Cathy Perry


Is Wallpaper Always a No-No For a Home Sale?

November 24th, 2015

trad home wallpaper

Nearly every staging report I’ve written has advised the sellers to take down the wallpaper prior to their home sale. Usually the sellers moan and say they don’t want to spend the time stripping and repainting, nor do they want to pay someone to do it for them. Well, that’s exactly what the buyers are thinking, too!

But wallpaper can work in a home for sale under the right conditions. Does yours pass these tests?

1)  How old is the wallpaper?  If it was installed much more than 10 years ago, it’s probably a) dated and/or b) difficult to take down. Styles and tastes have changed since then, and so has the technology behind newer editions of wallpaper, making it much easier to remove.  So if it’s newer, it might be a keeper.

2)  Is it relatively taste-neutral?  A pattern like the grasscloth shown above, in a neutral color, is more likely to be accepted by most buyers than a strong, highly unusual color or pattern.  Neutral – it can stay.

3)  Will it work with more than just your decorating scheme?  If the wallpaper is going to look odd with anything but your current furnishings, it’s time to take it down, unless you are planning to sell your furniture and accessories to the buyer as well (that does happen occasionally, but there needs to be a separate Bill of Sale outside of the real estate contract).

4)  Where and how is it installed?  Wallpaper borders were all the rage in the 80s and 90s, but not so much today. Take them down! And if you have it everywhere – walls and ceiling both – take it down. Too much of a good thing just…isn’t good.

Wallpaper can indeed be beautiful and is used in many styles of interior design.The powder room and foyer are great spaces to employ wallpaper to add design interest. It is also becoming increasingly popular to back the inside of a cabinet with wallpaper to make the design more interesting and the objects in the cabinet visually pop.

                                                                                                               Photo from Ask the Design Diva

                                                                                                                      Photo from Tidbits and Twine

Does Grandma Need Home Maintenance?

November 12th, 2015

grandmas house thanksgiving

If your upcoming plans for Thanksgiving involve traveling “over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house”, you might want to check out Grandma’s or Mom’s home maintenance while you are there.

Making sure the home is well-maintained not only insures Mom’s safety, but it will also give you an idea of how well she and Dad are able to keep up with their home so you can take appropriate action if it is needed.

Here are 10 things to look for:

1)  Are there any water stains on the ceiling showing evidence of a roof leak?  Even if not, if the area has experienced any severe storms during the past year, it might be a good idea to have a roofing professional take a look to see if an insurance claim is warranted.
2)  Have gutters been cleaned to avoid water backup that could cause leaking over the winter?
3)  Are the furnace and air conditioning under a servicing agreement with a heating and cooling specialist?  Having regular maintenance will not only prolong the life of the units, but can also identify critical problems such as a cracked heat exchanger.
4)  Is there any evidence of water in the basement, indicating possible cracking in the foundation or poor drainage on the exterior of the house?
5)  Are the stairs free of tripping hazards and the railings securely attached?  Can any other tripping hazards such as loose area rugs, dangling electrical cords, or poorly placed furniture be eliminated?
6)  Do all kitchen appliances work appropriately?
7)  Are everyday dishes, glasses and cookware in easy reach, to avoid Mom or Dad standing on a stepstool or kitchen chair and risking a fall?
8)  Do any light bulbs need to be replaced, especially those in ceiling fixtures that are difficult to change?
9)  Are there any leaky faucets, or evidence of leaking pipes under the sinks?
10)  Are the front walk, outside stairs and the porch free of leaves?  Do any trees or shrubs need to be trimmed?

If you find some problems that you can’t address yourself, you might consider gifting several hours of a handyman’s time as a Christmas present.

And if Mom and Dad are thinking of selling to move to warmer climes in Arizona, a pre-inspection from a qualified home inspector can provide tremendous value in allowing you to find the most economical solutions to address problems before the future buyer asks for a large cash credit or for all problems, even the most simple ones, to be fixed by a licensed professional. If you need a referral to a qualified inspector or good handyman, I can help.

With that done, enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner! Thanks to Norman Rockwell for the iconic image above.

Stage Your Home with Spray Paint!

November 12th, 2015

spray paint pictureIf you’re looking for easy and inexpensive ways to change your home decor, either to enjoy yourself or to stage your home for sale, you may need to look no further than the nozzle on a can of spray paint.  You’ve likely used it yourself or are familiar with some of the objects around the house that can be easily transformed, but here’s a surprising list of ten home decor items you can spray to a new life.

1)  Hardware – drawer and cabinet pulls and hinges, drapery hardware
2)  Bathroom faucets and shower surrounds
3)  Chandeliers and other light fixtures
4)  Kitchen and bathroom cabinets
5)  Countertops
6)  Wood furniture
7)  Fireplace doors and screens
8)  Glass
9)  Table lamps
10) Fabric and leather
11)  Bonus – pumpkins of all sizes to match your Thanksgiving decor

It is critical to buy the right kind of spray paint for your project, and to add an appropriate sealer for certain projects. If you have never spray painted before, practice on a few throw-away items just in case.  Many projects you see on Pinterest will supply instructions, or you can click here for Krylon’s best practices in spray painting.

Check out the photos below for some ideas.  And click here to see countless more ideas on Pinterest.

fireplace screen1)  Fireplace screen purchased at an estate sale and spray painted a charcoal gray (by my husband) to pick up the grout color in the fireplace brick.  Cost $35 plus spray paint, saving several hundred dollars for a new one.





spray painted blue cabinets2)  Kitchen cabinets – make sure you are a top-notch spray painter, or consult a pro (I can recommend a great one) to have results like this.

3)  Chandelier – a great idea to update the bright brass fixtures from the 80s and 90s.

spray painted chandelier

Home (For Sale) During the Holidays?

November 5th, 2015


At this time of year, I hear a lot of questions from would-be sellers about putting their home on the market after Halloween.  Should they, or should they not?  As with most answers in real estate, it depends.

One positive for having your home on the market over the holidays is thatbuyers tend to be more serious. People don’t have time to tour homes for the fun of it, so it’s likely that those attending an open house or a showing are serious buyers, ready to write an offer now.

A second highlight is that there is less competition. With most buyers waiting for the start of the “spring market”, there are fewer competing listings.
For sellers who need to sell quickly, it is possible to get it sold (I have negotiated a contract on Christmas Day), but there are some negatives as well.

You’ll need to have your home showing-ready through present wrapping, tree trimming and baking, when neat and clean aren’t easy. You may be asked to allow a showing at an inconvenient time – you can always say no, but with fewer buyers out and about, you could miss out on a chance to sell.

If your “home for the holidays” looks like the photo above, you’ll need to rein it in for the market. Make sure photos are taken before the decorations go up, and don’t hide any of the focal points of your home behind over-the-top displays. Make sure traffic patterns are clear, and if you are into lawn decor, keep it to a minimum, and don’t hide the for-sale sign!

Note that if you have moved on to your next destination and your home is vacant, neither of the two points above will be a problem for you, and a cheery seasonal wreath on the front door can add to the ambience. Just make sure it doesn’t linger into January unless it is truly winter-themed.

Watch the date when you put the house on the market (the day before Thanksgiving is not the best choice) or the Sunday you hold an Open House (I wouldn’t recommend the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend either.)

With a clear realization of what to expect, you can make an informed decision as to whether is best to list your home now or later. I would be happy to consult with you and help you make that call.

St. Louis County Luxury Real Estate Still Hot!

October 28th, 2015

stats_wordartWe’re three quarters of the way through 2015, and the St. Louis County luxury market remains hot!  (Luxury is defined as any home sale of $500,000 or more).  Here’s how this year’s sales continue to shake out for single-family homes; call or email me if you’re interested in similar stats for condo and villa sales.

The average sale price was $832,374, up from $788,825 in the first half of the year.  Here’s what the rest of the stats report for luxury home sales through September 30.
Number of sales:  382 in the third quarter
Average sales price to original list price ratio: 94.93%, down from 95.90% in the first half of the year
Average days on market (DOM):  63, a nice drop from 83 in the first six months
59 homes sold for 100% or more of the original asking price  (I have excluded new construction, as new homes frequently are shown as sold with 0 days on the market.)
On the other end of the dial, 77 homes sold at less than 90% of the original price,  Not surprisingly, days on market corresponds strongly with how well the sale price compares to the original price. The home that lingered the longest, at 998 days on the market, sold for only 51% of the original asking price.
The biggest sale of the quarter was 10045 Litzsinger, a 10,000 square foot Southern Colonial on 5.58 acres, which sold for $6.5MM.
Breakdowns of luxury sales in several area high school districts are as follows for average sale price and days on market:
Clayton:                   sale price $1,014,094        DOM: 67
Kirkwood:               sale price $728,279           DOM: 53
Ladue:                      sale price $1,044,437        DOM 75
Lafayette:                sale price $771,770            DOM 69
Parkway West:      sale price $994,328            DOM 71
Webster Groves:    sale price $654,611,           DOM 35
U City:                      sale price $672,917            DOM 73
If your area is not reflected, let me know, and I will send you the stats.
The number of luxury listings remains high for late October at 702 single family homes, compared to 540 at this time last year. With an increased inventory, we’ll need to take a close look at how that will impact sale prices through the end of the year.
Further competition also increases the importance of accurate pricing, proper staging and professional, captioned photography in getting a home sold quickly and for top dollar.  All of these components are part of my seller service model, and I would be happy to put them to work to help you or your clients achieve their real estate goals.

What Do the Stats Say About Where We Live?

October 23rd, 2015
Lafayette High School, Wildwood, MO

Lafayette High School, Wildwood, MO

Even though it’s a bit warm as I write this, leaves crunch underfoot, and pumpkins flank front doors, ready for next week’s Halloween festivities. That also means more than three quarters of 2015 are behind us, and it’s time to talk about how the year thus far has treated the real estate market in the Lafayette High School district. Here’s what the statistics tell us about the first nine months of this year compared to the same period in 2014.

Number of Sales:  358, well up from 315 last year

Average Sale Price:  $443,288, an increase from $427,580

Sales Price to Original Price Ratio: 92.06%, down from 93.24% next year, possibly reflecting sellers’ trying to over-capitalize a bit in a hot market.

Average Number of Days on Market:  65, well down from 88.

Subdivision with the most sales:  Winding Trails moved up to first place from second, with 29 sales at an average price of $360,497. Wildhorse dropped to second place, with 25 sales and an average sale price of $617,412. And Westglen Farms remains in third place, with 19 sales averaging $276,611.

Biggest home sale:  18608 Ro Bridge Court, in Wildhorse Spring Farm, has taken the lead, with a sale price of $2,199,000.  The District has seen 12 sales over $1MM in 2015.

If you’re looking to buy, or know someone who is,there are 206 homes in the district to choose from, 16 more than the 190 active listings at the end of June. That is surprising for this time of year, as many sellers typically elect to wait until the spring market. An increased inventory is welcome news for buyers, but it may cause a reduction in the offer frenzy that has been seen during the last couple of years for homes that look great and are priced fairly for the market. That makes it increasingly important for sellers to price their home correctly.

Call me if you are thinking of selling your home in the Lafayette District! My customized-for-your-home Presentation for Profit, a room-by-room staging to-do list, will have your home looking its best for buyers, and working together using my detailed pricing analysis spreadsheet, we will insure it is priced correctly, so you will have a quick sale at top dollar.

Selling Your House? Don’t Stay Home!

October 7th, 2015
keller williams sold home photo
Selling your home can definitely be a pain – you need to keep it clean and tidy at all times to be ready for the last-minute showing, which is especially difficult if you have young children, teenagers, or a dog like mine who sheds copiously year-round. And, especially when the home is first on the market, your schedule is constantly being bombarded with showing requests that force you to go on a lot of long walks or become a frequent flyer at your local Starbucks.
Sometimes it is tempting to just stay home, so you tell the person requesting the appointment that you’ll go out to the back porch when the buyer arrives. And at other times, you think your presence might be helpful to answer buyer questions about the house. Here are 3 good reasons not to give in to that temptation.
A main goal of a showing is to encourage the buyers to linger as long as possible to explore all of the amenities that your home has to offer. The longer a buyer stays, the greater likelihood that he or she will fall in love and write a contract. The presence of the seller, even if relatively unseen in the back yard, makes the buyer uncomfortable. They feel that they are putting the buyer out by being there, so they rush through the home so the seller can get back to his day.
And if the seller remains in the home, the buyers are far less comfortable talking about the home between themselves or with their agent, so they skip the conversation about how well their furniture would fit in the family room, or how the dining room would be the perfect spot for the family gathering. Those are conversations that will help the buyers to remember – and fall in love with – your home.
Another reason sellers like to stay home is to answer buyer questions, either at an open house or during a showing. Nobody knows the house as well as they do, right? Not a good idea! Because sellers typically aren’t experts in the art of selling their home, they can inadvertently reveal information to the buyer that convinces him to submit a lower-priced offer, or make no offer at all. As an example, let’s say the buyers ask the seller about the neighborhood, and the seller replies “it’s great except for the lady across the street who doesn’t like kids and has the police on speed dial.” The buyer has three children, and this is an immediate turn-off. Or the buyer asks why the seller is moving, and the seller says she needs to move out-of-state immediately to help an ill family member. Bingo…the seller appears desperate, and the buyer makes a lower-priced offer.
Finally, there is the question of the home inspection. It is very tempting for sellers to want to be present to counter problems that the inspector finds. Several months ago, the seller elected to be present at an inspection I attended with my buyer, presumably because the previous transaction had fallen apart during the inspection. The listing agent also turned up, presumably to keep the seller under control. The seller followed us around the house, while staying at a “discreet distance” that was still within earshot. As a result, the inspector, buyer and I did a lot of whispering, and it was extremely uncomfortable for the three of us. The seller provided no value by being present, and that deal, too, fell apart due to significant foundation damage.
Moral of the story? If you’re the seller, don’t stay home! Give the buyer time and space to fall in love.

Myth or Fact? It Depends!

October 1st, 2015
leona helmsley kitchen
While looking for something else on the internet, I stumbled on an article from U.S. News and World Report entitled “9 Common Real Estate Myths that Plague Buyers and Sellers.”  Intrigued, I read on, and found myself agreeing with almost all of them (click here to read the whole article.)  Myth number 5 gives me some concern, though – “You should renovate your kitchen and bathroom before you sell.”  Is this a myth or not?
In my experience, most buyers in today’s market are looking for a move-in ready home, and those that aren’t expect to get a great deal on the sale price if they need to plan on doing their own renovations, especially if the home is out-of-date.  This is especially true with kitchens and baths, as the statement “kitchens sell homes” is generally true for most buyers.  So, should you renovate your kitchen or bathroom if, as the article says, “they work”?  It depends.
If the home is in an area where a luxury kitchen is the norm, and yours hasn’t seen an update since the 1970s, possibly because it is an inherited home, you may want to consider a renovation to bring it up to date.  In this case, the renovation should be taste-neutral (no highly patterned granite counter tops, for example) and designed to appeal to the widest number of buyers possible.
A judicious selection of fixtures can yield an appealing result without spending the type of money that would be typical for a redesign done for your own enjoyment. Note that the fixtures chosen should be representative of the neighborhood, price point and architecture of the home, though, not a mishmash of whatever is on sale or found on Craigslist.
An appraisal showing the worth of the home with and without renovation can be a deciding factor for you. Your personal goals for the net sales proceeds, as well as for the carrying costs involved either for a lengthy sale process if sold as-is or for the renovation period, can also influence your decision.
Need advice in making this decision?  I am currently doing the design work on two homes undergoing a pre-sale renovation after the sellers had an appraisal done showing the after-renovation value.  Contact me for a thorough review of sold homes in the neighborhood and their design features, as well as a discussion of renovation possibilities that won’t break the bank.

Thinking of Selling a Home That Needs Some Work? Know Your Renovation Options!

September 16th, 2015

kitchen threeIf you’re selling a home that you have inherited, or one that needs updating and some home maintenance, you have several options.

If you’re in a hurry to sell and don’t mind taking a hit on price, it’s easy to find an investor to take it off your hands – just look for a “we pay cash for homes” or similar sign on a light post.  The trouble with selling to an investor is that they make their money at the time of purchase, by paying the lowest possible price.  But many do pay cash and can arrange a quick deal, which can be a plus in certain scenarios.

Another option is to put it on the market as an “as is” sale.  The buyer can (and should!) perform home inspections to see what condition the house is in, but the seller is stating up front that they are not going to pay for repairs or offer a cash credit.  That will not, however, stop many buyers from trying to get something addressed.  In addition, many buyers are turned off at the prospect of paying for inspections only to find out there are defects they can’t ask the seller to address.  As a result, buyers of “as is” sales are enticed by a lower price, and are frequently the investors spoken of above.

Sellers also talk about offering a cash credit for various problem areas – bad carpeting and wallpaper removal come to mind.  The problem with a credit is that you need to entice the buyer to make the offer in the first place before they can take advantage of the credit, and since the majority of buyers can’t visualize how the home could look, it’s better to just make the changes and let them see the beautiful results.

Another alternative is doing some work prior to putting the home on the market.  Depending on what it looks like, this could be as simple as pulling up dated carpeting to display the hardwood flooring underneath and stripping some wallpaper, or the issues could be much more complex and would require hard work and/or money to address.

The kitchen shown above is in a home that had lovely curb appeal but hadn’t seen many updates over the years, especially in the all-important kitchen and bathrooms.  The sellers needed a quick sale for top dollar to help with their new home purchase in a much more expensive part of the country.

The property was referred to me by two individuals who knew the seller well, one of whom is an appraiser with general contracting experience.  He was able to provide the seller with an appraisal to show the property’s worth in its current condition, as well as what it would be worth with various renovations performed.  With judicious selection of products and contractor service, we were able to remodel the kitchen to how it looks above, renovate the bathrooms, repaint, and add current mirrors and light fixtures.

By the time we were done, the sellers had moved, so we professionally staged the home.  All three people who saw the home made offers; it sold quickly, and our clients were able to profit from the funds spent, not only from the purchase price, but from the carrying cost savings from a quick sale.

It worked so well that the appraiser and I are creating a “renovation staging” model and have another project currently underway to renovate a 104-year-old former beauty in the city to bring out all the charm of a “century house” with the addition of modern amenities. I’ll be starting design selection later this week, and I am excited about marketing the finished product later this year.

This approach will not work for every property or seller scenario, but it is another option that may be worthy of consideration. If you’d like to discuss the options for your home or that of a loved one, call me to arrange an appointment.

TRID: Coming Soon to a Real Estate Transaction Near You!

September 10th, 2015

trid photo 9-15TRID: it sounds like the latest sequel to the old movie TRON, doesn’t it? But actually, TRID is a series of new regulations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau designed to clean up some of the loan processes that have confused consumers over the years. Because the changes are massive in some areas, there is likely to be a bit of disruption to the process of buying or selling a home starting on October 3, until everyone in the industry is comfortable with the changes.

If you’re planning to buy or sell in the future, here are the basics of what you need to know:

TRID is effective for anyone submitting a loan application on or after October 3. If you have a real estate transaction already in the works and the loan application has been submitted, you won’t be impacted.

TRID stands for TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule, with TILA being the Truth in Lending Act and RESPA the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. (Can’t have enough acronyms, can we?) Under TRID, the government has actually improved the disclosures a home buyer is given, both at the time of loan application and again at closing. These disclosures are much more consumer-friendly, and both have the same format, a big change from current practice.

When a potential home buyer makes an application for a loan, the lender must supply the buyer with a Loan Estimate within three business days. The lender must also supply a copy of the CFPB Publication “Your New Home Toolkit”, a list of ten local credit counseling agencies, and a recommendation to shop around and compare lenders. The consumer has up to ten days to sign a “Notice of Intent to Proceed” to allow the lender to proceed with the loan (or the consumer can change lenders and start the process over).

These changes will undoubtedly add time to the closing process; how much more time is still a matter of some debate. Many lenders are taking proactive steps to make sure their process accommodates the changes; make sure your lender has a good handle on the TRID changes.

The lender is also obligated to provide the buyer with the Closing Disclosure at least three days before the closing date, and certain last minute changes affecting the loan could trigger a new Closing Disclosure with yet another three-day delivery before the new closing date. As a result, a last-minute delay could cause a domino effect for a seller who is also purchasing another home, and on down the line.

This is just a high-level overview of the TRID changes; some questions have yet to be answered by the CFPB.

My advice to buyers? Talk to a number of lenders before you write an offer on a house to determine which ones offer the best rates and programs for your situation and who you are most comfortable with. Your closing time frame can then be shorter, as you can do a quick comparison once you are under contract with a specific property, as compared to starting your shopping while under contract. You can also talk with a credit counseling agency early if you have any questions or concerns about your future loan.

Sellers? Unfortunately, the CFPB doesn’t mention you anywhere in the TRID legislation; all the new protections accrue to the buyer. Be cautious about an offer that contains a short period to close, especially if you are also purchasing a house and planning to move in immediately after closing. Any hiccups in this process, especially while the kinks are being worked out, could cause unforeseen delays.

And as you select an agent, ask about his or her familiarity with the TRID changes. I am grateful for my prior corporate history in banking compliance to help me understand the changes and educate my clients to navigate through them.

While change is always hard, there are good things for consumers in this legislation, and confusion will be minimized as all parties understand and acclimate to the changes.