Before Staging a Home, Take These Prep Steps

December 19th, 2013

In this buyer’s market, it’s crucial for sellers to do everything they can to improve their home’s appearance. Staging a home is one way to attract buyers, says Caroline Farnsworth, a sales agent for Keller Williams Midtown Direct in Maplewood, New Jersey. But before you can even think about staging a home for sale, Farnsworth says, you have to take some important prep steps.

By way of example, she tells the story of a home in Maplewood that should have been an easy sell. The house was well-kept and located in a desirable New York City suburb. And the asking price of $250,000 was on the low end for the upscale neighborhood. When the owners asked about staging the home, Farnsworth had to deliver some bad news: The house wasn’t ready for staging. For starters, the kitchen floor was worn and stained. “If people walk in and see something in disrepair, they immediately jump to the conclusion that the entire home is in disrepair,” Farnsworth said. “It lowers the value of the homein their mind by $20,000 or $30,000.”

Farnsworth recommended that the owners replace the floor before staging and showing the house. “It was a small investment for the owners,” she said, but it had the potential to make a big difference in how quickly their house sold.

If you’re thinking about staging a home for sale, consider Farnsworth’s tips for the most important prep steps.

1. Depersonalize
Anyone staging a home knows the importance of getting rid of the clutter. But that’s just the beginning. Along with decluttering, you have to depersonalize your home. Lose the 27 pictures of your baby and replace them with one or two nicely framed photos. Take the kids’ artwork off the fridge, stash the shelf of athletic trophies in a box. “You need to make the home look generic,” said Farnsworth. “The idea is to appeal to what 85 percent of the population will like.” That means your collection of snow globes should go in the deep freeze, at least until you move into your new space.

2. Remove one piece of furniture from each room

When it comes to staging a home, less is more. “Almost across the board, people have too much furniture in their homes,” Farnsworth said. It’s important that the rooms feel as spacious as possible, because as buyers assess your home, they’re trying to determine whether all their furnishings will fit into your space. “If it’s crammed in any way, it will look like there isn’t room for the buyer’s stuff,” she said. So go through the house and take a piece–or even two–out of each room. That will make any staging more effective.

3. Bring in a professional cleaning crew

No matter how thoroughly you clean your house, you’re bound to overlook things. And those will be the things a potential buyer zeroes in on. Which is why Farnsworth recommends a professional cleaning before staging a home. “You want a home to look new and fresh,” she said. “If something’s not completely clean, buyers think, if this is dirty, what else isn’t maintained?”

4. Invest In cosmetic upgrades

This is one of the most difficult things to determine: How much money do you put into a house that you are going to leave? “It’s a fine balance,” said Farnsworth, and every situation is different. What you need to figure out is whether skipping a repair or renovation will make buyers think your house is not worth the price. “Kitchens and baths are very important, and it’s often worth it to make an investment if something is in poor condition,” said Farnsworth.

Sometimes a small improvement can go a long way. Farnsworth had a client whose kitchen was in great shape, except for the countertops. While they were reluctant to put any money into the house, she convinced them that the investment would pay off. “If buyers saw the counters in bad shape, they would think, ‘The kitchen is dated. We’ll have to renovate, and that will cost $50,000.’ If you have one detracting element, and you can give it a facelift, it’s generally worth it.”

5. Don’t neglect the exterior

Sellers staging a home have a tendency to focus on the interior, and that’s a mistake. The outside of your home is the first thing that a potential buyer sees, and it sets the tone for the whole house tour. “Curb appeal is so important,” said Farnsworth. “If buyers don’t get the impression of a well-maintained home outside, they will be less inclined to think it’s well-maintained inside.” Trim the shrubs, mulch, fix the walkway, make sure the front door looks good. Otherwise, Farnsworth said, “they will take $30,000 off the price of the home before they walk in the door.” In fact, it helps to think seasonally about your outdoor area.

The key to staging a home effectively, says Farnsworth, is to concentrate on those aspects of the home that you can improve. “You can’t make your backyard bigger, or change the location of your house. But everyone can clean, touch up, and do some landscaping. There is more inventory than buyers right now. You have to be the house that stands out.”


Source: AOL Real-Estate


Small Home Improvements with Big Returns for Sellers

December 19th, 2013

Even in a housing market where inventory is low, buyers still want a move-in ready house and are willing to pay more for one that’s turn-key. Sellers can increase their listing price and decrease the time their home sits on the market just by doing a few home improvement projects, experts say. But not all projects carry the same return.

“A big mistake a lot of home sellers make is they upgrade the kitchen thinking they will make so much more money on the house. But the rest of the house still needs upgrading or repairs,” says Michael Corbett, Trulia’s real estate expert. Home sellers have to look at repairs as a whole rather than a sum of parts, he says.

For a kitchen renovation, Corbett says the return on the investment is typically 78 percent, which may not make financial sense for all homeowners. However, if other improvements and upgrades are made, the seller is more likely to recoup the money spent, and then some.

The home improvement priority list depends on the seller’s time frame. For those looking to list in the next couple of months, they can take on bigger projects than those looking to sell in a few weeks. However, every seller can increase the interest and price tag of their home by investing in increasing the curb appeal.

“Buying a house or selling is kind of like dating,” says Corbett. “A pretty face gets them in the door.” Since a buyer can make a decision about a home without stepping out of the car, real estate experts say the landscaping has to be pristine, the front door painted and the windows cleaned. But it shouldn’t stop there.

Brad Officer, a Re/MAX real estate agent in Jacksonville, Fla., says sellers shouldn’t overlook the garage. “Have the floors painted with garage floor epoxy. It’s amazing how many people comment on a clean crisp garage with a painted floor.”

He adds that removing the window screen and cleaning the frames can also boost curb appeal. “Most window screens darken a home and trap dirt. Removing them and cleaning all windows before the home has been photographed will give it a much brighter appearance, inside and out.”
Inside the home, there are numerous improvement projects of varying price tags that can speed up the selling process.

Painting is a low-cost way to make a home look more fresh and clean and show an owner’s commitment to maintenance. However, choose the paint carefully. Red walls or wildly-patterned wall paper can limit the appeal of a home as buyers are more drawn to neutral wall colors.

“Paint freshens everything up and provides a clean and crisp feel,” says Officer. “If you aren’t an interior designer by trade, this is not the time to play designer. Find a reputable designer and pay them a consulting fee to pick your colors.”

Other low cost improvements include decluttering the home, getting rid of old fixtures, particularly if they are brass, and ridding the home of personal artifacts and pictures. “You want to create the feeling of stepping into a hotel,” says Corbett. “It should be nice and appealing for everyone.”

For homeowners who have the time and the budget, remodeling the kitchen and baths will go a long way in boosting the list price. But sellers have to know their market before they start making the upgrades. Sellers living in an area where granite countertops are the norm, they better follow suit. If laminate countertops are more commonplace, then it doesn’t make sense to pay for the more expensive materials.

Another more costly upgrade that is sure to get more bang for the buck is upgrading kitchen appliances. “Appliances that bling, bring the cash,” says Officer. “Every homebuyer at every price range wants new or updated appliances. … No one wants old and outdated appliances.”



Source: AOL Real-Estate:

6 Quick Ways to Get Your Home Looking Good Enough to Sell

December 19th, 2013

Selling a home can be an extremely stressful process. Between staging your home and having to leave every weekend for several hours for open houses, it’s no surprise that people dread selling their homes -– even when the market is strong and homes are selling relatively quickly. If you’re looking to sell your house and want some quick moves to improve it that won’t ruin your budget, start with these six easy things you can do to freshen up the sight, smell and overall feeling of your home.


Your nose learns to block out re-occurring smells, which is why it’s crucial to deep clean your carpets. The smells you are used to, especially if you have pets, will be very obvious to visitors and are potential turnoffs. To eliminate odors, it’s best to work with a professional carpet cleaning company, but renting a cleaner and doing it yourself can still be effective.
We all have little things around the house that we’ve been meaning to fix, like a leaking faucet or some cracked grout. Fix them! When buyers see something small that’s broken, they immediately start to think about other things they can’t see that might be broken as well. If you can’t be troubled to fix a leaky faucet, will you have fixed a leaky roof?
Over time, dirt and grime accumulate on your home’s exterior walls and walkways. Rent a pressure washer, and give all those surfaces a good spray. If your home is relatively small, you can get away with using an electric washer. If it’s bigger, go with a gas-powered one. If you are spraying siding or brick, you can spray as hard as you want. If you’re spraying grout or a painted surface, move the nozzle back a little because the higher pressure can damage surfaces. You’ll be amazed at how different your home will look afterward.
Painting your walls neutralizes any crazy colors you absolutely love, but a potential homebuyer might not. Choose neutral colors that don’t stand out, and you won’t risk turning someone off. Next, give your walls a fresh start. Remove your wall hangings, fill in holes and paint over the scuffs and marks left from living in your home. If you don’t want to repaint entire walls, touch up trim and doorways to give the room a cleaner look without the huge time investment.
Go through your home and throw out anything that is broken or damaged. It sounds silly to say, but we often get used to certain things such as a cracked planter pot or broken outdoor light. It takes just a few minutes to walk around and clear your home of broken things that you simply haven’t gotten around to dealing with. While you’re at it, replace any light fixtures or exterior light bulbs that have burned out. This helps boost curb appeal should visitors come during the more dimly lit hours.
This is everything from your title to the manuals, warranty and purchase information for all your home appliances and improvements. If you recently replaced your water heater, put that information right next to your water heater. For buyers, it’s comforting to know that it has a 10-year warranty and was replaced just last year – so let them know.
Source: AOL Real-Estate:!slide=1570276
Source: AOL Real-Estate

Source: AOL Real-Estate

The 16 Patios You Have To Visit This Summer

December 19th, 2013
Source: SCENE [online]

Source: SCENE [online]




Just when you thought Cleveland couldn’t possibly squeeze in another patio, somebody opens another one and proves us dead wrong. Not that we’re complaining, mind you. Blessed with more alfresco eating and drinking options than our already feeble livers can handle, our fair-weathered village on a Great Lake is primed for its best summer ever.




Just this spring, Nano Brew in Ohio City—what that one guy called one of the “best new craft beer bars in the country”—dusted off the expansive back patio that for years was Garage Bar’s signature feature. New beer hall-style picnic tables, lighting, landscaping, heating and, of course, a never-ending supply of over-hopped suds already is making this one of the busiest plots in town.


DrinkNano Cluster Bomb

1859 W. 25th St., 216-862-6631

Going on two decades, Lopez Southwest Kitchen has been the place on Lee to sip margaritas beneath the open sky. Ever since chef Michael Herschman joined the team a few years back, we also can eat to our hearts’ content beneath that open sky. While smaller than many current (read sprawling) patios, Lopez’ is petite, elegant and just boisterous enough to be fun.

EatCeviche trio

DrinkMexican Shandalita

2196 Lee Rd., 216-932-9000

Hodge’s urban oasis, set back from a busy thoroughfare, is surprisingly beefy, boasting an outdoor bar and table and chairs galore. Even better, after a revolving-door kitchen, it appears that quality and consistency has arrived in the form of chef Jim Blevins. Given the dearth of prime center-city open-air eats, we’re thankful this patio is no mirage.

EatLobster Roll

DrinkFrosty Strawberry Mint Julep

668 Euclid Ave., 216-771-4000,

Felice Urban Café is best known for its Craftsman-style home setting. But it’s the outdoor bar, built within a converted wooden carriage house, that attracts diners all summer long. A covered patio adjacent to the garage bar means never having to say “let’s eat inside” come spring showers. Bonus: The patio boasts great views of the restaurant’s huge kitchen garden.

Eat: Hangar steak frites


12502 Larchmere Blvd., 216-791-0918

You can’t mention the word “patio” in this town with some know-it-all chiming in with L’Albatros this and L’Albatros that. Okay, so we are those know-it-alls, who not only bring up this leafy urban retreat at ever opportunity, but also sit our butts down there as often as possible, too. This is outdoor dining at its finest, with sturdy tables, casual sofas, and a granite-topped bar.

EatOysters on the half shell

DrinkCremant d’Alsace Brut Rose

11401 Bellflower Rd., 216-791-7880

We’ve been fans of Tremont Tap House from the moment it opened. It was TTH, after all, that first and fully introduced diners to the gastropub concept, merging ambitious fare with a stellar craft beer list. Going on about six years, this place – this patio – should be near the top of every Cleveland diner’s list of alfresco eats.

EatSalmon BLT

DrinkColumbus Brewing IPA

2572 Scranton Rd., 216-298-4451

SOHO Kitchen and Bar‘s Southern-styled menu seems tailor made for the Dog Days of summer. If there’s any kind of breeze, plant yourself on the roomy side patio, roll up your shirtsleeves, tuck a napkin under your chin, and dig into a platter of fried chicken. Sporting a great view of the hustle and bustle that is W. 25th Street—but set back from the sidewalk—this perch is primed for people-watching.

EatSouthern fried chicken

DrinkGentleman’s Breakfast

1899 W. 25th St., 216-298-9090

Who doesn’t love getting high in summer? Climb a few flights of stairs at Greenhouse Tavern and find yourself high above East Fourth, enjoying commanding views of diners and pedestrians below. This rooftop bar is home to some of the best pop-up events in town, so keep an eye on the restaurant’s social media feeds for the next rooftop fete.

Drink: OYO Stone Fruit Negroski

2038 E. Fourth St., 216-393-4302

Spice Kitchen + Bar inherited a decent patio from its former tenant, but it’s only gotten nicer, and not just because the food and drink are in another league. This hideaway in Gordon Square owns the farm-to-table niche, meaning alfresco diners can savor the season’s best eats and drinks without having to brave the farmers market or the hot kitchen.

EatTempura-fried Ohio asparagus

DrinkPeach Tarragon Sipper

5800 Detroit Ave., 216-961-9637

Summer west of the Cuyahoga doesn’t officially commence until John McDonnell swings open the wide French doors of his lovable Tartine Bistro. The compact brick-paved courtyard becomes the restaurant’s front porch, uniting neighbors in food, wine and conversation. This truly is a hidden-gem hideaway.

EatBeef brisket tartine

DrinkVin rouge

19110 Old Detroit Rd., 440-331-0800,

Sidewalk seating can be hit or miss, depending on the sidewalk in question, naturally. But there’s something authentic and pleasant about the sidewalk patio at Le Petit Triangle Café — it just feels so European. This quaint assemblage of red bistro seating makes a natural setting to enjoy a savory crêpe and a glass of wine.

EatHam and brie crepe

Drink: Prosecco

1881 Fulton Rd., 216-281-1881,

Thanks to a long and storied history, Players on Madison has built one of the largest and most loyal fan bases on the West Side. So consider it a sort of thank you when after two decades, the restaurant finally installed a patio. The sun-dappled space might not be huge, but it is tasteful, and a pergola offers protection from the blazing sun.

EatPatio garden pizza

DrinkDomaine Drouhin pinot noir

14523 Madison Ave., 216-226-5200

Boasting both covered and open-air seating, Market‘s generously sized patio has you covered rain or shine. Good beer, hearty comfort food, and a festive fire pit round out the amenities of this popular Rocky River spot.

EatRibeye Philly

DrinkDogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

1137 Linda St., 440-799-4292

That new-patio smell finally has faded from Momocho‘s freshly laid piazza, which was recently installed when owner Eric Williams ripped up his entire patio to start fresh. Now, in addition to an expanded footprint, the alfresco dining room features new landscaping, fencing, lighting, and umbrellas.

EatAdobo-braised wild boar taquitos

DrinkCucumber margarita

1835 Fulton Rd., 216-694-2122

Countless restaurant owners have been seduced by this welcoming front patio on Clifton Boulevard. But where (many) others have failed, Clifton Martini and Wine Bar is thriving. This likeable wine bar inherited one of the roomiest and most beloved verandas on the West Side and is making the most of it.

EatChocolate ‘Confusion’ Cake 

DrinkOld vine zinfandel

10427 Clifton Blvd., 216-965-0221

Cropicana is gone, Sunset Grille is back, and Whiskey Island remains one of the only places in town with bona fide lakeside dining. Hugging the shores of Lake Erie, this hedonistic summer getaway has enough open-air lawn seating for every boat owner in town.

EatChicken quesadilla


2800 Whiskey Island,


Source: SCENE [online]:

Spring Cleaning Essential Tips for Homeowners

December 19th, 2013
Source: AOL Real-Estate

Source: AOL Real-Estate


As you go about your annual spring-cleaning ritual, take a few additional steps to save money on energy bills this summer, improve your home’s appearance and ward off big-ticket repairs later.

Here are 18 things for you (or the handyman) to tackle now to help prepare your home for the warmer months and keep it in top shape.

1. Inspect the AC, Part 1

For about $75 to $200, a technician will tune up your cooling system to manufacturer-rated efficiency — and you won’t sweat the first hot weekend with an out-of-commission air conditioner.

Look for a heating and air conditioning contractor that belongs to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, employs technicians certified by the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) program and follows the protocol for the ACCA’s national standard for residential maintenance. Call your electric utility to see whether it offers incentives.

Note: Dirty filters make your air conditioner work harder, increasing energy costs and possibly damaging your equipment. Check them monthly and replace as needed, or at least every three months.

2. Inspect the AC, Part 2

Air conditioners draw moisture from interior air, called condensate, which must run off outside. If sediment and algae clog the drains, water may back up, making your home more humid or creating water damage. Technicians will check the drains during a tune-up; if they clean them out, it could cost up to $100.

If you live in a humid climate, you may want to check and clean the drains yourself periodically. For an oddly riveting demonstration, watch this YouTube clip as the video’s star suctions gobs of algae from a drain with a wet vac.

3. Put the Temperature on Autopilot

Energy Star says that for an initial investment of $50 to $150 for a programmable thermostat, you can save about $180 annually on cooling and heating bills — if you can live with higher indoor temperatures in summer (and cooler temperatures in winter). Set the “hold” or “vacation” feature for a constant, efficient temperature when you’re away for the weekend or on vacation.

In summer, you can make those settings more tolerable if you install ceiling fans. Just remember that a ceiling fan cools people, not a room, so turn it off when you leave the room.

4. Re-Install AC Window Units

Before you heft units to the window sills, check out this YouTube video for practical tips that will help you maximize energy efficiency — and keep out burglars and bugs, too.

Also, take a moment to clean them. Remove a unit’s front grill, then its air filter, and clean dust and dirt from the filter. Check the filter periodically throughout the cooling season.

5. Clean the Swamp Cooler

If you live in a hot, dry climate and cool your home with an evaporative, or “swamp,” cooler, you must drain and clean the cooler seasonally to remove built-up sediment and minerals. says that the more a cooler runs, the more maintenance it will need, requiring that you look at the pads, filters, reservoir and pump at least monthly. For more information on evaporative coolers, visit

6. Caulk the Cracks

If the gap around a door or window is wider than a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk, says Bill Richardson, past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Check window-glazing putty, too, which seals glass into the window frame.

Add weatherstripping around doors, making sure that you can’t see any daylight from inside your home. You’ll save money on air conditioning and you won’t have to repeat this task in the fall.

7. Clean Out the Gutters

Nature’s detritus — decomposed leaves, twigs, and spring petals and seeds (think maple-tree “helicopters”) — may be worse in spring than in fall. Gutter cleaning generally costs $90 to $225 for a 2,000-square-foot home (with about 180 linear feet of gutter).

Add extensions to downspouts to carry water at least 3 to 4 feet away from your home’s foundation. You can use 4-inch corrugated plastic pipe (about $7 for 10 feet).

8. Repair Your Roof

An easy way to inspect the roof to find damaged, loose or missing shingles without risking life and limb is to use a pair of binoculars. If need be, hire a handyman to repair a few shingles ($95 to $125 for asphalt shingles, according to If the damaged section is more extensive, you’ll need a roofer (who will charge $100 to $350 to replace a 10-by-10-square-foot area). Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys, too.

If your home has a flat roof with a parapet (a short wall around the perimeter), look for wear and tear in the roof surface. Check the flashing that seals the joint between the parapet and roof. Heavy snow can split the flashing, resulting in leaks. If you need repairs, look for a roofer at the Web site of the National Roofing Contractors Association.

Clean out any roof drains or scuppers (openings in the parapet that allow water to drain) to avoid ponding, which could damage your roof and cause leaks below. A “roof repair” or “sewer and pipe cleaning” company can help.


Source: AOL Real-Estate:!slide=870551

What Agents Coming Into Real-Estate Today Can Tell Us About Where the Industry is Headed

December 19th, 2013

If recent reports are any indication, there are unsustainable trends — from rising age to low tech savvy — that have been defining the real estate agent base over the past several years.

As the market has picked up, the industry has seen a renewed interest from college graduates as well as those transitioning from other careers. In fact, in the last six months alone, Keller Williams market centers have experienced an average increase of candidate leads by 68 percent per market center.

Collecting lead data for more than 370 Keller Williams market centers throughout the U.S. gives us an intriguing perspective of what the agent of tomorrow looks like. Of the 111,075 leads we have collected so far in 2013, 93 percent are new agents entering the business for the first time.

Here’s how we predict the real estate agent picture will begin to look starting next year.


Much has been made of the aging base of Realtors currently working in the industry. Today’s average Realtor age is 57 — a number that has been steadily increasing for nearly a decade. This can be attributed to a few key factors, most notably a once-in-a-generation recession that left only enough transactions for the best (most experienced) agents.

With a rebounding housing market, this equation has shifted, and younger agents are re-entering the industry in massive numbers. Some 68 percent of our leads are 35 or younger, with 32 percent of them under the age of 25. Only 4 percent are 56 or older.

Tech savvy

This point is obvious — younger, newer agents are more likely to use technologies, such as social networks, blogs, podcasts and smartphones in their daily lives. What is not so obvious is the way this motivates younger agents to consider a career in real estate — 69 percent of the agent leads we have collected in 2013 reported an expectation that they could use their familiarity with technology as an immediate competitive advantage over more experienced agents in their real estate careers.

Among the agents surveyed, only 9 percent listed keeping up with technology as their primary concern, while 15 percent listed competing against experienced Realtors. So, what keeps new agents up at night? Sixty percent reported market fluctuations as their primary concern.

Sales backgrounds

According the most recent National Association of Realtors Member Profile, 15 percent of current agents have a background in sales or retail prior to starting a career in real estate. According to our lead data, 46 percent of the new agents entering the business have a background in sales or retail — the vast majority of those (76 percent) report a focus in sales specifically. Bottom line: The new agents entering the business are three times more likely than their predecessors to come equipped with the most crucial skill set needed to succeed in the residential real estate industry.


Up until 2012, we had a hard time generating leads in areas like Florida and California. A substantial portion of our top-performing market centers were in Texas and the Midwest — the areas least impacted by the housing collapse.

Now, the exact opposite is true. While we still generate a high volume of leads in the heartland, the coastal areas of the U.S. contain the majority of our highest-performing market centers. In fact, more than 25 percent of our total leads are generated in these two states — states that account for approximately 18 percent of the total U.S. population. The areas most likely to see huge demographic shifts in their agent populations are the areas that were hardest hit during the recession, and most rapidly rebounding in the recovery. Based on current market trends, we expect Arizona and Nevada to follow suit soon.

Our industry is looking for disruption. So where will the next real estate innovation come from? My bet is on a Realtor not yet working in our industry today. While there is substantive experience and pedigree in our ranks already, the real estate talent that is going to propel the category forward has perhaps yet to enter the space. And it’s the brokerages who take the time now to reassess their lead generation to attract a recruiting class of Realtors with these qualities that rise to the top.

Source: Inman News:

Advice For New Homeowners From Homeowners Who Have Been There

December 19th, 2013

Buying a home is both exciting and nerve-racking, as anyone who has been there can attest. Unless you’re having your home custom-built and professionally landscaped, chances are you’ll be eager to make some changes as soon as you move in.

But not so fast, say about a dozen Northeast Ohio homeowners. Folks moving into a home should take their time and think projects through before knocking down walls or making other major changes that they might later regret. We asked these homeowners to share what they did wrong and right when they moved into their homes. Via email and snail mail, here is their collective wisdom.

• When you move into a new home, it’s a good idea to wait and see what comes up in the yard for at least a whole growing season. Take notes on when trees, shrubs and plants start to grow, bloom and go to seed. Ask the neighbors if they are familiar with what may be planted in the yard. Get help from other gardening friends to help identify plants you aren’t familiar with.

If you decide not to keep the garden and just want to plant a lawn, contact a local garden club to see if they may want to dig up any plants. They will most likely find a good home for them. — Barb Rauckhorst, 51, North Royalton, Cuyahoga County master gardener

• First, develop a budget. Second, make your home safe with a carbon monoxide detector, smoke detectors and a kitchen fire extinguisher. Third, make necessary infrastructure repairs to ensure the functionality of your home. Fourth, concentrate on making your new home more livable. Once you have done the previous, and if your are lucky enough to still have money left over, then it’s time to redecorate. Finally, learn basic trade skills such as electrical and plumbing through classes or self-help books. It can save you a bunch in the long run. — Paul Lorenz, 50, Parma

• Don’t go into a lot of debt buying new furniture to show off. Take your time. Always have an emergency pot of money in case something comes up like job layoffs, divorces, sickness not covered by insurance, unexpected deaths in the family, lawsuits, automobile accidents, unexpected pregnancies and unforeseen repairs not covered by homeowners insurance. — Carolyn Tyson, 69, Solon

• The single most important thing the new owner of a new or existing property can do before making changes [in the landscape] or additions is to have the soil tested. One of the most important functions of the soil is to provide nutrients to the root systems of plants to support their growth for development. Ohio State University utilizes the University of Massachusetts soil testing laboratory. Owners can get soil test information and instructions at — Elaine C. Wolan, 67, Westlake, Cuyahoga county master gardener

• Before any major remodeling, live in the house long enough to understand how the room traffic flows and how you will use the areas. First address work that will prevent more expenses down the line; i.e. replace that roof before any leaks and expensive repairs occur.

If you plan to stay in the house a long time and you have a very old house with old wiring and without insulation, consult multiple contractors (insulation, windows, electrical, etc.) very early in your ownership to determine what work will offer you the most savings and comfort over time. — Sharon Mathie, 54, Cleveland Heights

• Buy a fireproof safety box for all important papers: deed, appliance receipts, remodeling and repair receipts, etc. Also, purchase a notebook and list and date all purchases: appliances, furniture, carpeting, home improvements, storm doors, lawnmowers, etc. It’s an easy reference to check back on when an appliance dies and you wonder about its life span. List warranty items and length of warranty. I started our notebook in 1971. It’s fun to see the prices we paid! — Ellen Hoelter, 64, North Olmsted

• Check the trees on the property. Invasive roots of trees planted too close to structures can damage foundations and underground pipes. Trees are capable of lifting and cracking sidewalks and driveways. When we first moved in, a huge pine tree near the corner of our house had to be cut down, which proved costly.

Also, when planting new trees in the yard, be sure to envision them at maturity. A small sapling might look perfect in a particular spot, but years later may outgrow the area. — Linda Evers, Garfield Heights

• I bought a neglected fixer-upper that turned out to be a perfect choice. It needed cleaning, wallpaper stripping, painting and just general home repair. My tips would be allow yourself time. Spread those out so you don’t run short of money. Take advantage of utility rebates, especially appliances, hot water tank and furnace improvements. Be patient and prioritize your improvements. It takes time and it’s worth it. — Dennis Simecek, 62, Twinsburg

• Find out what city services are offered in your community. Ask your real estate professional or call the local city hall service department. The first autumn leaf raking adventure for my husband and I, 35 years ago, included approximately 70 bags of leaves put on the tree lawn for garbage pickup. We had no idea you could just rake the leaves to the curb and the city came around with a giant vacuum leaf-vacuum truck for residents. Some kindly neighbor took pity on us and finally told us.

Another thing we have is an abundance of wildlife such as possums, skunks and raccoons, etc. Our city provides traps for these nuisance animals free of charge. —Linda Elk, 59, Middleburg Heights

• For ease of housekeeping, I recommend the following: No clear shower doors. Choose a grout color darker than that of the ceramic tile. Avoid a flat cooktop because it means constant upkeep and unsatisfactory cooking. And with baseboards, avoid a horizontal plane on top, to eliminate dusting. — Jeane P. Kroecker, retired, Olmsted Falls

• After moving into your first new home, assess your space and your existing pieces you are bringing with you and keeping before purchasing furniture. Make a plan. Purchase the best furniture you can afford within your spending plan, even if it means purchasing fewer pieces than what you need at the time. The furniture will last a long time and if you really love it when you buy it you’ll always really love it! Make a plan for your furnishings and home and garden needs based on priorities and your spending plan and stick to it. You’ll be glad you did. — Karen Cannon, 66, of Design Interiors by Karen in Strongsville


Source:–The Cleveland Plain Dealer




CABOR Shares 6 Curb Appeal Ideas

December 19th, 2013

ccording to Joanne Zettl, Chairwoman of the Cleveland Area Board of REALTORS® (CABOR), a few hours of exterior home and yard work can add thousands to your home’s value.

How much value can neighborhood curb appeal add? Having nice landscaping adds $1,777 in home value when you are selling your home, according to data collected in a survey about how home improvements boost home value.

Curb appeal works in the other direction, too. If a for-sale house down the block is sporting some bad curb appeal, it could sell for less than it might otherwise. And that comparable sale drives down the value of your home.

I could not find any data on how much the average buyer discounts his offer when the neighbors have not painted their house since 1979, but we do know nobody pays top dollar to buy next door to a house that looks like the “before” picture in a siding advertisement.

Here are 6 quick exterior projects you can do in a day or two to add to your home’s value and neighborhood appeal.

  1. Landscape for curb appeal by re-sodding bare spots, trimming shrubs, and adding colorful spring flowers to your front yard.
  2. Add some outdoor lighting for curb appeal to highlight your beautified yard after dark.
  3. Pitch in with the neighbors to rent a power washer for a day to give your sidewalks and deck a little care and maintenance. Be gentle and careful if you decide to use the power washer to clean your home’s exterior; you can easily blast things off your house, like the paint, or get water into siding seams.
  4. Clean your siding, whether it’s brick, wood, or vinyl, by using a long-handled, soft-bristled brush, soap (trisodium phosphate), and water.
  5. Create a little cool curb appeal with house numbers–that is, dress up your address.
  6. Freshen up the look of winter-ravished patio furniture with new pillows, a bright umbrella, or a colorful tablecloth to give the impression to anyone at the open house that the neighbors have fun parties.

And remember, when it is time to sell or buy a new home, contact a REALTOR® with the Cleveland Area Board of REALTORS®. They are the experts and can help you through the real estate process.


Source: Cleveland Area Board of Realtors:

Green on a Budget: 3 Ways to Increase Home Efficiency

December 19th, 2013



Greening up your house doesn’t need to be expensive. True, the big ticket green renovations like adding solar panels, low emission windows, or a tankless water heater can be pricey and take a while to pay for themselves. But there are plenty of relatively inexpensive projects that are good for the environment and your bottom line. Here are three that will pay for themselves in months, not years.

1. Take your temperature
The first, best thing you can do to improve your home’s efficiency, particularly if it’s more than 10 years old, is to identify where energy loss is occurring, and a valuable tool for doing this is an infrared (IR) thermometer. Until recently these handy devices were mainly a tool for professionals, but several companies have introduced home models, and they’re now available at most home improvement stores for $50 to $100.

An IR thermometer allows you to take temperature readings on your external walls and around doors and windows (this is best done on a particularly hot or cold day). If you find hot or cold spots on your walls, this probably means your need to blow in some insulation. Around windows and doors you’ll be able to see where seals are failing, allowing air to flow in and out of your house. This can be fixed with caulk and weatherstripping.

2. Grass isn’t greener
Have you ever wondered why we have lawns? Would you believe the French are to blame? Louis XIV commissioned some of the first lawns as part of the gardens of Versailles, and lush, manicured lawns became a symbol of status among European aristocrats in the 17th and 18th centuries. The trend spread quickly to England, and accompanied the English to the New World. George Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon had a lawn, as did Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

Of course, back then people with large estates also generally kept livestock, so having a lawn was to some degree practical. The grass would keep your sheep and goats fed, while your sheep and goats would keep the lawn trimmed and fertilized. Nowadays, instead of sheep and goats we have chemicals and lawn mowers. And water. Lots and lots of water. Landscape irrigation accounts for more than 30% of residential water usage in the United States, and twice that much in some southern states. So if you’re looking to green up your house, the lawn is a good place to start.

One good lawn alternative is to establish planting beds and fill them with native plants. If you don’t go with native species, you end up in a situation similar to having a lawn, where you have to use supplemental water and fertilizer to keep alive something that was never intended to grow there in the first place. Planting beds are also easy to establish, and you avoid the monumental chore of having to dig up your sod: simply cover the grass with landscape fabric, add topsoil and mulch, and you’re ready to plant. And as a final benefit, you can switch from sprinklers to drip irrigation, which is much more efficient.

For areas that don’t need to accommodate foot traffic, you can establish lawn alternatives or ground cover such as creeping thyme or liriope, both of which require much less care. Again, make sure that you’re replacing your grass with native species.

Other lawn replacements such as decks and hardscapes involve more of an investment on the front end, but little or no maintenance cost going forward. Gravel beds are a lower-cost alternative to hardscapes and a relatively easy DIY project, but you will need to replenish the gravel every couple of years as it settles.

3. The cool way to stay way cool
When they first hit the market, programmable thermostats were expected to be a big energy savings tool, given that heating and cooling accounts for more than half of the average home’s energy usage. Unfortunately, and for a variety of reasons, they didn’t work, which led the Environmental Protection Agency to end its Energy Star certification program for programmable thermostats in 2009. The problem wasn’t with the thermostats themselves, it was with human nature. People wouldn’t bother to program them correctly, or they would bypass the program, or, because they were (supposedly) saving energy with this great new thermostat, they would reward themselves by setting the temperature when they were home a few degrees cooler in summer or warmer in winter, leading to higher energy usage.

The next generation of programmable thermostats gets around the issue of human nature by taking people out of the equation: They program themselves.

The first, and best-known, of these devices is called the Nest. It retails for $249, but it does what it’s supposed to: saves you energy. The Nest programs itself over the course of about a week by paying attention to how and when you adjust it. The Nest also senses when you’re gone or sleeping, and adjusts its program accordingly, and is accessible via smart phones and computers allowing you to adjust settings remotely.

There is not a ton of data available about how much energy can be saved with a Nest, but the few reviews available that include a product test showed energy usage dropping 15 to 25 percent during heating and cooling seasons, with one reviewer reporting a savings of $305 in just four months. So despite its steep price, the Nest will pay for itself in short order, and it will continue saving you energy for years.

Going green only a few short years ago was considered a costly investment reserved for wealthy environmentalists. Today it’s become a priority for many homeowners. But you still have to spend some green to save some. The nice part about these strategies is that you don’t have to spend a lot of green.


Source: MSN Money:–green-on-a-budget-3-ways-to-increase-home-efficiency

Homebuilder Confidence Rises

December 19th, 2013

Confidence among U.S. homebuilders took a leap in December, as pent-up demand from the government shutdown drove more potential buyers to new model homes. A monthly sentiment index from theNational Association of Home Builders increased four points to the highest level since August.

“This is definitely an encouraging sign as we move into 2014,” said NAHB Chairman Rick Judson, a homebuilder from Charlotte, N.C. “This indicates that an increasing number of builders have a positive view on where the industry is going.”

The sentiment index has now been in the positive for seven straight months. It had been falling since August, amid higher mortgage rates and concern over the government shutdown and the budget impasse. That may have caused potential buyers to pause and return to the market now. Some, however, say there is a bigger change afoot.

“I take issue with the NAHB’s belief that higher rates hasn’t deterred buyers, as the purchase component of weekly mortgage applications are near the lowest of the year, and as the amount of first-time homebuyers still remains well below historical trends,” said Peter Boockvar of The Lindsey Group. “What we are beginning to see are investors buying new homes who then in turn rent them out. We are in a secular change toward renting.”

Of the survey’s three components, current sales conditions jumped six points, sales expectations over the next six months rose two points, and buyer traffic gained three points. While improving, buyer traffic is the only component still showing negative sentiment.

Some, including noted analyst Ivy Zelman, have lowered their forecasts for both new-home sales and housing starts for 2014, citing rising mortgage rates and too-high new home prices. Builders were forced to raise prices amid tight land, labor and supply conditions. Those prices, however, may start to moderate this spring.

“The labor inflation was starting to hit us after the big sales season in the spring. You were starting to see price pressures. And then came the summer slowdown and those dissipated, and the whole subcontractor industry, that summer and fall slowdown gave them a chance to resize their organizations,” said Steve Alloy, president of Stanley Martin Homes, a builder in the mid-Atlantic region. “The pressure they were under dissipated the bidding-up prices, so that little pause actually helped the industry get ready, because there is this big wave of housing coming.”

Regionally, on a three-month running average, builder sentiment edged one point higher in the South but fell in the rest of the nation, down one point.


Source: MSN Real-Estate:–homebuilder-confidence-rises?ocid=vt_twmsnre