Ahwatukee Real Estate News

Learn how to sniff out your house valueBy  | 

Whether they’re buying designer jeans or a new house, no one wants to suffer from buyer’s remorse.

There are lots of potential complications that can cause you to overpay for a house, from being caught up in open-house frenzy to skipping a home inspection to “save” yourself money. But just as there are obstacles to getting the best deal, there are also tried-and-true strategies to get a fair price for a home, like getting a private showing of that home for sale in Philadelphia, PA, instead of (or in addition to) attending the open house.

Here are seven more tips to calculate accurate house value and avoid overpaying for your home.

1. Define “fair price”

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of landing the best deal, it’s fair to point out that sometimes it’s worth paying a bit more if that means you can score a house that perfectly suits your needs. Ask yourself: Is it really worth losing your dream home over a few thousand dollars? It’s a call only you can make, but the answer just might be no.

2. Know the comps

One of the best ways to know the value of a home is to find out what similar homes in the area recently sold for, known as “comps,” or “comparable sales.” Looking at what other homes in the neighborhood are listed for helps too. But you usually get the most accurate picture of local home values by looking at the price someone actually paid. “Ideally, you’ll be able to find at least three comparable properties that have sold recently in the same neighborhood,” says Sam Heskel, CEO of Nadlan Valuation, a New York, NY, appraisal company. A real estate agent should be able to track down this information for you.

3. Include an appraisal contingency

Typically, when you buy a house, you put in an offer, and if the seller accepts it, your lender orders an appraisal. But if the appraisal comes in lower than the price you agreed to pay, you’ll have some decisions to make. And you’ll have more options if you’ve included an appraisal contingency in your contract. “An appraisal contingency typically stipulates that the appraisal must come in at 5% or 10% of the sale price, or sometimes even at or above the sale price,” says Heskel. “If the bank’s appraiser says you’re overpaying by $20,000, why should you pay that price?” You can try to negotiate with the seller to meet you in the middle, but as long as you can afford to come up with the difference — because your lender probably won’t agree to lend more than a home is worth — it’s your call to determine whether you’re overpaying for the property.

4. Be your own investigative journalist

When you’re house-hunting, Google can be your best friend. Why? Because you want to know before you buy whether something’s going on in the neighborhood that could affect property values. Maybe a high-density development is coming, or an increase in homeowners’ association or condo fees is on the horizon. “Buyers should do their own legwork to talk to city hall, the police department, the tax department, schools, neighbors, neighborhood groups, etc.,” says Stacey Alcorn, CEO of LAER Realty Partners in Massachusetts.

5. Work with a buyer’s agent

Yes, you can browse listings on Trulia, but don’t let that keep you from hiring a real estate agent. A good agent will know of properties that are about to hit the market (or might sell before the MLS listing goes live!) plus have expansive knowledge of your market, which can be a huge help if they suggest neighborhoods you haven’t considered that are a great fit for your needs.

“In today’s market with tight inventory, almost half of my deals are completed and sold off-market before they even hit the open market,” says Ryan Pertile, a Minneapolis, MN, agent. “So homebuyers need to find and hire a real estate expert in their desired neighborhood.”

Besides providing you with a comparative market analysis, an in-depth look at house values, a rock star agent “knows the current condition of the market and what is a fair price,” says Phillia Kim Downs, a New York, NY, agent. “Based on the length of time the property has been on the market, whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market, and whether there’s a bidding war, an agent should be able to guide you effectively with strategy to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.”

6. Comparison-shop for your mortgage

You probably comparison-shop before buying furniture or even gas for your car. But almost half of consumers don’t shop around for their mortgage, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And that’s a mistake. Lenders charge different fees, and they offer various interest rates, sometimes varying by half a percent or more. That could affect your payment to the tune of $60 a month.

7. Don’t get sucked into a bidding war

If you know you’re in a seller’s market (little supply with lots of demand), making an offer that’s below the asking price probably won’t get you the house — and it might put you in a bidding war situation. Typically, it’s better to be preapproved with a mortgage loan and make a strong offer right off the bat. Entering a bidding war can become emotional. “If you really, really want the property, your logical, rational perceptions can get influenced,” says Downs. Know your limit, and walk away if the price goes higher. There are always other homes that come on the market.

How do you make sure not to pay too much for a home? Let us know in the comments!

Posted by Bonny Holland on January 14th, 2016 7:30 AM

couple using ipad for paying off mortgage earlyBy  | 

The quicker you can save and contribute to repayment goals, the quicker you’ll see your return.

Paying off your mortgage can feel like endlessly feeding dollars into a vending machine and not getting to enjoy that candy bar until your appetite has disappeared. But eventually, your mortgage will be paid off and the return on the investment will be a sweet reward (trust us).

That said, you can work to shorten the total time until your mortgage is paid off and enjoy that reward sooner — one extra payment a year can shave off years of interest payments on that San Francisco, CA, real estate.

The key to making one extra payment this year? Establish your motivation and your method.

Motivation: Understand the long-term impact of one extra payment

Before you decide how you’ll make an extra payment this year, use Trulia’s mortgage calculators to understand why making an extra payment can benefit your savings.

Say you begin paying back a $150,000 mortgage with a 4% interest rate. Following a standard 30-year payment schedule, you can expect to pay off your mortgage by February 2045. But if you were to match and contribute one additional $712 payment each year, you could expect to pay off your mortgage in February 2041. That shaves a full four years off the total repayment time! Not a bad deal.

Method: Pinpoint ways to save

1. Review your current budget

Take a look at your monthly credit statements, savings, debt, and overall spending to get a better understanding of your financial layout. Knowing your current financials gives you knowledge of your spending and saving habits, which in turn gives you insight into how you can tweak those habits to contribute more to your mortgage.

2. Set a reasonable goal

Big ambitions get overwhelming pretty quickly. To keep on track with your saving plan, start by setting a goal you know you can achieve. For instance, if you know you can save $10 a month, start there. Put that extra $10 into your mortgage payment for one month. Once you’ve reached that goal, bump it up to $20.

Increase incrementally until you’ve reached your sweet spot. It’s more effective to start small and calibrate than it is to start too big and give up shortly thereafter.

3. Automate extra savings

There will always be a reason to divert extra savings to another area. To help you avoid the temptation of funneling funds elsewhere, automate extra savings into your mortgage payment. You can use your bank to automatically portion a sum from your paycheck directly into a saving plan.

Follow-up: Check in regularly with your finances

Even after you’ve pumped up your payment, it’s still important to continue evaluating your success. Set a regular “money date” to check in with your numbers. Schedule a weekly lunch devoted to your finances — anything that can keep you in touch with your long-term financial goals.

Are you planning on paying off mortgage early? How do you save for an extra mortgage payment every year? Let us know in the comments below!

Posted by Bonny Holland on January 12th, 2016 7:21 AM

ski investment property

By  | 

So you want to be a landlord? Here’s what to look for in a rental property.

If you’re thinking about buying an investment property, now is a great time. People aren’t buying their first homes, for the most part, until they’re around 30. So what are they doing in their 20s (besides living with Mom and Dad)? You guessed it: renting.

Buying investment property that you rent to tenants can bring reliable cash flow … assuming you know how to spot homes for sale in Charleston, SC or Atlanta, GA with the best investment potential. If you’re ready to be a landlord, here are nine strategies to help you decide which house to buy.

1. Look in urban areas

You might long for peace and quiet, envisioning yourself listening to the soothing sounds of nature as you relax at home. But renters want to be where the action is. One big draw of renting is living near shopping, restaurants, and public transportation — amenities that typically make homes expensive to buy. Choose a location that renters will find convenient.

2. Choose a good school district

Many of your potential renters will be young families, and they usually care about the schools their children will attend. “School districts are key,” says Jed Bratt, a California real estate agent. “Many renters are often willing to pay more if a property is in a desirable school district.” Search Trulia Local to find out school ratings in various areas.

3. Check out the job market

When people have jobs, they can afford to set up their own households versus living in basement apartments or with roommates. So demand for rentals is higher in strong job markets. “Always buy in a market where there is a strong workforce and housing is needed,” says Joan Brothers, a New York, NY, real estate agent.

4. Pick more bedrooms

If you had the choice of buying an 1,800-square-foot house with four good-sized bedrooms or the same-sized house but with six small bedrooms, which would you choose for your investment property? If you chose the six-bedroom home, you would be correct. “A centrally located property with six small bedrooms in Washington, DC, will rent to a group of working professionals for $5,200 a month (each contributing $866), while a family of two adults and four kids would pay only $3,800 for [a similar home with four bedrooms],” says Lucas Hall, community manager at Cozy.co.

5. Choose low-maintenance landscaping

You might get a tenant who loves to garden and mow the lawn and will keep your yard pristine, but you can’t count on that. If you leave the responsibility of lawn care to your tenant, it might not get done. The other options, if your rental property has a large lawn, are for you to maintain it yourself or pay a landscaping company to do it. The first is time-consuming, the second, expensive. An investment property with low-maintenance landscaping is the way to go. Lucas Hall says to use “mulch, shrubs, and rockscaping.”

6. Set up a dream team

Your dream team consists of all the people who can help you. This includes a real estate agent who is familiar with investment property, general contractors, and a property management company (if you’ll be using one). When you have your team set up, “You can hit the ground running,” says Michael Park, president of Renters Warehouse Dallas. “Having your dream team assembled before you buy allows you to figure out how much it’s going to cost you on the front end to upgrade or update a house and set your budget accordingly,” says Park. “They’ll also help you spot if a possible investment is actually a money pit in disguise.”

7. Make sure you can rent

Imagine buying what you thought was the perfect rental home only to find you can’t rent it. Some zoning laws or homeowners’ associations restrict rentals. “Always do the proper due diligence to ensure that the property you’re considering falls into zoning that allows for the legal rental,” says Jordan Pryce Levitt, an agent with Douglas Elliman in New York.

8. Do the math (simplified)

If you’d rather clean your fridge than pull out a calculator, you’ll appreciate these simple methods to run the numbers. And the best part is that they’re a pretty accurate way to determine whether you’ll potentially make money on your investment property.

  • The 1% rule: “If the rent is 1% of the sale price, it’s worth looking at,” says John Michael Grafft, a Chicago, IL, real estate agent. “If I can buy for $100,000 and rent at $1,000, it’s worth looking into further.”
  • The 50% rule: “You want a mortgage payment (not including taxes and insurance) to be less than 50% of the rent,” says Trevor Ewen, a personal finance and investment blogger. “Otherwise, you are slated to make little to no money over the long term.”

Find out what nearby owners are asking for rent by checking Trulia rentals. “Filter by square footage and the number of bedrooms in your neighborhood to give you a rough estimate of what similar units are hoping to rent for,” says Lucas Hall.

9. Do the math (using formulas)

If you like math and want to plug in some numbers for more accurate ways to determine whether you’ll make money, figure out your cash flow first. You simply subtract your expenses from your income. Sounds simple, but you first need to know what your expenses will be.

Your total income will typically be your monthly rent multiplied by 12.

Expenses vary, but here’s a general list to go by:

  • Mortgage payment
  • Property taxes
  • Homeowners’ insurance
  • Property management, optional (figure 8% to 12% of monthly rent)
  • Homeowners’ association fee
  • Vacancy rate (figure 10% of monthly rent)
  • Repairs (figure 5% of monthly rent)

Add up all these monthly expenses (if some are yearly, such as property taxes, divide by 12 to get the monthly amount). Subtract the amount of monthly expenses from your monthly income to determine whether you’ll have a positive cash flow.

Another important figure is the cap rate, which is the annual return you can expect to get after expenses. You arrive at this figure by dividing your net annual income (income minus expenses), excluding your mortgage payment, by the home’s purchase price. Let’s say your net income is $12,000 and the house cost you $170,000. Dividing 12,000 by 170,000 gives you a 7% cap rate. Anything over 5% is good.

Do you have a go-to method of choosing investment property? Let us know in the comments!

Posted by Bonny Holland on January 7th, 2016 6:48 AM

shutterstock_21666442 ON 

This time of year, if a seller has not sold their home, they will typically withdraw it from the market. Activity is often slower than normal between now and the first week of January. Many sellers also want a break from showings, the pressure of keeping their home clean, and feeling like they are always on.

But for the serious seller or buyer, deals still happen between now and early January. If you’re a seller who means business, know that buyers are out there through the holidays. If you’re a buyer on a mission, pound the pavement to find the most motivated sellers, and try to make a holiday miracle happen.

Tips for sellers

  • Get your price in line with the market. If your home has been on the market for months without any offers, chances are your price is off. Once December rolls around, the competition (that is, other homes for sale) goes off the market, leaving you with potentially the only game in town. Now is the time to get serious. If you drop your home to the right price now, you have a captive audience, and you might even get more than one buyer. If you’re ready to move your home, this could be your chance to negotiate the best deal.
  • Make your motivations known. If you want to take advantage of the holiday selling season, let agents and buyers know. In addition to dropping your price, you might want to offer an incentive to buyers, like a credit for closing costs or some furniture included, if they sign a contract before the end of the year. Or offer buyers’ agents a bonus if they make a deal happen. The point is, a motivated seller should take advantage of the timeframe, and that means making sure everyone knows you’re ready to bargain. Additionally, your agent should communicate to other agents, and the marketing remarks on your listing should demonstrate your motivations.

Best practices for buyers

  • Don’t assume the market comes to a dead stop. Understand that some sellers have conversations with their agents about trying to make a deal during the holiday. These sellers are looking for you. Their list price might seem high, but they are probably willing to negotiate. Some sellers don’t want to advertise that they will take less, but once they get a buyer, they are ready to wheel and deal. Imagine yourself in the shoes of a seller who needs to unload their home. They may be willing to close even at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve. Deals happen if you put yourself out there. If you’re a serious buyer, leverage these last few weeks of the year to find a home.
  • Do a once-over of all listings in and around your price point. Been ignoring a home or two because they seemed overpriced, or not as thoroughly renovated as you would like? Did you make an offer earlier in the year that wasn’t as great as it could have been? Circle back to every listing in and around your price point and target area that is currently on the market. Scour these listings, because they indicate motivated sellers. Go have a second look, and keep an open mind. An overlooked home can easily become your dream home at the right price.

Though conventional wisdom may state otherwise, market-ready buyers and sellers have consummated successful deals through the holidays. But don’t be a conventional buyer or seller. We live in an era of access anywhere and anytime. Information flows 24/7 and buyers, especially, use smartphones and tablets to stay connected to real estate listings at all times. Motivated buyers and sellers should open themselves to the possibilities this time of year.

Posted by Bonny Holland on December 15th, 2015 1:20 PM

By  | 
yippee flag on grass

From mortgage points to PMI, unlock the essential info about how homeownership affects your tax burden.

Hours after we closed on our first house, my husband and I sat in our empty new living room and stared at the walls. He was the first to speak, saying simply, “I thought it was painted.”

We learned a lot about that old house over the next 15 years, and while we knew to expect some changes, others, such as the need to paint the walls, we would figure out as we went along. That included making some adjustments to our tax forms.

All of those forms you filled out to buy your house were just the beginning. We learned that first-time homeowners have years of mortgage and insurance paperwork to look forward to, and, of course, taxes.

To sort through that pile of paperwork and make sure you’re saving as much money as possible, here are six tax benefits for new homeowners.

1. You can deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage

The home mortgage interest deduction is probably the best-known tax benefit for homeowners. It lets you deduct all the interest you pay toward your home mortgage with a few exceptions, including these big ones:

  • Your mortgage can’t be more than $1 million.
  • Your mortgage must be secured by your home (unsecured loans don’t count).
  • Your mortgage must be on a qualified home, meaning your main or second home (vacation homes count too).

Don’t assume that if you are married and file a joint tax return, you have to own your home together to claim the interest: For purposes of the deduction, the home can be owned by you, your spouse, or jointly. The deduction counts the same either way.

And don’t worry about keeping track of how much you’re paying in interest versus principal each month. At the end of the year, your lender should issue you a form 1098, which reports the amount of interest you’ve paid during the year.

Warning: Since, as a first-time homeowner, you pay more interest than principal in the first few years, that number can be fairly sobering.

2. You may be able to deduct points

Points are essentially prepaid interest that you offer upfront at closing to improve the rate on your mortgage. The more points you pay, the better deal you get.

You can deduct points in the year you pay them if you meet certain criteria. Included in the list (and it’s a long one): Points must be paid on a loan secured by your main home, and that loan must be to purchase or build your main home.

Pro tip: Points that you pay must also be within the range of what’s expected where you live — unusual transactions may cause you to lose the deduction.

3. For 2015, you can deduct PMI

Private mortgage insurance, or PMI, protects the bank in the event you default. PMI may be required as a condition of a mortgage for first-time homebuyers, especially if they can’t afford a large down payment.

For most years, PMI is not generally deductible. However, for 2015, qualifying homeowners who itemize may claim a tax deduction for the cost of PMI for both their primary home and any vacation homes.

4. Real estate taxes are deductible

Real estate taxes are imposed by state or local governments on the value of your property. Most banks or other mortgage lenders will factor the cost of your real estate taxes into your mortgage and put those amounts into an escrow account.

You can’t deduct the amounts paid into the escrow, but you can deduct the amounts paid out of it to cover the taxes (you’ll see this amount on a form 1098 issued by your lender at the end of the year).

If you don’t escrow for real estate taxes, you’ll deduct what you pay out of pocket directly to the tax authority.

And don’t forget about those taxes you paid at settlement. If you reimburse the seller for taxes already paid for the year, you get to deduct those too.

Those amounts won’t show up on a form 1098; you’ll need to check your settlement sheet for the totals.

5. Your other tax deductions may matter more

To take advantage of these tax benefits, you have to itemize your deductions on your tax return.

For most taxpayers, this is a huge shift: in many cases, you’re moving from a form 1040-EZ to a form 1040 to list expenses on Schedule A.

In addition to interest, points, and taxes, Schedule A is where you would report deductions for charitable donations, medical expenses, and unreimbursed job expenses.

For itemizing deductions to make good financial sense, you generally want to have more total deductions than the standard deduction (for 2015, it’s $6,300 for individuals and $12,600 for married couples). Most taxpayers don’t reach those numbers — unless they’re homeowners.

The home mortgage interest deduction, in particular, tends to tip most homeowners over the standard deduction amount, making those other deductions (such as medical expenses) that might otherwise go unclaimed more valuable.

6. You’ll get capital gains tax relief down the road

I know you just bought your home, but admit it: Resale value is something you considered when you chose your home. And different from other investments for which you’re taxed on the full value of any gain, you can exclude some of the gain attributable to your home when you sell.

Under current law, you can avoid paying tax on up to $250,000 of gain ($500,000 for married filing jointly) so long as you have owned and lived in the property for two of the last five years (those years of owning and inhabiting don’t have to be consecutive).

Gain over that amount is taxed at capital gains rates, which are generally more favorable than ordinary income tax rates.

Posted by Bonny Holland on December 7th, 2015 2:23 PM


After a year of recovery, Zillow’s experts say 2016 will be all about housing affordability, with a lack of affordable homes near city centers pushing young and first-time buyers out to the suburbs.

“In 2016, we’ll start to see more people in hot coastal markets forced to move farther from the core of the city to find housing,” said Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell. “When they get there, they’ll be looking for amenity-rich suburbs — mini-cities, with walkable cores and an urban feel.”

Zillow’s 2016 Housing Market Predictions

  1. The median age of first-time home buyers will set a new record in 2016. Buyers are already about three years older, on average, than they were in the 1980s.
  2. More low-income Americans will be priced out of homeownership. Home values are rising faster than incomes, so in 2016, the poorest Americans will be unable to afford even the least expensive homes.
  3. Rents will soar in 2016, bringing the highest median rents ever.
  4. People will move outside cities to find affordable homes, and that will change the suburbs. Hot spots for 2016 will be dense, walkable suburbs with urban amenities.
  5. More than 100 economic and housing experts in the latest Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey pinned home value growth at about 3.5 percent in 2016.
Posted by Bonny Holland on December 1st, 2015 11:05 AM


Laws effected in October 2015 require home buyers to sign new documents during the mortgage process. Here’s a look at what has changed, and what you’ll be signing if you buy a home now.

Mortgage disclosure law changes in 2015

Consumers financing homes in the U.S. are protected from fee abuses by two main regulations: the Truth In Lending Act (TILA) and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).

Respectively, TILA and RESPA protect you from closing cost abuses and prevent housing service providers (like lenders, real estate agents and title companies) from giving each other referral fees for your business.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) enforces TILA and RESPA, and on October 3, 2015, the CFPB combined all previously required mortgage rate and fee disclosures into two simple forms to make it easier for consumers to understand their mortgages. This initiative is called the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule (TRID).

The Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure

The two forms TRID created are called the Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure.

The Loan Estimate must be provided to you within three days of applying with a lender, and it replaced the Good Faith Estimate and Truth In Lending disclosures home buyers used to get prior to October 3, 2015. It details loan terms, projected payments over the life of your mortgage, and line item closing costs.

The Closing Disclosure must be provided to you at least three business days before closing on your mortgage, and it replaced the final settlement statement, which was also known as the HUD or HUD-1. It looks almost exactly like the Loan Estimate, but adds a breakdown of costs paid by buyer versus seller versus third parties. This means you’re reviewing final terms in the same format you saw in the Loan Estimate initially, and you’ve got three days to digest it before you close.

Make sure you read and understand the specific timing rules lenders (and you) must follow with these disclosures when closing a home purchase or refinance, because they could affect how long it takes to complete the mortgage process.

If you agree to go forward with closing after the Closing Disclosure’s three-day waiting period, you’ll also need to sign a full set of loan documents. Among those, the following two are most important.

The promissory note (aka “the note”)

The note is your loan contract, and contains the terms of your loan (such as 30-year fixed or 5-year ARM); specifies the rate, payment intervals and payment changes along the way; and states whether you’ll incur a prepayment penalty if you pay off the loan early.

In the note, you agree that your home is security for the loan, so your lender will have a claim to your property if you don’t repay according to the note’s terms. This note provision will refer to a separate document that’s the “security instrument,” called a mortgage or a deed of trust.

The security instrument (aka “the mortgage” or “the deed of trust”)

Both a mortgage and a deed of trust pledge the property as security for the note. Fannie Mae provides a list that specifies which states require mortgages vs. deeds of trust so you know which one you’ll sign along with your note based on where you live.

Depending on the loan you choose, you’ll need to comply with one of these three occupancy provisions contained in all mortgages and deeds of trust:

  • Owner-occupied. You must move into the property within 60 days of closing and live there as your primary residence for at least one year. Then you’re allowed to use it as a rental or a second home.
  • Second home. You can only use the property as a second home and aren’t allowed to rent the home.
  • Non-owner-occupied. You’re paying a higher rate for this loan, so you’re free to convert occupancy to owner-occupied or second home if and when you see fit.
Posted by Bonny Holland on November 20th, 2015 11:22 AM

By  | 
group meeting in office

Selling a home can be stressful, but these experts can help make it a cinch.

When you’re ready to sell your home, time really is money. A faster sale means fewer mortgage payments to make, less time spent dealing with the hassles of frequent home showings, and probably a higher sale price, since homes that sit on the market get stale fast.

Whether you’re adding your listing to the ranks of homes for sale in Atlanta, GA, or New York, NY, to get that home sale going (and going smoothly), you’re going to want a lot of people on your side.

Real estate agent

Hoping to save a ton of money on commissions by selling your home for sale by owner (FSBO)? You might. But chances are, you’ll net more by using a real estate agent who spends his or her days immersed in your local market and knows how to sell a house professionally. Real estate agents are contractually bound to work in your best interest, managing the process from start to finish so you don’t have to deal with awkward negotiations, inspection issues, or complex legalese.

Home stager

You can talk about square footage and upgrades all you want, but ultimately, many people buy a home based on emotion — how it makes them feel and if they can picture themselves living there. A professional home stager views your home from the buyer’s perspective and will flat-out tell you that your plaid couch, floral wallpaper, and life-sized wedding photo have to go.

“A home stager can look at your home with detachment and act as your most picky potential buyer,” says Jeremy Gilhousen, lead designer for OnStage Home Staging in Portland, OR. “Ambiguous spaces in a property need to be given a logical function rather than have it show as wasted space. Every square inch counts.”


Most buyers browse listing photos online before deciding which homes to see in person. Don’t cut corners by taking them yourself.

“Your home is entering a beauty pageant, and it needs to be presented as such,” says Beth Smith Shuey, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty South Park in Charlotte, NC.

Blurry, dimly lit photos make your home look dark, cramped, and cluttered. Your phone is fine for Instagram selfies, but for selling your home, enlist a professional real estate photographer who knows how to use lighting and flattering angles to highlight your home’s best qualities.


Of course, that hot pink color was perfect for your twin girls’ bedroom walls. But your prospective buyer might be too distracted by the color to picture her teenage son in that room.

Hiring a professional to paint the room a pleasantly neutral but on-trend gray will prevent buyers from focusing on your bold color choices rather than the space — and dreading that they will have to paint as soon as they move in. Besides, a fresh coat of paint makes everything look clean and new.


When my husband and I were house-hunting a couple of years ago, there was one house we were dying to see: It had gorgeous curb appeal and was just the right amount of space for the price.

Except the front door wouldn’t open. We spent 15 minutes of our jampacked day of showings wrangling with it, and by the time we finally muscled our way in, there was no way we would consider buying that house. It was a terrible first impression that could have easily been solved by a handyman.

“It’s very important to go through the house inside and out and make sure all of the big and little items are addressed, from paint touch-ups to caulking to tightening toilets,” says Shuey. “Those things you never notice anymore? The buyer will notice.”


Showing your house can feel like a full-time job — often with little notice to tidy up before someone drops in. Before putting your home on the market, hire a service to do a deep clean, including baseboards, blinds, and window cleaning. Especially if you have pets or kids contributing to the chaos, continue with weekly or biweekly cleanings to vacuum dog hair, scrub bathtubs, and wipe away fingerprints.


Overgrown shrubs, spindly grass, and sparse mulch make your yard look sloppy. A buyer may wonder, if you can’t keep up with the yardwork, what other home maintenance have you neglected? Bring in a landscaper to spread fresh mulch, trim shrubs or plant new ones, prune trees, blow leaves, and mow your yard regularly. Add a couple of flowering pots or hanging plants to your front porch and, boom — you have curb appeal.

Home inspector

During the due diligence period, your buyer will bring in a licensed home inspector to identify issues with your home, such as roof leaks, fire hazards, and defunct appliances. Rather than risk having a buyer walk away because of a major repair, hire a home inspector before you put your home on the market. Any major issues can be fixed in advance, and you can rest easy knowing there won’t be any surprises right before closing. “Just know that if you do have it inspected, you either have to fix the items that he finds or you have to disclose them to a buyer,” warns Shuey.

Utilizing these real estate allies will make your home-selling process a breeze, with less stress, a quicker closing, and hopefully more money in your pocket.

Posted by Bonny Holland on November 18th, 2015 5:04 AM

By  | 
kitchen designs

Focus on the right details and the kitchen remodel of your dreams can be within reach.

Redesigning a kitchen can be an exercise in disappointment. Inevitably, the idea that you love will be more expensive than you think. On the one hand, you may be validated that your taste is endorsed by those with the ability to hire a designer. On the other hand, you still want that French bistro–inspired design of your dreams.

So we give you the best of both worlds: an inspiring look at luxury kitchens in homes for sale in Santa Fe, NM, and more from across the country, along with suggestions on how to borrow each look on a budget.

Kitchen Design

$3.19 million, 152 Hillcrest Ave., Hinsdale, IL 60521

With its dark wood cabinetry, gleaming metal accents, and mirrored flourishes, this opulent kitchen feels like a life-sized jewelry box. The most dazzling feature just may be that fabulous kitchen chandelier — check out antiques stores for your own version.

Kitchen design

$3.17 million, 35232 N 66th Place, Carefree, AZ 85377

This Southwest-themed kitchen exudes artistic flair, from the cobalt stove to the tile work. Yet the richly hued rug and woven baskets make an even bigger impact, so don’t underestimate the power of bringing in similar kitchen accessories to your own home.

Kitchen designs

$2.495 million, 932 Bambi Dr., Destin, FL 32541

Stone and concrete give this high-concept kitchen an undoubtedly modern feel. Bring yours up to date with floor tiles (you can find faux tiles that suit any budget) or borrow the look of sleek brushed-metal hardware for your own cabinets.

San Jose Kitchen designs

$2.19 million, 20715 Mountain Drive, San Jose, CA 95120

The wave-shaped backsplash creates a surprising focal point in this angular kitchen and is also the perfect example of how a little tweak on an expected feature can make all the difference. While this is a custom design, take inspiration from the flowing lines by opting for decorative Listello tiles (which often feature undulating patterns) for your kitchen backsplash.

Wilmette Kitchen Designs

$2.09 million, 1000 Chestnut Ave., Wilmette, IL 60091

This traditional-style kitchen has a timeless appeal thanks to the classic white cabinets, warm wood cabinetry, and neutral tiles. The exposed basket “shelves” under the counter are a novel idea that is easy to implement in your own home by simply adding baskets to an open shelf.

Los Angeles Kitchen Design

$1.99 million, 1975 Redesdale Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90039

“Colorful” doesn’t begin to describe this space, which features a lively Spanish tile backsplash and hand-painted cabinets. If you’re taken with this exotic look, try it out with stick-on decals that mimic the look of Spanish tiles without the commitment.

Albuquerque kitchen design

$2.38 million, 5301 High Canyon Trail NE, Albuquerque, NM 87111

In this kitchen, the rubbed finish of the wood cabinets works with the soft brown walls, creating a cozy look. Open kitchen shelves, such as the spice shelf behind the range, reinforce the homey feel (while also being incredibly convenient). Maybe it’s time to embrace open storage?

Santa Fe Kitchen Designs

$2.35 million, 777 Acequia Madre, Santa Fe, NM 87505

The Moravian star pendant light brings personality to this elegant kitchen design. You can find similar versions at most big home stores, though they might be categorized as “exterior lighting.”

Kitchen Design

$3.9 million, 4340 Covington Way, Norman, OK 73072

The commanding candle chandelier brings a little Gothic edge to this rustic space. Though such drama usually comes at a price, you can often find oversized wrought-iron light fixtures at antiques and salvage stores.

Kitchen design

$2.35 million, 1614 Carriage Drive, Manakin Sabot, VA 23103

White cabinetry, dark countertops, and stainless steel appliances prove that simplicity is always in style. Borrow this chic monochromatic color scheme for a refined kitchen that exudes sophistication.

Washinton DC Kitchen design

$9.99 million, 3245 N St. NW, Washington, DC 20007

Sleek is chic in this oh-so-modern kitchen, which is surprisingly found in a historic townhouse. This expensive Bulthaup look is easy to steal by choosing white laminate cabinets, minimalist glass pendant lighting, and streamlined barstools (all of which can be found affordably at IKEA).

Kitchen Roundup Woody Creek

$20 million, 250 Running Mare Road, Woody Creek, CO 81656

Reclaimed wood, animal sculpture, and wrought-iron accents work for this Colorado home, which fittingly has a hunting lodge feel. Score faux animals and lighter-weight iron pieces at flea markets and salvage shops, respectively, to give your home a similar vibe.

Kitchen design in Edgartown

$20 million, 22 Lelands Path, Edgartown, MA 02539

This New England kitchen boasts a comforting, timeless design that will look just as fresh decades from now. Frosted-glass pendants are often one of the more inexpensive options in the lighting department of any given home improvement store and never seem to feel dated.

Malibu Kitchen Design

$17.99 million, 22201 Carbon Mesa Road, Malibu, CA 90265

A soothing range of warm neutrals helps shift the focus to great accessories — such as those woven Shaker-inspired barstools. Similar versions can be scored online by searching for “woven-back counter stools.”

Greenwich Kitchen Design

$16.2 million, 44 Mooreland Road, Greenwich, CT 06831

Bold stone walls make this Connecticut kitchen feel right out of Old World Europe. No renovations are needed to achieve this dramatic look — instead, try stone veneer, which attaches to clean wall surfaces with adhesive.

What’s your favorite of the above kitchen designs? Have you incorporated any of these into your kitchen? Tell us in the comments!

Posted by Bonny Holland on November 12th, 2015 10:34 AM


Selling a home is nothing like buying one. Whether you’ve been in the home for four years or 40, first-time sellers need to consider some important points before getting started.

You need the right agent

Unless you’re offering the home For Sale by Owner, you will need to sign an agreement with a real estate agent and their brokerage. You’ll also have to pay a commission. Because the agreement contractually ties you to your agent for three to six months, choosing the right one is more important this time around. Unlike when you were a buyer, you can’t simply come in and out of the market.

You’ve got to be ready to sell

In the Internet age, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Information flows more quickly than ever. If you list your home at an unrealistic price or not in the best condition, the number of days on market (or DOM) will add up — and could come back to bite you later.

Sellers who resist their agents’ pricing suggestions may not be emotionally ready to separate from their home. By overpricing it, they will self-sabotage the sale. It’s better not to list your home than to “try” at a high price or in bad condition.

DOM factors into buyers’ offers

A typical buyer looking at a listing will first notice the price and size. They will then scroll through the photos and look at the listing history. If a home has been on the market more than three months, they may think there is something wrong with it.

Or, what’s worse, when you do get serious and adjust your price or condition to what it’s really worth, buyers will penalize you for it by offering even less.

You’ll never interface with the brokerage — only your agent

The agent you choose matters more than the brokerage, although you should consider both. If you list your home with Suzy at XYZ Brokerage, Suzy will be your only contact with the company.

Agents are independent contractors who choose to hang their license with a company whose brand and culture match their business. While a well-known or large brokerage is an important consideration for listing, if your agent is successful and someone you trust, they will do a good job no matter the brokerage.

If you get an offer, you have to move soon

Once you get an acceptable offer from a buyer and you sign the contract, the clock starts ticking toward your closing. Many sellers underestimate the amount of time it can take to list, sell and close on a home. Know your market before you list, and put a plan in place for where you’ll move when your home sells. If your market moves quickly and your agent expects the home to sell within a few weeks, it might be better to wait.

The best advice for first-time sellers is not to sell until you are ready. Have a plan, know where you are going, and work with a great local agent early on. You should do what it takes to present your home in its best light and price it right.

Selling a home can be very stressful and emotional. Add on top of that packing and moving, and it’s a lot to deal with for anyone. Be sure you’re prepared before you start the process.

Posted by Bonny Holland on November 10th, 2015 7:03 AM


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