Be careful which paints you use when redecorating; Benjamin Moore’s ‘Aura’ brand not worth the price

February 19, 2013 — Whether you’re preparing your home for the market or you’ve just moved in, it’s refreshing what a fresh coat of paint can do for a few, or all, of your rooms.

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CREDIT: Behr.com

I’ve purchased a variety of paints for my own homes and recommended to clients and / or their handymen certain paint brands and types in my 20+ years as a Realtor®. Permit me to pass along this latest lesson learned:

If you’re considering Benjamin Moore’s “Aura” paint , don’t believe their claim that no more than two coats will cover the existing paint on your walls. Granted, in my case I was using a creamy flat yellow paint to cover pale green walls. I actually wanted to believe the retail store that sold me the Aura paint that ONE coat would do the job . . .  NOT!

Not only did two coats not cover the existing color, it took a third coat — by professionals to boot — to complete the job.

Since then, I’ve switched back to either Behr’s or Glidden’s brand of paints which are less expensive and easier to find at Home Depot.

If you have a paint lesson you can share, please do so by replying below or giving me a ring at 703-593-9432.

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How to stage a home for sale — your 10-point checklist

September 19, 2012 — Almost daily I’m asked by clients, friends and/or neighbors about staging a home for sale. First, remember how we live in our homes is very different than living in a home staged to appeal to a wide range of buyers. So many times I see a home that sellers consider ready for the market. They watched HGTV and decided to fix up their home. I’ve seen some interesting attempts. Ha!

According to data from StagedHomes.com, staged houses sell for 7% more and in one-half the time. That is $56,000 more on an $800,000 home.

Below I share my lessons-learned from staging homes during 25+ years as a Realtor

The 10 most important things you should know about staging a home

1. Create inviting curb appeal. Walk outside your home and think: would I guy this home? Hmmmm. How’s the curb appeal? Are my yard and bushes and/or trees trimmed? Is the trim around the windows and doors fresh-looking? Now walk up to the front door / entryway; does it ‘say’ come inside? Does it have enough light during Fall and Winter early evenings?

2. Get rid of any clutter. It’s time toss what you don’t need or at least pack it away while you’re home is on the market. This might include some furnishings. Why? Because a more open home feels like a bigger home. You might consider renting a storage bay if you absolutely must keep items that may complicate the marketing of your home.

3. There’s $$$ in a fresh — neutral — coat of paint. Painting a living room a fresh neutral color helps tone down any dated finishes in the space.  These days, the definition of neutral extends way beyond beige, from warm tans and honeys to buttery yellows. As for bold wall colors, they have a way of reducing offers, so go with neutrals in large spaces. Giving adjacent rooms the same neutral color makes them appear like one big space. That said, don’t be afraid to use dark paint in a powder room, dining room or bedroom. A deep tone on the walls can make the space more intimate, dramatic and cozy.

Take a close look at this typical living room makeover (CREDIT: HGTV’s “The Stagers”) and compare it to . . . .

. . . how this same living room looked AFTER staging. (CREDIT: HGTV’s “The Stagers”)

4. Position furniture for eye-pleasing traffic flow, especially in big rooms. Reposition sofas and chairs into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so that the traffic flow in a room is obvious. Not only will this make the space more user-friendly, but it will open up the room and make it seem larger

5. Transform dormant space into something useful. Think about re-purposing a room, or even one area of  large space (e.g. in the basement) into something that will add to the value of your home. Adding a comfortable armchair, a small table and/or a lamp in a stairwell nook could transform it into a cozy reading spot. How about a yoga studio somewhere?

6. More — and useful — lighting is more inviting. This is especially true from October through March when sunlight is at a premium. Some homes I’ve visited as a buyer’s agent lack enough lighting. Aim for 100 watts for each 50 square feet.  Don’t depend on just one or two fixtures per room, either. Make sure you have three types of lighting: ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, under-cabinet or reading) and accent (table and wall).

7. New ‘faces’ in the kitchen.  If you can’t afford new cabinets, consider new doors and drawer fronts. Then paint everything to match. It will help if your appliances match. Instead of replacing the entire dishwasher, you may be able to get a new front panel. Check with the manufacturer to see if replacements are available for your model. (See my previous blog post in this category on “New trends in kitchen appliances.”)

8. Finish those UNfinished repairs! Not only will something wrong or that’s not working in your home scare off potential buyers, it most certainly will cost you to make a deal work, either after a home inspection and/or at the settlement table.

9. Is it time to update your master bathroom?  Just how old is that vanity? If practical, envision a pedastal sink because it shows off square footage in small bathrooms beautifully. Plus, buyers will see how much floor space your bathroom has.

You can provide a feeling of spa along with water- cost-saving items such as modern toilets which use markedly less water than even a few years ago. (Get this: they don’t ever get ‘plugged’ either!) Consider painting you tile to help it look brand new. Doesn’t hurt to accessorize with rolled-up towels, decorative baskets and candles.

10. Show your walls’ dexterity by varying wall hangings. Placing your pictures, paintings and prints in such stereotypical spots can render them almost invisible. Art displayed creatively makes it stand out and shows off your space. So break up that line and vary the patterning and grouping.

BONUS! 11.Create serene bedrooms. Using soft colors luxurious-looking linens can make a potential homebuyer want to sit back and relax. Tip: If you don’t have the money to buy a new bed, just get the frame then buy an inexpensive air mattress and dress it up with neutral-patterned bedding.

Next trend in kitchen appliances after stainless steel? How about ice, glass or slate?

September 5, 2012 — “Stainless fatigue” is what The Wall Street Journal this week called what may be a new design phase for kitchen appliances.

If you’re planning on a kitchen makeover, which ad the privilege of working on for some of my clients moving into their next homes, you may want to heed the proclaimed end of stainless steel’s 25-year reign. That said, there does not appear to be clear successor in place.

Here is how The Wall Street Journal sums up the looming challenge to stainless steel.

How does ice, slate or glass strike you?

What began when Viking Range Corp. launched its iconic stainless-steel open-burner range in 1987, now is motivating GE Appliances, Wolf Appliance and Whirlpool to manufacture and market the next ‘big thing’ for the maturing foodie culture in the U.S.

Whirlpool, from a recent press release, wants shoppers to believe that “white is the new stainless.”

Huh?

Wolf disagrees: “Black is the new stainless steel.”

Haven’t we ‘been there and done that’?

GE is playing its cards close to the vest. While “slate” is the new moniker for its appliances, a spokesperson would only tell the Journal its refrigerators, ovens and dishwashers would have muted gray design and a “metallic matte” finish.

A common strategy may be to make appliances blend in in a tasteful way rather than stand out as trophies. Also, for more people, entertaining begins in the kitchen and increasingly never leaves it.

Victoria Matranga, an industrial design historian quoted by the Journal, asserted “there’s a movement to get people together again, in the kitchen.”

In my home, the focus of entertainment rarely leaves the kitchen except on family holiday gatherings and Super Bowl parties.

Maybe our beloved magnets will stick to the front of these new appliances, not just the single side that typically faces the counter. Early on that was communications-central in my kitchen.

FYI: LG, for one, is sticking with stainless steel.

Need a Handyman? Give Rodney Hampton a Call

August 1, 2012 — For my homes and those of my clients, Rodney Hampton is a handyman extraordinaire.

Rodney (pictured) and his team of painters, installers and all-around fixer-uppers have helped me stage homes for sale to maximize their appeal. And he’s helped clients just moving into homes to reduce their stress and get back to a normal lifestyle.

YOU can have the Andy Advantage by hiring my Handyman, Rodney Hampton; pictured here after finishing one of my many recent projects. CREDIT: The Andy Advantage

I cannot count on two hands anymore the projects he’s tackled for me and my husband over the past 15+ years. Like some folks, we procrastinate replacing or fixing things. They never seem to get done. Rodney can get it done–  fast.

  • Thought about sprucing up the laundry area with drywall, shelves and the outlets needed for the washer and dryer?
  • Need to replace the floor planks on your back deck?
  • How about getting that toilet installed that’s been giving you problems?
  • Ready to install new wood flooring?

The Answer: Call Rodney at 571-437-4113. Or email him at YourHandyMan01@yahoo.com.

Rodney is most accessible throughout Northern Virginia but can be in Montgomery County with some advance notice very easily.

Tell him Andy sent ya and you’re sure to get his 5-star treatment.

You can find him on Angie’s List (membership required for consumers). He’s been on Andy’s List (that’s mine :)) even longer!

Previewing homes for buyers – here’s how I do it

May 14, 2012 — I am often asked what I do when I preview homes for buyers. How do I know whether a home comes close to what they would consider buying?

I start by conducting a thorough inventory of what they want and what their needs will likely be for the next 5-10 years.

I enjoy previewing homes, especially when I find a matches that make complete sense for my clients. CREDIT: The Andy Advantage

– Where would they like to live and why?

– What can they prudently afford?

– Are there any family additions in the offing?

– Do existing children need a big back yard?

– How important is close access to the Washington, DC-area’s Metrorail system?

You get the picture.

With that information in hand, on my own I preview qualifying homes and schedule visits with my clients I think are worth showing. As we walk through each one, I watch and listen closely to what they like and what they don’t, especially if there are any show-stoppers such as only a one-car garage. After that, the responsibility falls to me to ‘home in’ on properties that meet at least 80 percent of their needs.

With that I place them on a “drip” of homes that might meet most of their criteria that they receive via email as frequently as the homes materialize in the regional Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, or MRIS

In the early going, most of the homes that pop up may miss the mark. But as I sharpen the search criteria, this is a very efficient way to get a quick bead on properties as they are put up for sale.

On a parallel path, I research and visit neighborhoods to get a first-hand sense of the location. I might get in touch with agents who are active with listings in those neighborhoods to let them know of my clients’ interests.

Whenever a good prospect materializes, I preview it and quickly relay any relevant information that my client should know. I don’t recommend taking a client to see a home unless it meets that 80% threshold.

In the type of market we’re experiencing now in Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland, timing could be integral, perhaps critical, to submitting a contract that can win the next house of your dreams.

For a taste of how I preview a home, watch these previews of homes in May 2012.

Short home preview excerpt (1:53);

Long home preview excerpt (3:46).

In the shorter version, watch for what appears to be at first an excellent match  . . . until I peak through the sliding glass doors in the kitchen.

I welcome your comments!