By Julie Legge, real estate photographer and videographer
Got a new luxury listing this spring? Consider a twilight photo session to supplement your professional interior pictures. Marketing the property with pictures taken at dusk is an excellent way to highlight exterior features such as upgraded landscape lighting, pool lighting and outdoor living spaces, conveying an alluring and welcoming glow that invites interested buyers to learn more about the home.
As a real estate photographer who loves to take twilight photos, I’ve compiled the following tips to help real estate professionals work with their sellers and photographers so the session can go smoothly and produce a great result.
1. Lighting: Someone who is familiar with the interior and exterior lighting and the pool features should be present at the photo session, whether it be a home owner, real estate broker or caretaker. Arrive early to turn on all interior and exterior lighting, including landscape and pool lighting. Be prepared to turn off any lighting upon the photographer’s request. For example, some flood lights can be harsh and detract from the desired effect.
2. Pool and water features: Have the pool cleaned of debris in advance of the session. Turn on pool lighting and water features where desired. Please note that turning on water features may make some of the surrounding hardscape look wet in the pictures; if you want a consistently dry hardscape look, plan accordingly.
3. Outdoor living features: Consider lighting fires in outdoor fireplaces. Remove grill covers — if the grill is in good condition.
4. Outdoor furniture: Remove covers from outdoor furniture and add chair cushions. Straighten pool and lounge chairs and arrange any side tables. Consider staging any tables with clean rolled towels and refreshments. Open pool umbrellas where they will not block important views.
5. Landscaping: Add flowering or green plants to empty planters and remove dead plants. Turn off yard irrigation and do not water flowers less than two hours prior to the photo session as driveways and patios that are partially wet or partially dry may not be optimal for pictures. Arrange for professional lawn care to occur at least a day prior to the session. If appropriate, replace mulch or other landscaping enhancements.
6. Other exterior tips: As with a daytime photo session, park vehicles in the garage with the garage door closed, or park on the street away from the front of the home. Pick up any toys from the yard, i.e. plastic children’s toys, balls and soccer goals. Sweep porches, patios, driveways and front walkways if necessary.
7. Advance preparation is key: Remember that the time window for twilight photos is short, so the property should be ready for photos in advance of the appointment.
As always, talk to your photographer about the property’s features and get additional helpful tips from her as you plan the session. If you need visual inspiration, check out photos of luxury homes in magazines or online, or see my online portfolio of twilight photos.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julie Legge is a professional real estate photographer in Charlotte, N.C. She’s photographed 1,000 homes for real estate brokers, builders, home stagers, and interior designers, and she coaches beginning photographers. Visit her web site: www.charlotterealestatephotos.com.
Source:: Styled Staged Sold
It’s important to prepare a home for the cold weather ahead. And, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do this. Following are winter home improvement projects that home owners can do for less than $1,000:
It’s that time of the year again. Your home has to be properly heated in preparation for the low temperatures this season. Proper heating not only makes your home more comfortable to stay in during winter, it can also help you save on energy bills. For this article however, we will focus on your water heater.
Simple Water Heater Installation
A water heater is a simple device. It is not difficult to maintain and they usually last from seven to 15 years. However, even with proper maintenance, sooner or later, you will replace your water heater. If your water heater starts to leak or if it isn’t heating, you have to replace it fast.
Typical cost is about: $ 826 – gas water heater with 50 gallon tank, typically used in a 5 person home, including vent and pipe .
Prices range from:
- $639 – electric water heater with 40 gallon tank, typically used in a four-person home
- $1,077 – gas tankless water heater, 6.4 GPM for 2 baths, including vent and pipe
A domestic water heater may be tanktype or a tankless type, and can use either gas or electricity as its heat source. Typical domestic tanktype water heaters range from 30 to 50 gallons and they require floor space to be installed. Tankless units are rated in gallons per minute (GPM) and range from 2 to 10 GPM. They can be wall mounted and located in reduced spaces.
- In the very best of cases this installation may be suitable for the able DIY person, but home insurance or local codes may require a licensed or certified installer.
- In cases where issues can arise, it is best left to professionals to resolve on the spot.
- A fairly complete plumbing tool set will be required, perhaps including a torch.
During winter, people come in and out of your home tracking in all types of debris — which can do a lot of damage to your hardwood floors. Snow and water in particular, can be absorbed by wood.
Refinishing Hardwood Floors in Preparation for Winter
Hardwood floors not only make your house look beautiful, it also adds warmth to your home interior. Wood floors become extremely cold during winter. However, when heating a home interior with hardwood floors, the increase in temperature should be balanced with a gradual decrease in humidity levels. Otherwise, you risk warping the wood. That being said, you need to refinish your hardwood floors before winter sets in as this will provide extra protection to your wood floors.
Typical cost is about: $ 2.8 per square foot – sanding of the existing floor and the application of sealers
Prices range from:
- $2.50 per square foot – sanding of the existing floor and the application of sealers
- $3.50 per square foot – sanding of the existing floor and the application of sealers
Hardwood floors should be refinished regularly to extend its lifetime. The cost of refinishing hardwood floors varies greatly from region to region.
This may be suitable for the able DIY person.
#3 WINDOW INSTALLATIONS
Keeping your home warmer during winter entails high energy consumption. However, if you have energyefficient windows you can reduce your energy consumption.
Energy saving Vinyl Casement Window Installations
When choosing the best windows for your home, there is no onesizefitsall standard. But according to HouseEnergy, when it comes to choosing the best windows for cold climates, the most energyefficient are doubleglazed and tripleglazed windows. These windows have a very low Ufactor and relatively high solargain (SHGC) coefficient. This type of window in vinyl frame would work best. Vinyl is inexpensive and does not need to be painted or stained. Casement windows also provide the best ventilation when opened.
Typical cost is about: $ 943 – vinyl casement window replacement
Prices range from:
- $691 – vinyl casement window replacement – DIY
- $1,290 – vinyl casement window replacement – upgraded
Casement windows extend to the exterior of the house and may obstruct walkways. The actual cost of installation will depend on material and finish grade, size, structural preparation, special needs and the current labor rate – when using an installer. These prices are for service in the immediate area of the provider. Taxes and permit fees are not included. During contractor inspection, the homeowner should be informed about the cost of any repairs needed as well as the cost of adapting the new window with the current opening. A project involving more than two windows may earn the homeowner a unit price discount Local or national subsidy may be provided for energy efficiency improvements.
● This project is not highly suitable for DIY with precise carpentry and a critical closure deadline.
● Partial DIY of removal and disposal tasks are possible for the prepared DIY.
As winter approaches, your electric bill rises. This is due to several factors:
● Lights stay on longer because of shorter days and longer nights;
● Extra hot water is used for warm baths and showers;
● Because people stay indoors longer during winter, electric equipment such as computers, TVs, DVD players and gaming consoles are used more often;
● The clothes dryer is used more often.
Electric Circuit Install
Due to the reasons mentioned above, you need a more efficient electrical system during winter.
1. For Electric Range Circuit
Typical cost is about: $202 – 30 foot circuit, exposed cable
Prices range from:
- $ 76 – 30 foot circuit, exposed cable – DIY
- $393 – 30 foot circuit, outdoor conduit upgrade
2. For Electric Outlet Circuit
Typical cost is about: $ 153 – 30 foot circuit, exposed cable
Prices range from:
- $27 – 30 foot circuit, exposed cable – DIY
- $292 – 30 foot circuit, outdoor with conduit upgrade
3. For Electric Dryer Circuit
Typical cost is about: $ 179 – 30 foot circuit, exposed cable
Prices range from:
- $53 – 30 foot circuit, exposed cable – DIY
- $333 – 30 foot circuit, outdoor with conduit upgrade
Electric range circuits bring power to electrical equipment inside your home. These are subject to compliance codes and professional practices designed to reduce fire risk. The cost to install an average electric range circuit, electric outlet circuit or electric dryer circuit depends upon the power rating, circuit lengths, preparation and special requirements, and the current labor rate.
● IMPORTANT: Whenever you are going to work with electricity, you need to turn off the circuit breaker first. Double check, using a noncontact voltage tester to make certain that there is no current before you start working.
● This project is somewhat suitable for DIY with good electrical skills and tools.
● Electrical circuits and installations must comply with codes to reduce fire risk.
Most home owners choose wood doors for its aesthetics. It provides a good blend of elegance and strength and they can be very affordable depending on the type and quality of wood. However, wood needs to be treated regularly with paint or varnish so that it will be protected from wind, rain and snow. Neglecting to do so would cause rotting. For most people, the most practical choice for the winter season would be a fiberglass or steel door.
Installation of Fiberglass/Steel Door
Fiberglass and Steel are energyefficient and common lowmaintenance choices for exterior door material.
The average exterior door costs range from:
1. For Fiberglass Doors: Typical cost is about: $679 – exterior fiberglass door replacement
Prices range from:
- $463 – exterior fiberglass door replacement – DIY
- $1,537 – exterior fiberglass door replacement – upgraded
2. For Steel Doors:
Typical cost is about: $ 613 – exterior steel door replacement
- $397 – exterior steel door replacement – DIY
- $871 – exterior steel door replacement – upgraded
The cost of installing average exterior fiberglass and steel doors depends on the type of material and finish grade, size, structural preparation and special needs, and the current labor rate. These prices are for service in the immediate area of the provider. Taxes and permit fees are not included. During contractor inspection, the home owner should be informed about the cost of any repairs needed as well as the cost of adapting the new window with the current opening.
A project involving more than two windows may earn the homeowner a unit price discount Local or national subsidy may be provided for energy efficiency improvements.
● This project may suitable for DIY with carpentry skills, unless of a critical deadline.
● Partial DIY of removal and disposal tasks are possible for the prepared DIY.
Home improvement projects may be costly if you are not wellinformed. If you want to make sure your money is spent wisely on your home improvement projects, without having to sacrifice quality, visit howmuch.net for more information.
Source:: Styled Staged Sold
In August, rents spiked 3.6 percent over the same time a year earlier, the fastest pace since 2008. As rental vacancy rates fall across most parts of the country and more jobs are created, they will continue to jump further. This trend is both good news and bad news.
Naturally, people collecting rents are thrilled with the gains they’re seeing. Both large apartment investors and mom-and-pop landlords are enjoying the best conditions they’ve seen in years.
Of course, renters don’t like forking over more money to be tenants. That’s why, when rents rise strongly, it creates demand for home buying. But that isn’t happening this time. In fact, the share of first-time home buyers, who typically lead the move from renting to owning, continues to hover at near 30-year lows.
Rising rents are making it difficult for potential first-time buyers to become owners, especially since rent increases are outpacing wage gains. That means more of a tenant’s income is being eaten up in rent, making it harder to save for a down payment.
Meanwhile, home prices are rising, in large part because builders aren’t adding new homes for sale at a rate matching demand. Only 5 million single-family and apartment homes have been built in the last five years, even though 12.5 million jobs have been added during that period.
The lag in construction represents good and bad news. It’s helping to keep rents and home prices up, but it’s making home ownership more difficult as tenants struggle to save for the down payment they’ll need to buy an increasingly costly home. While the construction outlook is unclear, until builders contribute to the overall housing stock at a more normal pace, home prices and rents will continue to rise.
Picture this: You’ve worked with your new seller for days to get her home ready for sale.
She’s repainted, cleaned the carpets, and even worked with your favorite stager to rearrange and add some furniture.
It’s nearly ready to hit the market, but first you need to take pictures.
Here are six tips to get your listing ready for its close-up.
1. Motivate the seller to be ready for the photography session. Explain why the house should look it’s best for its close-up: listing photos are often a buyer’s first experience with listings. Today, over 92 percent of home buyers use the Internet to search for homes, and 50 percent used a mobile device to search for homes. Buyers rank home photos as the No. 1 valuable web site feature — even more valuable than the home description, according to the 2014 National Association of REALTORS®’ 2014 Home Buyers and Sellers Profile. Other research indicates that great looking photos translate to more showings, fewer days on the market, and even a higher sales price.
2. Give the seller a “to do” list. Preparing a home for photos is not something your seller does every day, and a simple task list can help her feel prepared and make the photo session go more smoothly. Items on the list should include tasks for the inside as well as the outside of the home (see tips #3 and 4). Ask your professional photographer for a checklist to help sellers get ready for photos, or you can develop your own. Bonus: your seller can use the list to get the home ready for showings.
3. Remind the seller to prepare the inside of the home. Be sure to remind the seller about the basics, such as putting toilet seats down, throwing used towels in a hamper, making the beds, and hiding personal toiletries such as toothbrushes, prescription medications, and shampoo bottles. Coordinate the photo session to occur shortly after any housecleaners have cleaned the home.
4. Remind the seller to prepare the outside of the home. Sellers should park cars in the garage or on the street away from the front of the home, pick up any yard toys and games, dispense of dead plants, sweep walkways and hide trash cans. If possible, schedule the pictures a day or two after the lawn is mowed and the bushes trimmed.
5. Communicate the home’s best features to the photographer. What are the qualities of the home that will attract buyers – a large yard, upgraded kitchen with under cabinet lighting, or vaulted ceilings in the master bedroom? Talking to your photographer in advance of the photo session can help her deliver photos that will show off these desirable features.
6. Partner with a professional photographer. Find a professional photographer that understands your business and what you want in your listing photos. Give the photographer time to get to know you as a client. The longer a photographer works with you, the more she will become familiar with your photography needs, becoming a key part of your marketing team.
Some listings may require more work getting them “photo ready” than others, but the effort put forth can help drive prospective buyers to your listing, resulting in a successful sale – and a happy client.
Source:: Styled Staged Sold
Men have their man caves, but how about a space just for females? Welcome, the “she shed.”
These backyard retreats are becoming the latest buzzword in interior design — emerging as the perfectly carved out haven for the woman of the household who seeks a quiet place of her own. Women are transforming old backyard sheds or even building mini cottages to create a place of relaxation or where they can pursue hobbies, such as ceramics, painting, and gardening. They are designing these mini sheds with everything from crystal chandeliers to luxurious furniture to create a top-notched designed space with all those feminine touches their heart desires. The only rule: No men allowed.
It’s the contractor you pick that makes — or breaks — your remodeling project. Finding the right contractor for your job will determine the quality and timeliness of the work, and the amount of emotional and financial stress you’ll have to deal with.
To make sure you’re getting the best work from a contractor, here are five questions to ask the candidates.
- Would you please itemize your bid?Many contractors prefer to give you a single, bottom-line price for your project, but this puts you in the dark about what they’re charging for each aspect of the job.For example, if the original plan calls for wainscot in your bathroom, but you decide not to install it, how much should you be credited for eliminating that work? With a single bottom-line price, you have no way to know.
If you get an itemized bid, it’ll show the costs for all of the various elements of the job, including:
- Demolition and hauling trash
- Framing and finish carpentry
- Electrical work
- Tiling or other floor covering installations
- Lighting fixtures
- Drywall and painting
That makes it easier to compare different contractors’ prices. If you need to cut the project costs, you can easily figure your options. Plus, an itemized bid becomes valuable documentation about the scope of your project, which may eliminate disputes later.
Contractors shouldn’t give you a hard time about itemizing their bids. If they resist, it’s a red flag for sure.
2. Is your bid an estimate or a fixed price?
Some contractors treat their bids as estimates, meaning bills could wind up being higher in the end. Be sure to request a fixed price bid instead.
If a contractor says he can’t offer a fixed price because there are too many unknowns about the job, then try to eliminate the unknowns. For example, have him open up a wall or examine a crawl space.
If you can’t resolve the unknowns, have the project specs describe only what he expects to do. If additional work is needed, you can do a change order — a written mini-bid for new work.
3. How long have you been doing business in this town?
A contractor who’s been plying his trade locally for five or 10 years has an established network of subcontractors and suppliers in the area and a local reputation to uphold. That makes them a safer bet than a contractor who’s either new to the business or planning to commute to your job from 50 miles away.
- A business card with a nearby address — not a P.O. box.
- References from one or two of his earliest clients. This’ll help you verify he hasn’t just recently hung his shingle.
- Who are your main suppliers? Contractors are networked with their suppliers. You can tap into information on your contractor’s reliability and level of quality by talking to proprietors of:
- Tile shops
- Kitchen and bath showrooms
- Lumber yards
- The pro desk at your favorite home improvement center
Ask about a contractor’s professional reputation, whether he has left a trail of unhappy customers in his wake, if he’s reliable about paying his bills — and whether he’s someone you’ll want to hire.
Your contractor should have no qualms about telling you where he gets his materials if he’s an upstanding customer.
5. I’d like to meet the job foreman — can you take me to a project he’s running?
Many contractors don’t actually swing hammers. They spend their days bidding new work and managing their various jobs and workers. That makes the job foreman — the one who’s working on your project every day — the most important member of your team.
Meet the foreman in person and see if his current job is running smoothly. Asking to meet the foreman on the job gives your general contractor an incentive to assign you one of his better crews, since you’re more likely to hire him if you see his A Team.
If your contractor says he’ll be running the job himself, ask whether he’ll be there every day. He’ll want to give you a positive response — something you can hold him to later on.
If you’ve ever accrued a late fee after losing a bill, thrown away spoiled peaches you forgot to eat, or bought yet another pair of sunglasses because you couldn’t find yours, then you know being disorganized can cost you money.
At best, clutter in the home causes mistakes, late fees, overdue payments, and missed deadlines. At worst, a house in chaos can eat away at your finances, mar your credit, and reduce your productivity. That’s a whopping price to pay for being disorganized.
According to an Ikea “Life at Home” survey, 43% of Americans admit to being disorganized, and the average American wastes 55 minutes per day looking for stuff they’ve lost or misplaced.
“Do you think organizing is just for appearances?” asks Lisa Gessert, president of Organizing.buzz, a professional organizing service in Staten Island, N.Y. “Organizing your home is financially beneficial.” Gessert stresses to clients the need to sort, purge, assign things a home, and containerize. “This process saves people tons of money.”
Here’s why being organized saves you money, and how to get your home into shape:
Disorganization in the Home Office Costs You:
- Lost papers = time spent looking for them, money wasted on duplicates
- Misplaced bills = late fees, bad credit causes higher interest rates
- Missed tax deadlines = penalties
If any of these sound familiar, you’ll need a home office system for dealing with important papers, bills, and personal correspondence. The Ikea survey found 23% of people pay bills late because they lost them. Wall-mounted bill organizers can help you stay organized. Look for ones with two or more compartments to categorize by due date.
“Having your papers organized will save time, help you pay bills on time, and allow you to be more productive,” says Alison Kero, owner of ACK Organizing, based in New York City.
Mount shelving and create a file system for important papers, such as insurance policies and tax receipts. Look for under-utilized space, such as converting a standard closet into built-in storage with shelves and cabinets for your papers, files, and office equipment. If you need to use stackable bins, don’t stack them around equipment that needs air ventilation, such as scanners and Wi-Fi receivers, since they could overheat and malfunction — costing you money.
Disorganization in Your Closets Costs You:
- Missing clothes = money spent on duplicates
- Hidden items = wasted time since you can’t see what you own
- Accessory mess = wasted money on items you don’t wear, can’t find
“Organizing often reduces duplication of possessions,” says Lauren Williams, owner of Casual Uncluttering LLC, in Woodinville, Wash. “No more buying an item for a second, third, fourth time because someone can’t find it.”
If closets are crammed, paring down is a must. First, take everything out. Rid yourself of multiples, anything you no longer wear, and assess your shoe collection. Create piles: purge, throw out, or donate.
For what’s left, you’ll need a better closet system. You can choose a ready-made system that simply needs installation, or create your own. PVC pipe can be used to create additional hanging rods, and you may also want to add shelving to store folded clothes, hats, and bulky items. Look for wire mesh shelving, solid wood shelves, or an all-in-one closet shelving system depending on space. Large and small hooks can be wall-mounted to hold belts, accessories, and scarves.
Disorganization in the Kitchen Costs You:
- Expired food = wasted money
- Overflowing pantry = can’t see what ingredients you have and duplicate them
- Crammed cabinets = overspending on multiple dishes and gadgets
Since the kitchen is often the hub of the home, it has a tendency to clutter. No wonder the Ikea survey found 50% of the world’s kitchens have junk drawers. Categorize yours by adding small plastic or wooden drawer organizers for things like thumbtacks, rubber bands, scissors, and tape.
To avoid buying your third jar of oregano or second potato ricer, buy or build an organizational system for your pantry. Built-in lazy Susans work great. Use pull-out mini shelving to corral items like dressings, hot sauces, and vinegars. Tackle cabinets and counters by mounting behind-the-cabinet-door racks to hold items like pot lids or cutting boards.
Add pull-out drawers in your bottom cupboards to make everything easily accessible and easy to see. You’ll thank yourself when you get older, too.
Disorganization in Your Living Areas Costs You:
- Lost keys, missing wallet = late for work, lost productivity
- Not being able to fully enjoy your home = you spend money elsewhere for fun
- Blocked ventilation = utility costs rise
Your living space is where you want to get the most enjoyment out of your home. If you can’t relax and enjoy yourself there, you’ll constantly be seeking out other places to find solace and fun — and that can add up to a lot of money spent on entertainment and recreational venues.
And, meanwhile, you could be paying more than you should for the living space you’re not enjoying.
“I run into people whose homes are unorganized to the point of papers, boxes and ‘stuff’ blocking air vents that supply heat and air conditioning to their homes,” says Gessert. This costs a fortune in utility bills. Likewise, a jumble of electrical wires around TVs and home entertainment systems can be sucking energy from always being plugged in. Connect them all to smart power strips that can turn everything off with one switch.
Once you’re living with organization, you’ll start to see the benefits everywhere. No more dealing with late fees on bills, having to buy replacement earrings or bread knives when items go missing, and — perhaps best of all — no more having to leave your home in order to find relaxation and entertainment. After all, saving on bills can be a big boost to your monthly budget, but there’s no greater value than getting more enjoyment out of your home.
By Patti Stern, PJ & Co. Staging and Interior Decorating
Staging your home involves creating an environment that house hunters can envision themselves living in and can help to facilitate a speedy sale and for top dollar. Quite simply, if potential buyers don’t feel an emotional connection with your home, they won’t feel like they belong there and they’ll be inclined to look elsewhere.
That said, why would home owners make the selling process more difficult for themselves by choosing NOT to stage their property in order to make the best impression? The following are some misconceptions that sellers have about home staging.
1. It’s too expensive.
Staging is an investment in getting a house sold for top dollar and always less than the first price reduction on a home. According to the Association of Staging Professionals (ASP), 95 percent of staged homes sell in 11 days or less and sell for 17 percent more than homes that are not staged. When compared with the carrying costs of a home that lags on the market (monthly mortgage, utilities, landscaping/snow removal, etc.), the cost of staging is far less.
2. Our home has been professionally decorated.
Decorating and staging are completely different. Although home owners may love the way their house looks and it suits their needs perfectly, it may not appeal to the tastes and style of today’s buyers. An accredited home stager has the experience and objectivity to prepare a home for mass appeal in the current marketplace to engage as many buyers as possible — no matter what their personal style.
3. We don’t need a stager to declutter and clean.
Although these may seem like easy tasks, there is a lot of emotion that goes into depersonalizing a home after so many years of accumulating personal belongings. An accredited stager will provide a detailed action plan to neutralize and remove any items that will distract from the home’s features to get the house sold.
4. We can’t stage the house if we’re living in it.
Staging is absolutely not just for vacant homes. Every home can be staged while it’s occupied and a professional stager will provide home owners with tips for keeping the home in show-ready condition while the home is on the market — and still feel comfortable in their own home.
5. We can wait and then stage later if needed.
There is a lot of truth to the popular phrase “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” If you don’t stage before you list, you will inevitably lose time and money.
6. Staging won’t hide all the problems.
Before beginning the staging process, sellers should address basic repairs such as leaky faucets and broken lights first so buyers won’t have a reason to turn away as soon as they walk into a home. Once this is done, a staging company will handle superficial imperfections such as repainting walls and removing outdated wallpaper to make the home aesthetically inviting and comfortable.
For more examples of interior decorating and home staging, visit www.pjstagingdecorating.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patti Stern, principal, interior decorator and professional stager of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating, has been decorating and staging homes since 2005. She and her team provide turnkey, full service home- staging and interior decorating to clients across Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. She also developed an award winning staging program for luxury home builder, Toll Brothers. Patti has been featured in Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, Danbury News-Times and on NBC Connecticut and FOX TV. She is a regular contributor to the National Association of Realtor’s Blog, “Style, Staged and Sold.”
Source:: Styled Staged Sold
If you aren’t doing a short sale, but letting your home go to foreclosure, watch this brief video on why this may be a mistake.