Purging: The Art of Letting Go

It’s summer time! It’s finally warm, and everything feels so alive again. Especially in real estate! I am very busy fielding the SOS calls for help from people who are feeling the heat from the seller’s market. With a market this hot, it is becoming all the more important that homes are sale-ready. 
And this means de-cluttering: the dreaded task all sellers must face as they prepare their homes for potential buyers. 
 
I was recently talking to a friend of mine who has been dreaming of selling the big family home and downsizing.  But before she can even think of selling, she’s stuck staring at piles of newspapers, photo boxes, dusty collections – you name it.  She knows its not just going to Home Depot for some garbage bags and getting rid of things, there’s the dreaded process of picking things up, piece by piece to determine its importance.  This alone is a daunting task.
 
Don’t panic! There are professional organizers and stagers that can help get your home ready for sale. But first you have to have a hard conversation with yourself.  
 
You’re proud of your home – as you should be! But now it’s time to let others imagine themselves in your home, and that can be uncomfortable. Now you have to admit that what is important to you, is probably not important to a potential buyer, so it must go somewhere else: a storage unit, a charity - or the dumpster.
 
It’s hard to have to say to any client that your home should no longer represent “you”, but that’s really the point. A seller isn’t buying “your style”, they’re buying a new future for them – so your home should strive to be as clean, updated and most importantly – generically pleasing as possible - so they can visually edit as they walk through.
 
The act of purging is physically and mentally freeing! Take the time to invite a professional to help you get started.  Then, day by day, begin the process of turning you and your home around. Don’t look at the mountain, just begin by removing a rock, one at a time.

Timing is Everything

As we enter into prime real estate season here in Cleveland, 2018 is already shaping up to be an unusual year.  As you are probably aware, the inventory is extremely tight, which means there are less homes available than buyers. It also means housing prices are selling higher!

I’ve been advising potential clients that if they are even entertaining selling their home - now is the time to do it.  They could command a higher price, and possibly even go into multiple offers from multiple buyers, which could result in an ‘over asking’ deal.  In addition, interest rates continue to remain steady and low, at around 4% and although we may experience a few swings throughout the year, experts believe we will end the year with interest rates around 4.5%. 

I’ve heard from many people who say, “I have no where to go!”. True, deciding on your next location is obviously critical. But my advice is don’t let that delay your selling decision completely. If you sell quickly, consider storing your extra things and renting for a while until you figure out where you want to be.  

Many of my clients have chosen to do short-term rentals in between home-buying, and they loved every second of it. They were able to experience new lifestyles like living downtown - without making a long-term commitment. There are hundreds of new rentals in downtown Cleveland that all have great new amenities, like shared work & play spaces, dog yards, art galleries, even pet grooming stations! There are many different options available. 

The important thing to remember is that this ‘sweet spot’ for sellers will eventually go away, and so will your opportunity for a fast sale at a great price. I can help advise and bridge the gap between selling your home and buying your next. So, what are you waiting for?

To Renovate, or Not to Renovate ...

Whether you’re a first time home buyer or a newly minted empty nester, there are some things to think about before you decide on any major renovation project.

The first, and most critical is, of course, is how much can you afford?  Equity lines are still a very affordable option if you’ve been in your current home a while, and are currently available at attractive interest rates.

Next, you need to to prioritize which projects you want to tackle.  Sometimes its smart to do several things at once since you will be under construction and living with some pretty messy business for a while.

For instance, if you’re considering a new kitchen, you may want to include a laundry room as part of the project or, if removing some walls, rework the living and dining spaces as well.

Most importantly - think about how you want to use the space.  Do you entertain/cook?  Do you like to just hang in the kitchen and visit while you’re cooking or enjoying wine?   How many people do you need to seat for breakfast or dinner party? Many activities revolve around the kitchen as the main entertaining space.  Large islands have become increasingly popular as they often double as work space, eating space, buffet space, etc.  Plus, it’s all about open spaces.

In older homes, there’s often only a single shared bath for several bedrooms (they needed less back then!). So, it's always key to figure out if there is a way you can borrow space from an adjacent room.  For example, forfeiting a small bedroom for a generous master bath.  Today’s home buyers are almost always looking for a dedicated master bathroom, so it’s smart to re-work a space for what buyers want most

Now let’s talk realistic budgets. A full kitchen renovation can start at $20,000 (including entry level cabinets), and can go all the way up to $100,000+ for full custom, high end appliances, etc. Bathroom renovations start around $8,000 and can go up to $50,000 based on the same considerations for upgrades.  Keep in mind that half of the budget is labor - plumbing, electrical, carpentry and tile work.

In terms of resale, if you are putting this kind of money into your home, make sure the project scope is in line with what’s in your neighborhood - also known as “comps”.  If you’re not sure, someone like me (renovator & real estate professional) can help by looking at selling prices in your area, provide an good idea of what your house is currently worth and what a renovation would make it worth in the future.  

A final note: If you are considering eventually selling your home after the updates or renovation, remember to keep the look neutral!  I can’t stress this enough.  Don’t be tempted to personalize things too much, like using fire-engine-red cabinets or tiling the walls with little palm tree tiles because you love Florida. Remember, while these things may appeal to you, it drastically narrows down the field of who else would think this is fabulous, which in turn translates to less dollars when it’s time to sell.

So, take the time to research and do your due-diligence.  Sites like Houzz.com are a perfect way to take a look at photos of finished projects and find out what appeals to you. It allows you to create a ‘Project’, easily save photos with one click, and even ‘share’ the photos via email to a designer like me to help guide you in the process.

And don’t forget to enjoy it! A renovation should be exciting and fun.  Sure, there will be stressful moments - but stay the course, be patient and be willing to make adjustments. In the end you should be delighted with the result and find it was so worth the money spent.