The year was 1989, and I was just about to learn the meaning of the word “boom.”
We’d met one afternoon with a real estate agent who advised us that if we wanted to sell our Silver Lake home, we needed to paint the living room, re-stain the deck, and put fresh bark over the flower beds. She forbade me to stencil any more walls and left with a promise to add us to the MLS first thing in the morning.
We ordered the bark to be delivered the next day, ran to the store for paint, and came home to tackle the list. First up: painting the living room. While Dave went to the garage for a drop cloth, I opened the first can of whitely-white, whitey-white-white paint … and promptly spilled the entire contents on our dark rust carpet.
Want to know the formula for getting white paint out of rust carpet? All you need is two hours + two frantic sellers with scrub brushes + about two bathtubs-worth of the hottest, soapiest water you can get your hands on. It’s that simple.
When we were done, you couldn’t tell there’d ever been a spill. (This would be a good spot to tell you about a more recent incident in which I dumped an entire bucket of white paint on my head while moving a ladder, but that will have to wait for another column.)
We ran back to the store for more paint … which Dave forbade me to touch … and I watched while he painted the room. And even though I detest white paint on principle (who doesn’t like color?), I had to admit that the room felt bigger, fresher and calmer with that simple layering of white paint. Standing in our living room late that night, I wished we had done it much sooner, and I wondered how long I might enjoy our new room before someone bought our house and took that enjoyment for themselves.
Apparently, not long. Our house hit the market at 10:00 the next morning and by noon, five buyers and their agents were standing in our yard and driveway (next to the just-delivered bark we hadn’t had time to spread), and two of them were writing up offers on the hoods of their cars. Thus, my introduction to the real estate boom of 1989.
If you’re considering selling your home in 2015, my suggestion is this: make those repairs sooner rather than later so you get a chance to enjoy them yourself.
You probably have a good list going in your head. There’s the burned out light bulb in the pantry. There’s that one window with the big ding where your son threw an errant poker chip two summers ago. (Not that I have firsthand experience or anything.) There’s the door knob that jiggles, and the rickety cupboard door, and the missing hardware on a kitchen drawer. Those things are driving you crazy, aren’t they? You’d never sell your house with those little irritants in place, because if they annoy you, they’ll annoy your buyers. I recently took some clients to an otherwise lovely home which unfortunately had a kitchen full of barely-clinging cupboard doors. The husband opened one door (and they all open doors, just so you know), felt the wiggle, and proceeded to test each and every cupboard door. He and I are still talking about those cupboard doors.
Maybe your list includes more substantial items, like replacing the garage door or laying new carpet. (Actually, how about if we go with hardwood? Most buyers love hardwood.)
There’s no good reason why you shouldn’t have a little time with the new window and the fresh paint and the fixed cupboard doors before someone else owns them. So do yourself a favor and tackle the list one item at a time. At the very least, you’ll be in a great position to sell when the time comes.
And who knows? With all those problems gone and a facelift in place, you may just fall in love with your home all over again and decide to keep it for yourself.
The experts tell us that in human interactions, two people meeting for the first time size one another up and form an opinion of each other in the first seven seconds. In just that short span of time, each determines if the other is a friend or a foe; someone to approach or someone to avoid.
Apparently, we take home-buying much more seriously. Because upon pulling up to a house for the first time, buyers take a whole EIGHT seconds to determine if they’re going to get out of the car or drive on by.
What does this mean for you as a seller? It means a couple of things. First, in anticipation of all those “internet drive-by” buyers, it’s vital that you use professional photos in your MLS listing, and that the photos taken show your home at its best. As a real estate broker myself, I can tell you that when I’m searching homes for my clients, I know within the first few clicks of the mouse if I’m going to send the listing. If the pictures are unappealing, or if they indicate a complete detachment to the whole house-selling process (think: overflowing garbage bins, curtains half-hanging on windows, a sink full of dirty dishes, stained carpets, or as I saw recently, a half-empty bottle of whiskey and a shot glass), I stop clicking and move on to the next listing. Remember: you only have eight seconds to make a good impression.
Beyond the MLS photos, sellers have to address actual, physical curb appeal. What does a buyer see when he or she pulls up in front of your house? Would their first glimpse be enticing, and cause them to want to see more?
The subject of curb appeal always brings to mind one particular home that I drive by every time I’m visiting my friend in New Jersey. She and her husband live in a beautiful 200-year old home in the countryside. The road to their property runs along fence-lined pastures and grazing horses and charming old barns. But just before you reach their home, on one final curve in the road, you come suddenly upon a bizarre sight. For reasons known only to God and this homeowner, the entire front yard is surrounded by a border of dozens and dozens of bowling balls of every color under the sun—orange balls, and purple and and pink balls, and blue balls with sparkly metallic flecks, and rust and cream balls with Jupiter-esque swirls. Each is perched on what looks like a gigantic golf tee, and something about the arrangement makes me think of enormous push-pins sunk in the earth.
It is NOT attractive. And if you offered me a million dollars, I couldn’t describe the house to you, because I’ve never been able to look at anything but those odd lawn ornaments. Someone really should have been loving enough to say, “No, Bert, I do not think we should edge the front yard with bowling balls.”
Of course, you would never do such a thing. But how is your front door looking? Does it need repainting, or replacing? Is the lawn healthy, or is it full of moss? Could the garden beds use a fresh topping of bark? Did you have time last fall to cut back all the spent blooms and branches? Wouldn’t a little color look nice along the walkway?
Enhancing your curb appeal doesn’t have to be an expensive or time-consuming endeavor. Start with the most obvious tasks and work down from there. A little touch-up here, a little clipping and trimming and tidying-up there can make a big difference. In fact, it can make all the difference in whether a would-be buyer lingers … or they dash.
I met a friend at a restaurant in Edmonds last week, and of course, the conversation eventually turned to real estate. Over our lunch of chicken pot pies, Cathy said, “We’re thinking of downsizing, but how do you know when it’s the right time?”
That’s a good question. And it’s one I hear often as people wrestle out loud with the desire to simplify versus the desire to hang on to the house in which they’ve raised children and/or created great memories. Sometimes circumstances dictate a move, but other times it’s just a matter of logic and good planning.
Below are a few of the best reasons to make that choice.
You know it’s time to downsize your home when …
—The kids are gone, and it doesn’t look like they’re coming back. You had to have all those bedrooms when you were raising them, and it’s possible they needed those rooms long after they thought they’d be out of the house and on their own, but if your nest is empty now (and you’re relatively sure it will stay empty), you no longer need all those bedrooms. Why pay higher taxes and spend more money on utilities for square footage you’re using only for storage?
— You need better accessibility. While the suburbs are great places to raise families, it’s more convenient for seniors to be in a neighborhood with dining, shopping, social amenities, transportation options and medical services close by. If you want those conveniences close at hand, downsizing to a smaller home in town or a well-situated retirement community is a good choice.
— There’s more house to clean than energy to get it done. It’s one thing to keep a big house tidy when you really need every square foot of it, but why spend all day tending to a house that is much bigger than you need? It comes down to time and energy. Would you rather clean a 2000 square foot house, or a 1000 square foot house?
— You’re overwhelmed by outside chores. I can’t say we’re quite there yet, but I do see a day coming when the thought of chopping and stacking four cords of winter wood will lose its luster for my husband. Nor will it always be fun to spend one day a week mowing the lawn. Come to think of it, I’ve just about given up on staying ahead of the weeds in my kitchen garden, vegetable garden and walkway. There will come a point where we decide that we’d rather use that time and energy elsewhere. Just as a smaller house means less housework, a smaller yard (or no yard at all) means less yardwork—and more time for other interests.
— You decide to live simpler. While on a five-week tour of Europe several years ago, I learned how freeing it was to make due with only the contents of one small suitcase and one backpack. Packing was easier. Dressing was easier. Laundry was easier. Keeping our hotel room tidy was easier.
Possessions have a way of complicating our lives, and if we’re not careful, our “stuff” soon owns us. When you free yourself from the need to accumulate and possess, you give yourself the gift of time, money, and choice. You don’t have to have a big house; you and your simpler life can easily move to a smaller house with a smaller mortgage (or no mortgage at all).
— You want more financial freedom. If you’ve been in your current location for a while and you know your home’s value has appreciated significantly, cashing in now can be a smart move. You may have enough equity to pay cash for a smaller home. At the very least, you’re likely to have a much smaller mortgage and pay less in taxes, insurance and utilities. That means more money for traveling, entertaining, golfing, or whatever else interests you.
Downsizing has the potential to reduce your stress, free up your calendar, fill up your wallet and simplify your life. Which makes downsizing yet another great example of “less” truly being “more.”
So you know how they say you can’t judge a book by its cover? I’m not so sure about that. Over the years, my husband has collected a good number of those Chilton Auto Repair Manuals. We had one for our Honda Civic, our Ford Taurus, our VW Cabriolet, and our VW Bug. I glanced politely at one of the books once when Dave was working on one of our cars and wanted to bond with me over the experience. I never looked again, but I’m pretty sure all the other Chilton books were full of the same diagrams and car-talk.
Now contrast those books with the multitude of Amish romance books on the market today—the ones with the bonnet-ed girl casting a confused and longing glance at the horizon, hankering for something she can’t quite put her finger on. Even without opening the cover, it’s a sure bet you’re not going to find a single transmission diagram inside, but you’re guaranteed at least one good cow-milking scene, and plenty of egg-gathering and butter-churning.
See? Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. And apparently, people can judge your personality type by your front door. According to the Kate Smith, president and “chief maven” of Sensational Color, your front door functions much like a book cover, hinting to visitors and passers-by at the colorful personalities inside.
So what does your front door say about you? Here’s the list of some of the most popular colors, along with the message they convey to your visitors (with quotes by Kate Smith).
White — This tells people that you “prefer for things to be organized, neat and clean,” and that even if your home wasn’t always that way, you wish it were.
Black — A black door is your way of telling the world, “I’m consistent, conservative, and reserved in my manner as well as my approach to color. My design style is timeless rather than trendy.”
Gray —You’re “smart, dignified and refined. This classic color matches up with people who are responsible and cultured.”
Brown — This color signals to the world that you’re stable and dependable. “This down-to-earth color matches the earthy personality of the homeowner who is also seen as very open and approachable.”
Blue — If you have a blue door, you’re “naturally at ease in most situations and people are attracted to your easygoing personality.”
Green — Green door owners “have traditional values and enjoy being a member of the community.”
Yellow — Like green, yellow tells people that you’re traditional, but just a tad less so.
Red — You’re hospitable, energetic, warm and welcoming. Kate says that the person who chooses a red door is telling the world, “Look at me!”
Orange — This color tells your visitors, “I’m friendly, fun loving and enjoy getting together with people”
Purple — As you might predict, the owner of a purple door is a “free spirited person who is comfortable taking risks, thinking differently and dreaming big.”
Natural wood/stained wood — Those who choose to leave their doors in their natural state, with no paint at all, are telling the world that they are “self-motivated and enjoy having a good balance of hard work with leisure activities.”
And what about people who choose no color at all, but prefer a clear glass door? Kate didn’t say. But I’m thinking maybe those people are declaring to the world, “No need to judge me. I’m an open book.”
The National Association of Realtors put together 5 wonderful informational video’s, hosted by actress Elizabeth Banks. They are very informative for a first time home buyer, and quite funny as well. Even if you are not a first time buyer, they will be worth checking out. Each video is only about 2 minutes long, but they take you through the whole buying process. Click on Buyer Videos above or click here.
We were driving back from visiting my Dad at his retirement community in Arlington today when I saw a For Sale sign in front of this house, on the corner of Olympic & Highland Drive in Arlington, just down the street from where I grew up. Built in 1930, my Grandparents were the first owners of this house. My 91 year old Dad grew up here and I spent countless hours in the house from the late 50’s through the very early 70’s, until they passed away.
I had not been inside for over 40 years, but I had to go in. I got to tell Cary where my Grandpa used to keep his candy bars to help with his diabetes; the location of the comic books they bought for my brother David Peterson and me; the cupboard where the Carnation Malted Milk was kept; the corner in his bedroom where I would listen to records on his record player; the location of the chair where he sat when I would go watch Mickey Mantle and the Yankees with him on Saturday afternoons; and the porch where I last saw my Grandma alive, as Eric Swensen and I ran through her yard on the way to visit Barb Coxon. A flood of great memories! It made my day…my month…my year.
What the heck is going on in our local real estate market? If you read the news you would think that the inventory is so low that no one is putting their home on the market. Not entirely true however. In Marysville, there were 36% more new listings in Feb. 2016 than Feb. 2015, yet the months of inventory based on pending sales went from 1.8 down to 1.1 during the same time frame. There are just more people looking for homes right now.
What does this mean for potential buyers or sellers. If you are a seller, we are in a seller’s market and if you are priced correctly we are seeing very quick sales and often multiple offers that push the prices higher. The better your house looks, the more “show ready” it is, the more it will appeal to today’s buyer.
If you are a buyer, be prepared to make a quick decision. Get approved for a loan before you start your search, and be prepared to go look at a home the day it comes on the market. Not being available to look at homes for a day or two be the difference in getting a house or not.
Today there are 146 active single family homes on the market in Marysville. There has also been 130 new contracts accepted in the past 30 days. Yes, things are moving fast. It’s a roller coaster ride right now, and the ticket lines are long.