stage your home – those that are stage sell quickly and for top dollar.   For those of you who have completed the primer course in home staging and have de-wallpapered, de-cluttered… here are a few more great ideas!

Expose your windows. Pittsburgh can be gray enough. Take down window treatments (yes, even custom ones unless they are less than 5 years old) and always show your home with the blinds up. It’s important that your home feel light and bright to prospective buyers and not dark and cave-like.

Expose your wood floors. Buyers love hardwood floors. If you have old wall-to-wall carpeting over hardwood floors, remove it and expose the wood. If you have area rugs, unless they are the latest trend and are measurably adding to your design, roll them up and store them.

Do a “super quickie” on your kitchen and baths. Even replacing old lighting fixtures and cabinet hardware will go a long way to making a space feel more updated. The big box stores have a large selection of reasonably priced choices. The safest choice these days is silver tones, but burnished bronze is also well-liked.

Buy new white towels and other white accessories for your baths (and don’t use them so they stay fluffy). White brings a sense of cleanliness to a bathroom.

Finally, when you have a showing scheduled, leave all of your lights on in anticipation of the showing. Light, bright & squeaky clean is a great formula for getting your home sold!

First Impressions Die Hard

Dear Kathe –

We’re getting our home ready for the spring market – we don’t want to do too much to get it ready because we’re sure the buyers will want to do projects to make it their own. What do you think?

Recently I was showing a lovely home that was, for the most part, picture perfect, in my professional opinion.  And yet when my client walked into a room with a cream colored carpet on the floor, she couldn’t miss the glaring rust stain on the carpet.  At that moment, the positive vibes she had been feeling instantly turned negative and the home was surprisingly crossed off her list.

This drove home the point once again of how critically important it is for sellers to make sure their homes really are picture perfect and if at all possible, to not leave obvious projects for the buyers.  Buyers really are this critical these days and so unless you have a hot commodity that you are willing to sell at an obviously low price, it is well worth your time to make sure there is nothing that could turn a buyer off.  If you were buying a used car and saw a big scratch on the side panel, would you stop and wonder what else is wrong with the car?  Would you dig deeper than you otherwise might, searching for other deficiencies?  Would you expect the dealer to give you a big discount because of the glaring issue?  Would you be thinking that you would prefer to repair the scratch so that its done to your satisfaction? What if the dealer had taken the time to repair the scratch, so the car looked good as new?  Would it have affected your perception of the car and its desirability to you, the used car buyer?

The same analysis applies to the sale of used homes and yet sometimes, sellers don’t seem to see it that way.  Experience shows that your home will sell faster and for more money if it is properly conditioned for the market before it hits the market.  This does not mean leaving projects for the next owner. Yes, they will want to make the home their own and yes, they may undo some of what you have just done. But they wont even consider making it their own home if they start off feeling like there is work that must be done.

So do yourself and your bank account a favor.  Hire the agent who walks carefully through your home and makes a “to do” list for you of what you need to do to get your home sold, not the one who sweetly glosses over all those things you have seen on HGTV are “no nos” for home sales.  Hire a home stager (they are quite reasonably priced).  And then, take their advice and eliminate all of the objections possible before a buyer walks in the door.  Don’t be the place that “needs a lot of work” — be the one that is “wow, they have really done a lot of work.”

Squeaky Clean Sells!

Dear Kathe,

What about this year’s spring market has surprised you?

I have been surprised by an interesting trend in real estate this year – I have actually had buyers choose homes based on how clean they are! And we aren’t talking about whether the home is broom swept clean. In these homes you could literally eat off the floors! There is no doubt that Mr. & Mrs. Clean live in these homes. Buyers have actually looked past their “must haves” and have chosen homes because they are so incredibly clean!

So what is incredibly clean to today’s discerning buyers?   Decluttering is step one. Renting a storage facility or getting a pod is a great first step. After that, every inch of a home needs a good scrub down. Every light needs to be cleaned, every baseboard scrubbed, air returns and bath vent fans cleaned, carpets professionally cleaned (or replaced if they don’t look new again after cleaning), every smudge on the walls and cabinets removed (which may require repainting – and please make sure any touch-ups are NOT noticeable). Check every light switch – make sure they are crisp – if they are dingy looking, have them replaced. Air filters on furnaces should be changed. Worn floors need to be touched up or refinished. Grout must be completely clean – if you cant get it to look like new, hire a professional steaming company to steam your grout and then reseal it with grout sealant. Refrigerators and ovens should be spotless. Closets should be tidy and well staged. Light bulbs should all be working. Crystal chandeliers should be polished.

And of course outside, all landscaping should be well trimmed. Walks and driveways should be edged. Porches and patios should be swept and in great shape. Windows and futters should be clean. Garages should be swept out and well organized.

Sound like a lot of work? It is – super deep cleaning is no fun. But this spring we have certainly seen sellers who have taken their cleanliness to the next level rewarded for their efforts!

Getting It All Right!

Dear Kathe:

 I heard my neighbor’s home is sold and the sign never went up. Is the market really that hot? How does this happen?

The short answer is yes, the market really is that hot! We absolutely are selling some homes before the sign installer can get to the house! In fact, just this weekend, that happened to one of my listings! I would like to congratulate my clients (and column readers) Krista & Ryan on their one day sale of their home on Thorn Street! They didn’t just call 1-800-Ask-Kathe, but they actually took my advice, which was probably a little shocking out of the gate. They installed two completely new bathrooms and removed all of the old carpet from their home before entering our spring market. And they were handsomely rewarded for their hard work with a lucrative sale to the first buyer prospect who viewed their home!

I have to admit, I have been falsely accused on rare occasion of “strong arming” my sellers into investing money that may not need to be invested to get a home sold. Like many of you, I pay careful attention to our market and what I see is that those who don’t do the hard work up front are those who languish on our market. Prepping for market is not a guarantee of a one day sale – there still has to be a buyer out there looking for a home like yours. But not prepping is almost a guarantee of no sale, unless you price at a deep discount (or happen to own that rare home with a main level master on a prime street that I am always in a desperate search of).

So what did Ryan and Krista do so right? They started by calling me to get a road map! They decluttered. They staged. They installed two completely new bathrooms just weeks before coming on the market. They removed everything dated and presented a home that was clean, crisp and in a current design palette. There were no signs of wear and tear. There were no unfinished projects for the next owner to complete. And then they priced their home exactly in the range of reasonable.

Those of you who read my column each week could probably write it by now! What is the recipe for achieving a fast, lucrative sale in this market? Declutter. Stage. Update. Eliminate signs of wear and tear. Eliminate wall paper, worn or colored carpet. Choose a current design scheme if at all possible. Its hard work, but Ryan & Krista are the proof, yet again, that it works!

Gray is Hot!

Dear Kathe,

If you were going to repaint the interior of your home with an eye toward selling, what colors would you use?

 

There is no doubt that the MOST powerful color in selling homes right now is the fifty shades of gray! Were I choosing a paint palate most likely to drive in the highest dollars in the least amount of time, I would choose gray, greige and beige.

Last year I sold a home that had been appraised twice by two reputable appraisers in preparation for listing the home. The entire interior was painted light gray and the home sold within a week (and despite its older kitchens and baths) for more than $100,000 over the highest of the two appraisals. A proven testament to the power of gray!

I work full time + and watch buyers every day as they respond to the homes that they see – their responses are rarely analytic and are more often emotional – show them a gray house and they want to buy a home that meets none of their “must haves.”

Sometimes sellers object: I don’t like gray. Pittsburgh is too gray as it is. Gray wont look good in my home.   I have yet to see a home where a carefully chosen shade of gray/greige doesn’t make the home sparkle. And as to personal taste – try to remember, you are moving. The market has spoken and the market we are in loves gray.

A few words of caution. One gray room is not going to do it. For the power of gray to work, the palate must be consistently applied throughout the home. Additionally, you must be very careful to choose the right shade of gray. I just toured a home where the shade of gray chosen for the walls clashed with the woodwork – gray will not work its magic in that case. And yes, this can be an expense. But if you are asking the question, you must be seeking the truth and yes, sometimes that is expensive. Homes with other color palates do sell, but in 2015 Pittsburgh, gray is the most powerful color you can choose if you want to sell your home!

Selling With Fido

Dear Kathe,

What advice do you have for pet owners hoping to sell their homes?

I am a dog lover.  In fact, there are two canine members of my family.  60% of Americans own a pet, and 40% are dog owners.  As a dog lover and owner and lover I am  aware that not everyone loves pets.  If I am a home seller, this is particularly important to keep in mind.  It is critical when selling your home to remove any any all evidence of Fido!

What exactly does this entail?  Smell should be your first concern.  If you live with a pet you are probably used to the smell and don’t notice it, but your buyer will.  Carpets should be professionally cleaned and deodorized to remove any possible smell.  If any smell lingers after that, you probably need to change the furnace filter and quite possibly have the ducts cleaned.  If you are still living in the home it is critical to keep all your pet things clean – launder blankets regularly, keep crates wiped down, empty litter boxes every day and give your dog a weekly bath.  I can’t stress this enough.  Any smell at all could kill your chances at an offer.

Cleanliness should be your next concern.  If your home is vacant, after you move out make sure there is no evidence of a pet having lived there.  Make sure there are no hair balls hiding in corners or behind doors.  Clean or replace air return grills as they have likely become laden with pet hair and dander, resulting in a dirty look.  Clean the vent cover on the bottom of refrigerators as well – they are often clogged with pet hair.  If you are still living in the home, you must address all of the above as well as making sure that physical evidence of a pet disappears during a showing.  Pack up toys and beds and tuck them in a discrete location.

Finally, if at all possible, remove the pets themselves for all showings for the best chance of selling the home.  While Fido is likely cute as can be, many people are either fearful or allergic – why take any chances?

Repair Before You List!

Dear Kathe, Sometimes it seems like everything is breaking around our house and we get behind on repairs. Isnt there some level of wear and tear buyers of “previously enjoyed” homes are expecting to have to accept?

 

The process of selling and buying a home involves many fine lines. How far do you take preparing your home for sale? Do you really need to address all of the items suggested by your agent, the home stager or the home inspector who did a pre-inspection? Do you really have to attend to everything your family has broken or worn out over the years? Anything that could come up on an inspection, if you know about it, really must be repaired or disclosed. My vote is repair. Even with items that are very obvious, when an inspector gets involved, he may blow the issue out of proportion and something that might have cost you $1000 to repair before you listed ends up costing you $3000 on the inspection request. If its something an inspector might find, you can bet he will find it and you will be expected to cover the cost of repair anyhow, so you might as well repair upfront.

Many buyers actually get quite nervous during the home inspection (also known as buyers remorse). If you happened to have gotten one of these buyers, it is possible that they could walk away from your deal if the inspection concerns feel too weighty to them. After you actually receive and negotiate the offer, the last thing you want to do is lose the buyer over items that you could have fixed but didnt think anyone would notice or care about! In today’s market, they notice, they care. Sometimes they are willing to let you pay for the repair. Sometimes they just walk. Dont take any chances. If you suspect it is likely someone would seek a repair, get it done!

Buyers, as much as I advocate for sellers to take care of the wear and tear items on their homes, it is important for you to be reasonable on your inspection requests as well. If you see an item that needs to be fixed while you are touring the home, take that into account when you make your offer and do not revisit it on the inspection. Inspection requests are supposed to be for items you didnt know about and didnt have a chance to adjust for in making your offer. Again, its a fine line buyers also walk in deciding what are fair and appropriate inspection requests of a seller.

The Truth About Emotional Buying

Dear Kathe:

We have read what you have to say about home staging and getting your home ready for the market, but couldn’t we test the market and see what buyer thinks before making improvements?

 

It sometimes surprises me that homes which look great on paper – well priced, good condition – do not sell, and I often wonder why not?  After reviewing statistics, the question often remains.  All the data suggests that the home should have sold.  So why then is it not sold?  This can be a very difficult question for frustrated sellers and their agents.  Recent studies show that greater than 60% of buyers (both men and women) know whether a home is right for them the first time they walk in the door – they just have a “gut instinct.”    This is consistent with what I often tell home sellers – more often than not, people are guided by emotion in making their buying decisions and emotions are rarely something we as professionals can reduce to a clear-cut action plan.

What does this “emotional buying” mean for you, the home seller.  First and foremost, it means that “first impressions die hard” – you will probably only get one chance at a buyer.  Revisiting prospects later with news of a kitchen update, home staging or offer of a carpet allowance is usually a complete waste of time with respect to those buyers – they saw your home, had a negative gut reaction, and moved on.  The focus needs to be, instead, on buyers who have yet to have that “first impression.”

If you are not yet on the market, it drives home the message once again – the message I have been sharing for years now – it is critical to enter the market ready to create an emotional “wow.”  Partnering with a home stager, many of whom offer reasonably priced consultations, gives you the best chance of meeting current market expectations.  An experienced agent should be able to give you some suggestions as well.  Many of the basics I have covered in the past include:  remove all wallpaper and paint with a neutral color palate; replace colored wall-to-wall carpeting with neutrals or, if possible, remove entirely to expose hardwoods; declutter and remove personal effects.  The trick comes in not sterilizing décor too much – it’s important for the home to still create a warm and inviting feeling – just not one that feels too dated or too personal.  Feel free to give me a call if you would like advice on how to best create the “wow factor” in your home.

Invest Smart for the Best Returns!

Dear Kathe,

We want to upgrade our home in the new year. What are the best projects to invest our money in?

Kitchen remodels top the list of projects that drive in the most money for homeowners.  Nationally, homeowners recapture in excess of 75% of the amounts they invest in their kitchen remodel.  Here in Sewickley, if the home is sold in less than 5-8 years after the remodel, homeowners generally recoup in excess of 100% of dollars invested (design styles change fast enough that if your remodel is in excess of 8 years ago, you are unlikely to recoup 100%, unless, of course, you do a minor remodel to bring the kitchen up to the most current design styles).  Nationwide, the average cost for a kitchen remodel is $21,000, and for those of you who have remodeled, that may seem like a unrealistically low number.  So where is your money best spent?

Lighting is a quick and easy way to update your kitchen.  Changing lighting fixtures, including chandeliers and pendant lighting, can instantly take years off your kitchen.  Adding LED under cabinet lighting will upgrade the general feeling of a well-equipped kitchen.

New life can be added to older cabinetry, often simply by changing hardware.  Painting older cabinetry can also refresh it, as can resurfacing your existing cabinet boxes and installing new doors.  There is a lot can be done to upgrade the look of the cabinetry that requires substantially less investment than entirely new cabinetry.

Appliances should be upgraded if they are more than 15 years old, and the finishes of all appliances in the kitchen should match.  In other words, if one appliance is black, all should be black.  Your should not mix black, white and/or stainless appliances in one room.

Backsplashes are another easy way to add a level of sophistication of your kitchen.  Lowes and Home Depot carry a large variety of stone backsplash materials that work well.  If you already have a backsplash, however, you will want to be sure that it has not gone out-of-date.

And of course, granite countertops are expected in homes selling in excess of $400,000 unless that home is carrying significant acreage or is a unique historic home.  However, there are many grades or granite, so if you are expecting to resell your home in the near future, look for granites that are most reasonably priced and coordinate with your cabinetry and flooring.

So if you have been thinking about investing in your home, now that the holidays are behind us, today is a great day to start planning your kitchen remodel for the new year.  Not sure where to start?  Feel free to give me a call to discuss what pays the highest dividends in our area!

Have You Used Up the Value in Your Home?

Dear Kathe: 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.

How to Declutter!

Dear Kathe,

I read your article last week about home staging and de-cluttering and we do have a lot of stuff – not sure how to begin to de-clutter. Any tips?

 

When you are surrounded by a lot of stuff and it all seems important to you, it can be hard to know where to begin the clean out. As our days get shorter and the weather gets chillier, this is the perfect time for an inside project for de-cluttering and there are many ways to get started!

Start with all of the broken things you have piled up waiting to repair. From shoes with worn soles to pants with popped buttons, there are probably many things that have been waiting a long time for you to fix them. If you were out shopping today and wouldn’t buy the item again new, now is the time to part ways. While you are at it, this would be a good time to round up all those clothes you thought you might wear “someday.” If it’s been more than a few years, that someday is probably not coming. Saving clothes that used to fit with the hope of them fitting again? Give them to charity – if that day does come, you will deserve the treat of a new wardrobe, not outdated clothes.

Consider whether you can make the cubic square footage of what you are savings less. Children’s artwork, papers and tests are the perfect example. I have made a habit of saving a couple of key pieces in an accordion file for each year of school, have photographed everything else, and have included the photos in the file. Your children will be far more appreciative of a small file of momentos of their youth than boxes and boxes of stuff. The same can be said for documents. Scanning documents to a flash drive or external hard drive is a far more space efficient and organized than keeping the actual hard copies.

Holding onto things because you think they are valuable even though you are no longer using them? Chances are they are worth close to nothing. TVs and computer equipment are so quickly obsolete that in most cases, your old equipment’s highest and best value is as a charitable deduction. Old furniture also yields very little in the used goods market. There is no sense in considering what you have invested in the item – that money is long gone – if you aren’t using it, don’t love it or can’t repurpose it, let it go – many charities will even pick up at your home!

Finally, find a new home for things you have never really liked, the gifts you received that you were afraid you might offend someone by disposing of (the gift giver will never notice its gone), and inheritances that are not particularly meaningful to you (it took me years to part with the pewter pitcher that I inherited and had no use for). Do a reality check. Is your exercise bike more than a place to hang laundry? If its been collecting dust all these years, you won’t use it – why kid yourself? What else do you have that is more of a reflection of forgotten New Year’s resolutions? Add them to the charity donation! Follow these tips as you attack your clutter and you will be de-cluttered in no time!

To Stage or Not to Stage

Dear Kathe:

I’ve heard a lot about having my home professionally staged – I think my home is well decorated – is it something I need to do?

 Home staging is more about marketing a home and less about interior design. Your home could be beautifully decorated and poorly staged. The distinction is critical if your main focus is getting your home sold. Interior design is often about creating a home that reflects you personally and showcases your personal effects. Home staging is about decluttering, neutralizing and showing off your home’s best qualities. It is after all, your home that you are selling, and not your stuff!

Home staging consultations generally cost less than $200 and are well worth the investment when you consider the size of the asset you are selling and your hoped for gains. Home stagers often stage hundreds of homes each year and are very familiar with how to tweak a home to make it as appealing as possible to today’s buyers. We’ve all heard stories about home sellers in California who pack their entire homes up and bring in a new home of rented furniture to stage the home to sell. Home staging does not have to involve renting expensive furniture. It is sometimes an excellent idea however—if you bought your “dream home” and didn’t have time to furnish it with furniture appropriate to the home’s value, for example, renting furniture is likely a sound investment and will give the home the feeling that it is of a higher caliber. Most of the time, however, a home stager will work with what you have, although some of it may find its way into storage for the duration!

Offended at the concept of stripping your decorating from your home? It is important to keep your end goal in mind – you are moving. This is not about impressing the garden club ladies! It’s about showcasing your home so that prospective buyers appreciate all that it has to offer. A home’s positive attributes are often missed buyers when they are too busy focusing on your stuff. Whether they like your stuff or not, you want them admiring your home – not what you have in it. Home staging is designed to make your home – that which you intend to leave behind – sparkle – a stager eliminates, rearranges and augments to enhance the impression buyers have of your home. So yes, no matter how beautiful your décor, I strongly recommend a home stager, and working with your agent as you implement what she recommends!

It Starts at the Bottom!

Dear Kathe: After renovating our 100+ year home inside and out, all that remains is our basement. Our stone foundation is in decent shape.  How important is it (or worth it) to clean this space up and how far should we go?  Would I get the return on my money?

 

A basement often reveals more about a home than any other part of your home. It is therefore, more important than you might think that your basement present well.

Most of what needs to be done to basements doesn’t need to be very expensive. Your basement should be easy to access. Whether you are staying or selling, excess clutter is not your friend –if you have a damp basement, it will harbor mold. Clean out now while the weather is still nice! Your basement must be dry. If your basement just feels humid, then you must run a dehumidifier 24/7. If you have ever had water seepage in your basement, you will need to solve the problem. The quickest, easiest and most common fix is to make sure your gutters are kept clean, your downspouts are properly diverted at least 3 feet away from your foundation and that when it rains, water does not drain toward your home (in which case you would need to add soil to change the slope around your home). If that doesn’t work, you will need to invest in a professional waterproofing company.

Your basement should be light and bright – adding a few extra bulbs to the ceiling is something easily done inexpensively that will dramatically improve the feel of your basement. A fresh coat of paint on the floor will also help and is cheap to do (use porch floor paint). Glass block windows are a good investment – they are not very expensive and they add extra security and protection against termites and water intrusion to your home (I recommend including a vent block in each window so you still have the ability to circulate some air). Cleaning up old and unused wiring and plumbing is also a good idea if you have a handyman who can do it cheaply for you – it will certainly make inspections go more smoothly.

Getting your basement up to basic safety and code standards will also save you on inspections down the road. You should have a smoke detector near the furnace, any plugs should be GFCI outlets and if your basement connects to the garage, the door connecting them should be a steel door.

Some of the more expensive fixes are unlikely to yield much of a return. Some people choose to spray their ceilings black – it’s a fun effect but unless the basement is being finished, it is unlikely to yield dividends. Others choose to parge their walls – this actually makes a sandstone foundation look much better, but unless you can do it yourself, it can be expensive. I do not recommend painting walls with dryloc, however. Paint is food for mold and this might only cause more problems!

The Curse of Wallpaper

Dear Kathe,

 We watch a lot of HGTV and aren’t sure what is the most important thing to tackle when getting our home ready for the market.

Presenting a market ready home is the most important thing you can do to help your home sell quickly and for top dollar. Market ready is not, unfortunately, necessarily what you would choose if you were staying in the home and will not necessarily reflect your personal tastes. In preparing your home for market, it is important to keep in mind that you are moving and prepare your home for the tastes of your most likely buyer. The price point of your home will give you a good idea of who that buyer will likely be and that will help you and your agent strategize as to modifications necessary to attract that buyer.

The one thing that is reasonably universal across all price points is the general dislike of wallpaper, and so the most important thing you can do to prepare your home for market is to remove all of your wallpaper (including borders) and paint in a current color palette (which does not necessarily mean beige, but could include grays and greiges). Wallpaper is so very personal – I liken it to asking someone to wear your wedding dress – it is just not something that many people will want to do. There will be some buyers who might tolerate your wallpaper, but the likelihood is that most buyers will view it as too much work to take it down and move on to another home where they don’t face the issue. It is therefore prudent to remove your wallpaper and give yourself the greatest chance of a sale with the most buyers possible.

The paint color you choose to paint in (and please, do NOT paint over your wallpaper!) is also key. It is not advisable to choose paints that complement your furnishings (you are moving, remember?). It is very important to avoid choosing colors that could possibly be viewed as dated (such as peaches, pinks, burgundies, teals). Gray is a great choice. Not a gray person? You might change your mind if you saw how fast homes painted in a gray palette sell and how much over market buyers will pay for a gray palette universally applied throughout a home. Greige and shades of beige work well too.

So yes, we understand that your wallpaper works perfectly with your décor scheme. But we also know that the vast majority of our buyers don’t want it – so prepare yourself for success – take your wallpaper down before you enter the market and paint in a current and reasonably neutral color palette.

Make More Money! Watch TV!

If you follow my column, you have undoubtedly noted my near-weekly mention that our market is hot and our inventory has never been lower.  It certainly couldn’t be a better time to sell.  You may in fact have just heard that your neighbor’s home sold for top dollar in record time.  How do you make that happen?  Start by watching more TV!

Surprising advice, perhaps, but TV sets our style expectations and our aspirations of how we want to live our lives.  Your potential buyer is watching TV and then coming to your home and expecting to see what the saw on TV.  Want to make the most money?  Meet their expectations!

This is easy to do if you also watch a healthy dose of HGTV .  There you will quickly find the latest trends and tips on how to achieve them in a cost-effective manner.  You will see what home designers are pushing and know what buyers will be looking for in your home.  House Hunters is a particularly good show to learn from.  You will get insight into buyers’ thought processes – you will get listen in on their conversations and take note of the factors that affect them in both  positive and negative ways.  Armed with this information, you will be ready to spring into action and create a home that buyers are instantly attracted to.  And why are they attracted?  Because they saw it on TV!

As a full-time real estate broker, every day my job lives like an episode on House Hunters.  Through countless hours listening to my clients as they evaluate potential homes, I am easily able see how HGTV has greatly impacted the home selling process.  Those sellers who choose to take to heart the lessons espoused on HGTV are rewarded with more money in less time.  They create instant attraction by making their homes appear as if they were pulled straight from an episode of HGTV.   So whether you plan to sell next month or next year, start watching more TV, put the advice into action and pocket more money when you sell!

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

It all starts with a picture.  Your future buyer’s first impression of your home starts (and may end) with a photograph.  The vast majority of homebuyers will choose the homes they want to see from photos on the internet.  Therefore, it is very important when selling your home to make sure it is well presented in photographs.  To start, when you list your home and photos are taken, be sure that all rooms look magazine perfect.  For photographs, condition can be easy to fudge.  You can’t see dust in a photograph, and you can hide your clutter out of the camera’s sight.  But do take the time to move or store the evidence of your daily living.  Clean off all countertops (kitchens and bathrooms). Remove refrigerator magnets.  Remove all evidence of pets (including Fido himself). It can be amusing to check out listings online and see how many sellers and/or their agents do not put their best foot forward in photos.  A quick scan of the MLS shows rooms photographed with the goodwill pile right in the middle of a room, unmade beds, glasses out on countertops, garden objects strewn around the yard, showers laden with bathing supplies, overflowing hampers, pillows askew and toys laying about.  Not the best of first impressions.

What is photographed is equally as important.  Your online presence is what will influence a buyer to choose to see your home, or not.  Sometimes less is more.  If it is hard to get a good angle on a room to make it look spacious, better to leave it out.  Photos using a wide-angle lens will greatly aid in showing the whole room and conveying a spacious feel.  If your agent does not use a professional level camera, you may need to request a professional photographer do the photography in order to present the rooms in their best light.  Close up photos are rarely helpful, unless an architectural element is being highlighted.  Be sure your kitchen and yard are included – two key items for a buyer – if they aren’t pictured online, buyers will assume there is a problem that you don’t want the public to see.  On the other hand, do not include photos depicting what buyers may perceive as issue – leave out children’s rooms with bold paint colors (or repaint them first) and rooms with strong or dated wallpaper.  You want to be certain that you don’t give a buyer a reason online to not come and see your home!

Your home’s pictures can make or break your listing.  They need to present your home honestly (buyers feel deceived if they get to a home and it is not as pictured) but in doing so, need to present it in the best possible light.  Be sure to take the time to adequately prepare your home for photographs, and review them periodically to be sure they reflect current condition.  You may only get once chance at a buyer prospect – be sure your home shines in its photos!

Your Dream Home Awaits You!

The warm weather is waking up the dreamer in all of us it seems! Thankfully, we all have a different idea of the perfect home, which keeps our market moving twelve months a year.   Buyers are not all waiting for that one special home.  They are waiting for their special home – but special comes in so many different shapes and sizes.  Nonetheless, when thinking of selling, you will have a much better chance of selling your home quickly and at a higher price if you improve and decorate your home in a way that appeals to more buyers.  Most homeowners settle into their cozy homes and forget all about trends and what’s hot in the market, and so it often comes as a shock when its time to sell and they have fallen behind the times in either amenities or style.

Want to know what’s in style with today’s home buying crowd?  Pick up a Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware catalog and that will give you a quick lesson on color palates and designs that are “in.”  Of course, the lower you price your home, the further you can stray from current trends and still capture a buyer.  But assuming you are like most of my clients, it’s sometimes easier to inventory what’s “out.” As realtors, this is a difficult message to share with your clients – the message is not that you do not have a lovely home.  But in selling homes, one must first accept that you are leaving that home and then seek to minimize potential buyer objections while maximizing the “wow” factor.

With that in mind, here is my 2014 short list of the “gotta gos” – if you have these in your home, you are well advised to invest to sell:  brass anything (particularly lights, knobs & plumbing fixtures), non-neutral carpeting, shag carpeting, wallpaper (unless applied sparingly and in the last 5 years), bold paint colors (except used sparingly), stained woodwork (except in dens), paneling, dated lighting fixtures, non-neutral bathroom tiles and tubs, wooden toilet seats, linoleum flooring (except in lower price brackets) and formica countertops (except in lower price points).

Looking for inspiration?  It’s your lucky day!  The Sewickley House Tour is just two weeks away.  Its theme this year is Your Dream Home Tour – for just $35 you can tour seven amazing homes on Friday, May 2nd, Saturday, May 3rd, or both (ticket is good for both days) and be inspired by the unique vision of each of these seven homeowners!  And all proceeds benefit children’s causes in Western Pennsylvania! Tickets can be purchased in Sewickley at the library, Dollar Bank, Sewickley BMW, Penguin Bookshop and Jewel Thief.  Don’t wait! Quantities are limited! And while none of these seven homes are for sale, they will surely inspire you to go home and recreate your dream home, or start your search to buy a new one!

Getting Ready for Spring, Part IV

For the past month I have been discussing the importance of readying your home for the spring market. Some of you may have had your calculator in hand all the while and be wondering whether the prep is worth the hassle, never mind the cost. Only you can be the judge of that, but perhaps this article will sway your opinion.

This week one of my listings sold for 100% of asking price, driving in an all-time high for its neighborhood. The seller had taken the time to make their home magazine perfect. Each room was beautifully staged. The entire home was de-cluttered and reasonably depersonalized. There was no wallpaper. There was no colored wall-to-wall carpeting. The bathrooms and kitchen were all nicely updated. Paint colors were all in a current palate. The seller had repainted areas of high wear and tear. Nothing looked tired or worn. The yard was perfectly groomed at all times. All lights were always on and nice music playing. The seller took the time to set the stage for success and their efforts paid off in spades. Not every home will sell for 100% of asking price, but taking the time to prepare the home for market before the first buyer walks through the door, and pricing carefully and according to where similar homes have sold (and not necessarily where current listings are priced — there may be a reason those have not sold) will significantly increase the likelihood that when you receive an offer it will be close to your asking price!

Our spring market has sprung and despite recent introductions, our inventory is at an all time low. Buyers are arriving in what often seems like droves and homes are selling. Interest rates, surprisingly, are still very low, making homes more affordable than ever. Multiple bids are coming in on many homes. If you have considered selling your home, now is the time to call in a professional who can guide you as to prepare your home for a successful sale — an experienced home stager can do this or an agent such as myself who has success at knowing what it takes to satisfy a current buyer’s expectations for condition. Prepare a to do list, enlist affordable service providers to assist you in your prep (be careful what you take on yourself — savvy buyers can easily tell what was a slap-dash effort on a seller’s part), and list your home out of the gate in a condition that will get it sold, and for top dollar! Most of the sellers I have worked with would vote yes — perfect is entirely worth it!

Getting Ready for Spring Part III

If you’ve been reading my articles the past few weeks, and if you have been implementing my advice, you may be tiring of the work it takes to ready your home for sale.  You are likely asking, “Is all of this really necessary?  Can’t we just stick a sign in the yard and my home on the internet and get it sold?”  You may also wonder if I really know what I am writing about and be tempted to list your home with an agent who will just gloss over all these details and take your house straight to market.

So how important is attention to details?  With the growing popularity of HGTV, attention to detail in prepping your home before you list is, in fact, critical.  If you are planning to be a home seller, pay careful attention and what you will see is that, thanks to HGTV, buyers have figured out that they can be very picky.  Buyers are seeking “perfect” homes and are willing to pay for them.  When they find perceived deficiencies, they tend to discount heavily for them if they even make an offer at all.  If your goal it to sell your home in a reasonable amount of time and at a reasonable price, it is well worth your while to work toward achieving the HGTV standard.

For the past two weeks I discussed the fine points of what makes kitchens and bathrooms sing on resale.  Today I will cover some of the more general points.  It is wise to remove all wallpaper from your home, particularly is it is more than a couple years old.  Wallpaper can add a great sense of style but it is very personal and most buyers look at buying someone else’s wallpaper as similar to wearing someone else’s wedding dress – it is unlikely to fit  and they just don’t want to do it!  Replace any non-neutral wall-to-wall carpeting with neutral carpeting.  Colored wall-to-wall carpeting is a thing of the past and quickly dates a home.  Check out your lighting fixtures and replace any clearly older or dated ones – the “big box stores” have a terrific selection of inexpensive lighting and nothing updates a home faster than new lights in hallways, foyers and at the front door.  Be sure all of your light bulbs are working – Pittsburgh can be very gray  – you want all the light you can get! Clean fingerprints from switch plates and up the sides of the staircase as well as around door handles.  Carefully vacuum all heating vents (you’d be surprised how dirty they can look) as well as the grills on bathroom exhaust fans and the bottoms of refrigerators.  Touch-up paint nicked woodwork and scuffed trim.  Clean out your closets so that it appears that you have plenty of storage space!  For more ideas on how to get your personal home in the best shape for sale, please feel free to give me a call.

Happy Boxing Day

Today is Boxing Day, celebrated throughout the world for centuries, although customs have changed over the years.  In many countries, it is a day off for workers, when they receive a gift from their boss or employer known as a “Christmas Box.”  In our country, Boxing Day is a big shopping day for after Christmas sales.  It’s a great day to spend all of the gift certificates you received over the holidays!

In real estate, why not make Boxing Day a great day to pack your boxes?  The spring market is sure to begin shortly, and if you are considering a move, there is no better day to head out to the UHaul store and pick up a stack of boxes and start the clean-out!
For those of you who have read my article over the years, you know how important staging a home is.  A staged home is one that will sell faster and for more money.  Period.  If you are considering a move, start with staging.  The most important thing you can do to stage your home is to declutter.  Professional home stagers estimate that approximately 50% of a home’s contents need to be removed in staging to make a home look bigger and more attractive.  It’s nothing personal – if you are moving, you are now in the business of selling a home.  Get out those boxes and start packing (you can unpack it all again once you are in your new home, with a successful sale behind you!)  Pack up anything you can live without for the short term.

Other important staging tips include

  • Position furniture in furniture groups in the center of the room instead of against the walls – rooms will look bigger.
  • Borrow furniture and decorative objectives from other rooms if needed to fill out the décor in a more empty room – remember furniture can be moved around as needed.
  • Great lighting is important for a room to feel inviting. Allow 50 watts per 50 square feet in the room.  Increase bulb wattage or add fixtures as needed.
  • Unify color – if you need to repaint, try to paint adjoining rooms with the same color – the space will appear larger.
  • Neutralize paint tones (which may include warm neutrals) to make your home feel fresh and updated.
  • Unfinished projects can turn off prospective buyers – be sure you tie up all the loose ends.

So much to do with the spring market upon us, but today is certainly a good day to start with the boxing!

Design Trends

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 form 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.

If you are looking for some bang from your bucks, keep in mind that design has historically flowed downhill in real estate.  The latest and greatest usually starts in the luxury home market and trickles down to other market segments as more affordable versions become available.  You as a homeowner can create a more long-lasting design statement in your home by considering the most recent trends in luxury homes – imitating those trends will make your home feel “current” longer (and drive in a higher prices should you choose to sell it).

According to Trulia Trends, marble baths, marble floors, floor to ceiling windows, wine rooms, log-burning fireplaces, outdoor kitchens and home gyms are all on their way up.  If you are considering a home improvement project, you should keep these things in mind when choosing your amenities.  If you can work in a couple of trends seen in luxury home magazines it will make your home all the more exciting to potential buyers, driving in a higher price and a faster sale.

The Meaning of Neutral

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 harvest beige 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 litterboxes 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 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!

Selling Your Signature Home

 Sewickley is loaded with fine homes.  We are fortunate to have such a treasure trove of them – offering so many different housing opportunities for their owners.  You may own a Heights estate on several acres.  You may own an architectural masterpiece in the heart of the Village.  Maybe a new home offering every amenity a buyer could possibly desire.  While the homes are all very unique, selling them requires some attention to a common set of guidelines in order to realize your highest bottom line.

First and foremost it is important to keep your buyer in mind.  Buyers with big wallets also tend to be discerning and demanding.  You absolutely must present your home as perfectly as possible if you want it to sell and for a good price.  Condition is key.  It is well worth your time and investment to bring in a handyman to address all condition concerns.  Its not ok to have molding caulk in the shower, cracked floor tiles, stained, worn or bunching carpeting, mismatched or worn out appliances… If you wouldn’t accept these things in your new home, you need to assume your buyer will not accept them from you.  Condition is a continuous process.  As you get feedback, buyer concerns may become evident and it is important that you address them at that time.

These same buyers also tend to be quite picky about how a home looks.  It’s important to bring in a professional home stager before you list and to make all recommended changes.  Home stagers work with hundreds of sellers each year – they know what sells and what doesn’t.  You know the drill by now – colored carpeting must be neutralized, as must strong wall colors.  Wallpaper must be stripped.  Clutter must be stored off site.  You are selling your home – it will soon no longer be yours and your personal touches can be incorporated into your new home – let them go for now so that your home appeals to a wider range of buyers.

Finally, with Signature homes, it is important to develop a customized strategic plan for introducing your home to the market.  While anyone can stick a for sale sign in your yard, it is critical to have a fully developed, customized plan in place in order to maximize your return on investment before you list your home  While such a plan would take weeks to spell out here, should you want to know how to sell your Signature home with a maximum return, feel free to give me a call!

Selling a Used Car… It’s Not Much Different than Selling a Home

Most of us have had a car to replace on occasion during our lives.  When its time to dispose of your old car, you know that you will always get more money if you take the time to clean the car out and repair your wear and tear before you take it in to the dealer.  Kelly’s Blue Book will always yield a higher payment to you if the car is found to be in “excellent” condition than if it is only “fair,” and that can mean thousands of dollars (perhaps as much as 20%) to you on your return.  And yet, what seems so logical to most of us when it comes to our cars often seems so foreign to many when it comes to a home!

Put the shoe on the other foot and imagine yourself buying a used car.  Will you be likely to consider, never mind pay as much for, the one that has not been reconditioned as compared to the one the dealer has spruced up for you?  Are you the car buyer who will say “its ok – there are some dings and dents and a few tears in the leather, but I’ll still buy it and pay top dollar as well?”  Likely not.  Would a dealer who actually wants to sell you a car even show you the one that hasn’t been spruced up?  Likely not.

What is true for cars is also true for homes.  Sellers who want to sell need to think about their home as if it were a car for just a few minutes!  If you wanted a good trade in value for your car, you would take the time to get your care in shape and you should do the same with your home.  You have lived in and enjoyed your home.  During that time you have “used” the home and that use will likely be evident to a fresh pair of eyes.  Things like scuffed baseboards, caulking around doors and windows, scratched floors, damaged or stained carpets, worn cabinetry all make a home feel tired and used.  If you want a buyer to be receptive to your home and pay top dollar, than you need to approach the entire home with a fine toothed comb and repair any wear and tear you have brought to the home.  Freshen paint to remove scrapes and smudges, replace stained or worn carpets, touch-up nicked cabinetry.  Make you house new again and it will reward you just like the car dealer does when you trade in your (newly) shiny car!

One last thing…don’t assume you can make the corrections later if the market isn’t fooled into paying top dollar for your not-quite-ready home.  Just like the car dealer knows he has little chance of selling that used car that hasn’t been prepped, your agent knows and should advise you that unless what you are selling is a rare commodity at a bargain price, failure to prep means failure to sell.

Sellers Need to Sell

We are in the hottest market we have seen in a long time. If you are thinking of selling, there is simply no better time than now. But even in a hot market, it is important to remember that a home seller is not much different than a seller of any other product —  it is the sellers job to sell. We agents are here to partner in that sale by marketing what you have to sell and negotiating the terms of that sale, but in the end, it is up to the seller to actually sell.

 This may surprise some of you — many people think it is the realtors job to sell. But just like any other product, the owner of the product must actually be in sell mode. What does that mean to you? First, it involves a mindset switch. Buyers are rarely sitting on sidelines begging you to own your home. Instead, it is your job to convince them that they want to buy your home. It is not much different than Nike selling you their sneakers — they need to convince you that you want to choose their sneakers over all other available choices, and sometimes they need to convince you that you need a new pair of sneakers to begin with. The same is true for houses–  by how you present your home and respond to offers, you must convince buyers that they should choose you, and maybe even that they want to move at all.

 How is this done? It is not done by protracted and difficult negotiations. When a buyer likes your home enough to write an offer, it is very important to respond as quickly as possible to keep the momentum going and to seem as much like a team player as possible in the negotiations. This can be hard to do —  in an effort to help you understand their view of the market, a buyer may present some information that you disagree with or that irritates you. It is critical not to take this personally, but to stay calm and keep negotiating. Remember, it is your job to sell to convince them that their viewpoint is flawed. This is not done by digging your heels in. Rather, you should work with your agent to create a detailed value analysis to help the buyer understand the value that you are selling.

 It is also not done by digging your heels in about condition. Just like you wouldnt find it appealing to buy a pair of sneakers with holes in the soles, if your home has some condition issues, it will be harder to sell. Do your very best to address condition issues before you list.  Again, sneakers that look to be in good shape are going to be the first pair off the shelf. If things come up on the inspection that are a concern to your buyer, its better to be responsive to that buyer rather than putting your sneakers back on the shelf and waiting for another buyer. If you keep in mind that you are the one who is doing the selling, it will go a long way toward getting the job done!

A Master Plan

Our spring/summer market exceeded all expectations this year.  Our inventory remains low and the number of homes selling have increased dramatically – all good news for home sellers.  If you have been sitting on the sidelines thinking about selling, as the fall approaches, it is an excellent time to get your home on the market.  We have fewer homes enter the market in the fall, meaning less competition for you.  However, even in a strong market with low inventory, it is important to go into the market with a master plan and not just throw a sign in the yard and hope for the best.  A successful sale starts with a master plan and a partnership between agent and homeowner.  We must partner together to get your home sold.  A great listing agent works hard to market your home, but only you must supply the highly saleable product.  So what ‘s your role in the plan?

First, start packing right away.  Your plan is to move and your treasures will all need to get boxed up anyhow.  Move them to a pod or an off-site storage facility – no need to raise objections from buyers if there appears to be inadequate storage space.

Have your home pre-inspected and repair what is uncovered as deficient by the inspector.  This will impress a buyer that you have taken the time to make sure the home is in good condition for them.

Bring in a staging expert to put the finishing touches in place – you only get one chance to make a first impression – make it a good one!

Finally, listen to feedback, from both agents and buyers, and act on it..   Buyers generally will not buy projects, unless of course you want to fire sell your home.  So if any objections have been raised (wallpaper, paint colors, old roof, overgrown landscaping, too much clutter, dated décor), you must deal with them if you want your home to sell.

Should You Pre-Inspect?

Dear Kathe,

Friends of mine just had the sale of their home fall through because of a home inspection. How can that be prevented?

 Yes – sellers should have their home pre-inspected before listing to prevent these kinds of issues! Finding a buyer and agreeing on a purchase price is only one small component of a real estate transaction and yet it is often all that sellers focus on.  What happens between then and closing, however, is often the more difficult part of the process.  Issues with a home uncovered on an inspection often cost a seller thousands in unexpected repairs and when sometimes even result in a terminated transaction.  Inspectors are incredibly thorough (sometimes even finding problems that aren’t problems) and so every home seller should anticipate that the home inspector will find deficiencies and that the buyer will expect correction.

All home sellers should seriously consider having their homes pre-inspected.  For as little as $250 – $500 for a basic pre-inspection you will quickly have an insiders view of how a buyer’s inspector will assess your home.  Use the inspection as a maintenance check list – find a handyman to come in and fix all of the little things so that they don’t come up again on a buyer’s inspection.  If there are larger items that you do not have the ability to repair, such as a roof nearing the end of its useful life, get an estimate or two for the repair or replacement.  Note the issue on your disclosure and include a copy of the estimate.  This should prevent you from having to credit the buyer for the repair later – buyers are supposed to review the disclosure and take any disclosed items into account in making their offer to you.

Of course, if your inspection is good or just has a lot of little items that a handyman can fix, attach the handyman’s receipt showing the repair provide a copy of the inspection in the house for buyers to see with a note indicating that the home has been pre-inspected and repaired and that they buyer can buy with confidence knowing that they are buying a house in great shape!  In a town full of older and aging homes, this will really help your marketing!

So before you list your home – consider a pre-inspection.  It will give buyers the confidence they need to move ahead with a purchase, may combat concerns that there are likely problems that would lower their initial offer to you, and will hopefully result in a smooth transaction once you do have your home under agreement.

The Trail to a Sale, Part II

Last week I talked about how hot our spring market has been.  To take advantage of this market, sellers must do their part in getting a home sold.   While we are in a hot market, gone are the days when you can get away with sticking a for sale sign in the yard, a lock box on the house and watching the offers roll in.  Too much HGTV!  Buyers expect every home to look like it could be in a magazine and sellers who take the time to meet these expectations fare exceptionally well.  Last week I talked about the exterior of the home, which is critical if a buyer is even going to consider the home.  Once in the door though, the interior must present equally as well.

Getting the interior of your home ready for a buyer can be a real challenge for a seller who has lived in and loved their home for years.  I was once criticized for wanting my listings to be “perfect,” but let me ask you – if you could spend $5,000 and make $25,000 more on your home sale, was that a worthwhile use of your time and resources?  Of course, home sellers never know what they might have gotten if they had failed to make the recommended improvements.  And those who chose not to do the hard work will never know what they might have gotten had they improved their home.  So what do you do?  You need the advice of an experienced agent who knows exactly which improvements will pay for themselves. You also need to hire an experienced home stager who can help you to best present what you do have.  And finally, once you engage these professionals, as painful as it may be, you actually need to take their advice.

I personally learned this lesson the hard way.  I marketed my own home in 2008 for 18 months.  I was a big fan of color and that was obvious in my home.  My home finally sold one month after every wall inside had been repainted a warm neutral color and I had it professionally staged, including a furniture and accessories package.  In the end, the sale was well worth the effort!

Where to start?  With the wallpaper!  A Pittsburgh favorite in years past, most buyers have an extremely negative reaction to wallpaper – it is so personal that, no matter what the designer brand name, it is like asking someone to wear your wedding dress.  It needs to come down.  Paint can be in a warm neutral color tone (white is not necessarily a good choice) but should not be “loud.”  Nick knacks need to be packed up and stored, ready to move to your new home.  Windows may show better without drapes.  Kitchens and baths may need “freshening” and if you have a lot of furniture, some of it may need to find a temporary home in a storage facility to open up the rooms.

Great condition sells homes.   Feel free to call me and we can develop a strategy now for making a strong introduction into the market!