Most of us are familiar with traditional staging; the act of decorating and furnishing a home for sale to appeal to potential buyers. A well staged home can produce stunning listing photos that will encourage buyers to tour the home. It can also help buyers envision themselves living in the house. In recent years, a new trend has emerged in home staging: virtual staging.
What is Virtual Staging?
Virtual staging takes photos of empty rooms and then uses photo-editing software to add in attractive furniture and decor (like mirrors, plants, rugs, etc). While it is possible to download a DIY staging software, typically, you will get the best results by having a professional company virtually stage the photos. It’s also important that the photos you use are high-quality, preferably taken by a professional photographer.
Why opt for Virtual Staging?
When compared to traditional staging, virtual staging is much less expensive and saves the hassle of moving lots of furniture into the house or painting several rooms. According to realtor.com, “the average cost for most stagers is $300 to $600 for an initial design consultation, and $500 to $600 per month per staged room.” By comparison, most virtual staging companies will charge between $50-$200 per room depending on how much redecoration the room requires. Virtual staging can even include decluttering or “painting” rooms. In addition to saving money, virtual staging can be done quite quickly. Most companies offer a 2 day turn around on your photos.
Keep in Mind:
Bad virtual staging can immediately turn buyers off from perusing your listing photos and make them write off visiting your home. Alternatively, when you use a professional company, you should have a disclaimer in the caption of the photo that it has been virtually staged so the buyer is aware that when they visit the house, it will not look the exact same as the photos. You may decide you want to include the original photos of the empty rooms with the staged photos for this purpose. Virtual staging is not intended to trick buyers; it is a tool sellers use to help showcase a property while providing depth to the rooms so buyers can envision the space better. Ultimately, you may still decide to physically stage your house or use a mix of virtually and traditionally stages rooms for your listing. As always, a realtor can offer great advice and guidance for your particular situation.
If you are considering putting your house on the market in the near future, you may be wondering what prospective homebuyers are looking for before investing in a home improvement project. Afterall, you don’t want to sink a lot of money and time into an upgrade that won’t appeal to buyers. These improvements go beyond fixing major issues that would come up during a home inspection (which should be addressed prior to putting your house on the market) or quick/ inexpensive fixes like cleaning the carpets or fixing chipped paint. So, what do buyers want in a house?
Renovated or Updated Kitchen
According to realtor.com, a survey they conducted in early April of this year found that 13.3% of 1,300 surveyed (both renters and owners of houses) rated an updated kitchen a must have for their next home. The 2019 Realtor Remodeling Impact Report found that 40% of realtors recommend sellers update their kitchen before listing their home (and 20% said it helped close a sale). Now more than ever, the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged more people to cook at home, thereby making a kitchen with updated appliances a sought-after commodity. Check out these blog posts on counters, cabinets, and DIY renovation tips for more ideas on how to update your current kitchen. Also keep in mind that 75% of agents surveyed in HomeLight’s Q3 2019 Top Agent Insights Report said that stainless steel appliances are the most in demand appliance finish among buyers.
Gone are the days of wall-to-wall carpeting, homebuyers of recent years want hardwood floors. This home project has one of the best ROIs you can find in home remodeling; there is a 106% cost recovery of new hardwood flooring and 100% cost recovery to refinish existing hardwood floors (according to the same Realtor Remodeling Impact Report). If hardwood throughout the house is not in the budget, opting for another hard surface, like laminate, is still preferred over carpeting. Prioritize the main living areas and keep the carpet in the bedrooms if you can’t update all the flooring. The best practice is to keep the flooring consistent in the house by using the same color and material in all the rooms you plan to make hard surface floors.
Buyers today want modern interiors with clean lines. Bathrooms are similar to kitchens in that they are a high traffic area for family members and so they can wear out faster than other rooms in the house. Buyers like bathrooms with big showers that give off a spa-like environment. If you are not in a position to remodel a bathroom, re-grouting tile and replacing water stained ceilings will go a long way to refresh the space.
Even if you have all the amenities a prospective buyer could dream up inside your home, it’s the exterior of the house that will immediately create an impression on the buyers before they even step foot inside. Create some curb appeal to ensure you impress the buyer from the start. For a quick and relatively inexpensive face-lift, keep the yard mowed and powerwash the exterior of the house. Homebuyers also want ample exterior lighting for both aesthetic and safety reasons. If you can take on a bigger project, the number one outdoor feature buyers want in a house is a patio. Check out this blog post for tips on how to upgrade your existing patio or talk to a contractor about building one.
To get an offer on your house it’s important to help potential buyers envision making your house their new home. There are several ways to accomplish this, particularly with proper staging, but one of the best ways is to paint all the walls neutral colors. A neutral palette (think whites and grays) makes the furniture pop and gives the home a move-in ready appearance.
Let’s face it, Americans today have a lot of stuff. Minimalism, while trendy, is a challenge for most of us. We want to live in simple, calm spaces without sacrificing our beloved possessions. This creates a demand for more storage areas in the house. Homebuyers want walk-in closets, garages with shelving, large pantries, and laundry rooms. While it’s not always possible to create these spaces if they are not part of your floorplan, with a bit of creativity, you can still improve these areas. Try installing an organizational system with shelves and hanging rods to optimize the space in a reach-in closet. Similarly, you can add shelves and a peg wall for tools to increase the storage capacity for your garage or even invest in a shed.
Energy Efficiency and Smart Technology
According to 2019 survey results from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), energy-saving features such as Energy Star appliances, windows and whole house certification are among the most wanted home features. Buyers are willing to spend a little more upfront in the interest of saving money on utilities down the road. In addition to replacing old windows and appliances with energy-efficient ones, consider installing ceiling fans and smart thermostats which will also help lower utility costs. You may also decide to upgrade your insulation which boasts a recovery value of 83%. Be sure to have these features highlighted in your listing since they can be overlooked in a typical home tour.
When in doubt about which projects to focus on, ask your realtor! They will have the most up-to-date data and trends, plus know what appeals to buyers specific to your local housing market.
First impressions matter, and this is particularly true in real estate. Whether you’re looking for ways to increase the value of your home, or just looking for a fun home project, consider upgrading your landscaping.
Multiple sources attest to the draw that a beautifully landscaped yard has on potential home buyers. Martin Eiden, a top broker with Compass in New York City, claims that good landscaping can increase a home’s value by 10 to 15% at the most. Similarly, a study by Michigan State University found that potential home buyers perceived the value of a home with good landscaping to be 11% higher than a home without it. In addition, a survey done by the National Association of Landscape Professionals found that 84% of Americans said that landscaping would impact their decision to buy a home.
With spring weather here to stay, now is the perfect time to make an investment in your home by improving your landscaping. It may sound like an overwhelming project. Where do you start?
Here are some helpful tips to consider as you embark on this project.
1. Think Outside the Green Box
A green lawn has become a staple of the American yard, but there are many quick and easy ways to add on to that to create more interest. To add a pop of color here and there, use potted flowers. Refresh the look of your lawn with new mulch around bushes and in plant beds. Add some outdoor furniture or lawn ornaments
2. Match Your Yard to Your Home
Make sure the style of your landscaping matches the style of your home. If you have a classic style of home, choose landscaping that reflects that style, don’t go for a bold, contemporary statement.
3. Opt for Sophistication
A green rectangle is uninspired. Employing more sophisticated design elements like curved lines for plant beds and an island of plants in the middle of a lawn is much more interesting, and can even result in a higher sale price, according to a survey by Turf magazine. The same survey also found that yards with a mix of large trees and colorful annual plants also sold better.
4. Plan for Each Season
Plan your landscaping so that it will look good all year round. This is especially important for home-owners in a four-season climate. A blog post by HouseCall describes what plants to choose for each season, “blooming bulbs for spring, annual beds around the house during the summer, shrubs with brightly colored leaves in the fall, and evergreens for the winter”.
5. Trees are Awesome
Trees not only increase the value of your property, they also clean the air, provide fruit, provide privacy, and can reduce your heating and cooling bills. What a powerhouse plant! In addition, they are relatively inexpensive to plant.
A study by Landscape and Urban Planning found that homes with trees in the front yard in Portland, Oregon, sold for $8,870 more and also sold 1.7 days faster than those homes without them. A single hardwood tree can remove 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air in a year. The U.S. Department of Energy found that strategically planted trees can reduce a home’s energy use by 25%, since they can provide shade in the summer and block wind in the winter. The Tree Benefit Calculator can give homeowners an estimate of how much benefit a given tree can give the neighborhood.
While trees are generally awesome, if you are planting new ones, it’s important to choose their location carefully, making sure they aren’t too close to the driveway or home. Once matured, a badly placed tree can get in the way of power lines or septic system drain fields, a definite detractor for potential buyers.
6. Invest in an Automatic Irrigation System
If you are going to put the time, effort, and money into upgrading your yard, you may want to protect that investment, and reduce your daily time spent maintaining the landscaping, with an automatic irrigation system.
7. Keep it Low Maintenance
While a well-landscaped yard is a definite asset, for most homeowners it’s best to create a yard that is also relatively low-maintenance. Unless gardening is your passion, you’ll get the most economic benefit from a yard that’s easy to maintain.
If you live in an area that’s dry, like California or the southwestern states, consider water-smart landscaping, which features artfully placed rocks with bushes and shrubs that don’t require much water.
In general, plants that are native to the area you live in will be hardier and easier to maintain. They won’t need as much water, fertilizer, or hands on care to thrive in their native environment as something exotic would.
8. Create a welcoming pathway
Visitors and anyone interested in buying your home will encounter the front yard first and enter through the front door. Make a good first impression by designing a pathway to the front door that creates interest. “Ideally, have it winding with plants or a small hedge on each side,” says New York City broker Martin Eiden.
9. Install Outdoor Lighting
Outdoor lighting not only shows off your beautiful landscaping at night, it also provides added safety for anyone coming and going at night, and can ward off burglars. Outdoor lights can now be LED or solar-powered, saving money and electricity. There are a wide range of outdoor lights available, so you can pick up a simple DIY kit at a hardware store, or invest in a professional to design and install a lighting scheme.
10. Edge the Lawn
Since you have put the time, effort, and finances into improving your landscaping, why not finish the job with a nice clean edge around your lawn? This is especially important for home sellers. It will add clean lines and a sense of organization to your yard, overall. This sends a signal to potential buyers that you have kept the property in tip-top condition. For tips on how to edge your lawn, click here.
Whether you are renovating a home to prepare it for sale or just want to improve it, renovations can be expensive so it’s important to find a contractor you trust and ensure your upgrades add value to your house. Renovating a home can seem overwhelming at first, especially if you have several ideas or projects you want to accomplish. If you have any issues with the basics- your roof, HVAC system, plumbing, or flooring and walls- they will be your first priority. If everything is in good working condition, you may decide to focus on the kitchen or bathrooms which typically have a high return on investment. So once you’ve decided on your project, what should you do next?
1. Set a Budget
Your budget may look different if you are improving upon your dream home versus if you plan to sell your home in a few years. Not all upgrades will pay for themselves when it comes to selling a home. However, if you are improving on a home you plan to live in for several years to come, it may make sense to splurge on amenities that you would want regardless of resale value. A big part of the budget is deciding on materials. In most cases, you want to balance your splurges with economic substitutions. You may decide on an upscale laminate over true hardwood floors or choose a cost-effective neutral tile in the bathroom paired with a top-of-the-line tile for an accent strip. After getting some estimates, you may find that you do not have enough saved. It’s a good idea to review loan options and talk with your mortgage lender.
2. Devise a Plan
Get together all the information about your project including everything you want done and desired materials. You may decide to create your own plan or you might meet with a pro, like an architect or interior designer. It’s a good idea to establish early on how involved you want them to be in the process since hiring an architect for the full job (assembling a team of contractors, overseeing construction, designing every aspect of your renovation) could be costly.
3. Create a List of Candidates
Your realtor, friends and family, and social media platforms can be a good springboard for you to start a list of people/ businesses you may want to use for your renovations. You can find more candidates through an online search as well. Then you will want to narrow down the list by looking at reviews carefully.
4. Interview the Best Candidates
Now you can verify with each candidate that they are licensed and insured as well as inquire about their past work with renovations similar to yours. You can request references and then make sure they check out. Next, you should set up in-person interviews. This ensures you will work well with your contractor and they get a chance to see the property/ area you want renovated. This will help them give you an accurate estimate; you may even decide you want to pay for a “hard estimate” at this time to be sure you will stay within budget (which can be particularly important if you plan to sell soon and want the best return on investment).
5. Select a General Contractor
Now you are ready to hire your General Contractor (or plumber, painter, designer, etc). You want to be present but avoid micromanaging since that can slow down the renovations and add unnecessary tension. Since you’ve been thorough in your selection process, you can be confident in your team to produce high quality work. That said, it’s always a good idea to let your GC know how to get in touch with you when you aren’t home if they need a decision on purchase or design. Your freshly upgraded home is now ready to be enjoyed, or perhaps, sold!
As most people know, Spring can be a great time to list your house. I have found that often buyers who have looked all winter are often ready to make a move on the right house when it comes on the market.
I think this Spring will be particularly good due to continued lack of inventory and historically low interest rates. In other words, the normal lack of inventory due to the slower Winter months only adds the to general inventory problems of today's market and is multiplied by a lot of ready and able buyers with low interest rates!
The following are some simple tips for getting your house market-ready in time for the Spring:
1. Declutter and Clean Your Home
Having a clean and organized house will instantly make the rooms look bigger and show off the best features of your home. Buyers appreciate having lots of storage space and with knick-knacks out of the way, the closets and other storage areas will look more spacious. If you aren't ready to purge everything, you can rent a storage space while your house is on the market. Keep your house as clean as possible so it is always ready to show and make a good first impression on potential buyers.
2. Make Updates and Repairs
Now would be a good time to review the Pre-Home Inspection Checklist to see what updates your house may need. Be sure to fix leaky faucets, running toilets, squeaky doors, etc. Painting neutral colors and replacing hardware, particularly in the kitchen, are relatively quick upgrades that can impress potential buyers.
3. De-Personalize Your Home
Decluttering your home and painting neutral colors are both important aspects to creating a blank slate so that buyers can easily envision themselves living in your house. Put away most framed photos, toys, personal keepsakes and similar items.
4. Stage Your Home
There are several advantages to staging your house; buyers view the house as well maintained and the furniture placement will help highlight the strengths of your house while minimizing any flaws there may be. This will also maximize the space and make the house look inviting. Staging a home includes the exterior to improve its curb appeal. Fresh paint, a mowed lawn, and landscaping will all ensure a great first impression before potential buyers even enter your home. Contact me if you would like to have a professional stager and myself tour your home and provide consultation and possibly pieces to complement your home.
5. Prepare for Professional Photography
The majority of potential buyers will see photos of your house online before they see it in person. In fact, bad photos could discourage them from seeing your house at all! The first step to taking flattering photos is to maximize both artificial and natural light in your home. Clean windows, replace burned out bulbs and add more lighting fixtures or stand alone lamps to make the house look bright and cheery. Professional photography will put your houses' best foot forward by ensuring the pictures are; clear, crisp, high resolution and taken from the best angles. Tips on preparing your house for pictures can be found here.
6. Pricing Your House
Your listing agent is an invaluable asset to you as you prepare to put your house on the market; they provide a wealth of knowledge regarding the local housing market and determining the value of a home. It's important that the asking price be competitive; if it's too high, your listing may get overlooked and after sitting on the market, buyers may wonder why the house hasn't sold. If you want to discuss your the market value of your house email me here.
Advertising your home by posting pictures online is one of the first and most important marketing steps you will take when selling your home. More and more people begin their search for a new home online and their first impression of your home will be shaped by the quality of your pictures. What many people don’t understand is the prep that the homeowner will need to complete before the photographer begins shooting the property. Below is a detailed checklist of the most common preparations one should do in order to be fully prepared for the professional photographer.
If you are doing preliminary research and want to see how you can further prepare your home for sale, it doesn't hurt to prepare your home for a home inspection. Check out the blog linked below.
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