Word Wednesday: Curb Appeal

Curb Appeal

The visual attractiveness of a house as seen from the street. (Merriam-Webster)
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Curb Appeal…

Client Tony calls…A couple of the houses you sent look interesting, I’m going to take a drive by and take a look at them after work.”

As we set out for some showings on a Saturday client Jan says…”I’m most excited to see the house on Sycamore, it reminds me of the house from Miracle on 34th St.”

Agent Bob calls me, wants some feedback from my showing on one of his listings, sadly I have to tell him…”Bob, my client didn’t want to go in, they saw the outside and wanted to move on.”

Everyone talks about it…you know, the visual attractiveness of a house from the street…curb appeal. Agents talk about it, potential buyers talk about it…houses speak about it too.

Curb Appeal.
When it comes to selling a house, everything speaks…the house “speaks” and “curb appeal” is the first thing it says.

 

What a house has to say, can be heard in the words of clients Tony and Jan and the sad words told to agent Bob…

 

I’m worth a closer look”

 

“I’m cute as a button, like something out of a movie,”

 

“Don’t bother coming in.”
Curb Appeal.

 
Let’s be real, not every house can look like one out of the movies, but since your house is going to speak you want to be sure to put the right words in its mouth.

 

And how can you do that??

 

If the door is faded, paint it.vht_viewer_84

 

If the screen is broken, fix it.

 

If the front yard is naked, dress it up some.

 

If it’s too covered up with trees and overgrown bushes, strip it down some.

 

And the grass, gutters, and roof??

 

Keep it trimmed, keep them clean and make sure it’s in good shape.

 

Clean and spruce up!

 

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Curb appeal…that thing that can make a home worth a drive-by, that thing that can make a potential buyer super excited to see more, that thing that can be an insurmountable hurdle to a sale. That thing that speaks volumes.
You want your house talking about its hardwood floors, the updated kitchen with the groovy new light fixtures. You want the house to exclaim how well it’s been taken care of by showing off it’s newer furnace and brand new hot water heater.  You want it to answer every question, you want it inviting folks to sit on the couch to imagine themselves living there. You want the house to welcome those new owners home. But the house isn’t going to get a chance to say any of those things unless the first thing it speaks is right.

 

Walk out to the street and take a gaze back…what’s your house saying to you??

 

“Curb appeal.”

 

Take It Off Baby

I was driving to the office the other day with the radio on. The radio playing in the car is unusual for me; normally I drive in silence. But on this particular day the sun was shining and I don’t know, I just thought it was a day for music.

I’m driving along thinking about the calls I need to make and the other real estate related to do’s on my list, and Barry White comes on.

“Love Serenade.”

I love me some Barry White, but Love Serenade…not so much. Not one of my favorites. Call me a prude, but it’s just too sexy for me. Sexy to the point that it makes me a little uncomfortable.

I’ve since googled “Love Serenade” and it is on a bunch of sexiest songs of all time lists. Paste Magazine has it ranked as #9; Virgin Media has it at #6. It didn’t make Billboard’s 50 Sexiest Songs of All Time list…but what do they know? They have Olivia Newton John’s “Physical” at #1. Please..no way. I don’t think “Physical” is very sexy at all…it doesn’t make this prude the least bit uncomfortable.

But I digress…Back to Barry.

“Love Serenade” didn’t make it on to Billboard’s sexy song list, but for purposes here we are going to have to agree to agree that Barry White’s “Love Serenade” is indeed a very sexy song.

Except for the day I heard it on the way to the office.

The music starts…and that velvet voice comes through the speaker…

“Take if off, Baby, take it all off.”

It must have been those real estate to do’s on my mind…because as Barry is singing to me to get naked, “take it off, Baby, take it all off”, I’m not thinking sexy, I’m thinking wallpaper.

Specifically wallpaper hanging in a house that someone wants to sell.

I get to giggling thinking about listing appointments I’ve been on where the house has all kinds of wallpaper, and the way I try to really kindly, politely tell sellers the wallpaper needs to come down. I explain that buyers aren’t going to love the Waverly Ivy and they are not going to want to go through the hassle and expense of removing it. I tell them that if a buyer will even consider a house with wallpaper,  they will probably discount the house by more than it would cost the seller to have it taken down and have the room(s) painted the latest shade of greige. Yes I agree with them, someONE might love Waverly Ivy as much as they do, but in general, buyers do not respond positively to wallpaper. I get the message across, but it’s not the easiest of conversations, so I dance around it some. So as “Love Serenade” plays, I’m giggling thinking,  I dance around  but Barry sings it like it’s got to be…

“Take it off, Baby, take it all off.”

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The truth is, buyers won’t be singing a love serenade about a house with wallpaper. And truly, who says it better than Barry?

Because I always have real estate on the brain nearly everything reminds me of or brings me back to real estate…even music. Since “Love Serenade” every song I  hear somehow has something to do with real estate. I’m no music connoisseur but I think I might have a playlist. Amy’s real estate playlist…so more to follow.

In the meantime…if you want to sell your house, and it’s wearing wallpaper…

Take if off Baby, take it all off.

 

 

 

 

 

“How Do I Look?” “What Do You Think?” Do You Really Want To Know?

 

My daughter Joanna has that killer combination of complete honesty and willingness to say exactly what she thinks.

Admirable qualities? I think so.

Admirable, but not painless. I’ve been on the receiving end of her brutal truth-telling…

Me…showered, make-up on, hair done, dressed in a very carefully chosen outfit, ready to walk out the door, see Joanna, strike a pose and ask…

“How do I look?”

“What do you think?”

And what does Joanna say??

“You look nice mom, but you’re kinda getting fat, you really need to start walking or going back to Weight Watchers, and don’t scowl I can see all your wrinkles.”

OUCH!

I would have much rather heard…

“You look great Mom, it’s hard to believe you’re 50, you don’t look a day over 30, and damn you look good in those jeans.”

Yeah, that’s what I’d want to hear…but it wouldn’t be the truth.

Truth is, I did look nice, but I’ve also gotten about twenty pounds too chubby, and I don’t scowl but I do sometimes squint, and when I do, you really can see all my wrinkles.

Even though it can be painful, given the choice between hearing what I want to hear and hearing the truth…I’m picking truth.

Establishing where you stand on the “hearing what I want to hear –truth” spectrum is important when you’re looking to sell your house.

When you’re ready to sell and begin the process with selecting an agent, the “listing appointment” or ‘agent interview” eventually ends up being an invitation to answer the same questions I asked Joanna…

“How do I look?”

“What do you think?”

It starts out easy enough…We agents arrive at the appointment eager to meet you. We want to develop rapport, build trust, demonstrate our expertise. We come wanting to learn more about you the seller, we want to know why and when you want to move. We want to hear what you’ve loved most about your house, and what you’ve liked the least. We’re willing to let you show us every nook and cranny, we smile when you show us the pull out shelves in the pantry and we make a note when you tell us that you bumped out the family room an extra eight feet. It’s a lovely visit, all rainbows and unicorns, but eventually the questions need to be answered…

“How do I look?”

“What do you think?”

The listing appointment is often the first meeting between the seller and the agent.   No agent wants to tell someone they’ve just met the “house” version of…”You look nice mom, but you’re kinda getting fat, you really need to start walking or going back to Weight Watchers, and don’t scowl I can see all your wrinkles.” No agent wants to tell a seller that their house is worth less than the seller was thinking it was worth. No agent enjoys giving a seller a list of things to do to get the house ready for the market.  No agent wants to say anything that the seller doesn’t want to hear.

But it’s important that they do!

When you’re interviewing agents it’s easy to be lulled into believing what you want to hear. It’s easy to be lulled by the agent that tells you your house is worth the most. Easy to be lulled by the agent that tells you your house is perfect just as it is and you don’t have to do a thing.  But here’s the thing…hearing everything you want to hear isn’t going to get your house sold for top dollar any more than Joanna telling me “damn you look good in those jeans” is going to make me twenty pounds leaner. And if the agent you’re interviewing isn’t telling you some things you don’t like hearing, you’d be wise to wonder if the agent wasn’t erring on the side of telling you what  they think you want to hear over telling you what you need to know.

The truth is… sellers almost always think their house  is worth more than the market will bear and nearly every house needs to be tweaked if it’s going to get top dollar. The reality is…appropriately priced homes well prepared for a demanding market sell quicker and for more money than those that aren’t.

The best agents I know “err”. But they err on the side of sound advice over rapport. They err on the side of evidence over finger-crossing. They err on the side of market education and preparation over wanting to get your listing.  The best agents will answer the questions  “How do I look?” , “What do you think?” with the same brutal honesty that Joanna would.

Choosing an agent to assist you with the sale of your home is no easy thing. There are so many to choose from. My advice to you…line up some interviews, enjoy the visits and when it comes time to hear the answers to those two important questions…even though it might be painful, be open to hearing what you don’t want to hear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video…You Make Me Feel Like a Na-k-ed Woman (thanks Carol King)

When I was a kid, I knew all the words to every song on Carol King’s album Tapestry.   Tapestry won the Grammy for best album in 1972. It is one of the best selling albums of all time. And at 9 years old, I knew every word to every song…not just the biggest hit, I Feel the Earth Move, but the words to Tapestry and Smackwater Jack too.

It must have been in 1971 that my parents gave me a Panasonic tape recorder and microphone for Christmas.

I remember the day I took my tape recorder up to my bedroom. I put Tapestry on the record player, plugged my headphones into the receiver and  pressed “record” on my Panasonic.  As Carol sang in my ears, I sang into my microphone.  I belted out the words…

“I feel the earth-move-under my feet, I feel the sky tum-b-ling down, tum-b-ling down,

I feel my heart start to trem-b-ling whenever you’re around.”

I sang right along with Carol. Our recording session didn’t end until we finished every song, sides one and two. We started with I Feel the Earth Move and I didn’t press stop until we made it through the last note of You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman. With our similar alto voices, I was sure you wouldn’t be able to tell us apart.

Until I played it back.

OMG.  I sounded nothing like Carol King.  Awful is an understatement.  What was I thinking?? I was horrified. The horrible sounds from that playback have been heard by no other ears than my own, and yet I actually feel embarrassed for myself just thinking about it. It was at that moment, at just 9 years old, I knew I would never, ever, ever have my voice recorded again.

Or so I thought.

The demands of a real estate agent are ever changing and growing. It’s not enough to have market expertise, it’s not enough to just know how to do the job. “Doing the job” is changing all the time, and an agent has to keep up.

Assisting sellers with the sale of their home and marketing that home demand that the agent keep up with the demands and habits of the buyer consumer. Where are buyers looking? What mediums do they prefer? What information do they want? When marketing a home for sale, a wide net needs to be cast, a multitude of mediums and venues must be considered.

You Tube is now the world’s second largest search engine.  You Tube is transforming the way information is searched for on the web. The statistics are astounding. I read somewhere that there are something like 6 billion hours of video viewed every month. Real estate agents must respond, our marketing must consider and embrace this reality.

So…what am I thinkin’? I’m thinking video.

Property videos are not commonplace in my neck of the woods, but I believe they’re coming.  Property videos are becoming more popular among buyer consumers. Photos, even professionally photographed, great photos are not enough. A photo slide show set to music, well that’s not video. Buyers want to walk through a house, get a sense of the ‘feel” of the property…and they want this before they make their first appointment.

So…from here on out…I’m doing video. I’m breaking that promise I made to myself at 9 years old. I don’t like the sound of my recorded voice, but so long as I don’t sing, maybe I’ll be alright. For now, they won’t be big productions,  no major equipment used. My Iphone is as easy to use as that Panasonic tape recorder. I’m a little nervous. Getting in front of a camera (even if it’s just an iphone) won’t be easy…it’s almost like being naked. And for me, it does bring back that  really, really, embarasseningly  bad memory of my Carol King wannabe voice.

I made my first attempt. It’s not perfect. (I forgot to shoot the bedrooms)…the camera work is a little shaky…it’s almost as if…”I feel the earth move under my feet…” Don’t worry, I’ve spared you that….

There you have it.

Here’s my advice…

For sellers:  Video may not be the be all to end all yet. But hiring an agent that’s keeping up with the ever changing demands of today’s buyers is important. Choose an agent that’s up to the task.

For my fellow real estate agents:  To those that are already rocking it with video, thanks for the nudge!  And for those that haven’t tried it yet: You don’t have to be able to sing like Carol King…just grab your Iphone and press record…we can do this!

What’s YOUR House Smell?

I went on a listing appointment the other day…met with a gentleman whose elderly dad passed away a few months ago. He’s getting ready to put his Dad’s townhouse on the market. The townhouse was tidy and pretty much ready for the market…as he was showing me around he asked me, “Does it smell like old guy?”

Does it smell like old guy? I hadn’t noticed any smell at all…

It made me think of my daughter Joanna. My daughter Joanna has one very keen sense of smell, particularly “house smells.” She claims that every house has its own unique “house smell.” There’s not a house that she’s been in that she hasn’t determined the pleasantness, or unpleasantness of its particular “house smell”. My sister Lisa I’ve learned has good house smell. “I love Aunt Lisa’s house smell, ” Joanna has said, “it always smells like Downy and laundry detergent.” Joanna’s on a never-ending quest to improve the house smell at our house. Not that it’s disgusting or anything, we do laundry and use Downy too, so I’m thinking our house smell is usually pretty decent. We do have a dog, and sometimes we’re a little late in taking the garbage out after something particularly odoriferous has been tossed in the can, so there are occasions when we do not pass Joanna’s house smell test. And on those days Joanna shames us for our house smell…tromps through the house with Febreze, scolding us as she sprays “linen and sky” throughout the guilty rooms.

Joanna’s a stickler about house smells…house smell is important to her.  And she’s not alone…house smell is important to homebuyers too. House smell is important, really, really important, when your selling your home.

A pleasant aroma that gently wafts through the air as homebuyers enter the house can enhance a showing…and a really bad house smell? Bad house smell can be a deal breaker. I’m only guessing but I’ll bet cigarette smoke and pet urine top the list of worst house smells…though reptiles and the heavy scent of curry pack quite a punch and can be a turn off as well. The point is, when you’re selling your house you have to be aware of your house smell.  And if it’s a bad house smell, you’re going to have to address it. You can’t just make a bulk purchase of Glade plug-ins and hope for the best, nope, you have to address it. A quick Google search will turn up a plethora of products, home remedies and solutions. Some smells will be easier to take care of than others, some may take a lot of work and maybe even a good bit of money. But it has to be done. Buyers don’t carry Febreze with them. They won’t scold you, but they will be turned off and move on.

Selling your house? Take a big whiff…make sure it would pass the Joanna “house smell” test. Think I’ll take her by that townhouse.

You’re Already Fashionably Late…Hurry Up and Get Here!

Over the last two months or so I’ve listed a bunch of properties…several of them have already gone under contract and will be closing soon.

But I also have several clients that are not quite ready. They’re painting a wall, loading a POD, waiting for school to let out, waiting to open the pool, they’re making piles for the consignment store, Goodwill and the garbage can. They’re almost ready and their homes will make their entrance to the market soon.

It reminds me of a party and the guests that always arrive fashionably late…you know how it is…most of the guests have arrived and many are already enjoying themselves…they’re visiting and laughing, dipping into the hors d’oeuvres. And then there are the guests that are just sort of milling around and asking…”When are Jill and Bob coming?”, “Did they say what time they’d get here?” Or “Did you talk to Kim and George?” “Are they on their way here?” For those milling around guests the party hasn’t started until everyone has arrived.

As I listen to the birds happily chirping and see the crabapple tree on the verge of blooming it’s clear that spring is here. And because properties, (when priced and presented well), are “flying off the shelves” and going under contract quickly, I’m convinced the spring market is well underway!

And just like the party with the guests who are already having a good time, many spring buyers have already found their new home, and they’re just munching on hors d’oeuvers until the closing date. But like the guests that can’t enjoy the party until everyone arrives, there are buyers still waiting to see all the new properties the spring market will bring.

So…to my soon to be seller clients and anyone else that’s still prepping their house or thinking about selling this spring…

Pack up the POD, finish the wall, open the pool and get that stuff dropped off to Goodwill.

You’re already fashionably late! Just hurry up and get here…for some…the “party” can’t start without you.

Purple Staging Will Do by Amy Curtis

My last post was my “confession” of faith in the benefits of home staging. I am a believer. But I have my limits…

Have you seen the clever Ace Hardware purple paint commercial??  The one where the woman is searching for the perfect shade of purple? Here it is…

Got it? There’s purple…and then there’s purrrrple.

This may lose something in the translation, but I think you’ll follow…

There are degrees of purple…from the basic purple to the more dramatic purrrrple. And guess what? When it comes to staging a home for the market, there’s staging…and then there’s staaaaging. I’m a believer in the basic purple sort of staging.

Let me explain.

It was just this time of year three years ago and I was listing a home.  When I met with my clients they told me they had already contacted a home stager and were working on their “staging” list.  I thought it might be a good idea….until they told me what the stager had instructed them to do: Repaint the house (inside and out), replace all light fixtures, repave the driveway, relandscape the exterior, replace the garage door, buy “art” and rent furniture. We were in the midst of a rapidly depreciating market and the stager had made recommendations that would have cost thousands of dollars and would have taken precious weeks of market time to complete. And this for an already cute as button house with a gorgeous remodeled kitchen on a large beautifully landscaped lot. The house was already highly saleable, in a desirable location and the sellers were reasonable on price.

Kinda like purrrrple…this was staaaaging.

I suppose if money were no object and there was nothing but time and a seller could rest assured that they’d get back every dime spent, sellers would staaaage. They would just go ahead and remodel kitchens and baths, they’d tear up carpet and lay hardwood floors in their place, they’d paint the whole house in the latest shades of cream and beige, they’d remove all their knick knacks and art and drop a small fortune at Pier 1 to replace it all, they’d call contractors and landscapers. But let’s get real.

Why go with purrrrple when purple will do?

Purple staging is demphasizing seller decor and highlighting the home’s space and features. Purple staging is rearranging furniture for better flow,  it’s pulling pieces from some rooms to areas or rooms that need to be given a purpose, it’s tidying up closets and packing away personal items. Sometimes it includes jazzing up the bedding in the master bedroom, maybe replacing a light fixture or two or purchasing a statement piece of art or accessory that can be used or enjoyed in the sellers next home. But most of all, purple staging is realistic. Purple staging shouldn’t take more than a couple of hundred dollars or a week to complete. And though it’s not staaaaging, purple staging can still make a world of difference in the presentation of a home.

With spring market underway, time is precious…purple staging will do!

So yeah…I’m a believer. A purple staging believer.

 

I welcome your thoughts.

Home Staging…I’m a Believer by Amy Curtis

I’ve had a conversion of sorts. Nothing road to Damascus like, nothing quite that dramatic or life changing, but a conversion nonetheless. A conversion that does have an impact on the work that I do in helping clients sell their homes.

It’s home staging. I’m a recent home staging convert. A new believer.

Home staging has been around for years. Statistics show that staged homes sell quicker and for more money than homes that are not staged. A quick google search provides an avalanche of statistics, information and evidence of the benefits of home staging, and yet, I remained unconvinced. I remained uncompelled to embrace home staging and incorporate it into my services to sellers.

Why? How could this be?

I’d always thought there was something a little disingenuous about “staging” a home. The connotation of the word…stage…as in “stage” a play, or “stage” a crime. Stage is a performance, it’s not real life, it’s not the real thing. Something about the sound of it always made me think of it as an attempt to pull the wool over a buyer’s eyes, and the idea of that just never sat well with me.

And too, “staging” sounds like a big production, a big expensive production and who wants to get involved in that? When someone has decided to sell their home, they’re kind of done with their house. If there’s time and money to be spent, most sellers would rather spend it on the next house, the new house, not the house they’re trying to get rid of. So, staging as a production just never made sense to me either.

But I’ve changed my mind, I’m a believer.

It’s happened gradually and over time. It’s happened because of the homes I’ve seen and sold. It’s happened because of the homes I’ve seen that never seem to sell. It’s happened because I’ve found a really good home stager. It’s happened because I’ve seen up close and in person the difference staging can make.

In practice, staging needn’t be a big production. In practice, there is no pulling the wool over the buyers eyes. Home staging is simply the last important step in preparing a home for the market, because staging is the process through which a house is separated from its seller and introduced to its new owner. The “staged” home is a home in the midst of its “conversion.”  A staged home allows the buyer to become a “believer” that they’ve found their just right for them home.

Home staging…I’m a believer…Are you?  I welcome your thoughts.

Getting Ready for the Market

So, you want to move.

Recent news seems to say that this is the time. There are real buyers out there, and this year can be the year to make it happen. Nothing stands in your way.  Nothing that is, except the daunting task of getting your house ready to put on the market.

Getting your home ready can seem like “eating an elephant.”  Every room needs work, every closet needs purging, stuff for a garage sale, stuff for Goodwill, things to pack, things to give away, painting and caulking, cleaning and decluttering…yep…it’s like eating an elephant!

But as the saying goes, “When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.” (Creighton Abrams)

It’s a big job, but let me suggest…take that first bite…start with your refrigerator…

 

 

 

Keep biting…you’ll get there!

The spring market awaits!!

 

 

 

 

Thick Skin and Big Pants…Welcome to Selling Your House

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So the real estate office calls. They say they have an agent that would like to show your house tomorrow afternoon between 2:00-3:00. You hang up the phone, super excited! Maybe this one will be the one…THE buyer for your house.

To prepare for the showing you get all the laundry put away, do a quick pick up in every room, you wash your already pretty clean floor, scrub the toilets and spray lemon scented antibacterial solution on every surface in your kitchen. Later, when you run to the grocery store you pick up some fresh flowers. (Every little bit helps, right?) The next day, just moments before the appointed hour you light a candle, take one last look around…”perfect” you say. You leave the house, get in your car, drive around the block and park just down the street. They won’t notice you, but you can see them.

At 2:05 a car pulls up to your house; it looks like it could be the realtor. At 2:15 a second car pulls up…this must be them. At 2:16, realtor and the future owners of your fabulous house are opening your front door!!

Your anticipation and excitement begin to get the best of you, thoughts start running through your head…”what if they want to close right away, can we get out that fast?”…”I wonder if they will let us stay a couple of days after closing”…”Maybe we should make an offer on that house we saw last week, loved the kitchen, think the sofa will look perfect against the wall opposite the fireplace…”  Within moments, you have yourself packed up and out of your old house and arranging furniture in the new one.

Your thoughts are interrupted when at 2:19, you see the realtor and YOUR buyer getting into their cars and driving away…

Seriously!!!   Three minutes!!! Three minutes!!!? You scrubbed toilets and floors, bought fresh flowers, lit a candle, for three minutes!?

Welcome to selling your house.

There’s so much preparing to do when selling a house. There’s preparing your house to put on the market. There’s preparing the house for each of the showings. What’s not often mentioned, but is equally important, is the mental preparing for what’s emotionally in store.

You need to find your thick skin and put your big pants on to prepare for the showing that only lasts for three minutes, for the showing that doesn’t show, to prepare for the negative feedback or the feedback you never hear and to prepare for the work your butt off and rearrange your whole schedule for a three minute showing that will inevitably be a part of the home selling experience. To prepare NOT to take it, any of it, personally.

Be prepared…because it’s gonna happen.

Not every showing will show up and they won’t all last longer than three minutes. There will be people that really DON’T like your house, and they will feel no need to spend one minute longer in it then is necessary for them to come to that conclusion.  Sometimes you’ll hear feedback, but often you won’t. Selling your house will be stressful, you’re going to get angry, you’re feelings might even get hurt. Recognizing and accepting those facts and mentally preparing for them, will make it that much easier to handle when it happens.

So PREPARE! Set your emotions aside, find your thick skin, put your big pants on, keep you’re eye on the prize and remind yourself, again and again and again that every showing, good or bad showing, long or three minutes short showing, is bringing you your buyer, THE buyer for your house!