Keeping Current Matters

National Association of Realtors

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Why You Need to Update Your Home Before Listing It

By Anica Oaks
A home purchase is often the biggest investment a person will make in their life. When the time comes to sell your house, you want to get the best price possible. If you explore one of the many real estate sites online, you'll notice that many homeowners make a point of updating their homes before selling.
Here are a few of the many reasons why people modernize their homes before listing them:

New Buyers Don't Want to Immediately Remodel

Major remodels can create a state of chaos in a home that most new homebuyers would rather avoid. Additionally, the costs involved in buying a new home, moving and settling a family into a new space can be significant. They may not be able to do the remodeling projects that are needed for a significant period of time. Buyers will look more favorably upon and be willing to shell out more cash for a home that already has many improvements taken care of.

Strategic Updates Attract More Buyers

Individuals who are considering putting their homes on the market should understand that real estate agents do a great deal of marketing online and through social media. A good visual impression of your home will spark interest in more buyers. An updated kitchen or bathroom, fresh paint throughout the house and new flooring all provide good visual impact that will draw buyers to your listing. Choices for your upgrade should use the most neutral color palettes and most desirable materials, as these will appeal to the greatest number of potential buyers.

Make Your Home More Competitive in the Market

If a homebuyer's choice comes down to one home with desirable features that has not been updated or a home that has been updated but may not be as desirable, buyers are more likely to make an offer on the one that shows signs of TLC and has recently been remodeled. When your home already looks amazing, potential buyers will be able to focus their attention on other aspects of making the home their own.
Most real estate experts will recommend updating your home before putting it on the market, but not to such an extent that you cannot recoup your costs. Some projects, such as kitchen or bathroom remodels, new flooring and exterior maintenance, have a great record of making homes more appealing to buyers, allowing sellers to see a return on their investment.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Real Estate and Technology: A Matter of Meeting Needs

Commentary by Suzanne De Vita
It's a common problem: Brokerages heavily invest in technology, often to have it seldom utilized, or inadvertently result in "tool fatigue." (It's real!)
Agents are frustrated. Brokers, stumped. If the goal is to keep up with technology, why the abysmal adoption rates?
According to findings from the National Association of REALTORS®, recently released, brokerages commonly emphasize specific tools:
  • CMAs and e-signature solutions (84 percent)
  • Multiple listing service (83 percent)
  • Electronic forms (82 percent)
At the same time, approximately 35 percent of agents are asking their brokers for CRM and/or predictive tools.
What does that tell us? Agents are eager to implement intelligent, synchronized technology, but are caught in a case of mismatched priorities. For them, it's about generating leads and referrals; for brokers, it's about leads, but also managing transactions.
In another interpretation: Agents are focused on nurturing their relationships, and hungry for solutions to support that. (According to NAR, in their day-to-day, 93 percent depend on email, and 95 percent on their smartphone—an indicator of how necessary it is for them to remain in touch.)
In addition, to cultivate their relationships, agents rely on social media, and with good reason. According to the findings from NAR, the highest-quality leads originate on social media, and agents leverage it to "promote business" (26 percent) and "help build/maintain relationships with existing clients." (Facebook is by far the most popular, at 97 percent usage, followed by LinkedIn at 59 percent and Instagram at 39 percent.) Just 13 percent of agents, however, have access to post scheduling tools, which can help with outreach significantly.
On the flip side, 46 percent of brokers are concerned about "keeping up with technology" in the next two years, NAR's stats show, as they contend with evolving systems and tools.
When it comes to consumer needs and technology, however, they're answering the call. When house-hunting online, 87 percent of homebuyers are looking for photos of the property, and 85 percent for detailed information about the listing. Ninety-four percent of brokerages feature listings on their website, giving homebuyers the information they need in their search.
Also, although 76 percent of buyers found their house in a mobile search, just 17 percent found their REALTOR® the same way. Aside from buyers clicking from their desktop, this could indicate two things:
  • Brokerages lack mobile-responsive websites. (In my humble opinion, unlikely.)
  • Buyers depend on recommendations and word-of-mouth, in addition to internet testimonials. (According to NAR, 57 percent of brokers include testimonials on their website, and 76 percent include agent profiles.)

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Monday, September 2, 2019

Top 5 Landscaping Tips to Increase Property Value

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on August 4, 2015. Housecall continues to share this piece due to ongoing requests and reader interest.
Contributed by Rick Ryan
Landscaping is one of the most important ways to increase your property’s value quickly. In fact, a gorgeous landscape design can increase the value of your home by at least 5 to 11 percent—and maybe more. The best part about landscaping is that even though it’s one of the most valuable home improvements you can make, it’s also one of the easiest. If you’re wondering how to turn your landscape into one of your home’s most valuable assets, here are some tips to get you started.
1. Match Landscape to Your Home’s Style
The best way to get an excellent return on investment with landscaping is to make sure it fits with your home’s style. For instance, if you own a Victorian home, a Japanese garden will be sorely out of place and may even lower your home’s value rather than add to it. In this instance, you’re much better off with a country or cottage-style landscape that blends in with the old-fashioned formality of your home.
The same holds true for more modern home styles, such as the prairie or industrial style. If your home falls into one of these categories, you’ll want to stay away from square, formal gardens or a profusion of airy blooms. Instead, create a more modern landscape by relying on plenty of greenery and natural-looking beds that fit the contours of your property.
2. Design With a Strategy in Mind
You’ll need to have a good strategy. That means you shouldn’t clutter the entire yard with various high-maintenance plantings, but you also shouldn’t have plain grass with no landscaping. A study by the Virginia Tech Department of Horticulture found that a good foundation planting along with a couple of well-designed points of interest can increase your home’s value by up to 42 percent.
By that same token, you should encourage diversity among your plantings without taking it too far. The ideal landscape has a good mixture of shrubs and perennials, but it doesn’t have one of every kind of plant that you can find at the garden center. Instead, it has a uniform look with just enough diversity to make it interesting, but not so little that it becomes boring.
3. Achieve Seasonal Balance
A profusion of spring blooms won’t interest potential buyers who look at your home during other parts of the year. Think about ways to make your landscape attractive all year — blooming bulbs for spring, annual beds around the house during the summer, shrubs with brightly colored leaves in the fall, and evergreens for the winter. Even though most buyers will be looking at your home during one season, they’ll notice the balance you’ve created and they’ll think about how beautiful the home will be as the seasons change.
Related Link: 7 Exterior Home Improvements That Increase Resale Value
4. Plant Trees
A few simple trees can make an enormous difference to the sale price of your home. In one study, simply living on a tree-lined street added between 10 to 15 percent to the sale price compared to neighborhoods with fewer trees. So why are trees worth so much? Trees remove carbon dioxide and pollution from the air, so people view them as an eco-friendly option. The shade helps keep neighborhoods and homes cooler and more pleasant, which in turn cuts air conditioning costs. Trees are also a stress reliever — people enjoy relaxing in their shade or gazing at the leafy view.
5. Edge Your Lawn
Few things look nicer than a healthy, vibrant, carefully maintained lawn — except for a lawn that is all of those things and neatly edged. The confined look of an edged lawn gives it an easy-to-maintain look. In other words, no weed whipping or weeding required.
Edging along driveways, sidewalks and garden beds also shows prospective buyers how meticulous you have been concerning the property’s upkeep. They’ll know that if you’re willing to keep the edges of your yard looking nice, the rest of the property is likely in pristine condition, too.
Of all improvements to boost home value, landscape is one that will get you the largest return on your investment.  Just make sure that you design your landscape with a plan, and don’t let that design become so complex that the mere thought of all the maintenance chases away your buyers.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Friday, August 30, 2019

Getting a Custom Home? Here’s How to Get the Strongest Roof

By Meghan Belnap
Homeowners investing in a custom-built home have the unique opportunity to pick and choose how their homes are built and what materials they'll be made of. When building a new home, homeowners must invest in durable customized roofs that are made of high-quality construction materials and utilize the most advanced building techniques.
Use the following four tips to construct the best roof for a custom-made home:

Use High-Quality Materials

When designing a custom home, it's important to ensure only high-quality roofing materials are used. As the quality of one's roofing materials will affect its longevity, homeowners should choose the most durable roofing options. According to experts, the best roofing material tends to be clay as it lasts longer than traditional concrete roofing tile. Homeowners searching for something less expensive can consider using fiber cement composite material in their roofing.

Invest in the Latest Roofing Structural Tech

Trusses are another important element in a roof's construction. These trusses are designed to transfer the weight of a roof onto the home's load-bearing walls. Homeowners can guarantee their custom homes are well-constructed by using quality roof trusses that are made-to-measure for any custom-made home. In addition to protecting the home, trusses comply with building codes and are designed to fit the shape of any roof.

Consider Metal Roofing

Metal roofing is another popular option to consider for new homes. Though each type of metal differs, homeowners should consider this material for their roofing needs as it's higher in quality overall. As most metal roofs last up to 70 years, their longevity is unmatched compared to traditional roofing materials that had a life expectancy of up to 20 years. Additionally, metal roofs tend to be far more durable as they reportedly can withstand winds of up to 140 mph.

Consult With an Architect

When researching the best choices for new roofing, homeowners should be sure to consult with an architect as well. This is especially important for custom-made homes that are being built from scratch. As some types of roofs are better suited to specific types of designs, it's best to have contractors and architects work alongside one another to ensure that the right decision is made regarding what roofing material and style to use.
The stronger the roof, the more structurally sound the home will be. Be sure to take the above information into consideration when designing your new custom-built home.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

(Really) Great Spaces: Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen List Their Massachusetts Mansion

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Want to live like a supermodel? How about a football pro? If you happen to have $40 million in the bank and want to move to Massachusetts, you might be in luck!
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady recently listed their five-bedroom Brookline, Mass., home for $39,500,000. So what do you get for that price tag, other than walking the halls of the former residence of two greats?
Built in 2015, the 3,261-square-foot mid-century modern home sits on over five acres adjacent to the 9th hole of The Country Club of Brookline—the oldest continually operating country club in the United States. The sprawling home includes a three-car garage, stoned carport and a massive circular driveway that holds up to 20 vehicles—perfect for when throwing lavish parties.
In the front foyer of the home, a grand staircase leads to the five bedrooms upstairs. The lower level includes a kids playroom, rec room, wine room, gym, spa and access to an outdoor organic vegetable and herb garden and in-ground pool.
Out back, a 1,400-square-foot, detached, barn-inspired "guest house" features a yoga studio, bathroom, sleeping loft and sliding walls. 
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Listed for: $39,500,000
Listed by: Beth Dickerson, Gibson Sotheby's International Realty
Photos by: Gibson Sotheby's International Realty

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Real Estate Study: Top 30 Cities for Millennial Veteran Homebuyers

veteran millennials

In today’s real estate market, homeownership has become more and more difficult for millennials to obtain. However, one subdemographic that may have a leg up? Millennial veterans.
With many having access to VA loans, there's a large block of potential millennial buyers that are qualified to purchase a home with no down payment, mortgage insurance or great credit. 
For these reasons, millennial veterans are some of the most successful homebuyers on the market today. It's also why Veterans United Home Loans—the nation's largest VA lender—compiled a list of the top 30 cities for young veterans, as well as active service members.
"The lingering question in housing circles has been when will millennials enter the home-buying market," Chris Birk, director of Education at Veterans United Home Loans, tells Housecall. "The fact is millennial veterans aren't standing on the sidelines."
To create the list, the company compared purchase loan volume numbers for millennials from last year to the same data for that group from 2015. Cities are ranked by their percentage increase in VA purchase loan volume.
Military density is higher in Florida, Georgia and Texas than in most states as a result of more installations and higher veteran populations, which accounts for the large number of cities that made the list from those states.
Additionally, Veterans United Home Loans only considered cities that had at least 75 millennial purchase loans in 2015 and 2018; and the company defines these millennials as any veterans or active service members that were born between 1981 and 1996.
Here are the top 30 cities for millennial veteran homebuyers:
Jacksonville, Fla. Metro Area                                VA Purchase Loan Growth (Percentage):228.80
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.144.80
San Antonio, Texas Metro Area135.50
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa. Metro Area129.50
Hinesville-Fort Stewart, Ga. Metro Area116.90
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla. Metro Area107.60
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Va.-N.C. Metro Area107.30
Fayetteville, N.C. Metro Area103.70
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va. Metro Area102.30
Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Ill.-Ind.-Wis. Metro Area101.90
Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, Texas Metro Area100.00
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga. Metro Area93.80
St. Louis, MO-Ill. Metro Area81.30
Oklahoma City, Okla. Metro Area79.80
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas Metro Area77.50
Baltimore-Towson, Md. Metro Area73.10
Savannah, Ga. Metro Area68.00
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. Metro Area66.20
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash. Metro Area61.80
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif. Metro Area61.40
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md. Metro Area59.10
Denver-Aurora, Colo. Metro Area58.80
Jacksonville, N.C. Metro Area56.50
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas Metro Area54.80
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. Metro Area54.10
Kansas City, Mo.-Kan. Metro Area42.60
Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb.-Iowa Metro Area41.00
Clarksville, Tenn.-Ky. Metro Area32.20
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.-N.H. Metro Area26.50
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Calif. Metro Area24.40
To view all of Veteran United Home Loans' key findings and for a full breakdown of their methodology, click here.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Friday, August 23, 2019

6 Essential Tips for Selling a House ‘As-Is’

By Wendy Dessler
Selling your home without fixing it up first presents potential challenges for some homeowners. For others, it may open up different opportunities. Selling a house "as-is" can be a good thing. It all depends on your approach to selling it.
Here are six essential tips to help make the sale a smooth transition:
Flexibility Is the Name of the Game
Flexibility is really important when you decide to sell a house "as-is." You're asking buyers to purchase your property without making any changes to it. There may be serious problems that need to be corrected, so being flexible is definitely in your best interest.
In situations like this, people are looking to purchase a house inexpensively. For this reason, it's unlikely that you're going to find a buyer willing to pay the exact price you're looking for. However, you always have the ability to negotiate to try to get a higher price. 
Don't Be Afraid to Make Some Necessary Repairs
In certain situations, it may become incredibly difficult to sell your house without making any repairs. Sure, you'd love to sell the place "as-is," but that doesn't mean buyers are going to be interested if too many things need to be fixed.
Take a moment to really look over your home. Is it in rough shape? Does it need extensive repairs like a new roof, a new foundation, or worse? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, it's likely time to consider making certain upgrades to make your property more appealing to potential buyers.
Obviously, no one is going to force you to make changes. However, it's sometimes best to give in and go against your wishes just to have a better shot at selling your home.
Know How Much Certain Repairs Will Cost
Even if you never intend to make any repairs, it certainly doesn't hurt to know how much it'll cost to fix some of the issues plaguing your home.
This is important information you can pass along to potential buyers. For example, if a prospect asks how much it'll cost to replace your old roof, you can supply them with an estimate from a local roofing company.
Openness and Honesty Is the Best Policy
Always be transparent with potential buyers about issues with your home. It's best to disclose everything to potential buyers right away because if they're serious about purchasing your home, they'll find out about existing problems as soon as they have the home inspected.
However, by the time a homebuyer has your property inspected, they may get upset if they believe you tried to hide something from them. If the repairs needed for your home are too major, they'll walk away from the deal anyway—so always be upfront about these issues.
Ask Your Buyers to Pay a Fair Price
It may seem obvious, but asking for a fair price is going to be critical to your success. If you try to sell your home for too high a price, many prospects will be turned off. Potential buyers might not even bother looking at your house if the price is set too high.
Instead, when selling your home "as-is," try not to get too greedy. Remember, the competition is thick and there are plenty of other homes on the market. So be sure to ask for a fair price and you should be fielding offers in no time!

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Monday, August 19, 2019

How to Create Fun and Magical Backyards Despite the Size

By Barbara Butler
My mom insisted we go outside and play every day, no matter what the weather. We might have grumbled about it on cold and rainy days, but once we were outside, we always ended up having fun. Getting the kids off their devices and outside in the fresh air can be a bit difficult—if your backyard isn’t as large as you’d like, you might feel extra discouraged on this front.
However, you can create an enticing and magical outdoor play area for your children, no matter the size. After building unique backyard play structures and tree houses for over 25 years, I’ve learned how to transform many challenging terrains into the focal point for children's play. Here are some ideas to get you started on your own transformation:
Work With Your Site
Analyze your backyard before you begin designing. Where's the shade? Where will you sit to watch the kids? What other activities do you use your yard for, such as barbecuing, yoga, gardening or exercising the dog? Is there a way to make the space multi-purpose, such as by rolling out your yoga mat under the treehouse?
Take advantage of the natural features of your space rather than fighting against them. Build a slide right into a slope, terrace a hillside to create a multi-level play area with climbing ladders and/or slides in between, or nestle a clubhouse next to the branches of a tree. Perk up small, unused areas with a sandbox (try using tree rounds as the border), water table or low balance beam. Hang a giant knotted rope from a tree branch. And—one of my favorites as a child—gather all the neighborhood kids and create an obstacle course from things you find in the garage and yard. Then start the timed races to see who can finish the fastest.
Imaginative and Physical Play Features
Kids want to exercise both their imagination and their muscles. To this end, I recommend combining physical and imaginative play features. For example, add rock climbing holds and crenellations to an existing fence, so the kids can defend or attack the monarchy, rather than just climbing up a wall. If you have a ship theme, choose a nautical knotted rope climb, create a sandbox in the shape of a boat and add pirate flags to the deck. If you have a deck, turn it into a theater! No matter the theme, a slide always lends itself to a quick get-away. (Pro tip: Spiral tube slides require much less space than straight ones.)
Loops of Play
Try to imagine the kids running around—now create lots of fun "loops" of play instead of creating dead-ends. This means creating multiple ways up and down a structure, such as ladders, slides, fire poles, steps and ramps. Wherever there's an up, have a down close by. Imagine the kids playing tag and make sure there's nowhere they can get boxed in. Even areas meant to feel cozy can have an extra way out.
I often include a "secret" escape hatch in my playhouses hidden underneath a table or counter. Give the kids places to go—up the ladder, across the bridge, ring the bell, then down the slide and back again—and they'll wear themselves out for a good night's sleep.
Build Up
If the footprint of your yard isn't as expansive as you'd like, consider building up. A two-story playhouse gobbles up no more of your lawn than a single-story one. A treehouse nestled in the branches of a tree leaves the space below open for other types of play. If you have room to build two towers, connect them with a bridge and you can add swings or monkey bars underneath.
I'm a big fan of tree houses, so if you have a suitable tree to build in or near, that's a great way to create the magic, no matter the size of your yard. After all, don't the best adventures start with entering the mysterious, leafy world of the treetops? No trees in your yard? You can create the same inviting feeling of becoming ensconced in greenery by planting climbing vines or bamboo around the play area.
There's nothing magical about an unsafe play environment. By eliminating unnecessary risks, you'll create a stimulating space for your children to freely challenge themselves without going too far. After all, you want to be able to send your kids out to play by themselves with minimum supervision and without the worry of a serious injury.
The most important safety feature of any play structure is to make sure you have established a "use zone" filled with resilient surfacing material, such as bark chip, sand, rubber chip, rubber matting or pea gravel. Experts have proven that the installation of a resilient surfacing material in the play area is by far the most important safety feature you can provide. The "use zone" should be at least six feet of obstacle-free space all around the play structure.
Use green products because they're safer for kids and the planet. Build with redwood or other natural lumber, not chemically pressure treated wood, which is harmful to kids. I use redwood from well-managed forests and non-toxic tung oil stains that contain no mildewcides (a very toxic compound that inhibits the growth of mildew). When cleaning my structures, I use a biodegradable citrus-based cleaner instead of commercial cleaners.
Prevent pinched fingers: Leave half-inch gaps around doors and shutters so little fingers will not get pinched when closing by grasping the edge. Also, leave quarter inch gaps in floorboards so water will drip through in the rainy season and not puddle. You'll definitely want to add doors and shutters–one of the first things children do is open and close the shutters about 900 times!

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Friday, August 16, 2019

How to Find the Right Home If You’re Part of a Beginning Family

By Meghan Belnap
As your family grows, it's important to create an environment that's conducive to creating lasting experiences and memories. That's why you should ensure your family has a comfortable and spacious place to live.
If you're a part of a beginning family, you'll need to consider which type of home will work best for you. Here are some things to think about:


Buying a home is a massive investment that'll require upfront costs. You'll need to consider whether you have enough to cover the down payment, closing costs and more. Sure, it's possible to negotiate a portion of the fees with your agent's help; however, you don't want to come to the table with no money down.


Once you've purchased a home, you'll want to consider the cost of maintenance. This is one factor that many people don't fully take into consideration. It's wise to set money aside to cover expenses like repairs and updates. It's also really important to consider monthly maintenance costs, like various utility bills.

Resale Value

If you decide that your next home is where you'll want to set your roots, you don't need to worry about reselling your home; however, if you know that you'll want to upgrade within the next 5-10 years, it's a good idea to consider the resale value of both options. If you were to add a few upgrades to a single-family home, the impact it can make in terms of how much more money you'll get when you resell can be major. A professional who offers real estate services can help you work through those details to help you decide the most feasible option for your family.

Space for Kids

The more children you plan to have, the more space you're likely going to want. While you can maneuver around the dilemma of limited space by using bunk beds and room dividers, that can only last for so long. Think about the future members of your family and the space you'll need as you figure out the type of home to buy.
Ultimately, you need to make a decision that honors the goals you've created. As you think about your goals, your family's future and the reality of your situation, it'll be easier to make the decision that works best for you.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate