After succumbing to the “Great Recession” ten years ago, the stock market has made a comeback. So, does that mean you should forget about buying a new house and invest in stocks instead? The answer to that question, say experts, depends on your investing savvy, your financial discipline, your age, and your current financial situation.
The first question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I disciplined enough to invest in stocks?” According to two professors who recently studied 30 years of personal-finance performance, you need to be someone with exceptional financial discipline if you want to earn real money in the stock market. Or, you could simply buy a house.
When you buy real estate, the down payment and monthly mortgage payments force you to set aside a significant amount of your earnings on a regular basis. It’s automatic. But if you can’t summon the same discipline to invest that same amount of money in the stock market on an equally regular basis, then stocks are probably going to be a losing proposition, according to the professors’ study.
“We find that if people don’t invest all the money, actually about 90% of the time, you’re better off buying real estate,” says Professor Eli Beracha, co-author of the study.
Other issues that make stock investing risky
Investing guru James Altucher wrote a column in The Wall St. Journal titled, “8 Reasons You Stink at Trading Stocks.” In it, he argues that most non-professionals don’t have the investing savvy required to be successful in the stock market. Here are a few telling excerpts:
- “Nine out of 10 people think they are above-average drivers. Nine out of 10 people think they are above-average investors. Both are mathematically impossible.”
- “Most people sell at the bottom and buy at the top—the opposite of what you want to do as an investor—because they let emotions get in the way of patience and strategy.”
- “It’s really hard to own stocks. It’s not just picking a stock and watching it go up 1,000%. It’s buying it and sometimes watching it go down 80% before it ends up rising 20% above your purchase price. It’s waiting. It’s patience. Psychology is at least 80% of the game. And knowing when to sell? Even harder.”
When you’re young, many financial advisors encourage investing in things like individual stocks. With a long career ahead, you have time to wait for any bad investments to turn around before you may really need the money. But once you’re a little older, with a family, and starting to focus on your financial future, that’s when advisers recommend you buy things like real estate—a conservative investment with a long history of stable, predictable earnings.
The type of loan you choose also makes a difference
If you want to both own a home and invest in stocks, consider a 30-year home loan, which will significantly reduce your monthly payments and leave you with extra money for playing the market. (Just remember the tradeoff: You’ll end up paying thousands of dollars more in interest over the life of the loan.)
If you don’t have a burning desire to play the stock market, choose a 15-year home loan. You’ll pay less interest over the life of the loan, you’ll build equity faster, and, obviously, you’ll be mortgage-free 15 years sooner.
The tax advantages of owning real estate
As a homeowner, you’re entitled to a bevy of tax benefits you don’t get as a stock investor. You can deduct your mortgage interest and property taxes from your annual tax return. Plus, depending on your circumstances, you could also get a deduction or credit for any home-office expenses, moving expenses, capital gains, any “points” used to lower your interest rate, and more.
One caveat: investing in real estate takes time
No matter what some of those reality TV programs show, buying a home should not be viewed as a get-rich-quick scheme. But if you think you’re ready to put down roots for as long as seven years, chances are very good that any home you purchase will appreciate significantly during that time (even if the economy runs into some bumps along the way).
The non-financial benefits
Of course, not all of the benefits of owning a home are financial. For most Americans, their home is a source of tremendous pride, comfort, security and freedom. Most of us also use our homes to showcase our personality, through paint colors, furnishings, landscaping, yard signs, holiday decorations and so much more.
Yes, the stock market is on an upswing currently (depending on the week), but if you want an investment with a long-term track record of consistent returns—plus tax breaks and a variety of personal perks—you may want to buy a home instead.
If you have questions about the buying or selling process, or are looking for an experienced agent in your area, connect with us here.
There’s a lot to think about, select and organize on a remodeling project, whether it’s a single room or a whole-house remodel. Small projects often have the same list of tasks as big projects, and the same potential for material selection and delivery to throw your schedule for a loop. Of course, anything can go wrong during a remodel, but some parts of your remodel will cause more difficulty than others.
Here’s what you should keep an extra-close eye on as you’re planning your remodel.
Monkey Wrenches 1: Garret Cord Werner Architects & Interior Designers, original photo on Houzz
1. Windows and exterior doors. Window decisions can be some of the most difficult in a project. Windows come in a variety of materials and colors, with hardware in different styles and colors and even an array of screen options. They also have wildly varying lead times. Vinyl windows can arrive in as little as two weeks, while some wood-clad and solid wood windows can take 10 weeks or more to arrive.
Generally, your contractor will install your windows before interior work takes place. And exterior trim and siding can’t be installed before the windows, so they can have a big schedule impact if they don’t arrive on time.
Best practice: Select your window brand early in the process, use the lead time to count backward from when the windows need to arrive and then finalize the order with your contractor at least two to three weeks ahead of that ordering deadline. Confirming things like jamb size, tempering, energy code compliance, egress, obscured glass selection and more can lengthen the process.
Monkey Wrenches 2: Ventana Construction LLC, original photo on Houzz
2. Cabinets. Similar to windows, cabinets affect a wide range of tradespeople who are lined up to work directly after their installation. Flooring, tile and countertop installations are all linked to the casework in kitchens and baths. Ordering cabinets requires multiple layers of design and selection, including decisions on the layout of the room; the function of doors, drawers and hardware; wood and paint; and crown molding. A field measure is also necessary.
Expect a floor plan and drawings showing how your cabinets will look straight on with complete measurements (also known as shop drawings). You’ll need to approve these before production can start.
Best practice: Narrow down the wood species and general style of the cabinets early on so that the biggest decisions are out of the way. Knowing the lead time from the cabinet shop is critical, and it doesn’t hurt to add an extra week to that to make sure your cabinets will arrive in time.
Monkey Wrenches 3: ART Design Build, original photo on Houzz
3. Plumbing fixtures. All of today’s retail and online plumbing fixture stores make it seem like getting plumbing fixtures in time for an installation is easy. It often is, but some fixtures and manufacturers have factory lead times and limited availability.
Shower valves and bathtubs are the two elements you usually need for a plumbing rough-in. The rough-in could happen the first week of a bathroom remodel or a couple of months into a larger project. The rest of the fixtures can come late, but selecting these two ahead of time will make it easier to get the rough plumbing in correctly. If you’re using stone or another solid-surface counter that has an undermount sink, you’ll need to have the sink and faucet onsite during the template process.
Best practice: Don’t wait until the bitter end to choose your plumbing fixtures. If you do, at least one is bound to not show up when you need it, or to come with an exorbitant cost for overnight delivery.
Monkey Wrenches 4: Contemporary Bathroom, original photo on Houzz
4. Tile. When you select tile, you have to consider more than just aesthetics. You also need to make sure that the material you select has all the pieces necessary for installation (bullnose, pencil liner etc). Consult your architect and the tile setter if you’re not sure what you need. Still, sometimes the tile that arrives isn’t quite right. On one of our recent bath projects, one of the selected tiles was switched for another material because the colors of the delivered tile were not as expected. The dimensions and colors may not exactly match the sample you saw in the showroom, particularly with natural stone and slate. But even factory-made tile can vary from one lot to another.
Best practice: Try to get a sample from your local tile supplier’s warehouse to make sure the stock that will be delivered is what you expect.
Monkey Wrenches 5: Noel Cross + Architects, original photo on Houzz
5. Flooring. The thickness of a flooring material affects many things, including the rough carpentry work that happens at the start of a project. If you want your floors to “plane out” (not have transitions up or down), making a definitive flooring decision is critical.
Many flooring materials, like wood and Marmoleum, have a lead time for arrival. Then these materials need to acclimate and adjust to the ambient temperature and humidity in the house. If flooring is installed without acclimating, it can expand or contract, causing gaps or bulging in the flooring. Usually four to five days are enough, but some products need two weeks of acclimation.
Carpeting can go in without acclimating at the very end of the project. However, interior millwork is installed in different ways, and there are different orders depending on whether you choose carpeting or some other flooring material.
Best practice: Choose your flooring before your project starts so that your contractor can make the surfaces plane out, and so that lead and acclimation times are not an issue.
By Anne Higuera CGR CAPS, Houzz
This article originally appeared on Inman.com
Housing markets all across the U.S. are suffering from serious shortages of homes for sale, and this isn’t expected to change in the foreseeable future.
When I think about inventory levels and the fact that demand is clearly outstripping supply, it makes me question why homebuilders aren’t stepping up to the plate to meet all this pent-up demand.
Interestingly enough, there are several obstacles holding builders back that I think are worthy of further discussion.
According to my calculations, since 2008, builders have started construction of new single-family homes at an average annual rate of about 594,000 units per year. For context, the average annual rate of new-home starts between 1963 and 2007 was over 1.1 million, so we have been behind the ball for some time now.
Although new-home starts have now risen to 835,000 units from the historic low of 353,000 units that we saw in 2009, we are still well below the level that meets demand given new household formations.
Since 2009, new housing supply has consistently fallen short of new housing demand. The shortfall was the largest in 2011 at 465,000 housing units, and cumulatively through 2015, the total shortfall was 2.2 million housing units.
Currently, I estimate that the amount of housing supply necessary to just keep pace with demand is probably around 1.1 million housing units a year; however, housing completions as of May were running at an annual rate of just 817,000 — far below what is needed.
So why is this? The simple answer is that it is very expensive to build a new home.
The expense of building a new home can be essentially broken down into three components: land, labor and materials.
Let’s start with land, which is expensive, and it is very expensive in markets where land availability is scarce (either because of unique topography or political limitations — or both).
This is further exacerbated in markets where the economy is growing rapidly and attracting more new residents.
Another hindrance is the cost of obtaining a building permit, which is remarkably high, thanks to government regulations, and can account for almost 25 percent of the final price of a new single-family home.
The second thing to consider is labor. As the housing market was entering the Great Recession, many construction workers were laid off and have not subsequently returned.
In fact, my calculations indicate there are currently over 200,000 job openings in the construction industry, and this lack of supply combined with high demand for labor, has led to rising labor costs.
Finally, material costs. The cost of homebuilding materials have risen by almost 5 percent due to high demand and low supply. Everything from the copper used in wiring to the lumber used for framing, continues to escalate at fairly rapid rates.
All of this combined makes it very expensive to build homes — especially affordable homes.
In fact, the National Association of Homebuilders stated back in 2015 that it is difficult to build a home anywhere in America for less than $300,000. Then take into account that only 4 percent of all new homes sold in 2016 were priced below $150,000, and in the Western U.S., just 6 percent were priced below $200,000.
Conditions are particularly tight at the more affordable end of the market, clearly reflecting the fact that fewer entry-level homes are being built.
Between 2004 and 2016, completions of smaller single-family homes (under 1,800 square feet) fell from nearly 500,000 units to only 136,000. Similarly, the number of townhouses built in 2016 (98,000) was less than half the number started in 2005.
It is clear that we need more housing solutions to address the shortages out there, but it won’t be easy.
From a builder’s perspective, they cannot change material costs, nor can they force workers into the construction industry.
However, what they can do, and what needs to be done, is try and shift government policy to better address permit fees, hookup fees, impact fees and the like. If these costs could be lowered, I believe that many builders would have the ability to ramp-up activity in a fairly dramatic fashion.
Given how important increasing the supply of new homes is to the long-term health of the market, I hope that the efforts being undertaken at the national level by the NAHB, and the local level by various homebuilder associations, start to see positive results in the near future.
For the sake of our housing market, we need to make it easier for builders to do what they do best: build homes.
When Gordy was offered a promotion, he and his wife Linda would need to relocate and give up their custom home. It wouldn’t be easy, but lucky for them, they found Windermere Real Estate agent, Dawn Hardman. Over the course of a year, Dawn and Linda spent a lot of time together. Dawn took on the role of host to her new clients, touring dozens of homes, and teaching them everything she knew about Skagit County, Washington, so when they finally made their move, they could do so confidently.
When another unexpected move came up, Linda and Gordy called on Dawn to help them sell their home. In short notice, over a holiday weekend, Dawn made sure their open house was a success with her creative ideas and personal touch.
It rarely takes a full year to find a dream home, but Dawn is glad she had a chance to spend so much time with Linda and Gordy. In doing so, she helped them get familiarized with a new area, while also learning more about the place she loves and calls home.
Thanks to the generosity of Windermere agents and the community, the Windermere Foundation collected over $903,500 in donations through the second quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 10 percent compared to this time last year! Individual contributions and fundraisers accounted for 62 percent of the donations, while 38 percent came from donations through Windermere agent commissions. So far, we have raised a total of $34,009,527 in donations since 1989.
Each Windermere office has its own Windermere Foundation fund account that they use to make donations to organizations in their communities. Year to date, a total of $979,486 has been disbursed to non-profit organizations dedicated to providing services to low-income and homeless families throughout the Western U.S.
One organization that has been the recipient of Windermere Foundation funds is the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) National Scholarship Fund. LULAC has considered education its number one priority since it was established in 1929. The scholarship fund was established in 1975 to provide scholarships to help Hispanic youth in underserved communities make the dream of college enrollment a reality. Former recipients of LNSF scholarships are now leaders in fields of business, science, government, and education. A rigorous selection process assures the expectation that future recipients will demonstrate the same level of excellence.
Last year, the Windermere office in Salinas, CA supported LULAC’s scholarship fund with a $1,000 donation, and will be making this donation annually. Christopher Barrera, Realtor and President of LULAC Salinas Council #2055, says “I am proud to be associated with such a great organization like Windermere Valley Properties in Salinas, and it’ll be an honor to present a check to LULAC on behalf of Windermere and the Windermere Foundation.” Each year, the LULAC Salinas Council holds a Black & White Ball to raise money for the scholarship fund. Monies raised are matched by LULAC national. There were 14 scholarships awarded in 2016. Thanks to the $15,000 raised through their event, matching funds from LULAC national, and a donation from the Windermere Foundation, they will be awarding 39 scholarships at a presentation ceremony on July 29 in Old Town Salinas.
Generous donations to the Windermere Foundation over the years have enabled Windermere offices to continue to support local non-profits like LULAC. If you’d like to help support programs for low-income and homeless families in your community, please click on the Donate button.
To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit http://www.windermere.com/foundation.
Studies continue to show that real estate buyers are willing to pay a substantial premium for homes that feature highly efficient, environmentally friendly “green energy” technology.
While the added value depends on the location of the home, its age, and whether it’s certified or not, three separate studies all found that newly constructed, Energy Star- or LEED-certified homes typically sell for about nine percent more than comparable, non-certified new homes. Plus, one of those studies discovered that existing homes retrofitted with green technologies, and certified as such, can command a whopping 30-percent sales-price boost.
Options include technologies that you may already be very familiar with, as well as some new breakthroughs that may surprise you:
Fuel cells may soon offer an all-new source of electricity that would allow you to completely disconnect your home from all other sources of electricity. About the size of a dishwasher, a fuel cell connects to your home’s natural gas line and electrochemically converts methane to electricity. One unit would pack more than enough energy to power your whole home.
Past fuel cells have been far too expensive and unreliable. But Redbox Power Systems, a company that’s planning to launch its first fuel cell later this year, is using new materials, claims they’ll be able to cut the purchase price by 90 percent, and predicts the associated electricity-bill savings will allow homeowners to pay off that purchase price in just two years’ time.
A wind turbine (essentially a propeller spinning atop an 80- to 100-foot pole) collects kinetic energy from the wind and converts it to electricity for your home. And according to the Department of Energy, a small version can slash your electrical bill by 50 to 90 percent.
But before you get too excited, you need to know that the zoning laws in most urban areas don’t allow wind turbines. They’re too tall. The best prospects for this technology are homes located on at least an acre of land, well outside the city limits.
Cool roofs keep the houses they’re covering as much as 50 to 60 degrees cooler by reflecting the heat of the sun away from the interior, allowing the occupants to stay cooler and save on air-conditioning costs. The most common form is metal roofing. Other options include roof membranes and reflective asphalt shingles.
Another way to keep the interior of your house cooler—and save on air-conditioning costs—is to replace your traditional roof with a layer of vegetation (typically hardy groundcovers). This is more expensive than a cool roof and requires regular maintenance, but young, environmentally conscious home owners are very attracted to the concept.
Combining a heat pump with a standard furnace to create what’s known as a “hybrid heating system” can save you somewhere between 15 and 35 percent on your heating and cooling bills.
Unlike a gas or oil furnace, a heat pump doesn’t use any fuel. Instead, the coils inside the unit absorb whatever heat exists naturally in the outside air, and distributes it via the same ductwork used by your furnace. When the outside air temperature gets too cold for the heat pump to work, the system switches over to your traditional furnace.
Geothermal heating units are like heat pumps, except instead of absorbing heat from the outside air, they absorb the heat in the soil next to your house via coils buried in the ground. The coils can be buried horizontally or, if you don’t have a wide enough yard, they can be buried vertically. While the installation price of a geothermal system can be several times that of a hybrid, air-sourced system, the cost savings on your energy bills can cover the installation costs in five to 10 years.
Solar panels capture light energy from the sun and convert it directly into electricity. For decades, you may have seen these panels sitting on sunny rooftops all across America. But it’s only recently that this energy-saving option has become truly affordable.
In 2010, installing a solar system on a typical mid-sized house would have set the homeowner back $30,000. But today, that price has been slashed to an average of just $19,000. Plus, some companies are now offering to rent solar panels to homeowners (the company retains ownership of the panels and sells the homeowner access to the power at roughly 10 to 15 percent less than they would pay their local utility).
Solar water heaters
Rooftop solar panels can also be used to heat your home’s water. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average homeowner who makes this switch should see their water bills shrink by 50 to 80 percent.
Many of the innovative solutions summarized above come with big price tags attached. However, federal, state and local rebates/tax credits can often slash those expenses by as much as 50 percent. So before ruling any of these ideas out, take some time to see which incentives you may qualify for at dsireusa.org and the “tax incentives” pages at Energy.gov.
Regardless of which option you choose, these technologies will not only help to conserve valuable resources and reduce your monthly utility expenses, but also add resale value that you can leverage whenever you decide it’s time to sell and move on to a new home.
If you are working on a DIY remodel, deciding whether to call in a specialty contractor to perform a specific task comes down to several areas you’ll need to consider:
Skill. Do you have the necessary skills to build a sound structure, and do it safely?
Scale. Is the size of the project one that you can handle in a reasonable amount of time?
Cost. When factoring in the value of your own time, can the project be completed for less cost by a professional? Do you have the tools you need?
Aesthetics. Can you finish the project attractively enough that you’re not sacrificing resale value? Would a rough grout joint or wallpaper seam bother you?
Learn more about the specific problem areas that often require professional help below.
Contractor 1: Weber + Studio Architects, original photo on Houzz
1. Structural elements. Beams, footers, headers etc. — these are the unglamorous and often hidden parts of a home that are critical to its long-term stability and safety. Don’t take chances with structural components. Everything should be drawn or approved by an engineer, whose specifications should be followed to the letter.
Contractor 2: Re:Vision Architecture, original photo on Houzz
2. Electrical. Here’s another one where safety and skill intersect. Poor wiring can be a safety hazard — just because you were able to wire something up and it worked, doesn’t mean you haven’t created a safety hazard. If you aren’t confident you have the knowledge to perform the needed work and assess the implications of your work on the rest of the circuit and panel, call in a professional.
Contractor 3: Jeffrey Dungan Architects, original photo on Houzz
3. Roofing. Here’s a good example of a project where even if you feel you have the skills to perform the task safely and properly, you may not be able to complete the project in a short enough period of time to avoid exposing your home to damage from rain. If you can’t get your roofing project done in a couple days, don’t start it. Even professionals can underestimate the time a project will take to complete, so you may want to double your estimate.
4. Plumbing. A clogged drain line and a faucet that needs to be replaced are tasks that you know you can complete. Before you do either yourself, though, think about the true cost.
What is your time worth? Do you have the tools? If you end up renting a drain snake from the home center that doesn’t work when you get it home, and you need to make another trip before you even clear the drain, you may lose much of a precious Saturday.
Contractor 4: Buckminster Green LLC, original photo on Houzz
5. Insulation. Certain types of insulation, such as spray foam, should be left to the professionals. Many people assume that installing batt insulation like fiberglass is an easy project, but there is a lot of room for error here. If you leave gaps you can create spots that draw heat and moisture into your walls — a bad combination. Even if you do the job well, it’s messy work. Plus, insulation contractors get a much better deal on the material costs than you would, offsetting the labor savings of a DIY project.
6. Carpentry. Even if you have the skills to complete the project, professional carpenters will have the tools and experience to get the job done quickly. If you are trying to complete the project on a part-time basis, remember to factor in setup and cleanup time. Working a full day is often much more efficient than an hour here and there.
Contractor 5: Ike Kligerman Barkley, original photo on Houzz
7. Masonry. This is one that bridges all four factors — if there is a structural component to the masonry project (and there usually is), safety is a concern. The scale of projects involving stone, brick and concrete can be deceiving. Make sure you know what you’re getting into. Wrestling a heavy stone into place and making it look good takes years to master. When you factor in all of this, the cost of paying for good work can be a bargain.
8. Wallpaper. There isn’t much room for error here. You have to get it right the first time. You’re drawing attention to the wall by dressing it up, so it had better look good. You wouldn’t pay an arm and a leg for a beautiful fabric and then make a sloppy-looking dress, so don’t buy a gorgeous paper and put it up with misaligned seams and bad corners.
Contractor 6: Buckminster Green LLC, original photo on Houzz
9. Tile. The pace of tile installation is slower than that of wallpaper, and there is a lot of contemplation that goes into a good tile installation. If you aren’t experienced, you may discover something you should have thought about when it’s too late. You also want to prep correctly. Tiles are all different and require different approaches to installation. Your DIY tile floor may look good when it’s done, but can you be sure it will hold up and not crack in a year or two? If you are confident about that, go for it. If not, call a professional.
10. Painting. I know, it sounds ridiculous — if you can’t paint, what DIY project can you do? Keep in mind, I’m not here to stop you from painting your own house. Just consider that a good, lasting paint job takes a lot of prep work. Sometimes this can involve wall repair, scraping paint (which can be a health risk if it’s lead paint), priming and caulking over old finishes with various products. Depending on what you’re working with, you may need someone with more experience to help.
By Kenny Grono, Houzz
How can you make your home more attractive to potential buyers? The answer is with some “home staging”. According to the Wall Street Journal, implementing some basic interior design techniques can not only speed up the sale of your home but also increase your final selling price.
It all comes down to highlighting your home’s strengths, downplaying its weaknesses, and making it more appealing to the largest pool of prospective buyers. Staging an empty house is also important to help buyers visualize how the spaces would be used, and to give the home warmth and character.
Cohesiveness Is Key
Make the inside match the outside. For example, if the exterior architectural style of your house is Victorian or Craftsman Bungalow, the interior should be primarily outfitted with furniture styles from essentially the same era. Prospective buyers who like the exterior style of your home are going to expect something similar when they step inside. If the two styles don’t agree or at least complement each other, there is likely going to be an immediate disconnect for the buyer. Contact your agent to help determine the architectural style of your home and what makes it unique.
There is always room for flexibility. Not all your furnishings need to match, and even the primary furnishings do not need to be an exact match to the architectural style of your home. To create cohesion, you simply need to reflect the overall look-and-feel of the exterior.
The Role of Personal Expression
Every home is a personal expression of its owner. But when you become a seller, you’ll want to deemphasize much of the décor that makes a place uniquely yours and instead look for ways to make it appeal to your target market. Keep in mind, your target market is made up of the group of people most likely to be interested in a home like yours—which is something your agent can help you determine.
Your Goal: Neutralize and Brighten
Since personal style differs from person to person, a good strategy to sell your home is to “neutralize” the design of your interior. A truly neutral interior design allows people touring the house to easily imagine their own belongings in the space—and to envision how some simple changes would make it uniquely their own.
In short, you want to downplay your own personal expression, while making it easy for others to mentally project their own sense of style on the space. Ideas include:
- Paint over any bold wall colors with something more neutral, like a light beige, a warm gray, or a soft brown. The old advice used to be, “paint everything white,” but often that creates too sterile of an environment, while dark colors can make a room look small, even a bit dirty. Muted tones and soft colors work best.
- Consider removing wallpaper if it’s a bold or busy design.
- Replace heavy, dark curtains with neutral-colored shear versions; this will soften the hard edges around windows while letting in lots of natural light.
- Turn on lamps, and if necessary, install lighting fixtures to brighten any dark spaces—especially the entry area.
- Make sure everything is extremely clean. You may even want to hire professionals to give your home a thorough deep clean. Remember, the kitchen and bathrooms are by far the two most important rooms in a house when selling, so ongoing maintenance is important.
The Importance of De-Cluttering
Above all, make sure every room—including closets and the garage—is clutter-free. Family photos, personal memorabilia, and collectibles should be boxed up. Closets, shelves, and other storage areas should be mostly empty. Work benches should be free of tools and projects. Clear the kitchen counters, store non-necessary cookware, and remove all those magnets from the refrigerator door.
The same goes for furniture. If removing a chair, a lamp, a table, or other furnishings will make a particular space look larger or more inviting, then by all means do it.
You don’t want your home to appear cold, un-loved, or unlived-in, but you do want to remove distractions and provide prospective buyers with a blank canvas of sorts. Plus, de-cluttering your home now will make it that much easier to pack when it comes time to move.
Where to Start
Contact your agent for advice on how to most effectively stage your home or for a recommendation on a professional stager. While the simple interior design techniques outlined above may seem more like common sense than marketing magic, you’d be surprised at how many homeowners routinely overlook them. And the results are clear: staging your house to make it more appealing to your target buyer is often all it takes to speed the sale and boost the price.
On Friday, June 9, Windermere offices across the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii, Alaska, Utah, California, Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona, all took a day off from selling homes to help make a difference in their local communities.
We challenged our offices to share their community service day photos on Windermere’s Facebook page, in order to participate in our fifth-annual voter-driven photo contest. Many of our offices shared photos, and in turn, they each received a $100 donation to the Windermere Foundation charity of their choice.
To add some competition to this challenge, we offered an additional $1,000 charitable contribution to the office with the most votes on their photo. So, who won?
With a total of 259 votes, the winner of the CSD photo contest is Windermere Utah!
Thank you to all of our Windermere offices and agents who spent the day giving back to local organizations, community centers, and public spaces throughout the Western U.S.
Showering often feels like more of an obligation than a pleasure — especially if you exercise and have to take more than one a day. Which might explain the burgeoning popularity of outdoor showers. “You’re showering outside in the elements, and there’s something about that that intrigues people,” says Phil Regan, principal designer at Hutker Architects.
Outdoor showers have become so popular, Regan can’t remember a time he did a house without one. (Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that his office is in Martha’s Vineyard, an upscale resort island off the coast of Massachusetts.) But even if you’re not a block from the beach (or the nearest neighbor), outdoor showers can shake up your routine and make you feel closer to nature.
Outdoor Shower 1: John Kraemer & Sons, original photo on Houzz
Project: Add an outdoor shower.
Why: An outdoor shower makes a mundane ritual much more appealing, allowing you to savor fresh air, sky, birdsong and possibly even a view while you bathe. It’s especially handy for rinsing off before or after a dip in the pool, a trip to the beach or a grubby day of gardening. Many homeowners use them for bathing their dogs.
“It’s a pretty sybaritic experience, but not everyone is going to be comfortable with that,” acknowledges architect Julie Campbell of CTA Design Builders in Seattle.
Outdoor Shower 2: brianvandenbrink.com, original photo on Houzz
Who to hire: Outdoor showers require excavation, slab work, plumbing and alterations to the existing walls of the home, so don’t just hire a plumber — go with a general contractor who has experience building outdoor showers. Without that, “you’re probably going to make a bunch of simple mistakes,” says Regan, whose firm designed the shower tower shown here.
Outdoor Shower 3: John Cole Architect, original photo on Houzz
Cost range: A simple shower with hot and cold running water, like this one, can cost less than $1,000 to install. A moderate setup with a fancier enclosure can run anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000. And a more elaborate shower can cost $4,000 to $8,000 or more.
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Typical project length: A simple installation can be done in two weeks; allow six to eight weeks for more complex projects.
Outdoor Shower 4: Charles Rose Architects Inc, original photo on Houzz
Permit: You’ll probably need a plumbing permit. Whether you’ll need a building permit depends on the design, cost and complexity of the project and the rules in your municipality. Many jurisdictions don’t even allow outdoor showers, so do your homework first.
Best time to do this project: Anytime the ground is not frozen.
Outdoor Shower 5: Hutker Architects, original photo on Houzz
First step: The most important thing to consider when planning an outdoor shower is the location. You want it to be somewhere that gets direct sun, not only because it makes the act of showering more pleasant, but because it’ll keep the shower walls and floor drier — and that’s critical to preventing rot and scum. For that same reason, don’t place the shower under a roof overhang or tree (which could also cause debris to accumulate on the shower floor).
The other big consideration is privacy. Locate the shower away from probing eyes or add an enclosure that assures privacy (but maintains air circulation). If your house is two stories or is flanked by windows that could look down onto the shower, consider a louvered roof that prevents views in but still allows views out.
“If you want to experience the outdoors, you want to find a way to create privacy that doesn’t take away from that experience you’re looking for,” says Campbell.
Outdoor Shower 6: CTA Design Builders Inc, original photo on Houzz
Considerations: If the shower abuts your exterior, that siding will get pelted with more water than it was designed to withstand, so go with a material like cedar, mahogany or teak and add a waterproof membrane underneath to guard against water infiltration. To avoid siding problems, locate the shower away from the house.
If you live in a climate that gets cold, be sure to locate the water shutoff valve inside the house, and have the pipes blown out at the end of the season to avoid any water freezing in the pipes.
The shower needs to drain into either the home’s graywater system or a French drain, consisting of a large pit filled with several feet of gravel that filters the water as it returns to the soil. (Expect to replace the gravel every five or six years.) Needless to say, you want to direct the drainage away from the foundation and basement, and if you plan to use soap in the shower, away from plants as well.
If possible, situate the shower to take advantage of the site’s attributes, such as views or rock outcrops. “If there are natural amenities as part of the site, that’s all the more fun you can have with it,” says Regan.
By Fred Albert, Houzz