Friday, July 30, 2010

What's Hot in Home Buying Trends and Design

Home Buyer tastes continually change- it's a moving target. But currently, today's home buyers are looking for smaller homes on smaller lots. That's good news for the home building industry since labor and materials costs continually climb and builders can make more money subdividing lots.

Home buyers are less likely to be interested in homes built from 1970-1999. Buyers do not want florescent lighting, wood panelling, walnut wood cabinetry with exposed hinges or 1990s style white vinyl coated MDF cabinetry, formica countertops, gold tone or brass trim, no shiny brass or outdated lighting. Even crystal chandeliers are not so hot for today's buyers.

What's HOT? 1) homes built pre WWII. These styles include bungalows, arts and crafts, tudor, cottage, etc.. These homes typically have "character"- hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. 2) Mid-Century Modern- homes that were built between 1945-1969 that feature open floor plans, low pitched roofs, cantilevered construction, exposed beams and geometric architecture. 3) Turn of the Century Arts and Crafts style new homes. Period details from the 1920s are re-created in new construction to mimick a 1920s boxy arts and crafts home that looks as if it has been recently renovated and modernized with open floor plan and modern touches.

Today's buyer wants either a period style kitchen with modern conveniences or a completely sleek and modern kitchen. No more straddling the fence with "traditional" style cabinetry. Buyers want an oversized single bowl undermount sink, kitchen island, stainless steel appliances, built in refrigerators and wine coolers, concrete, stone or quartz countertops, under-cabinet and recessed lighting, glass tile backsplases, 6 burner gas ranges and convection ovens.

Formal living rooms are out of fashion and formal dining rooms seem to be phasing out in favor of an open space for entertaining, dining and cooking. Media rooms and playrooms are very desirable with large flat screen tvs, oversized sectional sofas and head banging surround sound systems. Buyers love the old tile (like the old basket-weave black and white tile) in older bathrooms or luxurious modern baths with sleek wood cabinetry, raised height vanities, modern lighting, lots of stone and glass, oversized showers with multi-spray fixtures and quartz or granite countertops.

Today's buyer desires less (or no) carpeting and prefers hardwood oak flooring, exotic hardwoods like Brazilian cherry, polished concrete or stone tile, cork and bamboo. Earthtones are still popular but we're seeing more and more bright and ethereal colors for interiors.

Look for these future trends: recycled concrete and glass countertops, GREEN products and construction, fiberglass panel flooring, atmospheric paint colors, bold accent colors and patterns, smaller homes, smaller eco-friendly yards with very little turf and low maintenance, drought tolerant landscapes and light and aroma therapy built in to your interior environment. Modern furniture and design is coming on strong with sleek lines and natural eco-friendly materials.

If you are thinking of updating your home or considering selling your home, please contact me so I can help guide you towards decisions you can make to get the most bang for your buck for improvements that buyers will appreciate (and pay for) on the resale.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Keep it Clean

If you ask me, a clean home is a beautiful home. Don't just rely on what I say, though, ask any buyer who is currently looking to buy a home and they will tell you what a turnoff a dirty home can be. Some of us are lucky to have a professional cleaning service to maintain our abodes, other of us... not so much.

For those of us who like to (or have to) clean our own homes, following are some great cleaning tips that maybe you haven't already heard about.

Penetration= Good. That's right. Many cleaning products work best if they are allowed to penetrate the surface they are to clean, disinfect or protect. Some products require 30 seconds and some require up to 2 minutes or more, especially mildew or mold removing products. Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions on the label.

Volatile Cocktail= Bad. Just like people, certain chemicals just don't mix well. Sometimes with explosive or hazardous results. For example, we all know that bleach and ammonia don't mix well. But have you checked the chemical ingredients on your cleaning product labels to see if a product contains bleach or ammonia?? Maybe the reason cleaning the bathroom gives you a headache is due to your cleaning products and not your distaste for scrubbing the toilet rim. (Then again, maybe not.)

Granite stains. It does. While granite is a wonderful, durable and practical countertop surface, it is porous and can stain. I have seen this with my own eyes. There are ways to lift the stain from the granite, but I have no idea how to do it. I do know that to prevent stains penetrating your lovely and expensive investment, periodically please use a sealer spray. I use a product called GranQuartz Stone Care Systems 113M on my granite surfaces- made right here in Tucker, GA.. A light spray coat on the granite countertop periodically (about once every 3 months) will penetrate the granite. Buff out for a great shine and it cleans and protects the stone from water spots and stains (can also be used on stainless steel and chrome).

Speaking of stainless steel, clean and shine with baby oil or mineral oil. It will make your stainless steel look new and help to repel grease stains.

I hate to mop. According to Jon Wood of Allstar Cleaning ( mopping wood floors is important so that dirt and grime aren't ground into the surface of the polyurethane coat that protects the wood. When (and if) you do mop your hardwood floors, don't use any cleaners or soaps in the water- a little white vinegar or ammonia in hot water will adequately clean the surface, but immediately dry towel the floor after damp mopping to protect your polyurethane coat. Jon suggests 1/4 cup of vinegar or ammonia to a gallon of hot water. Did you ever see a kitchen with hardwood floors where you can see the finish wearing off of the floor in areas? My guess is overmopping with commercial cleaners was the culprit. This tip alone will save you time cleaning the floor and money as your poly-coat will last longer. Wasn't this worth reading my article??

Don't forget to clean your bedding including pillow protectors and duvets or bed covers. We all hate those gross dust mites that munch on our dead skin at night and make the mattress so heavy, but we forget to clean the bed cover (duvet). Those little critters will set up camp in your duvet- yuk.

Also, set some sort of reminder to change your HVAC filter every month (or longer depending on the quality of the filter you're buying). This will decrease the dust in your house, make breathing easier and more fun, and help eliminate allergens that cause asthma. As a bonus, it will make your system run much more efficiently, thereby extending the life of the system (I'm all about saving you money).

Finally, use a lint brush to clean the lint out of the dryer exhaust. You'll find this exhaust pipe on the outside of your house on the same side of the house as the dryer. Lint build-up inside this pipe can heat up at very high temps when your dryer is on and can catch fire! You don't have to clean the exhaust pipe often, but maybe twice a year is twice as good as you've been doing so far. I'm just sayin.

Today is Friday and I'm in such a good mood. I'm happy and grateful that you took the time to read my article and I hope these tips were good for you.

Friday, July 9, 2010

3-D Textured Wall Panels Create Drama

To make a dramatic, artistic statement in an entry, hallway or room, consider sculpted 3-D wall panels from These panels come in 4'x8' sheets of SDF (sustainable design fiberboard) with a formaldehyde free adhesive system. They can be shipped without any finish (raw), stained a variety of wood stain colors, primed or painted.

These panels could be used in place of artwork and would be appropriate in modern, contemporary, transitional and eclectic designed spaces. A 4'x8' sheet of this wavy material painted white, cream or a pale watery color would add a sense of motion and flow in a long hallway. Painted a bright spicy curry color, hot pink or a metallic gunmetal, they would certainly make a bold statement.
Used in a dining room, an entire feature wall clad in this product and painted a pale color or dark metallic, this product would be extremely dramatic when lit by ceiling mounted halogen track or MR-16 recessed lighting. The dramatic play of light against the sensuous 3-D patterns would be very interesting and add a sense of excitement in a space that often lacks excitement.

Also, consider a family room in a finished basement on a windowless wall. Finished in a wood stain, these panels would be great to clad an entire wall. The wood color and texture would make the room feel much warmer and cozier and would add interest to a room that may otherwise feel a bit cold and dark.

To get an idea of cost, I got a quote from the national sales manage for a 4'x8'x3/4" sheet (primed only) for $448.00 or cut to size, sanded and painted $22/square foot or $704.00 per sheet. Visit the innovative accents website to learn more about the products and see samples of the patterns they make. Think outside the box and let your imagination run and play!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Power of Visualization

If you can see it and you can dream it, you can do it! When looking for a home, it's important to know what you want and focus on that. Be pretty specific, but also be open minded and prepared to make some compromises. In other words, know what criteria is MOST important to you- features you don't want to compromise on- and stick with those, compromise on "not-so important" items. For example, you may love bungalow style architecture, but school district and condition/price may be most important. So be willing to look at other homes with different architectural styles- so long as they meet your "must-have" criteria.

Maybe you really want a nice big kitchen with gas cooking and granite countertops. Will you be willing to look at homes with nice big kitchens with electric cooking and composite countertops?? Maybe you really want a two car garage, but want to live intown and can't find a home with a two car garage in an intown neighborhood for your price. Would you prefer to compromise and eliminate the garage or move to a different area/neighborhood? It will help your real estate agent to know the specifics of what is most important to you in finding the right home and not wasting time. It will also help you, if you begin the home search process if you have a clear understanding of what you can and can't afford and what you can and can't live without.

Also, be realistic in what you want vs. what you can afford. The first step in the home buying process is to get with a reputable lender to get "pre-approved" for a mortgage. This will set the monetary parameters for you so you don't look at homes that you can't have. That's just torture to look at homes just out of your reach.. those are the ones you'll like most and can't have, so then the homes you can afford seem like a let-down by comparison. Also, in order to make a serious offer on a home, the seller will want to know that you have already pre-qualified for a loan and may not take a contingency for you to be able to qualify for the mortgage.

Once you've been pre-approved and know what you can spend, decide your price parameters. Don't forget to budget for improvements like new paint, window treatments, refrigerator/washer/dryer (if not included in the home purchase), and new furniture. Realistically, you may need to buy a bunch of stuff for your fab new pad.

I believe in the power of a vision board to help you visualize your dream. Within your realistic parameters, find pictures of homes that you like and pin up on a board where you see it every day. It's amazing how that works... when you see it in your mind, you can acheive it!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mix Furniture Styles and Accessories

One of my clients recently suggested I write an article on the benefits of mixing furniture styles and patterns in decorating. Thanks, Stephanie, I couldn't agree more!

When decorating a room, mix it up! To keep a look fresh and non-static or predictable, mix furniture styles and patterns... no matchy-matchy. Did you hear me? We often fall into the trap of keeping everything in one style and trying to match colors and patterns in our decorating. This often results in a look that is flat and lacks personality and tends to get "dated" very quickly. Remember the look of teal and maroon, overstuffed furniture???- very '80s.

If you love traditional style rooms, don't make the mistake that everything in the room has to be traditional. For example, if the traditional room has paneled walls and heavy trim, loosen up the look with a clean-lined more contemporary sofa with traditional chairs upholstered in a color or pattern that is updated. A modern abstract painting hung over a traditional chest of drawers will create drama and interest while keeping the look more timeless. Don't be afraid to use sleek, mid-century modern glass lamps on antique tables. You can mix traditional and contemporary fabrics and patterns as well. Just make sure the colors and shapes relate to one another. Lighten the floor with a bound sisal or seagrass rug. This traditional room will appear more casual and inviting- and more comfortable and interesting.

The same holds true for modern style. If the entire space is done in up-to-the minute modern style, it will start to look "over" in another year or two. Mix some of today's fabulous modern pieces that are very streamlined with classic mid-century modern pieces such as a classic "egg chair" or "barcelona chairs". Throw in a dramatic over-sized architectural fragment that has been salvaged from a building and display a large antique as if it is part of a museum collection. This modern look can reflect your own personality and have longer staying power. Besides, anybody can go "buy the room" from a store. That's not much fun. Be adventurous. Play. Have fun. Express yourself!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

2010 First Quarter Atlanta Market Profile

1st Quarter Atlanta Market Stats 2010

The first quarter market stats are in for metro Atlanta and for the intown market. In summary, the findings point towards market stability. It appears that prices have hit the bottom and are slowly creeping up.

Sale to Original list price ratios were in a range that was somewhat below points reached in early 2009. The Median Days on Market was also more stable within a close range during the past 3 quarters. While quite high, the "failed" listings (those that did not sell) were in line with the same period in previous years.
The most important information is that of the intown properties that did sell, 65.6% of sales required a price reduction in order to sell and had 203 days on market (median). These properties only got 73.5% of their original asking price in order to sell. The other 34.4% of sales were only on the market for 21 days (median) and got 96.9% of their asking price. Of these sales, 33.2% got 97.2% of their asking price in 21 days on market WITHOUT reducing the price.

What this tells us is that properties that are aggressively priced against their competition and are in great condition will sell fast and close to the asking price. If you get the price wrong in the beginning, it may cost you big in the long run. It will take MUCH longer to sell and will probably end up selling for less than it would if you put a great price on the property when it's new on the market.
This model is nothing really new. It's just more extreme than we've seen in the past. Buyers are looking for great deals. And there are great deals out there, for sure. The savvy buyer will recognize a great deal and will pay close to asking.. if it's a great deal. Buyers are looking at a lot of homes, and they don't want to do a lot of work. Your home must be in move-in condition and look very appealing AND have the most competitive price or they will move on.

Contact me for more details about the stats and what they are telling us. I can even break it down by price range and area.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Real Estate Investor Info Regarding Flipping

A "flip transaction" is defined as a purchase for a transaction for a property that has been acquired by the seller in the past 12 months and is being re-sold at a higher price.

With great deals available today from short sales and foreclosures and incredible interest rates, there are a few things you as an investor should know regarding obtaining financing to purchase an investment property to "flip".

FHA had a 91 day rule on properties meaning that the property title had to be held a minimum of 91 days before the property could be resold. That FHA rule has just been temporarily repreived until February 1, 2011 according to Pat Griffin of Greater Atlanta Financial Services. Some important things to remember though are...
1) the seller must be on public record (some counties take more than 6 weeks to file deeds and this can cause a delay to close).
2) If the property is being sold for more than 20% of the original purchase price the seller paid for the property, two appraisals will be required and the buyer must receive a property inspection report.
3) The seller must provide information on improvements made to the property and supply invoices for the work completed.

Buyers using a conventional loan to purchase a property held less than 90 days will be required to put 20% down. Mortgage insurance companies are not insuring these transactions. A second appraisal is also required for conventional loans for a "flip" purchase.

If you are an investor who is planning to quickly resale your investment purchase for profit, these guidelines are important to keep in mind when accepting an offer from your buyer as it is imperative to scrutinize the buyer's disclosed financing options. And if you are a buyer who wants to buy a home that has been recently purchased and renovated or "flipped", you must know these guidelines in order to get a loan.

This information was provided to me from Pat Griffin of Greater Atlanta Financial Services, a Wells Fargo affiliate.