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If you’ve got your house ready to show but you’re still living in it, things will invariably end up out of place. Take 15-20 minutes and follow the checklist below to make sure everything’s in shape before you leave your house for a showing.

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Security/Valuables:

  • Keep all keys, mail, and documents with personal information out of sight.
  • Store alcohol and prescription drugs out of view, preferably in a locking cabinet.
  • Password protect desktop computers, lock up laptops or take with you.
  • Lock up small valuables like jewelry, watches, mp3 players, tablets, etc.

Cleanliness/Clutter:

  • Remove dishes from the sink.
  • Clear counters and tables, store small kitchen appliances out of sight
  • Rinse sinks, tubs, showers, and toilets clean.
  • Store toiletries in cabinets or drawers, straighten hanging towels.
  • Place laundry in covered hampers or otherwise out of view.

Kids/Pets:

  • Put toys away – have a bin at the ready for quick pick-ups.
  • Secure pets in kennels or preferably out of the house.

Tip – get into the habit of running through this list before you leave the house every morning so you won’t need to worry if someone wants schedule a tour while you’re at work.

  1. Ask your friends and family

Get referrals, but take them with a grain of salt. Do your due diligence researching potential agents, no matter who recommends them. The right agent for one person might not be a good fit for you.

  1. Check out our Househappy Trusted Agents

We’ve done all the legwork and have a curated selection of local experts interested in earning your business and helping you find a home you love.

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  1. Attend Open Houses

Realtors are always in attendance here, so this can be a great opportunity to meet them face-to-face. Many real estate agents who work open houses are not the listing agent, they are most likely holding the open house to meet buyers like you. However, in many states one agent may work with both buyers and sellers in a transaction, but they’re under contract to watch out for the seller’s best interest. You want an agent who can take your side fully in any negotiations. If you want to work with the agent holding the open, be sure to ask who they represent.

  1. Look for ads

Successful Real Estate Agents will often put ads out in local publications. These ads can tell you a lot about who their team is and what their marketing materials may look like.

  1. Google them

Take a look at their website, check-out their LinkedIn and their Facebook. You are interviewing them to handle one of the most important transactions in your life, be picky.

  1. Interview a few potential candidates

Do they seem like someone you’d get along with? Are they open and honest? Is their personality and energy level compatible with yours? Are they focused on your needs?

Go with your gut here. They should make you feel at ease and you should feel comfortable disclosing personal details, if the need arises. If you don’t like the person or don’t trust them, their many acronyms on their business card won’t make the experience any better. Go with someone you actually like!

  1. Ask Some Key Questions: 
  • Do you have an active real estate license?
  • Is real estate your full-time career?
  • How much of your business comes from referrals?
  • How long have you been working in the area?
  • What neighborhoods do you specialize in?
  • What type of network do you have to help find the right house for us outside of an online search we can do ourselves?
  • How are you going to help us win a listing?

Having the right real estate agent has a huge impact on your home purchase. You need to feel confident in your decision when the time comes for any kind of negotiations. Someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing can end up costing you – keep in mind they are paid a commission when you buy a house whether or not you are satisfied with their service (or your experience). Take the time and effort to find someone whose personality, experience, dedication and skill level fit your needs.

 

Is it possible to take a selfie of a house? Not only is it possible, it’s imperative—88% of prospective homebuyers say that they want to see photos first.

Instagram has set the bar for visual inspiration, with tastemakers, celebrities, and brands posting to the photo-driven social network. So it makes sense that sellers and agents look to the platform for tips on how to best represent homes online.

We rounded up the five most important tips for achieving the ultimate “house selfie.”

1. Snap the details. While it’s important to include major features and overall rooms, it’s also helpful to include details that make the house unique. Whether it’s crown moulding, built-in shelving, or luxe fixtures, show why your home stands apart.

2. Take lots of photos. Taking the “perfect” photo creates a lot of pressure. Once you get into the flow, it’s easy to snap dozens of pics. The more, the better—you’ll find that it’s easier to experiment with composition and lighting when you know you have a large reserve of shots.

3. Be a ruthless editor. Since you have so many photos to choose from, it will be easy to narrow down the best images. Consider diversity when selecting photos to represent your home, both in terms of style and what is shown. Ask for input from trusted sources when reviewing your final selection.

4. Frame, don’t filter. It’s important that the images you choose don’t create a “bait and switch” scenario for prospective buyers. To that end, don’t use filters to enhance your photos. Instead, rely on images that frame the house

5. Follow influencers for inspiration. If you feel unsure of what makes a good photo, follow some design influencers on Instagram to learn more. Here are just a few of our personal favorites:

Bloggers

Old Brand New

Apartment Therapy

The Design Files

Bright Bazaar

Design Sponge

Interior Designers/Architects

Grant K. Gibson

House of Honey

Kelly Wearstler

Jasper Conran

The Architext

Image: @thedesignfiles

We’re always envious of the carefully curated finds that design-minded friends score at flea markets. But it also seemed that there was an art to finding that perfectly worn Eames chair or a stash of Eva Zeisel dinnerware in the chockablock booths at most fairs.

And, of course, there is! Thankfully, interior designer Peter Dunham put together a comprehensive list of the markets worth attending, as well as a primer on how to shop like a pro.

We’ve included an abbreviated version below. One thing we’d add to the list? Bring your own folding shopping cart.

1. It’s all about the details, craftsmanship, and the sign of an artisan’s hand. Look for hand-stitching, nail-head trims, embroidery, and hand-woven textiles. It makes anything more special.

2. Look past the scratches, dust, and dirt. You can have most anything restored, cleaned, or reupholstered. Try to survey the options while focusing on the possibilities—not on the limitations.

3. Don’t focus on provenance—unless you really know what you’re doing. (If you see something too good to be true, it probably is.) This is not to say that there aren’t treasures around—just take a deep breath, get out your phone, and search the internet for originals so you can confirm that the details are correct.

4. Measure your space before you go. Beyond the parameters of the area you’d like to fill (i.e., the space allotted for a coffee table), bring measurements for the supporting furniture (i.e., the height and length of your couch, etc.).

5. Interact with your potential purchase. Sit in the chairs and make sure they’re comfortable and that they don’t wobble; make sure a table is the right height, etc.

6. If you’re interested in an item, but not overly attached, walk away. Do a second lap at the end of the day. If it’s still available, you’ll have much more negotiating power.

7. Know your budget. And don’t forget to factor customs and shipping. It’s easy to get totally carried away in the moment, so know your upper limit.

8. Look for pairs and sets. Vendors generally hate to break them up, so you’re going to get a better deal. Besides adding symmetry to a space, you can often use an extra lamp or chairs in a different room.

Source: Goop

Photo: Adam Golfer for Bloomberg Businessweek

Curb appeal—everyone wants it, but not everyone knows how to achieve it. Especially when it comes to capturing engaging photos for online listings. Here are four relatively simple ways to take your exterior shots to the next level.

1. Focus on the front door. It’s important to set a welcoming tone with exterior shots. Consider both symmetry and framing, paying special attention to the front door. An inviting image will make a lasting first impression.

2. Deal with the driveway. Make sure that you remove all detritus from the driveway, including garbage cans and recycling bins. If your driveway is paved, consider hosing it down and using an indoor-outdoor broom to scrub stains.

3. Let there be light. A well-lit home is as much about security as it is about aesthetics. But in photographs, lighting is paramount. Try taking photos at different times of day to find out when your home looks best—and rely on natural light as much as possible. Harsh artificial lighting can make a home seem dated.

4. Use plants for color. Make sure that there is mulch in garden beds or add colorful flowers. This will help give your photos a pop of color, as well as highlight any landscaped areas that add value to the home.

Illustration: Julia Rothman

Rarely do we give anything but compliments when invited into someone’s home—right? After all, it seems awfully rude to enter a new space and immediately start to critique design choices.

And yet, it’s an all too common experience for many homeowners and agents when showing their house to prospective buyers. Elle Decor spoke to Sheila Heen, author of Thanks for the Feedback, about strategies for dealing with constructive or even negative comments about your home.

1. Know what to listen for. There are three different kinds of feedback: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. Keep that in mind and approach every conversation knowing that all three can yield helpful information.

2. Know your own standards. “People have really different criteria by which they’re making choices about decor and cleanliness,” says Sheila. “And it differs at different times of our lives.” Your choices may simply reflect your lifestyle.

3. Look for the good. Rather than take offense, imagine that the intention of the feedback is to make your life easier or more enjoyable.

4. But don’t be a doormat. If your agent, designer, or family member is constantly rearranging your home, Sheila suggests saying something like: “I appreciate your help and one unintended result is that I find myself constantly searching for things. If you don’t know where something goes, please feel free to leave it on the counter.”

5. Before you speak, consider the consequences. Be sure to remember that if you cannot accept the feedback in the spirit it was given, you may risk alienating the relationship.

6. Consider the source. Try to separate the feedback from the individual providing it—sometimes a critical statement from a family member stings more than when it’s said by a professional.

Photo: Flickr

Keeping your desk clean and organized is a daily struggle. But it’s worth the fight—a tidy workspace has been proven one of the most effective ways to get ahead in business.

Case in point: Fast Company reported that executives waste on average six weeks per year searching for lost documents, time they could have spent making progress on projects or chasing down new leads.

So you can see why we were impressed with Rebecca’s minimalist desk, which she posted on her blog The Daily Muse, along with a few suggestions for must-have accessories that will help you organize your office.