Thursday
Jul262012

Four Tips to Make Your Home Show Like a Model

I was reading an article the other day about showing houses and why some just don't seem to attract buyers. The home might be perfect for them but sometimes they just can't get past the first impression. Studies have shown that it takes buyers only seven seconds to decide whether or not they are going to buy a home once they set foot in the house. That is why is so crucial to make a good impression and also why "staging" a home for sale is such a fine art.

However, not all of us have the cash on hand, or the time, energy or desire, to do things that are really going to flip your home over to the next buyer quickly. As you know, "price trumps all" in real estate, but not everybody is ready to continually lower their asking price. Also, not everybody has the cash on hand to install a brand new Jacuzzi complete with wall mounted towel warmers and new stone tile floors. However you might have the money on hand to install designer faucets, paint the walls and replace the old iron door handles with the latest trendy brushed stainless steel knobs.

Here are four quick and easy ways to make your home show like a model for under $200. These are easy-to-do tips and the type of thing a qualified Realtor® or an interior decorator would advise you to do to help "stage" a property to so it is more attractive to buyers. The goal of this list is to give you solid advice on how to make your home show better than the competition in the local market.

 

  • Clear all Clutter. Don't be a hoarder!

You can get rid of all of the junk in your home for free! Simply get rid of anything you don't need, or haven't use in the past year and haul it away in your car to the nearest town dump. If you have metal objects, head on over to the scrap metal recycling center like this one in New Egypt. If you live outside Burlington County, Google scrap metal, you might find that the stuff you thought was junk is worth a nice chunk of change.

 

  • Get Rid of Evidence of Pets.

If you have a dog or cat send them away for the day. Hide the litter box and any evidence of it's aroma. Make sure your front yard is "poop" free. These are the types of things, along with their smells that can convince a buyer there are allergens, mikes and pet urea in the house. Houses with more pets are also considered to be less desirable than one with no pets at all.

  • Get Rid of Evidence of Kids (AKA: Help Them Organize Their Stuff). Don't get me wrong-I love kids, I even have a granddaughter who thinks our house is an extension of her toy box. But when showing a property, you want to create a "blank canvas". Get rid of the strollers on the porch, inflatable kiddie pools in the backyard and any toys that might be lying around in the hallway. Get rid of the baby gates and make sure there are no hand prints or crayon drawings on the walls. Studies have shown that homes with kid's stuff strewn about are considered to be less hygienic or valuable than those that don't.

 

  • Clean Up the Front Yard and the Porches. The front yard and porch are your very first impression of the house. It is the first thing a buyer sees when they approach the home. Make sure

the grass is cut and the garden is nicely tended. If you have to, reseed the lawn and plant a few bushes. It also does not hurt to spruce up the front door with a coat of paint and replace the house number plates and the door knocker with new versions. It also helps a lot to remove dead trees, limbs or bushes that may be on the property. Many people associate that with a lack of caring for the property. It can also send a feeling of bad luck or bad karma for some people. Last but not least, turn on the lights at night to showcase your home. 

 

 

Need more tips? Call me, I can help!

 

Sunday
Jul222012

Steps to Successful Home Ownership

As you might know, I began a new career as a Realtor Associate with Coldwell Banker Elite Realtors. I want to share with you some of the steps necessary to become a homeowner. This information is excerted from the non profit group, Home Ownership Council.

GET INFORMED
Buying a home is probably the largest investment you will ever make.  Becoming an informed consumer will help you make smart decisions on your way to being a successful homeowner.

DECIDE WHAT IS AFFORDABLE

What you can afford is not always what the lender says you can afford.  There is a big difference and only you and your family can say what your budget should be and how much you are comfortable paying each month.

SHOP FOR A MORTGAGE

You really need to find the best loan for your budget and your personal finances. Call around to see whom you are comfortable working with and who can get you the best loan. Once you choose your mortgage lender get preapproved so you bring the strongest possible position to the home buying process.

SHOP FOR A HOME

Most homebuyers will work with a real estate agent to help them buy a home. A Realtor® can help you find a home based on what you can afford and what matters most to you.

PREPARE AND NEGOTIATE A PURCHASE AGREEMENT

When you find your dream home, your Realtor® helps you write and negotiate a purchase agreement. This is a written contract signed by the buyer and the seller stating the terms and conditions for the sale. Sellers ultimately decide whether to accept or reject a purchase agreement.

COMPLETE A PROFESSIONAL HOME INSPECTION

Once you have signed a purchase agreement you will want to get a professional home inspection. A certified home inspector can find current and potential problems not always visible to buyers. It is worth the expense in the long run. Your Realtor® can help you find a qualified home inspector to use.After the purchase agreement is sent to your lender, they will finish processing your loan application and have the property appraised to make sure it is worth the amount you want to pay for it.

CLOSE ON THE LOAN

The closing will typically take place in the seller’s real estate office. At this meeting you and the seller will sign the paperwork and transfer title of the home from the seller to you. Once closing is complete, you will receive the keys to your new home.

Monday
Jun252012

Adapting or Building a Home for Universal Access

As the mother of a disabled son, I feel I am uniquely qualified* to help you with your questions about modifying or building a home for universal access. Over the years, my own home has been modified to allow our son greater access to all of our activities. Even though my situation may be different from yours, many of us will experience a disability at least temporarily. All of us can have accidents and find ourselves or a family member on crutches, using a walker or even a wheelchair. So how would you get yourself up stairs or through a narrow door? How would you make dinner, do laundry or use the bathroom? Planning for the unexpected can help us continue living full and productive lives. All it takes is a little preparation, some expert help and a vision.

It is also true that the demand for accessible housing will continue to rise. Most of us want to live independent lives and we want the ability to take care of ourselves so we can remain active and less dependent. Traditional builders have never really understood the needs of the disabled so finding a home that is accessible is difficult. Most homes can be modified to accommodate your needs and physical capabilities. If your needs are greater than a few simple fixes then building an accessible home may be your answer.

So what makes a home accessible? It boils down to the ability to enter and move around without obstacles. When we visit friends and family, the first difficulty we encounter are the front steps and narrow doorways. A wheelchair needs at least a 36” opening but a 42” or better will enable the user to easily get in the house. Once inside, plan on converting those narrow 24” doors to 32”, 36” or better. Stairs are really difficult to maneuver. Platforms are a sounder investment. They also make a beautiful entrance to a home.

Another alternative is the wheelchair ramp. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a “ramp as any part of a wheelchair-accessible route to a building with a slope greater than 1 inch of rise for every 20 inches of length. The guidelines require that ramps be constructed with the least possible degree of slope. The maximum rise allowed for a ramp is 30 inches. In new construction, ramps can rise at no more than the rate of 1 inch or rise for every 12 inches of run.” There are ready-made ramps available if you have a temporary situation to deal with, but make sure you have adequate space to allow for the run.

At my house we integrated landscaping pathways as means of access. Since landscaping does not fall under the code, the slope can be slightly steeper and more aesthetic to the house. We also incorporated shade areas to encourage lingering. Our son is extremely heat sensitive and burns easily so shade is very imortant to his well being. This open pavillion in our backyard provides him with shade, sound and the oppurtunity to partipate in family functions. Talk with a qualified landscaper to determine the best design for your needs.

Inside, doorways need to be enlarged to an opening at least 32” wide but 36” wide is really preferable. A typical wheelchair needs a 5’ turning radius to move and turn freely. Going down a hallway and into a room like a bedroom or bathroom you need to make sure you can turn the chair and get through the door without a problem. The door itself needs to swing flush against a wall. An offset door hinge can increase the width about 2” and is often enough to allow a wheelchair or walker to pass through. We use pocket doors with great success since they slide directly between the walls and open the doorway up completely.

Kitchens are difficult for people in wheelchairs to access. Sometimes the removal of lower base cabinets will help to provide access, but lowering the counter to desk height, installing pull out shelves or drawers, the use of a lazy susan in cabinets and even adding a pull out or drop down shelf can help. Just remember to relocate electrical receptacles, garbage disposal and exhaust fan switches to the front of the cabinet or counter.

In the bedroom make the space your own by adding dimmers near your bedside, installing low pile carpeting or adding wood floors, placing motion detecting sensors in the areas between your bedroom and bathroom and even adding electric window coverings that you can control from one location in the room. If you need an electric bed, make sure you have an accessible outlet near where the bed is placed. For your closet, enlarge the opening and install adjustable shelves and rods to accommodate your specific needs. Consider adding a light in the closet to make it easier

The final obstacle in any home for universal design is the bathroom. There are a number of considerations to take into account when designing the room.

  • Toilets: the average residential toilet is 14” to 16” high. A better choice would be a comfort height toilet, which measures 17” to 19” high. A taller toilet makes easier to transfer from a seating position to another. It is also easier on the legs. An elongated seat is another good option. The shape is more natural to the human body and is more comfortable overall. A soft close lid, which is another option, is a nice to have when remodeling.
  • Sinks and Faucets: a typical sink is placed in a vanity and is not usually wheelchair friendly. Although pedestal sinks look great, there are not many options when it comes to height. The best answer is to install a wall mounted sink at your preferred height. For the faucet look at replacing all with a single lever and install an anti scald feature to protect you and your family.
  • Bathtubs and Showers: a bathtub can be extremely hazardous. Transferring from a wheelchair to a tub is very difficult. Getting out of a wet tub back into the wheelchair is even harder. The solution is the replace the tub with a shower. There are prefabricated molded acrylic/fiberglass shower units that fit into the space of the tub area. Another option is to build a custom shower with grab bars, seating and slip resistant flooring. Showers can be built with a curb or without, also known as a roll-in shower. There are problems associated with each design so make sure to check with your architect or builder to make the right decision based on your needs, your room configurations and your home.

 Finding a contractor familiar with universal design can be challenging and frustrating. I have assembled a team of qualified architects, builders and designers who are well versed in designing for accessibility. When we find the perfect house for you, I can call in the team to give you advice about how to make your house the right home for your special needs.

 *Disclaimer: These are my own personal recommendations, a qualified, licensed archetect and conractor should be consulted prior to the start of any project. All Township Building Codes must be observed.

 

 

 

Monday
Jun252012

A New Career

I recently passed the NJ Real Estate License exam and have started working for Coldwell Banker Elite, Realtors in Mt. Laurel, NJ. As a new Realtor Associate, I am working with clients to buy and sell properties. One of the best things about working with Coldwell Banker is the great connections I have that work for all consumers. For instance, the company is affiliated with some of the top internet sites including Realtor.com, Trulia, Yahoo Real Estate and HGTV Front Door. We also have a phenomenal Relocation Service, so if you are in New Jersey or somewhere around the world, I can help you with your Real Estate needs.

The motto I have chosen for my business is "Honesty, Integrity and Fair Dealing for every client." I will continually strive to make the experience for my clients the best they have had. With my background in Public Relations and Advertising, the jump to Realtor will be seamless. I hope you will connect with me on my business Facebook page at LindaAlexandroffRealtorAssociate soon. I am posting recipes, gardening tips, decorating tips and a smattering of Real Estate issues. I will continue to post my thoughts and experiences on all things that are Simply Extraordinary as well!

Tuesday
Jun052012

Pairing food and wines. Part 1-Cheese and Wine

My husband and I belong to the Virgin Wines Explorers Club. Four times a year we receive 12 bottles of red and white wine from across the world. This month, our selections include JB Atkinson Sauvignon Blanc 2010; Il Papavero Sparking Pinot Grigio 2010; Les Dix du Pallet Muscadet 2010; Schroeder Estate Malbec Rose 2010; Joseph Castan Corbieres Reserve 2010; Don Manuel Reserva Carmenere 2011; Baileyana Pinot Noir Cuvee du Clos 2010; and Siete Pecado Montsant 2009. The countries represented include France, Italy, United States, Chile, Argentina and Spain.

In our box we received a wonderful guide to food and wine entitled "The Rules of Engagement". What really caught my eye was a chart that described the type of food, some specifics about the food, what the various wine styles are like and a selection of appropriate wine types. 

Since the weather is rapidly turning warmer with each passing week here in New Jersey, I thought I would tackle everyone's favorite porch/deck/lawn pairings: wine and cheese.

Wine and cheese seem to have a natural affinity for each other. However, a few wines are not as cheese friendly as others. For example, a heavy red with strong tannin can overwhelm most cheese and taste bitter. It is always advisable to stick with whites, rose, light fruity reds and sparkling wines. Most of us like soft or semi soft cheese, but not everyone likes the stinky or strong cheeses. When setting out a cheese platter be sure to include a variety of soft, semi-soft, semi-firm, firm and blues. It is also helpful to "bridge" the various cheeses with some dried fruit, nuts and salty olives.

At our house, there is a definite preference for brie, gouda, parmigiano reggiano and some chevres. We also like a variety of crackers to enhance the various cheeses and provide a platform to consume the softer cheeses.