There is a perception paradox that sometimes exists within real estate: the idea that an empty minimalist home offers a blank slate for potential buyers to imagine their perfect home. While a small slice of the general population may have the unique vision to picture a space with cascading light features, warm and inviting furniture arrangements, or eye-catching objets d’art, the majority of buyers look to experts in interior design for help. The truth is, the benefits of staging your home are extensive. Properly staged homes spend substantially less time on the market, routinely sell for more money, and frequently end up on must-see lists.
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Selling Your House
The numbers are here, folks, and they don't lie. We are officially in a spring market in the middle of winter. I can't think of another time when the numbers looked like this - it's been a long while. The good news is that if you are even remotely considering selling your home and have been waiting for the market to be in your favor (aka Seller's Market) well, wait no longer.
In the ‘old days’, real estate negotiations were often a fairly simple process. The parties agreed to a price, identified items included in the sale, and determined when the property would change hands. These days, however, real estate negotiations can be extremely complicated. Not only are the parties negotiating on price, but they are working their way through several pages of contract items – all of which need thoughtful and careful consideration.
In today’s market, buyers and sellers need an extremely skilled negotiator on their side. While many people still believe that an agent’s primary duty is simply to show buyers houses or put a seller’s property on the market, that’s just the beginning of their job.
Your agent needs to know how to read the subtle cues and telltale signs of what is required to close a deal. They need to know how to articulate your position to the other side in a way that fosters mutual acceptance. They need to be experienced in dealing with conflict, and how to calm emotions when they get in the way and threaten to derail a transaction.
The number one skill of being a good negotiator—a skill in which real estate agents should excel—is resolution. Your agent must be able to listen carefully to each side, find ways to resolve any objections that come up, and negotiate “win/win” solutions where both parties ultimately walk away satisfied that the transaction was done in fairness.
If you’re a buyer, you absolutely need experience on your side when negotiating with nervous sellers, or with a bank or an asset manager who could live thousands of miles away.
If you are selling a home, hire an agent who is well-versed in your local market and can anticipate how buyers are structuring their offers.
Your agent needs a strong track record of experience in negotiating difficult transactions. The person you want on your side is someone who knows exactly how to negotiate effectively on your behalf and who knows how to successfully guide you in reaching your real estate goals.
Going it alone – or hiring an agent without the professional skills you need – is never in your best interest.
Want to know how I’ve handled some recent tough negotiations? Give me a call at (206) 391-1718 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll share with you the elements of a true “win/win” transaction, based on my own experience.
“A kitchen can sell a house” is a proposition that often proves true—well-designed kitchens can drive value. Given the popularity of cooking shows, artisanal cuisine, and the growing number of new gizmos and gadgets concocted for the advancement of culinary hobbyists, selling a house in Kitsap County can turn on its gastronomical appeal—at least to a select segment of today’s home buyers. You may not want to fight it—especially if your house has a shopping cartload of gourmet potential. If you have a spacious kitchen, it could be a possibility! Consider some of the marketing maneuvers that have been shown to attract foodies looking for a place to lay their platters:
Finding Foodie Features
A Kitsap County house doesn’t necessarily need a fully outfitted gourmet kitchen to catch a foodie’s eye (although that doesn’t hurt, either). Any reasonably food-obsessed family will be attracted by features which focus on the preparation, storage, and/or enjoyment of delicious food. Rebranding a closet as pantry, a deck as outside dining area, or even a basement bar as canning station can invite home cooks to visualize the unique culinary features your house has to offer.
Milking the Kitchen
If you are going to invest in any one remodel for your house, target the kitchen. But know the risks. In order to sell to a true gourmand, the kitchen will need to be up to snuff (and foodies are known for being picky). Simpler can be better when it comes to a soon-to-be gourmet kitchen—and it’s probably true that most any would-be chef will be bringing his or her own specialty gear to the party (it’s half the fun!). Focus on utility instead of bling, counter space over weird gadgets, and big sinks instead of big windows.
Tempting Their Senses
Don’t forget the power of suggestive staging when it comes time to tempt a true foodie. Many prospective buyers will be entering your house with hopes that they’ll be able to create their future fabulous tables here. For a foodie, that means the ability to prepare and enjoy delicious meals. It’s unimportant if the fantasy is a notch higher than their actual skill level—that’s what aspiration is all about. Indulge imagination by focusing on the senses. Offer pristine spaces, pleasing light, and generic (yet tempting) flourishes, such as a well-set table and evocatively, not-quite-bare counters. And don’t forget to remove any and all incriminating food vestiges before allowing foodies in for an open house! Your old cereal boxes, two-liter bottles of soda, and meals-in-a-box may be a busy weekday’s go-to fare, but they’re anathema to a true foodie. Banish them until the last open house visitor has departed.
Remember, selling your Kitsap County house can wind up being all about how you market, stage, and re-imagine the space. To garner foodies as buyers, pick up a couple of copies of Cooks Illustrated and Saveur, tune into The Food Network, and start to think like a foodie. And give me a call, too: between us, we should be able to produce a truly delicious sale!
Home buyers’ first impressions are visual, and a flawed exterior will turn them away faster than a two-hour wait time at a family restaurant. Kitsap County curb appeal is the same as it is anywhere: when ‘curb appeal’ becomes ‘curb repel,’ the outcome to expect is at best offer numbers lower than they should be. Since major exterior remodels can carry prohibitive price tags, keeping the asking price competitive involves finding ways to brighten up the outside of a home without breaking the bank. It’s doable (and affordably) when you tackle the issue keeping the bottom line in mind. Some ideas:
1. Go for the Deep Clean
Cleaning up is the first order of business—but creating true curb appeal may mean being prepared to go beyond the surface. Remove any weeds attacking walkways, then rent a power washer to clean both them and the home exterior (being careful that the power setting isn’t so strong it damages fragile areas). If the gutters look moldy or mildewed, use it on them, too—perhaps with a little mildew-killing solution to finish the job. Really important: wash the windows (once your local prospects get past the curb appeal hurdle, sparkling windows are guaranteed to brighten their impression of the inside).
2. Pick Pots
A mistake many homeowners make is to spend a bundle on landscaping at the last minute. If you’ve devoted years to fostering a well laid-out and cared-for garden, it’s a big plus—but just too expensive to try to create in a few weeks. A pretty yard can certainly help with curb appeal, but it’s also true that not every local buyer will be looking for a gardening experience that involves much upkeep. The budget-minded alternative that can be quite effective? Add the color and curb appeal of flowering plants—but put them in pots. This has the added value of providing local home buyers with green thumbs the general idea of what the yard could look like with their loving care, but without the permanence of established plants. If your home offers a pristine canvas, prospects are more likely to draw their own home ideal on it.
You’d be surprised at how difficult some people make it to just to find their home. You need only provide an address that’s clearly visible from the street, to obey the Curb Appeal First Commandment: Thou shalt not irritate thy buyers! Adding big, attractive house numbers in a font that matches the style of the property is a finishing touch whose value far outstrips the cost and effort involved.
Curb appeal predictably affects both the speed and bottom line of any sale. When you boost it with just a little bit of time and money, you expand the opportunity to show off the gracious interior of your home. Give me a call anytime—we’ll put our heads together to come up with more ideas to tweak your property in ways that are effective and cost-effective!
Your home listing is, hands-down, the most likely place prospective buyers will get their first glimpse of the home you are selling. Most serious prospects will go online as an early step in the process of winnowing candidate properties by area, asking price, number of bedrooms, etc.—so the photos in your home listing will be your offering’s face to the world.
You probably already know that—and that not all pictures are created equal. What’s important to realize is that some home listing photos actually scare away buyers! Whether you are preparing for a professional photographer’s shooting day or just helping your REALTOR® choose the shots that will be included in your area home listing, here are some red flag/don’t go there/bad idea/just-say-no off-kilter ideas for real estate photos. If you steer clear of these approaches, you home listing will benefit:
Adorable Pets in the Shot
Resist the temptation to make your home more appealing and homier by include the cuddliest member of the family—your pet. “But,” (your may be thinking) “half the commercials on TV have a dog or a cat in them! Apparently, animals sell!” Madison Avenue might be able to use four-legged actors to promote some products, but the sight of Fluffy or Fido in a home listing will turn off most buyers. Although no one can smell your pet through an online photo (at least not yet), many people can imagine what smells might be associated with that pooch or feline. “One of the biggest reasons people will or won’t buy a house is odor,” says Don Aslett on the MSN Real Estate website—and few REALTORs would argue the point. So be on the safe side—leave pets on the cutting room floor.
Odd Camera Angles
It can be tempting to shoot photos from a low angle, pointing the camera toward the ceiling. The idea might be to make rooms look as if they have higher ceilings—or to fit everything into the shot—and sometimes the result does look fine. But equally likely is a photo that ends up looking, well, odd. Off-balance shots can make viewers feel uncomfortable, as if something’s just not right. You want your photos to look as realistic as possible, as if it’s what everybody sees on a home tour. IOW, if a photo is in any way jarring, opt for one taken from a normal point of view.
Most listings show everything in acceptably sharp focus: in photographer jargon, they exhibit wide Depth-of-Field. But where lighting or lens dictate shallow depth, only part of the shot will be in sharp focus…and that’s the area that will attract the viewer’s eye. Use this to your advantage. For instance, it’s good to show pictures of the master bathroom—especially if it resembles a spa retreat—but it’s bad to focus on the commode instead of the Carrera marble vanity.
Putting together a killer listing is an important part of the comprehensive service my clients receive.
Real estate agents in Bainbridge Island are true veterans when it comes to every aspect of what needs to take place for a home to be sold. We know in advance what all the pieces of the puzzle are, and what needs to be done for them to fit together properly. We’ve also seen why some homes stay on the market for too long, while others get snatched up right away. And the best part is—we want our clients to know all those same things!
Every rule may be made to be broken, but here are three generalities that just about every Bainbridge Island real estate agent will probably agree are worth knowing:
1. Where speed is important, price your house just under the market. As real estate values strengthen, sellers are growing more confident about the value of their offerings—even as prospective buyers continue to believe it’s a bargain-hunter’s market. That’s a terrific opportunity for sellers who realize that by simply setting their asking price just below what an optimistic, “let’s just see what happens” price, they can peg their offering to attract the serious buyers ASAP. It’s axiomatic: the longer a house is on the market, the less likely it is to close at its asking price. The best strategy, always: sell as quickly as possible.
2. A buyer needs to walk into your house and find that it looks great. It may seem like a trivial detail to you, but real estate agents on Bainbridge Island know that even incidental atmospherics—little things that you’d think a buyer would know they can easily rectify—can instantaneously repel buyers. So make your home smell great! Establish a clean, fresh scent and be diligent in renewing it for every showing (after making sure any clutter is tucked away!)
3. Your Bainbridge Island real estate agent will help speed the process of selling your home, but there are some parts of the timeline that can’t be rushed. Know in advance: the process takes time. It takes time to get your home in shape, make the necessary repairs, list it on the market, negotiate an offer, then proceed through all the paperwork, observing successive deadlines set to allow proper execution. Here’s another area where your real estate agent will be a great resource for dependably establishing exactly what to expect—and when to expect it.
If you will be seeking the right Bainbridge Island real estate agent to make this summer your own hot selling season, I’m standing by to make it happen. Call me!
With summer already upon us, we stand in the thick of Bainbridge Island’s first major selling season of 2014. If you are preparing to add your own property to the Bainbridge Island home listings, the International Association of Home Staging Professionals would like to draw your attention to some statistics that bolster their members’ proposition. None is more compelling than this one: non-staged homes remain 79 days longer on market than their professionally-staged neighbors.
Still, since not everyone hires a professional staging company to work their magic, you’d think there would be a few DIY alternatives that would well worth doing. Of course, there are: and some go beyond the most well-known staging rules that are basic to any home sale:
1. De-clutter (then de-clutter again). The stagers’ single most important line item remains this: de-clutter. There is little cost to de-cluttering a home (usually no more than a storage unit’s rental). The professional insight is that once you have done it, go back through the house and do it again! That second round might only involve boxing up a few remaining personal knick-knacks, but it can also suddenly reveal items that clash with a room’s overall color palette.
2. Light(en) it up: Neutral colors are the rule for staging a home, but good light can be equally important. Make sure every room is well-lit, with clean windows, bright light bulbs (some do dim over time), and plenty of lamps or fixtures. If possible, disperse the height of lighting sources by mixing floor and table lamps, windows and overhead fixtures.
3. Find the focal points: The largest item in the room does not always have to be the focal item. If you have an antique chest or a captivating painting, see if you can arrange the room so that it’s the first thing your eye picks up as you enter the room. A strong focal point gives a sense of character to a room. It works to your advantage, since the focal point naturally emphasizes the strongest feature of the room.
These are approaches that do take some time and effort—but imaginative staging really does make an impact on perceived value, and, as a result, time-on-market. For more Bainbridge Island home selling insights, give me a call anytime to discuss your own real estate plans!
A major home-selling decision arrives right at the start: setting your home’s price. It’s a step that can be decisive for good or for ill.
But what is the “right” price? We know what it probably isn’t—it’s not the first number that pops into your head, nor is it likely to be The-Price-of-Your-Next-House-Plus-the Cost-of-a-Family-Vacation-in-Tahiti-Plus-the-New-Sportscar-You’ve-Always-Wanted-to-Own. It’s also not a price that will ‘test the market’ (to make sure there hasn’t been an upward spike in demand since the last comparable neighborhood home sold).
Setting a home’s price in the right ballpark can be easier than many people assume. You can get there by a number of different routes, most of them tied to recent neighborhood history:
Setting a home’s price doesn’t take place in a vacuum: first come the buyers you need to attract. If your property is priced significantly above the market, your ‘market test’ will tell you that only uninformed prospects—or no prospects—are interested in pursuing your offer. An out-of-whack asking price can also be taken as evidence that the seller (you) aren’t really interested in making a deal happen, which will make professionals less likely to present it to qualified buyers.
AIDING THE COMPETITION
By setting your home’s price significantly above the competition, you do everyone else in the neighborhood a terrific marketing favor. Even prospective buyers who appreciate your home’s innate qualities may be unable to resist what suddenly looks like a real bargain-basement buy just down the street!
APPRAISAL REALITY CHECK.
Even if you do interest a willing buyer, unless he or she belongs to Warren Buffett’s country club, a likely next step will involve a mortgage lender’s appraisal. Setting a home’s price above any neighborhood comparable can mean an appraisal that comes in below the agreed-upon purchase price. Even if that doesn’t kill the sale through a loan denial, the buyer is likely to be penalized through a higher down payment or interest rate— either of which can play taps for your sale.
IT’S ONLY MONEY
Another (and perhaps the most persuasive) reason to right-price your home is monetary. History shows that overpricing generally yields proceeds that are significantly below those set more aggressively right from the start. It’s human nature: successive price reductions look like desperation—which invites low-ball offers.
If you are actively debating how to make the best of this summer’s Bainbridge Island selling season, give me a call. Together we can map out a strategy that works!
Before April 15th came and went, perhaps you and your accountant had one of those occasional chats about your assets and liabilities. If owning your vacation home on Bainbridge Island has resulted in more taxes or less financial gain than you’d planned for—or if you and your family just don’t use the place as often as you used to–this summer is a good time to consider selling. If you have lost some love for your extra house, but don’t want to go through the rigmarole of renting it out season-to-season, the selling alternative could be at hand.
USA Today recently featured an article headlined, “How to Sell Vacation Property.” In it, author Jennifer Eblin pointed out, “Your real estate agent should understand that selling a vacation property is different from selling any other piece of property…and have intimate knowledge of the surrounding area.”
That kind of experience is doubly helpful when it comes from dealing with vacation homes similar to your own. If your home-away-from-home is in a condominium community, a Realtor® who is familiar with the community is most likely to have intimate knowledge of price points, selling points—and deal breakers that can sometimes make all the difference for your own sale.
Just as important as teaming with the right real estate agent is making sure the property is in top condition. Few Bainbridge Island vacation home buyers will be looking for a “fixer-upper”—so plan to spruce up the house before it goes on the market. Make small repairs, repaint dull or off-color walls, and depersonalize as much as possible. Picture what drew you to the property back when you bought it: present that same space and feeling to the new owners.
In almost every case, right about now is a highly favorable time to list a Bainbridge Island vacation home. This is the season when people are looking forward to the warmer months and wishing they had a great place of their own in which to enjoy them. With winter still fresh in people’s minds, a well-priced Bainbridge Island vacation home listing stands the best chance of drawing a crowd.
The bottom line is that selling a vacation home on Bainbridge Island is about selling an idea—whether it’s a rustic escape or a luxurious retreat from the daily grind. Make sure your property speaks that language, and I’ll be standing by--ready to do the rest!