Monday, October 26, 2009

How to Balance A Room Aesthetically

DSC06803Image via Wikipedia

Having a room that is balanced is conducive to the well being of all those who enter. Have you ever noticed how in most homes there is a room that most people just naturally gravitate towards? This room often is the most comfortable and inviting space. Here are some things to consider when you balance a room to create a feeling that will draw you in.

Balance  with Textures - Rooms usually have several different textures taking place. Whether it is the smoothness of perhaps a leather arm chair, or a lamp base, or the rough texture of carved wooden accents in the furniture or decor. Having these textures evenly distributed in the room with no one dominating entirely over the other is ideal. Large smooth textures from a leather bound sofa can be balanced out by a large Sisal rug on the floor, or a wall hanging with a lot of texture. Always look around your room and identify the different smooth and rough textures. Are they balanced with opposite textures? If not add something, or reduce something. It really makes a difference.

Balancing with Colors - Strong colors are visually weighty in a room. To balance them you must have neutrals to combat their impact. Having too much of any one color in a room can be either too stimulating or too boring. Again this is where balance comes into play. Perhaps the primary color of a room is neutral. Strong darks, or strong brights can balance out the neutral and give it a boost. This can be in the form of dark wooded furniture, or individual art pieces. It doesn't always have to mean paint color. Take time to look at your room to see if the colors are balanced. Too much of either is not good.

 Balancing with Furniture - Room balance is about textures, colors and also furniture. Having furniture that is proportional to the room and in relation to the other furnishings is extremely important. Failing to keep the pieces in scale can create negative closed in feelings if the furniture is too big, or too open and sparse if the furniture is too small. Always keep scale in consideration when buying or arranging furniture. Remember even a not so big piece of furniture can have a visual weight that makes it appear larger if it is in a bold color, either very light or very dark.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

How to Select a Good Real Estate Agent

Fran Kinion Real Estate AgentImage via WikipediaWhen meeting your agent, take time to see if you like them in general. Are you comfortable with them? Does their personality suit you? Do they listen, and are they positive? Do they take the time to explain things to you? These are so important because if your personality clashes, communication will suffer and they will be less enthusiastic about selling your home, and this is not good.

Know what you want and make sure your real estate agent listens. There is nothing more aggravating than being taken to see 12 houses and all of them are not suitable. Have an idea in advance about age, condition, square footage, no. of baths and bedrooms, etc.

Ask your agent beforehand, what improvements you can make that may impact your homes value and asking price. My agent set our price and then had us spend a fortune on improvements after the fact. This actually took away from the profit we made.

If your agent has arranged to come by to take photos, ask them if there is anything special you need to do, or have them walk through your home first before they take photos to suggest and give you a chance to change something you may have overlooked. Your home is going to be shown on websites all over, potential buyers may be turned off by the pictures and what they see in them before they even bother to view your home. A good agent should know this.

Before you commit to your real estate agent and his company, make sure you tell them that for any home you are interested in you expect to be able to make an offer on the property.  If this is something they don't do or discourage in any way, don't sign on with them. You are the boss!  Its your money. You have the pre-approval, you have the power!

Make sure your real estate agent knows you may need more time to move, and have it written into any contract. If your contract states that you are to turn over your keys at the signing, you really have limited time to move out, and in some cases the buyer can charge you rent by the day for every day it takes you to move out. You want to get all of this clear before you sign any agreement to use that real estate agent or his agency.

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How to Improve your Home to Sell Faster

Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse at 117 Willi...Image via Wikipedia

I'm sure you have heard this before, updating and staging your home can make or break a sale. The housing market is a tough sell now with far more inventory than ever. How will your home stand up to the competition? Is your kitchen updated? How are the baths? Is there clutter that needs moving out, even before you do? Are you willing to invest some money to get a return? These are all questions that need addressing if you plan on selling your home and actually getting it sold.

The biggest area to address in your home without a doubt is the kitchen

The real question is, not necessarily can you afford to update it, but can you afford not to? New construction prices are dropping everyday as builders scramble to move empty homes. Do you realize this is your competition? Well it is. Whenever addressing any area of improvement with your home, the template you must use is new construction. Not only new construction, but what is also available in your area. A shrewd seller will have already taken into account what comparable's are around. Have you done this? If not, check out your local real estate agency and view the listings in your area. Factor in age, size and location of the homes you are viewing.  The rule used to be not to over improve for your area. However, that doesn't mean you can't take it up a notch or two.

Do your research first before you spend a dime. There are sites that will let you factor in what sort of return you could possibly get per improvement. Bank of America has a calculator that can help you figure out what is worth it. and what isn't. Even at that to a  degree you do roll the dice.

If you don't have a vast amount of money, key improvements and updates can be done relatively cheap if you are willing to  do some of the work yourself.

I always recommend starting with your kitchen. I viewed many homes during my own house shopping, and the ones I steered clear of were old, outdated kitchens. Why? Well if it's not obvious, money. Taking the step at a major purchase is daunting enough without also factoring in renovation and updating costs. From the buyer's perspective, a home with outdated old appliances, fixtures, etc. scream "money pit", high energy bills, and potential break downs in the near future.

When your home is not updated, think what this is saying to the buyer. It says, what else is old and fixing to go? Probably a safe assumption is, everything. Not to mention, if you can see it and it's bad, what you can't see is probably worse. If you only have a small amount of money, update your appliances. In my neck of the woods, refrigerators often times are not included in the sale price, but ovens definitely are. Check to see what is the "norm" for your area. A modestly priced refrigerator, and matching brand oven, can immediately update the kitchen. If you can add in a dishwasher of the same style, and brand. Those are your big ticket items in a kitchen.

However, if that is out of the question, survey the counters, flooring, and cabinets. Cabinets can be refaced, painted and new hardware added. Flooring can be easily updated if you are willing to do the work yourself. A good alternative to vinyl flooring that is outdated, is the new high end peel and stick  tile. For around $1.00- $2.00 a square foot you can really update the floor. Some look so much like stone, you'd have to get down close to it to know the difference, even coming with "chiseled edges" for a real look.

Choose neutral tones. This is no time to get wild and creative.  Painting cabinets used to be voodoo, but if they are dark and old, you will save a lot of money by painting them a fresh bright color and adding new hardware. If you can't replace your counters, At least de-clutter them and have them as clean as possible.

Fresh new curtains, clean counters, fresh painted cabinets and walls can usually make a huge difference in how fast your home sells

 If you have old appliances and cannot afford to replace them, have them be sparkling clean and fresh smelling. Old is one thing, old and dirty is another. Organize your cabinets and keep them clutter free. I know we all love to see a well stocked pantry and cabinets, however overly filled cabinets and pantries  can send a red flag to a buyer that there  is limited in space. We want the buyer to feel like there is more than enough storage.

 Ceilings and ceiling fans need to be clean as well. Buyers notice everything. From floor to ceiling, and everything in between. Never over crowd the square footage in your kitchen. Better to be slightly sparse, than overly cluttered. You are selling your home by the square foot, buyers want the most square footage they can get for their money, so why hide it if it isn't necessary?

If you can afford it,  the second area in your home that will probably help you get an offer would be the bathrooms

 Bathrooms can be costly renovations, however, many of the same tactics used in the kitchen can be applied to your bathrooms. Update fixtures, paint old cabinetry, a new shower curtain and towels can go a long way at making your home feel well cared for. If you have it in your budget and your home is older, you may want to consider having your sink and tub re-glazed. This can be done cheaper than replacing these items and they can turn an unsightly Avocado green sink into a newer looking white one. The same with your tub.  A new toilet can also spruce up the area. New toilets can now be purchased as a complete set for as little as $100.00 and be better looking than a green, pink or blue model from times past, not to mention use less water. Fresh white towels, guest soaps, can add little details that stage a scene and tell a buyer that your home was well cared for. This translates as a home that is move in ready, and problem free.

Living areas need to be clutter free, personal belongings can be packed away

 This is a great idea anyway because if your home sells, you will be ahead of the packing game and be relieved! Steam clean the carpets, add new bedding in the bedrooms, and make sure your home's furnishings don't distract and overcrowd the space. Buyers are not interested in your collections, photos, or mementos. Having too much "stuff" can make a buyer think you will take forever moving out if they make an offer and this is always a potential headache, especially if they have their own time frame to work in. De-personalizing, and de-cluttering will say to your potential buyer  that you can be out of there in no time, and they can envision their own belongings in the space much easier. If you have to, while your home is on the market, it would be a good idea to rent a storage unit to do this. Think of how stress free your moving out will be knowing that the majority of your things are out of the house, and already packed and waiting for your next home. Its a little investment now, but a huge relief later.

Lastly, address your curb appeal

 Lawns should be cut, hedges trimmed, fresh potted flowers can be a nice touch and fences should be mended. Have a friend walk around your home inside and out and tell you what they think you need to do to spruce up the place. Sometimes a fresh honest pair of eyes can be enlightening, since we tend to overlook things we see every day. With limited funds, you should always make a list of what you can do, versus what you can't do  and make the best of it. Many buyers will do what I call " a drive by" when they are considering your home. What they see from the road could either have them hit the gas and floor it, or slow down and admire. Which do you think will get their name on the dotted line? You are not just selling your home, but to the buyer, you are selling a lifestyle, make it as desirable as possible.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Making Neutrals Work

examples of neutral decor and color
Ok, so you have heard on television that neutrals are the way to go when painting a room, especially if you are planning on selling sometime in the near future. So you went and bought some beige and went to work "neutralizing" your home. Did you run across a feeling of boredom? Did you feel you toned your home down to the point it could be used for a sleep center? Well what a lot of shows on television fail to mention is that neutrals work but to get them to "pop" requires, bold compliments in trim and accents.

So what is considered bold? Well, believe it or not something as drab as white is a sharp crisp contrast. Can white do it alone? Probably not. White is a good starting point to highlight the neutral, but now its gets interesting..accents. Accents are all decorative items either on the wall, floor or somewhere in between. What works well with white and beige? Better yet, what looks great and pulled together with those two rather subtle colors? Hows this for bold, dark browns, or even this, black! Yes, you read it right. Try dark browns and black accents. Now be sure not to over power the room with too much of a good thing. Balance of color is a key factor to remember. Accents should never be more than an accent.
neutral flooring tiles

Now, for the next shocker, I have been following the trends and I usually say never go with any trends, they will date your home. However, in painting walls, it is perfectly safe to do so since paint is an easy fix. The hot trend I see surfacing these days are, soft grays. Yep. Grays are the new beige in neutral paint colors and they also look good paired with crisp white and dark finishes. Not to mention the fact they go well with pewter, brushed nickle, and stainless steel. I am seeing this soft neutral showing up in bathrooms, kitchens, and bedrooms more than ever. It just goes to show, when it comes to making neutrals work, its more about what you accent them with, than it is about the actual shade of neutral you use.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Update That Kitchen!!!

English: A modern kitchen.English: A modern kitchen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As an Interior Decorator, I am always keeping my eye on the housing market, and decor trends in general. I can not tell you how many times, I see homes on the market for 6 months with no viable offers. What is disturbing is the homeowners seem to be oblivious as to why their home isn't selling. A quick look through the pictures on the realtors site yields every clue needed. Why are these homes not selling? OLD OUTDATED KITCHENS.

I can not stress enough how important it is to UPDATE YOUR KITCHEN. I am limited to using all caps to drive this point home. People, if your home is 20 years old or more, chances are it needs an overhaul in the kitchen. Realistically speaking, most potential home buyers can deal with an outdated bath far easier than an outdated kitchen. After all kitchens are the hub of all family activities, where the potential home buyer envisions family gatherings, feasts, entertaining. No one wants old crusty appliances, cruddy counter tops, floors or dilapidated cabinets. 
Take a look around, can cabinets be painted? Forget what you think about natural wood and think what a buyer may want. Some times the best way to cut the proverbial umbilical cord to a home we have sentimental attachments to is by radically giving it an overhaul. Paint, cabinet refacing, updated appliances, flooring..believe it or not it doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg and it may get your home sold faster.
Your home is competing with new housing. Buyers in the 25-35 year old range do not want to see money filled projects the minute they walk in your door. What will keep them interested is what your home can offer above new construction, In addition to what new construction offers. Get your head out of the past and bring it into the future. Otherwise you will be sitting in your out dated home and dusting that "FOR SALE" sign off month after month. Year after year.
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When Wallpapering is a must...

Textured paintable wall paper
I'm sure many of you know the drudgery of wallpapering, all of us that follow design shows on TV see wallpapering coming off the walls not going on. However, wall paper is making a subtle yet significant comeback and can be a great solution.

Textured, paint-able, and stylish many wall papers offer a greater range of versatility over their cheesy hard to remove predecessors. Consider badly damaged walls that have scars, imperfections, and patch jobs, textured paint-able wall paper can be a God send. A trip to your local hardware store, I went to Lowe's for mine, will open your eyes to new possibilities with wall paper. If you take the necessary precaution of painting your sheet rock/drywall in advance with a semi gloss paint, most wall paper can be removed at a future date easily.

What made it so difficult in the past was some builders, home owners in the past were adhering the paper directly to un-primed, unprepared drywall. In this case, you are in for a nightmare. Sometimes it is better to just paper over a drywall disaster than to keep patching and sanding.