11 Terrifically Tiny Homes

It’s a trend that’s growing in popularity: Houses are shrinking.

© pickellarchitecture.com

© pickellarchitecture.com

Homeowners keen on paring down have started to learn how to pack essential functionality into less square-footage — much less — and they’re doing so with style.

1. Living in a Box

© poteetarchitects.com

© poteetarchitects.com

In San Antonio, Poteet Architects added doors, windows, a heating-cooling system and an innovative, “green” roof to a steel shipping container, ingeniously transforming a utilitarian unit into a cozy space for living. Bamboo floors and a cool wall covering bring the interior design to life. It’s small and modern, but undoubtedly a home.

2. Case study

© jhinteriordesign.com

© jhinteriordesign.com

To test the boundaries of small-footprint living, interior designer Jessica Helgerson moved her family to a 540-square-foot cottage that she designed 15 minutes north of Portland, Ore.

By using mostly reclaimed materials to construct her miniscule maison, and by adding a moss-and-fern green roof, Helgerson completed the project for less than money than she anticipated. The home requires little energy to heat and cool.

3. Self-sufficient

© alexscottporterdesign.com

© alexscottporterdesign.com

With a shed roof and corrugated siding, this off-the-grid cabin on an island off the New England coast runs on solar power. A rainwater tank and an instant hot-water heater provide drinking and bathing water, while rolling, exterior door panels protect the home in inclement weather.

It may be tiny, but this house can stand tall all on its own.

4. Hip to be square

© weehouse.com

© weehouse.com

This 784-square-foot design by Minnesota-based weeHouse features a bright blue exterior and a lively yellow interior. But its striking color palette is not the only reason that this little lodging stands out.

Constructed of two modules, the units seamlessly adjoin with the help of a large exterior porch; bug screens with magnetic catches keep insects at bay on summer nights.

5. Salvage beauty

© tinytexashouses.com

© tinytexashouses.com

Brad Kittel of Tiny Texas Houses believes there are already enough building products out there, so why buy new? His small structures use 99% salvaged materials, including doors, windows, siding, lumber, door hardware, flooring and porch posts.

6. DIY kit house

© jamaicacottageshop.com

© jamaicacottageshop.com

The folks at Jamaica Cottage Shop offer a kit for their 16-by-20-foot Vermont cottage, a “roll your own” residence that takes two people roughly 40 hours to construct.

The interior can be outfitted a number of ways, and a sleeping loft can be added for maximum efficiency.

7. Gather no moss

© tumbleweedhouses.com

© tumbleweedhouses.com

In only 65 square feet, the XS house from Tumbleweed Tiny House Co., profiled here, manages to squeeze in a bathroom, kitchen area, built-in desk and sofa, as well as a sleeping loft. It costs roughly $16 per square foot for a DIY version, $39 per square foot for the readymade version.

Built on a 7-by-10-foot utility trailer, the whole thing can be towed, making “home” anywhere you go.

8. Micro house

© relaxshacks.blogspot.com

© relaxshacks.blogspot.com

In Massachusetts, Derek Diedricksen applies a “can do’ attitude to tiny-house construction. Making creative use of household cast-offs, such as a broken, front-loading washing-machine door repurposed as a porthole, his tiny structures cost only about $200 each.

9. Modern mix

© ri-eg.com

© ri-eg.com

The Boxhome from architect Sami Rintala is just 205 square feet. Amazingly, there’s room inside for guests — the seating platform in the living room becomes a bed. Taking cues from Finnish summer houses and Japanese cooking traditions, the design offers a cultural mix.

10. Hidden treasure

Nestled in the woods in Hilverstum, Netherlands, this house was designed by Piet Hein Eek. It plays on the theme of traditional log cabins. Instead using notched-log beams, cross-cut sections make up the exterior, an aesthetic touch that helps this little getaway blend into its surroundings.

11. Victorian times

© myshabbystreamsidestudio.blogspot.com

© myshabbystreamsidestudio.blogspot.com

A former Catskills hunting cottage is remade in a romantic, Victorian style by owner Sandra Foster. Doing much of the carpentry work herself and using a variety of salvaged elements, she has created a cozy hideaway filled with books and lit by a crystal chandelier.

This article was originally published by Rebecca Thienes Cherny of BobVila.com on MSN Real Estate. To see the original article, click here.

Women muscle into the ‘man cave!’

Yeah, dude: When you’re not looking, your sports sanctuary may play host to the wife’s quilting party.

Women in the Man Cave
Craig Schuelke’s Forest Hill, Md., basement is a testament to manliness. There’s the Arnold Schwarzenegger pinball machine and about $30,000 of signed University of Michigan and University of Maryland sports memorabilia that the construction superintendent has enshrined on the walls. An air-hockey table commands one corner, flanked by a pool table, shot-glass collection and dartboard. It’s a quintessential “man cave,” except for one feature: Schuelke’s wife, Melanie.

“He doesn’t know what we’re doing when he’s not home,” Melanie Schuelke says. “My female friends, we shoot pool, drink beer and throw darts down there.”

The man cave has a secret: Women use them, too. Their new interest comes as these spaces have changed from cold garage outposts into tricked-out comfy spreads, complete with flat-screen TVs, fully stocked bars, arcade games and plush (clean!) furniture.

As a result, men are learning to share with the family while combating the inevitable intrusion of scented candles, flowers and children’s toys. While couples often cozy up together or party in caves with friends, more women say they retreat there — even holding the occasional quilting party — without the guys.

Rather than trade up or build on, more homeowners are squeezing the most out of their existing living quarters — but splurging on the décor. As a result, today’s man caves are desirable and even luxurious pads that the whole family wants to enjoy.

An entire marketplace has emerged in recent years to outfit these spaces. There’s Man Cave LLC, modeled after Mary Kay cosmetics, where guys hold barbecue parties dubbed “meatings” to sell steak and cave accoutrements, such as bacon-scented candles and beer pagers to locate lost brew. Online retailers mancavemarket.com and themancaveoutletstore.com hawk essentials, such as beer kegerators, pool tables and skee-ball games.

Higher-ticket items make women feel more proprietary over caves, originally intended as spots where guys could be alone or hang with pals, says Mike Yost, who runs cave-community sitemancavesite.org.

“If the guys spend on the big-screen TV and chairs,” he says, “the wife typically is going to have to sign off on it, too.”

Further stoking female cave envy is cable TV’s “Man Caves” show on the DIY Network. Episodes feature bling such as a pool table that rises out of the floor.

“These are really, really nice spaces, and when the guys want to spend time there, the family wants to spend time there,” says Andy Singer, DIY Network’s general manager.

That’s the case in Robert Butterfield’s Sierra Vista, Ariz., home. His retreat is a 400-square-foot homage to NASCAR racers Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. It also sports a 50-inch TV, couch, hundreds of die-cast model cars, even a Christmas tree decked in Earnhardt ornaments — about a $50,000 investment. Butterfield, 43, calls it “my space,” but it’s often where his wife, Maria, and sons also congregate when he’s home from his overseas government-contracting job.

“I enjoy being in there because it’s kind of like a little getaway from the rest of the house,” Maria Butterfield says. “When I’m in there, I’m not reminded about dishes or laundry.”

That’s cool with her husband: “Sure, I like time to chill alone, but I started a family because I wanted to be with them.”

Still, the gender cohabitation raises a nettlesome question: When does a man cave stop being a man cave and become just a family room?

“There’s a real blurring of the line between man cave and family room,” says Minnesota decorator Sue Hunter, who runs mancaveinteriors.com. “I think guys are going to start taking charge back in that area.”

And certainly purists remain, such as Tommy “Buck Buck” Sattler of Islip, N.Y., who rigged his 325-square-foot getaway with New York Giants football paraphernalia, seven TVs, a red-oak bar top and a urinal in the bathroom.

Sattler flips on an outdoor blue light to let the neighbors know when his “underground lounge” is open, but he jokes that women, including his wife, typically stop by only if “they are dropping off food or bringing cleaning products.”

Most guys, however, seem game for co-ed caves — so long as there are ground rules, such as no potpourri or decorative pillows. Hunter says she steers clear of big glass vases and baskets in favor of art, she says, that means something to a man, such as, “I want to go kill the buck in that picture.”

Then there’s the “no touch” rule that has reigned in Robert Butterfield’s NASCAR sanctuary since he found his 4-year-old son’s fingerprints on the display cases with his model cars.

“It’s a little bit of an ownership thing,” he says. “I’m really detail-oriented, and this is the way I want the room.”

Other regulations are trickier to enforce. Karen Dixon of Friendswood, Texas, gladly turned over her garage to husband Shawn, even though parking outside means unloading groceries in the rain.

“I’m not controlling, and it makes him happy,” she says.

Inside, he’s stationed his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a 1967 Cavalier Coca-Cola machine, a pay phone painted Harley orange and a heavyweight punching bag.

The Dixons, both 38, often play cards together in the cave, but Karen Dixon balks at his suggestion that usage is by invitation only.

“Really? I think that he doesn’t own it,” says Dixon, who says she thinks her husband would be secretly “flattered if I brought my friends in there to have crafts and a book club.”

Shawn Dixon’s concern: “I’d be afraid something would be moved and I’d never find it.”

The stickiest time can be during cave construction. Karen Dixon advises other women to negotiate time limits.

“When Shawn is focused on something, it consumes him,” she says. “Looking back, what I should have done is said, ‘Spend as much time with your family as with the man cave. If you work out there for an hour, then come inside for an hour.'”

Indeed, compromise is critical in any man-cave negotiation. Married 36 years, Steve and Pam Flaten, both 56, share space in AutoMotorPlex Minneapolis, a compound of high-end garages ranging from 1,000 to 6,500 square feet for fixing up and storing specialty vehicles.

In the loft living area the Flatens constructed inside their garage, Pam Flaten typically quilts while her husband tinkers with his race cars below. Recently, she held a quilting party.

Despite the domestic influence, Steve Flaten has stood his ground on certain points. The racing flames on the toilet seat, those get to stay. The flowers his wife wanted for an end table, those got moved outside.

Women’s interest in the man-cave phenomenon is sparking a logical next step: woman caves. The DIY Network is exploring development of a new show around the concept. Retailer HomeGoods just launched a campaign to outfit what it dubs “mom caves.”

To some, that’s redundant.

“A chick cave?” says Dan Cunningham, owner of the Monroe, Mich.-based mancavemarket.com. “That’s what the rest of the house is.”

This article was originally published by Gwendolyn Bounds of The Wall Street Journal on MSN Real Estate. To see the original article, click here.


Awesome Ideas for Awful Rooms

Starter homes or fixer-uppers come with plenty of imperfections: bathrooms that are small and outdated, unfinished basements that are dark and dank, rooms that are cramped or oddly shaped and space that is wasted or undefined.

© Dmitry Melnikov

The good news is that many bad spaces can be fixed with clever and creative design ideas. Sometimes it takes just a can of paint or a new piece of furniture to transform a space. Other times, you may have to call in a contractor.

Here are 10 awful spaces that have been transformed into awesome places.

1. Book nook  

Was: Unused closet

Book nook (© Courtesy of Susan Jay Design)

Book nook (© Courtesy of Susan Jay Design)

Susan Jay Freeman, owner of the Los Angeles interior-design and space-planning firm Susan Jay Design, created this reading space from an underused closet in a room next to her client’s study. Her client wanted “a cozy place to read stories with her granddaughters,” she says.

“We opened it to her study, lined the walls with adjustable bookshelves, installed low-voltage lighting on a dimmer and created a platform for which a custom-upholstered cushion and pillows were added for comfort,” she says. “This became a cherished hideaway.”

2. Storage closet

Was: Dead area under stairs

Storage closet (© Veremeenko Irina)

Storage closet (© Veremeenko Irina)

Do you have an awful space under the stairs that you don’t know how to handle? One option is to use it for storage.

A closet can hide clutter, says interior designer Carrie Drosnes, former design producer for ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

“Since there is no maximum height or depth required for a closet, it can be any size and can be used in a way that is most advantageous to the homeowner,” Drosnes says, adding that installing drawers is another option.

If the stairs are near the kitchen or dining room, the space could be ideal for a built-in wine rack, wet bar, pantry or a place to store crystal or china.

In this case, two cabinets — brightly painted to match the décor of the finished basement —provide ample storage room in an otherwise unused space.

3. Work station

Was: Oversized landing

Work station (© Cora Reed)

Work station (© Cora Reed)

Sometimes the wasted space is not under the stairs but next to them.

Drosnes says that a work area is a great solution for many areas of all sizes next to stairs. For example, an oddly shaped landing at the top of a staircase can be a good spot for a work station. A tiny vestibule, often found in older homes between the kitchen and stairway, can be a cozy spot to put a small desk.

“It allows (homeowners) easy access to the kitchen and to the upstairs while working from home in a small, specifically allocated space,” she says.

Built-in units can maximize the space in ways that store-bought pieces cannot.

4. Mudroom

Was: Doorway

Mudroom (© Curtis Terzis)

Mudroom (© Curtis Terzis)

An undefined space by the back door can too easily become a dumping ground for coats, backpacks, shoes and other gear that family members shed as soon as they step inside the house. Although this may create a mess in a small space, Maplewood, N.J.-based interior designer Alexa Harris-Ralff says there are ways to keep the clutter hidden.

The solution can be a built-in storage unit that matches your home’s style. A ledge, large enough to allow residents to sit and untie their shoes, and a tiled floor that can easily be mopped would complete a modern mudroom.

Harris-Ralff says she loves the look of locker-style storage, as well, if it fits. “It’s simple, easy to wipe down and even easier to assign each family member a locker,” she says.

5. Pantry

Was: Not-quite mudroom adjoining tiny kitchen

Pantry (© SwitchYard Media Inc.)

Pantry (© SwitchYard Media Inc.)

Sometimes, a mudroom may not always be necessary — or functional. But the space can make a welcome addition to a small kitchen, especially the kind often found in an older home.

The owners of this 1918 Seattle Craftsman realized that their mudroom, which needed an upgrade, was large enough to accommodate a small pantry for the adjoining kitchen. The cabinet is 12 inches deep and offers plenty of storage shelves and a pull-out drawer below. It also was designed around an existing window, so the space remains bright and cheery.

6. Exercise room

Was: Weird triangular room

Exercise room (© Chris Rodenberg Photography)

Exercise room (© Chris Rodenberg Photography)

Oddly shaped rooms can be a challenge to furnish because most people prefer to put big pieces — sofas, dressers and bookcases — against the wall.

Turning the space into a home gym is one solution, because exercise equipment is typically placed in the middle of a room rather than along the walls.

Using the space for a reading, meditation or yoga room is another good option, Drosnes says, adding that plants, flowers, candles or a water feature can help make the space inviting and intimate. She also suggests using a rug or carpet and wallpaper.

7. Murphy-bed room

Was: Undersized sleeping quarters

Murphy-bed room (© Courtesy of Wallbeds Northwest)

Murphy-bed room (© Courtesy of Wallbeds Northwest)

Near the turn of the 19th century, William L. Murphy was living in a tiny San Francisco apartment. Frustrated with his lack of space, he invented a bed that folded against a wall when not in use.

The invention caught on and has never lost its appeal as a space-saving idea. The Murphy bed can transform a tiny, cramped room into both a bedroom and a usable space during waking hours.

Dozens of companies sell do-it-yourself kits for Murphy beds. Seattle’s Wallbeds Northwest, for instance, has kits that begin at about $1,000. Its basic units extend about 16 inches from the wall when folded up.

8. Sauna

Was: Cellar closet

Sauna (© Igor Borodin)

Sauna (© Igor Borodin)

Does your basement have an ugly corner that makes you tense? Use that space for a sauna and you can relax there, instead.

Buying and installing a home sauna has become easier in recent years with the introduction of prefabricated, modular units that do not require framing or insulation. Many can be assembled in an afternoon. Prices for a two-person sauna of this type start at about $1,000.

Is it right for your home? Small dry saunas heated with infrared lamps require no special drainage and, in some cases, can be powered with regular 120-volt outlets. Larger infrared models typically require 240-volt outlets and possibly an electrician’s help.

9. Home office

Was: Tight, sloped upstairs space

Home office (© Iriana Shiyany)

Home office (© Iriana Shiyany)

The rooflines on some houses can severely constrain space in upstairs rooms. In some, an adult can stand upright only in the middle.

So what should a homeowner with an aversion to crouching do with that space? One solution is creating a home office that allows residents to sit, rather than stand, along the room’s perimeter.

“A home office or study room for kids would be good option because it can be set up to function based on the construction of the space,” Drosnes says. “The slants of the roof that cause the walls to be at odd angles can be wallpapered or painted, and floating shelves can be installed. Built-in seating or desk space can be custom-designed to work around the odd shapes of the walls.”

10. Efficient bathroom

Was: Overstuffed bathroom

Efficient bathroon (© Sklep Spozywczy)

Efficient bathroon (© Sklep Spozywczy)

Instead of the spa-like expanses of a modern bathroom, some homeowners may have to make do with a smaller space so overstuffed with amenities that there is little or no room left for the person who wants to use the place.

Technology and modern design can help you maximize the space you have. A wall-hung toilet can save a few inches in a tight room. A small glass shower stall can liven up an old bathroom that a tub dominates. Don’t forget about lighting and paint colors to make the space seem larger.

This article was originally published by Scot Meyer of SwitchYard Media on MSN Real Estate. To see the original article, click here.

Secrets of Professional Home Stagers

Where’s the house? Where’s the fountain? Home-stager Barb Schwarz says you can’t sell it if you can’t see it.
Home Staging Secrets

Maybe you’ve seen the shows. A house languishes on the market and a crew of home stagers descends on the place and before you know it, they whip it into shape fast. And then what? It sells.

An investment of a few hundred or maybe a few thousand dollars in a home headed for the market — a sprucing up the pros call “home staging” — can yield nice returns.

Why stage a house? “Buyers can only imagine what they see, not what it’s going to be,” says Barb Schwarz, a broker who now focuses entirely on staging homes with her International Association of Home Staging Professionals. “If you don’t clean the carpet or don’t take down the flocked wallpaper or the teenager’s walls are painted bright purple, the buyer can’t envision it any other way.”

If done well, staging makes a remarkable difference. “We took over a house that was on the market for six months, didn’t change the price, staged it, and it sold in 18 days,” says Realtor® Paul Conti, who with his wife Ginger, stages and sells houses with Re/Max Valley Properties in San Jose, Calif.

Schwarz, who says she invented the concept and term of “home staging,” claims that homes staged by her accredited students sell in an average of 42 days vs. an unstaged home’s 136 days and with an increase in sales price of 6 to 22 percent.

Regardless of the numbers, the National Association of Realtors® has touted the benefits of staging — and it’s a given that real estate agents on commissions are just as eager as home sellers to boost a home’s selling price and lessen its time on the market.

Whether you want to spruce up your home for your own pleasure or boost its bottom line, stagers’ advice can give your house an amazing new look. Here’s how:

Start at the street

“Curb appeal” isn’t just a fancy phrase created to boost landscapers’ income. It’s a crucial first impression that can make buyers either wary of stopping to look or eager to step inside. Be sure your lawn and gardens look great, trash cans and bikes are put away, house numbers are attractive and easy to see, the front door is spectacular (because you’ve replaced it or painted it and perhaps updated the hardware), and that you have some attractive potted plants by the door.

Remember the foyer

The second first impression comes the minute a potential buyer steps inside your home. Coats on a rack, shoes underneath and keys and other doodads in a dish on a console table may mean you’re a fabulous organizer, but it’s not the way to sell a home. Put the coats and shoes in a closet, the keys in your purse and a vase of flowers on the table.

Try the 1/4 to 1/2 rule

While a few homes out there have too little furniture and too few accessories, the vast majority have way too much. You don’t just want to straighten up your clutter, you want to remove it. Consider putting at least one-quarter of your furniture in storage, one-third of your books in boxes and at least one-half of your knickknacks away. Use the same rule with cabinets, closets and counters. If they’re stuffed full, buyers will think they’re too small. Keep them tidy and one-third to one-half empty (place just a few things on each shelf). Don’t forget to pare down your outside furnishings and accessories, too.

Clean ’til you drop
Or hire a cleaning crew to come regularly while your home is on the market, or at least for a one-time super-cleaning. Don’t skip windows (inside and out), behind the toilet, bathroom grout, under sinks. Actually move your furniture to vacuum behind and under it.

Before and after of redecorated bathroom

A coat of paint and a little attention to accessories turned this blah bathroom into something worthy of guests.

Arrange furnishings to highlight the architecture

Take advantage of views and fireplaces. Spruce them up by framing or highlighting them, not covering them up or weighing them down. Put tall objects (furniture, vases, paintings or plants) against tall walls. Highlight, don’t block, the traffic flow. Grab a couple of sturdy friends and play with different ways to arrange your furniture. Again, pay special attention to your friends’ opinions.

Use rooms as they were intended

Take the exercise equipment out of the guest room and put a bed back in. Put a table and chairs in an eat-in kitchen. Get the home office equipment and filing cabinets out of your little-used dining room and set the table for company (or just put a nice vase of flowers on top).

Fix what’s broken

Buyers look for flaws to help lower the sales price in negotiations. That wobbly stair rail may still support you and the crack in the ceiling plaster may not be structural, but it’ll leave buyers wondering what else is not quite right. No matter how minor the problem, take your toolbox around and start fixing.

Update what you can

Tired home is often thanks to tired paint or furnishings. A new coat of neutral-toned paint is a buyer-pleasing backdrop. Remove outdated furniture; trade sofas with a friend or relative while your house is on the market, ditch yours and buy new, or store yours and rent or borrow a more contemporary style. Tired area rugs (or too many of them) detract from nice wood floors. Shag or other old-fashioned carpeting will turn buyers off. Replace it if you can; clean it if you can’t. Update a tired kitchen with an inexpensive new countertop, new cabinet doors, or even just new cabinet hardware.

Erase your personality

Love Hummels? Bummer. Collect fishing lures? Too bad. Think that colorful painting is quirky and fun? At least half the people who see it won’t. Box up your collections, your personal photos, and anything you wouldn’t expect to see on the floor of a furniture showroom. (Nondescript art is fine; art with attitude is not.) And put away blow dryers, makeup and toothbrushes. Buyers need to imagine themselves in your home, not wonder what its current inhabitants are like.

Invite over honest friends

Ask two or three of your most forthright friends to look through your house with the eye of a home buyer: What needs changing? The smell of pets? A cracked window? Not-so-clean appliances? What’s acceptable for daily living isn’t likely to impress a buyer.

Find storage away from your house

It’s tempting to shove all the boxes of extras into the basement or garage, but buyers will be looking there — judging how big they are. Make them as empty as possible by renting a storage space or borrowing a neighbor’s or relative’s garage for a while. (For last-minute things — a stack of papers, a handful of dirty clothes — you need to put away before a showing, stash them in the washer or dryer or under beds; most buyers never look there.)

This article was originally published by Diane Benson Harrington on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

What Does Properly Priced Mean?

Even in a seller’s market, the price must still be right.

What does properly priced mean?In a market where demand is strong and it has become more difficult to figure out how much buyers are willing to spend, how do real estate agents determine the right asking price for a house?

It has never been an exact science. These days, agents often find themselves starting at a higher price than is borne out by the facts and go from there.

Supply and demand, of course, dictate asking price. Obviously, if the supply is low, the asking price will have to be adjusted upward to meet it. In general, though, the asking price is a balance obtained by considering a neighborhood and the sale prices of comparable houses within the context of market conditions.

Demand in some areas of the country is so strong that agents put up a number and someone pays it because the buyer fears that the asking price will be higher next week. Out-of-town investors often help to further inflate prices.

Some current markets have shades of the late 1980s, when property appreciation and inflation made proper pricing beyond real estate agents’ control.

Comps still count in hot market

In a normal market, agents should be able to take comparable sales and come up with something that looks almost like an appraisal, with all the pluses and minuses.

Now, many agents look at the comparables and the competition to see how the house stacks up against the others on the market. Then they will tell the seller that they’ll look at the price again after two weeks of good marketing and re-evaluate it.

If there are no second showings or offers after two weeks, the asking price is probably too high.

How the property looks, its size and location are major factors in determining asking price. Sometimes, though, the house has features that are so special that agents adjust the asking price upward after looking at comparable sales over the last six months to a year.

Builder sets new home prices

Determining prices for new construction is totally different, because the seller is the builder, and the ones who are the most savvy about the market are the most successful.

First, the builder determines the construction costs and keeps that number to the side. Then the builder checks out what the competition is doing. This means considering the features that the builder offers and the competition doesn’t, the square footage and the builder’s specifications.

Different houses are priced based on type versus square footage and features. After coming up with a sale price, construction costs are factored in to make sure the builder is making the profit he expects.

Marketing a model home is a snap compared with marketing an existing home, because the builder is in control of the situation.

With existing homes, the houses reflect the tastes of the sellers, which may not be what most buyers are interested in.

A seller’s “taste” can be a plus or a minus. If a buyer wants hardwood floors and sees that the seller has replaced them with a less appropriate and too personal a choice, then there is a problem.

Curb appeal and amenities all contribute to pricing. Buyers shop in price increments based on what they think they should be getting. If the asking price is outside the increment, the house will sit. If a buyer knows that he will get a three-car garage in the $300,000 price range and sees a house at $275,000 with the three-car garage, he’ll buy it.

This article was originally published by Al Heavens on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here

Five Keys to Successful Negotiation

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller you want to succeed in the realty marketplace. That’s natural and reasonable, but what are the steps you need to triumph?
Five Keys to Successful NegotiationNegotiation is a complex matter and all transactions are unique. Both sides—buyer and seller—want to feel that the outcome favors them, or at least represents a fair balance of interests. In the usual case there is a bit of bluff, some give-and-take, and neither party gets everything they want.

So how do you develop a strong bargaining position, one which will help you get the most from a transaction? Experience shows there are five basic keys which will determine who wins at the negotiating table.

1. What does the market say?
At various times we’re in a “buyers” market, a “sellers” market, or a market where housing supply and demand are roughly equal. If possible, you want to be in the market at a time when it favors your position as a buyer or seller.

Because all properties are unique—it is possible to buck general trends and have more leverage than the marketplace would seem to allow. For instance, if you have a property in a desirable neighborhood with few sales, you may be able to get a better deal than elsewhere. Or, if you’re a buyer who can quickly close, that might be an important negotiating chip when dealing with an owner who just got a new job 500 miles away.

2. Who has leverage?

If you’re on the front page of the local paper because your business went bust—and the buyer knows it—you have little clout in the bargaining process. Alternatively, if you’re among six buyers clamoring for that one special property, forget about dictating an agreement—the owner can sit back and pick the offer which represents the highest price and best terms.

3. What are the details?

A lot of attention in real estate is paid to transaction prices. This surely makes sense, but the key to a good deal may be more complex.

Consider two identical properties that each sell on the same day for $275,000. The houses are the same, the sale prices are the same, but are the deals the same? Maybe not. For instance, one owner may have agreed to paint the property, replace the roof, purchase a new kitchen refrigerator, and pay the first $3,000 of the buyer’s closing costs. The second owner made no concessions.

In this example, the first house was actually sold at discount—the $275,000 purchase price less the value of the roof repairs, closing credit, and other items. If you’re a buyer, this is the deal you want. If you’re a seller, you would prefer to be the second owner and give up nothing.

4. What about financing?

Real estate transactions involve a trade—houses for money. We know the house is there, but what about financing? There are several factors that impact the money issue:

  • Has the buyer been pre-qualified or pre-approved by a lender? Meeting with a lender before looking at homes does not usually guarantee that financing is absolutely, unquestionably available—a loan application can be declined because of appraisal problems, title issues, survey findings, and other reasons. But, buyers who are “pre-qualified” or “pre-approved” (these terms do not have a standard meaning around the country) at least have some idea of their ability to finance a home and know that they are likely to qualify for certain loan programs. The result is that pre-qualified buyers represent less risk to owners than a purchaser who has never met with a lender. If the seller accepts an offer from a buyer with unknown financial strength, it’s possible that the transaction could fail because the buyer can’t get a loan. Meanwhile, the owner may have lost the opportunity to sell to a qualified buyer.
  • The lower the interest rate, the larger the pool of potential buyers. More buyers equal more potential demand, good news for sellers.Alternatively, high rates or even rising rates may drive buyers from the marketplace—and that’s not good for anyone.
  • It used to be that downpayments were a major financing hurdle—but not anymore. For those with good credit, loans with 5 percent down or less are now widely available. In fact, 100 percent financing, mortgages with nothing down, are now being made by conventional lenders. Reduced downpayment requirements are good for both buyers and sellers.

5. Who has expertise?

Imagine you’re in a fight. The other guy has black belts in 12 martial arts—and you don’t. Who’s going to win?

Brokers have long represented sellers, and now buyer brokerage is entirely common. In a transaction where one side has representation and the other does not, who has the advantage at the bargaining table?

This article was originally published on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

Don’t Overlook a Home’s Potential

Home shopping for first-time homebuyers it’s an exciting, albeit nerve-wracking, experience. If you’re like others in the market for their first home, you probably have in mind exactly how your soon-to-be home will look.

Don't Overlook a Home's Potential

But it’s important not to fall into the bad decorating, dingy walls and dirt-bare back yard equals bad-home trap. If you don’t see past the hideous wallpaper, funky light fixtures and avocado green carpeting, you may miss out on a home with great potential.

And, if you’re looking for a home in a seller’s market where homes are being snatched up as soon as they go on the market, you’ll come to realize you can’t be choosy if you want to make a competitive offer.

One of the first things to do is to get pre-approved for a loan and determine the maximum you can afford to offer for a house. Don’t look at homes that are asking for more than 5 percent above your maximum, otherwise you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment if you find the perfect—but outside your budget—home.

So what to do?

The floor plan of the home is extremely important. If a floor plan isn’t quite to your liking, consider rearranging it or adding on. If you’re looking at an existing home and will need to remodel or expand to suit your needs, the estimated cost of renovation needs to be considered when making an offer.

Also, consider the features of a home:

Walls. While these are among the easiest to remedy, they also make a huge first impression. If the walls need to be painted, are covered in wallpaper or are painted a color you find distasteful, picture them crisp and clean in the color of your choice—that’s how they could look after you paint them.

Floors. Like walls, carpet or floor surfaces that are old or outdated can be easily replaced. You could even ask for a carpet allowance in your bid, especially if you’re in a buyer’s market.

View. Things like old, ugly—even dirty—windows and window treatments can make a view appear less desirable. Those things can be improved, so unless the only view you have is of your neighbor’s clunker on the side of the house, don’t get hung up on what is surely a fixable view.

Landscaping. Your best bet is a moderately landscaped yard because you can always improve landscaping without spending too much. Worst case, even if you’re looking at dirt, landscaping is one of the easier projects to tackle. Plus you get to design it however you’d like if you’re starting from scratch.

Closets and garages. You can never have too much storage space, which is why so many newer homes have three-car garages. But if you encounter a converted garage that is now a bedroom or storage room, don’t give up. Converted garages can almost always go back to their original purpose without much cost or labor.

Kitchen. The most popular room in the house, many homeowners want their kitchen to be large and have modern appliances. Don’t let outdated color schemes deter you because there’s nothing like a fresh coat (or two) of paint to make a kitchen your own. Plus, if you like the rest of the house enough to make an offer, you can give the kitchen a minor spruce-up with some new appliances or a major overhaul complete with new countertops, cabinets, and flooring.

The exterior. If the home doesn’t have good curb appeal, try to picture it with a fresh coat of paint and revitalized landscaping.

Pools. If you want a pool, buy a home with a pool already built in. Pools are expensive and you will not get a full return on the cost when you go to sell. Let someone else lose the return. The cost of repairing a pool is less than putting one in, so if you’re looking at a home with an old pool that looks like it’s in bad shape, it’s still a better bet than putting one in later.

When making an offer, consider what you can’t live without, as well as your budget. Also, be sure you hire a professional home inspector to inspect the house. If the home’s systems are in good working order and the house has everything you want except a minor item or two, make an offer accordingly.

Most importantly, keep in mind that unless you’re building your dream home from scratch, you’ll probably never find the perfect home. But seeing past a previous owner’s bad decorating choices to the core of the home and its potential for livability will yield you the home you’ve always wanted. It may take some work, but hey—it’s yours.

This article was originally published by Michele Dawson on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.