Wednesday, February 27, 2013

5 Small Home Improvement Projects with Big Returns

The very mention of ‘home renovation’ can cause anxiety in homeowners, particularly those who have already gone through the process. Extensive remodeling projects can be expensive, disruptive, and time-consuming, but that does not necessarily apply to every project. There are a number of upgrades that can dramatically improve the look and feel of your home without breaking the bank or creating total chaos in your life. If you are trying to sell your home, you will find that inexpensive improvements can yield big returns. Here are five enhancements that fall relatively low on the hassle scale:
1. Hardwood Flooring Installation
Installing hardwood flooring should, in most cases, be left to a contractor, as it requires special equipment and expertise. On the other hand, glue-down hardwood floors are less costly, especially if your home is on a concrete slab. The installation of nailed hardwood floors over concrete requires that a layer of plywood or other suitable wood medium be applied first so that the new product can be attached with nails. However, glue-down flooring eliminates this step because an adhesive is used for the attachment process. It is generally a faster installation as well. For instance, a 400 square foot room floored with 3-inch flooring can usually be completed in 1 to 2 days.
If you already have hardwood floors that are worn, you might want to consider refinishing. Again, this is a job for the well-skilled craftsman, but it will dramatically improve the look of the room and require much less time than a complete replacement. In fact, approximately 86% of homebuyers in 2011 chose a home with hardwood floors, so this renovation is a worthy investment if you plan to sell your home somewhere down the road.
2. Kitchen and Bath Hardware
One of the simplest upgrades that can be performed is the installation of new hardware such as towel racks, cabinet handles, toilet paper dispensers, and other wall-mounted hardware. Several aesthetically pleasing designs are available for a range of prices. If you are handy, this is a true do-it-yourself project.
3. Cabinet Upgrades
Replacing cabinets is an extensive process, particularly in a kitchen. Unfortunately, this process will make that area practically unusable during the renovation. If your cabinets are not dated or damaged, you may opt to refinish the doors and drawer panels instead. In addition, you may want to replace old hardware like pull handles and knobs. This is a much cheaper option and will reduce the disruption since the cabinets themselves do not require demolition.
4. Exterior Door Replacements
The front entry is one of the first things a visitor sees when approaching your home. If the front door is old, warped or damaged, replacement should be considered, not only for cosmetic reasons but for energy efficiency benefits as well. Standard size doors can be purchased at virtually any home improvement center. They may also have an installation option as well, and that can make this a truly painless upgrade.
5. Wall Painting
A fresh coat of paint can do wonders for any room. Walls and ceilings get stained and dulled over the years, and a fresh application of paint not only brightens but protects these areas. Painting is a true do-it-yourself project; it does require patience and attention to detail but the outlay for materials and paint is minimal for the benefits gained.

Written By: Erin Devine

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

5 Things New Home Buyers Look for First

The real estate market is so huge these days that people that want to sell a house need to make sure that everything is in a perfect state. And not only that – they should also try to make the most important features stand out in order to make the potential buyers even more interested in their particular house.
Nobody buys a house without looking around for awhile, so it is necessary to get the property into the ideal state. Of course, there are some things that new home buyers look for first – and those are the things that you should focus on in your preparations the most. In this article, we are going to look at some of the top ones.
Patio might not be the most important feature for many buyers, but it is a feature that has a huge influence on the buyer’s first impressions and we all know how important that factor might turn out to be. Someone who will have to walk through a patio that is in a state of disrepair is surely not going to regard the entire property very highly. On the other hand, a well-designed patio with seasonal decorations that is kept in a good state might have the opposite effect on the potential buyer, so make sure that your patio is indeed going to start the inspection on a high note.
When it comes to exterior features, roof is one of those things that stand out the most and any deficiencies in that department are going to be noticed by everyone who will want to take an in-depth look at the property. This is especially true in locations that experience their fair share of bad weather and where it is a really good idea to have a roof of the best possible quality. You might not be willing to invest into a complete renovation, but you should undoubtedly fix the most obvious problems in order to make your house more attractive.
With the exterior out of the way, the layout is what is going to hit the buyers straight away. Changing the layout is an incredibly tough task and, unfortunately, you will have to pitch your layout a little bit if it isn’t designed according to the current trends and tendencies. One of the things that modern families like to have is shared space between the living room and the kitchen. You are obviously not going to change the entire layout just because you have the two rooms separate from each other, but you should know how to convince the buyer that this is no issue at all if the topic comes up during the inspection.
Indoor Decor
One thing that can be changed more easily is the indoor decor – and you should definitely try to make it as neutral as possible. Neutral and conservative colors are going to appeal to a much wider audience than eccentric colors like dark red. You might love to live in rooms with that kind of aesthetic features, but chances are that the buyers would prefer to come into a place that has a neutral decor and color palette. Thankfully, it is not that hard or expensive to change this particular feature and you should therefore surely consider changing it even before you put your house on the market.
Finally, everyone who is satisfied enough with what he or she sees will certainly want to take a look at the house’s infrastructure. We are talking about the most basic things – water, electricity, and heating. Every single house has an infrastructure, but customers tend to be very picky these days. First and foremost, everything needs to be in a perfect state – nobody will want to buy a house in which the heating system will have to be changed in the near future.
With that out of the way, home buyers also tend to look for how efficient all those systems are, especially when it comes to environmental friendliness. Solar panels seem to be what the craze is mostly about these days – and innovative solutions like that can certainly make your house stand out from the rest of the market. So don’t forget to mention them during the inspection!

Written: Paul Hayden

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Staging Your Property to Appeal to All Five Senses

Before you conduct your first open house, consider how you can stage your property so that it is more appealing to potential buyers. Most open houses appeal to only one sense – our eyes. This is extraordinary given how much our day-to-day emotions are influenced by what we smell and the fact that there is a high chance our mood can change when we are exposed to a positive sound. The importance of our senses has been completely overlooked when it comes to selling a home… until now.
Sniffing an opportunity…
Have you ever walked past a Subway sandwich shop where you can smell the aroma of warm bread? If you look carefully at the awning you will spot vents that are specially designed to disperse baking aromas. This has proved to be a profitable exercise for the Subway Franchise.
Studies show that smell is heavily connected to our memory and our mood. When the opportunity presents itself, I like to place a tangerine or a pinch of vanilla extract on a sheet of tinfoil and turn the oven to 275 degrees. I have observed that this subtle smell will put a smile on a visitor’s face and allow a buyer who has seen 15 similar apartments in one day to distinguish your apartment as the “vanilla smelling apartment”. The smell must be subtle and anything too strong could backfire.
Taste goes hand in hand with smell.
Who’s in a good mood when they’re hungry? In addition to creating a subtle aroma, pairing simple foods together could go a long way with changing your buyer’s mood. When I place a pinch of vanilla extract in the oven I generally like to offer foods that match this smell such as cookies, chocolate, and coffee that I have brewed. When I place a tangerine in the oven, chopped fruit with tooth picks and wine generally matches the aroma better.
Depending on the type of clientele your listing attracts you can choose between one or the other. From my experience when dealing with apartments that have multiple bedrooms where a family is going to live, I generally like to serve coffee and cookies, as I sometimes expect kids to show up. The use of coffee will also make them feel more alert and thus more prone to listening to what you have to say and the act of making the coffee and pouring it into their cup will make them feel more at home. When dealing with a one bedroom apartment that will generally attract a first-time single buyer and clients looking for pied-a-tiers, I find fruit and wine make them feel more relaxed and more prone to opening up to the agent.
Sound is connected to mood as smell is connected to memory.
Sound creates feelings and emotions. Think about the last love movie you saw, it isn’t nearly as emotional if you watched it with the sound off. If you have ever been to a townhouse open house in NYC at times you’ll see them hire an opera singer, cellist and violinist. I am not saying you should go that far, however, I do think that a subtle natural melody can help soften the mood and make a buyer feel more relaxed.
Temperature is key and doors are for discovery…
The skin is the largest organ of the body. It instantly alerts us to cold, heat, pain or pressure. When you hold an open house make sure the temperature of the house is right. In the fall and spring I would advise keeping the thermostat at 72 degrees. In the winter I would advise 80 degrees and in the summer at around 60. Remember if the house is too hot it’s going to come off as ‘stuffy’ and if the house is too cold it’s going to come off as unwelcoming.
Also, before a buyer walks into the house, close all doors to closets, bathrooms, and bedrooms. The more doors a buyer opens the larger the apartment feels.
Sight is the most seductive sense of all.
It often overrules the other senses, and has the power to persuade us against all logic. What you should understand about vision is that it’s all about light and that’s why they say, to truly see what an artist saw when painting a given picture; you should look at it under the same light. Here’s my advice:
  • The house should be shown when it receives the best natural light.
  • Turn on ALL lights in the house.
  • Allow your prospective buyer to see themselves in the space. It is important that you remove personal items such as photographs, collectables, awards, family heirlooms or controversial art.
  • Clear out any clutter and knickknacks from corners, counters and tables. Remove outdated furniture and extra pieces to open up a room and make it more inviting.
  • Buyers love to snoop and will open closet and cabinet doors. Clean and organized closets look roomier. Consider advising the seller to donate unused clothing and items to their favorite charity.
  • If the property needs work – dated wallpaper, ratty carpet – consider having it replaced. A fresh coat of neutral paint is a relatively inexpensive way to make a home look clean and fresh.
  • Making minor repairs can also make a big difference. Replace cracked floor or counter tiles, patch holes in walls, replace burned-out light bulbs, fix leaky faucets, doors that don’t close properly and broken fixtures.
  • Clean like the sale of your home depended on it … because it does. Pay particular attention to the kitchen and bathroom sinks and counters. Clean windows to make a room brighter and so your buyers are no distracted.

Written by: Ariel Dagan