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Some people might be surprised to find out that I do “Home Staging” in addition to selling real estate.

I started doing staging about 2 years ago, as a favor for a friend. My friend was putting his house on the market and listing the property with me and I offered some advice on making the home more attractive. This is something I did for all customers and it usually went no further than some advice/tips/suggestions that sort of thing. In this particular case he was simply too busy to do what I suggested and offered to pay for materials if I did the work. It was a fairly simple job that involved painting a couple of rooms and sprucing things up with some new artwork and window treatments.
It took about 10 hours of my time and the house looked amazing when I was finished. The house ended up selling within 3 days with multiple offers (over asking price) and thus my side-career as a Home Stager was born. Since then I’ve staged dozens of homes and condos. Home staging is simply another way of saying “decorating” with the emphasis on making the property more attractive to potential buyers. Staging can be as simple as re-arranging furniture and de-cluttering all the way to furnishing a vacant house. Staging a home can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars depending on what’s needed. My average staging job is probably around $2500.00, which in the big scheme of things is a small price to pay if it means your home will sell faster and for a higher price. Consider the following statistics:

A typical home buyer decides if they are attracted to
a home within 8 to 10 seconds.

Only 10% of home buyers can actually visualize the
potential of a home.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development reports a staged home sells 17% higher than an un-staged home, on average.

Staged homes sell on average 6.32% over the listed price, un-staged homes only average at 1.6%.

The New York Village Voice reported that the average number of days on the market
for a staged house was 13.9 days versus 30.9 for an un-staged house.

In short, staging a home can really help sell the property, especially in a down market. I recently staged 3 model units at a condo development in Dorchester, The Schoolhouse at Lower Mills (see picture above). We had two offers within a week of the units going on the market and both were for the “staged” model units. I’ve had similar success with single family homes so if you know someone who’s having a hard time selling their home you might suggest “staging” as a solution. It’s often less expensive to invest in some staging than it would be to lower the asking price on a property.
So keep in mind that I offer Home Staging services (in addition to full real estate services) and am happy to provide complimentary estimates.

This year, Money Magazine’s “America’s Best Places to Live”, ranked Milton as number 7 of the top 100 towns in the U.S. The article cited Milton’s proximity to Boston, Blue Hills reservation, schools and diversity as some of the reasons it ranked so high. This comes as no surprise to those of us who currently live in Milton and have long appreciated the wonderful qualities and sense of community Milton offers.

If your interested in purchasing a home in Milton feel free to contact me anytime – no one knows Milton Real Estate better.

It’s probably too soon to declare the slump in real estate over but there are several indications that things are improving. Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten busier and busier. In the last two weeks I’ve had 2 closings, written two offers (one accepted), signed up a new listing and gone on dozens of showing appointments. Another promissing sign is that our local inventory is down considerably and houses are selling much faster. Just recently i’ve seen 3 different properties in multiple offer situations – something we haven’t seen in a long time. In two of those situations the properties went over asking price. We’ve had several situations where new listings are going under agreement within days, especially when they’re priced correctly. Customers are shocked, they call about a new listing and can’t believe it’s under agreement already. I also see more buyers out looking as there’s been a significant increase in the number of people attending open houses. I’m not sure if this is true in all markets but in the Milton/Quincy/Dorchester areas things are definately picking up.

If you are thinking of selling your home and don’t want to take on large renovation projects, consider the following quick fixes, which can help maximize property value and appeal:

1. Make the front entrance inviting.
Stand outside your home and take an objective look. You can boost your home’s curb appeal by tidying flowerbeds, putting mulch around tree and shrub bases, and clearing foliage away from windows. You should consider a fresh coat of paint for the front door and perhaps some potted plants. Make the entryway as inviting as possible.

2. Clear away clutter.
Most homes become over-furnished and cluttered over time. You’re eventually going to have to pack all that stuff anyway so may as well do it now. Remove as much clutter as possible. Personal items and items that reflect religious or political affiliations should be removed. You want people to imagine themselves in your home and certain personal objects can turn whole groups of potential buyers away. Kitchen counters should be cleared of most small appliances and other clutter.

3. Clean the house thoroughly.
You’ll need to clean the house from top to bottom and might consider hiring a cleaning service while your home is on the market. Windows should be washed inside and out to let as much light in as possible. Bathrooms and kitchens should be spotless. Check ceilings and crown moldings for cobwebs. Clean closets and other storage areas as these are usually scutinized by buyers.

4. Arrange furniture for spaciousness.
Re-arrange furniture to make rooms look larger. Remove any unnecessary or exess pieces if possible. Rooms can look much larger when furniture is arranged properly.

5. Freshen the appearance of rooms.

A new coat of paint can be a relatively inexpensive way to freshen a room (stick to neutral colors). A new comforter or bedspread and a few nice throw pillows can enhance a bedroom. Pay special attention to master bedrooms and bathrooms. Remove and/or replace any heavy window treatments. Letting as much light in as possible and enhancing any views is very important.

6. Do all you can to reduce odors.
Nothing turns a buyer off more than a bad odor. If you smoke, quit, or at least stop smoking in the house. Do you have pets? You need to do everything you can to minimize offensive odors. Have carpets and drapes professionaly cleaned if necessary. Scented candles and other room deoderizors can help.

7. Perform minor repairs, if necessary.

You might consider having a home inspection prior to putting your house on the market and then making whatever minor repairs you can. At the least, doors and window should open and close properly, appliances should all be working, replace any burnt-out light bulbs and patch any holes in walls/ceilings. Ceilings should be clean and without signs of past damage such as water spots.

8. Replace outdated light fixtures.
If you have any old out-dated light fixtures consider replacing them with something new. You can purchase a new light fixture for as little as $15 to $25 and that can go a long way towards enhancing a room.

9. Don’t forget the garage and basement.

Buyers want to know that a home has enough storage room. Make sure that basements and garages are clean and free of clutter. Consider replacing an old, wooden garage door with a roll-up door and automatic opener.

10. Paint the exterior.

If time and budget allow, paint the home’s exterior with a neutral color and a contrasting trim coat. Experts say a fresh coat of exterior paint can boost a home’s resale value by 10 percent.

Courtesy of HGTV

First let me say that I am a born skeptic, and I’m frugal. I NEVER buy the extended warranty when I buy a new appliance or other major purchase. In my mind I think that extended warranties are a scam and I would like to assume that the product that I am buying is well enough made that it should last for 3 years or so without me needing an expensive service call or a warranty to pay for the service call. So, for me to state that sellers should have a home warranty seems a bit hypocritical. Yet I always offer them to my seller clients (and buyers alike) especially with older homes. In my opinion, there really is no reason for a seller not to have a warranty. First of all, the warranty is free until closing. If its not negotiated in to the contract, you never pay for it. Second, the seller is covered for lots of things during the listing period, even without purchasing the warranty, and the all the seller pays is the deductible for the service call. Not bad, huh?

I don’t make any money by selling home warranties – I simply believe they are a good value and an excellent sales tool. Last year I had a listing in Milton. It was an older home and the sellers agreed to purchase the home warranty. It was the middle of summer and during the home inspection it was discovered there was a problem with the heating system. The sellers only paid the $75 deductable for the service call, all other repairs ($480.00) were covered by the warranty. Six months after closing the hot water heater went and the buyers got a brand new replacement for $75. Everyone was pretty happy on that deal.

The warranty can also help if there are negotiations after a home inspection. I’ve had many situations where the buyers have not made issues of minor problems because they knew they were covered by the warranty. I’ve also solved some inspection negotiations by suggesting the seller purchase a warranty for the buyer rather than providing financial concessions.

The verdict: a warranty warrants serious consideration.

So just how bad was the real estate market last year? I recently compared the sales data of single family homes in Milton for both 2005 and 2006 and some of the results might be surprising. While the number of transactions dropped by 30% from 2005 to 2006, the average sale price actually increased by a small amount. So while indeed the market was slower in 2006 and houses took longer to sell, prices actually remained fairly steady. The media would have you believe that prices have dropped dramatically and that really is not the case, at least not in Milton. Some markets did experience price declines but in Milton home values held their own. We can’t expect to see double digit increases in appreciation like we did for the last several years but I don’t expect to see prices drop dramatically either. Homeowners have told me they are worried about losing equity in their properties. The data would suggest they are worrying needlessly. Gains may be less then in previous years but I doubt anyone is actually loosing money by selling a home in the current market. Sellers just need to be aware that it might take longer and they have to be realistic about pricing. Houses are still selling, especially those that have been priced realistically.

Total number of transactions in 2005: 292 2006: 202
Average Days on Market in 2005: 88 2006: 144
Average Sales price in 2005: $545,923 2006 $550,891
Total Market Volume for 2005: $159,409,587 2006: $111,279,961

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I’m really excited to be starting a website/blog to better serve my customers and to better inform my future customers. I want this to be both informative and interactive. I will try to keep it updated with news and trends in the real estate industry and the local area. Some of the links on the side should help you find out more about the local area. But I also want to find out what is on the minds of potential sellers and buyers. So feel free to send me your questions and feedback. Paul