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7 Online Resources to Help Estimate the Value of Your Home

June 22, 2019

When it comes time to sell your home, you have one burning question: What is my home worth?

In recent years, a proliferation of online resources has emerged to provide you with an answer — an estimated answer —  before you ever actually consult a human. But while homeowners have access to more information than they could have dreamed of a decade ago, that doesn’t mean you can expect a computer or smartphone to deliver the final word on your home’s value.

Whether you are punching your address into an online estimate tool or getting a detailed report from an appraiser or realtor, the results can be different every time.

As Stan Humphries, chief analytics officer for Zillow, which pioneered the practice of estimating and publishing home values in 2006, says, “If you sold your home 100 different times with different buyers and sellers, it would close at a different price.”

Computers and humans may disagree, for example, about which recently sold homes are truly comparable and how significantly recent updates add value to a property. Plus, when it comes time to do the deal, the negotiation skills of agents may come into play.

That means if you are looking at estimates for your home’s value, you have to consider what kind of data went into that estimate. If your home is unique compared with others in the neighborhood, for example, the choice of “comps,” or comparable homes, would be a challenge to find. Your estimate may also be less accurate than if you lived in a neighborhood where all the homes are similar. If there have been lots of recent home sales in your area, there is going to be more data to work with and therefore you’ll get a more accurate estimate.

The representatives of all seven online resources below stress that their numbers are merely estimates, based on the available data plus a number of assumptions about comparable sales. While all the services throw out a number for the home’s estimated value, most provide a range of values, which sometimes gets overlooked by consumers who focus on the number in big type.

Here are seven online tools you can use to help estimate the current estimated value of your home:

ZillowThis is the pioneer of the home value estimating tool, and the company continues to refine how it arrives at its Zestimates.

Redfin: This tool shows you photos and listing information for the exact comps used to arrive at the value of your home. This site uses data from public records and lists homes sold recently nearby.

Bank of America: This tool shows comparable neighboring sales on a map. It provides only a range of values, not a single number.

Chase: This tool allows you to change the information about the house to arrive at a more precise estimate, plus provides information on recently sold homes and neighborhood trends. You can also use it to estimate the value of improvements you’re considering. The My Home tool allows you to track a variety of information about your property, including the home value, displayed to you as a graph to see its progress over time.

ForSaleByOwner.comThis site’s Pricing Scout tool gives you the average of a regression analysis and a comparative market analysis to estimate the worth of your home. It also shows recent sales of comparable properties on a map. You have to register to use it.

You will see that the information you get can be so shockingly different that you will need to get help from a realtor or a full appraisal on your home to get a more realistic idea of its value.  For example, here is research we did for a three-bedroom, three-bath house on double lot in Kansas City, MO (where the houses vary dramatically in size and condition so many, many variables):

Redfin: Not available
Zillow: $164,238 $78,643
Bank of America: $111,921 to $142,282
Chase: $161,000 $160,600 $69,720

This is a great place to start and we are the perfect second step. Give us a call and we’ll help you though every phase of selling your home.


Interior Design and Home Decor Initial Trends for 2019

December 10, 2018

Trends in interior design and home decor usually come straight from the fashion runways. So, we’re taking a look at some of the trends that will be hot in 2019, from a room-to-room trend overview to some of the more surprising trends.

Back to (Matte) Black
Let’s start with color. You’ll never guess, but the hot color for 2019 is going to be matte black. Yep, we’re going to be seeing bold designs utilizing matte black in kitchen appliances and home decor items everywhere. As far as other colors go, 2019 is going to be earthy — dark greens, watermelon red, rust, sienna, terracotta, bronze are going to be the it colors. All of these colors are a far cry from the ubiquitous “millennial pink!”

The progression of smart homes is still at a rapid pace, technology is going to be incorporated into more and more home decor items, namely mirrors!  That’s right.  Be ready to have your mirror tell you about your health, home security and more as “multi-tasking mirrors” are going to be the fairest (and smartest) of them all in 2019.
Modern design comfortable bathroom
All-black kitchens are going to be the bold statement of 2019. Also, more subtle marble such as brown and green versus more overstated, in-your-face marble. It’s going to be harder to find the major appliances in kitchens, however, as there is a growing trend of “hiding” those appliances in plain sight.
Bathroom Trends
Color. Color tiles. Color sinks. Color bathtubs. Soft plum, dark greens, browns, coal will be hot in the water closet. We’re going to see a lot of terracotta tiles and cork being utilized throughout bathrooms, as well.
Room Decor Trends
Think total, oversized comfort with sofas, chairs and ottomans, and then the shapes are going to be both geometric and organic. Within the geometric designs are the stripes, for example, and inside the organic forms, many curved armchairs and wallpapers painted by hand with watercolor. Other trends in room decor include upholstered headboards, industrial style metals,and private environments instead of the living room-kitchen-dining room-one-big-space trend of the past couple decades.
Sustainable Fabrics
Across homes and fashion, sustainable fabrics will be another key trend with a steep increase in products made from sustainable alternatives such as animal-free leather from genetically modified yeast or worm-free silk.

Vintage Style Decorations
Although it is a style that has been used for many years, it will continue to be valid this year. Art Deco or classic style furniture, updated with contemporary materials and textures, will be very present in the interior design.

Artistic Wallpaper|
Looks like works of art, such as watercolor brushstrokes or large painted flowers, as well as creating a striking appearance in the rooms, will also be one of the trends. It is about reproducing a work of art on a large scale.

We’ll keep you posted about other trends as we get into 2019.


U.S. Housing Market Could be Headed for Broadest Slowdown in Years

December 10, 2018

Ask any Millennial who’s been looking to purchase a house about how frustrating home bidding wars are getting, especially in cutthroat areas of the country such as Seattle, Silicon Valley, and Austin, TX.  I heard of one couple in Seattle who were only in their late 20s but had already lost two bidding battles and were ready to renew their current apartment lease. Then, in May, their agent called. Something had changed in the air. Sellers started to get jumpy, even in the hottest markets. Homes that used to vanish in days were sitting unsold for weeks. So this Seattle couple ended up getting a three-bedroom, 2 bath fixer-upper just north of the city at list price of $550,000 (down from $600,000 original listing). They closed on the house by the end of June.

All the signs are showing the U.S. housing market could be headed for the broadest slowdown in years. Home prices are climbing about twice as fast as income is and buyers are getting squeezed by rising mortgage rates.

 “This could be the very beginning of a turning point,” said Robert Shiller to Bloomberg News. Shiller is a Nobel Prize-winning economist who is famed for warning of the dot-com and housing bubbles, in an interview. He stressed that he isn’t ready to make that call yet.

A slew of figures released recently give ample evidence of at least a cooling.


America’s Most Expensive Home is on the Market: Got $500 Million?

December 3, 2018

I mean, how have you lived without seven pools, 20 bedrooms and your own VIP lounge for this long?

A massive mansion, known simply as “The One” and located in a very exclusive Los Angeles neighborhood, has just listed with real estate firm Hilton & Hyland for a jaw-dropping $500 million, according to the New York Times.

This is insane on all accounts, especially knowing that the most expensive property ever sold in the U.S. was a mansion in the Hamptons that sold for $137 million. The most expensive property ever sold in the WORLD, went for $300 million – a French chateau in 2015. Yes, this place is unreal!

After five years under construction, the 100,000-square-foot estate will feature 20 bedrooms (including a 5,500-square-foot master suite), five elevators and seven pools, all perched on a hilltop with expansive views across the city.

The house is one of the largest private homes ever built in the U.S. (and the world, for that matter)!

It has seemingly endless over-the-top features: a private nightclub with a pool and VIP room, an in-house, full-scale beauty salon, and a lounge which has jellyfish aquariums for its walls, to name a few.

The home’s architect, Paul McClean, also designed Jay-Z and Beyonce’s new L.A. mansion, which they purchased for $88 million in August after years of house-hunting.

When the Times asked developer Nile Niami why anyone would shell out $500 million for this property, his answer was very clear: “Because it’s cool.”

The Times points out that the house will likely sell for much less than its attention-grabbing asking price, citing that the Playboy mansion sold in 2016 for $100 million, after being listed for $200 million.

The former “most expensive house in America”? Still on the market…

We’re here to show you properties that are not only cool, but fit within your budget!



November 26, 2018

I’m just going to give it to you straight, owners of dogs, cats, fish, birds, et al. It’s gonna ruffle some feathers, make some hair stand up on backs, make others howl in protest and disbelief, while giving others proper paws for thought. You, dear pet-loving friends of mine, better sit down for this. Before I say anything, I want you to know I am a fan of our furry friends and always have been.

Here are the cold, hard facts:

  • There are many people out there who have never had pets, don’t understand why people have pets and only associate having pets with pet hair, pet stains and pet damage.
  • Pet(s) can prevent sellers from getting top dollar or even a buyer. That’s how polarizing pets can be.

The goal when selling a home usually is to get the most money in the shortest amount of time. So, if that is your goal as well, pet lover, then I have some tips for you to consider.

  • BEST THING: to do while you’re house is on the market is to drop the furry family member off at a relative’s home for an extended vacay. I know that seems harsh, but when the pet isn’t around, it’s easier to keep the house clean, to keep it smelling fresh and it keeps the fact that there has been a pet living in the potential buyer’s next home out of site and therefore out of  mind.
  • If you shrug off all professional advice and refuse to move your pets out of the house, then at least minimize the objections and nuisance factors, real or otherwise:
    • Cat Litter Boxes & Dog Potty Pads: Keep them out of sight and impeccably clean. Nothing turns off buyers faster than opening the door to the laundry room and being greeted by a full or stinky cat box. Do not put a litter box in your bedroom closet.
    • Carpet & Floor Pet StainsHire professionals to remove the stains. Buyers will spot them and form unfavorable opinions about the rest of the house. If the stains can’t be removed, then remove the floor covering and replace it.
    • Pet Odors and Smells:
      • Cat urine is the worst. Without question. The. Worst. Bring in a neighbor to do a whiff test. Dog odor gets into carpeting and pet beds, too.
      • Do not use air fresheners. People with allergies will react.
      • Try enzyme cleaners such as Simple Solution or Nature’s Miracle or call a professional ozone company
  • Remove Visible Signs of a Pet
    • You may be required by state law to disclose that pets have lived in your home, but you don’t need to advertise that pets live at your house. Removing signs that you have a pet is simply a smart practice. Why turn off a buyer at the get-go? It’s those first impressions that are so all-fired important.
    • Do not put photos online showing your cat asleep on the bed
    • Seal up doggie doors
    • Put away food and water bowls when not in use
    • Vacuum religiously, every day, sometimes twice a day
    • Pick up pet toys and put them away
    • Pack up cat trees and other signs of cat paraphernalia
    • Remove photos of pets from refrigerator, walls and table tops
    • Pack up all cages, carriers and other tell-tale signs

If you have any questions at all about the things you can do to make both your pet and the potential buyer feels awesome, give us a shout!


5 Reasons Fall is the Selling Season

November 19, 2018

The fall real estate market is almost always a hot season. Home selling in autumn is the second-best time of the year to sell a home because families have returned from summer vacation, kids are back in school and holiday madness hasn’t hit yet. We are set to enjoy 75 to 80 days of relative normalcy. So here are the top reasons for selling your house this fall!


Spring always brings out home buyers in droves. With more homes to choose from, buyers can afford to be picky, and that could extend their search by months. Come September, though, serious buyers will be feeling the pressure to make their move before the holiday season or bad weather hits. That’s where you come in.


Post-summer home buyers not only have the stress of the holiday season looming overhead, but their options are shrinking. Many sellers rush to close by September, so fortunately you’ll be competing in a much smaller market. That can be a powerful bargaining chip to help you close before the end of the year.


While families are more likely to make their move in the spring, millennials and empty-nesters usually swoop in a bit later in the year. They’re not the only ones, either: to avoid higher “on season” real estate rates, employers who need to relocate their workers often wait for the fall, when the market tends to cool down. These out-of-towners will probably need to get through the process quickly, too, which could mean a relatively speedy closing.


Depending on where you live, spring and summer can be a much-needed break from a harsh winter, and your house could probably use a little TLC. So give yourself those warmer months for some home improvements.


There’s no more colorful or beautiful time of the year to showcase the landscape that has been thriving all summer and is about to turn into a cornucopia of colors!

Next time we’ll give you our top 5 tips for improving the curb appeal for your house to get it sold this season!




Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal This Autumn So Buyers Fall for It!

November 14, 2018

Living in an area that has four seasons, we know fall is here when we see leaves exploding in vibrant colors as “For Sale” signs start popping up all over. People are happy and relaxed as the temperature begins to drop. It’s a great time to sell your home, especially when you consider it’s probably one of the best curb-appeal seasons in the year. Here are some great tips for attracting the autumn home buyer:

Clean Up the Yard

Rake dead leaves and debris in your lawn. Don’t let overgrown vegetation block the windows or path to the entrance. Cutting bushes and tree limbs will let the sun inside and showcase the exterior of your home. Cut away summer vines and cut down dead flowers. Make the most of the autumn weather in the fall real estate market.

Create Autumn Curb Appeal

The most popular autumn flowers are chrysanthemums (or mums), and they bloom for a long time. I am also partial to marigolds for fall. Both mums and marigolds are available in yellow, which is my number one home selling color. Plant them in pots. Place pots on the steps and along the sidewalk. Accent with pumpkins or other types of squash.

Dress the Windows

Rain and wind from over the summer months can make your windows dusty and streaked by autumn. You might not notice smudges, but buyers will, if only on a subconscious level. To sell a home, your windows need to sparkle. Even though I am not selling my home, my cats routinely rub their little noses on the inside glass while walking along window ledges, so I need to wash my windows inside and out every autumn. Remove screens and spray them down.

Check the HVAC

You want the air inside your home to smell fresh. When was the last time you changed your furnace filter? You can buy 90-day furnace filters. Have the HVAC system checked before you need to turn on the heat. Besides, the buyer will ask a home inspector to look at your HVAC. If you discover problems with your furnace, it’s better to fix them before your home goes on the market.

Clean Out the Fireplace

Ah, nothing smells like autumn than smoke from a wood-burning fireplace. However, in some parts of the country, burning wood indoors or outdoors is outlawed. In Sacramento, we have certain days when we are not allowed to burn wood in the fireplace. If you have a gas fireplace, light it when buyers come through. If the fireplace is filled with cobwebs because it hasn’t been used for months, vacuum it out and wash it down. Some ​home stagers arrange knickknacks in the fireplace in place of wood logs.

Prepare Autumn Edibles

Speaking of autumn scents, you might set out freshly baked pumpkin cupcakes or simmer hot apple cider on the stove. Put a tray of cinnamon sticks on the counter, dotted with whole cloves. Prop open a cookbook to an autumn stew. Fill a bowl with crisp red apples.


Utilize Autumn Accent Colors

You don’t need to dump a lifeless sofa when you can accessorize its dullness with bright red, orange and/or golden yellow pillows. Toss a quilt or autumn-colored throw over a chair. After you’ve cleared away the clutter and depersonalized each room, bring a little bit of autumn hues to each room by placing bold-colored accent pieces in odd groupings such as 3’s and 5’s. Create an autumn centerpiece for the dining room table by arranging pine cones and nuts around orange candles, stick in a few leaves from the yard.

Turn on the Lights Everywhere

Above all, bring in the light. When days get shorter, the sun sets lower in the horizon and casts wider shadows. Pull up the blinds, open the shutters, push back the drapes on every window. Turn on every light in the house, including appliance lights and closet lights. Brighten darker rooms with few windows by placing spotlights on the floor behind furniture, and for goodness sakes, turn off the TV.


What Advice Would You Give a New Realtor?

November 7, 2018

The National Association of Realtors asked its social media followers “What’s the best advice you would give a new Realtor?” There were many themes that came out of the hundreds of answers they received: Planning, Learning, Attitude, Due Diligence, Communication, and more. I thought the information was really good reminder for our new Realtors, of course. But I also thought it would be good info for you to have as well. After all, you expect a certain level of service and our goal is always to surpass that! Let me know what YOUR advice would be!

On professionalism:

  • Lawyers don’t give law a “try.” Doctors don’t give medicine a “try.” Don’t give real estate a try. You’ve chosen a career, not a job. Conduct yourself accordingly.
  • Act as if your clients can see and hear you by hidden camera at all times.
  • Honest and thorough. You’re only as good as your word.

On learning:

  • Take advantage of networking opportunities and classes and webinars. Get involved in your local association. Above all, listen and follow the habits of experienced, reputable agents and brokers. They are your best teachers.
  • Most agents (including me) hate rentals, but they’re a great way for new agents to learn neighborhoods/markets. You also will be able to familiarize yourself with real estate lingo/language/terms as you handle rental paperwork.
  • Don’t hang with rookie Realtors. Find the agent who’s doing the most deals and hang with them.
  • Find a mentor who understands the importance of technology and the handwritten note!
  • Make education a constant.

On attitude:

  • Surround yourself with knowledgeable, positive Realtors who love to give to help other agents.
  • I say this to all new Realtors: “If you haven’t cried at least once in your first three months, you are not working hard enough.”
  • Smile often; it relaxes others.
  • Forget about getting rich quick.
  • Don’t take anything personally.

On communication:

  • Listen to your client to hear how they really live in their home.
  • Know the answer before they ask the questions.
  • If you have bad news, share it with your clients as soon as you get the information.
  • Use the most impactful and effective language in the least amount of words possible.

On sales and marketing:

  • No matter how busy you are, never stop prospecting for new business or you’ll hit a slump once your current transactions close. It’s called the Realtor roller coaster!
  • Keep your own e-mail address and Web site and market yourself as your brand, not as a national brand. If you ever decide to leave a company, you leave with all your hard work intact!
  • Work hard and prospect every day. Expect a lot of bad leads before you get a good one.
  • Don’t be pushy; it drives clients away.
  • Become friends with all the agents in your office. My first few deals were business that they didn’t want.

On due diligence:

  • The devil is in the details. Dates, dollars, pre-approvals, documents, mortgage follow-up, “may” vs.  “shall,” inspection reports, correct details on listing, all that.
  • Get it in writing!
  • Always go to the building department and pull property cards and check taxes; never go by what’s in the listing!
  • Know your product! Visit homes in the area; preview the types of homes you want to sell.

On planning:

  • Formulate a very comprehensive business plan.
  • Build your business like a company and don’t neglect your personal life. Consistently make time for yourself and loved ones.




The Cottage that Reminded Me Who I am

July 23, 2018

I recently spent time at my family’s little cottage on Indian Lake in Michigan. It’s not fancy — lots of fans to keep us cool, a spotty WIFI, running water and lots of twin and bunk beds. But it’s our gathering spot.

There is a new jet ski, an old fishing boat and the lake is 30 yards from our deck. I hadn’t been back there in about 10 years because (insert whatever excuse any of us use). At any time, we might have had 4-8 people sleeping over and up to 20 people visiting during the day.

We grilled out, made old recipes of my grandmother’s, and reconnected with generations of family and friends — including new generations.

The kids played in the lake during the day until they fell asleep and it was time to go home. The adults took naps and then played card games late into the night.

Memories and laughter filled the cottage as new memories and connections/re-connections were made every moment.

I realized that I had been spending so much time obsessing about where I was going over the past few years that I neglected to realize how important it was to remember from where I had come.  Stories of my ancestors. Lessons about friendship and forgiveness. Being reminded that my parents and grandparents once were kids and once were my age…dealing with life just as I am right now.

The biggest lesson I learned is that if you don’t understand where you came from then you will never understand who you are.


4 Tips to Sell Your House from the Curb

July 16, 2018

So, many home buyers will find a listing and then drive by it before ever making an appointment to view it. They want to see what it really looks like, how they feel when they see it and the vibe it gives off without anyone trying to sell them on it!

So, here are a few important things to consider when thinking about the curb appeal of your home:

  1. Cleanliness: have you power washed your home so it’s not layered with cobwebs and dirt? Cleanliness is next to…well, you know the saying. Make sure exterior windows, doors, siding, etc., are clean!
  2. Landscape: make sure your lawn is always mowed. Plant seasonal flowers and make sure everything is pruned and watered. (Also, adding mulch does amazing things!)
  3. Lighting: not everyone will stop by during the day. The more dramatic you can make your house and landscape look, the better. Lighting is one of the cheapest ways to add night curb drama!
  4. Add paint: if you can’t afford to repaint the entire exterior of your home then repainting your door or accents will help make it look fresh and bright!

If you have any questions about how to make your curb appeal better, just give us a call!