Will a Bath Remodel Increase My Home’s Value?

Bathroom RemodelSpring is just around the corner and the lure of a new home has you thinking about putting yours on the market. Your neighbor added a new bathroom last year and you’re wondering if you should upgrade yours before you sell. Logically, a new bathroom should increase the value of your home, right?

From 2006 through 2012, the return on a bathroom remodel investment averaged around 62%, according to the cost vs. value report prepared by Remodeling magazine while a bathroom addition garnered only 51%. Beginning in 2013, however, those numbers began trending up, so a bathroom remodel in 2014 is hovering near 72% and an addition is at 60% ROI. Even so, you will be spending more money than you can expect in return. That being said, there are great reasons to go ahead with a remodel, and your professional real estate agent can help you decide if it is a good investment for you.

One reason is that if several similar homes are on the market in your neighborhood, an upgraded bath may help yours sell more quickly. After all, when comparing side by side, who doesn’t want a clean, fresh bath? Busy buyers looking to move in quickly won’t want to do the upgrade themselves. Another reason to consider updating your bath is to attract a different type of buyer. Flippers, investors and DIY-homeowners will want the bones of the house to be in great shape, but will probably offer a lower price because they plan to make upgrades and changes themselves. Qualified buyers that want move-in ready conditions will appreciate not having to worry about upgrading, remodeling or renovating.

If you and your professional real estate agent determine that a bath upgrade will improve your sale, be sure to do it right. Do not attempt a DIY project you’ve never done before just to save a few bucks. Poorly installed flooring may cost you a sale. Remember, some changes do have more appeal than others. For instance, if you only have one bath, consider putting in a double sink. Couples, families and even roommates appreciate multiple sinks when trying to get out the door in the morning. Even a small bath can accommodate a double sink with the right choice. A new eco-friendly toilet is a nice touch too. Simple changes and give your bath a fresh look without a lot of expense. Consider fresh paint, a new rain-style showerhead, new classy but neutral shower curtain, updated faucets, or a new toilet. Don’t skimp on lighting. According to Alicia Garceau at HGTV, a bathroom remodel should include task lighting for applying makeup or shaving, ambient lighting—that bounces off walls—to soften shadows, accent lighting to give depth and dimension, and decorative lighting to add luxury or play up an architectural feature.

Contact us and we’ll help you determine your home’s value and how to prepare it to sell.

Design Trends in New Homes

Pubsub New ConstructionWhen the housing market rebounded, so did home builders eager to show off their design skills. Buyers expect that newly constructed homes will be safer and more energy efficient, but they’re also looking for homes that meet the needs of the more modern buyer. Here’s a round-up of some of the most popular design trends seen in today’s newest homes.

Kitchen islands look more like continents.
Maybe it’s the Food Network’s influence or maybe builders have finally realized that people ALWAYS end up hanging out in the kitchen. Either way, kitchens are now being designed to accommodate the crowds they always seem to attract. Kitchen islands with plenty of seating allow people to sit and watch the home chef in action, and they let the host and hostess interact while feeding family and friends. With lots of incorporated storage and attention to design details, the extra-large kitchen island is becoming the focal point and showpiece of the modern kitchen.

Foyers that earn their keep.
Home buyers don’t want to walk in the front door and straight into a living room setting. So foyers that give a sense of entry are making a strong comeback in modern construction. But today’s foyers aren’t just a short hallway. Builders are adding built-in benches, alcoves, book nooks or high-end places to hang your things up as you enter.

Extended uses for extended families.
As the Baby Boomers age, the number of multi-generational households continues to rise. Buyers are requesting more homes with two master suites – often with one upstairs and one downstairs, which better suites elderly parents living in the home. Also, small “shadow” homes are being built alongside the main house to give aging parents a more independent living situation that’s still only steps away the family.

Productivity in pocket offices.
While the popularity of a large, formal home office may have faded over time, people still want hard-working spaces where they can do the work required to run a household. These small “pocket offices” are being located off of high-traffic areas like the kitchen and great room, where parents can still be in the middle of the action but have a separate, dedicated space for paying bills, signing papers and checking email.

Connection is key.
When people started saying “There’s an app for that,” it was only a matter of time before that app frenzy worked its way into new homes. With everything from smart thermostats to smart garage door openers, home buyers want more control over their environments by using the one thing we hardly ever leave home without – the smartphone. Soon there won’t be any more worries over whether or not you left the door unlocked or the garage door open because a touch of a button on your smartphone screen will assure you that all is well. Look for complete home automation systems to take a big step forward in newly constructed homes.

Sneaky storage spaces.
Square footage has to work harder in today’s home and every inch counts. Builders are sneaking those highly-coveted storage spaces into places that were once overlooked. Cabinets under staircases, drawers inside stair risers and storage space under window seats are all creative uses of space that would otherwise be wasted.

Look for design trends like these to meet the demands of today’s bigger, busier, more well-connected family.

Pinterest for Home Buyers and Sellers

Pinterest LogoPinterest for Home Buyers

Some people are great at articulating exactly what they want in their next home. But some of us know what we want yet find it tough to explain that vision to someone else. It usually comes out something like this: “I’ll know it when I see it.” But seeing tons of listings can be frustrating and can waste your time unnecessarily. Enter Pinterest – the social network that lets you collect all those dream house mental pictures that are often hard to put into words.

Pinterest has become a favorite online hang-out for home buyers and those who plan to build or remodel a home. After all, knowing what you want is half the battle in finding or creating it. With a few simple searches, Pinterest users are exposed to thousands of photos they can use as inspiration in their house hunt. High-end and creative home features are one of the most heavily populated areas of Pinterest so there’s no shortage of ideas to sift through. Some users have created virtual “pin boards” for each room of their dream house and yard, making it easier to organize ideas and find them later. Do a simple search for “bathroom” in the search bar and you’ll find everything from rustic cabin outhouses to over-the-top luxury master suites.

If you’re having a tough time explaining your vision to your agent, consider sharing your Pinterest photos with him or her. Seeing what you like best can guide your agent’s selections for which listings are most likely to interest you. Of course, no one can make every Pinterest dream come true in one house, but it’s a good way to get on the same page and narrow down the choices of which houses to see and which ones to skip. Pinterest photos can also guide your decisions when looking for a house with “good bones” that can be remodeled into your dream house.

Pinterest for Home Sellers

For sellers, Pinterest can be a great way to get insight on what potential buyers are hoping to find during their house hunt. If the same type of living room photo keeps cropping up on Pinterest, you can bet it’s representative of a style that’s trending right now. Consider using that photo as a guide for how you might update, rearrange or stage your own living room to reflect the current trend. Pay special attention to wall colors, room layout, window treatments and floor coverings. Appeal to visual thinkers by making your home’s online photos as “pin-worthy” as possible.

Cleaning and organization are also huge areas of interest for Pinterest users, and the tips found in these “pins” can help as you prepare to put your house on the market. Clutter and half-hearted cleaning attempts can thwart a deal with potential buyers. Use the tips collected on hundreds of Pinterest boards to find new ideas for eliminating cluttered areas. You’ll also find innovative ways for simple household fixes like repairing nail holes, cleaning baseboards and dusting window blinds – all things that discerning home buyers will notice.

Whether you’re buying, selling, building, remodeling or just plain “nesting,” Pinterest might become your favorite online tool for finding inspiration, advice and friends who share your vision.

Tips for Home Buyers

Tips for Home BuyersFinding a new home can be one of the most exciting times of your life. It’s a little like dating – the pursuit, the “getting to know you” period, the proposal (aka “offer”), and the marriage (aka “closing”). If you don’t want your relationship with a new house to crash and burn, you need to know a few things before you fall in love.

 1. Know thy numbers.

You’d be surprised at how many home buyers start their new home pursuit without really knowing what they can and can’t afford. Avoid being disappointed later by getting preapproved for a mortgage before you even get started. And be sure you know the difference between being “prequalified” and “preapproved.” You can be preapproved only after a lender has reviewed all your financial information and has told you how much the bank is willing to lend to you. Being pre-approved will let sellers know you’re a serious buyer, and it will also prevent you from falling in love with a home that is financially “out of your league.”

2. Love the neighborhood, not just the house.

It’s easy to get caught up in how perfect a house is and forget that the house is only part of a bigger picture. It won’t matter how awesome the master bathroom is if you discover that the neighborhood just isn’t a good fit for you. Spend as much time researching the neighborhood as you do checking into all the nooks and crannies of the house. Regardless of whether or not you have kids, ask questions about the neighborhood’s school district since that will impact the home’s resale value. And be sure to drive through the neighborhood at various times of day to make sure you’re not missing any “deal breaker” factors.

3. Beware the lure of the lowball offer.

Even though buying a home is a financial decision that involves legal contracts, that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of emotion. If you’re tempted to make a lowball offer on a home just to see what happens, be aware that some sellers will be so offended that they won’t entertain future offers from you. It may be a business deal, but this is still their home – and that’s personal. Make an offer based on the selling price of other homes in the same neighborhood and then determine what the average price per square foot is for that area. Also, make your offer number an odd number instead of a round one. For example, an offer of $352,500 sounds like you put some thought into it based on real calculations, whereas an offer of $350,000 sounds more like a shot in the dark.

4. Get a home inspector’s “blessing.”

Some churches require engaged couples to go through a few premarital counseling sessions before they can be married in the church. Similarly, you’d be wise to seek the counsel of a qualified home inspector before you make things official with a new home. If the house has hidden baggage, a good home inspector will find it, which gives you the opportunity to decide if it’s something you’re willing to deal with or not.

By following a few simple guidelines and leading with your head instead of your heart, your destiny with a new home is much more likely to end with “happily ever after.”

Celebrate Gratitude and Thanksgiving in Your Home

Celebrating in Your HomeThe secret to a winning Thanksgiving in your home is to approach it with a sense of gratitude.

Compose your guest list of those you love and are glad to have in your life and include them in the meal preparation. Including your guests can be as simple as asking them to contribute a dish to the meal or you can invite a few to be a little more hands on and actually prepare the meal as a group at your home.

When assigning out parts of the meal, it’s best to determine what “makes sense” to alleviate stress on you as host. If Aunt Sue is driving 2 hours to enjoy the holiday meal, a room temperature appetizer or salad will likely be a better choice for her to bring than the masked potatoes which should be served piping hot. If your son is notoriously late for family gatherings, perhaps assigning him a dessert or some beverages is the best approach.

Managing a Big Meal in Your Home

If the entire meal is to be created in your kitchen, create a timeline or vision of how and when the preparation should flow. In most cases your main course will take time to cook, so plan how and whether your side dishes, rolls, and dessert will fit into your overall timeframe. Utilize crock-pots to expand your ability to keep foods warm and consider which items can be made in the days prior to the event to prevent a time-crunch. Ask for help as needed and be sure to leave some easy last-minute preparations available to assign to guests who “want” to help as they arrive, such as tossing a salad or stirring the gravy.

When it comes to the actual meal, serve what you want, keeping in mind that any family traditions will need to be served as well. To prevent cries of “Where’s the…” or “Why are there nuts in the…” its best to stick to the well-loved recipes you’ve always served while adding in new ones, rather than changing up the tried and true. If you always cook a turkey, add in a ham or vegetarian dish instead of replacing the item. And, if you’re cooking a turkey, please use a meat thermometer to judge doneness and forgo basting the final hour of cooking to create a golden, crispy skin.

Lastly, keep in mind that this is a meal to be enjoyed by all who enter your home, including you. Take a break to relax and enjoy the meal alongside your family and allow everyone to help with clean up. You’ll be grateful you did, and so will they!

Get Multiple Offers on Your Home

multiples offers on your homeYou may have been talking with a neighbor or simply heard a snippet on the radio or television, but suddenly you are aware that right now is a “seller’s market.” Thoughts of an instant million dollar sale of your home or timing the selling of your home may be coursing through your brain and if so, you should consult with a knowledgable real estate agent to get the inside scoop. Many areas are experiencing low home volume and high demand which could place your home for sale in prime position.

As a home owner, you may not understand the technicalities behind multiple offers and so working with a local real estate agent can provide you with the much needed guidance you’ll require to navigate your home sale. There are some simple steps that can aid you in getting multiple offers and the basics are outlined below.

Sell Your Home For More Money

 

  • Stage Your Home for Sale – In a “seller’s market,” potential buyers know they need to act fast to put in an offer on the house (or houses) they like. Make sure yours is on that list by tending to every detail, cleaning well and listening carefully to suggestions made by your real estate agent.
  • Spread the Word – From hosting a Broker’s Preview to the open house and other advertising, make sure that your home for sale is being properly promoted. Attention must be drawn to your home in order for it to be seen and offers to be submitted. Give your home the promotion it needs or find a real estate agent who will, so you can wait for the offers to roll in.
  • Ask for a Lockbox – To have multiple offers, multiple people need to view your home (in staged condition) at all times. Realize that getting your home sold quickly will likely mean a bit of inconvenience for you in the short term. The sooner you accept an offer, however, the less time you’ll need to spend adjusting your lifestyle.

If you need more advice or simply want a real estate agent you can trust with your home, please don’t hesitate to call.  I’d love to get you multiple offers!

How Much Should You Spend on Your Home Purchase

Buying a home starts with determining how much house you can afford. While it’s important to be careful of buying more house than you can afford, changes in the mortgage industry make doing that nearly impossible these days.

Recent restrictions on debt to income ratios, required documentation, and loan to value amounts have established industry standards that aid in preventing homeowners from buying more home than is affordable. While restrictive, these requirements can put your mind at ease as a homeowner, knowing that you are not in over your head in the purchase of your home.

With that in mind, the key in home buying is to buy as much home as you can afford! Interest rates are at their lowest in decades and home values are still in question in many areas, allowing you to enter low on both counts and possibly purchase your home for much less of a monthly payment than you would normally expect. As values begin to return, interest rates may start to increase, too, allowing you less home for the same monthly amount.

According to West Coast-based Mortgage Banker Ken Starks, “At this point in the market cycle, interest rates are as low as they EVER have been, and real estate values appear to have fallen all they will fall in many markets across the country.” Starks added, “These two factors alone combine to create the buying opportunity of a lifetime with the possibility of excellent long term real estate gains and long term low payments.”

As a potential home buyer researching loan products, there really are not many options commonly chosen these days. Most home buyers choose a fixed rate 30 or 15 year mortgage. This week’s average rates for both fixed rates are under 3.5%, according to the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey®.  Specialty products and adjustable rate mortgages are still offered at times, but generally only to individuals with high net worth and disposable income (who really don’t need the loan).

Many new home buyers turn to FHA loans as they allow more flexibility on down payments, credit scores, and debt to income ratios. While FHA loans may initially seem to have more fees, a good mortgage company will work with you and often absorb that cost to get you the right loan, so don’t be afraid to compare rates when buying your home.

Guides For Buying Your Home

If you are considering buying a home, consider the additional guides below when determining your price point and work with an agent who knows your area, to find you the best home that delivers value, in your budget and in the best location.

  • Stay within the income guidelines, having only 30% of your income being related to housing costs (including HOA fees if applicable).
  • Keep your TOTAL debt under 40%.
  • Read the fine print. If you are withdrawing from a savings plan (such as a 401K or IRA) for your down payment, be aware of any penalties or restrictions before you count on the money and plan accordingly.
  • Plan on something going wrong and maintain some savings. Many new homeowners find themselves challenged when disaster strikes. Whether the trouble results from a natural disaster or one that’s man-made, reserving at least 3 months of expenses in a savings account, will help you to weather the storms of life, and enjoy your home long-term.

Falling in Love With Your Home For Sale

Valentines Day is fast approaching and love is in the air.  Share a little extra love with your home for sale this week and you may find a buyer sooner than you thought!  Buying a home is largely an emotional decision.  Buyers may try to rationalize, set limits, make T-charts, and even compromise when searching for a home, however typically the sale is made when a potential buyer “falls in love” with your home for sale.

As a home seller, you may feel challenged in trying to anticipate what you can do to make your home more inviting and attractive to a prospective buyer.  However, the following easy steps can welcome your buyer instantly and help them to feel as though they are “coming home” when they enter your property, so read on.

First, look out your windows.  Are they clean and inviting?  Do you have a pleasant view or can you camouflage it with some temporary plants just outside the window?  Whenever you leave or anticipate a home showing, remember to leave the window coverings open so natural lighting can show off your property.  The more light the better, so evaluate whether additional room lighting should be left on,  as well.  If the weather is nice and the outside noise quiet, consider leaving a window open to create a slight breeze.

Is your home comfortable looking?  Is the temperature moderate and the ambiance set without being overdone?  Soft music, flowing water from a fountain, or fresh flowers can leave a lasting impression about the “feel” of a home.

Your goal is to intrigue the senses throughout your home.  Whether it’s a soft blanket or an antique desk; if you have an unusual and beautiful showpiece, show it off.  Creating a lasting impression through touch or evoking a memory, since these are often reasons later given for why a particular home was chosen.  The sense of smell is very powerful, too, so keep in mind that baking cookies REALLY can help in the sale of your home.  If you do have the smell of baked goods lingering in your home, please make sure the cookies are available for potential buyers so disappointment does not cloud their view of your property.

Lastly, leave the house.  That’s right – let the potential buyer have a chance to feel that the house is theirs – if even for 15 minutes.  Your home buyer needs to feel as if they are in their new home.  For this reason, many professional home stagers recommend eliminating personal effects and photos when a home is being shown.  Remember, your main job as a home seller is to prepare your home so potential home buyers feel a sense of ownership and an urgency to make it theirs before they leave.

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Save Money When Buying A Home

Any major purchase requires analysis and thought, and home buying isn’t any different. Specifications on location, bedroom and bathroom quantity, and yard size may come more quickly to mind, but there are many other considerations to be aware of, as well. Did you know that you can compare prices on mortgage rates and lender options? That’s right – not every broker will offer the same programs – and you can save a lot of money through a little comparison shopping.

The last five weeks have brought mortgage rates to historic lows according to Freddie Mac, with many averaging below 4%. That means more buying and bargaining power for you, the home buyer. In fact, according to last Thursday’s Primary Mortgage Market survey by Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 15 year mortgage was 3.16% with fees and points averaging .8 and the average rate for a 30 year mortgage was 3.89% with fees and points of .7.

Keeping those stats in mind, it’s always wise to do your homework and ask your lender for a list of current rates and determine if those are lowest for that day or week and if the rate is fixed or adjustable, as that answer will affect your payment significantly. Keep in mind that the APR (annual percentage rate) considers all fees, including points and other charges such as origination, underwriting, or closing costs fees, so it may be advantageous to use in comparisons. In a constantly evolving real estate market, it’s always wise to educate yourself and shop around, listen up, and be ready to make the best deal you can on your home purchase and your lending costs.