Ask the Expert: How Can Staging Pave the Way for a Better Sell?

Today’s Ask the Expert column features Patty McNease, director of Marketing for Homes.com.

Q: How can staging pave the way for a better sell?

A: Staging allows your clients to show off the unique features of their home that buyers can come to love. During the holiday season, staging can make a home stand out even more. The following staging tips will help buyers fall in love with their future home just in time for the holidays.

Is staging really necessary?
Many homeowners are concerned about the overall cost to sell their homes. One place they may look to cut expenses is staging. While some think it’s unnecessary, proper staging is crucial to selling a home since it allows buyers to imagine what living there could look like. In fact, according to a recent National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) survey, 77 percent of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as their future home, which decreased the amount of time it was on the market.

Which rooms are the most important to stage?
According to the same NAR survey, the living room, master bedroom and kitchen are most critical. This is likely because these are the spaces where future owners will be spending most of their time. When planning these rooms, space and functionality are important. Rooms that are cluttered or difficult to navigate will not appeal to potential buyers.

How should I stage a home around the holidays?
Keep in mind that buying a home is an emotional experience for both the buyer and the seller. Often, the buyer’s emotional connection to the home is what really solidifies the sale. The holidays are a sentimental time for many, as they bring back warm memories and allow younger buyers to imagine future celebrations. Enhance these emotional connections to draw buyers to make an emotional investment in the home.

That being said, it’s important not to go overboard. Since different types of potential buyers will be coming to visit, avoid including overly religious décor. Instead, opt for simple and classic. Also, consider burning a pine- or cranberry-scented candle for those buyers who come over for a tour.

My client is hesitant. How can I convince them to stage their home?
If your client is against staging, remind them that 86 percent of buyers believe viewing a property online is the most useful part of their home search. With so many different options, it’s important to capture their attention in this initial stage of viewing so that they want to see the home in person. If you’re still struggling, show your client a before and after photo from another property you’ve staged, and ask them which home they would rather see.

For more information, please visit www.homes.com.

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Members of the millennial generation, especially first-time buyers, are already struggling to purchase a home due to student loan debt, trouble saving for a down payment and tight inventory—factors cited in the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. According to GOBankingRates, slow wage growth and low unemployment rates across the country are also impacting the homeownership rate.

There are, however, specific locations that may be easier to purchase in because of low median list prices and low monthly mortgage payments. GOBankingRates rated the most and least expensive states across the U.S. to help millennial buyers find affordable housing. The report uses a median income of $60,932 to represent ages 25-34, and the following rankings are based on a 20 percent down payment and a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage.

Top 5 Most Affordable States

  1. West Virginia
    Median Lis price: $154,900
    Estimated time to save for a down payment: 2.5 years
    Monthly mortgage payment: $693
  1. Ohio
    Median list price: $150,000
    Estimated time to save for a down payment: 2.5 years
    Monthly mortgage payment: $704
  1. Arkansas
    Median list price: $150,000
    Estimated time to save for a down payment: 2.5 years
    Monthly mortgage payment: $757
  1. Indiana
    Median list price: $167,000
    Estimated time to save for a down payment: 2.7 years
    Monthly mortgage payment: $757
  1. Iowa
    Median list price: $169,000
    Estimated time to save for a down payment: 2.8 years
    Monthly mortgage payment: $766

Top 5 Most Expensive States

  1. Hawaii
    Median list price: $599,000
    Estimated time to save for a down payment: 9.8 years
    Monthly mortgage payment: $2,584
  1. California
    Median list price: $499,950
    Estimated time to save for a down payment: 8.2 years
    Monthly mortgage payment: $2,168
  1. Massachusetts
    Median list price: $419,900
    Estimated time to save for a down payment: 6.9 years
    Monthly mortgage payment: $1,833
  1. Colorado
    Median list price: $408,068
    Estimated time to save for a down payment: 6.7 years
    Monthly mortgage payment: $1,780
  1. Oregon
    Median list price: $352,000
    Estimated time to save for a down payment: 5.8 years
    Monthly mortgage payment: $1,551

For more details, read the entire GOBankingRates report.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Thumb through any home decor magazine, and you’ll see a master bathroom with a soaker or shower as the showpiece. Ta-da!

Homeowners, it turns out, are splurging to scrub up, according to the recently released U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Study. Ninety-one percent of homeowners in the study added a spacious shower to their master bathroom (after tearing out the tub), and many added on deluxe features, like a body sprayer or rainfall showerhead, for an improved, spa-like space.

The average cost for a large-scale remodel of a master bath (sized over 100 square feet) was $21,000, shows the study. Master bath renovations cost more in pricey markets, however. In San Francisco, Calif., for example, a major remodel averages $34,100.

Accompanying a luxury shower is a soothing gray and white color palette, according to the study. Nineteen percent of homeowners installed white countertops in the master bath, and 40 percent painted its walls white. Fourteen percent added gray cabinets, as well, to complete the tone-on-tone look. The majority of homeowners (90 percent) changed the overall style of the room, some to contemporary (25 percent), some to transitional (17 percent), and some, still, to modern (15 percent).

As with other areas at home, homeowners are also integrating technology into their master baths. Atmospheric lighting, digital controls and smart toilets are all popular upgrades, shows the study.

Bathrooms—master bathrooms, especially—are key at resale. The 2017 Cost vs. Value Report by Remodeling magazine estimates the resale value of a “mid-range” bath renovation at $12,024 (a 64.8 percent return on investment), and the resale value of an “upscale” bath renovation at $35,456 (a 59.1 percent return on investment).

Beyond a master bath overhaul, another bathroom anywhere in the home can make homeowners happier with their house, a recent report by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) showed. A bathroom earned a perfect 10 “Joy Score” in the report.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

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Sixty percent of homebuyers put 6 percent, or roughly $15,500, down on a median-priced house, according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Work toward that goal with these tips:

For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.

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Home staging offers a distinct advantage for sellers: a speedy sale.

Sixty-two percent of sellers’ agents believe staging a home cuts down the time it spends on-market, with the majority believing it “greatly” reduces the window, according to the new 2017 Profile of Home Staging from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Seventy-seven percent of buyers’ agents believe staging a home helps buyers envision themselves living in it, and 40 percent believe it prompts buyers who first saw the home online to visit it in person.

2017 Home Staging Report (PRNewsfoto/National Association of Realtors)

2017 Home Staging Report (PRNewsfoto/National Association of Realtors)

Staging can also have a positive effect on home value. Thirty-one percent of buyers’ agents and 29 percent of sellers’ agents believe it adds anywhere from 1 to 5 percent, while 13 percent of buyers’ agents believe 6 to 10 percent and 21 percent of sellers’ agents believe 8 to 10 percent. The cost of staging is often fronted by the seller or sellers’ agent.

Buyers’ agents caution, however, that staging is only beneficial if the home is staged to appeal to general, not specific, preferences. Most buyers’ and sellers’ agents believe the living room is a key space to stage, as well as the kitchen, the master bedroom and the yard. They also believe decluttering, depersonalizing and a deep clean—beyond staging—are essential for a show-ready home.

Thirty-eight percent of sellers’ agents stage all of their listings before placing them on the market, while 14 percent only stage listings that require it. A near-even 37 percent do not stage their listings at all.

“REALTORS® know how important it is for buyers to be able to picture themselves living in a home and, according to NAR’s most recent report, staging a home makes that process much easier for potential buyers,” says NAR President Bill Brown. “While all real estate is local, and many factors play into what a home is worth and how much buyers are willing to pay for it, staging can be the extra step sellers take to help sell their home more quickly and for a higher dollar value.”

For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.

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The following information is provided by the Center for REALTOR® Development (CRD).

A few weeks ago, we provided you some general launch information about the new podcast that Center for REALTOR® Development launched in May. Now, we want to share with you some more specifics about its three initial episodes so you can get a taste of the kinds of topics the podcast will cover and the types of interviewees our host, Monica Neubauer, will be interviewing.

We’re hoping you’ll give at least one of these episodes a listen now, and possibly subscribe so that you get notified when all the future episodes release, too. For all the details about the podcast and how to subscribe, check out its website at CRDpodcast.com.

The first episode, Pricing Strategies in the Market, focuses on pricing strategies, and its guests provide some different perspectives on pricing strategies in today’s real estate market for buyers and sellers. Melanie McLane (second-generation REALTOR® and renowned instructor and consultant) and Rob Mehta (principal of Rob Mehta+Partners and 19-year industry veteran) both share their expertise about basic and advanced areas to consider when pricing homes. In addition, they talk about how to best work with appraisers and AVMs, and how to use RPR tools.

In episode two, Military Real Estate Tips, the first guest, Bryan Bergjans, joins us to talk about VA loans. He began his career in mortgage banking in 2002, and currently serves as the national director of Military and VA Lending with Caliber Home Loans. In addition to his work with Caliber, he serves in the Navy, and is also an instructor with NAR for the Military Relocation Professional certification. In the second part of the show, Juanita Charles joins the show to talk about how she serves active duty and military veterans. She served in the military, and now currently works as a REALTOR® in Clarksville, Tenn.

In the third episode, Real Estate Investing, Ron Phipps, former NAR president and owner of Phipps Realty, joins Monica to talk about how to get involved in real estate investing, and to discuss the benefits and the best ways to get started. Real estate investing is a great way to build wealth and to prepare for long-term cash flow for the future. This is a great opportunity for real estate agents, investors, and the general public. In addition to the benefits, Monica and Ron talk about some of the downsides to real estate investing, and the risk involved with different kinds of units.

In addition to this new podcast, feel free to also check out our featured product this month at the Center for REALTOR® Development, the NEW e-PRO® Day 1 and 2 online bundle, which is the educational requirement for NAR’s e-PRO® certification and is on sale this entire month of June at 25% off. This certification aims to help real estate professionals broaden their technology skills to connect effectively with today’s digitally-savvy consumer.

For more information, please visit onlinelearning.realtor.

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This year may be the most difficult in a decade to buy a home, especially for a first-time homebuyer. Prices are soaring in most markets, and for affordable starter homes, the price is rising faster than larger homes.* Supplies are suffering from a three-year inventory drought that also is hitting starter homes hardest. The number of starter and trade-up homes fell 8.7 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively, during the past year, while the inventory of premium homes has fallen by just 1.7 percent, according to Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia’s chief economist.*

There’s little leeway for mistakes in today’s marketplace. Discipline is essential, and the learning curve is stepped. Buying a home is serious business, and in most markets today, it is the most difficult step in the process for move-up buyers, as well as first-timers.

Here are five tips on house-hunting in today’s marketplace that will put you ahead of the competition and may spell the difference between success and failure.

Hire a specialist. If you had a serious medical condition, you would seek advice and treatment from a medical specialist. Real estate is also a large and complex field. Many brokers and agents specialize in delivering better service to their clients and customers. If you’re serious about finding a home today, hire a REALTOR® who specializes in serving buyers. Look for one with the designation ABR after their name. It stands for Accredited Buyer’s Representative and means that they are REALTORS® who have received specialized training from the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC) and have experience representing buyers. Even if you don’t hire a specialist, you should hire a REALTOR®. Not all agents are REALTORS®; REALTORS® are members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) who are licensed and abide by NAR’s Code of Ethics. Hiring a REALTOR® with an ABR designation won’t cost you anything, and a professional’s assistance could make all the difference. Above all, don’t try to go it alone today. Last year nearly 90 percent of successful buyers used an agent.**

Don’t start your search until you are ready. It’s a good idea to spend some time online surfing real estate sites and learning about real estate and checking out what’s available; however, you aren’t a serious buyer until you have done all you can to improve your credit, raised the money you need for a down payment, been pre-approved for a mortgage from at least one lender and hired an agent

Make a budget and stick to it. The amount for which your lender pre-approves you is not your budget. Your pre-approved amount is conditional and can change when you apply for a mortgage. Moreover, it does not include many of the other costs of homeownership, like taxes, home insurance and maintenance. Sit down with your agent, make your budget and stick to it. As a rule of thumb, economists recommend you spend no more than 30 percent of your gross income on housing costs. Make a pledge to yourself to stick to your budget. There are few heartaches worse than falling in love with a house you can’t afford or stretching yourself so thin that you are “house poor” for years to come.

House hunt every day. Looking for a house in today’s market is like having a second job. Financially, finding the right home may be even more important to you than a second job. The outcome of your search will determine where you live and how much you spend on housing for years to come. Be proactive with your agent to learn as much as you can about the home-buying process and conditions in your market. Spend time every day reviewing listings and learning about neighborhoods. Drive the neighborhoods in which you are interested and go to open houses to get a feel for the market and to meet listing agents who may have a home that meets your criteria. Check out “coming soon” listings to get a head start on the competition.

Use a selection of sites. Most buyers start their house search on one of the major national real estate sites like realtor.com®, Zillow or Homes.com. These sites have great features, research and how-to material. As you get more serious about finding a house, increase your selection of sites to include your local multiple listing services, if yours has a consumer site with listings (not all do). Also, bookmark several of the leading local brokerages in your market. Listings may appear earlier on a local brokerage site than a national site, and often updated information like contracts or price changes are posted first on the site of the listing broker who represents the property. Sign up for email updates of listings that fit your criteria.

Be flexible. You may find that you cannot afford to live where you would like, or you can’t afford the size or amenities you want. If those are deal-breakers for you, you may not be ready to buy in your market today—or you might revisit your plans and decide to live a little farther out from the city, buying an older house that you can improve over time. Starting out in a condo might be an acceptable alternative. Chances are prices in your market are not going to decline, and by buying now, you will begin to accumulate equity. Though mortgage rates have risen over the past year, they are still very reasonable by historical standards, which means that the odds are they will continue to rise, rather than fall, in the future. Expand the geography and price ranges on the websites you are using and see what you find.

Sweeten your offer. When you find a house on which you want to make an offer, ask your agent for a comparative market analysis (CMA) to determine its value. Don’t rely on the estimated values provided by valuation tools on real estate sites. Knowing the value is important not just for deciding how much to offer, but also to anticipate how much the house will appraise for. CMAs are based on recent sales of comparable properties, similar to appraisals. Chances are you will be competing with other buyers, including investors who pay all cash. Sellers are not only looking for the best price; they also want an offer that will close on time from a buyer whose financing won’t fall through. Consider sweetening your offer by increasing your down payment and getting more than one pre-approval. Be flexible on considerations like renting back if the owner is a move-up buyer who may need time to find a new home. If you are a move-up buyer, sell your current home before you buy a new one. Most sellers react negatively to offers that are contingent upon a buyer first selling his current home.

Don’t lose your deal. About 23 percent of contracts on homes today have a delayed settlement, and 7 percent of contracts fail to close and are terminated. The leading causes for delayed settlements are issues related to obtaining financing and appraisal issues. Among contracts that were terminated, 25 percent faced issues related to home inspections, and 20 percent had issues related to the buyer’s ability to obtain financing.*** One way to improve your odds for financing is to get more than one pre-approval so that you are ready to talk to a second lender if your first application fails. Most appraisal issues result from appraisals that come in lower than the contract price and buyers must come up with more cash. One way to protect against a low appraisal is to know the value of the house before you make an offer and make a larger down payment than you have to.

Persistence pays off. Don’t despair if a seller selects another offer over yours. Learn from your experiences. A better home may come on the market tomorrow. Last year buyers searched for an average of 10 weeks and looked at a median of 10 homes**, but that’s just a national average for all buyers. If you are a first-time buyer in a hot market, expect your hunt to take longer. Don’t quit when the weather turns cold. Fall and winter can be good times to find a home. There are fewer listings than in the spring or summer, but there’s also less competition, and sellers are usually more motivated.

* McLaughlin, Ralph. (2017, May 22) Don’t Call It a Comeback: How Rising Home Values May Be Stifling Inventory. Retrieved from www.trulia.com/blog/trends/inventory-q117/

** 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. National Association of REALTORS®.

*** REALTORS® Confidence Index: Report on March 2017 Survey. National Association of REALTORS®. Retrieved from www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/reports/2017/2017-03-realtors-confidence-index-04-21-2017.pdf.

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When inventory is low, home prices tend to go up. Attempting to purchase a house in this type of market can make the already complex process of buying a home even more overwhelming. Get through the buying process with as little stress and difficulty as possible with these tips from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR):

  1. Determine and stick to a budget.Before beginning the house hunting process, prospective homebuyers should receive preapproval from one or more lenders to verify the amount of money they are qualified to borrow. Then, after taking into account additional costs of ownership such as taxes, utilities and insurance, buyers should determine a final budget they can comfortably afford. When listings are scarce, bidding wars can drive up prices, so buyers must be prepared to walk away if the asking price surpasses their budget.
  1. Identify desired neighborhoods and home wants versus needs.When housing inventory is tight, buyers may need to compromise on what they believe they want from a home. Certain wants, such as stainless appliances or hardwood floors, can be added later; however, if a buyer wants to be in a specific school district or have a decent sized backyard, those cannot be addressed later and must be taken into account during the house hunting process.
  1. Be ready to make a decision quickly.In a seller’s market, homes rarely stay on the market long, so when a house that is in their budget, and checks off all their needs, come along, buyers should not hesitate. Buyers should be ready to submit an offer quickly, or they may risk missing out on the home altogether.
  1. Bid competitively and limit contingencies.It is tempting to submit a low offer as a starting bid, but in a seller’s market buyers need to put forward their highest offer from the very beginning or they are likely to lose out on the home. It is also important to remember that in multiple bidding situations it is not always the highest offer that is most attractive to the seller but the one with the fewest contingencies. Removing restrictions related to the sale of a current home and being flexible with things like the move-in date can make a bid stand out to a seller.
  1. Work with a REALTOR®.All real estate is local, so it is important to work with an agent who is a REALTOR®, a member of NAR, and familiar with the areas and neighborhoods the homebuyers are considering. REALTORS®are the most trusted resource for real estate information and have unparalleled knowledge of their communities; they can give buyers the competitive advantage needed in a tight market.

For more information, please visit www.houselogic.com/buy.

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More homebuyers and sellers are in the market for greener, sustainable homes—and REALTORS® are answering the call.

Over half of REALTORS® recently surveyed in the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) REALTORS® and Sustainability report say consumers have an interest in sustainability as it pertains to real estate—homes that have features intended to conserve natural resources, such as solar panels or walkability. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed have been involved with at least one “green,” or sustainable, property in the past year.

One of the more valued features, according to the survey, is efficient lighting, cited by 50 percent of the REALTORS® surveyed as important to consumers. A “smart” home is also in demand, according to 40 percent of those surveyed, and, to a lesser extent, geothermal technology and “green community features” (e.g., bike paths). Sixty percent of those surveyed say consumers are looking for outdoor recreation and/or parks in proximity to home, while 37 percent say consumers are looking for “local food.”

Eighty percent of the REALTORS® surveyed, in addition, say solar panels exist in their market, but just 42 percent say their presence gives a boost to perceived home value. Twenty-four percent say tiny houses exist in their market.

The real estate industry has recognized the mounting significance of sustainability—in fact, 70 percent of those surveyed “feel strongly” about the benefits of marketing sustainable home features to consumers, and 43 percent say their MLS has green data fields to input information related to those features.

REALTORS® and Sustainability is part of NAR’s Sustainability Program, a “platform for dialogue on sustainability for REALTORS®, brokers, allied trade associations and consumers,” with a “focus on coordination and articulation of NAR’s existing sustainability resources, while also supporting a growing area of interesting for consumers, helping members to assist homebuyers and sellers,” according to a release on the report.

“As consumers’ interest in sustainability grows, REALTORS® understand the necessity of promoting sustainability in their real estate practice, such as marketing energy efficiency in property listings to homebuyers,” says NAR President Bill Brown. “The goal of the NAR Sustainability Program is to provide leadership and strategies on topics of sustainability to benefit members, consumers and communities.”

For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.

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In 2016, home prices experienced increases, despite the predictions of many that prices would fall for the first time since the recovery began. Home price gains were buoyed mostly by limited inventory, with entry-level homes being particularly short in supply.

Many areas across the country saw sales prices touch their pre-2007 values, while mortgage rates remained historically low. Nationally, home values increased 3.85 percent from the previous year. The number of unsold homes in the United States fell to 1.65 million units at the end of 2016, as reported by the National Association of REALTORS®, the lowest since 1999, when they first started tracking this data.

Market conditions continue to vary greatly across the country, but there’s a positive trend emerging for buyers in 2017. As demand for homes remains strong, inventory will continue to be a challenge, but there are signs that the situation will improve. The National Association of Home Builders predicts 1.24 million housing starts in 2017, compared to the 1.16 million starts in 2016. Additionally, home builder sentiment has been gradually trending upward.

In the first month of Donald Trump’s presidency, we witnessed the Dow Jones Industrial Average close over 20,000 for the first time in history, and the administration has made it clear that business-friendly policy will be a priority. The administration also signaled it will encourage infrastructure investment and a more positive monetary policy. These conditions, coupled with a rising interest rate environment, can stimulate a gradual increase in inflation.

Mortgage interest rates are mostly impacted by movements in the bond market, not the Federal Reserve’s short-term interest rate policy. The bond traders that influence long-term rates (like those used for mortgages) are trying to make educated guesses about where the economy will be in 10-15 years. Some of these predictions, which are focused on growth, can lead to higher rates.

Looking ahead, we’ll need to keep an eye on affordability throughout the year, with the possibility of increased home prices combined with potentially higher rates creating challenges in some markets.

In the near term, I’m sure spring 2017 will be a robust home-buying season. Consumers will be competing for available homes and rushing to lock in their low interest rate.

Derek Latka is vice president of Business Development for Quicken Loans.

For more information, please contact the Quicken Loans Agent Relations team at AgentRelations@QuickenLoans.com or (866) 718-9842, or visit Agent.QuickenLoans.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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