What the Flip? Portland Home Gets a Major Face-Lift and Gains $600K in Value

Flipping a house is a lot of work that can yield a big profit. But not every project is guaranteed to be lucrative. So what’s the key to successfully making over a fixer-upper and selling it for a gain? Our series “What the Flip?” presents before and after photos to identify the smart construction and design decisions that ultimately helped make the house desirable to buyers.

Known for friendly faces, eclectic locals, and beautiful scenery, Portland, OR, has been seen as a desirable place to put down roots for a while now. It was even rated the ninth best U.S. city to live in by U.S. News & World Report. All of those benefits, plus historically low real estate inventory, mean housing prices in Portland are high. But for flippers who can nab a fixer-upper with good bones, there’s plenty of potential for profit—as this example shows.

The flippers who took on this five-bedroom, five-bathroom house made a smart move by pouncing on the well-worn property for $875,000 when it was listed in June 2019. After a full-on renovation, they put the home up for sale, and in December 2020 it was sold for $1,475,000.

So how did they raise the home’s value by $600,000 in just a year and a half—and during a pandemic, no less? The booming market wasn’t the only thing that made this home sale such a success. The fresh renovations also had something to do with making this a must-have property.

Taking into account the home’s now-stylish interior design, we asked our team of experts to look at before and after photos and weigh in on the changes that made the biggest difference in this home. Here’s what they had to say.

Living room

Talk about major changes! Once full of dark, drab wallpaper and a dated, textured ceiling, the living room now has a brighter, cleaner look.

“The application of white paint on everything really works well in this room,” says designer, real estate agent, and house-flipping investor Laura Schlicht. “Two of this house’s biggest assets have been artfully played up: the architectural moldings and the fantastic view.”

“It was a great move to get rid of the extra door on the side of the fireplace,” adds real estate investor and agent Molly Gallagher, of Falk Ruvin Gallagher. “There are plenty of other ways in and out of the room, and it allowed them to widen the hearth and keep the green-tiled theme going.”

Kitchen

The old kitchen was spacious, but that’s about all it had going for it. Once the flippers worked their magic, they had a kitchen that would impress any prospective buyer.

“Removing a section of the wall between the dining room and kitchen brings much more light into the kitchen, bouncing off the bright white cabinets, rather than keeping the view for the dining room itself,” says Kate Ziegler, real estate investor and real estate agent.

She adds that her top question from buyers touring homes is whether or not they can remove a wall.

“Having done this update for the buyers broadens the audience for this home, and boosts sale price as a result,” says Ziegler.

Real estate investor and agent Tracie Setliff, also with Falk Ruvin Gallagher, was impressed with the island addition.

“The island placement is perfect—it seems like it was always there and makes up for some of the storage lost by opening up the wall,” she adds.

“We love that they nod to the original lights and time period of the home with the updated light fixtures they chose,” adds Gallagher. “And they smartly chose to appeal to a wide buyer pool by not adding in some specific tile that will be dated in five years.”

Home office

Before 2020, a home office was just a bonus, but now it’s essential—whether it’s for work or school, or both. Even though this renovation was started before the coronavirus pandemic, the flippers chose to upgrade this home office in a major way, which really paid off by the time they listed the home.

“I love that they removed the old attached bookshelf,” says Setliff. “The room has an airier feel to it without the hulk of the built-in shelving. There are so many cute bookshelves that are much sleeker.”

Schlicht agreed, explaining that the built-in bookcase, while often a bonus, was actually the wrong size for the space and made the room feel crowded.

“Let’s take a moment to notice the windows,” says Ziegler. “New windows are a significant cost that most new buyers don’t want to take on in the near term—but the payback in efficiency can be remarkable. Replacing windows as part of a flip makes the whole space look more contemporary and polished, but also adds real value to the home that buyers can quantify.”

Dining room

At first glance, it may seem like the only real change in the dining room was a new coat of white paint, but Ziegler says that’s not the case. In fact, she was rather impressed with the flippers’ efforts in this room.

“The dining room demonstrates places where the investors behind this work took the time to restore and retain older details: keeping the built-in sideboard, and even the mirror detail below the smaller window shows a thoughtful approach and is indicative of more time-intensive work,” Ziegler says.

“Restoring details rather than replacing with cheaper, contemporary alternatives requires patience and care, and that attention to detail is something buyers notice even if they don’t have the vocabulary to describe it,” she adds. “The updated chandelier is trendy but also a nod to midcentury modern styling that is appropriate for a house of this age.”

Setliff is happy to see the “boring” light fixture go, in favor of the new “sophisticated, sculpturelike light.”

“Buyers do not want to have to change fixtures, as simple as it seems, and keeping it fun yet unfussy was the way to go,” she says. “It is interesting how you notice the views from the windows now that your eye isn’t drawn to the dark brown of the built-in cabinets and window trim.”

Den

This old den went from afterthought to amazing after this flip, and our experts are impressed with the results.

“Goodbye, ’60s; hello, now!” says Gallagher. “Knotty pine is best reserved for Wisconsin supper clubs these days, and today’s buyers are not interested in having a supper club theme for their den.”

“Removing drop ceilings and wood paneling is an easy, instant update, but the nicer detail here is the addition of recessed lighting,” says Ziegler. “Recessed lighting in a basement space creates the illusion of more headroom, making for a much more comfortable den. Updating the basement den adds valuable square footage that buyers might have otherwise written off as just basement space.”

And we can’t forget about the star of this room: the fireplace.

“Replacing the dated brick with a pop of green tile and the white surround and mantel transform this new den,” says Setliff.

Source: realtor.com

6 Things You Should Never Say When You’re Selling Your Home

You know that expression about loose lips sinking ships? It holds true for selling your home as well. Sure, there are some things you have to disclose to buyers—such as if your home has lead paint or is located in a flood zone. But there’s plenty more you might volunteer when you would be truly better off keeping your mouth strategically shut.

We’ve already revealed the things buyers should never say to sellers. Now, let us share some things that sellers should never let slip to buyers, or the agents representing them.

To help hone your “less is more” attitude when it comes to talking with prospective buyers, here are a few doozies that agents recommend never, ever saying.

‘Our house is in perfect condition’

Your home is your castle, and in your eyes it may seem perfect—but don’t make claims that aren’t true, says Cara Ameer, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker.

“The home inspection may reveal otherwise, and, as a seller, you don’t want to wind up putting your foot in your mouth,” she explains. Bottom line: “There simply is no such thing as ‘perfect condition.’ Every house, whether it is brand new or a resale, has something that needs to be fixed, adjusted, replaced, or improved upon.”

If you’re not sure what to disclose, talk to your agent about the history of the house. Together, you can figure out what is important for buyers to know. Don’t have an agent yet? Here’s how to find a real estate agent in your area.

‘It’s been on the market for X…’

Never, ever discuss how long the home has been on the market with prospective buyers, says Pam Santoro, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. This info is often listed and available on the home’s information sheet, but bringing it up—especially if the home has been available for eons—can send sellers the wrong message. No one wants to buy a white elephant—and, if they do, it’s probably because they think they’ll be getting it dirt-cheap.

‘We’ve never had a problem with…’

If you’re hoping to move quickly, you may be tempted to tell a few little white lies. So you never had a problem with weird neighbors, eh? Or flooded basements? Or vengeance-seeking poltergeists? Realtors agree that your mistruths—however insignificant they might seem—could come back to you with teeth.

“You’re setting yourself up for potential liability,” explains Ameer. “You may not even be aware of the problem at first, but it could  translate into an embarrassing moment upon inspection.” So come clean with what you know and admit what you don’t.

‘We always wanted to fix/renovate that, but…’

Tempted to mention, “We always thought about knocking this wall down and opening the space for more light?” How about “We planned on renovating this bathroom but ran out of cash”? Mum’s the word when it comes to fixes you intended to address. Nobody cares about good intentions.

“When sellers point out things they might change, this only alerts the buyer of more upcoming costs for them,” says Maryjo Shockley, a Realtor with Keller Williams. Who knows? Your buyers may not even want to knock down that wall or redo the bathroom. So why plant those ideas, along with those dollar signs?

‘We spent a ton of money on X, Y, and Z’

Just because you love the Brazilian koa wood flooring you installed throughout the first floor, that doesn’t mean prospective buyers will be willing to shell out for it.

“The buyer doesn’t care whether you spent $10,000 or $100,000 on your kitchen,” says Ameer. “They are only going to offer what they feel the home is worth in relation to area comparable sales.” So, save your breath, or else you’ll risk sounding like you’re trying too hard to justify your price. Desperation isn’t cool.

‘I’m not taking less than X amount for my home’

When it comes time to sell, it makes sense that you want top dollar. We get it! But at the same time, it’s important to be realistic and open to offers within a reasonable range.

“If you send a message that you are inflexible or not open to negotiating, it may not invite buyers to even try to work out acceptable price and terms as they will feel defeated from the start,” says Ameer. “Word may spread that you have this sentiment as a seller, and people may start to avoid the house.”

Source: realtor.com

How This 1920s California Bohemian Sold Over Asking—and Helped Set a Record

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.

In 2020, nothing is for certain—and in many places, that includes the real estate market. That’s not true for Berkeley, though. This Northern California city, located on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, is experiencing an upswing in an already booming real estate market. In fact, October 2020 racked up the most single-family home sales for the city in nearly two decades.

High demand is likely to have been part of the reason the former owners of this two-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow in Berkeley were able to sell their home for $161,000 over the listing price of $1,189,000. They purchased their home in April 2014 for $1,020,000 and sold it in November, for $1.35 million. But, looking at the before and after photos, we also chalk this successful sale up to smart home staging.

If you’re getting ready to put your home on the market, there are plenty of lessons to learn from this particular sale. From clever design decisions to the little details that made all the difference, here are the moves that made this cozy home appealing to buyers.

Living room

This living room may feel completely different in the before and after photos, but if you look closely, you’ll notice there weren’t any major changes. Instead, the owners made a few smart cosmetic updates and did a great job of staging the room.

“The ‘before’ of this room felt small, dark, and choppy, due to the use of multiple paint colors breaking up the visual flow of the space,” explains designer Gabrielle Aker, of Aker Interiors. “The fresh coat of white paint instantly brightens the room.”

Danny Davis, owner and broker of San Diego Brokerage in Encinitas, CA, agrees that color was a key factor in the living room.

“In my decades of experience in real estate, no one has ever told me that they were looking for a dark and gloomy home. Everyone wants light and bright,” he says. “Incorporating stylish, minimalist furniture and light paint and stain colors often make a smaller space feel larger and more livable.”

Real estate agent Natasha Wood of Balaj Realty Group says making the floors more visible also made a big impact.

“Hardwood flooring can increase a home’s value by up to 5%, so showing that off is key,” she explains.

Kitchen

“Choosing the right professional photographer and staging company is very important when selling your home,” says Davis.

He explains that each listing must attract a buyer in the first few photos, or they’ll just keep scrolling. In the case of this kitchen, he says the listing photos showed exactly what buyers want to see.

“This kitchen, where families tend to spend most of their time, is so much more inviting in the ‘after’ photo,” he says.

“That warm wood island makes such a difference in this space,” adds Susan Covell Sands, owner of Susan Covell Designs. “The floor-to-ceiling white tile, new textured stone floor—all of it looks much cozier and workable than the ‘before’ photo, with its gray walls and old, orange-toned wood floors.

Nook

Before the overhaul, this nook just off of the kitchen was a strange bit of wasted space, a real shame in a small home.

“What a difference it makes to give a space a specific function,” says Covell Sands. “Showing the shelves with a laptop, lamp, and stool gives the potential buyer the understanding that this space could be more than just extra storage shelves.”

Davis explained that thanks to COVID-19, most of us are now doing many things at home that we used to do elsewhere, from working, to exercising, to school.

“It’s more important than ever to showcase an area where people can have a private space to work and take Zoom calls away from the rest of the family, pets, and mess that a home must accommodate in today’s lifestyle,” he says.

“Creating a useful space that has a dedicated function, especially in a small home, will invite buyers to imagine themselves in that space, instead of wondering what to do with it.”

Dining room

Even in the before image, this unique dining room was a showstopper, but after a few tweaks, it’s a home buyer’s heaven.

According to Davis, staging was a huge factor in this room.

“As for staging, it’s imperative that you stay away from bulky furniture in small areas and finish off a room with accents like window shades,” he explains, which is exactly what happened in this space.

Kendall Severson, co-owner of Interior Design Partnership, LLC, agreed.

“I love this transformation!” she says. “The ‘before’ picture makes the space feel heavy and small. They toned down the color and focused on white and natural elements. … They really hit the nail on the head when it came to scale and proportion in this space.”

Wood noticed that the stairs are also visible from this room.

“The updated stairway follows the natural movement throughout the home and creates a cohesive feel,” she says.

Bedroom

Having an extra bedroom that doubles as both a guest room and an office may sound like a great way to utilize a space, but our experts say that often sends buyers running.

“Defining a space with a specific purpose definitely helps a buyer envision themselves and their belongings in a home. That’s why staging is so valuable to home sellers,” says Davis.

He explains that the previous owners, once again, pulled off a major win in this room.

“Oftentimes, multipurpose rooms—such as a guest room/office—only point out to the buyer that the home doesn’t have room for both purposes, and that can have a negative effect on buyer perception,” he says.

Staging this room as a cozy bedroom makes the whole house feel more inviting and livable, he argues.

Source: realtor.com

It Just Makes Cents! 7 DIY Home Improvement Projects That Promise Serious ROI

DIY home improvements can be great feel-good projects. You get to learn a new skill, use your hands, and take pride in something you create yourself.

But let’s face it: Your DIY project doesn’t make sense if it won’t make cents. In other words, it needs to pay off when it comes time to sell your home.

“The key to winning the ROI game with home improvement is to take a less-is-more approach,” says Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor.

If your goal is to earn a return on your DIY investment, DiClerico suggests taking on smaller improvements that will have a big impact on buyers.

“Bells and whistles tend not to rank high on ROI,” DiClerico says. “The high-tech home theater might mean hours of fun for you and the family, but it’s probably not going to pay for itself when the time comes to sell.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t outfit your house with the latest technology—if you’re making an improvement that you’ll love and enjoy, go for it. But if you’re looking to roll up your sleeves and tackle a project that will offer serious bang for the buck, try one of these home improvement projects next weekend.

1. Refresh your kitchen cabinets

“If the cabinets are in good shape, adding a fresh coat of paint or stain will dramatically transform the feel of the entire kitchen,” DiClerico says.

Be warned: Even though painting isn’t very difficult, it’s still time-consuming. You’ll need to remove the doors and drawers to ensure a clean finish. “But in terms of skill level, it’s something even novice DIYers can handle,” DiClerico says.

And remember, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to any painting project.

“You could lose some buyers with a sloppy paint job,” says Scott W. Campbell, a real estate agent in Milwaukee. “If you truly want to increase ROI, a good paint job takes time and patience.”

2. Create curb appeal

Making a great first impression on home buyers is one of the quickest ways to boost your home’s value.

“Landscaping and gardening are the biggest ones that also are simple,” says Kendall Bonner, a real estate agent in Lutz, FL. “Curb appeal has a significant impact on buyer’s purchasing decisions.”

Aside from adding tasteful foliage and keeping your lawn manicured, a few strings of café lights can also improve your home’s outdoor space and curb appeal. Don’t forget to paint old fences and prune overgrown plants.

3. Give your front door a makeover

Want to boost your home’s curb appeal but don’t have a green thumb? Spruce up your front door instead. All it takes is a few coats of paint. (The same rules apply: Work slowly and carefully to avoid drips and roller marks.)

“A fresh pop of color at the front door is a great way to enhance your home’s curb appeal for not a lot of money or time,” DiClerico says.

4. Create a backyard deck

“Outdoor living is hugely popular, even more so since the pandemic, since people are looking to expand their home’s usable living space,” DiClerico says.

Creating a new deck is possible to do yourself, but “it’s not for the faint of heart,” he adds, especially if you’re putting in concrete footings for the deck posts. This project is best for intermediate to advanced renovators, and it helps to have a few friends on board to assist.

Keep the design simple—avoid any tricky changes in elevation—and work with pressure-treated lumber instead of hardwoods that are tough to cut and screw into, DiClerico says.

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Watch: In Spite of It All, Summer 2020 Is a Great Time to Sell Your Home

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5. Brighten up the basement

You don’t need to spring for a fully finished basement to appeal to prospective buyers.

“Spraying the basement unfinished ceiling with flat black latex paint can make big difference to clean up a look, and spraying the walls,” Campbell says.

To take your project to the next level, you can add carpeting and adjustable lighting. By cleaning up the basement, you can help prospective buyers envision a space that will fit their needs, whether it’s as a rec room, play area, or home gym.

6. Add more storage

“Anytime you add usable living space to the home, you increase its value,” DiClerico says. “That’s true now more so than ever given all the time we’re spending at home.”

Making an addition to your home might not be realistic. But smaller improvements, like adding a pantry in the kitchen, a new storage unit in the garage, or even closet organizers, add valuable storage space to your home and will pay off when you’re ready to sell.

7. Make small repairs and keep up with maintenance

It may not be as satisfying as tackling a big project, but staying on top of your home’s basic maintenance is just as important and promises serious ROI.

“Many of today’s buyers are staying away from fixer-uppers in favor of move-in ready homes that won’t require frequent repairs,” DiClerico says.

Seemingly small problems like a leaky faucet, loose gutter, or missing light fixture can be a red flag.

“When buyers see things like that, they think to themselves, ‘What else is wrong with this house that I can’t see?’” DiClerico says. “Spending a few hundred dollars on these small repairs will let the buyer know that this house has been cared for.”

Source: realtor.com

‘Million Dollar Beach House’ Reveals Why Hamptons Real Estate Isn’t as Easy To Sell as You Might Think

Want to bask in the last days of summer by touring beautiful beach houses worth millions of dollars? You can get your fill of sandy eye candy on a new Netflix reality show that just debuted, “Million Dollar Beach House.”

This new series follows real estate agents in some of the most affluent and glamorous beach towns around: an area known as the Hamptons, just a drive (or, for the truly rich, helicopter ride) from New York City. On the show, real estate agents at local brokerage Nest Seekers International spend their days primping posh properties with the hopes that some ultrawealthy buyer will bite.

Yet surprisingly, these multimillion-dollar mansions run up against many of the same problems getting sold as any regular-priced property. As proof, check out this recap of the show’s premiere episode, “Selling Season,” where you can also learn plenty of tips on how to fetch top dollar for your own house, whether it’s on the beach or any old block.

Clutter can obstruct a great view

house
Before: This beach house felt cluttered.

(Netflix)

Michael Fulfree, an agent at Nest Seekers, has a shot at his first big sale: a $6 million listing with stunning beach views. But there’s just one problem: The homeowner, Patti, keeps the house so cluttered that he knows it’ll distract buyers from what’s outside those windows.

“As soon as people walk into that house, I want their eyes to go straight to the water and that’s all they see,” Fulfree says. “But Patti has Buddhas and tchotchkes everywhere. There’s too much going on in that property.”

house
After: With some small changes, this living room looks much cleaner.

(Netflix)

So he brings in two interior designers to declutter and transform the space. When the designers are done, the place looks much more streamlined—which makes it all the easier to admire the view.

You have to spend money to make money

staging
Think of the home staging fee as an investment.

(Netflix)

While home sellers often dream of the money they’ll make when they sell, they often lose sight of the money they should spend to get there.

“People don’t understand how much money gets put into actually selling the property,” Fulfree explains. “I’m willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars. It’s worth it.”

Whether a house needs staging, a new coat of paint, or a repair, Fulfree’s listing serves as a good reminder that sellers should get a listing looking its best before putting it on the market—even if that comes with a hefty price tag.

Sellers should never attend their own open house

owner
Home sellers should never attend their own open house.

(Netflix)

Fulfree puts in a lot of effort to make his listing’s open house a success: getting the house to look its best, inviting guests, and creating a fun atmosphere to show off the perks of beachside living.

However, when the homeowner walks in, Fulfree is concerned.

“You don’t want the seller there in the presence of buyers,” Fulfree explains. “It’s almost impossible to make deals.”

And to make things worse, Patti complains that she doesn’t like the staging. As Fulfree explains, “Her negativity could really affect potential buyers.”

Take-home lesson for sellers: It’s best to stay away from your house when potential buyers are touring, either individually or during an open house. Seeing the owner can make it hard for potential buyers to picture themselves living there.

Don’t overprice your property

beach house
This beach house is beautiful, but it’s not worth $35 million.

(Netflix)

Meanwhile, real estate agent Noel Roberts is hoping to land his biggest listing yet: a modern mansion he says could be worth $35 million.

However, fellow agent Peggy Zabakolas says this is a bad estimate.

“Part of your job as a real estate broker is to come up with a number that is realistic,” Zabakolas says.

She is right to be wary of overpricing a property. Overpricing could put the property at risk for sitting on the market for a long time with no buyers in sight.

Plus, a high price will give homeowners unrealistic expectations for the sale, and they’ll end up being disappointed when, eventually, the price has to be dropped.

It’s best to choose a fair price that will help the house sell quickly.

The faster you sell, the better

beach view
Michael Fulfree knows that a view like this should help a home sell quickly.

(Netflix)

When Fulfree is asked about his timeline for selling his beach house, he says he wants to get the sale done as quickly as possible.

“In real estate, there is no length of time that’s short enough,” he says.

selling
Fulfree talking to buyers about his listing

(Netflix)

Generally, home sellers will want to find a buyer quickly, too. The longer a home sits on the market, the more the owner will be paying for a mortgage, taxes, HOA fees, and upkeep. The seller may have already moved out by the time a house is on the market, which could mean paying for two homes at once.

So, it’s in everyone’s best interest to sell quickly.

Source: realtor.com

The Insane Juggling Act of Trying To Buy and Sell a House During a Pandemic

Buying and selling a home simultaneously is a stressful juggling act at any point. So what’s it like to simultaneously buy and sell real estate during the coronavirus pandemic?

In April, my husband and I found out just how arduous this process could get when we decided to put our Chicago condo on the market. Our goal was to move out of state to live closer to family, and we’d hoped to time our property sale and purchase around the same time.

But the novel coronavirus quickly threw a wrench in these plans—and taught us a ton in the process. Here’s what we learned, which we hope will help other buyers and sellers navigate this process as smoothly as possible.

Vacate your house if you can

Our condo building in Chicago, where we lived for four years
Our condo building in Chicago, where we lived for four years

realtor.com

The best thing I can recommend if you’re trying to sell your house right now is to try to stay elsewhere for the time your house is on the market. We decided to vacate our Chicago condo, and move into an apartment above my in-laws’ garage in Alabama.

Although it was a hassle to move out, it was crucial because our real estate agent was then able to schedule showings freely without having to work around our schedules—and there was less fear on both the buyer and seller ends about sanitizing home surfaces.

I believe moving out was key to our selling our home in less than two months. We officially closed the deal on July 8.

Be OK with not saying goodbye

The strangest thing about selling our home during the coronavirus pandemic was abruptly closing a chapter and beginning a new one without having those goodbye moments.

I’d hoped our last hurrah in Chicago would be filled with last meals at our favorite restaurants, going-away parties with our friends, and visiting all of our favorite coffee shops one more time. Instead, we spent our last days in Chicago packing up our place and eating microwave popcorn when we had an empty fridge and weren’t able to dine out.

While we were excited for what lay ahead, I grieved that old life that the coronavirus had caused to abruptly disappear before my eyes.

My office all cleaned out except for the rug, which the buyers negotiated to include in the sale.
My office all cleaned out except for the rug, which the buyers negotiated to include in the sale.

Kelsey Ogletree

Expect the unexpected

After moving in above my in-laws’ garage in Alabama, we hit our new house hunt hard, and started shopping for a home in the area. We assumed we wouldn’t be living with my in-laws for long.

We're staying in the apartment above the garage of my in-laws' home in Alabama.
We’re staying in the apartment above the garage of my in-laws’ home in Alabama.

Kelsey Ogletree

At first, our timing seemed phenomenal: A few days after the contract on our condo in Chicago came through, we put in an offer on a home in Alabama.

Originally, we’d planned to close on our Chicago home sale and our Alabama home purchase back to back, a day apart. But our purchase fell through for a variety of reasons, including inspection and loan approval issues.

We were crushed, but realized that closing on both homes within a 24-hour period would have involved an insane amount of stress and paperwork.

The home we'd planned to purchase had a beautiful backyard.
The home we’d planned to purchase had a beautiful backyard.

Kelsey Ogletree

Look at the big picture

I struggled emotionally with uprooting my family and moving in with my in-laws. We went from living states away to seeing them nearly ’round the clock. Even though we had our own tiny kitchen above the garage, we ended up eating most meals at their house, and it’s by far the most time we’ve ever spent together.

It was a difficult adjustment for the first month or so, as I mourned our former life as a busy young couple in Chicago. Our nights dining at buzzy restaurants and walking along the riverfront were replaced by family dinners around a kitchen table. I just wasn’t ready for so much togetherness.

However, now nearly five months into this living arrangement, I’ve become more appreciative. I’m embracing this time spent with family. Even if this arrangement continues a few more months, in the scheme of our lives, it will just be a blip on the radar.

We've living and working in the same tight space for now.
We’ve living and working in the same tight space for now.

Kelsey Ogletree

Accept that things might not work out perfectly

We thought we had it all figured out: selling one home and buying another that we’d move straight into after closing. When that didn’t work out, we struggled with feeling “homeless” and not having a place to actually move our things to.

But we’ve now learned that things happen for the best, and that there’s no reason to stress about finding a new place. Our things are in storage nearby, ready to go when we are. We’re taking our time figuring out the next best move for our family. Meanwhile, we are fortunate to have a place to stay, and a rare opportunity to spend a lot of time with family.

I learned to love washing dishes in this tiny apartment kitchen.
I learned to love washing dishes in this tiny apartment kitchen.

Kelsey Ogletree

Source: realtor.com

Lessons From Listing Photos: Why This Modest Home Sold in 5 Days and Grew In Value

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.

All over the country, housing markets go through boom and bust, even in normal times. But during a pandemic, you might expect that real estate would slow down, and that many buyers would hold their ground—and their cash, waiting for a moment with more economic stability.

However, last summer, when COVID-19 cases were surging and social restrictions made house hunting especially challenging in certain areas, home prices hit record highs.

In July 2020, the median home price hit a new all-time high of $349,000, according to realtor.com® data. Why? We chalk it up to a low inventory of homes, historically low mortgage interest rates, and people’s desire to own property in less crowded, less expensive locations.

In the suburban areas of Dallas, as in other suburbs around the country, home prices continued to grow as mortgage rates dropped, and city dwellers began to dream of the beauty of a little space.

That may help explain why this three-bedroom, two-bathroom home just outside the city was such a success when it hit the market in July 2020.

It took a mere five days for a buyer to come calling, and the sellers made a profit of nearly $200,000. They purchased the house in 2016 for $596,000, and just four years later, sold it for $779,000.

Of course, a popular housing market isn’t the only reason that this home sold so fast. We’re pretty sure the stylish home improvements, staging, and compelling listing photos had a lot to do with it, too.

Profits like that pique our interest, so we had to take a closer look at the interior changes that were made.

We asked our panel of design and real estate experts to pinpoint what you can glean for your own home projects from the updates the sellers made, as shown in these before and after photos.

Living room

“This room transformation is all about the magic of staging,” says Danny Davis, the owner/broker of San Diego Brokerage in Encinitas, CA.

“New shutters have been added to the windows, and the room has been painted, but beyond those smart upgrades, no major changes have been made to this lovely living room.”

Jonathan Spears, founder of Spears Group with Scenic Sotheby’s International Realty, says the new furniture makes a world of difference.

“The low-profile furniture upgrades are thoughtfully arranged to create a welcoming space,” he says, “allowing for a more comfortable atmosphere.”

As you can see, the color palette—seen in the wall paint, furniture, and accessories—has also been updated.

“They’ve used color in a really smart way,” says Nicole Michael, founder of the Los Angeles and Orange County-based interior design firm Nicole Michael Designs.

“These neutral colors, like the gray sofa, are far more in style than the colors used in the before photos, as are the pops of ginger-colored accents. Adding in pops of color to the bookcases makes them stand out as the great feature they are.”

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Watch: Point, Shoot, Sell? To Show Off Your Home, Avoid These Listing Photo Mistakes

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Kitchen

This kitchen update demonstrates that you don’t need to undergo a major renovation to make a strong impact.

“The cabinets, countertops, appliances, and even the under-cabinet lighting have all remained the same,” says Davis.

“Keeping the existing cabinets and appliances saved thousands of dollars,” says Michael.

“The use of aged brass finishes for the lighting, cabinet hardware, and faucet are right on trend. When you have the same color/material traveling through a room, it unifies a space and instantly elevates it.”

She adds that the new, lighter flooring makes the room feel much larger than it did before.

Davis also approves of the new banquette seating in the breakfast nook, which he says provides extra seating and storage.

“The result is a spacious, modern, light, bright kitchen that any home buyer could easily imagine themselves in,” he says.

Bathroom

Most of the home received merely cosmetic updates, and it’s likely that every penny saved was poured into the more substantial expansion of this bathroom.

“The bathroom has literally gone from eyesore to selling point,” says John Atamian, a Glendale-based real estate agent.

“And while this extensive renovation is somewhat costly, these upgrades will more than pay for themselves in value added.”

“So many elements in the before photo—the plastic laminate countertop, single-lever faucet, and molded sink—look like a rental apartment, not a single-family home. The after photo, on the other hand, has the spa feeling that home buyers absolutely love,” says Michael.

The experts agreed that the black and white color choices make the room feel crisp and clean, exactly the kind of vibe every bathroom needs.

Davis focused on the change he thinks made the biggest impact.

“Here is one absolute truth I have learned from my many years in real estate: Couples do not want to share a bathroom sink, and dual vanities are high on most home buyers’ lists for that reason,” he says.

Bedroom

While both iterations of this bedroom look cozy and comfortable, the after photo cultivates a more modern vibe, with boho-Scandinavian furnishings. The area rug, bench, and nightstands are all pieces we’d expect to see in current design magazines.

Michael got into more details, explaining the the new gray walls appeal to more buyers. She also says the headboard—which is now the same color as the walls—blends into the room to make the space feel larger.

The sellers pulled a similar trick by changing the fan from wood-toned to white.

“Home buyers want the functionality of ceiling fans, but they don’t necessarily like the look of them,” she says.

So why do all these changes—both big and small—draw in so many more potential buyers? Davis summed it up best.

“A home buyer needs to imagine themselves living in a home when they view it, and ultimately, they want to believe their life will be better if they buy this home,” he says. “Adding glamour, light, and modern flair to a room will have a potential home buyer swooning.”

Source: realtor.com

Want an RV as a Vacation Home? The Benefits and Costs of Recreational Vehicles, Revealed

If you dream of hitting the open road with a house on wheels, you may be thinking about buying an RV, or recreational vehicle. It’s an especially alluring idea these days.

According to the RV Industry Association, between 9 million and 10 million people in the United States own RVs—1 million live in them full time. And the demand for RVs has substantially increased in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Not only are we hearing from RV dealers across the country that their sales are up compared to last spring, but new research shows that 1 in 4 Americans intends to take some kind of RV-related action in the next 12 months—such as taking an RV trip, buying or renting an RV, even visiting an RV dealership,” says Craig Kirby, president of RVIA.

Plus, he says, 20% of respondents are more interested in RVs as a recreational travel option in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Part of the draw of RVs is that they allow people to vacation with their families without risking exposure to COVID-19 by boarding a plane or entering a hotel.

“We are also hearing that people [now] are more likely to stay close to home on vacations and take road trips,” Kirby says. “An RV trip is the logical extension of that trend. Still able to stay close to home and drive, but also able to bring your bed and food along with you.”

And the good news is that even in light of recent demand, there is plenty of inventory at RV dealerships to meet interest, according to Kirby.

But is RV life as dreamy as it sounds? Well, here are the factors to consider.

How much money can RV living save on vacations?

If wanderlust is fueling your decision, an RV can help cut costs associated with traditional travel. With an RV, you don’t need hotels or plane tickets, and the ability to cook your meals means you’re not bound to expensive restaurant fare.

In fact, studies show that a family of four (two adults and two children) saves between 21% and 64% by vacationing in an RV rather than booking plane tickets and hotels.

And if you want to live in an RV full time, you’ll enjoy additional savings—like an absence of property taxes, lawn care costs, and other homeowner headaches. In addition, the ability to just move on if you don’t like the weather, your neighbors, or the scenery is priceless.

How much does an RV cost?

Like houses, RVs come in a wide range of prices depending on their size and features. According to RVIA, the cost of an RV can range from $6,000 on the low end for folding camping trailers and truck campers to between $60,000 and $500,000 for motor homes. You can also buy previously owned models at a significant savings.

GoRVing.com has a tool that lets you explore various types of RVs and their costs so you can see what you can get for your money.

While it may be tempting to buy the biggest RV you can afford, consider how much space you really need.

“Many newbies buy too much RV in size, drive-ability, park-ability, tow-ability, and maintain-ability,” says Janet Groene, author of the blog SoloWomanRV and book “Living Aboard your RV.” “Remember that you are now maintaining your own plumbing, water and sewer supply, gas supply for your stove and furnace, your own electrical systems, and all the expenses that go with vehicle maintenance.”

Another ongoing cost of full-time RV life? Fuel. RVs typically get between 10 to 20 miles per gallon of gas. How far you’re driving, how big your RV is, and the price of gas are all factors that will affect the amount you spend on gas.

RV insurance and maintenance costs

As with any vehicle, you’ll need insurance on your RV. The average annual cost for full-time RV insurance is $1,500, but that can vary substantially depending on the type and size of your RV. Note, however, that most policies won’t cover the belongings inside your RV, so you may need to take out a separate policy for them.

In general, RV repairs are more expensive than automobile repairs. How much you will spend on repairs depends again on factors such as the age and type of your RV as well as how many miles you put on it.

But even a new RV isn’t immune to problems.

“Just because it’s new doesn’t mean your RV won’t need repairs,” warns Becca Borawski Jenkins, a full-time RVer since spring 2017. “After three years on the road, I haven’t met a single RVer who bought a brand-new RV who didn’t have some sort of mechanical or structural issues arise in those first few months.”

Instead of taking off for lands far away right away, she suggests starting out by taking short trips before you jump into full-time life on the road. That way as issues arise, you can bring it back to the dealer, and many of the issues may be covered by the warranty.

“Buying your RV early and testing it close to home will ultimately save you time, money, and stress,” says Borawski Jenkins, an editor at FinanceBuzz.

How much are RV parking fees?

You can’t just park your RV at any old place, and most of the time you’ll want to find an RV park with amenities such as power and water. Prices can range from $35 to $100 a night. Even at the low end, those costs can add up. For example, $35 a night for 365 nights comes to $12,775 annually.

Groene says while it’s less expensive, and sometimes even free, to stay at government campgrounds (e.g., state and national parks and forests), they typically have fewer facilities, and there is usually a limit on how long you can stay.

She also notes that “boondocking,” a term referred to parking for free, is dangerous at best and increasingly illegal.

What are taxes on an RV?

Taxes are included in the rates you pay to stay at commercial campgrounds and RV resorts. You’re also responsible for paying state income tax and sales tax in states that charge them.

Note too that even if you live in an RV full time, you still must have a physical address, which determines the state where you pay income tax and insurance, vote, and exercise many other legal rights and obligations.

Does an RV appreciate over time?

While homes typically appreciate in value over the years, the opposite is often true with RVs. So you have to consider what it means to you to have what is likely your largest asset steadily depreciate over time.

“While a house and land generally continue to appreciate, RVs begin to lose value the moment it’s driven off the lot,” Groene says. “Many people spend far too much on an RV, often one that is far too big and complex for them to drive and maintain. But by the time RV owners are ready to hang up the keys, the nest egg that was their home on wheels is worth little or nothing.”

RV life is full of amazing opportunities and presents many perks financially and otherwise. It’s not, however, without speed bumps (both literal and figurative), and you should carefully consider and weigh your options before making this investment.

Source: realtor.com

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Forever Changed the Process of Selling a House

In normal circumstances, selling a house involves interacting with a lot of people. In-person house tours, roundtable closings, and handshakes are all standard formalities.

But in a world rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, safety and social distancing are a must, and real estate professionals and sellers have had to adapt to a new way of doing business. That means altering how they approach open houses, closings, and even personal greetings. (We’re all too familiar with the elbow bump.)

“It has been amazing to see how quickly our industry has evolved,” says Tricia Hausler, director of sales for Lexington Homes. “We have banded together throughout the many facets of our industry to create positive solutions that allow us to continue to comfortably and safely serve our prospective clients and buyers.”

Many of these safety solutions—like self-guided house tours while wearing personal protective equipment—are still in place in states seeing surges of the coronavirus infection. But even after rates fall out of the high-risk zone and a COVID-19 vaccine has been widely distributed, experts predict some of these solutions will have staying power.

The pandemic ushered in many new methods to facilitate selling a home. Here are some of the practices experts say are here to stay.

Curbside and no-touch closings

Perhaps the most exciting part of the home-selling process is closing day. It means that your house is finally sold! But curbside and no-touch closings were enacted during the pandemic to comply with social distancing recommendations.

How does a curbside closing work? According to Chicago-based title insurance firm Proper Title LLC, a title expert walks out to the client’s car to gather signatures on paperwork that an attorney has prepared ahead of time, instead of the traditional process of completing all the paperwork with an attorney in a conference room.

And in instances where remote online notarizations or remote ink notarizations are permitted, all documents can be signed remotely through an approved online notary platform (e.g., Notarize) or audiovisual portal (e.g., Microsoft Teams).

Moving forward, experts can see curbside and no-touch closings becoming the norm.

“Everyone is looking to save more time in their lives, and that’s exactly what curbside and no-touch closings let us do,” says Kathy J. Kwak, executive vice president of operations and counsel for Proper Title LLC. “These new closing options not only reduce travel times for most parties involved, but they also help mitigate some of the scheduling challenges that surrounded the closing process before the pandemic.”

Kwak says most of their clients appreciate the changes made and would like to continue with these new closing procedures postpandemic.

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Watch: Tips for Showing Your Home Virtually—at Its Best

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Goodbye, out-of-focus photos and meager listing descriptions

Any well-informed seller knows that high-quality listing photos and a gripping listing description of your home are vital to attract buyers. But presenting your home in its best light online was more important than ever during the pandemic, when in-person open houses were limited.

“The pandemic only accelerated the need for agents to be more virtually literate and use heavy images in their listings,” says Greg Phillips, designated managing broker for Baird & Warner’s Northwest Suburban office in Arlington Heights, IL. “Many agents started to leverage social media by posting video tours of homes on Instagram or Facebook Live, which have been very well-received by buyers.”

Phillips says his company has also seen great responses to its detailed online listings.

From here on out, the more details the better! Standard marketing of a home is likely to include professional photos, virtual tours, and a compelling description of the property.

Virtual showings are here to stay

Open houses—whether limited capacity or not—will always be a part of the process, but virtual showings are truly the future of selling a home.

“Virtual showings through 3D videos have already revolutionized the way our industry does business and likely will continue to do so,” says Kirste Gaudet, broker for @properties in Chicago. “The 3D tours are so realistic that we may be able to put open houses to rest. I find that my clients now want them as part of the marketing effort.”

Phillips says going forward, virtual tours will be used to complement in-person open houses, and that buyers are using virtual tours as a way to narrow down their choices before visiting a property in person.

Buying sight unseen

For some people, buying a home without ever setting foot inside sounds insane. But the pandemic actually saw a spike in these types of sales!

“I had three sales from out-of-town buyers who purchased properties sight unseen,” says Gaudet. “I conducted showings through FaceTime and was able to capture details—showing every nook and cranny—and home in on specifics.”

Liz Brooks, executive vice president of marketing and sales for developer Belgravia Group, says even before the pandemic, they had experience selling homes sight unseen using virtual reality in their sales galleries.

“We expect that after a vaccine is widely available, buyers will embrace this tool again to help them envision their new home before they step foot in it,” say Brooks.

Source: realtor.com

What Is a Bedroom? Make Sure You Know the Legal Requirements

Does anyone who is not from the other side of the galaxy really need to ask, “What is a bedroom?” Actually, yes. Welcome to the nuances of real estate speak, where not everything is as it seems. You can’t simply place a bed in any size average space and call it a master bedroom.

There are, in fact, a number of details that make a room a “bedroom”—and both home buyers and sellers had best know them to avoid misunderstandings related to size and square footage.

“Since a home and/or master bedroom can go through many incarnations over its life, sellers should be familiar with what makes a bedroom a legal bedroom prior to listing their home, to ensure there are no issues holding up the sale when a buyer has been secured,” says Carl Ekroth of Douglas Elliman in New York City.

Bedrooms are one of the most important selling features of a home, notes Mark Abdel, a real estate professional with Re/Max Advantage Plus in Minneapolis–St. Paul.

So it’s no surprise that homeowners want to move a bed into a space and then slap that label on rooms of almost any size.

“Sellers can usually set and get a higher price the more bedrooms a home has,” Abdel says. But getting creative with your habitable space and trying to wedge a standard bed or twin into too few square feet just won’t fly.

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Watch: Step by Step: How to Clean a Mattress

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Six features related to size and egress that define a bedroom

The laws vary by state, but here are six ways you can tell if your room is a bedroom rather than just an average “room”:

  1. Minimum square footage: Yup—size and the number of square feet you have matter and not only because you want to fit in a bed, nightstand, and other furniture. This is the top issue, says Shaun Anders of Douglas Elliman. Although sizes can vary from state to state, 70 to 80 square feet in size is generally the acceptable minimum. “Sellers in urban markets such as New York City and Chicago would love rooms of 5 by 7 square feet to qualify as a bedroom, but no go,” says Anders.
  2. Minimum horizontal footage: The minimum square footage doesn’t tell the whole tale. A bedroom must also measure at least 7 feet in any horizontal direction. That is why you can’t call a 10-foot hallway a bedroom (you’d never fit a bed, mattress, dresser, or other furniture)!
  3. Two means of egress: There have to be two ways out of a bedroom. Traditionally, these would be a door and a window. Ekroth adds that, in most markets, a skylight would also qualify as that means of egress. You’ll have to leap from your bed to this upper exit, but that’s another discussion.
  4. Minimum ceiling height: There are more size dimensions to worry about here: At least half of the bedroom ceiling has to be at least 7 feet tall. So you can put a bed in a loft area with less than a 7-foot ceiling if the other section has a higher clearance.
  5. Minimum window size: The window opening must be a minimum size, usually 5.7 square feet.
  6. A heating and cooling element:  Your “master bedroom” needs these amenities, including a heater (a space heater won’t qualify) as well as a way to cool it down, whether that’s by opening a window or good old AC.

Does a bedroom need a closet?

Contrary to popular belief, a bedroom does not have to have a closet (or a walk-in) to be considered official (forget the en suite bathroom). Your significant other might disagree, but legally, at least in most states, it does not.

Closets are expected in newer homes and definitely in master bedrooms, but older ones might require a more creative approach to stowing your clothes.

So what can you call a room or space that doesn’t hit these average 7-foot requirements? Based on your state, you could get away with calling it an “office,” “nursery,” or “bonus room.” Because bedroom or not, just about any indication of extra space will make most buyers’ eyes light up.

If your space is short a foot or two, you might consider an interior remodel project to add square feet and fit the bed you want (even a king-size bed or California king). But most homeowners will try to fit a standard full-size bed, twin bed, or queen-size bed, along with a dresser, in the space to accommodate the size average requirements. But don’t let dreams of more square feet in your average room put you off—a quick reno in your home or apartment might be the solution, depending on your budget.

If you’re still not sure if your room is technically a bedroom, ask your agent before putting your home on the market. Don’t have one yet? Here’s how to find a real estate agent in your area.

Looking to sell your home? Claim your home and get info on your home’s value.

Source: realtor.com