9 Modest Fixes for the Problem Kitchen

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Kitchen cabinetry, countertops, backsplashes, and appliances can sometimes turn off buyers at the first hello. Yet, a total redo may be too costly.

The average gut rehab on a mid-range kitchen has surpassed $56,000, and an upscale one hovers around $113,000. Many home owners simply can’t undertake a kitchen renovation after scraping together a down payment. It doesn’t fit into their new budget alongside their mortgage, real estate taxes, insurance, maintenance, and new furnishings.

Many potential buyers cross off houses with great locations, floor plans, and prices because of dark, dreary, or dated kitchens. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You should know that a handful of affordable improvements can make a huge difference and possibly result in a better return on investment than big-ticket changes.

1. Go for cabinet 2.0.

Cabinets often represent the biggest cost of a redo, typically 50 percent to 60 percent of the total budget. They also are often the biggest eyesore, particularly if the style of fronts, paint finish, or color appears dated. Many designers and real estate experts say it’s relatively easy to sand down the fronts; paint, stain, or spray cabinetry; and then install new snazzy hardware. Some design experts recommend replacing all fronts if the style doesn’t appeal, but that will cost much more—possibly triple the price. Before you pursue either strategy, remember this maxim: Don’t throw good money after bad. If the arrangement of cabinets and appliances doesn’t work for you, or if the cabinetry’s not in good shape, there’s little point in spending money on even a modest facelift.

2. Change countertops and the sink.

The black countertops in the otherwise all-white Hamptons kitchen in the movie “Something’s Gotta Give” proved a stunning—and much imitated—look. But home owners don’t have to go with expensive soapstone or the best granite to achieve it. The latest generation of affordable laminates has come a long way aesthetically and functionally, so they should be considered. In most cases, a sink will have to be replaced when a countertop is switched, but that can be done for as little as $300. Some home owners may want to splurge on newer and pricier sink models that can be accessorized with fitted cutting boards, drain holders, colanders, and prep dishes. If there’s still wiggle room in the budget, change the faucet, too. It can really complete the new look and notes home owners often enjoy the utility of the long gooseneck designs that are popular now.

3. Replace equipment.

Items that are not working obviously need to be replaced. If upgrades are under consideration, first change out the refrigerator, a noticeable improvement in an appliance that is used daily by everyone in the family. Try to match the replacement to existing equipment—whether black, stainless, or white—rather than have a mishmash of hues. If you are really unhappy with your appliances in general,  it’s often less expensive to replace the three key appliances—refrigerator, range, and dishwasher—in a package from one manufacturer.

4. Update the backsplash.

The area between the counter and cabinets or ceiling is highly visible in most kitchens. It’s even more noticeable if it has a dated tile design, such as diamonds, embedded in a rectangle or a fruit basket motif. A more updated yet classic look includes subway tiles in a row. For a twist, you can install them vertically rather than in the traditional horizontal way.

5. Improve lighting.

A dark kitchen can quickly nix a sale. But adding lighting requires minimal effort and expense. Buyers should consider recessed ceiling cans for good general lighting. The trend is for fewer and smaller cans (5 inches to 6 inches in diameter) to avoid a Swiss-cheese effect. They might also go with one attention-grabbing chandelier over a dining table and two or three large pendants above an island. All should be installed with dimmers to offer the option of different moods and LED bulbs for energy efficiency.

6. Paint the room.

Always the least expensive way to affect change, paint can be selected in a neutral shade for wide appeal. But nowadays, neutrals no longer just mean white or beige; soft greens and blues work well as universal mixers. Most design pros recommend steering clear of wallpaper, which can quickly date a room and attract grime.

7. Change the flooring.

Most kitchen floors don’t generate negative buzz unless they’re very worn or comprised of dated linoleum or vinyl. When that’s the case, an easy fix is to switch to popular real-wood planks that can be sealed well and are easy on the feet. New porcelain designs imitate real wood well and can be less costly to install and easier to maintain.

8. Add one “wow.”

Nothing impresses buyers more than one great splurge—the equivalent of a piece of statement jewelry in the hub of the home. Buyers on a budget can try a less costly solution with great personality.

9. Open up the room.

Open-plan living has been growing in popularity for years now, and many predict that trend will continue. Instead of everyone crowding into the kitchen, more home owners want this room to be part of surrounding spaces such as the living and dining room. Taking down a non-load-bearing wall makes sense. If you want a professional to do it, the cost depends on the size of the wall, but it should be something a contractor could do in a couple hours for minimal cost.

While the final effect may not rival a Hollywood-ready kitchen, these smaller changes are still apt to make the space more appealing for cooking and congregating—and may some day woo buyers in the resale process.

 

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

Another Happy Seller!

Annelie Russell

Without a doubt, Jon & Natalya are the best Realtors in town! We interviewed a number of other Realtors and they stood out amongst their peers. Jon & Natalya worked their magic and sold our home in 10 days! Their exceptionally knowledgeable, due diligence and hard work ethic comforted us throughout the entire process. They even interviewed a Realtor in the State we planned to move to and helped us find the home of our dreams. Thanks for all of your help. We couldn’t have done it without you.

 

Best Regards

James and Annelie Russell

5 Serious Tips to Attract the Serious Fall Home Buyer

santa-barbara-homes-for-sale-2014 Home sales typically cool down along with the weather in the fall and winter months – but realtors say that some savvy sellers can quickly sell a property for a decent price this time of year.

Because fewer people are on the market in the fall means you have less competition. Plus, people on the prowl for houses at this time of year tend to be more serious shoppers, compared to the browsers and neighborhood nosy bodies who might make a day of hitting open houses just for fun in the spring.

People who are house hunting now are the real buyers. They wouldn’t be out there if they didn’t need to be.

Some other forces are bringing buyers out now: While it’s still tough to get a mortgage, lending standards are starting to loosen up. The average FICO credit score on conventional loans used to purchase homes in August was 727, down from 738 a year ago, according to Ellie Mae. That, combined with the exit of big investors, should bring more buyers to the market. At about 4.2 percent, mortgage rates are still relatively low.

This market is also a boon to trade-up buyers, many of whom were sidelined when the housing bust left them without enough equity to sell without bringing cash to the table. About 950,000 homeowners regained equity in the second quarter of this year, according to CoreLogic. The National Association of Realtors actually expects home sales to be stronger in the second half of this year.

For a quick sale, try these steps:

1. Take photos ASAP.
Get a few shots of the exterior now. That way, when you’re ready to list, you won’t be stuck with photos of bare trees and a lawn.

In general, it’s better to list your property earlier in the fall anyway. Thanksgiving is a dead week, and things are slower during the holidays. Not only are buyers home celebrating with their families but realtors are, too.

2. Price your home correctly.
Yes, it’s a seller’s market right now but the pace of price increases is slowing. Bidding wars are becoming less frequent and tend to occur when homes are underpriced, realtors say. The best way to sell a home quickly is to price it correctly at listing. Otherwise it may sit on the market until you cut the price, which could push you into the competitive spring selling season with a stale listing.

3. Keep it warm.
Have all the curtains drawn back to provide as much light into the home as possible. That, combined with a constantly open front door that lets in potential buyers, can make for a chilly house. Be sure to keep an eye on the thermostat so that the temperature remains comfortable. Even better than turning up the heat: Start a fire in your fireplace, to show off that feature.

4. Go easy on the holiday decorations.
You may want to put your holiday cheer on hold this year, at least when it comes to sprucing up the homestead. Holiday decorations add clutter and religious-themed décor could turn off some buyers. A simple understated wreath or a basket of acorns and gourds is plenty. Nobody wants to see ten inflatable ghosts on your lawn for Halloween.

Clear out non-holiday related clutter, too. Start now; the process can take longer than you think. Remove as many personal items as possible to make it easier for potential buyers to see themselves living there. Aim to clear away about 50 percent of your belongings. Get rid of anything you haven’t used in a year, and put extra furniture or other large items in storage.

5. Refocus on curb appeal.

Make sure your home is well-lit from the outside, too. Buyers often drive by potential homes after work; since it gets dark earlier in the winter, you want them to see your house easily.

Also, consider a few minor upgrades on the inside, like new cabinet hardware or light fixtures. Small projects can freshen things up and help set your home apart. Consider getting a home inspection to make sure there are no surprises that could derail a sale.

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Looking to buy or sell a luxury estate, home, condominium or investment property?

Let me help you find everything you need to know about buying or selling a home. Call or email me today!

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

14 New-Home Design Trends for 2014

What the buyer wants is top of mind when it comes to new-home design

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All 14 of these trends fall within three primary assertions in today’s new-home market: scale trumps size; livability trumps salability; technology can solve for both scale and livability. Below are this year’s top design trends in the new-home market.

1. Scale and Function

The latest American Institute of Architects’ Design Trends Survey notes that households have a “growing interest in going smaller due to an effort to contain energy costs, and a significant higher number of architects report demand for smaller homes.” Scale and function are the solution here, not sheer square footage.

2. ”Private” Space

Boomers, empty nesters, and Gen Y cohorts express a desire for less maintenance and more privatized outdoor space, breaking away from the traditional “public” backyard. This design trend can be achieved by creating spaces that are private from the neighboring house by either positioning architecture around the outdoor space or by allowing the outdoor space to pierce architecture, affording more interior living spaces to be exposed to the outdoor area.

3. Indoor/Outdoor Connectivity

Bring the outdoors into the home experience. These thresholds to the outdoors offer more light and exciting access to “private” outdoor space. The result makes the interior feel like it extends beyond walls.

4. Covered Outdoor Rooms

Outdoor rooms expand the utility of the adjoining interior rooms and become outdoor retreats, still covered and protected but open to the outdoors.

5. Personal Touches

Whether it is a resale or a new home, the consumer is looking for and purchasing feature elements—such as kitchen products, bath fixtures, and custom flooring—that reflect their lifestyle and aesthetic preferences. Now take this trend to the architecture/structure of the house. Each consumer will “live” the interior space of a home differently.

6. Super Kitchens

The kitchen is viewed as the “hub” of the house. While providing the main function of a place for food preparation, the kitchen also serves as an entertainment/conversation area. Kitchens are now open to other rooms, visible and exposed. An island offers additional seating capacity along with prep space, and pantries need to be able to store more packaged foods, which often are purchased in bulk at stores like Costco. As the hub, it becomes a consumer’s dream to design these elements together with function, practicality, and flair.

7. Spalike Master Baths

The bathtub is not dead—rather, it has become an afterthought in most designs. However, trends reveal that women tend to take more baths than men as they’re more apt to dedicate the time. It is an experience and offers an opportunity for relaxation, so why not design the setting to enhance the experience?

8. Larger Media Areas

Many households these days possess at least one large flat-screen TV. The new, larger sizes of these televisions create a design need for more wall space and more seating capability.

9. More Garage Space

Garages are more than “housing” for vehicles. In fact, the garage is one of the only places within a “programmed” house that will offer the consumer what we call idea space. Creating a larger garage to accommodate more functions becomes a value to the consumer.

10. Smarter Storage

Always an important factor, storage rarely gets designed into a home, leaving the consumer to create their own space. Smarter, well-designed storage is especially useful within smaller spaces.

11. Office Space

The office/den is trending to a higher need and the “want” issue dictates the best location within the home. Who uses it and where it is located becomes critical to the consumer and how they value the space. As a “utilized” office space, the front of the home off the entry is not considered an intelligent and practical location. The better location is closer to the “living” area of the house—the kitchen hub and family room.

12. Entry and Exits

Buyers are looking for entry drama and home announcement when greeting guests. As such, the entry and exits become important for impact. Over the past 10 to 15 years, we have stacked living over the entries. To be able to create some level of volume increases demand.

13. Dual-Use Homes

Multigenerational living has become part of the “next” culture. Families are staying together longer and the coupling of families becomes economic as well as cultural.

14. Technological Advances

Technology products create a need for a new lifestyle that revolves around the constant use handheld electronic devices. We will be designing small “server” rooms as smart technology continues to enter the home.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

Santa Barbara Comprehensive Real Estate Statistics – August 2014

Market Stats Cover

Santa Barbara Comprehensive Real Estate Market Statistics – August 2014

51 page PDF Report | 2.8 mb

DOWNLOAD:

August 2014 – Santa Barbara Comprehensive Real Estate Market Statistics.pdf

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

Santa Barbara Comprehensive Real Estate Statistics – July 2014

Market Stats Cover

Santa Barbara Comprehensive Real Estate Market Statistics – July 2014

51 page PDF Report | 3.2 mb

DOWNLOAD:

July 2014 – Santa Barbara Comprehensive Real Estate Market Statistics.pdf

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

Santa Barbara Comprehensive Real Estate Market Statistics – June 2014

Santa Barbara Compehensive Real Estate Market Statistics - June 2014Santa Barbara Comprehensive Real Estate Market Statistics – June 2014

51 page PDF Report | 3.2 mb

DOWNLOAD:

June 2014 – Santa Barbara Comprehensive Real Estate Market Statistics.pdf

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

Creative ways to win a bidding war

Santa-Barbara-Real-Estate-For-Sale

If you’re a home shopper in a market like Santa Barbara where bidding wars are common, it helps to have a strategy to ensure that your bid stands out from the competition.

You’ll want to do the basics: Make sure you have your financing in place, turning in all your loan paperwork before placing an offer. Better yet, if you have the means, you’ll really catch a buyer’s attention if you make an all-cash offer.

Also, write a financially competitive offer with as few contingencies as you’re comfortable with. Some buyers are waiving financing contingencies or even home-inspection contingencies, if they’re the handy type—though many buyers would be smart to keep that home-inspection clause.

And be flexible with your move-in date. Working with a seller who needs to move right away? Be prepared to close quickly so they can be on their way sooner. Does the seller need a month or two—or six—to move out? If you can be flexible and allow them to stay in their home for a while after closing (paying you rent, of course), they may choose your offer over all the rest.

But in some markets, you may have to be more creative than that to win the home you covet. If possible, find out the seller’s needs and wants, so you can customize your offer.

Below are some of the more unusual ways buyers can get the upper hand.

Write a love letter

It’s not all about the money. In situations where you are selling your home, there’s an emotional component. Sellers often like to feel good about the people who will eventually live in their home.

That’s why it’s often an effective strategy to attach a letter along with your offer, and maybe even a photo of your family, explaining why you want to live there.

Increase the earnest money

Another way to show the seller you’re serious: Up the amount of earnest money you’re willing to deposit.

Earnest money is a good-faith deposit made by the buyers after the offer is accepted. (You get it back in time for closing, and it usually makes up a chunk of a buyer’s down payment.) And while it’s often between 1% and 3% of the purchase price, boosting it even higher—maybe even up to 20%—will make an impression.

That will really make your offer different than someone else’s, especially if you have a seller with a past of prospective buyers who had been wishy-washy.

Cover seller costs

Sellers often cover transfer taxes associated with the sale, and many times will pay for a home warranty. To sweeten a deal, some buyers offer to pay these costs for them.

They don’t stop there, either. Many sellers will hire professional stagers to help them spruce up the home so it’s appealing to buyers—and some buyers are reimbursing them for that expense. Others are offering to pay for the seller’s moving costs.

Take the furniture

Sometimes, sellers have furnishings that they don’t want to take with them to their next home. As a buyer, you can help by agreeing to deal with the items they no longer want.

Make your offer as is

Some people offer to buy the home “as is” in their offer. They still do a home inspection—and have a contingency that allows them to get out of the deal if there is something drastically wrong with the property—but agree that they’re not going to be asking for repairs found during the inspection. By taking this route, the sellers know they won’t have additional costs to fix up the home before closing.

It allows you to walk away if something major comes up. But unless it is something crazy, you won’t be able to renegotiate.

Make multiple offers

Buyers who find more than one home they’re interested in may consider submitting offers on more than one home. Check local rules and customs on this, but, in general the deal is not consummated until the contract is signed and earnest money delivered. So you’ll likely be free to bid on as many places as you want.

In areas like Santa Barbara where inventory is limited, some buyers will put in two or three contracts on homes that they like because they’re not sure which one will work out.

But that strategy can just serve to complicate the process. It’s best to concentrate on one. If there’s another home that’s in the running, have an offer ready to submit in case the first one doesn’t get accepted.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com