Sellers: How to give your home Curb Appeal

Solve Design Issues On-the-Go with 4 iPhone Apps

By Erica Christoffer, Contributing Editor, REALTOR® Magazine

Help clients see the design potential in a living space instantly. Change the dining room color from lemon yellow to plum purple — before painting. Rearrange new furniture — before moving day. Get staging tips, watch design videos, and add curb appeal with these four iPhone apps.

Home Interior Layout Designer Home Interior Layout Designer – Mark On Call

M.O.C. Interior Designer, LLC


Customize the layout of a kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, and more with the Home Interior Layout Designer app. Created by interior designer Mark Lewison, “Mark On Call,” and based on his book, “What Would You Do With This Room,” this app even lets you take pictures of actual décor and architectural finishes, such as carpet, flooring, rugs, etc., and add them as a “skin” to a surface in your virtual design plan. Use the pallet of colors, patters, fabrics, furnishings, wood, and stone options to explore the design potential of a room. The app also offers a measuring tool, design advice, sharing of designs between app users, and the ability to make a shopping list for all your customized home purchases.

hgtv appHGTV’s Staging and Property

Scripps Networks, LLC


This app offers the “best of” from HGTV, including real estate videos, pictures, tips, and advice. Watch clips of HGTV shows “Curb Appeal,” “Designed to Sell,” and more. Getting ready for an open house? Look up tips and tutorials on staging and design for better buyer appeal. And see before and after photo slideshows of room transformations. Read more

Looking to Step Up a Condo’s Curb Appeal? Start With the Front Door!

front door curb appeal

In “5 Ways to Add Condo Curb Appeal,” Debbie Rumsey with Century 21 Sea Coast in Encinitas, Calif. suggests sprucing up the front door to attract would-be buyers. Here are a few more tips for getting that condo door looking great for showings:

Pay attention to the details, such as removing cobwebs from the front door light fixture, says Maureen Bray from Portland-based Room Solutions Staging. If the door has a window, don’t forget to wash it inside and out. Curb appeal does not stop at the front door, she says. If the condo/townhome has a garage, make sure that door is clean and in good, working condition.

Consider the plethora of front door looks you can create by upgrading exterior door hardware, paint/stain color, exterior light fixtures, and unit numbers (if allowed by the HOA), says Kimo Stowell a real estate merchandiser with JDS Consulting: Hawaii Home Staging and Decor Design in Oahu, Hawaii. “Stoop accessories can create a virtual endless combination of eye catching details to your condo front door,” Stowell says.

Don’t forget to address scuff marks from furniture moving and usual wear, says Elizabeth Bolton with Coldwell Banker in Cambridge, Mass.

Susan Uram, brand manager of Olympic Exterior Stains says that exterior stains are designed to absorb into the wood and allow the natural beauty of the wood to show. Condos and townhomes with outdoor facing entrances need to be protected from the elements, Uram says, and need added protection from scratching and every day wear and tear.

If a “furniture-like” finish that shows off the grain (e.g. an oak door) is desired, Uram suggests applying an interior stain followed by an exterior durable varnish. But if you’re looking to repaint the front door white or another solid color, an exterior solid color stain would work as well as an exterior paint, say Uram, who suggests the Olympic Wood Protector Solid Color Stain (available at Lowe’s in more than 140 colors). For a rustic finish, Uram recommends one thin coat of a semi-transparent exterior stain, which also good for decks, fences and siding.

‘Speed Decorating’ Quickly Improves Property

Anyone planning to sell a home might be advised to read Jill Vegas’ Speed Decorating.” Vegas explains how to redecorate at minimum cost and maximum speed.

“Speed decorating,” she says, “is not about calling in contractors; it’s about looking at a room and thinking about what you can do in a couple of hours, a week, to make it better.”

Vegas offers these tips for anyone who needs to do a little high impact, low cost upgrading:

  • Clear out the clutter
  • Clean and repaint
  • Define the function of each room and then place furniture to accentuate that purpose
  • Improve the lighting, adding bright light to work areas and soft light to bed and dining rooms
  • Use art and accessories to add drama and personality

Remodelers Report Signs of Market Improvement


remodelSome home owners are starting to take on improvement projects they previously pushed off due to financial constraints.

For the third straight quarter, the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) reported slight increases in its Remodeling Market Index (RMI). Although still far from ideal, NAHB chief economist David Croew said that markets are no longer deteriorating to the levels they were earlier this year.

The RMI is calculated through the use of member surveys that ask remodelers to describe the current market conditions and future expectations. Last month, NAHB released the most recent RMI, which rose from 34.2 to 38.7 from the previous quarter.

“Some remodelers are receiving more calls for bids, but it is still extremely difficult to close a sale,” said NAHB Remodelers Chairman Greg Miedema in a statement. The index remains below the break-even point of 50, and has been since the last quarter of 2005.

Many home owners are unable to secure a home equity loan or other lines of credit, which is holding up remodeling projects, Miedeman said.

But signs of continued improvement are on the horizon with the report showing a rise in calls for bids from 38.8 to 46.5, appointments for proposals growing from 40.3 to 43.5, and the amount of work committed for the next three months up from 23.3 to 27.5. The backlog of remodeling jobs also climbed from 34.4 to 37.2.

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Picture It: Create a Character to Guide Your Design


testNow more than ever, model homes are key sales tools for developers. In the current housing market crisis, people are weighing every factor in their decision on buying a home.

Beyond the typical questions on the quality of the finishes, school districts, and mortgage rates, those who are looking to spend their life savings on a place are looking for deeper psychological reasons to sign on the dotted line.

Does this home speak to me? Can I imagine my lifestyle being a fit here?

That’s why my firm spends so much time getting to know the prospective audience for which we design model homes. We design for specific people, often taking the time to create fictitious characters such as “John the Wall Streeter,” who lets his girlfriend decorate his place. Read more

Biggest Losers: 20 Home Design Features That Send Buyers Running


By Barbara Ballinger, Architecture Coach columnist and guest blogger

ugly-wallpaperDesign glitches draw attention away from a home’s best features. Don’t let out-of-date fixtures and unappealing decor cost you a sale. While some buyers may actually appreciate “vintage” features, home and design experts say these 20 features almost always serve as a turnoff.

1. Dated and excessively bold or dark paint and tile colors, such as “Pepto Bismol” pink, avocado green, deep plum, or jet black. “Dark can be cool, but it has to be a color that’s popular today,” says sales associate Jennifer Ames, crs®, of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Chicago.

2. Lacquered or high-gloss painted walls that are expensive to repaint and show all defects. Likewise, faux- and sponge-painted walls can be so passe.

3. Painted trim that’s very dark-and costly to remove.

4. Wallpaper, which is a lot of work (and potentially expensive) to remove. Most disliked: Dated flowered or striped patterns. Read more


The Visual Nature of the Internet Has Home Owners More Attuned to Aesthetics

Two professions greatly benefiting from the Internet’s ability to help connect people visually are interior designers and home stagers.

First, let’s clarify: Interior design and home staging are two very distinct industries. As Jennie Norris, president of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, points out: “Staging is all about depersonalizing a house and decorating and interior design are about personalizing a house.”

When home stagers work with a seller, they are considering elements that appeal to a broad audience. “It’s not about the seller at all. It is about presenting a product to the market (the house) and ensuring it is appealing to the buyer,” says Norris.

Home owners, staging, and the InternetBoth trades use design theories to accomplish different goals. But they do share the common bond of visualizing what a home could be – something home owners have grown attuned to with online accessibility and the rise of reality television shows.

“The world, in some ways because of the Internet, has gotten smaller and smaller,” says staging expert Barb Schwarz. “People are very educated and will do their research. The public is pretty darn smart when it comes to selling their home.”

Read more

Should Real Estate Pros and Stagers Join Forces?

In an effort to form a more perfect union between real estate practitioners, home stagers, and sellers, Matt Stigliano with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio is proposing a new business model. In his ActiveRain blog post, he suggests that practitioners and stagers pair up and charge a joint commission rate to offer their combined services to a seller.

This partnership, Stigliano says, would alleviate seller apprehension about paying for staging costs upfront. The commission would be higher, but it could be approached as a “no money down” option to have a team of professionals working to sell the home.

“The commission is a risk-based pay structure,” Stigliano says. “Maybe with a commission, the stagers would be willing to take that risk.”

Staged Room ExampleThe stager would be present at the listing presentation to share their ideas for the home. Instead of staging being a one-time service, having a commission may motivate a staging pro to come back and check on the home – even modify their initial decor ideas until the house is sold.

“It would create a team between the agent, stager, and seller,” Stigliano said. “Sellers like the idea [of staging], and they know it helps – maybe this is the trick to getting them over the cost hump.”

Stigliano has yet to try this business model himself, but says he would if he found a stager who is willing.

“It’s frustrating to me because I have homes I would love to have staged, but the sellers don’t have the cash,” says Stigliano.

In less than 24 hours, Stigliano had nearly 100 comments on his blog post, with opinions varying greatly on the topic. Even if his idea doesn’t come to fruition, Stigliano says it’s worth getting people talking and thinking of ideas outside the box.

After using the Internet to seek out new areas, check them out, live and in person. “If you have a vacation coming up, pick a region, rent a car, and drive around to take a look,” advises Evelyn Fazio, coauthor of Staying Sane When You’re Buying or Selling Your Home. Once you set foot in the area, ask yourselves…  

Do people have home pride?

Sometimes you can judge a book — or a house — by its cover. Houses that aren’t kept up can either signal an area full of renters or a town on the decline. But if people are clearly investing in their properties, it’s a great sign that they’re staying put because they like the town and believe that their homes are good investments. 

Who’s hanging out?

Do people spend time outside? And are they the right kind of people? Do you feel comfortable saying hi to anyone? Are firefighters present at the local firehouse? Do packs of skeevy teenagers hang out on the corner? Depending on your observations, that town may or may not be a good fit. 

What’s the downtown vibe?

If your potential nabe doesn’t have a downtown, make sure you eat at some of the local restaurants. Are you cool with a strip of chain restaurants? Or do you really want that mom-and-pop feel? 

What does it look like at night?

A cute neighborhood can look a lot different at night. So — together — you should walk or drive around town when the sun goes down. 

Who are my future neighbors?

Make sure that your trip takes place during a weekend because that’s when people are more likely going to be out and about. If there’s a local coffee shop, get a cup and sit and listen because, chances are, some of these people will be your neighbors. Don’t be afraid to ask them some questions. 

Is the police report positive?

By law, the police department is required to give you a crime log if you ask. So ask and get one (most big cities will have them online, but many small towns won’t). You’ll see exactly what’s going on, and where. 

What’s rush hour like?

Take the route to work when traffic is at its heaviest to find out what both of your commutes would be like during the morning and evening rush hours. Even if your dream nabe is 10 miles away from work, it could take much longer in traffic, and that doesn’t make any homecoming welcoming. 

Can we rent before we buy?

If you’re still not sure and need to move ASAP, consider renting. This lets you really get to know the neighborhood before forking over a down payment. 

>> Get more expert real estate tips

Telling a Seller that their house smells like one of their 4 cats had an accident (every day for the past 2 months) or that their intended list price is not recommended (clinically insane) or the family room wall they turned into a 15 x 8 foot scrap book of all their relatives, both living and dead is “really something” (to scare the Gen Y buyers away), is just part of selling real estate.

Most of us grew up being told it was rude to point out something that could hurt another person’s feelings. “Niceness” is a wonderful attribute, and especially valued here in the Midwest. But, when clients are selling their most valuable investment, skirting lightly over an important issue or dropping the subject as soon as they present an ill-advised or flawed reason for making a bad decision, isn’t really being kind. 

My varying roles as a buyer, seller, investor, agent and office staff member have allowed me to identify one of the most important traits of a really good real estate agent; They give their full and professional assessment of a situation to their client, rather it will be easy for them to hear or not.

Obviously, being the bearer of bad news isn’t a fun part of anyone’s job, but sometimes it is necessary to do a good job. Effective agents have the confidence to deliver all the information that their client needs to know. They won’t select only the most expensive comps for their analysis just because the client refinanced to 100% LTV a few months ago. They don’t say nothing when the seller points out a broken garage door and says, “Just tell people we will fix it before closing.” They don’t give false hope that the out-of-date wallpaper and lack of decorating won’t hurt their sale price or length of time to sell.

Ultimately, it is the Sellers’ choice to accept their agents advice or not. But, if they don’t have all the information they need to make a wise decision, their odds of a successful sale revert to chance or luck instead of a solid plan based on professional advice. Fortunately, I know our agents value presenting the full truth along with a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down. But, their real expertise is evident because they are sure to administer the full and recommended dose.

TZ: Relocation Director

From the International Builders’Show:

Reach Out to the ‘Green Goddess’

REALTOR® Magazine
green_goddess_home_buyer About twice as many single women purchase homes than single men, accounting for 20 percent of all home buyers. So, if you’re serious about selling homes – especially homes with green features – single women are the ones to watch. To address this very statistic, Sara Lamia, president of Building Coach Inc.,was one of three panelists presenting her take on selling green to women during day one of the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas Tuesday. Fittingly, the session was entitled, “Evolution of the Green Goddess: Green Technologies Women Want and How to Capture Her Buying Power.” Here are a few of her trends and tips to connect women with green: Think First Date: On a first date, people are conscious of how they look, about how they act, and what they say. They want to put their best foot forward, to be impressive without being overwhelming. The same goes for selling to women, Lamia says. “In order to get more sales, you need to have more first dates.” Green Chic Appeal: What is green chic? Lamia describes it as fashionable, affluent and intelligent – without sacrifice. Take recycled glass, for example. It’s inexpensive, versatile in appearance, and lends well to storytelling. When a friend comes over and asks what the countertops are made of, a buyer can feel good explaining that it’s recycled glass products. A Healthier Environment: The impact of air quality gets across loud and clear to female buyers, Lamia says. But also think slightly off the beaten path, such as central vacuum systems that pull dust and particles out of the air. Custom “Sexy” Green: You know those old laundry shoots that were once commonplace in homes? Now think about custom recycling shoots! No more paper grocery bags under the sink. Get to Know Sales Associates: The people who work in green product stores are the ones who have daily contact with potential buyers who truly care about going green. Get to know those sales associates and learn the needs of their client base… which can turn into a great way to generate referrals. Tell Your Green Story: Green issues are hot in the press today and reporters are often looking for human interest pieces. What’s happening with green in your business? Do you have an interesting innovation to share or a unique client you worked with? Pitch your green story, Lamia suggests, and help your green specialty build credibility in the community.

5 Home Remodeling Trends for the New Year

Remodeling and decorating trends in 2010 are likely to reflect the fact that many home owners are settling in for the long haul.

Here are some ideas for updating homes and gardens from decorators and leading real estate practitioners:

  • Environmentally sensitive furniture. Natural fibers, sustainable woods, and recycled products are key to attracting environmentally concerned buyers.
  • Classic neutral colors. Deep gray browns and gray blues, muted beige, and chalky white will be particularly popular shades, Pittsburgh Paints predicts.
  • Backyard gardens. First Lady Michelle Obama led the way in 2009 when she installed one at the White House.
  • Backyard living. Wood-deck additions offer an 80.6 percent payback, according to the annual Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling magazine and REALTOR® magazine. Simple fire pits and outdoor fireplaces also will be popular, trend-watchers say.
  • Made in America. As more people feel compelled to support local employment, U.S. manufactured products and antiques will become more popular.

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