Category Archives: Uncategorized

Help Buyers Decide: New vs. Existing

October 26, 2022Explain both the pros and cons of new-home construction versus existing-home construction.

A picture of a newly constructed house that remains incomplete.

New-home Construction

Pros:

  • Modern floor plan (open space, flex rooms, larger windows)
  • Delayed major maintenance costs (such as roof or HVAC)
  • Lower utility bills as a result of stricter building codes and newer energy-efficient products
  • More upfront personalization Builder warranties on materials, workmanship and structural items

Cons:

  • Higher upfront costs
  • Special financing, such as construction loans, often needed
  • Longer wait times
  • Often farther from amenities, jobs
  • Sparse landscaping

Existing-home Construction

Pros:

  • Lower-priced options available
  • Established neighborhoods
  • Mature landscaping
  • Move-in ready
  • Value add-on potential with remodels and cosmetic updates

Cons:

  • Outdated floor plans
  • More repairs and maintenance
  • Higher utility bills if products and materials are less energy-efficient
  • Less personalized
  • Competition from other buyers

Small Upgrades that Make your Home Sell Faster

If you’re thinking of selling, you’re probably planning to do a few minor improvements to make your property more appealing to buyers. That’s a smart idea.


So, what are the best small improvements to make? Here are a few ideas:


• Cabinet hardware. Upgrading the hardware on kitchen and bathroom cupboard doors and drawers can have a surprising impact on the look of those rooms. The best part is, this improvement is about as DIY-friendly as it gets!
• Cover plates. If you have older light and electrical switches, replacing the cover plates with something more stylish can make a difference. It’s probably the simplest way to give a room a more modern look.
• Countertops. Replacing kitchen or bathroom countertops isn’t cheap. However, it’s substantially less expensive than a full-on kitchen or bathroom renovation. And, new countertops make those rooms look refreshed.
• Kitchen sink and faucet. If your current sink is old and stained, replacing it is a fairly simple improvement that will have a big impact. Also consider updating the faucet to further enhance the look of the space. There are hundreds of styles available.
• Carpeting. Of all the types of flooring, carpets are the easiest and most affordable to replace. New carpets also create a clean and upgraded look. If you have old carpeting on the main floor or stairs, consider replacing it when selling.
• Lights and fixtures. If you have old light fixtures in your home, especially in key areas such as the foyer and kitchen, your lighting may be dim. New fixtures will not only make those spaces more modern-looking and appealing, but the lighting will probably also be better too.

Finally, don’t forget one of the simplest and most effective improvements of them all: painting. A freshly painted room almost always looks more attractive to buyers.

Should your Home be in “Move-In” Condition when you Sell?

Imagine you’re shopping for a car. You find one that’s a suitable model – a recent year and hasn’t been driven a lot. The price is right, too.

But, there’s a caveat.

The paint is worn off in several places. The driver’s seat upholstery is torn and requires repair. And, the tires needed to be replaced… a long time ago. Would you still buy it? You might. However, unless you enjoy fixing up cars, you’d probably hesitate to make the purchase. After all, in addition to seeing the car itself, you’re noticing the work that needs
to be done to fix it.

The same holds true when selling your home.

The more “move-in” ready you make the property the more likely buyers are to become interested in buying it. Like when viewing a car, you want buyers to focus on all your home’s wonderful features, not on the repairs and updates that need to be done.

That being said, how important is it that your home be “move-in ready” when you sell?

That depends, in large part, on the market. If it’s currently a seller’s market in the neighborhood — lots of buyers but comparatively few properties for sale— getting your home move-in ready is less important. There is already high demand for your property. (However, getting all repairs done and staging your property effectively will still provide a significant advantage.)

In a buyer’s market, where there are more homes for sale than buyers, you’re in a competitive situation. So, anything you can do to give your listing an advantage is worth the effort. That includes making it as “move-in” ready as possible.

A side-by-side comparison of a virtually staged living room with floor-to-ceiling windows

Will Virtual Staging Replace Traditionally Staged Rooms?

The business of home staging is under transformation. Though physical staging has long dominated the market, virtual staging is quickly becoming a go-to option, but whether it’s the better option depends on several factors.

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June 8, 2022

by Barbara Ballinger

Key takeaways:

  • Staging helps highlight a home’s space and architecture and appeals to the broadest buyer market.
  • Virtual staging is coming up quickly, offering a lower cost, more flexibility, and a shorter timetable than traditional staging.
  • Help sellers decide which option is best for them by looking at factors like budgets and timetables.

When Barb Schwartz introduced the concept of home staging in 1972, inspired by her background in theater, the idea was novel.

Instead of having buyers view rooms as homeowners had lived in them, salespeople removed any contents—from art to furnishings—that cluttered, dated, or personalized spaces. This purging made it easier to see a home’s architecture and scale. New buyers, it was thought, would have an easier time envisioning themselves in the space.

A bright living room and dining room staged with mid-century furnishings
Traditional staging is a costly but effective way to showcase the architecture and potential of a room.

The concept gained a following, as well as sophistication in process, and led to a profession of trained specialists. With their arsenal of furnishings, baubles, and art, these specialists made a job of staging homes to sell. Sellers usually paid for the service, since many staged listings sold faster and for higher dollars than those not staged.

Staged homes continue to sell well, and the service is in great demand as a result. In the  National Association of REALTORS® 2019 Profile of Home Staging, one-quarter of buyers’ agents said that staging increased the dollar value offered by between 1% and 5%.

When Demand and Competition Increase

Nowadays, staging has become almost de rigueur, and professionals with the skills are experiencing an uptick in business. Professional organizer Amanda Wiss of Brooklyn-based Urban Clarity added staging to her repertoire and has seen her business grow by 80% over the prior year.

A staged kitchen featuring cherrywood cabinets
A traditionally staged kitchen

An increase in the demand for staging also translates into an increase in higher expectations from the clients. To stay relevant in a competitive market, stagers have come to spend more time and money to fashion staged rooms that outdo one another. What’s more, stagers must have a well-rounded and working understanding of what’s necessary to fit a property’s architecture, location, and trending decor. From clean contemporary to mid-century modern, and farmhouse, stagers need to know it all, says Beth Franken, broker-associate with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Chicago, who earned staging credentials from industry trainer ASP.

The increased competition has also spurred stagers to charge more, sometimes 8% to 10% of a listing price, though this varies based on the work involved.

Wiss recently staged a listing in the New York City area with multiple bedrooms and charged in the mid-$20,000 range, and just like when the staging trend originally picked up steam, sellers are still paying for the service.

The Rise of Virtual Staging

Of late, staging has evolved to include the digital realm. Now, rather than physically staging each room in a home, virtual staging allows a company to use a program to map out the home and choose proper furnishings for the space. The increase in the virtual option is due in part to a few factors, including:

  • Advances in technology that produced more realistic results
  • The influx into the marketplace of millennials, who are more comfortable shopping online than any previous generation
  • The pandemic, which made looking at homes online more popular to keep everyone safe

More companies specialize in virtual staging nowadays, allowing salespeople or homeowners to pick from an expanding library of design choices. Want a mid-century modern room with Herman Miller furniture? Check. How about a modern Italian look? No problem.

Close-up photo of a couch with warm-toned pillows and matching window treatments behind

In some cases, stagers digitally remove furnishings or decor like wallpaper. To make it clear to prospective buyers that the space might not look exactly as it does in the virtual staging, however, salespeople attach a “virtual design” disclaimer, so there’s no misunderstanding.

Cost-Friendly and Adaptable

Virtual staging offers flexibility new to the industry. The time saved over using a truckload of furnishings also makes it more sustainable, says Atlanta-based salesperson Christopher Matos-Rogers with Coldwell Banker. The price skews far lower than physical staging, spurring more practitioners to pick up the tab as part of a marketing budget, says Ilaria Barion, founder of Barion Design.

Since 2005, Barion has staged more than 50,000 properties and is focused on the luxury market. She switched from working as a physical to a virtual stager in part because of the specific needs required in the luxury space.

“Unless you’re going to spend a lot of money, the rental furnishings may cheapen a property’s look. The cost of luxury home staging has skyrocketed. It also takes time to assemble the furnishings,” says Barion. The sheer number of people searching for homes online—95% of home shoppers, according to a report from Properties Online—makes virtual staging a useful option.

An empty room with windows and brown built-in bookshelves flanking the windows
Before virtual staging

Also, on the plus side, she’s found that virtual staging allows “you to do amazing things and fast—move in a baby grand piano, for example.” Her company charges per photo, taking into consideration the size of the room. Clients can expect prices from $49 to $399. If furnishings need to be digitally removed from the space, it charges between $20 and $90 per image. Additionally, and unlike in physical staging, Barion’s company typically delivers within a few days.

Thanks to virtual staging, Barion also offers a special custom staging service from scratch. With this service, she offers renderings, and she can offer an express service that’s less expensive for small dwellings.

A room with two queen size beds with white comforters and gold throw blankets, la
After virtual staging

BoxBrownie.com, an Australian digital staging firm that also performs photo edits and redraws floor plans, charges even less—$24 per virtual image with a turnaround of 48 hours for a new design. It will remove images within 24 hours. The firm, the pitch battle winner at NAR’s inaugural Investment, Opportunity & Innovation Summit in 2018, also has a large inventory of photos in different styles, says Tabitha Thomas, general manager.

Some companies work both ways, as does Atlanta-based No Vacancy Staging. The company charges $39 per virtual photo if the salesperson or homeowner opts for self-service. If they seek advice, the cost is $60. It also offers a two-business-day turnaround and can provide an online quote and contract within 15 seconds, says co-founder Krisztina Bell. As different spaces in a home take on greater importance, it stages them, too, such as more outdoor areas, Bell says.

Virtual staging also offers the advantage of presenting variations on the same space to show flexibility. Throughout the pandemic, buyers have wanted to see that a space might function as a home office, classroom, or gym.

Choosing the Right Staging Option

While its popularity trends upward, not everyone’s convinced that virtual staging is always the best choice. Some experts recommend studying a potential hire’s portfolio to see if they offer adequate digital choices and professional quality software and photos that accurately portray dimensions, perspective, and scale, Franken says. “Some images look fake,” Barion says.

Photo of a bedroom with a queen sized bed, large window and chair. The bed is decorated with maroon, white, and beige linens.
Traditionally staged bedroom

Conversely, some digital versions are so persuasive that, after seeing photos online and later entering the home, buyers are disappointed by seeing empty rooms or the seller’s furnishings instead.

“It may initially raise buyers’ expectations and set them up for a let-down when they see rooms in person,” says Kristie Barnett, whose Nashville firm, The Decorologist, runs in-person and online staging seminars through her Expert Psychological Staging firm.

In contrast, she feels that traditional staging makes spaces appear larger and more valuable. “Done properly, it puts the emphasis on the selling points (the architecture) rather than the decor, and helps buyers know how their furnishings will fit by seeing how comparable items look,” she says.

Which route to go may also depend on the age of potential buyers and how they like to shop, says Chicago commercial interior designer Mary Cook of Mary Cook Associates. Cook has merchandised thousands of model homes and apartments for discerning builders and developers of residential properties.

An empty dining room and kitchen
Before virtual staging

“Many millennials are very comfortable shopping for a home or apartment using virtual reality, digital renderings, or virtual walk-through renditions online, and even buying without stepping foot inside. But that’s very different from how many boomers like to purchase. They want to see rooms and furnishings in-person to know what works,” she says.

For example, she cites the repurposing of the Tribune Tower in Chicago, which transformed from offices to condominium residences. “Initially, the developer opened for sales before the model units were complete. Potential buyers were interested, but once furnished models opened, sales quickly accelerated. It made a huge difference for the older age group buying to see how rooms might be used, including turning a massive foyer into a gallery,” she says.

A dining room and kitchen staged with bright furniture and abstract art in gray tones
After virtual staging

Salesperson Franken had a similar experience taking over a condo listing in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. It was virtually staged and sat unsold. Franken decided to use contemporary furnishings she collected to physically stage the home. “I charged the seller $2,700 and dropped the listing price $6,000. It sold within four days,” she says.

But those like Bell of No Vacancy Home Staging say there’s room for both approaches. “Virtual isn’t meant to replace home staging but [to] offer another option. Both have evolved and will continue to do so,” she says.


BONUS: Starting the Conversation

One of the toughest parts of the staging process is starting the conversation with sellers. It’s not easy to ask that they remove all or some of their objects to make space for new furnishings, especially if they’re still living in the space. “Many are still reluctant, and you have to be careful never to say anything that’s insulting or seems a putdown of what they own,” says salesperson Beth Franken.

Staged dining area with full back chairs in cream colors and a white table
Traditionally staged living space

Instead, she suggests using stats and stories to share how staging can help before listing a house. “You can’t put something on the market twice,” Franken says. Staging expert Kristie Barnett agrees. “First impressions are felt, not thought, and take place almost instantaneously when someone enters a property.”

Both also suggest pointing out simple staging ideas that a salesperson or homeowner can do on their own:

  • Get rid of what won’t be moved to the next home.
  • Use hangers that match.
  • Remove about 60% of the items from closets and bookshelves.
  • Declutter glass-fronted cabinets and counters in full view.

“The eye needs to have an uninterrupted take on a room, and too many things, patterns, and colors distract,” Barnett says.

Showing photos of staged homes makes a significant difference, says salesperson Christopher Matos-Rogers. He uses his area MLS to pull up examples of other listings in their neighborhood that demonstrate how much better a well-staged, well-photographed home presents and performs. “Helping people see the difference is everything,” he says.

More ideas to share are in NAR’s 2019 Profile of Home Staging:

  • The median dollar value spent on staging was $400.
  • Twenty-eight percent of sellers’ agents said there were slight decreases in the time on market when a home is staged.
  • All rooms don’t need to be staged, but the most common to stage are the living room, dining room, kitchen, and owner’s bedroom and bath.
Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).

Top 10 Home Security Cameras

Reolink B800 camera

A guide covering today’s security camera options to help choose the best system for you or your clients’ property.

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April 15, 2022 by Brandon Doyle

Home security cameras are a great way to check in on your property, deter criminals, and provide video evidence when needed. The cost and complexity of systems can vary greatly. In this guide, we’ll go over the various security camera types and provide information about some of the popular options available.

Wireless Security Cameras

Wireless security cameras are a great entry point into home security. They allow you to watch a property remotely and are easy to install, but they do have some limitations. There’s often a delay in detecting motion, notifying users, and allowing them to view the camera’s footage, which can be frustrating for the user.

Battery-Powered Security Cameras

Battery-powered cameras rely on passive infrared sensors to conserve battery power. They also only record once motion is detected, which can result in some missing footage. The video is sent wirelessly over your home network and to the cloud. From there, you’re able to view it on your phone or other compatible device.

Knowing what’s available in smart-home technology is a value-add for agents selling new and existing homes. Check out more articles from The Ultimate Smart Home series.

Hardwired and Plug-In Cameras (Wi-Fi Enabled)

There are hardwired and plug-in versions of Wi-Fi cameras available which provides an advantage over having to recharge batteries. Footage can be typically viewed from an app on your phone, and it’s either stored in the cloud or backed up locally on a hub or micro-SD card. With some camera systems, you’re able to record 24/7, though a subscription may be needed.

Fully Wired Cameras

Fully wired cameras, such as those powered over ethernet, can store the footage on a local hard drive called an NVR. The footage can still be accessed from an app or computer, but it can also be viewed directly on the device by adding a monitor. Advanced smart homes can use the video feed from the NVR to bring up the live feed on any TV in the house.

Many security cameras come with features including detection zones, which limit notifications and recording to only designated areas within a shot—avoiding the street, sidewalk, or even movement within trees that could set some cameras off. Advanced systems can use artificial intelligence to determine if the movement is from a person, animal, or vehicle. These features typically require the camera to have a constant source of power and may require a subscription.https://www.youtube.com/embed/QqKu27RHM1w?enablejsapi=1

Ring 

Price: $200
Subscription/Storage: A subscription for one camera is $3 per month or $30 for one year; a subscription for all cameras at one house is $10 per month or $100 a year. The subscription includes cloud-based video storage of up to 60 days.
Video quality: Up to 4K
Ecosystem: Amazon smart devices, such as Echo and Fire TV, and “Works with Ring”–compatible devices.
Battery or hardwired: Multiple options for both
Installation: Easy
Detection: Hardwired versions have detection zones whereas battery versions adjust based

Nest

Price: $180
Subscription/Storage: Nest Aware is $6 a month or $60 a year and provides 30 days of event video history. Nest Aware Plus is $12 a month or $120 a year for 60 days of event video history and 10 days of 24/7 history.
Video quality: Up to 4K
Ecosystem: Google only
Battery or hardwired: Both available
Installation: Easy
Detection: Can identify people and packages, including “familiar faces” with Nest Aware subscription.

Arlo

Price: A single camera runs about $100; packages with a base station start at around $475.
Subscription/Storage: Local storage available via Hub; to access cloud storage and advanced features, Arlo Smart subscription is required. The Premier Plan is $3 per month for one camera or $10 a month for up to 5 cameras, with up to 2k quality and 30 days of video history. The Elite Plan is $5 a month for one camera or $15 per month for up to five cameras, with up to 4k quality and 30 days of video history. Continuous video recording is available for an additional fee.
Video quality: Up to 4K
Ecosystem: Arlo App, Amazon Alexa, & Google Assistant
Battery or hardwired: Both available
Installation: Easy
Detection: Smart Detect can identify people, animals, vehicles & packages.

Eufy

Price: A single camera costs about $100; packages with a base station start at $200.
Subscription/Storage: No monthly fees for local storage on Eury’s Homebase device, which comes with 16 GB of memory to offer approximately 180 days of storage. Cloud storage requires a subscription, which starts at $3 per month or $30 per year per device with 30 days of cloud storage. Otherwise, the fee is $10 a month or $100 per year for up to 10 cameras with 30 days of cloud storage.
Video quality: Up to 4K
Ecosystem: Eufy, Alexa, and Google Assistant
Battery or hardwired: Both available
Installation: Easy
Detection: Activity zones and facial snapshot notifications

Wyze

Price: Version 3 is about $30
Subscription/Storage: 12-second clips are saved for free to the cloud for 14 days and locally to a card in the micro SD slot.
Video quality: 1080p
Ecosystem: Wyze app
Battery or hardwired: Both available
Installation: Easy
Detection: Custom detection zones; person and package detection available with CamPlus

Abode

Price: Cam 2 will be $35 but is currently available to preorder for $30; an outdoor cam is $159.99 and can be used as a doorbell; it is weatherproof and has motion detection, unlike Cam 2.
Subscription/Storage: Standard package is 20 cents per day or $6 per month, which includes seven days of activity. A professional package is 66 cents per day or $19.80/month, which includes 30 days of storage and person detection.
Video quality: 1080p at 30 fps
Ecosystem: Abode app, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant
Battery or hardwired: Plug-in
Installation: Easy
Detection: Activity zones, person detection included with pro plan, preview on notification

Swann

Price: Wi-Fi cameras start at $180, and a 4K NVR kit with four cameras starts at $650
Subscription/Storage: Free cloud storage is provided for 24 hours and local storage for 60 days available with Secure+ plan for $4.99/month
Video quality: 1080p or 4k
Ecosystem: Swann app
Battery or hardwired: Battery, plug-in, or power over ethernet
Installation: Wi-Fi system is easy to set up; NVR requires ethernet cables to run.
Detection: Zones and identification

Reolink

Price: Battery cameras start at $110; wired cameras start at $55, and power over ethernet cameras cost about $100 each. A kit with 4 cameras and a 4K NVR unit is around $470.
Subscription/Storage: Free seven-day storage for one camera and 6.99 per month for 30 days of storage for up to 10 cameras.
Video quality: 1080p and 4K options available
Ecosystem: Reolink app
Battery or hardwired: Battery, plug-in, and PoE options available
Installation: Wi-Fi system is easy to set up; NVR requires ethernet cables to run.
Detection: Adjustable zones

Toucan

Price: $109.95 on website, but discounted elsewhere
Subscription/Storage: Free 24-hour cloud storage, 7 days for $2.99/month, or 90 days for $9.99
Video quality: 1080p
Ecosystem: Toucan app, works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
Battery or hardwired: Battery
Installation: Had connectivity issues
Detection: Customizable detection zones

Nooie

Price: $59.99
Subscription/Storage: Locally on micro SD card with cloud storage available: 7 days costs $1/month, 30 days costs $3/month, Continuous recording is available when plugged in.
Video quality: 1080p
Ecosystem: Nooie app, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant
Battery or hardwired: Plug-in
Installation: Easy
Detection: Customizable sensitivity

My Top Picks

Best Overall

My overall recommendation is a Reolink NVR system that uses PoE cameras. The app is easy to use and the base unit stores 24 hours of footage locally. If you’re not willing or able to run ethernet cables to the camera locations, Eufy is a great affordable route with a lot of features that work wirelessly.

Best Budget Option

Wyze Cam is a great budget option to check in on your property or pets, but we would not recommend it for primary security due to the short clips that may miss key moments.

Best If You Already Have a Security System

If you’re already paying for a subscription to Ring, Nest, Arlo, or Abode, adding additional cameras within those ecosystems makes a lot of sense. There is no reason to pay for two subscriptions and it will be nice to be able to access everything within one app.

Whenever possible, be sure to install cameras in a location with a constant power source. That way you do not need to worry about recharging batteries, and you will be able to access all the system’s features. The current best practice is to install cameras that are powered over ethernet and connected to an NVR.


Brandon Doyle

Brandon Doyle

Brandon Doyle, ABR, e-PRO, is a second-generation real estate pro with RE/MAX Results in the Twin Cities. He is also coauthor of the book M3—Mindset, Methods & Metrics: Winning as a Modern Real Estate Agent. Learn more about Doyle at www.doylerealestateteam.com.

Home Organization That’s Easy to Maintain

A Murphy bed along a wall can turn a guest bedroom into flex space for other uses.

Home Organization That’s Easy to Maintain

Share these tips with your clients to help them take a deep dive into decluttering and storage for greater efficiency and enjoyment of their abode.

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March 14, 2022 by Barbara Ballinger

Key Takeaways:

  • The first step is to get rid of what’s not needed.
  • Homeowners should choose a space accessible for what’s used regularly.
  • Storage that’s in sight should fit the decor. Out of sight storage should have visible labels for access.

Bookcase on top with onion and potato storage below.
Bookcase on top with onion and potato storage below.

Having a well-organized house that functions for everyday living takes time to achieve. It requires putting in the time and having the right supplies for storage that allows for a harmonious aesthetic.

Whether it’s holiday decorations, winter clothing, legal documents, or children’s toys, storage that’s out of the way yet easy to access is an important system for the home. This helps owners avoid exhaustive hunts for items and feel more at ease in their space.

“When there’s a home for things, people tend to put them back rather than pile them on the counter, far from where needed, or on the floor,” says Raleigh, N.C., designer Leslie Cohen.

The goal should be to keep belongings so organized that a room’s contents add to rather than complicate daily living.

When the pandemic hit, and everyone was at home 24/7, even well-organized homeowners needed additional help. “I got calls for turning dining room tables to desks and areas for kids to do homework or Zoom classes,” says Santa Monica, Calif.–based certified professional organizer Cary Prince.

Extra storage above and below windows with creative use of shelving.
Extra storage above and below windows with creative use of shelving.

The good news is that there’s a growing cadre of support—members of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing, books, YouTube videos, and shows like Netflix’s “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” Piecing together organizational hacks from several sources is worthwhile, and it can all be done in a way that enhances rather than detracts from decor due to an expanding assortment of attractive containers, bins, baskets, and file drawers. Prince has found that attractive storage containers are key.

“Visual clutter is what drives everybody crazy,” she says.

Besides saving time, removing frustration, and creating more usable space, there’s yet another benefit to home organization. Homeowners who decide to sell will find they need less time to ready their homes before listing.

Here are six steps that organization pundits say can help.

Kitchen pantry with attractive organizational containers.
Kitchen pantry with attractive organizational containers.

1. Declutter.

To get and stay organized, many follow Marie Kondo’s “KonMari” method of decluttering a home, which caught fire after she published her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Her advice is to keep only possessions that spark joy and discard the rest rather than store them. A big part of that advice is to consider how much something is used.

“Do you really need five whisks and 10 spatulas?” asks Prince. “Curate your home like a museum might do by keeping the best and getting rid of the rest.”

Forewarn homeowners that this step takes time because it requires careful sorting of closets, drawers, cabinets, boxes, bins, and file cabinets. Instead of just giving things a heave-ho, homeowners might donate to community groups like the Buy Nothing Project or to a local thrift shop. Caution them to call places first. Due to the pandemic, many organizations are over capacity and might be accepting more items at this time, or they may limit the types of goods they accept.

Modern entertainment center with shelves.
Modern entertainment center with shelves.

2. Seek help.

Many agents are skilled in organizational advice. However, you may want to refer clients to a specialist, especially if they need a lot of help. Members of NAPO, stagers, designers, and even cabinet manufacturers have creative ideas for storage. For example, a homeowner might want to get rid of an old entertainment unit that looks dated and detracts from a room’s decor, but they need suggestions on how to replace it with modern storage.

Experts know all about finding furnishings that offer dual functions, often with inconspicuous storage, says Houston-based real estate salesperson Maya Peterson of Better.com. These include benches and ottomans, custom sofas with deep drawers underneath, or custom bed platforms with drawers around the frame.

3. Improve available space.

Many homeowners think they need to add square footage to create added storage, but they might not be maximizing what they already have, Cohen says. She advocates for fashioning a better pantry or adding custom storage in a dead corner. These types of makeovers are less costly and time-consuming than building from scratch. One such hack that sparked interest during the pandemic was to construct a home office in an extra closet, says Charlotte, N.C., designer Laura Van Sickle, owner of a Closets by Design franchise. In Texas, many make use of floored attic space, termed a “Texas basement,” since most homes there don’t have basements, says Peterson.

Create additional storage with by going vertical.
Create additional storage by going vertical.

Other ways to find space and even make rooms look bigger is to go up, out, and under. Going vertical is smart in many garages, attics, and basements by using pegboards, hooks, and shelves. Homeowners can use a library ladder to reach books and other items high up or add a second rod in a closet, says Prince. A Murphy bed along a wall can turn a guest bedroom into flex space for other uses, says Marco Angelucci, design director at Philadelphia-based Marguerite Rodgers.

For homeowners who add horizontal shelves, Van Sickle recommends not extending them more than 14 inches so items don’t get hidden behind other objects.

Homeowners can also carve out new space beneath a staircase or take advantage of existing space under a window seat or bed. Paul Moody, an interior design and home expert with Pro Mover Reviews, says that under-bed storage is a convenient place to keep bedsheets in flat plastic boxes. But Nashville organizer Cynthia Lindsey-Goodman of Its Arranged, also a salesperson with Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty, warns that storage there tends to collect dust.

MasterBrand kitchen cabinets in Foxhall Green.
MasterBrand kitchen cabinets in Foxhall Green.

Some places should be used with caution, such as hot or cold attics or potentially wet basements. Besides weather, insects and animals may get into storage that’s not been well-sealed, says Lindsey-Goodman. Even clear containers should be labeled, and homeowners are wise to make a list on their computer of what’s where in case they forget or others need access.

4. The benefit of zones.

Organizational experts agree that the best place to store items is near where they’re needed. In some rooms that may mean setting up zones, such as for baking or food prep in a kitchen, says Lindsey-Goodman. Zones can also be set up in spaces like an attic, garage, or basement for what’s not needed as often. Garden tools might go in one area, old paint cans in another, and sports balls in yet a third.

5. Make storage visible and attractive.

While it sounds like a simple rule to follow, many homeowners fail at making storage attractive because they don’t have the right containers, drawers, or cabinets. This can be especially true with clothing. The advantage of a neat, visible system is that it can help homeowners dress faster. For example, Van Sickle likes to roll t-shirts and yoga pants in drawers to grab and go rather than stack them in a pile.

Drawer with pegs to organize dishes.
Drawer with pegs to organize dishes.

These days, companies like The Container Store, Ikea, and Target make it easy by offering myriad affordable options in rustic, clear plastic, acrylic, wood, and other materials to fit in with decor. Built-ins or freestanding furnishings should suit a room’s style, too. When done well, they can create a handsome backdrop for Zoom calls, says Van Sickle, who favors classic white, gray, and taupe hues. But pops of color can also be stylish such as glossy black shelves against a white wall, says architect Giuroiu Anton, CEO at Architecture Lab.

Lindsey-Goodman has found that built-ins can add value to a home, but some spaces don’t call for the expense. Generally, she suggests deciding based on how many years a homeowner will stay. If fewer than five years, she suggests portable furniture that can move with them.

Within the cabinets and drawers, design experts recommend internal organizers. “The inside of cabinets has dramatically changed,” says Mitchell Parker, senior editor at Houzz, a design and remodeling resource. What’s available includes options like inserts and drawer dividers, holders for plates, spices, and cookie sheets, and pull-out waste and recycling baskets.

6. Keep it flexible.

Large storage cabinets in laundry room.
Large storage cabinets in a laundry room.

Prince advocates thinking of organization systems like planting and caring for a garden. “Everything planted needs care and watering over time,” she says.

By making systems flexible, it’s easier and less costly to adjust when changes arise. Good examples are shelves that can be moved up and down, using brackets rather than those fixed in place, and pegboards with hooks that are easy to move, Van Sickle says.

A well-organized home can give a house an edge for resale. “Houses may be moving fast, but homes that are decluttered and well taken care of—where people can see the house and not all the stuff—will go faster,” Lindsey-Goodman says.

Ample kitchen storage in an open floorplan home.
Ample kitchen storage in an open floor plan home.

BONUS: Storage in the Kitchen

Cabinets with roll out shelves for efficiency easy access.
Cabinets with rollout shelves for efficiency and easy access.

Among the toughest rooms to organize is the kitchen because it has so many items often used, and it also doubles as a workspace for many people working from home. Jasper, Ind.,-based MasterBrand Cabinets, one of the country’s largest manufacturers, and J.T. Norman, in charge of business development, product design, and innovation at Kitchen Magic in Nazareth, Penn., offer these tips for keeping the room organized and looking its best:

  • Drawers rather than doors on base cabinets offer the same amount of storage but with greater accessibility, especially when rollout trays are incorporated.
  • Big walk-in pantries have become akin to small general stores with space for canned goods, utensils, pots and pans, small appliances, and sometimes even a sink, says Norman.
  • Panel-ready appliance fronts provide a sleek, cohesive look, which can mimic cabinet fronts and blend with cabinetry in adjoining rooms, sometimes part of an open plan layout.
  • Floating shelves permit quick access to items and a way to personalize a kitchen. But don’t eliminate all upper cabinets, since they can keep things out of view to help the room look neater.
Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor 

The Impact of Russia-Ukraine Tensions on the U.S. Housing Market

March 7, 2022International Real EstateBy: Scholastica (Gay) CororatonPlease note: The Tableau data visualization embeds in this post are best viewed on a laptop or desktop computer.

Any decline in international real estate transactions will have little direct impact on the U.S. housing market. Russian foreign buyers account for less than 1% of foreign buyer purchases, and overall, foreign buyers account for about 2% of existing-home sales, according to NAR’s 2021 International Transactions in U.S. Residential Real Estate Report. Moreover, the decline in foreign demand will ease supply constraints for domestic buyers. And in the short-term, with escalating geopolitical tension, the U.S. Treasury Note and the 30-year mortgage rate may not move in lockstep with the federal funds rate as investors reallocate their portfolios toward U.S. Treasuries, as happened last week when the 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell to 3.76%. However, should oil prices be sustained above the $100/barrel level, the deeper effects of higher inflation, bigger future interest rate adjustments, weaker global currencies relative to the U.S., and slower global growth creates significant downside risks to the housing market.

Russia: less than 1% of foreign buyers

Russia has little direct impact on the U.S. real estate market as it accounted for less than 1% (0.8%) of all foreign buyers who purchased U.S. residential property during April 2015–March 2021, according to data from NAR’s survey of foreign buyer transactions of its members with about 5,000 respondents. Moreover, total foreign buyer purchases account for just 1.8% of total existing-home sales.

According to the NAR survey, Russian foreign buyers purchased properties during April 2015–March 2021 in Florida (29%), Georgia (16%), New York (13%), California (8%), and Illinois (5%).https://public.tableau.com/views/Russianforeignbuyers/Dashboard1?:embed=y&:showVizHome=no&:host_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableau.com%2F&:embed_code_version=3&:tabs=no&:toolbar=yes&:animate_transition=yes&:display_static_image=yes&:display_spinner=no&:display_overlay=yes&:display_count=yes&:language=en-US&publish=yes&:loadOrderID=0

Even in Florida, which had the most Russian purchases, they account for just 0.2% of Florida’s total market during July 2020-June 2021, according to NAR’s and Florida REALTORS® Profile of International Residential Real Estate Activity in Florida. Florida’s major foreign buyers are Canadians, Latin Americans (Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, and Chile), and Western Europeans (United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy). Russian buyers were more active in Bradenton-Sarasota, accounting for 6% of foreign buyer purchases in that area during July 2020-June 2021. However, Bradenton-Sarasota accounts for just 4% of Florida’s foreign buyers, so total Russian purchases just made up 0.2% of the Florida market.

Russian foreign buyer statistics

According to NAR’s surveys, 41% of Russian foreign buyers who purchased residential property lived abroad, and the majority already lived in the U.S. as visa holders (e.g., for work, as diplomats, students) when they purchased the property. This is about the same share as all U.S. foreign buyers. Because a majority of Russian foreign buyers reside in the U.S., 54%, purchased the property for use as a primary residence, and only 36% purchased the property for vacation use or to rent out. Slightly more than half of Russian foreign buyer purchases were all-cash, and this is more likely of foreign buyers who lived abroad. Those who obtained mortgage financing are the buyers who reside in the United States and live here. However, there appears to be a preference for condos among Russian buyers, with 26% purchasing condos, compared to 17% among all foreign buyers. Foreign buyers who live abroad tend to purchase condos, based on the characteristics of all foreign buyers. So, Russians living abroad may have difficulty making payments on their condo fees, but the overall impact on the condominium market will be small given the small share of Russian buyers to the housing market.https://public.tableau.com/views/Russianforeignbuyers/Dashboard12?:embed=y&:showVizHome=no&:host_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableau.com%2F&:embed_code_version=3&:tabs=no&:toolbar=yes&:animate_transition=yes&:display_static_image=yes&:display_spinner=no&:display_overlay=yes&:display_count=yes&:language=en-US&publish=yes&:loadOrderID=1

The median purchase price among Russian buyers was $325,000, just slightly higher than the median purchase price among all U.S. foreign buyers of $303,200. However, the average purchase price among Russian buyers was $652,915, compared to $480,695 among all foreign buyers, suggesting there were more high-end Russian buyers.https://public.tableau.com/views/Russianforeignbuyers/Dashboard13?:embed=y&:showVizHome=no&:host_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableau.com%2F&:embed_code_version=3&:tabs=no&:toolbar=yes&:animate_transition=yes&:display_static_image=yes&:display_spinner=no&:display_overlay=yes&:display_count=yes&:language=en-US&publish=yes&:loadOrderID=2

Canada, Brazilian, and Mexican foreign buyers less likely to be impacted than China and Europe

During April 2015 – March 2021, China, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France accounted for nearly 20% of U.S. foreign buyers. Canada accounted for 11% of U.S. foreign buyers, while Mexico and Brazil accounted for 11%.https://public.tableau.com/views/Russianforeignbuyers/Dashboard14?:embed=y&:showVizHome=no&:host_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableau.com%2F&:embed_code_version=3&:tabs=no&:toolbar=yes&:animate_transition=yes&:display_static_image=yes&:display_spinner=no&:display_overlay=yes&:display_count=yes&:language=en-US&publish=yes&:loadOrderID=3

With two-thirds of Europe’s crude imports and 41% of EU’s natural gas coming from Russia[1], the Western European economies face a looming energy crisis (i.e., a shortage of natural gas and high prices).

Meanwhile, China may also be impacted because of higher prices for wheat, corn, and sunflower oil, as it is the second largest country that Ukraine exports to. China and Europe account for nearly 20% of U.S. foreign buyers.[2]

On the other hand, net oil producers like Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia won’t be as hard hit by a protracted Russia-Ukraine political crisis.

Texas, North Dakota, and oil-producing states face growth upside

In the United States, the economies of oil-producing states face upside growth prospects as oil production is increased to beef up global supply: Texas, which produces 43% of U.S. crude oil, as well as the states of North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Alaska, and Wyoming. More employment in these states will increase the demand for housing and push up home prices in these markets.https://public.tableau.com/views/Crudeoilproducersstate/Dashboard1?:embed=y&:showVizHome=no&:host_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableau.com%2F&:embed_code_version=3&:tabs=no&:toolbar=yes&:animate_transition=yes&:display_static_image=yes&:display_spinner=no&:display_overlay=yes&:display_count=yes&:language=en-US&publish=yes&:loadOrderID=4


[1] Eurostat, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/cache/infographs/energy/bloc-2c.html(link is external)

[2] International Transactions in U.S. Residential Real Estate, https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/interna…

Gay Cororaton, Senior Economist and the Director of Housing & Commercial Research, NAR

Scholastica (Gay) Cororaton

Research EconomistScholastica Gay Cororaton is the Research Economist for the National Association of REALTORS®.

Picture of an off-white colored home from the sidewalk, with a large front yard and a white picket fence in the foreground.

Best Paint Colors for Selling in 2022

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February 3, 2022

Greens may dominate paint firms’ lists of the hottest color of the year, but neutral colors still reign for the largest buyer pool. Eighty-one percent of interior design experts recently surveyed say whites and creams are the best colors to use when selling a house in 2022, according to the Paint & Color Trends 2022 Report conducted by Fixr, a home improvement resource.

“Whites and creams make a neutral, clean, fresh backdrop for many rooms,” according to the report. “You can still include color in your textiles if you want to add personality to the space, but it can make it easier for prospective buyers to see their own furnishings in a space when looking at a white or light-colored wall.”

A group of six images of living rooms painted and decorated in neutral colors.

On the exterior of homes for sale, white is the most frequently recommended color for the second consecutive year, according to Fixr. White received 58% of the vote from designers this year. Off-white also has increased in popularity, nabbing 41% in this year’s survey.

“White and off-white can both make a home look fresh, clean, and new regardless of age,” the study says. “These colors have nearly universal appeal, helping improve the curb appeal of a home and making it more likely to sell in a timely way.”

A group of six images of home exteriors showing the most popular colors for the outside of a house.

Source: “Paint & Color Trends 2022,” Fixr.com (2022)

I-Beam fixture designed by Mick De Giulio

What’s Trending in Kitchens for 2022?

The kitchen is the heart of the house where everyone congregated during the pandemic, and it’s still the go-to room for multiple functions—that means it keeps changing.

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December 10, 2021 by Barbara Ballinger

Key Takeaways:

  • White still reigns but color shows up in cabinetry, appliances, and countertops.
  • Lighting is now in layers rather than a trio of pendants above an island.
  • Steam ovens are the hottest new appliance.

The kitchen became an even more significant heart of the home during the pandemic as the focal point for gathering, working, entertaining, and, of course, cooking, says Joe Fava, CEO of Fava Design Group in Miami. Now, homeowners are putting more into their kitchen space—literally. They’re buying larger refrigerators, freezers, and sinks, and second dishwashers and ovens, he says.

Homeowners are entertaining and cooking even more at home, and the price tag reflects their exuberance. Those who can afford to do so spend upwards of $100,000 on kitchen upgrades. But your clients don’t have to pay that much to get a kitchen they love. Much smaller, less costly improvements can make any kitchen more appealing. Here’s how.

Moss green kitchen cabinets

Think color. Kitchen colors are changing. Although white cabinets remain the most popular choice, according to the Houzz design site, the trend is moving toward additional color and warmth to give the room more personalized, says designer Kristie Barnett of The Decorologist in Nashville. Medium green cabinetry is becoming popular, as well as dramatic quartzite countertops and backsplashes. Some reflect hues as vivid as purple, says Fava.

The use of green is part of a bigger trend dubbed “forest bathing,” which means being surrounded by natural materials and spending time among nature to calm oneself, which the Japanese call shinrin-voku. If you can’t walk in a forest, some say bringing the colors in can help destress. The nature-inspired shades and textures are turning up in unexpected places like cabinetry, appliances, and hoods, says J.T. Norman with Kitchen Magic in Nazareth, Pa. For example, Fulgor Milano’s “Sofia” professional range door color kits offer six matte and glossy hues.

Kitchen with wood veneer cabinets

Think wood. In addition to color, wood veneers are also in vogue as part of the forest bathing trend, says Fava. “Clients come to us with an interest in a warmer aesthetic of a wood veneer in anigre, an exotic wood, or sometimes a lighter wood color.” The younger generation is more interested in sustainable materials and designs than older clientele, he says. Because of the wood veneers, some cabinets no longer require hardware and depend on a touch latch to open and a button to close. But for those cabinets that use hardware, they’re showing up in a variety of metals: gold, champagne, matte black, and rubbed oil bronze. Norman is seeing more greiges or warm brown and taupe tones returning as part of this outdoor vibe.

Multi-layered kitchen lighting

Light in layers. With advancements in LED technology, new lighting options continue to roll out, according to kitchen designer Mick De Giulio of de Giulio Kitchen Design in Chicago. “You can now incorporate small, beautiful lights in colors that range from 2700 to 3000 Kelvin—warm to cool—and layer different effects throughout any room,” he says. In a kitchen, De Giulio likes to use lighting to outline a room’s features—floor toe kicks, cabinets, backsplashes. For more decorative purposes, he may add wall sconces or a linear fixture above a kitchen island. Recessed cans have gone out of style because they make a ceiling look cluttered.

Consider simpler but varied cabinets. Cabinetry is going in a few different directions. Some are taking cues from European-inspired design. Elmwood recently introduced a collection called “Renaissance” that offers a choice of metallic paint hues in gold, silver, copper, all inspired by the continent’s great palaces. Simpler, more modern is also in, which means less maintenance is needed, says Norman.

Kitchen with a mix of cabinets and metallic accents

Architect Eddie Maestri of Maestri Studio agrees and sees fewer Shaker boxes and more taupe-gray color of the wood and other colors if the kitchen is traditional. In his own kitchen, he used brass for upper cabinet doors and black walnut for lower ones.

Cook healthier and smarter. Some homeowners consider a steam oven today’s “it” appliance choice because allows for healthy cooking. Fulgor Milano’s 30-inch model allows optimal vitamin retention and flavor and works as a steam, convection, and combi-steam cooking unit. Smart appliances that can be paired with a smartphone via download apps are also desirable among homeowners. Smart refrigerators, for example, alert homeowners when they’re low on items so groceries can be ordered. Smart ovens can be turned on via an app to preheat even when homeowners aren’t home, says Norman.

Try larger flooring tiles. Fava is using more large-format porcelain tiles in the kitchen today—as big as 30 by 60 inches instead of plank styles, which, he says, “have seen their day.” Norman also likes larger tiles but in luxury vinyl that better mimics wood. Maestri steers clear of hardwoods and prefers “statement” tile in concrete, depending on the house, he says.

Read More: 13 Home Trends Stealing the Spotlight in 2022

Go seamless with the backsplash and countertop. The same material is being used for both areas to offer a less choppy, seamless look, says Norman. He favors quartz. Maestri likes this approach, too, or using two similar designs in quartzite, marble, or certain granites.

A kitchen with two islands

Double the island. One island is considered great, but now two are twice as good (if there’s room). “It’s a twin to the existing island,” says Norman, whose clients are willing to take down a wall to make it feasible. Instead of using the same island, Maestri might include a design that resembles furniture, which can also function as a barrier between a less open kitchen and adjoining living space.

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).