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Thursday, January 18, 2018

8 things to consider about your front door

I was looking for inspiration for a post and saw an interesting picture of a wall of doors.   For some reason the quote, "The eye is the window to the soul" popped into my memory.   Sounded like Shakespeare to me, so I was surprised to to find out it was actually Proverbs 30:17. 

I'm digressing.  

Why the quote?  Just as the eye is the window to the soul, the front door is the window to the soul of the home.  A front door is incredibly revealing and tells us a lot about who and what are inside.  When I am out touring to look at homes, I always pay close attention to the entry. 

Some things to consider...

1. Where is the front door?
Have you ever been to a house and you're not sure where the front door is?   The driveway leads to the garage, but there is no sidewalk.   Or perhaps, there are two doors
in front and it's unclear which one to enter.   I think the front entry needs to be clear to everyone.  It gives the house a presence.  
2. What color is the front door?
The color of the door tells me something about the residents of the house.   A muted color gets lost.   I love to see doors with a contrasting color.  It makes the door stand out.  
3. How easy is it to lock and unlock the front door?
So many of us enter the house through the backdoor or through the garage, that we rarely pay much attention to our front doors.   One of the little frustrations for agents -- and this happens more than you think -- sellers have the lost the keys to their front door, or the lock gets stuck or the door doesn't open easily.  From time to time, check out your front door.  Use a little WD-40 or put in new locks.  
4. What does the hardware look like on the front door?
The front door is one of the first impressions buyers observe about a house.   Does the hardware match the house?  A contemporary house needs contemporary hardware!  Is the hardware in good shape, clean and in good working order?   I've been to homes where the door knob is actually falling off! 
5. What's around the front door?
Is it clean or are there cobwebs?   Is it well lit with sparkling light fixtures?  Is there any staging like flowers or a bench?  Is it inviting?   Does the doorbell work and is it clearly seen?  
6. Is the front door well lit at night?

Is the light strong enough to see the stairs, etc.   Is the pathway marked, clear and approachable?
7. How safe are the stairs and railings up to the front door?
Again, this is something I have personally experienced.   I've actually fallen at a couple of homes -- the stairs were uneven, steep or in disrepair.   One house didn't have a railing and I slipped on the ice and fell down the stairs.   It's really important for homeowners to make sure that any steps or stairs leading to a front door are safe and easy to navigate.  It's a huge turnoff for buyers when they see that they need to fix the front stoop -- even before they have seen the inside of the house!
8. Does the door match the house?
Maybe this is a personal pet peeve, but I really don't like it when the doors don't match the style of the house.   A Tudor-styled home just shouldn't have a contemporary door.  It's like wearing sneakers with a ballgown!
I keep a Pinterest Board on Doors - it always provides me with some inspiration.

Buying or selling?  What does the front door tell you?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

No matter what you read about putting one's house on the market, the first instruction given is to


  1. noun
  1. 1.
    a collection of things lying about in an untidy mass.

    "the attic is full of clutter"

We don’t all define clutter the same way.  The above definition would suggest it could be anything lying about.  But I think an even better definition is  

clut·ter: “stuff” that distracts potential home buyers.   

Clutter gets in the way of potential buyers seeing the bones and the beauty of the home.  We all have clutter and sometimes it is disguised as prized family heirlooms or our children's amazing art projects.  

Here are a few items that become clutter once the home is for sale:

  • Family photos bunched together on a table or wall
  • Grandma's prized teapot
  • Refrigerator magnets holding up sports schedules, doctor's business cards and pictures of grandchildren
  • School calendars
  • Fake plants and flower arrangements
  • Book shelves overflowing with too many books
  • A piece of furniture that blocks a window or door -- or simply too much furniture in a room
  • Too many table cloths, doilies and draping window treatments 
  • Bath mats and throw rugs
  • Too many chairs around a table
  • Oversized furniture
  • Collections (dolls, paperweights, stuffed animals, wooden ducks, canes.... you name it and we've seen it)
  • Posters of Anthony Rizzo or Patrick Kane
  • Heads of animals that have been mounted -- ugh
You get the idea.   

How we live in a home and what we treasure is extremely personal.  The things we treasure can represent precious memories and important people.  They can even define who we are.  

But selling one's home is no longer a personal matter - it's business.   It's important to remember that too much personalization takes away from the effectiveness of marketing of a property.  

Sellers: edit, edit, edit.  Less is more and making the space look larger can be achieved by having less furniture and "stuff" in a room.   Caution:  I once saw a home where they de-cluttered to a point that the room was sterile and uninviting.   I think a few family pictures here and there are OK.  A nice houseplant or fresh flowers are wonderful.  

If you need help with this task, there are some wonderful stagers and organizers in our area.   My personal go-to folks are The Organizing Girls from Libertyville.  They are great.  

So, thinking about selling?  Start de-cluttering. 

Put away or better yet, start to pack up your stuff now.   That way, it will be all ready to be moved to your next home!

Monday, January 1, 2018

How's the Market? End of Year Recap for 2017

Happy New Year! 2017 was certainly a year to remember.   I hope your 2017 was a year of blessings and much happiness.  

I had a wonderful year both personally and professionally.  It was a great year with my business as I end it on an upbeat note by moving to @properties in Lake Forest.  And personally, it was also great fun with my cross-country trip on Route 66.  
That said, events in the world seem to be a bit more uneasy with challenging weather conditions and unpredictable national leaders.  This article highlights many of these events,  Biggest Housing Stories 2017: The News That Rocked the Real Estate World.  

Probably the one story that will impact us most is the recent passage of the modifications to the tax code.   What does it mean to us?  The Trib outlined some of the impact to residents in How the tax bill impacts homeowners, buyers and sellers
While all real estate is local, we’re not immune from world events so it makes for interesting conditions coming into 2018.
Once again, I am writing my end of the year recap for our local housing market on the North Shore ...These charts present data as of January 1, 2018.  (Just a caution: sellers often take their homes off the market in December, so inventory levels are generally lower during the winter months and start to go back up in the Spring. These numbers are absolute and not seasonally adjusted to reflect this reality.)
(To see a chart more clearly, click on each one to enlarge.)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Year in Review

As a blogger, I like to see what people enjoy reading.   It's always a bit of hit and miss -- I'm often surprised at things people love versus the posts that have little readership.  I thought I would do a scan on the stats and highlight my top posts for the year!

10. Without helmets - my take on how buyers and buyer values have changed

 9.  Rocking the Ages, redeux - an update to my 2014 generational series, Rocking the Ages

 8.  What's your type?  Which broker works for you?

 7.   Several of the Green Tips posts ranked very high, specifically, Valentine tips for the eco-friendly, One People - One Planet, and Hot Products for the Luxury Green Home .

 6.  My life in Real Estate: Remodeling

 5.  On to the Next Chapter - notes to the Baby Boomers

 4.  Financially Savvy Home Improvements

 3. Demonization - I always like to think win-win!

 2. Disclose, Disclose, Disclose.   My words of advice to sellers!

 1. The Rules and The Rules Continued.   I got more positive feedback from these posts than from any others that I have written in the last five years.   The affirmative response was heartening!

And the Grand Winner is always my annual biggest hit, 
How's the Market? End of Year Recap for 2016

Stay tuned.   I'll be getting you my end of the year recap for 2017 within the next week!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

There's no place like home for the holidays...

During a couple times in my life, I had the opportunity to be away from home at Christmastime.  I found the experience rather interesting, because I saw how other people decorated their homes for the holidays as well as other traditions that were local to the area.  While there are a few similarities, there were also some interesting differences.

For example, it was in the Tyrolian area of Italy, that for the first time I saw wreaths hung horizontally rather than vertically.

In Munich at the Marienplatz is where the amazing Christmas market can be found. We actually saw Saint Nicholas with his long robes walking around as the children ran up to him and gave him hugs.  Christmas in Munich was magical.

One of the more interesting traditions was the Christmas Ship Festival in Seattle.  We boarded a boat for a party on Lake Washington and saw all the decorated boats.   It was an amazing night to see all the boats lit up.

It was in England, where I first saw Christmas crackers.  My usually reserved colleagues seemed to have no reservations about opening their crackers and wearing silly paper crowns on their heads.

Some of the other decorations I've learned about...

In China they use paper garlands, lanterns and flowers to adorn their trees.   In Australia, there are often sea shells and eucalyptus leaves.  In Ukraine, they add spiders and spiderwebs... hum.

Candles in the windows are common in Ireland.

This was fun to read:
Weird & Wonderful Christmas Decorations Around The World

I'm sure, like your family, mine has had special decorations that hold meaning.   My mother always hung a little elf from the chandelier in our foyer.  Through the years he has lost his hat and and his hair has become disheveled, but when I see the little elf I think of Christmases long ago when my mother lovingly decorated our home and created beautiful memories.   I have the elf today and he is hanging on the mantel over the fireplace.

What special traditions does your family have?

Friday, December 15, 2017

To pay or not to pay....

My tax accountant suggested I prepay my property taxes... so I did.   Maybe you might want to check with your tax advisor...

I thought this article was helpful

Prepaying 2018 Property Taxes by December 31, 2017 - DHJJ: With both the House and Senate tax reform plans calling for a $10,000 limit to the property tax deduction, it further strengthens prepaying property taxes before 12/31/2017 for those who would receive a tax benefit. Each taxpayer’s situation is different, so please check with your DHJJ CPA at 630-420-1360 with any questions. Property Tax Prepayment... Read more »

Thursday, December 14, 2017

How to lower the value of your house

I write this tongue in cheek -- but really, there are dozens of articles about what can increase the value of your home and tips for selling.  But has anyone ever spelled out things that will really devalue your home?

Buyers today come with their calculators when they are evaluating a house.  They will quickly deduct from the purchase price, if they don't think these issues are factored into the asking price.  

Do any of these things stand out with your house?  

In our market, garages are pretty important.   In general buyers prefer an attached garage with a minimum of two spaces.   Anything less than that may be perceived a real negative.  Not only that, most people want the additional storage space that a garage can provide.  

If you fall into this category of "less than," look for ways to add value.  Make sure the garage is well-organized and de-cluttered to, at least, give the illusion of more space.   

Consider adding an additional "landing pad" for that extra car.  One technique. that I have seen that is environmentally friendly, is brick blocks with grass growing in between.  

Swimming Pools
Swimming pools are tricky.   Having a pool can be a mixed blessing.  In our climate, buyers rarely consider a pool an increase to the value of the home.   In fact, for some people it will devalue your home.   Think twice before installing a pool at your house. 

Tired Roofs
In the last several years, I have found myself with a roof being a major issue from the home inspection.  Buyers will rarely pay a premium for a new roof, but they will often devalue a home with an old roof.  Sellers, if your roof is at the end of its useful life, I would think seriously about replacing it before you put your home on the market.  

Limited Storage
Buyers today want good storage and great closet space.   Look at your house with an objective eye and figure out ways to improve storage.   If you need some ideas, check out my Pinterest board on storage and closets

Dated Appliances
Nothing dates a kitchen or house faster than old appliances.  Buyers are putting out a lot of money to purchase they house -- they don't want to have to continue to put out money to buy new appliances.  New appliances are relatively inexpensive and they can make a world of difference to a buyer who is looking homes.

Problems of a Health and Safety Nature
As you may know, I recommend pre-listing inspections.   Inspectors may point out issues like asbestos, mold, radon, poor electrical connections, etc.  If you think you may have these problems, get them addressed early -- before you put your house on the market.  Trust me when I say, that they will surface during the inspection phase and raise red flags to buyers.

Deferred Maintenance
If your home has too many things wrong from squeaky hinges to torn screens, it can be a real deal-breaker for many buyers. Unless they’re specifically looking for a project, they aren’t interested in taking care of your maintenance issues.

Exterior Problems
You may be saving money by ignoring exterior paint jobs and tree trimming, but you’re also decreasing the value of your home right upfront.  Nice curb appeal is critical and that means a clean paint job, polished hardware, tidy mailbox, excellent yard clean up and trimming, clean gutters and foundations that are not pooling water -- good drainage away from the house.  

Bad Location
Location is everything in real estate.  When buying a home pick your location carefully.   The Neighborhood Features That Drag Down Your Home Value—Ranked:

Thursday, December 7, 2017

America's finest: 6 luxury home improvement products made in the U.S.

It's Pearl Harbor Day.   I thought I would post something memorable in honor of that momentous time in our history -- something American.   I came across this article and thought I would share it...

(BPT) - Peruse any home improvement media and you may get the impression you just can’t build, renovate or decorate a quality home without relying on foreign-made products like granite from Italy for countertops, cherry hardwood flooring from Brazil or textiles from India. However, you don’t have to sacrifice quality and luxury in order to buy American for your home; some of the finest home decor products originate right here in the U.S.

Here are six of America’s finest domestically made products for the home:

ANN SACKS — Every tile in the company’s 14 MADE by ANN SACKS collections is handcrafted and produced in its Portland, Oregon, headquarters. Founded in 1981 by Ann Sacks, the company’s tile and stone products in unique patterns, shapes, sizes and glazes are favorites of homeowners and interior designers seeking top-quality luxury and beauty for their home designs. In addition to a repertoire of standard tiles, the company also has partnered with famous designers to create innovative luxury lines. They even create custom designs to help homeowners achieve a truly one-of-kind look in their homes.

The company is also a pioneer in another aspect of American culture: the focus on sustainable business practices. The company recycles all excess raw clay, uses only lead-free glazes, filters production waste water and uses only recycled and recyclable packaging for shipping products.

Stickley — Founded in 1900 by the Stickley brothers, the luxury furniture brand continues to conduct all its manufacturing in its Manlius, New York, factory. Their furniture is known for its beautiful wood construction, durability and meticulous attention to details.

Robern — Rooted in the belief that “your everyday routine should never feel ordinary,” Robern has been making innovative medicine cabinets, bathroom mirrors, vanities and lighting since 1968. From smart medicine cabinets with features like touch-dimmable task lighting, magnetic storage and integrated USB outlets to wall mirrors with lights, audio and defogging capabilities, all products are still made in Bristol, Pennsylvania.

Bloomsburg Carpet — Founded in 1976 to produce quality, luxurious carpet, Bloomsburg Carpet weaves all its carpets in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna Valley. Third-generation weavers produce Axminster, Velvet and Wilton carpets under one roof. The company weaves with raw, sustainable fibers that it describes as “ecologically friendly and readily renewable.”

Viking — Founded in 1987, Viking produces professional-quality ranges and refrigerators at four manufacturing facilities in Leflore County, Mississippi. The company’s products are favorites of both professionals and home chefs.

Thomasville Bedding Company — The company that began over 40 years ago in a one-room building now occupies 36,000 square feet of factory and showroom space in Thomasville, Georgia. In addition to offering a wide selection of mattress styles, the company is also one of the few remaining bedding makers who will manufacture a custom set to fit any size bed.

You don’t have to sacrifice the pride of buying American to find the luxury, quality and customization you desire for your home decor. Purchasing quality American-made products is an investment that can deliver high returns in beauty, durability and satisfaction.

Posted: Thursday, October 26, 2017 7:01 am | Updated: 3:33 am, Fri Oct 27, 2017 on Brandpoint (BPT)