Curb appeal can boost home sale price

curb appeal
Curb appeal (infographic from nar.realtor)

If you want to increase the sale price of your home this spring, you will no doubt focus on the interior.  But how does the home’s exterior look?  You’d be surprised about the amount of necessary cleaning, decluttering and repairing around the exterior of your home.  But don’t skimp on the exterior home preparations before your sale – research conclusively shows that improving your home’s curb appeal can increase the sale price by as much as 8 percent!

An empirical study conducted by Chen, Evans-Cowley, Rutherford, and Stanley (An Empirical Analysis of Effect of Housing Curb Appeal on Sales Price of Newer Houses. International Research Journal of Applied Finance. 2013, Vol. 4 No 11, p1407-1419) was the first to demonstrate the relationship between a home’s sale price and curb appeal.  The authors also discussed how home buyers’ preferences in a home’s exterior influence the home’s sale price.  Besides curb appeal, they suggest that the home’s architectural elements could also be important in the final sale price.  The idea that today’s modern designs are more desirable, and likewise costs more money, is only transitory; such that today’s designs could become trite and tired in twenty years.

The study used a seven-point “attractiveness” scale to determine how respondents viewed the attractiveness of a home’s exterior.  They concluded that there is a relationship between a home’s exterior attractiveness and the home’s sale price.  In fact, they reported that a one-point increase in their scale corresponded to an 8 percent increase in the home’s value!

Home buyers make assumptions about your home’s interior based on the appearance of the exterior.  An unattractive exterior can repel home buyers before they even see the beautiful and updated interior.  Attract home buyers and boost your home sale price by focusing on cleaning, repairing, and “finishing” your home’s exterior.

Basic landscaping can make a huge difference in your home’s attractiveness.  Having too many plants, or letting them grow too much can make the home’s exterior appear crowded and unkempt.  Make sure your lawn is full but manicured throughout your listing.  Properly trimmed trees not only look tidy, but allow home buyers to see your home from the street.  Appropriately placed and trimmed shrubs and flower beds can accent the home’s architectural design.

Check your home’s siding.  Replace and repair any missing or broken siding pieces.  Freshen up siding by power cleaning, or painting.  Even if your home has artificial materials as siding, inspect window frames and fascia boards; these areas are often neglected and may need urgent repair.

How does the deck look?  Unless you maintain the deck regularly, chances are it may seem dull and tired, and may need to be re-treated.  Even if your deck is made of artificial decking, check the railings.  Hire a licensed contractor to repair and secure the deck as necessary.

How about the sidewalks and patio?  The sidewalk and patio can be easily cleaned by power washing.  Cracks in the sidewalk and patio are not only unsightly, but can be a trip hazard.  Cracks are typically caused by rain and water runoff, but can be repaired.  Consider also sealing the sidewalk and patio to prevent further water damage.

Finally, consider finishing the exterior to make your home more appealing and cordial.  Much like staging the home’s interior, you can use similar principles to increase the exterior’s attractiveness; such as placing appropriate chair(s) and potted plant(s) on the porch, deck or patio.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Decluttering for a home sale and mental health

declutter
From prettyorganized.com

Spring is around the corner, and for many it is the time to get a home ready for sale. Decluttering is a key component of preparing a home sale; while it is the core of “spring cleaning” for the rest of us.

Besides being the beginning of the path to selling your home, researcher and writer Deane Alban stated that decluttering is also the “gateway to taking better care of other aspects of life.” She asserted that the human brain is “wired to respond positively to order;” and there are health benefits to clutter-free spaces; which promotes feeling “calm and energized” (Declutter Your Life for Less Stress, Better Mental Health; bebrainfit.com).

When it comes to clutter, we are not the same. There are degrees to the amount and types of clutter we collect. And for many, getting motivated to declutter is a challenge; severe clutter collections could be considered hoarding by some. Dr. Robert London, a psychiatrist specializing in behavior modification, wrote about his professional contemplation of the relationship between clutter, hoarding and obsessive compulsive personality disorder. After consulting with a Professional Organizer, he concluded that many can benefit from their much needed service of guidance in “letting go” and getting organized (Decluttering — Is it Therapy?; Organization professionals perform a valuable and, yes, therapeutic service; psychologytoday.com; November 5, 2010.).

declutter
From sparefoot.com

Besides the psychological aspects that make us hold-on to “stuff,” one roadblock to decluttering is a common misconception that the goal is to have an immaculate home; which can make some feel anxious and/or overwhelmed (especially if the home sale is due to a negative life event). Instead, an underlying principle to decluttering is about creating an organized and spacious feel to a room. Another misconception is that you throw out everything you don’t need or want in your home; however, you have control over what items get thrown out, recycled, donated, or kept in storage.

One strategy to encourage your decluttering efforts is to plan. Rather than trying to complete the job in one weekend, try decluttering one room (or even one part of a room) per day; and for some, it may be as little as removing one or two items per day.

When going through each room, decide which items are necessities and which items need to go. You will undoubtedly come across many items that you decide are not necessary to keep out for everyone to see, yet they are personal or sentimental – these items can be stored. The items you decide that you no longer need or want can be donated, disposed of, or you might even decide to have a yard sale!

Of course, we are all busy; and finding time to declutter can be another obstacle to overcome. To help relieve the pressure, consider delegating responsibilities to family members. Consulting with professionals to guide your planning could save time as well. Some professionals even recommend a “decluttering party” as a way to ease the time crunch while making it fun.

Decluttering a home may feel as if it an exhausting task, but it doesn’t have to be; especially if you have a realistic plan. If you need help with your decluttering, you can check with your Realtor® (if you are planning a home sale) and/or you can consult with a Professional Organizer. The National Association of Professional Organizers (napo.net) maintains a national directory of Professional Organizers.

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Feng shui and your home sale

Selling a home with feng shui.

Staging a Home
From greenhomegnome.com

It didn’t seem that long ago when feng shui was important to almost every home buyer and seller. And if Google Trends is an indication of relevance, the diminishing number of searches for feng shui over the last decade indicates reduced interest. Perhaps the bursting housing bubble shifted everyone’s attention; buyers’ were determined to get distressed properties at a deal, while sellers were determined to get a model home look through staging. Although seemingly having lost significance in the housing market, feng shui is once again becoming a top concern for buyers and sellers.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, Merriam Webster (merriam-webster.com) defines feng shui as “…a Chinese system for positioning a building and the objects within a building in a way that is thought to agree with spiritual forces and to bring health and happiness.” The International Feng Shui Guild (ifsguild.org) adds that feng shui is derived from the Chinese philosophy of Taoism and has been practiced for aver 5,000 years. Furthermore, it is based in science and nature to help you live a healthy and prosperous life!

You may already be familiar with some feng shui principles, as a few basics of home staging share similar tasks. For example, de-cluttering, maximizing space and creating a “light filled home” are some of the preparations prescribed to stage a home for sale. And according to feng shui principles, these undertakings are vital in channeling a home’s energy flow. Although there may be some crossover, take caution not to confuse home staging with feng shui; staging a home is not the same as following feng shui principles.

International Home Buyers
From Realtor.org

One of the reasons for the surging focus in feng shui is the increase of home buyers from China. According to the National Association of Realtors® (realtor.org), buyers from China represented about 16% of international home buyers, while purchasing an estimated $28.6 billion of real estate in 2014.

Feng shui is also important to Chinese-Americans, according to a recent survey conducted by Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate and the Asian Real Estate Association of America (Feng Shui a Driver of Home Selection and Investment for Chinese-Americans; bhgre.com; August 11, 2015). The survey revealed that 76% of respondents are familiar with the principles, and half of those respondents practice feng shui, which is “…considered to dictate spatial arrangement and building design to produce a harmonious flow of energy.” When it comes real estate, consider that 81% of respondents indicated that feng shui influenced their buying decisions; and that 79% of respondents indicated that they would pay more for a home that follows feng shui principles. And if you’re selling a home, you should take notice that 75% of respondents indicated that they experienced at least one “deal breaker” conflict of feng shui principles in a home (infographic on home staging and feng shui).

home saleIf your home doesn’t exactly correspond with feng shui principles, consider offering a “Feng Shui Contingency.” Such a contingency was highlighted in a 2014 Realtor®Mag article about the Seattle housing market and the high concentration of buyers from China (Why You May Need the ‘Feng Shui Contingency; realtormag.realtor.org; September 22, 2014). Much like a home inspection contingency, many buyers are including a contingency to have a feng shui master approve the house. The good news is that some conflicting elements may be remedied (such as landscaping); however, others cannot (such as the home’s physical location and direction).

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Real estate agents, emotional intelligence, and sale price

Can real estate agents with high emotional intelligence get you a higher sale price?

home for saleWhen it comes to selling a home, the prescribed course of action is to set the right listing price and prepare the home to be shown. Real estate gurus proclaim these as the two most important items to making the most money from your home sale. And although these are widely accepted goals to getting your home on the market, recent research may actually counter the conventional wisdom about pricing and staging; while a new line of thinking suggests that you’re choosing the wrong agent too.

Staging, as we know it, has been a staple of home sales for almost forty years. And listing agents almost always discuss it during their listing presentation. Research has already proclaimed that furnished homes sell in less time than vacant homes (see Chien-Chih Peng’s study published in the June 22nd 2004 issue of The Appraisal Journal), but does staging add perceived value to the price? Well, Lane, Seiler, and Seiler (2015. The impact of staging conditions on residential real estate demand. Journal of Housing Research, 24(1), 21-35) conducted the first study to determine the virtues of home staging. Their results suggested that home staging does have some impact on the home buying process, as you might expect; “…we find a neutral wall color and good furnishings do significantly influence a buyer’s perceived livability and overall opinion of the home.” However, the study’s main conclusion was that staging a home does not significantly impact sale price.

If you think that pricing a home is a straight forward process of gathering and extrapolating the latest neighborhood data to your home, think again. There may be more going on in your head than you realize. A recent study by Loveland, Mandel, and Dholakia (2014. Understanding homeowners’ pricing decisions: An investigation of the roles of ownership duration and financial and emotional reference points. Customer Needs and Solutions, 1(3), 225-240) suggested that home sellers make different home pricing decisions based on the length of ownership, anticipation of financial gain, and emotional experiences in the home. It seems that the longer you have owned your home combined with a greater financial gain or positively associated memories, may incline you to over-price your listing and likely maintain a higher price; while those who have a shorter time of ownership combined with less financial gain or bad memories price more reasonably, and are more likely to make larger price adjustments.

So maybe getting the most money for your home comes down to your agent. After all, research confirms that experienced real estate agents sell homes faster and for more money than rookie agents. And yet, subjective conceptions of agent traits may guide you to choose your agent, regardless if your assumptions are valid or erroneous.

Forget savvy, forget aggressiveness, forget connectedness, or any preconceived notion about what personality traits your agent needs. A recent pilot study of licensed real estate agents by Swanson and Zobisch (2014. Emotional intelligence understanding among real estate professionals. Global Journal of Business Research, 8(5), 9-16.) suggested that the key underlying trait for real estate success and financial gain is emotional intelligence (EI). The concept of EI is complex, and is often confused with typical personality traits such as sanguinity or purpose. Rather, EI is the ability to be aware of, and command emotions in oneself and others. Those with EI are thought to be empathetic and able to acknowledge responsibility for actions and emotions. Additionally, those with high EI are likely to better understand and manage others’ motivations – which is fundamental to negotiation.

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Making real estate sexy again

Real EstateThe go-go market of almost ten years ago was unique. The wealth aspect of the market seemed to have an effect on almost anyone who owned property; there was somewhat of a carnal attraction that had many home owners seeking more property and turning renters into home owners. It was no surprise that home ownership rates swelled to historic highs. Those who sold their homes or cashed out on their equity found themselves wealthier; while those who didn’t sell were happy to know their “paper wealth” was rapidly growing as home values realized monthly double digit gains.

At that time, the attraction to real estate for many seemed to be instinctive; the flirtation between home buyers and real estate may have been about a future of happy living and financial growth and security. Well, the sex appeal of real estate has worn off and seems to have been replaced by a “meh” attitude; probably indicating a lack of inspiration and/or interest.

Trying to regain the attention of home buyers, some agents have tried to re-establish real estate’s sex appeal. And it has been purposeful to attract home buyers by pairing homes with items that elicit carnal desire; listings are surrounded by exotic cars, modern art, and even sexy models have been credited to facilitate sales of luxury properties.

An April 2011 report by Julie Rose of WFAE 90.7 Charlotte (Realty Firm Uses Sex Appeal To Sell Luxurious Homes; wfae.org) described a photo shoot of a luxury home where, …” a blonde in tight jeans arches her back and tips a wine glass to her glossy lips. Her date leans closer, admiring…” But as Rose sates, “She’s lovely, but she’s not what you’re supposed to be looking at…” You’re supposed to be attracted to the kitchen features that seem to be a backdrop behind the model. However, the real estate agent interviewed said that the idea was to give an idea of what the home’s potential could offer.

Not all agents are on board with this technique, some have characterized the sexy advertising as “cheesy” and distasteful. One agent was quoted by Rose as saying, “It’s definitely gonna make someone stop and look at it. But once they’re in the listing looking at the pictures, I think they’re gonna focus a little more on the models rather than focusing on the home. And I think the bottom line is you want people to focus on the home.”

Sex appeal marketing is just a new take on selling a lifestyle. Lifestyle marketing has been the cornerstone of luxury real estate for years. For example, pairing fine art with luxury real estate has become commonplace; homes and condo projects have incorporated art collections to sell the lifestyle. In fact, the premier art show, Art Basel, has become the place to not only buy/sell fine art but high end real estate as well (Luxury Property Brokers Raring To Pounce On Wealthy Art Lovers At Miami Art Basel; November 28, 2013, Forbes.com). And for gear heads who want their homes built around their supercars, Miami’s über luxury Porche Design Tower will open in 2016.

Want to convey a lifestyle about your home? Before you hire models to pose in your home, consider talking to your agent about focusing on the things that made you enthusiastic and energized about your home. Chances are that the buyer of your home will be attracted to it the way you once were.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.