How to Create a More Beautiful and “Sale” Ready Home

When you love your home but want to make some changes, how do you know where to begin? As a real estate broker and advisor to my clients, I am often asked what improvement projects are most worthwhile or where money is best invested.

RGN_1In today’s market, I am consistently seeing that buyers are looking for the “cream puff” listings. They want a home that is well maintained, “move in” ready, priced well, and in a good location. No surprise there, right?

As I work with clients, whether they are preparing to move now or just looking to improve their home for their own enjoyment, I find a few things that consistently show rewards in the end.

Beginning with maintenance items such as roofing, siding, paint (both interior and exterior), windows, and a couple secret weapons that are often overlooked, which offer a huge impact and are more reasonably priced than you may think, are new garage doors and outdoor fixtures. Remember you never get a second chance to make a first impression!

Outdoor living areas have become all the rage by giving the homeowner an opportunity to add additional entertaining space to their home. The options here are endless depending on your budget and amount of space you have to work with, but this can be a great way to improve the function and finish of your home.

Take a minute to ask yourself, where do I spend most of my time in my home? Kitchen, kitchen, kitchen! We all love to eat and hang out in the kitchen. As a result, improvements here are always a good place to start.

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Owner’s bedroom suites and bathrooms are also very popular areas for improvement.  The range of options for these areas is vast based again on size and budget.

Consider replacing hard surfaces, base and trim, fixtures, and doors. Think outside the box and ask an expert for help choosing something that might set your home apart. Why use the same six-panel door that everyone has? Change it up a bit. Starting with the solid bones using neutral tones and embellishing with accessories to add a splash of color and your own flair is always a winner!

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The more open, clean, and well maintained your home is, the greater your return on your investment will be. Buyers in today’s market have access to an abundance of information and have a good eye for short cuts. Work done just to “flip” a home will be called out very quickly! Always ask a professional for advice. You will find your favorite contractor or real estate professional will be more than happy to spend some time helping you make educated decisions that will meet your needs and show long term return.

RGN_4By Aimee Shriner

Windermere Real Estate/Northeast Inc.

Kirkland, WA

Orignially posted on RGN Construction’s blog.

All photos are from www.rgncon.com

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Colorado Real Estate Market Update

 

The following analysis of the Metro Denver & Northern Colorado real estate market (which now includes Clear Creek, Gilpin, and Park Counties) is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere agent.

 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

The Colorado economy continues to grow, adding 69,100 new non-agricultural jobs over the past 12 months, which represents a solid growth rate of 2.6%. That said, we are continuing to see a modest slowdown in employment gains, but that is to be expected at this stage of the business cycle. My latest forecast suggests that Colorado will add a total of 65,000 new jobs in 2019, representing a growth rate of 2.3%.
In November, the state unemployment rate was 3.3%, up from 3% a year ago. The increase is essentially due to an increase in the labor force, which rose by 77,279 people. On an un-seasonally adjusted basis, unemployment rates in all the markets contained in this report dropped between November 2017 and November 2018. The highest rate was in Grand Junction, but that was still a very respectable 4%. Fort Collins and Boulder had the lowest unemployment rate of 2.9%. All the regions contained in this report are essentially at full employment.

 

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • In the fourth quarter of 2018, 12,911 homes sold — a drop of 13.8% compared to the last quarter of 2017 and down 22% from the third quarter.​
  • The only market that saw growth in sales was Clear Creek, which rose by 3.8%. This is a small market, however, and is prone to rapid swings in price as well as sales. There was a significant drop in sales in the Denver market. I will be watching closely to see if this is an anomaly or a longer-term trend. At this time, I believe the former to be true.​
  • Interestingly, this decline in sales in Denver came as inventory levels rose by 37%. For now, I attribute this to seasonality and expect to see sales growth return in the spring.
  • Inventory growth continues to give buyers more choice, allowing them to be far more selective — and patient — before making an offer on a home. That said, well-positioned and well-priced homes are selling relatively quickly.

 

 

HOME PRICES

  • Despite the rapid rise in listings and slowing home sales, prices continue to trend higher, though the rate of growth is slowing. The average home price in the region rose 6% year-over-year to $454,903. Home prices were 2% higher than in the third quarter.
  • In all, the data was not very surprising. As with many markets across the country, affordability is starting to become an issue. However, the recent drop in interest rates likely stimulated buyers at the end of 2018 and I expect to see good price growth in the first quarter of 2019.
  • Appreciation was strongest in Park County, where prices rose 28.2%. We can attribute this rapid increase to it being a small market. Only Gilpin County saw a drop in average home price. Though this, too, is due to it being a very small market, making it more prone to significant swings.
  • As mentioned, affordability is becoming an issue in many Colorado markets and I anticipate that we will see some cooling in home price appreciation as we move through late 2019.

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home in Colorado rose by one day compared to the final quarter of 2017.
  • The amount of time it took to sell a home dropped in four counties: Boulder, Larimer, Gilpin, and Park. The rest of the counties in this report saw days on market rise relatively modestly with the exception of the small Clear Creek market, which rose by 20 days.
  • In the fourth quarter of 2018, it took an average of 38 days to sell a home in the region, but it took less than a month to sell a home in five of the eleven counties contained in this report.
  • Housing demand is still there, but buyers appear to have taken a little breather. I anticipate, however, that the spring will bring more activity and rising sales.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

The speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.

For the fourth quarter of 2018, I continue the trend I started last summer and have moved the needle a little more in favor of buyers. I will be closely watching listing activity in the spring to see if we get any major bumps above the traditional increase because that may further slow home price growth — something that would-be buyers appear to be waiting for.

 

As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.

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Beautiful Inside & Out – Timber Interiors for a Timber Frame Home

A home that exudes beauty from the inside and the outside is also a true reflection of its owner. Today, homes are not just mere living spaces that are filled up with furniture – every home has a character, design theme, and personality of its own, characterized largely by the material used to build it, the color scheme on the inside and outside, and also the accents and hues of every element that goes into it.

 

One such building material is Timber, which truly brings out the class and beauty in a home. Timber frame houses have many positive attributes to them and are rightfully becoming one of the most popular choices for home building material. Let’s look at some of the pros of using timber for your home:

 

  1. Look and feel

Timber is one of the classiest looking building materials, with a sleek finish and a light but sturdy build. Timber, being a natural material, also has a natural feel to it, of course without compromising on reliability. Timber both on the inside and the outside looks amazing and is also quite easy to work with in terms of designing and color palettes. Timber comes in a number of finishes and colors. You could go for a smooth and sleek finish it even a textured look for a more rustic feel. There’s also distressed timber which gives a home a vintage and retro look and comes in a darker shade.

  1. Heat and cold

Timber framing and construction allows you to enjoy the benefits of its insulating properties. Not just that, it also retains heat and maintains a conducive temperature and atmosphere inside the home. Timber is one of those materials that would sustain you in both hot and cold climatic conditions, and you wouldn’t have to spend too much on HVAC solutions either.

  1. Longevity and ease of use

Timber is surely one of the most durable materials for constructing a home, especially the new age timber frames which go through special treatment to make the material is stronger, more resistant and also durable. The best part is that timber is also such an easy and convenient material to work with. The build time for a timber frame home is significantly lesser than most other traditional materials. Erecting a timber frame home can be done with ease, and it also does not require any extensive concrete footings, hence the quickness of construction.

  1. Versatility outdoors and indoors

There are umpteen options for you to choose from, where timber can be used to add-on to the beauty of your home both internally and externally. Outdoor kitchens, pergolas, gazebos, picnic shelters, covered decks, bridges and so much more can be done to the external area of your home.

 

 

For the interiors as well, timber can be used for frame accents, staircases, and beautiful railings, and complete timber frame kits and packages come with everything you’d need, including door, window, roof and wall enclosure systems that provide the support your timber frame home needs. Imagine a spacious timber frame home with an open, gourmet kitchen and a dramatic winding staircase? Or even floor to ceiling windows that allow ample natural light to encompass the home. All of this and more is very much possible with timber as the main material.

 

  1. Space utilization

 

Want to make the most of every inch of space you have for your home? Timber framing is one of the best ways to do this! A timber frame floor plan is so flexible and dynamic, and you can add absolutely anything you want, as long as you include it into the final plan. Want to add an extra room? Opt for bigger doors and windows? Or maybe use the extra roof space to create a handy loft? All of this and more is quite easy to do with a timber frame home, and that’s what makes your home uniquely yours in both design and functionality.
Bottom Line
Costs are usually a concern while building a new home or re-doing an existing one, but timber is one material that gives you total value for the money you spend. A regular brick and mortar home is expensive as is and doesn’t provide you with any additional benefits. Timber, on the other hand, gives you all the above-mentioned benefits and more, so in terms of cost to value ratio, is a much smarter and more sensible option to go for. So, to create a uniform look and feel both inside and outside, timber is the ideal material to bring out the true beauty of your abode!

 

Our Guest Author is Tyler of Hamill Creek Timber Homes.

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Is a “home exchange” vacation right for you?

Childproofing: Protect Your Family and Your Home from Potential Hazards

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When you think of your home, it likely conjures up feelings of safety, shelter, and comfort. However, accidental injuries in the home are one of the leading causes of harm to children 14 and younger. By taking certain precautions, many of these accidents can be prevented.

While supervision is the best way to keep your children safe at home, you can’t watch them every second. Childproofing, to whatever degree you are comfortable, will go a long way toward keeping your littlest loved ones safe and healthy at home.

Here are some tips to get you started.

Many accidents happen with or around water.

If you have children at home, it’s advisable to adjust your water heater to no higher than 120 degrees to prevent scalding. Furthermore, you should never leave a small child unattended in a bath tub, even for a few seconds. And be sure to safely secure doors that lead to swimming pools and hot tubs, including pet doors. When cooking or boiling water, turn pot handles in, or better yet use the back burners, to prevent little hands from pulling them off the stove.

Household chemicals can be very harmful to children.

It’s important not to keep poisonous materials under the sink, even if you have a cabinet guard in place. Keep dangerous chemicals up high and in a room that isn’t accessible to your little ones. Seemingly innocuous medicines can also be dangerous. Make sure your medicine cabinet is out of sight, mind, and reach.

Use safety latches and gates.

It’s advisable that you use safety latches on drawers, cabinets, toilets, and windows, as well as place covers on all electrical outlets. Gate off stairways and entrances to rooms, such as garages, that contain dangerous or fragile objects.

Secure furniture and other objects.

Heavy furniture, electronics, and lamps must be secured to prevent a child from pulling them over. Bookshelves and entertainment centers often come with devices that attach them to walls so that a climbing child won’t topple the furniture. The end-caps on door stoppers can be a choking hazard, so it’s advisable to remove them. Place plastic bumpers on sharp corners or edges of coffee tables, entertainment centers, and other furniture to prevent cuts and bruises.

Install a carbon monoxide detector.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that consumers purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors in addition to smoke alarms. Be sure to test both devices regularly and replace batteries as needed. The American Red Cross advises families to learn first aid and CPR, and to devise an emergency evacuation plan for fires and earthquakes.

Emergency contact info.

Last, but not least, in case an emergency does happen, always keep numbers for your child’s doctor, your work and cell, and other emergency contact info in an easily found place, preferably near the phone.

Accidents can and will happen, but by following a few small steps you can have peace of mind knowing that you’ve done everything you can to protect your family from harm in your home.

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Pricing your home to sell

SalePrice

When it comes time to sell a home, most people want the property to sell quickly for the highest possible return. Setting the correct listing price is the most important step in reaching this goal. Price a property too low and it might sell quickly, but you could pocket less profit. Set it too high and you run the risk of pricing yourself out of the market.

Why overpricing a home is risky

Some sellers want to list their home at an inflated value, believing that they can always lower the price down the road if needed. But this can be a risky strategy. New listings generally get the greatest exposure in the first two-to-four weeks on the market, so setting a realistic price from day one is critical. If a home is priced too high, your strongest pool of prospective buyers is eliminated because they think it’s out of their price range.  Conversely, buyers who can afford it will compare it to other homes that have been fairly priced and decide that they can get more home for their money elsewhere.

Once it has been decided to reduce the price, you’ve unnecessarily lost time and money. Your strongest prospective buyers may have found another home, while the over-inflated price could result in a negative impression amongst agents and buyers who are still in the market. Not to mention, reengaging buyers after those first critical few weeks can be very challenging. As the saying goes, “time is money”; so the longer a home is on the market, the lower the selling price will likely be in relation to the initial listing price.

Setting a home price too high has other costs

When a home languishes on the market, the seller loses in a number of ways. Each month the home goes unsold is another month of costs to the owner in mortgage payments, taxes, and maintenance—expenses that are not recovered when the home is sold. Furthermore, until the house is sold, the owner is on hold and can’t move forward with whatever plans prompted the decision to sell. If the seller is still living in the home, it can also be fatiguing to keep the property in ready-to-show condition month after month.

How to set the right price for a home

It’s not easy to be objective about your own home. That’s why it’s best to have a real estate professional work with you to set a reasonable price. According to a study done by the National Association of REALTORS®, homes that were sold using a real estate agent netted an average of $25,000 more than those without agent representation.

There are a number of factors that your agent will consider when determining a sales price for your home. Here’s a quick overview.

    • Comparable sales. One of the best guides to pricing your home is knowing what recent buyers were willing to pay for similar homes in your area. So, one of the first things your agent will do is prepare a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). A CMA is a written analysis of houses in the community that are currently for sale, homes that have recently sold, and homes that were offered for sale but did not sell. While no two homes are identical, the report highlights only homes that most resemble yours. The CMA will include details about these properties, such as the number of bedrooms and baths, square footage, noteworthy amenities—and the listing price and sale price. The report will also include the Days on Market (DOM) for each property, which is the number of days it took to sell the home once it was listed. The CMA helps determine a price range that will be appropriate for your home.
    • Unique property features. Since no two homes are exactly alike, looking at comparable sales is just one part of the equation. Many properties have distinctive features that add to their overall value when it comes to pricing. The importance buyers place on different features can vary by region, but examples might include a particularly pleasing view, artisan-quality interior detailing, outdoor entertaining space, or exceptional landscaping.
    • Current market conditions. The real estate market is constantly fluctuating, and those cycles have a direct impact on pricing. Here are some of the market conditions an agent may consider when evaluating how to price a home:
        • Are home prices trending up or down?
        • How quickly are homes selling?
        • Is the inventory of homes on the market tight or plentiful?
        • Are interest rates attractive?
        • How is the overall economy performing? Is the local job market strong or in decline?

Other factors that can impact pricing include the condition of the home, seasonal influences (i.e. summer versus winter), condition of surrounding neighborhood, local amenities, and how quickly the seller needs to move.

 

There are a lot of factors that go into setting a home’s sales price, but it’s by far the most critical step in the overall selling process. The best course of action is to look to your real estate agent for guidance; they have the experience and market knowledge that will help you achieve your goals and reach a desired outcome that best fits your individual needs.

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Simple Ways To Conserve Energy In Your Home

With the increased emphasis on global warming in recent years, combined with rising energy costs, more and more people are asking what they can do to make their homes more energy efficient. Energy conservation can be as simple as closing your curtains at night, changing a light bulb, turning down your thermostat, or closing the fireplace damper. Many of the most inexpensive solutions quickly pay for themselves in conservation, which you ultimately benefit from when you get your power bill.

One of the biggest ways you can conserve energy is to take advantage of “off-peak” hours. This is a step that everyone can take because it simply involves shifting your power use of major appliances, such as washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers. Puget Sound Energy recommends using these appliances outside of peak hours—peak hours are between 6am-10am and 5pm-9pm. Studies show that by shifting a portion of your energy use, consumers can significantly lower wholesale electricity prices, which saves everyone money in the long run.

Another way you can save energy is by washing your clothes in cold water and only running full loads. When using the dryer, toss in a couple of dry towels with your clothes to help speed up the drying process. It’s also important to clean the lint trap in your dryer after every load and make sure the dryer hose and vent are clear.

There are several steps you can follow to reduce your home’s demand on heating during the winter months. Conventional measures, such as setting back your thermostat, are effective at reducing energy consumption. It is recommended that you keep your thermostat set between 65 and 72 degrees during the winter months. Keep in mind that by simply lowering your thermostat one degree, your furnace will use seven percent less energy overall. It’s also important to clean your furnace filter frequently—doing so will enable your heating system to run more efficiently and cost-effectively.

It’s estimated that lighting accounts for 10 percent of your overall home energy bill, so another way you can conserve is by using energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs, known as CFL light bulbs. CFLs use approximately one-quarter of the energy of equivalent incandescent bulbs, they give off warm, indirect light, and they last ten times longer than average light bulbs. When shopping for CFLs, look for those with the Energy Star label on them—this ensures that you’re purchasing a product that has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

For more information about energy conservation, please visit www.energystar.org.

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Home Warranties Provide Buyers and Sellers With A Peace Of Mind

If you are a homeowner, you probably know all-too-well how costly home repairs can be. And, thanks to Murphy’s Law, appliance break-downs seem to happen at the worst possible time—like when you are selling your home. For this reason, it is in the best interest of all home sellers to consider purchasing a home warranty.

A home warranty offers many advantages to the home seller, the least of which is a peace of mind that your major home appliances are covered in the event of a break down. Most home warranties cover both parts and labor of your home’s most vital systems and major appliances. This protects the home seller from potentially large, unexpected repair bills and also allows the buyer to purchase the home with more confidence. Additionally, a home warranty is usually for the term of at least one year, so any unforeseen repairs/replacements are also covered well after the home has been sold. A home warranty also provides a competitive edge over those homes without warranties because it communicates confidence to buyers. This can add up to a faster selling period, resulting in a more convenient process for all involved.

A home is probably the single largest investment you’ll ever make, so the last thing you want as a home seller or buyer, are unexpected home repairs/replacements. Major appliance replacement can cost you several thousand dollars, and during the process of a home sale/purchase, your budget doesn’t often allow for costly expenses. A home warranty is designed to protect you from these types of expenditures. Furthermore, it is convenient for home sellers because a home warranty offers after-sale liability. While an inspection may find many faults that are covered by a home warranty, it cannot account for latent problems that are beyond an inspection’s scope, or problems that occur down the road. In most cases, a home warranty will cover these expenses, alleviating potential financial burdens for the seller once they have sold the home.

When considering a home warranty, it’s important to ask the right questions. Warranties vary from one company to the next and there are also many different types of coverage available. Your Realtor should be able to help you with this process. First and foremost, you should identify which components of the home will be covered by the warranty. It’s also important to attain annual costs and the charge for service calls. You will want to ask what the total dollar limit is on the warranty and what the limits are for the individual items that are covered. Many home sellers purchase home warranties, which are then passed along to the homebuyer when they move into the home. As a homebuyer, you may want to look into whether or not the coverage can be renewed once the warranty has expired.

According to American Home Shield, one of the largest home warranty companies in the nation, the average home warranty customer uses their warranty plan 2.3 times. Furthermore, the number of home warranties is increasing with every year because homeowners are becoming more informed of their benefits. Eventually home warranties will become commonplace, as buyers and sellers realize the advantages they offer. Ultimately, what it comes down to is that a home warranty is a very simple, cost-effective way to purchase a peace of mind for both homebuyers and sellers alike.

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The Risks, Rewards, and Benefits of Owning Rental Property

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One area of the real estate market that is thriving right now is rental property. In the first quarter of this year, landlords and property managers across the country rented more apartments and homes than they have during the first quarters of the past ten years. And according to the Wall Street Journal, the amount that renters are willing to pay has also jumped to a nationwide average of $991 per month.

All indications suggest that the rental market will continue to improve because of the combination of low vacancy rates and rising rents. In fact, the demand for rentals is predicted to far exceed supply through 2015, with some 4.5 million new renters expected to enter the market in the next five years.

What to consider before buying a rental
Being a landlord has its challenges. The recession took a toll on rental prices for a few years and any future economic downturns could do the same. Once the job market returns to normal, there’s a strong possibility that more people will choose to move from rentals into homes of their own. And the demand for rental properties could become oversaturated at some point, resulting in an investment bubble of its own.

What’s more, while the income from a rental property can be significant, it can take at least five years before you’re making much more than what you need just to cover the mortgage and expenses. In other words, the return on your investment doesn’t happen overnight.

However, in the long run, if you select the right property, it could turn out to be one of your best investment decisions ever—especially since rental real estate provides more tax benefits than almost any other investment.

Tax deductions for the taking
One of the great things about owning rental properties is the fact that you’re able to deduct so many of the associated expenses—including a sizable portion of your monthly mortgage payment.

The commissions and fees paid to obtain your mortgage are not deductible, but the mortgage interest you pay each month is—including any money you pay into an escrow account to cover taxes and insurance. Whatever your mortgage company reports as interest on your 1098 form at the end of each year can likely be deducted.

For example, you may be eligible to deduct credit card interest “for goods and services used in a rental activity,” repairs made to the building, travel related to your rental, expenses related to a home office or workshop devoted to your rental, the wages of anyone you hire to work on the building, damages to your rental property, associated insurance premiums, and fees you pay for legal and professional services. However, as is the case with any transaction of this type, be sure to consult your attorney or accountant for detailed tax information.

What to look for
As with any real estate investment, the location of the property and its overall condition are both key. But with rental properties, there are some other factors you’ll also want to consider:

 Utilities: Look for a building with separate utilities (water, electric, and gas, etc.) for each rental unit. This will make it far easier to legally charge for the fair use of what can be a very costly monthly expense.

 Competition: If your property is one of the few rentals in the neighborhood, there will be less competition for interested renters.

 Transportation: Rentals that are near popular public transportation options and / or major freeways (without being so close that noise is an issue) are usually easier to rent—and demand more money.

 Landscaping: Properties with small yards and fewer plantings are far easier and less expensive to manage.

 Off-street parking: Not only is off-street parking a desirable feature (people with nice cars usually don’t like to park on the street), it’s also a requirement for rental properties in some communities.

How to start your search
Unlike homes, rental properties do not typically have a visible ‘for-sale’ sign standing out front (as landlords don’t want to irritate, bring attention to their current renters, or turn off any prospective renters). Therefore, if you are interested in a rental property, your best option is to schedule an appointment with your real estate agent/broker to discuss your investment goals and identify what opportunities currently exist in your market place.

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