Neutral is the Way to Go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

QUICK SEARCH

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

Getting Top Dollar Might Start with TV

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

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

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

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

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

439 Maple Lane – New Price!

Its time to think summer!  It might be cold outside, but come spring you will love the endless hours of family fun you can have in this incredible pool complex!  Heated pool, hot tub and bar will make your new home party central! A top-to-bottom remodel of this timeless Edgeworth colonial, with gorgeous new white kitchen with granite tops open to stunning dining room.  Hardwood floors unify great room, study, entry hall and mudroom. Up to eight bedrooms, 4.5 baths, 3 car detached garage. Open Sunday 1-4pm. $1,295,000  See more…

 

1432 Beaver Road

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

QUICK SEARCH

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

Maximizing the “WOW” Factor

We are thinking of moving and want to make our home as perfect as possible for the market. How would you describe the “perfect” home that buyers today are looking for?

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 2019 short list of the “gotta gos” – if you have these in your home, you are well advised to invest to sell:  non-neutral carpeting, shag carpeting, wallpaper (unless applied sparingly and in the last 5 years), bold paint colors, 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).

Some wonder if offering the buyer a decorating credit is a good alternative to making changes pre-marketing.  My experience suggests that credits are not effective. Buyers often screen homes online and never have the opportunity to find out about a credit. It’s best to make the updates. Some sellers believe that it is better to leave things the way things are and let the buyer make the changes to suit their tastes. This works, but only if you keep your price down. If you are looking to take advantage of possible market premiums. Not sure where to start? Give me a call and I can help connect you to the resources you need to get your home market ready!

 

 

 

 

 

319 Scaife – Exceptional Sewickley Heights home will take your breath away with its unparalleled beauty. Sited on 5 private acres, it combines the authentic charm of a Sewickley Heights carriage home with modern amenities and stunning design.  Magazine perfect kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances and granite tops opens to a captivating dining room with fireplace and relaxing family room.  French doors open from the gorgeous living room onto the sprawling stone terrace, which spills out effortlessly onto the manicured grounds.  Incredible master suite with three walk-in closets and remarkable custom bath.  Charming enclosed courtyard. Three car attached garage.  $1,975,000   Learn More….

 

63 Thorn Street –  Expertly remodeled, 63 Thorn paints a modern landscape on a charming traditional palate to create an exceptional home for the millennium home buyer.  Sited on a large lot with fully fenced back yard. The expertly designed and crafted kitchen (which is open to the kitchen) is flooded with light from an entire wall of windows that bring the private backyard into this warm and inviting space.  The dining room has also been opened to the back yard through an impressive wall of windows and doors, and spills effortless out onto the new back deck.  The second level is home to a new master suite with large closet and spa-like private bath.  Four additional bedrooms, two full baths and a convenient second floor laundry room complete the upper levels.  $1,495,000  Learn More….

QUICK SEARCH

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

To Update or Not to Update

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

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

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

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

 

100 Buhlmont Drive

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

 

319 Scaife

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

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

Selling During the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1 Ohio River Boulevard

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

 

319 Scaife

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

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

Moving On Before Moving Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

907 Nevin

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

 

 

319 Scaife

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

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

What About the Basement?

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

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

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

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

 

FEATURED HOMES

111 Skymark  – New Price! 

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

 

1432 Beaver Road

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

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

SPRING HOME SELLING TIPS

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

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

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

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

FEATURED HOMES

1432 Beaver Road

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

180 Summerlawn Drive

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

 

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

UN-DECKING THE HALLS

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

 

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

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

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

Enjoy the holidays – stay warm and safe!

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

 

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

 

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

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

DOES IT ALL HAVE TO MATCH?

Do the metals in our home have to match?

If you are building new, then absolutely yes!  You should choose a metal and use it consistently throughout the home.  Typical choices include chrome, nickel, oil rubbed bronze, and most recently, platinum brass.  If you choose a silver tone, its acceptable to mix silver tones, such as brushed nickel and stainless steel.  Your choice should apply to all metal in your home, including lighting, door knobs and hinges, and plumbing fixtures.

If you are renovating a room, it’s important to think about where you see your renovations going in the coming years (before you sell).  If you have silver tones and you really love oil rubbed bronze but only see yourself renovating one bathroom ever, then my vote would be to stick with the silver tones.  But if you plan to ultimately renovate all baths and the kitchen, its fine to make the switch.  It is absolutely imperative, however, that metals match in a room.  If your faucet breaks and all of your bathroom fixtures are brass and you prefer silver, it is not a good idea to replace one faucet with silver and keep the rest of the brass in that bathroom.  Better to replace the broken faucet with brass, or to use the broken faucet as a chance for a mini-update of your bathroom to silver.

I have written before about the general dislike in our market of grandma’s shiny brass.  Little has changed.  If you have a home filled with shiny brass, one possible solution is to replace as much as possible with the new, trendy platinum brass.  This  has the advantage of blending well with any shiny brass you may have left in your home.  Oil rubbed bronze also tends to blend well with shiny brass (but silver does not).  Brass doorknobs and hinges do not necessarily need to be replaced.  As long as the fixtures and lighting have been replaced throughout, buyers don’t tend to notice brass doorknobs and hinges as much.

So ideally, yes, in the perfect scenario, all of your metals should match, helping your home sing one song, which is always well received by buyers.  However, there are acceptable degrees of mismatch.  Call me – I’m happy to come over for a free consultation and help you determine the best way to address the metals in your home!  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

KEEPING YOUR HOME SHOW-READY!!

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

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

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

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

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

FEATURED HOMES

178 Backbone

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

 

102 American Way

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

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

Say Cheese!

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.  Sure its ok to make factual observations, but you should refrain from judging.  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.

In this day of minimal privacy and cheap technology, the best approach is to assume you could very well be on Candid Camera!

FEATURED HOMES:

316 Beaver Street #204

Tired already, just by the thought of raking leaves and shoveling snow?  No-maintenance living can be yours in the absolute heart of Sewickley Village in this stylish 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo with in-unit washer/dryer and 2 underground parking spaces.  Hardwood floors unify the living spaces.  The radiant heated marble tile master bath floor will keep your toes warm on cooler evenings this fall!  Steps from Village shops, restaurants and the theater.  $435,000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1008 Beaver Road

1008 Beaver Road

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

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

For What It’s “Worth”…

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

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

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

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

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

FEATURED HOMES:

7 Harvester Court

7 Harvester Court

 

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

 

 

 

1008 Beaver Road

1008 Beaver Road

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

 

 

 

 

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

Selling During the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selling Your Vacant Home

Dear Kathe:

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

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

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

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

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

Partnering for the Sale

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

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!

The Pace of the Sale

Dear Kathe,

Why do some homes seem to fly off the market and others take years to sell?

Location. Price. Condition. These are the three most important factors that go into how long a home is on the market. Unique attributes and depth of market segment would be fourth and fifth!

Location is really where it all begins. If your home is in an easy to sell location, the market will be far more tolerant of imperfections in other areas, such as wallpaper or a slightly aggressive price. Location is sometimes relative to a particular buyer – their work address may make one part of town more desirable than another, but generally speaking, buyer excitement about properties rises and falls with address.

Condition is also a very important factor in pricing. Homes that look like they are straight from the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog tend to sell more quickly, and tend to bear higher prices than are sometimes warranted. Those that are dated, with older wallpaper and carpeting, for example, tend to sit – unless, of course, they are in a hot location and deeply discounted, in which case our stable of “flippers” will be ready to buy with cash and close quick for the opportunity at a profit when they renovate.

Price is the easiest of all factors to change. If priced well, even less popular locations and homes that have condition challenges can sell quickly. But if you are trying to match the price of competing sales that were in better locations, better condition or with more amenities, you may find your home takes far longer to sell.

Finally, you may have a home with unique features. A home with no off-street parking can be a challenge to sell at any price point, and it is a matter of being patient and waiting for the right buyer who appreciates the home’s other attributes. You may not have a master bathroom. You may not have any green space in your “yard.” You may have a kitchen barely big enough for one. You may have only two bedrooms. There are many factors that could lengthen time on the market even with perfect condition and price. And of course, depth of the market segment is relevant as well. The higher you go in price, the fewer qualified buyers there will be and the longer your home will take to sell.

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!

Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Dear Kathe, 

My mother recently passed leaving me and my brother a well-maintained but not updated house built in 1960.  It’s full of furniture that is clean but bulky and out of style and almond-colored appliances that work fine but are 20-30 years old and don’t match. We plan to sell the house.  My brother thinks the house will sell better if it has some furniture and appliances in it; I think it would sell better with empty rooms (it has beautiful hardwood and tile floors that have been covered with carpet since the day they were built) and the distracting appliances removed. What would you advise?

First, you absolutely must empty the home – these days young buyers want Pottery Barn, not grandma and grandpa’s house.  Buyers also do not respond well when personal effects of a decedent remain behind after they are gone – so it’s important that it be completely empty before anyone tours the home.

Second, any old carpet should be removed. If there are hardwood floors underneath, that is what buyers want these days and you will do far better in your realized price if the floors are fully exposed. If they are not in good shape, it is possible to buy a Bruce product at the hardware store that does an acceptable job making them look presentable and is easily mopped on.

You must have a stove in the house in order for the buyer to get a mortgage. Therefore, you either need to keep the old one or buy a new one.  Refrigerators, however, do not need to be retained and you may be able to get a credit for turning an inefficient old refrigerator in.

I would also recommend that you and your brother have the home pre-inspected and appraised in order to make the selling process as smooth as possible!

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!

Put Your Best Floor Forward

Dear Kathe,

We are remodeling our kitchen – what type of flooring should we install?

The most important thing to consider when choosing a new floor for your kitchen is what is going on on the rest of your main level of your home. It is a critical and yet often overlooked rule-of-thumb that the most easily sold homes do not have more than two types of floor coverings per level. The trend decades ago was to customize flooring to the room. The living room might have been green carpet to coordinate with the living room furniture, the dining room might have been blue carpet to work with the custom drapes. Today that is no longer in vogue and for a home to feel updated, and not subject to the “dated home discount” it’s important to unify the floor coverings within the home. Floors are no longer considered an important opportunity for you to express your sense of style – that is better done with area rugs and other items that are easily removed from the home. So when you are choosing a new floor for your kitchen, first consider whether you have the opportunity to unify (or move toward unifying) the flooring in your home.

Hardwood floors are by far the best choice you can make for your kitchen floors. There are two basic types – finished in place and factory finished. Factory finished floors are the easiest – they come out of the box pre-finished and just need to be installed. However, finished-in-place hardwood floors have far greater durability and a much more classic look. You do have to endure the sanding & staining process inside your home, but the costs are roughly equal and in the end you have a far more saleable floor. Avoid trendy choices in wood – while hand scraped or hickory may be trendy today, it will quickly feel dated. Stick with traditional oak floors (of any board width), as styles change the most you will have to do is update the stain color – a far easier task than completely replacing the floors.

Many people choose tile for their kitchen floors. This is not a choice I would recommend however. Tile is the quickest floor covering to feel dated and the hardest to change once it is dated. Its also cold on your feet, anything you drop is likely to break and it can be a challenge to keep grout clean and crisp looking. Other trendy choices include cork and laminate. Laminate in particular is not a good choice for a higher end home.

In the end, finished in place oak remains the best choice for your kitchen (and for the rest of your home!)

Why Hasn’t My Home Sold?

Dear Kathe,

It seems like its been a busy spring market – why hasn’t my home sold? Any advice?

At Howard Hanna, we have just finished the busiest May that we have seen in the history of our company! If your home has been on the market for the entire spring cycle (at least since April 1st) and has not sold, then its time to review the listing and develop a new plan going forward.

The first factor in selling a home is location, and it’s the one you can’t do anything about. Currently, Village homes are in higher demand than those outside the Village, and certain locations in the Village are perceived to be more desirable than others. But you can adjust condition and price to account for location.

Condition and price go hand in hand and, if your home hasn’t sold, one or both probably need to be adjusted. You can read many past articles on my website about how to condition your home so that it actually sells – remove all wallpaper, paint in a current color palate, neutralize/freshen carpet, update lighting and plumbing fixtures, remove signs of wear and tear, declutter (pack in advance what you plan to move with you and donate the rest) and stage your home for success. It’s a simple formula and yet it always surprises me how often I show homes where this basic formula for success has not been followed. Yes, it often requires a home seller to invest even more money into their home to recoup their original investment. But you have likely used and enjoyed your house for several years and it’s a rare day that a buyer wants to be a product that feels well used, at least not without an appropriate “used” discount.   If you can’t be objective, and who can be about their own home, calling in a home stager is the fastest way to unbiased advice on what it takes to get your home sold. A home stager doesn’t just move your furniture around — she can give advice on paint and carpet colors, what needs to be packed up and what wear and tear needs to be repaired.

Price is the easiest thing to adjust, and if you aren’t in a position to adjust condition, adjusting price may be your only option. There is a price at which every house will sell, even one that is not well conditioned for the market. Finding the right price can be a challenge. It’s hard to know how much to discount for a challenging location, a challenging feature (or lack thereof, such as no garage) or updates that buyers perceive are required. Touring competing listings at open houses will help you to understand your competition, but the most valuable data comes from understand the homes that have actually sold and why. Having an independent appraisal done is another excellent way to get an objective opinion on value.

If your home hasn’t had an offer this spring, then its well worth your time to take a serious look at condition and pricing and make any suggested improvements before the slow days of summer set i!

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!

Adding a Second Bath

Dear Kathe,

 My house, a traditional American four square, currently has 1.5 baths with 3 bedrooms on the second floor and two rooms on the 3rd floor (one used as an office and the other a playroom/family room).  I really want to add a master bath on the second floor but this would reduce our bedrooms on that floor to two and I’m worried about future resale.  Thoughts?

 The answer to this question is not so simple. There are many factors that must be considered, the first of which is the likely sales price of your home. At a certain price point, 2 full baths will be required – in Sewickley Village, that price point is likely in the range of $400,000 and above. If you expect your home to sell above this price point someday, you are going to have to figure out how to get a second full bath in your home (and not in the basement)!

The third floor is the most obvious and most frequent place to create a master suite in these scenarios. It would probably be difficult to sell a home with only two bedrooms on the second level, particularly if the two remaining bedrooms on the third floor have to travel down a set of stairs to use the bathroom. Third floors can be reconfigured to create private master suites, leaving three bedrooms on the second level which can be used for a variety of purposes. There is a negative that must be considered, however. Sometimes homes with third floor master suites can be challenging to sell because the home owner doesn’t want to have to walk up two flights of stairs to get to bed each night. If you get to a price point where the most likely buyer is near or past “middle” age, you may find that a third floor master limits your marketability. Third floor masters can also be perceived as a weakness by families with very young children, although with the advent of video baby monitors, this may be a lesser issue for young parents.

Given the limitations of third floor masters, they still receive my vote in light of the circumstances. Assuming you hope to sell your home for more than $400,000, a second full bath will be a necessity, and a third floor master suite is the most sensible way to attack the issue. Just make it as luxurious as possible so that when you go to sell your home, the buyers are so impressed with what they see that the extra flight of stairs seems like a minor inconvenience to get to their private oasis!

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!

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!

Happy Boxing Day

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

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

Other important staging tips include

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

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

Design Trends

It is not possible to overstate the importance of consistency in design when selling a home.  Buyers uniformly respond favorably when a home flows in a consistent “theme” through the home.  What does this really mean? In an ideal world, your color palate would move smoothly from room to room.  Every room does not have to be the same color, but the colors should harmonize.  In other words, you should not be using both the 1980s burgundy & green palate along with today’s grays and browns in the same home.  As soon as you begin to move a newer color palate in, the old one must disappear completely.

Smaller details must also blend seamlessly.  If you like the nickel and chrome (silver based) colors, use them throughout for cabinet knobs, lighting and bathroom/kitchen fixtures.  Do not choose nickel form one bath and brass for the next. Buyers will subconsciously feel the home needs work as they will sense the lack of consistency.  The same is true for the bathrooms themselves.  If you decide to renovate your master bath, that does not mean you need to renovate every bath, but you would be well-advised to plan your master bath so it also harmonizes with what is already in your home.  If the “hardscapes” in your baths (counters, floors) are in the beige family, it would be a bad idea to do your master in white carerra marble, no matter how “in” that might be, unless you are prepared to update all baths.  Choose instead travertine, beige granite or a beige based marble that will blend more smoothly with your existing baths.  The impact to a buyer of “wonderful new master bath” will have the added benefit of helping to harmonize the entire home and will make the entire home feel more updated.

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

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

The Meaning of Neutral

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

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

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

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

A Master Plan

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

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

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

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

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

The Trail to a Sale, Part II

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

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

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

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

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