Have You Thought Of a “Friend” Getaway Lately?

6 Nov

Girlfriend (or Guyfriend) Getaway?

One of the fastest growing travel specialties these days is the “Girlfriend Getaway” (or Guyfriend, I wouldn’t want to be sexist). With all the stress of everyday life, getting away from “reality” with true friends who enable you to totally be yourself without fear of judgement is most enjoyable and relaxing. A few days away with the “buddies” on the golf course can be more valuable than hours of therapy! Here are a few suggestions for some great escapes:

 1. A little Retail Therapy?
Most women love to shop, so for the girlfriends, why not combine a weekend in the “big city” with great shopping, dining and entertainment options? New York City, Chicago, maybe even London or Paris are a few of the many amazing options available that are served by convenient airports. Also a great option for the guys, maybe without the retail therapy…
 2. Why not consider a Spa or Yoga retreat for a wellness weekend? Another one more likely for the ladies. A little pampering never hurt anyone, and it may even be beneficial enabling some new healthy habits, and maybe even some lost pounds…both potentially good things!
 3. “What happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas”…you know that old tagline! In addition to gambling, Las Vegas (not my favorite place, but it is for many others) not only offers gambling but also has amazing dining, shopping and live entertainment…and most resorts have great pools and spas too! Las Vegas works well for both genders.
 4. A few days spent wine tasting or possibly signing up for a culinary boot-camp (or great cooking school) are fantastic options for getaways because good wine and good food are ALWAYS a great idea!
 5. A sports-related trip works well for both girls and guys too! What about a fitness retreat for those who love to exercise? Or a golf weekend at an amazing resort with tee times daily? Or a scuba diving trip in the Caribbean? Or even tickets to a sporting event of some sort? All it takes is a shared interest and some planning!
 6. All-Inclusive Resorts and Cruises are a natural fit for this type of travel, where all you really need to decide is whether to order champagne, a beer or a martini…or whether to sit by the pool or on the beach. Why not consider some mental “down time”.
So, try to think what YOUR idea of the best getaway is and who you want to spend some time with? Most of us have folks in our lives who we are long-overdue for a meaningful visit. Why not let me help you plan that all-important trip soon…
One of the best quotes from Buddha is:
“The Trouble is…you think you have time”

DON’T BE SCARED OF CLOSING ON YOUR HOME

26 Oct

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Once your offer is ratified (read: accepted), there are a myriad of details that need to be discussed and provided between all of the different parties involved. Sometimes one party can cause delays to another, drawing out deadlines and causing you serious stress. While significant issues are not common to most transactions, moving forward cautiously and with realistic expectations will help you to keep your cool.

Here are three things to keep in mind while closing on your home:

YOU MAY NEED TO UPDATE YOUR PAPERWORK

If you’ve ever bought a home, you know that the amount of paperwork required by your loan officer can seem never ending. Because there is a certain amount of back and forth required during negotiations, it may take some time to lock in your rate. Eventually, that can lead to your pay stubs and bank statements becoming out-of-date. Be prepared to provide new ones by saving all new pay stubs and having bank statements readily available when your financial institution updates them.

YOU WILL KNOW THE COST BEFORE CLOSING DAY

After your loan has been secured and closing is fast approaching, you will receive what’s known as an ALTA settlement statement. Walnut Street Finance has a great explanation of ALTA statements, including this definition:

The ALTA settlement statement is essentially an itemized list of all of the fees or charges that the buyer and seller will pay during the settlement portion of a Real Estate transaction. The form also clearly spells out important transaction dates such as tax payoff, recording, and disbursement dates. Additional information that is listed within the form includes loan amount, adjustments, title charges, transfer charges, and the property sales price.

Basically, this equates to you having all the information about your closing before you get there. This way, there are no surprises. There are A LOT of numbers included on this statement, but don’t worry – your real estate agent has your back.

YOUR REAL ESTATE AGENT IS THERE FOR YOU

The days leading up to closing can be brutal, but they don’t have to be. A good real estate agent is going to keep you abreast of everything you need to know, and take care of all the little things you don’t. When it comes to closing day, your agent will be there to answer any questions you may have, as well as the title company lawyer they’ve likely assisted you in carefully choosing. After all of the details have been attended to, closing day will really be the easy part – so no need for anxiety.

WHAT’S THE ROLE OF A TITLE COMPANY?

25 Oct

Buying or selling real estate is a significant event. It normally requires the services of many professionals, including a title company. A title company is an important part of your real estate “team” and they play a key role in looking out for your best interests. At the time a contract is signed, a buyer has the right to select a title company of their choice. This is an important decision and it deserves careful consideration.

WHAT DOES A TITLE COMPANY ACTUALLY DO?

The title company plays two roles:

  1. A title company is an insurance agent, selling title insurance to protect purchasers against claims that can be made against the title (ownership) to the property. Problems with the title can limit your use, ownership or enjoyment of the property as well as potentially cause you significant financial loss. Approximately 1 in 5 title searches reveal a title problem. Some examples of potential title issues that may or may not be revealed during a title search are: mechanics liens, unreleased trusts, tax liens, missing heirs, frauds, and forgeries. Title professionals work to identify and resolve these issues before you go to closing. This is a labor intensive exercise that requires the hard work of experienced professionals. Title insurance is unique in that it emphasizes retrospective risk elimination. This means that title professionals are looking back in time to research and examine the history of title and working to eliminate any potential risk to your ownership.

    Your title insurance policy will protect you if a covered issue arises and was not found during the initial search.

    Most people take care to choose an experienced insurance agent when purchasing life, auto or home owners insurance. Your title insurance agent is no different. For most people, their home is their largest asset. Choose a title company that is staffed with experienced experts who can guide you through the choices that you have pertaining to title insurance so that your asset is properly protected. They play an integral role in managing the closing process and representing all the parties to the contract. This work requires significant staffing and a keen attention to detail.

  2. A title company is also your closing or settlement agent. They play an important role in managing the closing process as well as conducting the closing itself. These professionals ensure that the transaction is carried out in compliance with the terms of the contract and the instructions of all involved. Some examples include paying the seller their proceeds, ordering payoff numbers from the existing lender, obtaining money from the buyer and the new lender, ordering surveys, collecting necessary documents from pest companies or inspectors, preparing the settlement statement and closing disclosure, ordering deeds or releases, collecting recording fees and taxes for the local governments and filing the necessary paperwork at the courthouse. The title company will also conduct the closing. Real estate transactions can be tenuous, challenging and sometimes emotional. It is important to have a settlement agent who understands this and can handle the sometimes tricky situations that present themselves leading up to or during a closing. It is not unusual for a settlement agent to have to assist in resolving issues or disputes that arise. This can sometimes mean the difference between closing your transaction or walking away from the table unsuccessful.The settlement agent is also tasked with reviewing and explaining the documentation that will be signed at closing. A good settlement agent will be familiar with all sorts of transactions, willing and able to explain the key factors in a language you can understand, and will have good working relationships with local lenders and service providers in case issues or questions come up.

SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN MAKING YOUR CHOICE:

Does the title company have an in house attorney? No two real estate transactions are alike and one in five transactions will have some sort of title problem. Your title company should be able to address title problems accurately and efficiently so that you are protected and there are no delays to your transaction. Having an in house attorney is a huge asset.

Stability and Reputation of the Company: The company will be responsible for handling the money in your transaction so making sure the company enjoys a good reputation and subscribes to industry best practices, including escrow controls is very important. You’ll also want assurance that the title policy is underwritten by a financially stable company able to pay potential claims in the future. Check the company’s website for history, experience and involvement with the local industry.

Staffing and Service: Proactive and timely communication, attention to detail and experience are crucial when processing real estate transactions. Choose a company that has invested in its professionals and technology as it can be the difference between a smooth transaction and a “nightmare” transaction.

A word about fees: Fees that are charged for title and settlement services can vary from company to company. That said, the majority of companies will charge fees that are within a couple hundred dollars of one another. So, while fees should be evaluated, cheaper fees are not necessarily better. In fact, when dealing with what is most likely your largest asset, the true measure of a title company is the service and expertise that they deliver.

Article written by Keith Barrett, Vesta Settlements. Original post appeared on vestasettlements.com.

YOUR COMPLETE MOVE-OUT GUIDE

24 Oct

You planned listing your home for months, accepted an offer and now you can hardly wait to move into your new home. You’ve been picking out paint colors, planning how you’ll decorate, and checking out the restaurants in your new neighborhood. While planning for a move is exciting, there’s one very important thing you need to wrap up first – your sold home! Here are some helpful tips to make moving out go off without a hitch.

START PACKING EARLY.

The more you can get done ahead of time to prepare for moving out of your sold home, the better. On moving day, all of your belongings should be packed in boxes and ready to go to your new home – moving day is not packing day! Packing up your belongings a little each day in the weeks leading up to your move will make the process feel manageable, and you’ll also be able to put the time and care into packing your things carefully if you’re not rushing.

PREP YOUR KIDS FOR THE TRANSITION.

Change can be difficult, and this can be an especially sensitive time for children. While they hear you constantly talking about the “new home” they might be feeling scared or even sad to leave your current home. In the weeks leading up to your move, be sure to talk positively about the experience. This means no complaining about the work required or any hassles. They’ll feel your stress, so make it a joyful time as much as possible to make it seem like moving will be fun.

Hopefully, during your home-hunting process, the kids came along, so the new place won’t be a surprise. After closing on your new home, bring the kids there to explore. If your kids are feeling sad about leaving your old home, encourage them to take something from their current home as a memory, like rocks from your garden.

FEEL ALL THE FEELS.

Leaving the memories you’ve made in your old home can bring up a lot of emotions. Prepare yourself emotionally by letting yourself feel these things instead of trying to push your feelings aside. With the bustle of moving out, emotions will be running at an all-time high. Take the time to acknowledge the emotions of your family members when they surface and, should you notice yourself feeling frustrated or annoyed if the movers show up late or if your boxes aren’t fitting in the truck – relax. Stress will only make the move feel harder than it should.

MAKE THE MOVE EASY ON YOUR PETS.

Moving is also tough on your four-legged friends. If you can, bring your pets to your new home a few times to explore before moving in. This way, they’ll identify it as a familiar space when you arrive on moving day. Sometimes pets’ eating habits will change for a while after moving – they may seem uninterested in food for a while. On moving day, let your pets stay with a trusted friend or family member. This way, they’ll be out of the way and won’t pick up on any moving day excitement that could stress them out further.

KEEP VALUABLES SAFE.

It’s a smart idea to keep your valuables with you in your vehicle in a small bag or box so you don’t need to worry about them getting lost in the moving truck, or during unloading. Unpack these items first and keep them in a safe spot like a small safe or box you can easily identify and stow it in your bedroom closet or kitchen cabinet.

These overall tips are a great guide for what to do when it comes time to move out of your home. When in doubt, if you’re not sure when you’ll be moving out, or you still need guidance with selling your home, reach out to a local real estate expert for some one-on-one assistance.

What You Need to Know About Real ID and Air Travel by Oct 01, 2020!

22 Oct

Where and when is this taking place?

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October 1, 2020, is the REAL ID deadline, and most people will not be able to board even a domestic air flight in the U.S. without either a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or a passport.

First of all, what is Real ID?  Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) appears ready for the roll out — signs are showing up in airports, TSA officials are telling travelers personally about the upcoming deadline, and TSA press secretary, Jenny Burke, said “You’ll see a lot more in the future from us.”

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While most states offer REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses or will soon, not everyone with a driver’s license has one that is REAL ID-compliant, even in compliant states. To determine whether a driver’s license is a “REAL ID,” look for a star in the upper right-hand corner.

A REAL ID compliant Virginia driver's license.

States are preparing for a “rush” – some hiring more DMV staffers and extending their hours of operation. The best way to avoid the expected lines and delays is to act sooner rather than later to get a compliant driver’s licenses, especially if you do not have a passport. As of 2018, about 42% of U.S. citizens held passports – a 15% growth rate since 2007.

In Virginia, an in-person visit to a DMV office, along with proper documentation, along with proper documentation, is required to obtain a REAL ID. In order to receive one, you must present proof of identity and legal presence in the U.S. such as an unexpired passport or birth certificate, proof of Social Security number, two proofs of residency and proof of name change, if applicable.  For a complete list of accepted documents, visit the DMV’s website.  For a complete list of accepted documents,

For a complete list of accepted documents:

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In addition to REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses, other forms of acceptable identification include: passport cards, permanent resident cards, border crossing cards, DHS Trusted Traveler cards, federally recognized tribal-issued photo IDs, Canadian provincial driver’s licenses, and USCIS-issued Employment Authorization Cards (EADs). Children under 18 will not need to present identification as long as they are traveling with a companion who has acceptable identification. TSA agents will receive training to deal with special circumstances as necessary, but failure to provide one of the required identification documents could lead to more inspections, delays, and, possibly, the inability to board.

While some question whether TSA will really implement and possibly create chaotic scenes at airports just one month before the November 2020 presidential election, TSA said it is “moving forward as if implementation will occur.”

real id and airport security

One more thing. Real ID doesn’t nullify the passport requirement for international travel. You still need a passport to leave the country.

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Travelers should be on the lookout for public service announcements and a publicity splash from TSA.

Happy travels!

Contact me:
Meryl McGhee, Luxury Travel Advisor
Follow MLZ on Facebook:
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National Snapshot: How’s the Real Estate Market?

13 Sep

The U.S. unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, and consumer confidence remains high. In fact, the University of Michigan’s latest Surveys of Consumers found that Americans have their most positive personal finance outlook since 2003.

However, if you follow national news, you’ve probably heard speculation that we could be headed toward a recession. Global trade tensions and a slow down in the GDP growth rate have sparked volatility in the stock market, leading to economic uncertainty.

Given these differing signals, you may be wondering: How has the U.S. housing market been impacted? Where is it headed? And more importantly … what does it mean for me?

MORTGAGE RATES ARE NEAR HISTORIC LOWS

In August, Freddie Mac reported that the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate hit its lowest level since November 2016, falling to 3.6%, down a full percentage point from a year earlier.2 Variable mortgage rates also fell when the Federal Reserve cut interest rates at the end of July for the first time since 2008.

This was welcome news for many in the real estate industry. Freddie Mac predicts that low-interest rates and a robust job market will help the housing market remain strong despite the threat of recession. 

“There is a tug of war in the financial markets between weaker business sentiment and consumer sentiment,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Business sentiment is declining on negative trade and manufacturing headlines, but consumer sentiment remains buoyed by a strong labor market and low rates that will continue to drive home sales into the fall.”

What does it mean for you? If you’re looking to buy a home, now is a great time to lock in a low mortgage rate. It will shrink your monthly payment and could save you a bundle over the long term. Or if you plan to stay in your current home for a while, consider whether it makes sense to refinance your mortgage at today’s lower rates.

PRICES CONTINUE TO RISE AT A MODEST PACE

According to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices, housing prices continue to rise. But the rate at which prices are rising is slowing down. For May 2019, the National Home Price Index rose by 3.4%, down from 3.5% the previous month.

Of course, national averages often don’t present the whole picture. Some markets have seen modest declines, while other areas are witnessing double-digit increases. The key differentiating factor in most cases? Housing affordability.

Since 2012, home prices have increased at about three times the pace of wages, according to National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun.

“Housing unaffordability will hinder sales irrespective of the local job market conditions,” said Yun. “This is evident in the very expensive markets as home prices are either topping off or slightly falling.”

But what about all this talk of a recession? Will we see housing values plummet like they did in 2008? Economists say no.

If we look at history, the real estate crash experienced during the Great Recession isn’t typical.

The recent Housing and Mortgage Market Review report from Arch Mortgage Insurance provides data to support this. “What we found is that the next recession is likely to be far less severe on the housing market than the last one. It’s not that this time is different; it’s that last time was really different from historic norms.”

“A large decline in national home prices is unlikely in the next recession,” Arch economists write. “A persistent housing shortage should help cushion home price declines.”

What does it mean for you? If you have the ability and desire to buy a home now, don’t let the threat of a recession hold you in limbo. The market is cyclical, and it will experience ups and downs. But over the long term, real estate has consistently proven to be a good investment.

STARTER INVENTORY REMAINS TIGHT WHILE LUXURY MARKET SOFTENS

As we’ve seen in the past, it’s become a tale of two sectors.

The low-end of the market remains highly competitive as buyers compete for affordable housing. A lack of new construction during the last recession led to an undersupply of starter homes. This trend continues—despite growing demand—due to a lack of skilled workers, rising land and material costs, and a slow permitting process in many areas.

The result? There’s a shortage of homes for sale that Americans can actually afford to buy.

The luxury market, on the other hand, has softened. Economic uncertainty, changes to tax laws, and rising prices have slowed demand. Plus, to recoup their higher costs, builders flocked to this segment—causing an overabundance of supply in some areas.

“If you’re selling an entry-level home, you’re probably still looking at a pretty competitive market in most places,” according to Danielle Hale, the chief economist at Realtor.com. “But if you’re selling a more expensive home you probably have to adjust your expectations.”

What does it mean for you? Move-up buyers, you’re in luck! If you’re ready to trade in your starter home for something more luxurious, you may get the best of both sectors. We’re still witnessing strong demand for entry-level homes, giving sellers the upper hand. At the same time, buyers of high-end homes are finding a greater selection (and more negotiating power) than they’ve had in years.

INVESTORS ARE BUYING HOMES AT RECORD LEVELS

There’s one group that hasn’t been slowed down by lack of affordability or economic uncertainty: investors.

According to CoreLogic, investors are purchasing homes at a record pace. In 2018, the share of U.S. homes bought by investors reached 11.3%—the highest level since the company began tracking nearly 20 years ago.

Notably, this increased activity wasn’t led by institutional investors, but instead by small and individual investors focused on the starter-home segment. Declining interest rates and an uncertain stock market have led investors to flock to real estate as they seek out greater stability and higher returns.

“With declining mortgage rates … they’re searching for a better return for their money,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.

What does it mean for you? If you’re looking for a way to “recession-proof” your money, you might want to consider investing in real estate. People will always need a place to live, and (unlike the stock market) a rental property can provide a steady source of cash flow during uncertain economic times.

WE’RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU

While national real estate numbers can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. As local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and home values in your particular neighborhood. 

If you have specific questions or would like more information about how market changes could affect you, contact us to schedule a free consultation. We’re here to help you navigate this shifting real estate landscape.

Sources:

  1. University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers –
    http://www.sca.isr.umich.edu/
  2. Freddie Mac –
    https://freddiemac.gcs-web.com/news-releases/news-release-details/mortgage-rates-drop-significantly?_ga=2.29332539.689041222.1565464527-928629548.1565464527
  3. CNN –
    https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/31/business/fed-rate-cut-july-meeting/index.html
  4. S&P Dow Jones Indices –
    https://us.spindices.com/documents/indexnews/announcements/20190730-965771/965771_cshomeprice-release-0730.pdf?force_download=true
  5. National Association of Realtors –
    https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/metro-home-prices-increase-in-91-of-metro-areas-in-second-quarter-of-2019
  6. Forbes –
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2019/04/18/with-a-recession-looming-is-now-the-time-to-sell-your-home/#7d3a21665bce
  7. CNN –
    https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/09/economy/mortgages-home-buyers/index.html
  8. Forbes –
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinefeeney/2019/07/01/halfway-into-2019-how-is-the-housing-market-holding-up/#7e656e3ec5d8
  9. CoreLogic –
    https://www.corelogic.com/blog/2019/06/special-report-investor-home-buying.aspx
  10. Fox Business –
    https://www.foxbusiness.com/economy/investors-snapping-up-homes-at-record-levels

 

Will Your Remodel Pay Off? The Best (and Worst) Ways to Spend Your Budget

8 Jul

Most new homeowners have something about their property that they want to change. And as family needs and design trends shift over time, many will eventually choose to remodel. Some homeowners make updates to their property before listing it to maximize their potential sales revenue.

Whatever your reasons are for taking on a home improvement project, it’s wise to consider how the money you invest will impact your home’s value.

We’ve taken a look at six popular home renovations and identified those that—on average—have the best and worst returns on investment. So before you lift a hammer or hire a contractor, take a look at this list and see if your remodeling efforts will reward you when it comes time to sell.

RENOVATIONS THAT PAY OFF

These three common home improvement projects not only add function and style to your home, but they also offer a strong return on investment. Making strategic upgrades to your property will help you increase its value over time.

Minor Kitchen Remodel

The kitchen is often referred to as the “heart of the home,” and for good reason. Traditionally used for preparing food, it has morphed into so much more. Many of us now eat our family meals in the kitchen, it serves as a favorite spot for homework and kids’ art projects, and it’s the place guests tend to gather when we host events. 

Because we spend so much time in our kitchens, it’s natural that we will eventually want to make updates and upgrades to better suit our needs and changing style preferences.

Luckily, a minor kitchen remodel is one of the best investments you can make in your home. According to Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report, it has an average 80.5% return on investment.

The key to making a kitchen remodel pay off is to keep it modest in scale. Spend too much on custom or high-end selections, and you are less likely to recoup your investment. Instead, make an effort to keep your existing layout if it works for you and your family. Paint or reface cabinets instead of replacing them. Update countertops with low-maintenance quartz and swap out old light fixtures with modern alternatives. Replace outdated appliances with energy-efficient models. The average cost for a minor kitchen remodel is $22,500, and it’s likely to recoup more than $18,000 at resale.

Wood Deck Addition

A deck addition is a popular way to extend and enhance the use of your outdoor space. It’s the perfect spot for grilling, dining alfresco, and entertaining. In fact, 81% of surveyed homeowners said they have a greater desire to be home since completing a deck addition.

For a 16 x 20-foot wood deck, you can expect to spend around $13,000. Fortunately, the money you invest offers an average return of 76%.

Decks made of composite material are a popular alternative these days, as they don’t require the regular sanding and staining that wood decks need. However, at an average cost of $19,000 for a 16 x 20-foot composite deck, they are significantly more expensive. Plus, the expected return on investment is only 69%. Still, if you plan to hire someone to provide regular maintenance to a wood deck, then a composite deck may offer cost savings over time.

Siding Replacement

Everyone knows good curb appeal is important when selling your home. And while it may not be the most exciting way to spend your remodeling budget, new siding can make a big impression on buyers … and your selling price.

Your home’s exterior is one of the first things buyers see when they view your home. It sets the tone for what they are going to see inside. It also gives an impression of how well the property has been maintained. Worn, peeling, or rotted siding can be a major red flag for buyers.

Replacing 1,250 square feet of siding costs around $16,000 and will net you an average of 76% at resale.

For an even greater impact, consider replacing a portion of your siding with manufactured stone veneer. It can have a dramatic effect on the visual appeal of your home. A 300 square foot area will run you around $8,900, but you can expect to see a nearly 95% return when it comes time to sell.

RENOVATIONS WITH WEAK RETURNS

These three popular remodeling projects are homeowner favorites. However, don’t expect to see a high rate of return at resale. Instead, consider them an investment in your current quality of life. Just make sure you’ll be living in the home long enough to make them worthwhile.

Major Kitchen Remodel

If there’s one room the majority of homeowners dream about making over, it’s their kitchen. From custom cabinetry to high-end appliances, the possibilities are endless. But those dreams can come at a cost. 

An upscale kitchen remodel with high-end cabinetry and countertops, commercial-grade appliances, and designer features can cost upwards of $130,000. And unfortunately, you’ll only get back around 60% at resale. Even a mid-range kitchen remodel that includes new semi-custom wood cabinets, laminate countertops, and energy-efficient appliances could run you around $66,000 and net you a mere 62% at resale.

Of course, an outdated or non-functional kitchen could turn buyers off from your home completely …  and keep you from enjoying it yourself! So if your kitchen needs a major remodel, you shouldn’t necessarily scrap your plans. Just go in with the realization that you may only get back a fraction of what you invest. Then you can decide which upgrades are worth the splurge.

In-ground Pool

Few additions deliver more entertainment or enjoyment than an in-ground pool. It brings families and friends together, provides a break from the summer heat, and offers a fun and convenient way to stay fit. Plus, you’ll be the envy of your neighbors! But before you dive into a pool addition, consider whether the benefits outweigh the (substantial) costs.

The average expense to install a standard 18 x 36-foot in-ground pool is $57,500. And the estimated return at resale is only or 43%. In addition to the installation cost, plan to spend money each year on maintenance, repairs, and additional insurance. 

However, 92% of surveyed homeowners said they “have a greater desire to be home” since installing a pool, and 83% have “an increased sense of enjoyment when they are at home.” For you and your family, the perks of a pool may be priceless.

Master Suite Addition

If you own a house built before the 1980s, there’s a good chance it lacks a master suite, which is a feature that has become commonplace in most newly constructed homes.

Master bedrooms have evolved from a simple place to sleep into a homeowner’s retreat—often featuring a sitting area, his-and-hers walk-in closets, and an attached bathroom with double vanities, a soaking tub, and a walk-in shower.

And master suite additions have become increasingly popular—both in homes that lack one as well as those with aging owners who can no longer accommodate stairs to an upper-level bedroom.

But what’s the typical return at resale? Unfortunately, a master suite addition offers one of the lowest returns of any remodeling project. With a median cost of $125,000, most sellers will only recoup around 52% of their investment. Nevertheless, in a survey of homeowners, the majority were satisfied with their decision to add a master suite, giving it a “Joy Score” of 10 out of 10.

WEIGHING COST VS. BENEFIT

It’s always wise to enter into a remodeling project with knowledge of how it will impact your home’s value. In most cases, upscale or highly-customized upgrades are less likely to offer a high rate of return. That said, home renovations that improve your quality of life and enhance your enjoyment may be worthwhile no matter the cost.

Sources:

  1. 2019 Cost vs. Value Report –
    https://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2019/
  2. NAR’ Remodeling Impact Report – https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2018-05-remodeling-impact-outdoor-features-05-23-2018.pdf
  3. Zillow –
    https://www.zillow.com/blog/evolution-of-the-master-bedroom-48286/
  4. House Logic –
    https://www.houselogic.com/by-room/bedroom-closet/master-suite-addition-return-investment/

Serious About Selling? 5 Steps to Make Your Home 
the Best on the Block

2 Jun

We all want to be good neighbors. But when it comes to selling your home, it’s not just about “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s about outshining them at every opportunity!

If you’re looking to sell your home fast and for the most money possible, you’ll need a strategy to set it apart from all the other listings competing for buyers in your area. That’s why we’ve outlined our proven, five-step plan for serious sellers. 

Use these five tactics to help your listing get noticed, win over buyers, and net a higher sales price than your neighbors!

STEP 1: Stage Your Home to Show Its Full Potential

The average seller will do the minimum to prepare their home for market: clean and declutter, fix anything that’s broken, mow the lawn. And while those tasks are essential, today’s buyers want more than just a clean house and tidy yard. When they dream of buying a new home, they envision a designer house with modern finishes. Help them see your property’s full potential by staging it.

Home staging is one of the hottest trends in real estate—because it works! According to the Real Estate Staging Association, homes that are professionally staged spend 73% less time on the market.1 

So what exactly is staging? In a broad sense, staging is the act of preparing your home for market. The goal is to highlight your home’s strengths, minimize any deficiencies, and help buyers envision themselves living in the space. When staging a home, you might rearrange the furniture to make a room feel larger or remove heavy curtains to make it appear brighter.

Some sellers choose to hire a professional home stager, who has specialized training and experience, to maximize the appeal of their home to the largest number of potential buyers. Others may opt to do it themselves, using guidance from their agent.

We can help you determine the appropriate budget and effort required to push your home ahead of the competition in your neighborhood. The good news is, an investment in staging pays off. A 2018 survey found that 85% of staged homes sold for 6-25% more than their unstaged neighbors homes.2

STEP 2: Draw Buyers in with High-Quality Listing Photos

You only have one chance to make a first impression with potential buyers. And many buyers will view photos of a listing before they decide whether or not to visit it in person. In fact, 87% of buyers find photos “very useful” in their home search.3 Poor-quality or amateur-looking listing photos could keep buyers from ever stepping through your door. 

Since good photography plays such an important role in getting your property noticed, we only work with the top local professionals to photograph our listings. But we don’t just rely on their photography skills when it comes to showcasing your home.

We go the extra mile to ensure your listing photos showcase the true essence of your home. We’re always on site during the photo shoot to help the photographer capture the best angles and lighting, and to let them know about unique or compelling selling features that they should photograph. The extra effort pays off in the end. In fact, listings with high-quality photography sell 32% faster than the competition … and often for more money!4

STEP 3: Price It Properly From the Start

Even in a strong real estate market, there are homes that will sit unsold for months on end. This can be the “kiss of death” in real estate, as buyers tend to imagine that there must be something wrong with the property, even if it’s not the case.

But why are those houses still on the market in the first place? It’s because they are often priced too high.

Every buyer has a budget. And most will be viewing listings within a particular price range. If your property is overpriced, it can’t properly compete with the other houses they’re viewing that are priced correctly. Which means it’ll sit on the market until you’re eventually forced to drop the price.

Alternatively, if you price your home aggressively, it can be among the nicest homes that buyers have seen within their budget. This can lead to emotionally-attached buyers, who are often willing to pay a premium or settle for fewer seller concessions. And in certain markets, it can lead to a multiple-offer situation, or bidding war. The end result? More money in your pocket.

We can help you determine the ideal listing price for your home in the current market. Pricing it properly in the beginning is the best way to ensure a fast and profitable sale.

STEP 4: Put on a Good Show at Each Showing

Once buyers are interested enough to schedule a visit, it’s crucial that you put on a good show at each showing. 

The first step is to make your home readily available—and often on short notice—for buyers to see it. A missed showing is a missed opportunity to sell your home. If you set too many restrictions on when it’s available to view, busy buyers will simply skip over your listing and move on to the next one.

Part of making your home available means keeping it relatively show-ready as long as it’s on the market. Most of us don’t live picture-perfect lives, and our homes reflect the day-to-day reality of our busy (and sometimes messy) families. But a little extra effort spent keeping your home clean, fresh-smelling, and ready for buyers will help it sell faster … which means you can get back to your regular routine as quickly as possible!

STEP 5: Use a Proven Promotion Plan

Most agents are still marketing their listings like they did 20 years ago  … put a sign in the yard, put the listing in the MLS, and pray that it sells. Yet, we know that 93% of buyers search for real estate listings online.3 

That’s why we invest in the latest training and technology—to ensure your listing appears in the places where buyers are most likely to look. Our dual-level promotion strategy includes both pre-launch activities designed to seed the marketplace and post-listing activities to ensure your home stays top-of-mind with potential buyers. 

By utilizing online and social marketing platforms to connect with consumers and offline channels to connect with local real estate agents, your property gets maximum exposure to prospective buyers.

LET’S GET MOVING

Are you thinking about listing your home? Get a head start on your competition! Contact us for a copy of our Home Seller’s Guide, which offers a complete guide to the home selling process. Or call us to schedule a free no-commitment consultation. We’d love to put together a custom plan to maximize the sales potential of your property!

Sources:

  1. Real Estate Staging Association – https://www.realestatestagingassociation.com/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=304550&module_id=164548
  2. Home Staging Resources –
    https://www.homestagingresources.com/2018-home-staging-statistics/
  3. National Association of Realtors –
    https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2018-real-estate-in-a-digital-world-12-12-2018.pdf
  4. RIS Media –
    https://rismedia.com/2018/12/12/shocking-stats-importance-photography-real-estate/

The Personality of Each Hawaiian Island

21 May

The Personality of Each Hawaiian Island

Would you believe that 30% of Honeymooners or “Milestone Anniversary” folks would name Hawaii as their destination according to a recent study?!  Visions of tropical palm trees swaying in the breeze, drinks in coconut shells and sexy hula dancers create a very romantic image!
Hawaii has so many different island options for people based on the mood required, likes & dislikes, budget, and pre-conceived dreams of what their priceless vacation will look like!
Three of the top reasons Honeymoon couples select Hawaii are:
1. No Passports Required
2. No language barriers
3. Their vision of America’s own tropical paradise
There are 5 main islands in the Hawaii chain that are open to tourism and each one of the islands offers a totally different experience:

 1. Want to visit Pearl Harbor, Waikiki Beach, and like big city nightlife, and bustling crowds? Oahu is your answer!

 

 2. Are you more the “country club” type, enjoying luxurious resorts and planning to spend most of your time lazing around the pool or on the beach?

Maui would be perfect!

 

 3. Want to get away from it all, play golf together, turn in early and enjoy peace and “small town” quiet? Lanai has an amazing newly-renovated Four Seasons resort to offer!

 

 4. Do you love to hike, paddle-board, kayak and be stunned with the most

breathtaking scenery on the planet? You would love Kauai, the “Garden Isle”!

 

 5. Are you the type of couple who is fascinated by nature, history, the Polynesian culture and scientific wonders? The Big Island of Hawaii offers active volcanos, telescope observatories on top of snow-capped mountains, and historical and religious landmarks – too many to count!

How in the world can you decide which island, or islands, are for you?  Well, that’s where I come in!  I know the right questions to ask to help navigate the process and make sure that your special trip is custom-crafted just for YOU and your desires!
Hawaii is not a one-size-fits-all destination…and you deserve to be sure that your priceless vacation time and money are spent on the trip that is just right FOR YOU!

Top 8 Home Design and Remodeling Trends for 2019

10 Feb

If you’re a current homeowner, or in the market to buy, you’re probably curious about the latest trends in home design. 

Sellers who make strategic updates before listing a property can generate increased interest from buyers and, in some cases, a premium selling price. And buyers should consider which features of a home will need updating immediately (or in the near future) so they can factor renovation costs into their overall budget.

Even if you have no immediate plans to buy or sell, we advise our clients to be thoughtful about the colors, materials, and finishes they select when planning a remodel. Making over-personalized or unpopular design choices could hurt a home’s value when it does come time to sell. And selecting out-of-style or overly-trendy elements could cause your renovation to feel dated quickly.
To help, we’ve rounded up eight of the hottest home design trends for 2019. Keep in mind, not all trends will work well in every house. If you plan to buy, list, or renovate a property, consult a professional who can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.

1. WARMER PAINT COLORS
White and grey aren’t going anywhere, but expect to see warmer tones and more earthy neutrals popping up in 2019. Cold whites are being replaced by warmer, softer whites. And warmer tones of grey have become a popular alternative to the cooler grays we were seeing earlier in the decade. Dove grey—with a lilac undertone—is a particular favorite with designers this year.

Sherwin Williams chose Cavern Clay, a warm terracotta, as its 2019 color of the year, while Behr selected Blueprint, a mid-tone blue. Benjamin Moore’s selection is Metropolitan, a sophisticated grey.

If you’re preparing to sell your home, consider a light, neutral paint color. Neutral colors provide a blank canvas upon which a buyer can envision placing their belongings, and lighter colors make a room appear larger and brighter.

 

  2. MIXED METALS

Don’t feel limited to using one metallic finish throughout your home—or even throughout a single room. Designers are mixing metals in 2019, and their favorites include copper, brass, pewter, gunmetal, and matte black. 

Experts suggest picking one metal hue to dominate your color palette and a contrasting tone to complement it. If your room has a warm color palette, choose a warm-hued primary metal, such as brass or copper. For cool palettes, choose a cool-toned metal, like pewter or stainless steel. You can also experiment with mixing finishes, such as polished and hammered copper.

From faucets to cabinet pulls to accent pieces, swapping out your old or dated fixtures is an easy—and relatively inexpensive—way to modernize your decor. Mixing metals adds depth and gives your room a more curated look. 

3. OUTDOOR ELEMENTS

Bringing outdoor elements into the home can help warm up a sterile space. And natural materials can soften a modern design esthetic. 

Homeowners are increasingly looking for ways to incorporate these materials throughout their home. Especially popular right now: stone, copper, concrete, and wood. From concrete showers to agate stone tiles, designers are finding unexpected ways to bring the outside in.

One notable exception: granite countertops. Engineered quartz—a combination of ground quartz and resin—overtook natural granite stone as the most popular countertop material in 2018. This durable, low-maintenance, highly-customizable product has won over homeowners and designers alike.

 

4. ALTERNATIVE APPLIANCES

Stainless steel has been the industry standard for years, but the market is trending toward variety and fresh alternatives. Homeowners have more options available than ever to personalize their kitchens with vibrant colors, black stainless, or modern white appliances. Another favorite? Integrated appliances that blend seamlessly into cabinetry. Built-in column refrigerators, which allow you to customize the design and size of your freezer and refrigerator, are becoming a “must-have” in high-end homes.

Advancements in technology have also brought a new wave of appliances to the market. Induction cooktops are replacing commercial gas ranges as a gourmet favorite. And french door ovens and steam ovens are also gaining in popularity—especially ones with smart features you can control from an app on your smartphone.

5. COLORFUL KITCHENS 

White will always be a classic choice, but color is finally coming back to kitchens. More homeowners are choosing cabinets in alternative neutrals like black, cream, and grey, along with colorful options like green and blue. Also popular? Wood cabinets in stains like warm chestnut and fruitwood.

Two-tone kitchen cabinets remain a homeowner favorite, as well. To incorporate this trend, try pairing darker lower cabinets with lighter upper cabinets or a colorful kitchen island with neutral-colored perimeter cabinets.

 

6. OPEN SHELVING

Swapping upper kitchen cabinets for open shelves continues to be a popular choice in 2019. It’s a cost-effective update that can make a kitchen feel larger and brighter. However, it’s not a practical option for everyone. Before you commit, test it out by removing your cabinet doors for a few weeks. See how it feels to have your glasses and dishware on display.

Not ready to give up all your upper cabinet storage space? Replace just one or two upper cabinets with open shelves for a lower-commitment but still-updated look.

7. STATEMENT TILE

The ubiquitous white subway tile is finally fading in popularity. In 2019, homeowners are gravitating toward more colorful choices, creative textures and finishes, and alternative shapes. Especially hot right now: hexagons, arabesques, diamonds, and Moroccan fish scales.

Natural stone remains a favorite, including marble, quartzite and river rock. But advancements in porcelain tile that mimics stone, and even concrete, has made it an attractive, affordable, and low-maintenance alternative. 

 

8. SHOWCASE CEILINGS

Once an afterthought, ceilings are taking center stage. While 2018 was all about statement walls, statement ceilings are shaping up to be the darling of 2019. Designers are using bold paint colors, wallpaper, intricate moldings, fabric, and other materials to transform a ceiling into something truly special. 

Want to incorporate this trend without going too bold? Choose a classic design, like coffered or wooden beams. Or stick with wood paneling or tin tiles for a more timeless look. Even something as simple as painting a ceiling the same color as the walls can make your space feel more modern.

DESIGNED TO SELL

Are you contemplating a remodel? Want to find out how upgrades could impact the value of your home? Give us a call for a free consultation!

Buyer preferences can vary greatly by neighborhood and price range. We can share the insights we’ve gathered from working with buyers in this market … and offer tips on how to maximize the return on your remodeling investment. And if you’re in the market to sell, we can run a Comparative Market Analysis on your home to find out how it compares to others in the area.

Want to learn more about how to stage your home to sell?  to request a free copy of our report: 10 Staging Secrets From the Pros for a Quick Sale at Top Dollar!   

Contact Meryl at merylsellshomes@kw.com

 

In the market to Sell or Buy?  Questions on real estate?

 
Contact me:
Meryl McGhee, Realtor®- KELLER WILLIAMS Realty
Proudly serving VA. & WV
Follow MLZ on Facebook:
“Destination Home”

 

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