Houses for Sale: Common search phrases

Just looked on Zillow, and these came up as common search terms for the someone looking for a house in my zipcode:

COMMON PHRASES:

Energy efficient windows
(we have solar screens, but might want to add in the listing the additional blown in insulation)
Fridge stay homes**
Large bonus room homes
Exercise room homes
Updated HVAC homes**
Two car garage homes**
Wood floor homes**
Covered back porch homes**
Huge pantry homes**
Hardwood entry homes**

** these features are in our home!

Links to inspiring kitchen images on Zillow:

http://www.zillow.com/digs/traditional-kitchens-7261969707/

http://www.zillow.com/digs/traditional-kitchens-5567683432/

http://www.zillow.com/digs/traditional-kitchens-7323365383/

http://www.zillow.com/digs/traditional-kitchens-7439587386/

http://www.zillow.com/digs/contemporary-kitchens-5124113387/

 

New House Paint on the Exterior

The biggest cosmetic change over the last two months is that we repaired and painted the exterior of the house. Here’s some of the painting-after photos (the color is deceptive – this is gray with a brown undertone):

south_side_house_exterior_after_paint_sherwin_williams_gray_gauntlet1_simply_rooms

The house still had its original paint color of when we built it 18 years ago – a khaki green color. The trim around the windows was really suffering as well as two areas where squirrels had taken advantage of wood rot to gain access to the attic.

The house was WAYY overdue for a repair and paint job! In the photo below, the paint is still drying on the left (and why it looks uneven) while the painter repairs our chimney stack. Boy, I can’t believe he got it done in 12 hours with just one helper!

house_exterior_painting_back

We had discussed possible paint colors with a real estate agent years back and she had recommended gray.  The brick on our house is a red color (no orange-red) and had a gray/smoky black accent brick. As you can see from the photos we have a unique mortar – called “weeping mortar” – it is not a mistake and some people like it (like us) and some people don’t.

We went around to some neighborhoods that were a notch above ours and scoped out a bunch of houses with brick about the color of ours that had painted the wood gray. Definitely liked it! However, we preferred the darker grays, not the light colors.

One thing we did not like was the really light color trim around the windows and roof trim. The white trim with dark color would look better in a Cape Cod neighborhood and with a house with alot more wood showing. For example, this house has a large wood facade over the garage, so the two colors of paint work! I also love the shutters!

two_tone_paint_color_exterior_house_shutter_detail2_simplyrooms

However, this style just didn’t suit or house and we both thought it chopped up the line of the house too much. Our front house profile actually has far more brick than wood and could handle a darker color in order to make a statement.

Some people make out doing exterior house paint more complicated then it needs to be. Since we are reselling in three years, I just needed a nice neutral that showed off the brick of the house, and would be acceptable to a large number of shoppers. I didn’t need the exact right shade of gray out of 20 different test paints.

1.) Drive thru neighborhoods with similar styled houses and take note of paint colors. Take photos.

2.) I had collected paint colors through Pinterest and read various blog comments etc… that were attached to popular colors in the color family I planned on using.

3.) Get some test paint samples and put on the house. Make sure the test paint is put on in a big enough area you can see it from a distance. Look at it in different lights and keep it up for a few days. See what you think.

4.) If not happy, go back to the paint store. Painting a house is a huge undertaking and expensive. Better to invest in some more test quarts than tell the painter to stop in the middle of the job!

5.) Paint!

Going darker, which we ended up doing, was taking our paint a little out of the comfort zone of many of the houses in our neighborhood. About 80 percent or more still sporting the same light taupe colors the builder had put on over two decades ago! We felt it was worth the risk as more expensive houses had gone darker in tone, and we wanted to stand out but not too much.

Our Painter uses Sherwin Williams so we tried two shades on the front entrance (French Gray was the lighter) and we decided on the darker color, 7019 Gauntlet Gray (the painter chose a Satin finish which I LOVE!). With the needed repairs, this was a $2,000 job for a professional house painter (someone we saw do a house in our neighborhood and who really impressed us with the work they did).

before_after_house_exterior_paint_simply_rooms

I’ll get more photos once the sun comes back out. The brick color in the bottom before photo is more accurate. The top after photo was taken in really strong sunlight so the color is a bit off. New photos will be coming soon.

This is just the beginning of the house exterior redo – we plan on putting up shutters and doing a hardware accent on the garage, as well as new landscaping. However, after the big expenses we have had, I’m going back to smaller projects inside the house.

more open houses

We got to visit two more open houses in the neighborhood so let’s update what we’ve seen with houses on the market in our housing division and price range…

BTW what type of homes are these? Less then 14 years old, mostly two stories, with full brick (meaning the first floor is completely bricked exterior walls), mostly over 3,000 square feet, with two (some three) car garages and generally four bedrooms, 2 and a half baths, with either one living and eat in kitchen or two living and two dining.

Comparable homes on the east coast would demand twice if not three times this much so take it into account that I live in the cheaper SW and homes are priced accordingly:

House #3 @ $250,000

Pluses

Extremely clean home with fresh wall paint and mouldings. The paint was a medium khaki with white trim.

House was staged well with the right amount of furniture. There was no overcrowding or too-empty feeling. However, there were too many paintings on the walls, especially those with a religious feel.

Additional, higher end, moulding over doors and crown moulding throughout especially downstairs near the entry.

Large floor plan that flowed easily. Although for me personally, I don’t like the formal dining and formal living being placed on either side of the entry as you come in. Something about this room flow removes privacy for me.

Clean and appealing curb appeal.

Hardwood and Tile all downstairs; carpet in the bedrooms and stairs.

Had a greenbelt behind the house (protected watershed).

Extremely clean (2 car) garage with new floor.

Large laundry room.

Covered porch.

Had large kitchen pantry.

Back half of the living areas had a light of natural light.

Master was downstairs, with three bedrooms up.

Minuses

WALLPAPER! In at least 50 percent of the house, including dining room, the formal living room, the kitchen and two of the bathrooms (powder room and the master) and wallpaper trim in the laundry room and boy’s room.

The kitchen – while clean and neat, had significant issues. The counters were 4×4 tile! That is way outdated and with the grout lines looked horrible. The cabinetry were a medium yellow oak that is outdated. The cabinets had a plasticky feel to the surface – not sure what was up with that. This kitchen could easily be updated and needs to be. No cabinet hardware and the kitchen is smaller then ours.

The bathrooms were also extremely dated and cheap for a house in that price range. For example, the master bath had the cheap Delta fake plastic crystal central knob you see in APARTMENTS! You must be kidding me!? The two baths had cultured marble counter tops with builder grade cabinets and in one the bathroom hardware was installed wrong on the doors. The powder room, while large, had a pedestal sink (put in by the builder). Overall, the bathrooms were clean, large, well lit, but boring, forgettable and dated.

The lighting fixtures were not noticeable so I guess not a plus or minus.

No privacy fence in the backyard. If you had young children or dogs this would be an issue.

The hardwood floor downstairs was some sort of cheap laminate. Did not like it at all.

Some elaborate window treatments that were dated. Just remove them people.

Overall, the dated kitchen and the dated bathrooms would be my guess why this house has not sold. Personally, if I was paying in this price range ($50,000 more then our house!, same neighborhood) I would have expectations of granite and new fixtures in the bath and especially the kitchen.

House #4 @ $230,000

Now we are cooking with gas! This has all the same redos we are talking about. This was the first and so far only house I would make an offer today if I wanted to replace the house we were living in with something comparable or a bit better.

The agent said that it used to be almost completely wallpapered but had recently been redone and the price dropped $10,000. Which IMO if they had started with the improvements most likely they would not have had to drop their price:

Best floor plan to date with many usuable rooms. Master down, 3 beds up.

New granite counters in kitchen. Island distressed black, and cabinetry was hickory.

Crown moulding throughout painted white. Walls throughout were in Khakis’, green, and gold. Mostly mid-to deeper toned neutrals.

Hardwood floor or tile throughout the main floor of the house.

Upstairs all the same carpet. I’ve asked the agent to email me the color, brand and installer. The carpet was a wonderful neutral with a slightly deeper plush then you see on builder grade.

All lighting fixtures and fans upgraded to contemporary oil rubbed bronze.

Bathroom fixtures in master, powder and kitchen upgraded to oil rubbed bronze.

Extra full bath had the cultured marble double sink but had upgraded faucets and lighting fixture as well as cabinet hardware. It made the counter liveable.

This is the first master bathroom we’ve seen COMPLETELY upgraded. Granite counter, additional storage installed, tub with contemporary tile front, and oil rubbed bronze lighting and light fixtures.

The only minuses were that the powder room and the additional full bath had wallpaper but at least it wasn’t horrid and everything else updated it a bit.

Now what will be interesting is to see how quickly this house sells now that it has been redone. I would guess within the next 45 days.

An interesting side note – the agent confirmed to me what I had just been discussing with hubby 10 minutes before we entered the house. We bought this house when we were in our early 30’s ad leaving the neighborhood in our late 40’s. Too many residents are trying to sell a house decorated for an older generation — the couples the agent is seeing are in their 20’s and 30’s and want contemporary, neutral styling with NO fussy, big cabbage rose wallpaper! LOL!

fact finding mission (to sell a home)

Because I am aiming to sell the house in about 14 months, it’s important for me to know what exactly is appealing to house buyers in my area, in my price range. I’ve already written about how you can visit houses for sell and those having open houses, as well as going on a Parade of Homes tour. Keeping an eye on the MLS and finding out which of these homes sold fast vs.which have sat on the market for a long time, also helps especially if you can get inside to compare the selling and the non-selling.

BTW an update – House #2 sold in about 4 months. Another house listed two doors down from us, sold within 60 days, for asking price, and two weeks before Christmas! This house had a LOT of curb appeal, but looking at inside photos, our house will show even better! Hm good news! House #1 needs to redo the bottom floor colors and remove all the wallpaper in the bathrooms for sure.

Must-Do Updating to Sell a Home:

1.) Organize, pack and remove. I am still shocked at how cluttered homes are that are listed for sale. Remove ALL personal photos, decorations, the extra furniture and the fake plants! Especially, remove those religous or “Love our Family” signs! While they mean a lot to you, they will turn off home buyers.

The majority have too much but some go overboard with the moving-minilimist look. If this confuses you, visit Builder Models. They decorate just enough and in a neutral fashion to appeal to many home buyers.

2.) CLEAN. Anything dirty or scruffed, especially moulding, doors, walls, need to be cleaned/painted. One scruff mark will turn off a buyer. For that reason, we plan on all four indoor house pets (two cats and two dogs) to be living with hubby in Missouri when we put the Oklahoma house up for sale. My daughter, another big mess maker, will also be in Missouri 🙂

3.) Update colors. Choose one neutral and use it for all public area rooms such as living, dining, kitchen, etc… It makes the home interior look bigger. Home Builders are using a medium tone neutral such as a khaki or putty; I’m using Lowes allen roth paint Rock.

Bedrooms and bathrooms can have color but be aware it still could be a potential, turn off. All wallpaper MUST GO… I don’t know why design shows are still promoting it – buyers hate it.

4.) Update Counters especially in the kitchen but also consider the bathrooms. In our area, and house price range, usually granite is a top choice but marble and glass are popular too. If you can’t afford to do the counter, at least update the faucets and wall color.

5.) Update kitchen. Cabinet colors such as white washed, pickeling and some stain colors are definitely out. If you can’t afford much, at least change the backsplash which is usually very fashion-dated.

Also, you can update appliances cheaper by using Craigslist (have seen a lot of good prices on very new fridges and stoves due to people moving) or change the front of the appliances with speciality paint.

6.) Update fixtures. Upgrade the bathroom faucets and the kitchen faucet, especially if you can’t upgrade the counter. Get rid of ANY brass hanging light fixtures even if all you do is spraypaint them. Brass is VERY dated.

7.) Update flooring. Flooring in main rooms should be tile or hardwood, keep carpet for bedrooms. Remove vinyl – even cheap ceramic is better then vinyl! It’s expensive to replace all of this but worn or stained carpet will be the number one reason your house doesn’t sell.

Yesterday, I met with a countertop and cabinet showroom designer (it’s best to meet with several and I had already had a lengthy discussion with a carpet-tile-flooring salesperson at another store). I wanted to know what colors in kitchen cabinets was selling in my area and what countertops were popular. Take into account this is my area (Central U.S., the conservative “Heartland”) but this is what I found out:

1.) People want a spa bathroom experience. Everyone says that but what does that mean? My translation – calm, soothing, with a lighter look, more airy, then what we have had in the bathrooms in the recent past.

Look for medium to light wall tones; lots of cream/white especially in mouldings, tubs and sinks; no wallpaper or dark colors and patterns (i.e. burgandy, browns, wallpaper on walls); glass in showers and accents, maybe in tile; granite or marble countertops; high end looking faucets and shower heads; dimmer and accent lighting with chandeliers and sconces; and lots of white towels.

Creama Luna Granite Transformations

Something interesting that I didn’t know is that if you have undermounted sinks (which I’ll be going with in white) and want top mounted sinks it can be done. If you start with top mounted sinks and want to convert to undermount you have to replace the counter.

Permastone Marble Cream Marfil (cell phone photo more creamy then shown)

The color for the bathroom walls is Waverly Seafoam (WV36007), which is a mid-tone green.

2.) Go with traditional. While I might like modern, traditional way outsells. The more uncertain the times due to economy, war, politics, etc… the more people seek traditional comfort.

When we sold our mod 1960’s house (our first home) we were told that it generally takes a year longer then it took to sell a price comparable, traditional home. OTOH, we picked a great real estate agent who adored our house and he sold it within 90 days.

3.) Most popular kitchen cabinet color is an off white (I would call a cream) with dark brown glazing. Distressing is out. Pickeled oaks and washes are out. Dark cherry remains popular.

We discussed the bright white that I keep seeing and both the designer and I agreed on several things: Bright White looks CHEAP! It looks like the fake wood crap that Lowes and Home Depot was selling off the truck back in the 1980s. And who would want to live in a KITCHEN with bright white and try to keep it clean?? “White” may be the top searched kitchen color but I wonder how many want to live with it?

JMO but the solid wall of cabinets is out. Mix it up with open shelving and glass faced doors. Moulding trim across the top of cabinets that is ornate is hot. Our kitchen was originally all solid door and we are changing that as the wall of cabinets was overwhelming. The eye needs some variation.

After looking over the choices and comparing my test cabinet door to their bestseller, I’m going to go with the whitest part of this test board with Sherwin Williams Van Dyke Brown glaze. The glaze hopefully won’t darken the white to cream as much as the Dark Walnut stain glaze did on the bathroom vanity. I will only be distressing the very edges of the cabinet relief and not the main flat areas.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Old White

4.) Glass mosiac or subway tile for the backsplash is very hot right now. I didn’t like their choices but this was the direction I was going so that was good to get that affirmation. If I do a glass counter, I’ll do a stone backsplash or put the backsplash in the same medium as the countertop.

5.) My favorite for the kitchen countertop was a recycled glass composite, solid surface. Choosing this would be a daring move as granite still way outsells recycled glass counters.

6.) Make the island stand out – through the use of a contrasting color on cabinetry vs. main cabinetry and/or using a different counter then main counter. In just looking at many photos, having a different counter then the main counter color, makes the kitchen appear smaller – it stops the eye in it’s movement across the room. We’ll go with keeping the counters the same, but doing a different color on the cabinetry of the island.

The only problem with that plan is that it is very hard to get a good brown color in paint. Stain would give a better color but since we are rebuilding the island with some new and some old pieces, I need to get them looking coherent and I have a hard time doing that with staining new, unfinished wood and finished wood side by side. That project will be a challenge.

To get more ideas, look at my Pinterest on Kitchens.

More house snooping (selling a house)

Visited two more open houses, located in our housing division, with husband. These houses are priced at $249,000 in the Southwest. Comparable houses on the east and west coast, even after the crash would pull in at least twice as much (just to give you an idea). Our house will initially price at $199,000 due to smaller square footage.

Anyway, first house was gorgeous. The mouldings GLEAMED white! There were a lot of strong colors in the house which I think could work against them, especially the use of wallpaper, and specifically the plaid wallpaper in the kitchen. The stair balastrades also gleamed.

The upstairs bedrooms were all beautifully staged. Each kids bedroom had a full size bed, a dresser and maybe one other piece of furniture. The place was so clean I wasn’t sure anyone was still living there! It definitely looked like a model home.

The biggest issue with this house though was the floor plan: lots of narrow hallways. I felt like I was squeezing past hubby each time we went into a bathroom or a bedroom. Husband really didn’t like the dark colors (I did!) and I think it would be a taste issue for home viewers.

Another big drawback which I noticed was also in the next house was carpet in the bathroom areas, specifically around the vanity. Only the toilet area was tiled and carpet was still in front of the tub and shower which I really dislike in a home.

The laundry room did not have the new front loading machines but older machines. The kitchen seemed small and I didn’t notice a walk-in pantry which is a feature of our neighborhood houses generally. This house also had far too much wallpaper – it was in all bathrooms and the kitchen.

This home also had a pool and small backyard so it will limit those interested; mostly adults with no young children or teenage offspring. Also, the first floor had only wood flooring in the front entry and all the other rooms (except kitchen and bathroom which were tiled) were in carpet. Doing it all hardwood is what is the trend now and would have made the floor plan appear larger.

Overally, not much to dislike in House #1 as I love strong colors… but I wonder how it will play out to other visitors?

House #2 is priced the same and a sale by owner. I actually liked this house better with it’s more open floor plan, showcase staircase, larger kitchen, eat-in kitchen, deck and greenbelt. But, and it’s a big but, the house didn’t show as well.

Specifically, I saw dirt on some of the doors and moulding. There was vinyl in two locations and I just don’t think a house in our market should have that. Again with the carpet in the bathrooms! What is up with that?

The kids bedrooms were in strong colors and way, way too much stuff in all the upstairs rooms; 50 percent should have been packed away. Entering the boys room it looked like the bed was just put on top of boxes!

While I really liked the placement of the staircase better, it unfortunately showed how worn the carpet was upstairs. I would replace the hall carpet with wood flooring and new carpet in each bedroom.

Both houses had granite counters in the kitchen, with wood cabinets, House #1 had drawer hardware; House #2 did not. And all had cultured marble in the bathrooms with white or wood cabinetry. The cultured marble and builder mirror sinks really didn’t say high end to me.

I think that House #2, should drop their price by $10,000, and update the carpet with a good de-cluttering and fresh sprucing of the paint trim. It also needs a bit of work on the curb appeal, but overall I see this house selling faster then the first because of it’s floor plan, location on a greenbelt, deck, eat-in kitchen, and location on a cul-de-sac.

House #1 needs to remove some of the dark colors, put in new washer and dryer, and update all the brass fixtures (there were a lot of brass) as well as hardwood flooring downstairs. Biggest issue though is lightening the paint and removing the plaid wallpaper form the kitchen.  House #1 is gorgeous but it is too design-specific to appeal to a large group of buyers…. I think it will also sell once it finds the person who likes the decorating style.

tip: selling your house? visit open houses!

About three years ago, I asked a real estate agent to show me houses for sale in our neighborhood. I wanted to case out the competition and if you are thinking of selling your house I would suggest the same.

What I discovered is that, in comparison, our house needed to be squeaky clean. The downstairs needed all ceramic and wood flooring (no carpet), many sellers had not updated their kitchens (these were the houses still on lagging on the market), and that the bathrooms were rather bland and boring. I also saw a lot of out-of-date brass fixtures and wallpaper in the homes that had been sitting on the market for over 6 months.

When we went on the Parade of Homes, we deliberately looked at new homes in the $20,000 range above what we had planned to price our house. We noticed that these homes had: ceramic and wood flooring on the base level, all fixtures were updated to be oil rubbed bronze or brushed nickel, lots and lots of moulding (i.e. over doors, crown in every room downstairs, baseboard trim downstairs was higher in height 4-6″), and that the kitchens were very updated with granite countertops, open shelving and glass doors.

Another thing we noticed is that all the downstairs was painted a neutral color (not white or Navaho White) but a medium putty color that showed off the white trim moulding more so.

Last weekend, the same real estate agent had an open house in our neighborhood so husband swung by to check it out. He said that if that is our competition, and we do all that we’ve talked about, the house will definitely be a standout.

The Open House had a very much outdated kitchen with laminate counters, white appliances, and a cabinet color that he and my son called whitewashed pink! The bathrooms were all cultured marble sinks and the lighting fixtures were brass. The agent said the house was completely wallpapred and she had a hard time convincing the owners to cover it up – which they did except in one room which had a deep 12″ boarder of hunter green with flowers running along the wall!

Again, the house was clean and freshly painted. The living areas had been cleared out but almost too much and had outdated, huge puffy faux leather seating. The bedrooms were too cluttered (builder show homes keep only a twin bed and a small dresser in extra bedrooms).

In re: to our house what are the overall improvements we are planning? To recap on what is left to do:

1.) Update Kids bathroom with painted cabinets, new hardware, new tile floor (previously vinyl), and new countertop. Should be done after Thanksgiving.

2.) Update Master Bathroom by removing the builders’ mirror and replacing with framed mirrors, update fixtures over sink, install crown moulding, paint effect on wall, and paint cabinets cream with a chocolate glaze and new hardware.  New countertop, new sinks, new faucets and a new toilet. Target is Feb. 2012.

3.) Update all downstairs carpet to wood flooring. Upstairs all new carpet.

4.) Update kitchen with painted cabinets, new hardware, new granite counters (replaces laminate), new tile backsplash (replaces laminate), new sink. Install crown moulding. Target date May 2012.

5.) Re-tile fireplace front and other changes to be determined in family room.

6.) New garage door.

7.) Exterior paint job

8.) New roof.

9.) New front landscaping around house.

That’s the 18 month plan anyway…all projects can be seen via easy links on The House page.

So why do all this work just to sell it? Although I am in a good housing market considering the economy it is still a buyers’ market. I want to put the house on the market and have it sold within 90 days or less. If we tried to sell it in the state it is now, we would be on the market a long time and have to take a hit on the sale price.

Of course, all housing markets are different and what you might expect in the price range you want to sell might differ then what I think would sell my house in this town. The best way to figure out your pricing is to get a list of houses that have sold in your neighborhood and what they sold for by square foot – then tour some of these homes on the market and see how your house is comparing in terms of features, fixtures, flooring, and especially in the master bedroom, masterbathroom and kitchen.