Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tracy Housing Market

Quick reminder of my free home staging seminar. Sunday April 22, 2007 from 1-3 at the Tracy Library.

Tracy Housing Market, as of March 12th, 2007
  • 709 houses on the market (104 in escrow)

As of April 19th, 2007 there were:

  • 792 houses on the market in Tracy.

  • 9 houses pending

  • 6 sold in the last month.

If you're not one of the 9 houses pending, what are you doing to help get your house sold? Give me a call and see if I can help you bring your house to the bargaining table.

Monday, April 16, 2007

What is home staging or house fluffing and how can it help you?

This is an article written by Kathy Somers, Creative Director of Stage It First for PRBuzz.
Stage it First is a Home Staging Service in Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada

Apr 03, 2007

American's have been using staging strategies since the 90's but the trend is just starting to be recognized by Canadian homeowners.

In order to make a home more appealing to a wider variety of buyers it's important to de-clutter and neutralize the space. Home stagers are able to take this marketing tool one step further. Buyers today are more real estate savvy, baking cookies and putting on a pot of coffee doesn't cut it anymore in today's competitive market. Beautifully decorated model homes have elevated the expectations of the homebuyer. Regardless of the market it's important to stand out from the rest!

A "home stager" is a person who will come into your home and give advice on the things you can do to improve your homes overall appeal. Home stagers look at your property with the objective eye of a buyer. They help you to understand the things that are working for you and also the things that may need to be corrected or reworked.

Generally a home stager will do a 2-3 hour consultation. During this time they will go through each and every room with you and make personalized recommendations for your home. A home stager can also suggest paint colours furniture layout, and placement of artwork. Most home stagers will shop for you or accompany you on your shopping spree for decorative items, linens etc. If you need furniture rentals that can be arranged: as well as handymen and tradesmen referrals for any repairs or painting that needs to be done.

Professional help can range from $100-$150 per hour on average, although you can have a home stager do only the consultation and leave you to make the changes on your own. Most people should expect to spend 1% of the list price on staging. While that can seem expensive, it's a great deal cheaper than your first price reduction which usually means $5000-$10,000 dollars. It's up to you how much of the staging project you want your home stager to complete: from the consultation only, down to the final details of the showing.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Selling vs Marketing

As a homeowner, you are emotionally attached to your home. No matter how long you have owned your home, when you purchased it, you immediately started adding your style and personality to it. Now that you are selling it, you need to make it appealing to potential home buyers. If you keep it "as is" (you list it exactly as it is now), you are limiting your buyer field. In other words, you are "marketing" to a select few.

Think about it this way. If I open a butcher shop selling only beef, I am only marketing to beef eaters. Yes, there are many beef eaters but there are more consumers who don't eat beef. If I want to market to more consumers I must add pork, poultry or seafood. Every time I add another item, I am making my store more appealing to a variety of consumers. This is the same when you are selling your house.

Selling your house is about packaging and marketing. It has taken you a while to get it to where you want it, but now you need to package and market it so buyers will want it. What do buyers want? Buyers want a house which they can just move into and start living. They don't want to have to remove wallpaper, paint over unusual colors, make repairs, and upgrade items throughout the house. If your house feels dated, dirty, dark, bland, cluttered, small, etc., most buyer will discard your house and move on to the next one. With so many houses on the market, buyers have the choice and time to find the house which is within their price range, fits their needs as well as one which is in "move in ready" condition. Do you have the time for your house to sit on the market until the right buyer comes along?

How can you market your house so it appeals to a variety of buyers?

Think of your house as a product. Once you put it on the market, it is no longer yours. Soon it will be someone elses. Emotionally detach yourself from your house so it will be easier to make necessary changes in order to sell it. Hire a Staging Consultant to help stage your house. A staging consultant, like myself, can advice you on exactly what to clean, declutter, repairs, paint, renovate or modernize so it stands out among its competition and is in “move in ready” condition. Most buyers think staging is something they can do on their own but just like a proof reader; it takes an independent party to show you your home's flaws or negatives. What negatives might your house have? Negatives are anything that will turn buyers off. As an independent 3rd party, different from your agent, a stager can inform you which imperfections need to be changed and why. Or how to turn negatives into positives. Once your house has been properly prepared, a stager can return and give your house a style which buyers can envision themselves and their belongings in.
If your house is already on the MLS, have your agent take new pictures immediately. Online and print ad picture are a buyers first impression of your house. If they don't like they way it looks, they most likely won't bother giving your house a second thought. Have your agent upload the new photos to their website and print new ads.

Once your house has been staged, keep it maintained. Houses are not selling as quickly as they have in the past. Buyer can take their time when deciding which house they will make an offer on. If they viewed your house two weeks ago, they may decide to take another look and you want them to be just as impressed as when they first saw it.

In a buyer’s market, homeowners must make their house appeal to a variety of buyers, create a sense of interest and desire and make their house worth what they are asking. Staging is the way for both buyers and sellers to get what they want. If buyers get what they want (turn key home) , sellers get what you want by selling their house. Stage it! Style it! Sell it!

Staging Your Home's Exterior

A buyer’s first impression of your house begins when they pull up to your property. If buyers don't like what they see on the outside, chances are they won't want to see the inside. You can help make sure they want to come inside your house by spending some time working on your exterior appearance.

  • Kill any mold and mildew on the house, sidewalks, roof, or driveway.
  • Pressure wash the outside of your house and dingy decks.
  • Remove all unnecessary garden implements and tools. Remove all novelty ornaments such as garden gnomes, pink flamingos and gazing balls.
  • Clean windows and gutters.
  • Mow the lawn. Get rid of weeds. If you have a weed problem in your lawn, add a weed and feed to your lawn.
  • Edge sidewalks and remove vegetation growing between concrete or bricks.
  • Rake and dispose of leaves and dead flowers or plants.
  • Trim tree limbs that are near or touching your house's roof.
  • Cut back all overgrown plants and vines.
  • Sweep your driveway, sidewalk and porch or entry way.
  • If you still have your Christmas Lights hanging, now is definitely the time to remove them. You don't want buyers to be turned off by them.

To make your curb appeal even more impressive;

  • Update outdoor light fixtures.
  • Touch up any house paint which is peeling
  • Paint house trim. This is an easy upgrade which will make the house color look updated.
  • How does your front door look? If your budget permits, add a new front door or upgrade the hardware. If this is out of your budget, a good cleaning and/or a fresh coat of paint will make it look great. Oh and don't forget the hardware, polish it or spray paint it to make it look new.
  • To add color to the front yard, plant flowers around trees, in flowerbed or pots to the entry way. Hanging baskets and flower boxes are a nice way to upgrade the look of a house too.
  • If you have any areas which are patches of dirt, add bark or rocks. Make the yard look "finished".

Curb Appeal Maintenance - Once your house has been on the market a few weeks, don’t forget to keep it looking its best.

  • Mow the lawn on a weekly or semimonthly basis. Hire someone if you have to.
  • Make sure your “For Sale” sign is not falling over and any secondary signs on it are not dangling.
  • Keep your flyer box full. A lot of buyers will pull flyers and if your box is empty, you could have just lost a sale.
  • Make sure everything look the same as when you first listed your house.

By making sure your home’s exterior looks its best, buyer will want to take a look inside. By Staging your house’s interior and as well as the exterior, your house will make a positive first and lasting impression. Stage it! Style it! Sell it!

Monday, April 9, 2007


When purchasing a home, a buyer isn't just buying a house, they are buying a lifestyle. Home Stagers objectively style your home to appeal to a variety of buyers while creating an emotional connection.

Home staging is showing your home with its best features forward, making the first impression its best, in order to bring you a quick sale at the best price. At the same time, home staging can help highlight your home's unique features and make even unfinished or "forgotten" areas look their best.

Home staging is the process of preparing any home for sale by rearranging furniture, reducing clutter, neutralizing room (or adding a fresh coat of paint), simple renovations or making minor but necessary repairs.

Home staging is not about tearing out kitchen cupboards or doing major renovations. It is about highlighting and showcasing the existing features of your home, so buyers can imagine themselves living there.

Staging is a simple and inexpensive investment in your home to secure its equity.
Before you reduce your asking price by $5k or $10k - Invest in a home stager. A home staging consultant, like myself, can advise you on exactly what to clean, declutter, nuetralize, repair and renovate in order to turn your house into a showplace any potential buyer can see themselves in.

For a minimal investment of $150-$450 for a consultation, you could raise your home's value and keep the money you would have reduced in your pocket. What have you got to lose? Only time from your house being on the market. Staged homes sell faster and for more money than similar homes on the market.

According to a Forbes 2002 article written by Betty Schiffman titled "Selling Unsellable Homes", Schiffman states, "Before home sellers open their homes to the public, they probably have to clean behind the washing machine and bleach the bathroom tiles. The end result is a home that looks pretty much the same, only it's slightly cleaner and less cluttered.
A home stager, however, can take a basic three-bedroom home and turn it into another house entirely."

Homeowner and Realtor's "staging"

After Styled to Sell's Consultation

Which picture looks better? More appealing? Gives a good first impression?
The homeowners needed some advice on what was needed to make their house stand out. Your house too can stand out and make an impression. Call me today.
Stage it! Style it! Sell it!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

What's In with Home Buyers in 2007

I found this article by Mark Nash on Broker Agent News titled “What's In, What's Out with Homebuyers in 2007”. I have some of his trends on "what’s in”, as related to resale houses in this blog. You can find what's out or on the way out on another blog titled "What's Out with Home Buyers in 2007"

What's In
  • The housing correction - In my prediction for 2006 "What's In, What's Out", I forecasted a soft decline in house prices in most markets.
    In 2007, I project a 5-8% decline in prices on average between single-family and condominium homes.
  • Homes that are priced right - It isn't the boom market of 2005. Look at only comparable's sold in the last six months. Forget the cocktail party chit-chat when all you heard about was record prices in the shortest market times in U.S. real estate history.
  • Online home valuation sites ( - Mainly those that utilize up-to-date and reliable home sale data. Technology is great when it works, but tread carefully with online valuation web sites. Ask yourself how long does it take your recorder of deeds and real estate transactions to record them? If up-to-the-minute, okay, otherwise plan the lead time into the online valuation to spew out accurate information.
  • Market timing - Many buyers and sellers were on their own timelines in 2006 and they missed opportunities that were created by not recognizing the real estate markets ebb and flow. Spring is high market, the most demand by the largest number of buyers. Summer is a good market, fall is fair, and winter is the remnant market, the left-over buyers and sellers from the high, good, and fair markets.
  • Savvy buyers - With interest rates historically low and bent-up demand from a soft year in 2006, the deals and lack of frenzy won't last long. "Deferred demand" from 2006 could ignite a mini-frenzy in some markets.
  • Upscale garages. - It's no longer the out-of-sight-out-of-mind dumping ground. Today's garage owners want them decked out with cabinet and storage systems, mini-refrigerators, insulation, heating and air conditioning and durable but residential-looking flooring.
  • Two home offices - Rising gas prices and commuting times have created more two-work-at-home families. Size matters, make sure each is at least ten-by-ten feet.
  • Rejuvenation rooms - A one-stop space for exercising, meditation, yoga, sauna and fancy steam showers. Showers are going upscale too. Waterfall fixtures, programmable temperature and water flow are the next trend for "showerers".
  • Mixing finishes on kitchen base and wall cabinets - Matchy matchy is out in kitchen design. The new look is to have stained wood bases and painted wood upper cabinets. The Old Europe look rules, but with today's appliances.

Based on a survey of 923 real estate agents, managing brokers and association executives who responded to a survey request in Agent to Agent E-zine, published by Mark Nash. Agent to Agent is distributed monthly to real estate professionals in all fifty states and Canada. This article is a no-cost run-at-will with permission from the author.

What's Out with Home Buyers in 2007

I found this article by Mark Nash on Broker Agent News titled “What's In, What's Out with Homebuyers in 2007”.
I have included only his views on what’s out or on its way out for this article. You can find what's in on another blog titled "What's In With Home Buyers in 2007"

What’s Out
  • "As is" in home sale marketing. - Anything went in the boom market, but if you're planning to use "as is" in 2007, forget it! The phrase is the kiss of death and buyers see it as a red flag about the home and the seller. Sellers have too much competition to be chasing buyers away.
  • Endless Open Houses. - The open house pendulum has swung from " the house sold in the first day" to "we need to have our house open every Sunday". Desperation is when your home is open every Sunday. Buyers know and track it. Plan on every three weeks to have a public open house.
  • Over-full-price offers. - It was a strategy in the boom market to under-price a home and let the market set the selling price. Not today! One thing that won't change in 2007 is that every buyer will want a deal and will walk from one if they don't get one.
  • Bedrooms not large enough for a bed. - In the boom, rehabbers and developers learned the fastest way to profit was to increase the room count of a home of an existing home. Bedrooms shrunk to walk-in closet size when a four-room one-bedroom was gut-rehabbed into a four-room two-bedroom. Or, the doorways and windows eliminate required wall space. Savvy agents kept asking, can you fit a queen-size bed in either room? And the answer was usually, no.
  • Loads of glass upper kitchen cabinet doors. - Buyers say it looks great, but many who specified and experienced it firsthand, don't have the time to keep their kitchen cabinets organized. Plus if you hate washing the windows, having more glass in a greasy room, like a kitchen, is high-maintenance.
  • Bowl-shaped above-counter bathroom sinks. - The splashing and overall upkeep, have earned these sinks the reputation of nice to look at, but don't want one.
  • Any shiny metal finish. - Brushed nickels and pewter's are in. Antiqued and polished brass is out.
  • Stainless-steel refrigerators and dishwashers are a fading trend. - The cold look and higher maintenance of steel is shifting buyers to specify warmer colors in kitchen appliances.
  • Spiral staircases. - Once the rage for mid-seventies makeovers, now death to a home seller. The boomers have aged, their kids don't like them, unfriendly to pets and young children. Take yours out and put in a standard staircase (inside or out) before you sell.

On the way out.

  • Bamboo floors. - The first reviews are in on this popular eco-friendly flooring, and they're not pretty. Easily dented and scratched these floors are prone to warping from variations in our climate and humidity levels.
  • Hardwood laminate floors. - The word is out that these noisy poor relatives of solid hardwood, don't stand up to multiple sandings to change color or to remove stains.
  • Home sellers who smoke in their home while it is being marketed. - Buyers hate second-hand and stale smoke odors. Marketing your home is not the same as living in it. If you have to smoke, go outside.

Based on a survey of 923 real estate agents, managing brokers and association executives who responded to a survey request in Agent to Agent E-zine, published by Mark Nash. Agent to Agent is distributed monthly to real estate professionals in all fifty states and Canada. This article is a no-cost run-at-will with permission from the author.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Branding Your House

Branding - A brand is a customer experience represented by a collection of images and ideas; often, it refers to a symbol such as a name, logo, slogan, and design scheme. Branding is a way of getting people to remember you. For example, if you see the golden arches, you immediately think McDonalds.

Branding can also be used to help people remember your house. It can either be a positive brand or a negative brand. As my family and I were looking for a house, my children, unknowingly branded houses as a way of remembering them. There was the "fish stank" house, so named because it smelled like a stinking old fish tank which had not been serviced in a while. There was the BBQ house; the family was baking BBQ ribs in the oven when we viewed. There was the pool house, because it had a pool in the back and there was the Pottsgrove house, which was the street name. And we even had the bubble gum house; the outside of the house was painted the color of pink bubble gum. My children remembered which house was which by these names.

Could your house be branded? Of course, but you want it to be branded in a positive light. How can you make sure your house will be positively branded? Stage your house so all the negatives are gone. Do you want your house to be known as the cat box, (because the house smells like one) or the pig sty (because it’s a major mess)? I didn’t think so. Make your house a memorable one, and I mean in a good way.

Stage it! Style it! Sell it!