For almost 5 years I was a participant in a longitudinal study of a medication to reduce the incident of cancer. Before participating, I asked the study nurse what would be the possible side effects of taking the medication. There was a list but no side effect was a threat to life. So, I agreed. During the study, I could have sworn I had those effects. I would report in annually and list off the things I attributed to the medicine. At the same time, I was pretty sure that I would be cancer free during the period because I was taking this new and innovative medicine – and that was the placebo effect. I felt like my condition had improved because of the medicine. In fact, after 4 years of very positive results from this study, the medicine was approved for public distribution and I had my final medical review, only to find out that I had been religiously taking the placebo. The control pill with nothing in it but a bit of sugar. Still, a placebo had made me think positive thoughts.
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000,
Good home staging can be a placebo for buyers. They come into a home. It is clean and fresh. Things are nicely arranged. There are eye catching touches in every room. The overall effect is to please the buyer, hopefully, to the degree of writing an offer. There is a psychological benefit from the home being in ‘show off’ condition. Buyers like the home and Sellers like the sale. If all other homes on the market are the control group on pricing then the Seller wants to find a way to distinguish his or her home. Staging will make that difference. It isn’t about smoke and mirrors. It isn’t about hiding faults. It is about getting a home ready for a sale. It can be about getting the home in a state for a thorough home inspection. Without owning it, the buyer feels like it is their home.
Photo credit: Pills 3
We booked a Rhine Rive Cruise in December. The attraction was that it was the Christmas Market Tour, from Amsterdam to Basel and then on land to Lucerne and Zurich. Here are some of my favourite photos from the cruise. I made them into collages so that I could post a few at a time. The following collage is about the Amacello.
After cropping, the texture of the door on the left is more apparent and the view of the lake more intersting.
If we or our photographers spend some time looking at the photos for listings, the viewer (and internet shoppers) will be more attracted to what they are seeing of the home. Cropping before the shot by deciding what is the focus, or doing some after shot cropping, will make a big difference.
One of my colleagues took a client through a home that they loved. Life intervened and they never got a chance to buy it. The owner, tired of having the house on the market, took it off and did some remodeling to accommodate his expanding family. More than two years have passed and the ‘Buyers’ still dream of the ‘house that got away’. While they have looked at many others in the same neighbourhood, none come close to the first house. What can they do?
One very good possibility is to approach the owner and ask if he is amenable to selling his home. Certainly, a contract that he may have had with his original agent has expired, even with the extension clause. He could deal directly with the buyers (if they do not have an agent under contract), he could rehire his original agent, he could work with the buyers’ agent. At the very least, he could find out what the current market conditions are and whether or not a sale at this time is something that would be to his benefit.
One thing Buyers often do is ASSUME a condition, a personality of a Seller, or other things that are not factual. At the very least, and with respect to the Seller, ascertain the facts. Maybe the owner is willing to sell, maybe not. If not, the Buyers can move on to another property. If so, and the price is right, the Buyers will get their dream home.
An opera is not over until the fat lady sings. A home is not for sale until the owner confirms it.
There are some things you wish you never had to know and, when forced to be aware, wish you had slept through the lesson. The appliance repairman came to fix the ice maker in the fridge. The repairman pulled out the fridge drip tray. First, I had no idea that such a thing existed but, in retrospect, where else would the water go from a self- defrosting fridge. When he pulled out the tray (and all self-defrosting fridges have them), it was green and slimy and disgusting. I had a chance to clean it and it was likely the first time since the fridge was installed with the previous home owner 15 years ago. As if my house cleaning skills were not already in a failing grade, the repairman then told me that the house had had mice in the past as evidenced by all the mice poop around the tray. ARG!!!!! According the repairman, mice can always find the drip trays in homes because they are searching for drinking water and this is one source they can get to. Yuk, yuk and double yuk.
When we moved into the house, there were entry points for mice. Apparently they get into the attached garage when the doors are open or where pipes and wires enter the house and then they sneak through the tiny little openings. With a box of fine steel wool and some patience, MDH was able to close every entry. Mice will eat through almost anything but don’t like steel wool. Since the steel wool application, we have had no mice.
So, in case the fridge needs repairs and you are not up to humiliation that day, unscrew the bottom panel of your fridge and take out the drip pan to clean it (say more than once every 15 years), watch for signs of mice and take time to stuff steel wool around the entry points of pipes and wires into your house.
As an aside, I was saved from a final mortification when the repairman did not find mouse cadavers at the drip pan. Thank god for small mercies.
Stainless steel wool 1 http://www.flickr.com/photos/oskay/2362752031/
There are a great number of people who are attracted to the price of homes in distressed areas. Okay, Florida and Arizona come to mind. Many of these Buyers are thinking that they will buy something cheap now, enjoy it when they are able to get there and rent it out when they are not able. Some Buyers are also thinking that the day will come when they will spend at least 6 months every year in their vacation retreat. These Buyers need to think of a couple of things before signing the offer.
- Is your new home in a rent – attractive area? Maybe that three bedroom home in a nice family community is perfect if you are going to be living there year round. Now, what are you really looking for – something near the beach, near a community centre, surrounded by a golf course, in a gated community, managed by a HOA, close to the airport, walking distance to shops and restaurants, etc? Then, that lovely family home is not what is going to address your needs – or those of possible renters.
- Are you expecting your friends and family to rent your place? Well, they are probably thinking that they don’t have to rent it, just visit you when you are there. Also, that prime time that you want to save for yourself is the prime renting time. So, now you have to consider that your renters are going to be strangers. Are you up to managing your property, collecting rent, ensuring the place is clean and rentable? You may have to hire a property management company to take care of your vacation home.
- Can you furnish your new home to be satisfactory for you and for renters? I don’t think you are going to be buying the most expensive gadgets, expresso makers, computers, etc and leaving them available. Oh sure, it will look good on your advertisement that you have only top of the line things in your home but then you will also be asking top of the line rent. Is there a market for that type of home in the area? Maybe you just want to leave your junk and second hand things (that you long distance haul from home). Well, you might consider that a junky lived in look is not attractive to most picky renters. Of course, if your rates are dirt cheap then the furniture and furnishings can be minimal as well.
Just because you have a condo in Florida, a chalet in the Rockies or an apartment in Paris does not mean that you will automatically have renters for the times when you are not able to be there. One way to get the news out that your vacation home is available to rent is through Vacation Rental By Owner sites. You are going to be in some pretty stiff competition. Just take a quick look at what is available in Key West - 458 properties!!!
How do you cut yourself out from the herd?
Well, in real estate it is about price, location and condition. The exact same holds true in renting your vacation property.
- Price competitively. If you are way above the daily or weekly rates, no one is going to rent your home.
- The location is very very important. Ensure that you highlight all the features of the location of your property – access to roads, restaurants, shopping, beaches, the Eiffel Tower or whatever makes your home’s location good.
- The condition of the property is important. If you are expecting 25 college kids to descend on spring break and that is your market, don’t furnish the home with nice things. If, however, you want long term renters over a season, ensure that your place has all that is needed for vacationers – tour books, internet, DVDs, towels, coolers, etc. What would you want to have available if you were renting? Don’t store all of the beach toys in a locker and expect the renter to go out and buy beach things. Make them available for others and others will keep coming back to your place. Make your home as ‘homey’ as possible.
There are wonderful Sellers who breeze through the sale of their home, doing everything right and getting positive results. Then there are Sellers who start on the right foot but soon slip into one or more of the seven deadly sins. In my experience, the most frequent are pride, greed and sloth.
PRIDE Some Sellers have no humility. Anything that is done, they can do better. Not that they do it but they let friends, relatives, their agent, their stager, their lawyer and any Buyer know that they are 100% responsible for all that is good. There is never an acknowledgment of the work of their spouse, their contractor and others. Later, after the house is sold, these Sellers will tell the tale of how ‘they’ sold the house with nary a mention of the work of others. Good Sellers are generous with praise and sharing credit. Their humility is an attraction.
GREED While wishful Buyers hope that the Seller is generous with the sale, no one really expects a Seller to ’give’ the house away. Still, there are Sellers who, during negotiations, get so greedy that Buyers walk away. Then after the sale these same Sellers will go through the house taking down mirrors, leaving only one key to the house, taking the spare pool equipment (when they are moving to a condo and have no need) and basically stripping as much out of the house (sometimes including the light bulbs)as possible. There is no charity in their hearts. They are greedy. Too bad because Buyers talk about what it was like to work with those Sellers.
SLOTH It is difficult to maintain a home while it is on the market. If you normally let things drop to the floor when you come in from outside and you let laundry pile up on the floor in the bathroom and down the hall, now is not the time to let the house go. Buyers can arrive at almost any time. Yes, it is work for these Sellers to maintain their home and the yard but being diligent will pay off with a sale sooner than if you let things go.
If you have your home for sale it will pay to be HUMBLE, CHARITABLE AND DILIGENT.
photo credit: Sloth
If life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.
This house is a real lemon (meaning defective in someway).
- Drop some lemons into the food garburator to clean it and improve the smell.
- Diluted lemon will help fade stains
- We all know to add lemon to honey when we have a sore throat.
- According to Real Simple, you can shine the interior of a copper cookware by sprinkling a lemon wedge with salt and then scrubbing the interior.
- Every stager knows to include a bowl of lemons in the kitchen, they are real and they last a long time.
- If you cut a lemon in half and then put them in a dish cut side up, the room will smell fresher.
- I always squeeze a lemon over cut fruit so it will not brown. The same is true for potatoes and cauliflower you have prepared and that are sitting in a pot of water, waiting for cooking.
- Don’t forget to use lemons when you make guac – it will stay green longer.
There are so many benefits to spreading the cost, maintenance and use of a cottage between or among family or friends. In fact, you may just decide to buy a fractional ownership with a stranger in a managed property. The idea that you are not wholly responsible for something that you will not be using daily is appealing. To be happy on a long term basis, have a long and detailed discussion with the person or people who you are considering partnering with on the cottage – snowbird condo – ski chalet etc. I advise you to have a few preliminary discussions and then go to a lawyer to have a detailed agreement drawn up that sets out the details of shared ownership.
Here are a few questions to discuss (and resolve BEFORE owning)
1. How will ownership be affected when the other person needs to sell their share? People die, economics dictate the sale of an asset (the cottage), families want more than just a fractional use of a cottage, relationships deteriorate. Does the remaining owner have right of first purchase? At what cost?
2. How will the maintenance costs be divided? Of course if the cottage is 50 – 50 then the easiest method is to split all of the bills in half but what about special circumstances like replacing old docks, the roof, decks, etc.? Have you calculated the annual operating costs of utilities, insurance, minor repairs and taxes? Will one person pay all the bills and collect from the other person? What happens if something is damaged – who pays?
3. Will you be able to set up some kind of schedule each year for whom gets the cottage and when? Maybe you will want to alternate the long weekends each year so that both families get the benefits of Canada Day – Independence Day, Labour Day, etc. At least on a rotating basis you will have the cottage for those important holidays. Maybe you want the cottage for certain months each year. Will the other owner be willing to let you have them each year? Rotate use on a weekend, weekly, monthly or seasonal basis. Even if you love the other owner dearly, there will come a time when you will want the place all to yourself.
4. Can you agree on the how the cottage will be left for the next visitors? For example, floors cleaned, dishes done and put away, washrooms scrubbed etc. Things will grate on your nerves if your expectations are not articulated but you just ‘assumed’ that the other owner would be as clean or messy as you. Speaking of visitors, are you ever going to rent the cottage to others? How will this work?
Cottage and second home ownership is not all about having fun and relaxing. Before buying a place with your family or friends, talk about how ownership will work and then…………..
See a lawyer and get it in writing!!!!