8 Camera Tips to Capture a Room’s Size

Make sure every square foot counts when photographing interiors. Try these tips to expand the space.

Buyers love spacious homes. They also love to look at online property photos. But it’s not always easy to squeeze square footage into a camera shot—and sometimes furniture arrangements or floor coverings actually do a disservice to the way your listing is presented online or in marketing photos, says Debra Gould, president of home staging company Six Elements Inc. in Toronto and creator of the Staging Diva training program.

She offers these tips for making sure that every room of your listing looks as large in photos as it does in real life.

1. Remove area rugs. Rugs break up the expanse of the floor and can make rooms look smaller. Keep the floor as clear as possible.

2. Use a wide-angle camera. A camera with a wide-angle lens (28 millimeters or less on a DSLR, or the equivalent on a point-and-shoot) is best for interior shots because it magnifies the distance between objects and showcases a room’s depth, Gould says. But beware of fisheye lenses or ultra wide-angle lenses, which tend to make rooms look wider but can mislead buyers into thinking there’s more space than there is.

3. Get creative with furniture. Make sure that furniture doesn’t block views or walkways so you reveal as much of the floor as possible. If there’s too much furniture packed into a room or the furniture is too large, it can also work against you in photos.

In a crowded room, try removing a few pieces of furniture or swapping in a smaller piece. In a kitchen or dining room, it might look better if you remove that extra leaf from the table. Try using furniture to create new spaces in large rooms and really show off that square footage. For example, Gould added a reading corner in a master bedroom to show that more than just a bed could fit.

4. Fill up an empty space. Buyers have trouble imagining how their stuff will fit into an empty room; the space can seem smaller than it really is. If possible, bring in furniture for staging. “If the rooms are furnished, they look larger and much more inviting,” Gould says.

5. Use mirrors to your advantage. A reflection in a mirror can reveal more of a room when you can’t squeeze everything into your photo. This can be a great technique particularly when photographing bathrooms. Use the reflection of the bathroom mirror to show the extras, such as that soaker tub. Just be sure to shoot photos at an angle so that you don’t capture your own reflection!

6. Lighten up. In photos, brighter rooms typically come across as more open and welcoming, whereas dark rooms can look small and dingy. Pay attention to the light sources in a room to get a better shot. Turn on all of the lights and open the curtains to let in natural light and expand the space. But don’t shoot directly into a light source; it’ll darken a room.

7. Shoot at an angle. The diagonal line is the longest visual line in a room. Try shooting from the corner; back up as far as you can before you shoot. But don’t limit yourself: Take shots from three or four different angles so that you have plenty of options, Gould recommends. Also, try getting low to the ground to show off the length of the room. Eye level doesn’t always work best to capture floor proportions.

8. Remove clutter. You’ve heard it before, but clutter makes a room look cramped and steals attention from a room’s intended focal points. Clear away paper stacks, crowded walls of artwork, cluttered countertops, magnets covering the refrigerator, and towels hanging from the stove.

Finally, do your best to ensure that any major changes you make to a room’s layout for the purpose of photos are kept in place for showings. “You’ll create a disconnect if the house looks great only in the online photos,” Gould says. “If buyers feel let down, they’re not going to buy the house.”

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Mouth-Watering Outdoor Kitchens

(And Surprise! Their ROI Is Great)

What they typically cost, and tips for getting the most return on your investment.

Outdoor kitchen on home backyard deck
Image: Aniko Levai of Place of My Taste

Building an outdoor kitchen is more than an indulgence: These backyard beauties can improve your home’s value. Outdoor kitchens typically get a 71% return on investment, according to the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of REALTORS® — and that’s on top of your own outdoor-cooking joy.

The investment can be a little — or a lot. These five outdoor kitchen ideas fit a range of budgets and homes.

#1 A Tiny Outdoor Kitchen for Limited Spaces

Small outdoor entertaining area with grill and oven
Image: Field-Issue

If you boil down an outdoor kitchen to the basics, what more do you need than a grill, a little oven, cupboard space, and a cozy place to sit? This setup does it all efficiently, for as little as a few hundred dollars if you already have outdoor electricity. An electrician will add to the cost.

#2 An Outdoor Kitchen From a Kit

Concrete outdoor kitchen with sink and wood-burning oven
Image: WWOO Concrete Outdoor Kitchens

Modular kits, like this one from WWOO (starting around $1,500), can be customized to suit your backyard. Some companies even offer design help for additional cost.

The galley-inspired layout here also does double duty by adding privacy. (Keep in mind the cool outdoor sink requires additional plumbing, which will increase the cost.)

#3 An Outdoor Kitchen Made of Concrete & Steel

White concrete and stainless steal outdoor kitchen
Image: Mrs. Rackley

DIY-savvy homeowners used concrete and cement board to create this L-shaped outdoor kitchen that mimics today’s indoor layouts. Guests relax at the counter while the host flips burgers — it’s open-concept living in the great wide-open.

No, this isn’t DIY 101, but if you’ve got the skill set you can do it for the cost of materials — and concrete is cheap. If you hire a pro, though, the typical cost is about $14,000 for a kitchen that includes an inset grill, steel drawers, ice chest, sink, and concrete countertop, according to the “Remodeling Impact Report.”

#4 An Outdoor Kitchen With Personal Style

Wooden outdoor kitchen with grill, mini fridge, and table
Image: Custom outdoor products by Rustic WoodWorx, LLC

Your outdoor kitchen doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. But it should match your home’s style if you want to get a return on your investment. This DIY kitchen fits the home’s rustic style and comes with enough storage any indoor cook would envy.

#5 An Outdoor Kitchen That Says “Sit a Spell”

Outdoor dining area with yellow umbrella over table
Image: Aniko Levai of Place of My Taste

Your outdoor kitchen can play the same role in your yard that your kitchen inside does: as the heartbeat of every gathering where guests will want to stay awhile. And bonus: The added deck and pergola could also kick up your home value a couple of notches.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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Replace or Reface?

Replace or Reface Your Kitchen Cabinets? Options and Costs

Refacing kitchen cabinets might be “superficial,” but the results and savings are dramatic.

Refaced kitchen cabinets
Image: Kathy Corbet Interiors/John Magor Photography

Refacing your kitchen cabinets includes covering the exposed frames with a thin veneer of real wood or plastic laminate.

Doors and drawer fronts are replaced to match or complement the new veneer. New hinges, knobs, pulls, and molding complete the transformation.

What Are the Pros and Cons?

Kitchen cabinet refacing pros:

  • Costs about half as much as replacing cabinets.
  • Takes less time (a week or less!) and money.
  • It’s less hassle than tearing out cabinets.
  • You can still use your kitchen while refacing.
  • It’s a green kitchen remodeling solution because you’re not adding to the landfill.

Kitchen cabinet refacing cons (there aren’t many):

  • Refacing won’t fix a bad kitchen design.
  • You might be tempted to spend more on exotic veneer and hardware (saving you less).

What Are Your Refacing Options?

Your choices for the finished look of your cabinets are virtually limitless. Veneers are available in a wide variety of colors, patterns, textures, grains, and more, which you can mix or match to get a relatively low-cost kitchen facelift.

  • Rigid thermofoil (RTF) doors, which feature a durable plastic coating over fiberboard, are an affordable alternative to wood or laminate doors.
  • Plastic laminates come in hundreds of colors and patterns, are durable and moisture-resistant, and are reasonably priced. You can pick matching or contrasting laminates for your doors and drawer fronts.
  • Real wood veneers include many standard species, such as oak, cherry, and maple, and you also can choose from an array of stain colors. Wood veneers are the most expensive option. Wood must be carefully sealed to protect against moisture.

Further customize and update the look of your cabinets with new kitchen cabinet hardware. 

What Does Refacing Cost?

A professional cabinet refacing for a typical 10-foot-by-12-foot kitchen starts at around $1,000 to $3,000 for laminate. Expect to pay $2,500 to $6,000 for real wood veneer. Costs can rise to $7,000 to $9,000 or more for a large project with high-quality wood veneer.

Finishing the project with new hardware (pulls, knobs, hinges) runs $2 to $4 per piece, up to $20 to $50 each for high-end hardware.

In comparison, completely replacing old kitchen cabinets with new cabinets starts at $4,000 to $5,000 and up for stock cabinets; $8,000 to $10,000 for semi-custom cabinets; $16,000 to $20,000 and up for custom-made cabinetry.

How Do I Know If My Cabinets Are Good for Refacing?

Refacing is feasible if your existing cabinet boxes are structurally sound and in good condition. Cabinets with water damage, warping, and broken frames are poor candidates. Particleboard cabinetry sometimes requires fasteners, in addition to adhesives, to ensure that the veneer is secure. 

How Are They Installed?

A professional installer will come to your house to measure your cabinets and determine the amount of veneer required, the correct sizes and quantities for door and drawer fronts, and how much hardware is needed. Newly ordered doors and drawer fronts may take one to two weeks for delivery.

When all the materials are in hand, your installer removes old cabinet door and drawer fronts, and prepares the surface of the cabinet boxes by washing the exteriors with a degreaser and lightly sanding the finish. Any significant flaws in the surface are repaired or filled to ensure a smooth, secure fit for the new veneer.

The installer applies veneer to the cabinet faces and any exposed cabinet ends, then mounts the new doors, drawer fronts, and hardware. The process typically takes two to four days.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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REALTORS® Land Market Survey

Highlights:

Cover of the Land Market Survey
  • Land Sales Rose 3%: While the COVID-19 pandemic battered the commercial real estate market in 2020, the land market held up to the pandemic’s severe blow, according to survey participants. The 3% increase in land sales contrasts starkly with a 40% drop in commercial sales transactions of properties or portfolios of at least $2.5 million.
  • Land Sales Prices Rose 2%: Respondents reported that land sales prices increased by 2% on average in 2020. In contrast, the Green Street Commercial Price Index, an appraisal-based index of the properties held by REITS, indicates that commercial real estate prices fell 6% in 2020.
  • Strongest Price Increases in Residential and Recreational Land: Respondents reported that the sales price of residential land rose 6.8% on average in 2020. Recreational land had the next highest price gain, at 3.6%. The price of land for industrial use rose 3.4% while the price of ranch land rose 3.1%.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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Buying or Selling a Property That Had “Green” Features

WASHINGTON (April 20, 2021) – Thirty-two percent of Realtors® said they had been directly involved with buying or selling a property that had green or eco-friendly features in the past 12 months, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors®.

NAR’s 2021 Realtors® and Sustainability Report surveyed Realtors® about sustainability issues facing the real estate industry. The association released the report in recognition of this year’s upcoming Earth Day celebration.

Sixty-five percent of respondents said promoting energy efficiency in listings was valuable, with 36% reporting that their multiple listing service had green data fields. Among Realtors® who did have MLS green data fields, 36% used them to promote green features, 25% highlighted energy information and 13% listed green certifications. More than half of those surveyed – 55% – said their clients were interested in sustainability.

“A growing number of consumers are seeking homes with features that are good for the environment and, by extension, good for their wallets by reducing utility expenses in the long run,” said Jessica Lautz, NAR vice president of demographics and behavioral insights. “The pandemic has led to an increased focus on wellness and sustainability is an important variable in that overall equation for some people.”

A strong majority of Realtors® – 82% – said properties with solar panels were available in their market and 40% said solar panels increased the perceived property value.

Twenty-two percent of respondents said that a high-performance home – defined as a systematic building science approach to home improvements that enhance indoor comfort, health, operational efficiency and durability – increased the dollar value offered compared to other similar homes.

The home features that Realtors® believed were most important to clients included the windows, doors, and siding (39%); proximity to frequently visited places (38%); a comfortable living space (37%); a home’s utility bills and operating costs (23%); and commuting costs (15%).

A quarter of respondents – 25% – had clients who frequently or sometimes requested to see properties close to public transportation. Fourteen percent of those surveyed said that a neighborhood’s walkability was very important to their clients while 8% said the same about access to bike lanes and paths.

Methodology

In March 2021, NAR invited a random sample of 65,471 active Realtors® to fill out an online survey. A total of 5,048 useable responses were received for an overall response rate of 7.7%. At the 95% confidence level, the margin of error is plus-or-minus 1.38%.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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6 Ways to Improve Curb Appeal

The living landscapes of a property(link is external) — grass, trees, shrubs, and flowers — play a critical role in creating a first impression of a home. More time is being spent in the safe space of our backyards, and buyers more than ever understand the value of the yard as a place for children and pets to play. The yard is an extension of the home’s living space and a natural setting in which to de-stress.

2 story house with backyard patio, blue trim and green lawn.

1. Spring clean

A good cleanup is the first step. A leaf blower makes quick work of clearing debris from flowerbeds, yards, and mulched areas. Also, fix bare patches in the grass and add a fresh layer of mulch to create a neat-looking outdoor space.

2. Mow the lawn

A carpet of grass is inviting and creates a crisp backdrop for the rest of any living landscape. Proper mowing helps create a beautiful, lower-maintenance, and drought-tolerant lawn. The general rule of thumb is to cut only the top third of the grass blades off at any given time.

3. Trim bushes & trees

Use a trimmer, chainsaw, or pole pruner to cut back any overgrown shrubs, bushes, or trees. Use an edger to form a polished, clean boundary between the lawn and walkways.

4. Keep safety in mind

Review handling and safety procedures for all outdoor power equipment. Follow all guidelines, and get familiar with controls. Lost the manual? Look it up online and save a copy on your computer for easy reference next time.

5. Right plant, right place

Plant colorful flowers in the flowerbeds, along fence lines, and in patio containers, especially near the front door. Selecting native plants (refer to the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map(link is external)) ensures your landscaping will thrive, and it will also require less water and upkeep.

6. Plant for pollinators & wildlife

Native plants attract local pollinators and wildlife, adding an extra-special touch to showings. Family yards are an important part of the connected ecosystem providing much-needed food and shelter for birds, bees, butterflies, bats, and other creatures. The Audubon Society’s database(link is external) can help determine which birds will be attracted to which plants in your region.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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Fair Housing Month

Every April, REALTORS® commemorate the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 with events and education that shine a light on housing discrimination and segregation. Fair Housing Month signifies a recommitment to expanding equal access to housing.

Implicit bias is often a manifestation of muscle memory. A go-with-your-gut unconscious choice, act, or opinion with immeasurable consequences that can–and have–impacted generations.

Slow down, course correct, and take action. Throughout the year we must remain steadfast in our commitment breaking down biases, holding ourselves accountable, and upholding the letter of the law.

So, refresh your memory, and open your mind. There’s always more to know, and we can all do better.

Fair Housing Book Recommendations

Residential segregation in America didn’t happen by accident. Americans of different racial backgrounds live apart because of deliberate actions by public and private actors. NAR’s Vice President of Policy Advocacy, Bryan Greene, compiled a collection of fair housing titles to help NAR members deepen their understanding of how we became divided, and of the ramifications of living in a segregated society.

Don’t have time to read an entire book? Each recommendation also includes book reviews, interviews, videos and other tools to give you a quick recap.

Fair Housing Film and Video Recommendations

Short videos, documentaries, and a featured length major motion picture help educate about housing discrimination, segregation, and the people working to correct these social and economic wrongs.

Fair Housing Podcasts

Like to learn about the world from podcasts? We’ve got you covered. From This American Life to The Bowery Boys, NAR presents podcasts that will educate you on Fair Housing.

Fair Housing Journalism

compilation of articles featuring the work of investigative journalists who have uncovered critical fair housing stories, along with civil rights scholars who have condensed their books into a shorter form. They’ll help you deepen your understanding of fair housing in less time than it takes to read an entire book.

Spotlight on Local and National Fair Organizations

Fair housing organizations work in communities across the country, as well as at the state and national levels, to educate the public about fair housing, investigate claims of discrimination, and push for policies that promote housing rights. They work in partnership with governments and private housing providers to promote best practices to prevent discrimination and foster diverse, inclusive communities.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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Your Credit Before Buying a Home

What to Know About Your Credit Before Buying a Home

It’s not just whether you pay your bills on time that matters.

Credit ratings for new homeowners
Image: Cavan Images/Tanya St/StudioBarcelona/Getty

Like it or not, your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your life, ranking up there with your Social Security number, date of birth, and wedding anniversary. This three-digit number is your financial report card, except there’s no getting rid of it after college.

Your credit score shows lenders just how trustworthy you are when it comes to managing your finances, and it can either save or cost you thousands of dollars throughout your life. 

If you’re in the dark about just how significantly this number can impact you and the details behind your personal score, here’s an overview of what you need to know before hitting the mortgage application process.

How Your Score is Calculated

Your FICO credit score is comprised of five elements, according to the Fair, Isaac Corp.

  1. 35% of your score is attributed to how you pay your bills. Points are added for paying on time and deducted for late or missing payments. Note: This is a big portion of your score, so if you’re not paying bills on time, it’s best to get that under control pronto.
  2. 30% of your score is based on your credit utilization ratio. Translation: How much money do you owe as a portion of the amount of credit available to you? The lower this ratio, the better.
  3. 15% is based on the length of your credit history. When did you open your first account (and is it still open)?
  4. 10% of your score goes to the type of credit you have. Think revolving credit (such as credit cards) and installment credit (such as car loans and mortgages).
  5. The last 10% is impacted by new credit applications. How often and for what types of credit are you applying?

Where to Find Your Score and Report

To access your credit report, use a website such as annualcreditreport.com, which will give you one free report a year, or creditkarma.com, which will provide you with free access to your score upon signing up for an account. 

Once you have copies of your report and score, immediately look for fraudulent or erroneous information. If you find anything, immediately contact both the credit reporting agency and the company that is portraying inaccurate information to determine next steps.

How Your Score Can Cost You

Your score can range from about 300 to 850. You’ll find a variety of breakdowns on what’s considered “good” compared to “excellent” versus “poor,” but in general you’ll want to aim for a score of 740 and higher, which is the “very good” range.

The higher your credit score, the more creditworthy you appear to lenders (meaning they can rely on you to pay your debts and pay them on time), which translates into lower interest rates and more money saved when taking out a loan.

Not sure how this can play out financially? Consider this:

Meet Claire: She’s 35, pays her credit card off in full each month, has all her bills on auto-draft, and never misses a payment. She’s had a positive credit history for 10 years and wants to buy a home. Claire was approved for a $200,000, 30-year fixed-rate loan at 3.75%.

Meet Steve: He’s 32, obtained his first credit card at age 18, ran up some debt in college that he’s still working on paying down, and has no system for keeping track of bills. He has consistent late and bounced check fees. Steve wants to buy a home and was approved for a $200,000, 30-year fixed-rate loan at 5.5%.

What’s all the fuss about if they were both approved? Over the life of her loan, Claire will pay $133,443.23 in interest. Over the life of his loan, Steve will pay $208,808.08 in interest. A small interest rate difference of 1.75% translates into $75,364.85 more paid by Steve! $75,000 is a pretty significant sum of money that could be used toward other goals.

Having a solid credit score is one of the most financially savvy tools for you to have on hand when it comes to buying a home. When managed wisely, your credit score will bring you confidence, peace of mind, and more money saved via low interest rates. 

When mismanaged or not cared for at all, your credit score can delay your success in meeting financial goals and result in additional funds and resources spent correcting past mistakes. 

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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Guide to Paint Finishes

Choosing the wrong type of paint finish could mean a do-over that costs twice as much.

Woman standing in front of a wall of paint colors
Image: Tanavat/Shutterstock

There’s a basic rule of thumb to follow when choosing paint sheens: The higher the sheen, the higher the shine — and the higher the shine, the more durable it will be.

Flat paint has no shine; high-gloss is all shine. In between are eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss, each with its own practical and decorative job to do. 

There’s a basic rule of thumb to follow when choosing paint sheens: The higher the sheen, the higher the shine — and the higher the shine, the more durable it will be.

Flat paint has no shine; high-gloss is all shine. In between are eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss, each with its own practical and decorative job to do. 

Here’s how to choose the right paint sheen for your painting job.

Paint Sheen Infographic | Paint Finishes

High Gloss

The most durable and easiest to clean of all paint sheens, high-gloss paint is hard, ultra-shiny, and light-reflecting. Think appliance-paint tough.

High gloss is a good choice for area that sticky fingers touch — cabinets, trim, and doors. High-gloss, however, is too much shine for interior walls. And like a Spandex dress, high gloss shows every bump and roll, so don’t skimp on prep work.

  • Practical application: kitchens, door, and window trim
  • Durability: very high

Semi-Gloss

Good for rooms where moisture, drips, and grease stains challenge walls. Also great for trim work that takes a lot of abuse.

  • Practical application: kitchens, bathrooms, trim, chair rails
  • Durability: high

Satin

Has a yummy luster that, despite the name, is often described as velvety. It’s easy to clean, making it excellent for high-traffic areas. Its biggest flaw is it reveals application flaws, such as roller or brush strokes. Touch-ups later can be tricky. 

  • Practical application: family rooms, foyers, hallways, kids’ bedrooms
  • Durability: high

Eggshell

Between satin and flat on the sheen (and durability) scale is eggshell, so named because it’s essentially a flat (no-shine) finish with little luster, like a chicken’s egg. Eggshell covers wall imperfections well and is a great finish for gathering spaces that don’t get a lot of bumps and scuffs.

  • Practical application: dining rooms, living rooms
  • Durability: medium

Flat or Matte

A friend to walls that have something to hide, flat/matte soaks up, rather than reflects, light. It has the most pigment and will provide the most coverage, which translates to time and money savings. However, it’s tough to clean without taking paint off with the grime.

  • Practical application: adults’ bedrooms and other interior rooms that won’t be roughed up by kids
  • Durability: medium-low

Tips For Choosing the Right Sheen

If your paint color is dark and rich but you don’t want a super shiny effect, step down at least one level on the sheen scale. That’s because the darker and richer the paint color is, the more colorant it has, which boosts sheen. Ditto if you’re painting a large, sun-washed, or imperfect wall. The higher the sheen, the more defects will show.

Adding sheen also adds to the cost, usually an extra dollar or two per gallon as you step up on the sheen scale.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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