The Value of a Deep Clean

The Value of a Deep Clean

Do we really have to have our home professionally deep cleaned before putting it on the market?

The short answer is yes, but here is why! When we live in our homes, we don’t see the dirt and the grime build up.  Even if you have your home cleaned every week, it is impossible for a weekly cleaning to keep up with the little things.  And when you want to sell your home, to achieve top dollar, it is important that your home sparkles at the highest possible level.  We are no longer in a market where buyers are happy to get any house.  We have moved back to a more traditional market and that means that sellers must take the time and incur the expense of a deep cleaning to make sure your home is squeaky clean and showing its very best.

Deep cleans are expensive and when done properly take many days of work.  It is unlikely that your weekly housekeeper (if you have one) is going to have the time to clean at this level.  Should you choose to take on the task yourself, you will soon see why deep cleans are costly and time consuming. So what is involved?  In every room of your home, every surface must be thoroughly cleaned.  Light switches and plugs should have all grime completely removed and restored to new, all vent covers (heating, ceiling fans, appliances) must be removed and washed (some may need to be repainted), all lighting fixtures must be carefully cleaned (including removing any glass bowls to clean inside) and should sparkle, all cabinets and drawers should be cleaned inside and out, windows should be washed inside and out including screens and tracks, carpets should be steam cleaned, shower grout needs to be cleaned, mineral build-up should be removed from shower/bath glass and all plumbing fixtures (try CLR and a scrub brush, or Stanley Steamer if the deposits wont budge), fireplaces need to be swept out and scrubbed down (if you burn wood in them, call a chimney sweep for a professional cleaning).  All wood work needs to be washed down or repainted as needed to look fresh.  Any smudging on walls needs to be cleaned or painted away.

Outside your home be sure that all doors are clean and fresh, that your porch/deck is clean (power wash if needed), that all lighting fixtures sparkle and that all patios and walkways are freshly power washed.

You may of course find it helpful to employ additional service providers, such as a power washer, carpet cleaner and window washer to get the job done right! It’s a big task cleaning up after years of enjoying a home, but it will absolutely pay dividends when you go to sell. 

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

    Timeless Updates

    We aren’t ready to move but want to update our home – what are the best choices for paint colors and flooring changes, assuming we may want to move in the next few years?

    New paint colors must harmonize with the rest of your home, unless you plan to repaint the entire interior of your home, so any suggestions need to be taken in the context of what else is going on inside your home. My best suggestion for a currently fairly timeless paint color is Benjamin Moore’s Edgecomb Gray. This color blends with virtually every shade of white that might be on your trim and nearly every color flooring that might be in your home.  It is really more of a greige than a gray and, like a chameleon, changes color a bit depending on what is in the space and what kind of light is filtering in through the windows.  However, if your home is a palette if golds, for example, this color might not be the right choice!  Trending now is white on white (with trim and walls painted the same or nearly the same shade of white), but this is a design style that is best incorporated throughout the entire home, and not just a singular room.  If you have wallpaper in your space, then it’s a very good investment to have it removed (do not paint over it, no matter what the painter tells you) and painted in a color that coordinates with your design aesthetic. Wallpaper overall remains a difficult sell.

    As to flooring, real wood floors remain the best investment you can make. They are timeless and easy to refinish if they become worn or if the buyer prefers a different color. I highly recommend choosing a medium tone brown, not too yellow, red or dark and preferably in ¾” thickness.  If engineered wood floors are what your budget requires, choose one that the manufacturer indicates can be refinished at least once, and keep a few extra pieces on hand in case you damage any through normal wear and tear. Bamboo is another great option and there are on-line suppliers that offer a variety of shades in ¾” planks – it is very resilient, environmentally friendly and installed can look like hardwood. I do not recommend that you choose the latest trend, “LVL” (luxury vinyl flooring), for anything beyond the basement level of your home. These are plastic floors, and if your home will likely sell for over $500,000, these floors will not be appreciated on the main or upper levels. Finally, carpet in a neutral tone plush (no berber, no mixed colors) is acceptable as long as they are clean and stain free.  If you stain them during the remaining time in your home, you would need to replace them again before you sell your home.

    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

      A Kitchen Re-Do with ROI

      We are thinking of remodeling our kitchen. Any advice for us if we want to be making good choices for resale?

      As much as we would all like to be creative, when it comes to the “hardscapes” of your home – the things that are difficult to change – if resale is even a remote possibility for you, or if you want to be sure to get a high return on your investment (most people expect 100% which is not always realistic), its important to make “mainstream” choices that the buying public as a whole loves!  How do you figure that out?  Pay attention to what sells quickly in our market.  Watch some HGTV.  Check out Pinterest! Here are some easy rules to follow!

      The most popular cabinet color by far is white! Yes, I know, everyone has been saying for the past two decades that white is on its way out, and that is just not true!  Can you choose natural woods?  Sure. Will it generate the same excitement on resale?  It will not.  Yes, it will resell, but probably not as fast or for as much as white.  Colored cabinets?  If you pick the right (think trendy) color and are selling soon, that can work well.  But if you stay in your home for 10 more years, the color you chose may no longer be in vogue and may be a challenge to resell.

      The most popular flooring in a kitchen is hardwood.  Can you choose tile?  Yes, but it will feel dated more quickly, so choose carefully.  Bamboo, cork and upscale vinyls are far less popular but can be good choices, depending on the price point.

      Countertops?  Either granite or quartz are the most popular choices – either will sell well, but choose the color carefully.  Right now lighter color palates are in style for countertops.  Avoid Formica unless the property is lower end.

      Appliances?  Choose stainless.  Brand is less important.  It is the look that is key.

      Lighting? Here is where you can show some of your personal style.  Buy economically but not cheap.  Lights are very easy to change, so if styles change, it’s a very simple way to give your kitchen a facelift before you sell.  The same is true for paint, although wallpaper should be avoided.  Yes, the design industry claims wallpaper is back in style, but as far as buyers are concerned, nothing has changed!

      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

        Selling It Empty

        We plan to move out of our home before we put it on the market.  Any thoughts on selling an empty home?

        Some homes definitely sell more readily vacant – my last home was one of them – and so I definitely do not dissuade sellers from emptying their homes before selling them, but there are some important tips to keep in mind! 

        If you are emptying your home, then empty it.  Do not leave behind the items you don’t want.  Do not leave behind soaps, shampoos, chemicals, lawn fertilizers… Empty is empty.  So please plan on a complete clean out.  If you need help finding people to help dispose of items, give me a call!

        It is critical to be sure that once your home is empty, you bring in a handyman to make sure that everything is in good order.  Holes should be patched and touch-up painted, scuffs eliminated, carpets and windows cleaned, all lightbulbs working … When there is no furniture to look at, the condition of the home is all the more important.

        Make sure you have a plan for upkeep of your empty home.  The yard must be regularly maintained, including weeding, leaf and snow removal.  The interior tends to be easier to keep up, but do be sure you arrange for a periodic quick clean.  It is also a good idea to hire a neighbor or friend to check your home regularly to make sure that there has been no crisis at your home (such as a broken water pipe).

        Be sure to keep your home properly conditioned (warm enough in the winter and cool enough in the summer). I have actually seen mold grow inside a home when sellers do not keep the air conditioning running in warm weather in their vacant homes – this will cost far more to clean up than the air conditioning bill!  Finally, consider putting lights on timers so when buyers drive by in the evening, your home does not appear dark and unloved!

        Selling a vacant home is not a bad thing, but it is important that you follow these tips to be sure your home is presenting well to prospective buyers!

        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

          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. Whatever the source of odors, remove them — your home should be odor free.

          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!

          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

            Financing Your Retirement Home

            We are moving toward retiring and downsizing.  Is there anything we should be thinking about as we move toward this goal?

            One very important thing for you to consider is how you plan to pay for your retirement home. If you are thinking you want to finance your home with a mortgage, you are going to need an income stream that the lender can use to qualify you for the loan.  Simply having a large bank account is not enough – the lender will need to see that your assets are generating enough income to pay for the mortgage and associated home ownership costs.  You may not have your assets invested in income producing investments and may instead be invested in appreciating assets.  Lenders will not consider capital gains when qualifying you for a mortgage, although they will generally look at your social security income if you are receiving that.  Many buyers are surprised by this issue, and find themselves retired with no regular income stream and unable (probably for the first time ever) to get a mortgage.

            You do have options of course!  You could plan your downsize move BEFORE you retire so that you still have your employment income stream that can be used to qualify for a mortgage.  It is very important that you have not announced your retirement before purchasing the retirement home, however.  The lender will verify your continued employment right up to your closing date, and if they hear from your employer that you are retiring, you may lose your loan.

            You could also plan to pay cash for your retirement home.  If you plan to go this route, you will want to make sure you have saved sufficient funds.  If you are planning to use your equity in your current home to buy your retirement home, you will need to consider how to bridge the gap between selling your existing home and buying the next one – there are many options available to you.  If you are planning a retirement and a move, please reach out to me in advance – I can help you strategize for a successful transition on all fronts.

            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 Sell or Not to Sell

              We are thinking about selling the home we have lived in for 25 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.

              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!

              A home’s value is set by the market.  Value is always determined by what a buyer is willing to pay for your home.  Many factors come into play in setting that value.  Market value reflects quantitative factors such as:  # bedrooms, # bathrooms, # garages, placement of garages (attached or integral), lot configuration (large and functional back yard?  Cliff lot?), location of the home generally, age of roof, age of mechanicals.  Market value also reflects more qualitative items:  how updated is your home, and is it all new, or just refreshed?  What is the floorplan (open concept?) What are your wall colors?  There is always a range that value will land in, which we call the range of reasonable.  There is no ONE price at which a home will sell.  If there are many buyers seeking a home like yours, it will sell at the top of the range of reasonable.  If there are not, it will take longer to sell and may sell a bit lower in the range.  What the market does not consider in setting a value of a home is what you need from the home.  In 2008, many homeowners had used their homes as ATMs and withdrawn large sums of money for educations, vacations and cars.  When the market softened, there was not enough equity for them to be able to sell their homes and not be in a short sale situation. This fact, that a homeowner over-extended themselves on mortgages, is not the least bit relevant to market value.  The market is also not going to consider what you plan to do next.  If you plan to move to Los Angeles to be closer to family and are finding that the Pittsburgh market is not going to yield you enough to be able to buy in L.A., you will need to turn to other investments to make up any difference.

              We are in a very robust market – your home is far more likely to garner more now – whatever that may be – than it could have in the past.   Forecasters are also suggesting that values will soften by year end.  My crystal ball is out for service, but what I can tell you is that every hot market eventually softens.  Waiting out the market so that you can get a price that the market is unprepared to deliver at this time may have you waiting many, many years, and during that time you may need to invest even more in your home in order to deliver to the market what it needs in order to deliver an acceptable sale to you. 

              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

                Candid Camera

                We recently viewed a home that is on the market, only to find out the seller was taping the showing – we were stunned. Is this common?

                Welcome to the age of cheap technology!  If you are viewing a home, whether at an open house to at a private showing, these days you must assume that you are being filmed.  There are many systems that are available, from ring to nest to cameras installed as part of a home security system.  They are fairly inexpensive, are often not recognizable as cameras and frequently record sound as well as video.  Sellers typically install them as part of a home security or doorbell system – they are not usually installed just to spy on buyers and their agents.  Typically, homeowners have security in mind when they install these systems.  But when their home goes on the market, these systems do provide a handy way to see firsthand what people are saying about their home.  So yes, it has become reasonably commonplace to be filmed at a minimum around the doors of a home, but often inside as well. The owners can usually access these videos in live time on their tablet or phone, and they are also recorded for later review.

                Knowing this, I would suggest that you simply revert to old-fashioned good manners when viewing homes.  Don’t say anything near or in someone else’s home that you wouldn’t want to see on YouTube!  Don’t criticize the seller’s décor choices or the condition of the home – it may come back to haunt you if, after reviewing the inventory, you decide that it was in fact the best option for you, only to find out that you unintentionally offended the sellers.  Save all commentary for when you are back in the car with your agent.

                If you are viewing the home with children, be mindful of their behavior as well.  Keep them with you at all times. Be sure that they are not running or jumping inside of someone else’s home or touching their things. Have a hard time managing high energy children at an open house or showing?  Schedule a babysitter so that you can view the home without having to worry about monitoring their every move.  And in these pandemic times, it is best to wear a mask – if the seller requests masks, your agent can be charged with an ethical violation if you don’t wear one – even if you are fully vaxxed! In this day of minimal privacy and cheap technology, the best approach is to assume you could very well be on Candid Camera!

                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

                  Can you Take it With You?

                  Our home went under agreement quickly!  When we moved in we installed expensive hardware that we really love (door knobs, switch plate covers, towel rods, etc.). We would like to take it with us.  Can we substitute other items before we close?

                  Absolutely not! First of all, with a quick sale you likely got a high price or your home and when a buyer is paying top dollar, it is not appropriate to start pulling things out of your home!  Additionally, any item that is affixed to your home with a screw, nail, etc. must convey with your home unless you have specifically excluded it from your agreement of sale.  Unless you raise this question during negotiations and your buyer agreed prior to signing the agreement, the items must remain with your home.

                   

                  About 20 years ago I represented a buyer of a home that was remodeled with high-end Restoration Hardware items – cabinet knobs, towel bars… After we agreed on a price but before closing, we returned to the home to discover that the sellers had removed the expensive Restoration Hardware items and installed baseline builder items from Lowes.  This was not what my client had seen when they toured the home and not what they had agreed to purchase.  The seller ended up providing a $7000 reduction in the purchase price to make up for the items that had been switched.  I’m not sure if the buyer ever replaced the items – what is relevant was that the removal of the high end items made the home less valuable.

                  If you find yourself heading toward a closing and you are just realizing that there is something affixed to your home that has sentimental value that you forgot to exclude, you can certainly ask your buyer if they would agree to a substitution – most buyers will allow removal of a sentimental item if you replace it with a like value item.  Absent buyer consent or upfront exclusion, all affixed items must stay.  Items that are occasionally inappropriately removed include:  appliances, doorknobs, switch covers, towel bars, curtain rods, mailboxes, attached shelving and TV wall mount brackets.  Mirrors that are attached must stay. Those hanging on hooks can be removed if you have to have them (although most buyers do expect them to remain).

                  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

                    What to Do With “Stuff”

                    We would like to start cleaning out our home but don’t know what to do with all of our stuff – any ideas?

                    The first thing you need to assess before you begin your clean out is whether you have any collectibles – anything of real value.  Generally speaking, this does not include your furniture, unless you have some very high-end antique pieces.  Used furniture is very hard to rehome unless it is a trendier Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, West Elm or Arhaus piece. Yes, we all have a few of those solid mahogany pieces, such as the Chippendale dining room chairs, and it’s just not what people are looking for these days. If you have a trendier brand name, you may be able to get some money for it but if not, you will probably be lucky to give the pieces away or resell them at a very small profit.

                    To the extent that you have high value items, if they are extremely high value, then there are a few auction houses that would handle that for you and get you the top dollar possible with their online auctions.

                    Assuming you don’t have any very high value items, the next decision you will want to make is how much effort you want to put into selling your items. The easiest option is to donate the items to charity. There are many organizations that will come and pick them up at your home (although I have noticed some organizations are charging a pick up fee these days).  Of course, you can always drop the pieces off at the organizations. The Presbyterian Church is also planning to run their Day on the Lawn again this year and have drop off days scheduled throughout the summer.

                    If you were hoping to get some money for your items, then you will need to think about how much effort you want to put into this endeavor. The most cost-effective alternative to sell your own things is to sell them through either craigslist, ebay or Facebook marketplace. However, this does take a time commitment on your part.  If you really do not want to expand any effort, then there are several organizations locally that will pick up your items and auction them online. Typically they will keep 30 to 40% of the proceeds, but that may be worth it to you to not have to “lift a finger.”

                    Finally, if you have items that are just not salable (for example, old car seats) there are also local organizations that will come and haul the items away for a small charge. There is even one local organization which will haul everything away for you and then separate out what is salable (and will sell them for you), donatable (and will donate them for you) and simply trash. If you would like more information on how to connect to any of these organizations, feel free to reach out to me anytime!  Good luck with your clean out!

                    A home’s value is set by the market.  Value is always determined by what a buyer is willing to pay for your home.  Many factors come into play in setting that value.  Market value reflects quantitative factors such as:  # bedrooms, # bathrooms, # garages, placement of garages (attached or integral), lot configuration (large and functional back yard?  Cliff lot?), location of the home generally, age of roof, age of mechanicals.  Market value also reflects more qualitative items:  how updated is your home, and is it all new, or just refreshed?  What is the floorplan (open concept?) What are your wall colors?  There is always a range that value will land in, which we call the range of reasonable.  There is no ONE price at which a home will sell.  If there are many buyers seeking a home like yours, it will sell at the top of the range of reasonable.  If there are not, it will take longer to sell and may sell a bit lower in the range.  What the market does not consider in setting a value of a home is what you need from the home.  In 2008, many homeowners had used their homes as ATMs and withdrawn large sums of money for educations, vacations and cars.  When the market softened, there was not enough equity for them to be able to sell their homes and not be in a short sale situation. This fact, that a homeowner over-extended themselves on mortgages, is not the least bit relevant to market value.  The market is also not going to consider what you plan to do next.  If you plan to move to Los Angeles to be closer to family and are finding that the Pittsburgh market is not going to yield you enough to be able to buy in L.A., you will need to turn to other investments to make up any difference.

                    We are in a very robust market – your home is far more likely to garner more now – whatever that may be – than it could have in the past.   Forecasters are also suggesting that values will soften by year end.  My crystal ball is out for service, but what I can tell you is that every hot market eventually softens.  Waiting out the market so that you can get a price that the market is unprepared to deliver at this time may have you waiting many, many years, and during that time you may need to invest even more in your home in order to deliver to the market what it needs in order to deliver an acceptable sale to you.

                    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

                      What Is Today’s Desired Style?

                      Is there a preferred style that is more desirable to buyers?

                      Six months ago, I would have told you that buyers overwhelming preferred the gray and white aesthetic. You know the look. White as the base color for “hardscapes” like tile, countertops and cabinetry with gray as the primary color (and perhaps a few pops of color reflected in easy to change items such as throw pillows).

                      How times have changed!  Today, the answer is – buyers just want a home, and if the home is well-conditioned, they seem to be looking past style and focusing on whether their baseline needs, such as the number of bathrooms, bedrooms and garages are met. Design aesthetic and color schemes have become much less important in this sellers’ market.

                      The next obvious question then would be does that mean that any home will sell in this market? And the answer is yes, as long as it is properly priced for condition. What we are seeing in this market is some homes are coming on priced as if they were completely remodeled and in perfect condition when they may in fact not be.  Buyers are paying seemingly ridiculous prices for many homes on the market. However, the common thread amongst homes that are being snapped up quickly and achieving market high prices are that they are perfectly conditioned and well remodeled or are priced in line with the condition and updates that they do have.

                      In the end, this is an extremely strong sellers’ market in which sellers are receiving more money for their homes and they would have even six months ago. However, while the prices that are realized may not be a function of the design aesthetic of the home as it perhaps was last year, it is still a function of how recently and fully updated the home is and how pristine the condition is, both mechanically and from a cleanliness perspective.

                      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

                        Prepping To Sell

                        We are hoping to put our home on the market soon.  Any ideas for quick fixes that will help sell it fast? 

                        The easiest and least expensive thing to do when getting your home ready to put on the market is to start packing and decluttering your space. You’re going to have to do this anyhow in order to move and so you might as well get ahead of the game and start before your home goes on the market. Take a few minutes to consider whether you actually want to pay to move the items you are boxing up. If there our items you haven’t used in years (or maybe haven’t even taken out of the box since your last move), this might be a great time to donate them to a local charity. Otherwise, create more space by packing items that do not otherwise add to the “magazine appeal” of your home. If you have room in the basement or garage to make a small neatly piled stack of these boxes, that is OK. If not, or if the stack gets too large, I recommend getting an offsite storage facility. Be sure to put away any particular personal items. These would include religious items, political items and most family pictures.

                        Once you have the cluttered (and be sure to leave a few items for decorative interest – it should not look like a stripped down shell of a home), take the time to do a deep clean of your home.  Even if you have a weekly cleaning, the chances are there are many areas they just don’t have time to clean every week, such as HVAC return air vent covers, bathroom vent fan covers, baseboards, lighting fixtures… Online there are many resources for what not to miss in a deep-clean and this is a great place to start!

                        This time of year, another inexpensive yet wonderful way to increase the appeal of your home is to add annuals to your landscaping. Pots of well-watered, beautiful and colorful flowers go a long way in making a home feel inviting.  Be sure to keep your lawn well mowed, weeds out of your landscaping beds, beds mulched and shrubs nicely trimmed. The outside of your home is visible 24/7 and so it’s important to always keep it looking great. A fresh coat of paint on the front door and surrounding trim is also some thing you will not want to overlook. This is a very simple item to address and yet it is the first thing a buyer sees when they approach your home. It’s very easy for front doors to get tired looking, so take a look at yours and make sure the paint is fresh.

                        These simple and inexpensive steps will go a long way to adding value to your home!

                        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

                          Color Trends 2021

                          We are planning to update the color palette in our home.  What are the “in” colors these days?

                          Gray (and its many shades including greige) have been in-style for so long now that its hard to imagine it ever going out of style.  Gray is still quite popular with buyers – homes painted in a gray/greige and white color palette almost universally fly off the market.  However, the incoming trend is strongly leaning towards the whites.  White comes in so many shades – and even straight out of the can white is quite a nice and refreshing color.  In some cases, white is being combined with an accent wall in a gray tone or other neutral, and this can work quite well.

                          Of course, like any other color, it is critical that you choose the correct shade of white to compliment your trim. It is easy to end up with the walls clashing with the trim if you are not careful! An easy solution is to paint the walls the same color white as your trim!  Don’t let the shades of white fool you – there are so many hues of white, and before you paint be sure to look at the undertones in the white to determine which undertone you prefer – a tiny hint of gray? Pink? Green? Unless you use the white straight out of the can, there will always be an undertone.

                          White is also a very popular base for countertops and tile.  Ideally, they are not pure white – most popular are those that use white as the base color and then include other neutrals such as the grays and browns.

                          Where to start your painting?  Strong colors are not currently where the market is, so it’s best to begin repainting the rooms that are currently wallpapered (also not popular with buyers unless the wallpaper is pretty new and very trendy) and rooms that are painted the strongest colors.  In an ideal world, you will ultimately create an interior aesthetic that, while every room does not need to be the same, the colors blend nicely together.

                          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

                            High-End Must-Haves

                             

                            What are the most popular “must haves” in higher end homes?

                            The pandemic has certainly shifted the most sought after features on a buyer wish list a bit, and it will be interesting to see how this continues to evolve as we achieve higher percentages of full vaccination and start moving back to “normal.”  Right now, pools are at the very top of the wish list for high end buyers.  As people have migrated away from larger social scenes and toward family-only or small group events, pools have skyrocketed in their popularity, which is not typical in climates like ours where pools have such a short season.

                            Other sought-after features in higher end homes include large kitchens. The appliance selection is less critical as long as they are stainless or panel-front.  Commercial grade ranges are always a hit, but if the home has a cooktop and double ovens, that will work as well.  The brands are less important than the look.  White kitchens remain our most popular, but whatever the cabinet color, the trend has definitely swung toward lighter countertops. 

                            A complete wish list would also include a home gym, a home office (two is even better), at least three garage bays (more is better in this case), a large walk-in closet in the owners’ bedroom (two walk-ins are strongly preferred), and a luxury owners bath with large shower, separate free-standing soaking tub and double vanities.  Other popular items include upper level laundry rooms,  lower level movie rooms, wine cellars and covered outdoor patio spaces (and outdoor kitchens and/or fireplaces).  As more boomers enter their retirement years, main level owners’ suites have also become quite popular (and very hard to find in this area).

                            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 Repair or Not To Repair

                              Sometimes it seems like everything is breaking around our house and we get behind on repairs. Isn’t 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 it’s 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 happen to get 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 that you didn’t 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. Don’t 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 didn’t know about and didn’t have a chance to adjust for in making your offer. Again, it’s a fine line buyers also walk in deciding what are fair and appropriate inspection requests of a seller.

                              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

                                Show that Holiday Cheer

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

                                In this incredibly dark time of the year, and even more so in this difficult holiday season as we continue to muddle through this global pandemic, 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.  This year might be the year to embrace an inflatable (maybe a large Santa for example) to bring a little extra levity to the neighborhood! 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 fall, so presentation remains important, even when its cold and snowy outside.

                                Once we start 2021 (and yes, we are all quite eager to put an end to 2020), 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!

                                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

                                  A Proactive Step to Inspections

                                  If there was one thing you would advise us to do to our home as we continue our months “at home,” in this global pandemic, what would that be? 

                                  Whether you are planning to sell your home this coming year or not, the best thing you can do to your home is a home inspection! We all live in our homes but rarely take the time to stop and give them a careful look. Weather beats up the outside of our homes year round. Caulking fails, flashing fails, paint peels and exposes wood to rot. We forget to clean our gutters on a regular basis – gutters and downspouts fill with decaying debris, causing water to back up into our homes and cause mold problems. We forget to have our furnaces serviced and fittings loosen and cause condensate to leak and rust our furnaces. The list goes on and on. Simply living in and not doing a regular check up on your home, you are leaving it open to the possibility of major repair bills later and major depreciation in your investment’s value. A home inspection will give you a to do list of projects to tackle throughout the year to keep your home in great shape and maintain its value!

                                  You may not think about this until you go to sell your home. Some of the wear and tear may be obvious to a buyer, who will typically have checked out every available home, be able to see signs of your “benign neglect,” and pass on yours because of its comparatively negative condition. Even if a buyer doesn’t’ notice at first, there is no doubt that a home inspector will notice! After working hard to get your home sold, you may find yourself in the all too common situation of being presented with a long list of inspection requests that you need to complete in order to hold your deal together, or worse yet, a buyer who backs out of your deal because the house needs “too much work,” leaving you in the position of having to fix everything and start all over again. A homeowner should expect simply keeping a home in acceptable condition will cost them $3,000 – $10,000 a year, depending on the size of the home – some years will be more if its time for a major project, and some less. If you’re not investing this, chances are someday you will when you are faced with a long list of inspection issues.

                                  So while you remain “at home” waiting for the day the vaccine arrives, why not give your home a check up and attend to its needs! Give me a call if you need the names of reputable local inspectors.

                                  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

                                    Home Appliance Advice

                                    We need to replace our appliances.  Any recommendations?

                                    It’s a great time of year to be buying appliances – you may be able to grab a great black Friday deal!  However, do be prepared for a wait – the pandemic has brought on an “appliance shortage” and you may need to wait several months for yours!

                                    When choosing new appliances, my first recommendation is that you choose Energy Star certified appliances for several reasons. First – check with your electric supplier before you shop, but rebates are available from many electric companies when you purchase designated Energy Star appliances. Second – you will save money every month on your electric bills. Third – and most important from my perspective – younger buyers tend to be concerned about energy efficiency and often ask for utility bill information on homes they are considering. Energy efficient appliances are a selling point and will enhance the value of your home (don’t forget to point that out when you list!) As more young buyers enter our buying market (and they are buying across all price ranges), this could be an important differentiator for your home.

                                    I still recommend that you choose stainless appliances. While there are many options out there including some pretty interesting colors, I still see buyers responding most favorably to stainless. Sure, they might be harder to care for (you will need a can of stainless polish in your cleaning cupboard), but the look is still quite appealing and “professional.” There is, however, one circumstance when I do not recommend stainless for replacement appliances. If your kitchen has another color appliance (white or black, for example) I do not recommend replacing only one appliance with stainless. If there is one thing buyers uniformly dislike it is mismatched appliances (unlike color, mixing brands is fine). So if you currently have white appliances and don’t think you will be replacing the other appliances soon, stick with white. Even though white (or black) does not have the same appeal that stainless does, a kitchen with two white (or black) appliances and one stainless is the least appealing of all!

                                    Finally, it is worth noting that it is more the look than the brand that is important to buyers. As much as we all like to think the high-end brands are important to people it’s not what I am seeing on the selling side. If the appliance has a good look, buyers are not stopping to ask what the brand name is! So choose the brand that appeals to you – be it a budget decision or a features decision – and enjoy it while you are still in the home!

                                    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

                                      Visual Aspects

                                      How important do you think it is to have a visual tour as part of marketing a home in today’s home selling environment?

                                      Visual tours are an essential part of every home sale. National Association of Realtor studies show that the majority of all home buyers start their search online, and almost all buyers will ultimately make online shopping a part of their home buying process. So while print media remains an important piece of any marketing campaign, it is critical that your online presence be top notch.

                                      A premier online marketing campaign begins of course with professional quality photos. Wondering how important this really is? Spend an hour perusing the local listings online and check out the difference between the photography of agents who clearly employ a professional and those who do not – those with professional photos really stand out!

                                      Once online, the more time a buyer spends viewing your home, the greater likelihood they will develop an interest in coming to see it. We consider every online viewing the same as an in-person showing – it is the initial visit by which a buyer will give your home a preliminary thumbs up or thumbs down.  A visual tour is an important piece of that online viewing – with a visual tour available, a buyer will spend more time considering your home. I personally narrate all of my visual tours, giving the buyer even more information about your home, which will hopefully peak their interest in coming to take a look. Visual tours are also easily shared with friends and family. These days, buyers are eager to know what their most trusted circle thinks – and having a beautifully presented visual tour will make it easy for them to solicit that support.

                                      The internet is a tremendous asset to home sellers when used effectively. Not only does it allow you to cast a wider net and be seen by exponentially more prospective buyers than ever before, but it allows the buyers to make an initial decision about whether your home is a contender, which saves everyone a lot of time. When done well, a visual tour can help put your home on the list of contenders, and ultimately help make it the chosen one!

                                      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

                                        Holiday Showings


                                        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 a long 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!

                                        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

                                          Setting The Stage to Sell Your Home

                                          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 $400 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 your friends. 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!

                                          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

                                            Fall Selling Tips

                                            Now that fall is here, do you have 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!

                                            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 Ready to Sell

                                              The job of getting our home ready for market seems so overwhelming.  How does anyone get it all done?

                                              You are correct – there is quite a bit to do to get your home ready for market.  We have HGTV to thank for high buyer expectations.  Gone are the days when you could just turn over the keys and have your home sell. Today’s buyers handsomely reward sellers who present perfectly conditioned and staged homes.  But there is a long list of to dos to accomplish to successfully  present a home for resale.  Closets, garages, basements, attics and the rooms we live in must all be decluttered.  Often off-site storage facilities need to be procured or charities contacted to haul away the items we no longer need. Most have a list of minor repairs that need to be attended to.  Sometimes more significant improvements should be undertaken.  Many need to ameliorate the wear and tear our children and pets bring to our homes. The lists can seem endless. And of course there is the staging – its often a good idea to bring in fresh towels and bedding to make your home look particularly fresh, for example – those all need to be shopped for!  If you have read my columns you are likely aware that I offer no-charge consultations to help you develop your to do list. But then what?

                                              I recommend bullet journaling as your attack method for your to do list.  If you aren’t familiar with bullet journaling, check out the how to videos on you tube.  You can use any journal or notebook and it has far greater usefulness than just your to do list for getting your home sold.  I recently listed a home and was so impressed with my seller.  I wondered how they had managed multiple remodeling projects and handled all of their to do lists with ease and efficiency – and then I spotted the bullet journal.  The seller had actually paired the bullet journaling with the Trello app, something I have yet to try, and by which both partners could access the to do lists and progress.  In their bullet journal and in coordination with Trello they had broken each part of their process down into micro tasks that they could effectively check off their lists. The journal allowed them to keep track of all of their conversations, progress and updated to-dos, all in one easy-to-access location.  Gone are all of the sticky notes and important numbers scribed on scraps of paper. As things arose, they were added to the journal and through bullet journaling and its systems of pagination and moving items forward, easily tracked.

                                              So if you are considering a home sale or other large project, consider bullet journaling.  Its easy to use and very effective in helping you tackle the most challenging projects on your list!

                                               

                                              544 Academy, Sewickley

                                              New Listing!!  Prime Village location with 4 finished levels of living space!  Four bedrooms including a brand new 3rd floor bath, plus a great room, on the upper levels.  Remodeled kitchen. New convenient many level laundry. Finished lower level media room with bar.  Incredible new outdoor “living room” with pizza oven.  Incredible large fenced flat yard.  Two car attached garage.  $1,250,000. Please join me for my open house Sunday 2/2, 2-4pm.

                                               

                                              314 Myrtle Lane, Edgeworth

                                              New Listing!! Incredible remodel of this surprisingly spacious Village home with 2.5 new baths and recently remodeled kitchen plus newer roof, flashings, skylights.  Main level features living room, dining room, family room open to kitchen and mudroom/main level laundry plus convenient two-car attached garage. Upstairs are three bedrooms, two baths and a home office.  Beautifully landscaped yard with patio.  $650,000.  Please join me for our open house Sunday 2/2, 11am-1pm.

                                               

                                              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

                                                An Acceptable Level of “Wear & Tear”

                                                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 didn’t 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. Don’t 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 didn’t know about and didn’t 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.

                                                321 Merriman Road, Sewickley Heights

                                                An exceptional opportunity to live on 42 gently rolling acres in very desirable Sewickley Heights.  Beautifully remodeled, this classic historic colonial perfectly blends sophisticated living, modern amenities, and stunning architectural details throughout!  Featuring 6 bedrooms, 7 full and 2 half baths, this home boasts a grand entry hall, large open kitchen and inviting two-story family room, well-cabineted butler’s pantry, two mudrooms, handsome private den, spacious formal rooms, main-level gameroom with three walls of windows, large bedrooms and fabulous master suite with dressing room. Glass doors open to charming patios which spill out onto the sprawling lawns!  Wonderful pool, outdoor kitchen and living space with impressive outdoor fireplace offer ideal venues for warm-weather entertaining and fun!  Four car garage. $4,250,000

                                                 

                                                49 Woodland Road

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

                                                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

                                                  Selling During the Holidays

                                                  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!

                                                  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

                                                    Making a Fresh Statement!

                                                    We’d like to jazz up our house a bit in time for the holidays but would also like to make choices that would help resale when we are ready to sell!  Your thoughts?

                                                    The fastest, easiest way to give your home a fresh, new look is through paint! I like to think of paint colors inside a home as a creamsicle – make sure whatever you choose blends well with what you have, unless you are planning on repainting everything.  And make sure your choices blend well with your existing trim and floor colors.  For example, you do not want to choose cool gray tones for your walls if your trim paint is a creamier shade of white – keep your wall color more in the greige family if that is the case!  Yes, gray and greige are still popular.  If you prefer warmer colors it is possible to choose shades of gray that have warmer undertones. Tired of gray? It is also possible to choose colors in the blue and green families that have undertones of gray, so they still feel current!  Despite what you read, do avoid wallpaper. While I understand it is making a “comeback,” it is very personal and if there is any chance you are moving sooner rather than later, painting an accent wall would be a better choice than wallpaper. If you just have to have wallpaper, choose a small space that is easy to remove if need be, such as a powder room.

                                                    The next easiest and affordable way to create a new look is through your lighting. Check out high end lines such as Visual Comfort or Currey and Company for some of the latest trends and then search for similar styles from more affordable brands on websites such as Wayfair and Lighting Direct. There are so many trendy, affordable fixtures available these days – let your imagination run wild. Do keep in mind that you should try to keep metals consistent throughout your home – so if you have been carrying silver tones through your home, keep new fixtures in silver tones.  If your home is predominantly brass, consider the newer brushed brass look which is quite popular. If you want to save money month after month, be sure to choose LED bulbs to light your fixtures with and dispose of your old incandescent bulbs.

                                                    Depending on your budget, flooring can also make a big impact, which could include refinishing or just buffing and recoating hardwoods, and replacing tired or colored carpeting.  Countertops can be pricey, but they are a relatively easy way to make a fresh statement in your kitchen. Granite, quartz and marble and all equally popular, although the lighter shades are definitely where trends are at these days.  Finally, evaluate your window treatments.  Draperies are reasonably out of vogue unless you are talking about new designer panels. Consider removing drapes you have had up for 10 or more years and letting the beauty of your windows shine through. This is a super-affordable way to give your home a lighter, brighter look. Simple blinds are likely the best choice if you need privacy.

                                                    QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                      The Decluttering Mindset

                                                      We are finding the process of decluttering to get our home ready to sell very challenging – any suggestions on what to do with all this stuff?

                                                      If you’ve lived in your home for a while, it’s easy to accumulate a lot of “stuff,” yet we all know from HGTV and my weekly columns how important it is to present a more minimal home to the market to maximize your price and minimize your days on the market.  And yet, more often than not, cleaning out is easier said than done!

                                                      I’d like to start with a reminder that once you have committed to moving, be it now or in 5 years, its key to adjust your mindset.  Moving all of the “stuff” that you have accumulated to your new home is going to rack up your movers bill, and movers are surprisingly expensive. If you wait until your home is under agreement to address your accumulations, you are going to feel like you are in crisis mode having to address it all in a short time frame!  So start now, and think about what you really are going to want/need in your next residence and then get rid of everything else!  Below are some suggestions on what to do with your stuff. I’ve had to come to the difficult realization that my kids don’t want the basement full of stuff I saved – you may have some of the same processing to do.

                                                      Take advantage of your waste management program and call for the free hazardous waste disposal bags and start getting rid of old paints and other toxic substances.  Most garbage contractors will also haul away at no additional charge one larger item per week, such as an old mattress and box spring set (which counts as one item). You would also be surprised, if you put unwanted items on the curb a full day ahead of trash pickup, how many of them will be gone overnight.  Drop off old, broken or unwanted appliances for recycling at the Appliance Warehouse on the South Side. Left over items from renovation projects can be donated to Construction Junction in Point Breeze.  Clothes can be donated to a myriad of local charities including the Sewickley Academy Clothesline Sale coming up in September.  And all of the household items and furniture you don’t need or want anymore can be donated to the Day on the Lawn Fundraiser at the Presbyterian Church, Sewickley – the last two drop off times this year are this Friday, 8/30, 9am-noon and Saturday, 8/31, 9am-noon!  If you have items of higher value that you don’t want to just give away, there are many options for selling these items – give me a call and I can connect you to valuable outlets for selling your treasures.  If there are items that you want to hold onto them but they are not being incorporated into the home staging, I recommend moving them to an off-property storage facility or using a storage pod that you can load in your driveway and have taken to a storage facility.  I would be happy to chat with you personally about how to orchestrate it all – just give me a call! 412.779.6060

                                                      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

                                                        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!

                                                        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!

                                                          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!

                                                            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.

                                                                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!

                                                                  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!

                                                                    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!

                                                                      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.

                                                                        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!

                                                                         

                                                                          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!

                                                                            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!

                                                                              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

                                                                                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!

                                                                                  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!

                                                                                    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.

                                                                                      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.

                                                                                      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

                                                                                        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 sell