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Young Optimism in Real Estate

July 11, 2014

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Young Optimism

How to Save 20% When You BIY Instead of DIY

July 2, 2014


You want to get projects done around the house, but you lack the skills, desire, or the time to DIY. The other side of the coin—hiring it all out—is an expensive option you’d like to avoid. What to do?

BIY, that’s what.

BIY—buy-it-yourself—is a smart, middle ground for those who want to upgrade their homes, be actively involved in the process, and keep a lid on the budget. BIY efforts can save up to 20% on home improvements by shopping for bargains and eliminating contractor markups on materials and finishes.

It’s a growing trend industry experts and big-box home improvement centers are watching closely, defining BIY as its own genre. Fred Miller, managing director of the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI), identifies BIY as a distinct subset of DIY.

“We’ve found that about 17% of homeowners have completed BIY projects,” Miller says.

Marketing expert Matt Carmichael, author of the book “Buyographics,” suggests demographics play a role.

“Many millennials don’t have the DIY mindset their parents had,” says Carmichael, “but they still want to be hands on when it comes to fixing up and improving their homes, and they know how to buy stuff.”

Mining online information is second nature for millennial BIYers, who eagerly search for price comparisons, peer product reviews, and instructional videos.

The BIY Basics

Buy-it-yourselfers research the materials, finishes, and appliances their project requires, then shop for the best deals possible on the items, purchase them, and have them delivered to the work site.

That way, they avoid markups that a contractor or subcontractor routinely applies to the materials they buy. A BIYer also does these things:

Avoids any hourly charges a contractor adds for picking up and delivering the BIY materials
Negotiates directly with suppliers for the best price on items
Is able to find bargains a contractor may overlook
Good BIYers work closely with their contractor or builder to decide which products and materials make sense for the BIYer to tackle—and which are best left to the contractor.

The BIY Skill Set

You might not know which end of a hammer to use, but you’ll still need a good set of skills that include the following:

A thorough understanding of the scope of your project
A shop-until-you-drop mind-set
An obsession with due dates and delivery schedules
A willingness to communicate tirelessly with your contractor or handyman
Understanding Your Contractor’s POV

Although it may sound like shopping and buying are your primary BIY duties, your No. 1 priority is to have good communication with your builder or subcontractor. Tell prospective contractors upfront about wanting to BIY.

Traditionally, contractors have purchased materials and scheduled delivery. They often have established relationships with suppliers that offer steep discounts to them. The contractor in turn marks up 50% or more on those discounted practices. It’s a standard practice in an industry where margins are narrow.

However, the recession was hard on the construction trades, and many contractors are willing to forgo traditional pricing in order to secure steady work—good news for BIY homeowners. Home improvement centers help by hooking up contractors with homeowners—a practice HIRI notes is on the rise over the past several years.

A contractor’s main concern is a BIYer hold up their end of the bargain by ensuring everything is delivered to the job site on time so that work proceeds smoothly.

For you, this means ordering exactly the right types and quantities of materials, and pinning down delivery dates and times. Let your contractor know of any changes (a delivery truck got stuck in Reno) right away.

The Remodeling Contract

Your remodeling contract should clearly state what materials, appliances, and finishes you will supply, and approximate delivery dates. Your contractor needs this information before he can prepare an accurate bid for the work.

Any changes to your responsibilities should be stated in writing and signed by both the contractor and you. You’ll want to make sure that any casual suggestions for changes to the scope of your project (and what you’ll provide) don’t result in a contractor dispute.

What to BIY and What Not To

Stick to buying items that will be visible when the project’s done and leave everything else for your contractor to get. Not only will you be in charge of high-profile finishes, materials, and appliances, but you’ll be assured of getting the look that makes you happy. Here are items that make sense for the BIYer to get.

In the kitchen, consider these for BIY:

Kitchen cabinets
Cabinet hardware (pulls and knobs)
Light fixtures
In the bathroom, these items are smart to BIY:

Tubs and modular shower enclosures
Wall tile
Faucets, shower heads, and tub fillers
Vanities and cabinets
Toilets and bidets
Light fixtures
Exhaust fans
Around the house, BIY is the way to go for these items:

Permanent light fixtures
Entry doors
Interior doors
Garage doors
Exterior light fixtures
Landscaping block and stone
Almost everything else is best left to your contractor, including lumber, fasteners, sheathing, concrete, plumbing pipes, electrical wiring, HVAC components, and insulation.

Other items are a matter of coordinating with your contractor or designer. Roofing, for example, requires specialized knowledge of how to measure roofs and estimate materials. Once estimated, however, you can choose the style and shop for the right price. Just be sure that you and your contractor are on the same page about your involvement.

Other items requiring these specialized knowledge include these home fixtures:

Windows. Between rough openings, replacement options, and window sizes themselves (Did you know that 3/0 means 36 inches?), leave the ordering to your pro.
Gutters and downspouts. Some runs of gutter may be too long to handle repeated expansion and contraction caused by temperature fluctuations. Have a pro advise.
Paving materials. Brick, stone, asphalt, and concrete require a good knowledge of thickness requirements for the base as well as the paving material itself. Let a pro help.
Insulation. This item doesn’t really benefit from BIY; your contractor will know local codes and installation techniques.
Masonry. For siding veneers and landscaping, you pick the type of stone or brick and let an experienced hand do the ordering and return unused materials.

How to Buy It Right

Ah! The fun part! If you’re working with a designer/builder or hiring an architect, you’ll have plans for the finished project. Those plans should include a materials take-off—a list of everything needed for the project.

Armed with that list, you’ll be able to shop for exactly the right amount of materials and calculate the price. Confer with your contractor so you’ll both agree on the items you’ll be buying.

Beware of making changes. For example, if plans call for a 36-inch gas range, but while shopping you find an amazing deal on a 36-inch electric range, you might gum up the works if you buy it. The size is right but your contractor may have already run a gas line—not an electrical circuit—to your range location.

Could you still make the switch? Sure, but you’ll pay for any extra work. In addition, the change takes time and may throw other subcontractors off their schedules.

What If There’s No Contractor?

If your job is fairly small and you’re planning on using a carpenter or handyman for the work, then you’ll have to do all the measuring and purchasing yourself.

Here’s helpful advice to get it right:

1. Measure twice and cut once is the old saying, and it’s a good one. Always double check measurements, and write everything down in a project notebook or in a notebook app you’ll always have with you on your mobile phone or tablet.

Your job is made easier by the many materials calculators available online, as well as home improvement apps you can download to your mobile device. Big-box stores offer them at their websites, and you can search according to your needs.

Lowe’s, for example, has helpful calculators for flooring, paint, mulch, wallpaper, and other materials.

2. Add 10% to measurements of walls, floors, ceilings, and other large surfaces. That ensures you’ll have enough materials to cover broken pieces and slip-ups.

3. Enlist help when measuring cabinets and countertops. Home improvement stores have design centers that will help you fit cabinets correctly. They’ll send out subcontractors—free of charge—to measure your space to ensure accuracy.

Ditto for countertop fabricators. Most insist on taking their own measurements and checking walls for squareness to ensure a good fit.

4. Watch out for oddballs. Not your handyman—your choices. If you’re picking one-of-a-kind items from overseas or the salvage yard, make sure your handyman is up for the challenge. And make sure you’re ready to cough up a few extra bucks for the extra work and creative solutions required.

5. Managing delivery. Keep the job running smoothly by managing delivery dates and times. Make sure you or someone you trust will be there to oversee arrival and storage.

6. Pinpoint delivery times. When ordering, try to establish exact times for delivery of materials and appliances. Record the vendor’s customer service number and give them a ring two or three days prior to delivery to make sure it’ll be on time.

Make sure your contractor or handyman knows those critical delivery dates and times.

7. Clear a space in your garage or spare room, or somewhere on site to stash materials and other goods. There’s nothing wrong with stockpiling materials ahead of installation dates if you have a place to put them.

One More Thing

It bears repeating—the BIY path is one of collaboration and communication. You’ve signed on to be part of a team, however small it may be. Be a good team player, make sure everything runs smoothly, and you’ll end up saving money on your remodel.

Written by: John Riha and was originally published on

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

Common Mistakes Homebuyers Make

June 26, 2014


Written by: Jill Hamilton

Buying a new home is an exciting and sometimes demanding process. The heightened emotions and the high stakes make it extra important to find a home that fits your family financially and “feels right.” Knowing some of the most common mistakes home buyers make will put you in a better position to make the best choice. Here are some things to avoid.

–Being too in love with a house.
Yes, you should love a house, but stay realistic. Don’t get so smitten that you ignore your budget and overbid or refuse to accept major defects or problems with a house.

–Ignoring your instincts.
If a house doesn’t feel right, it probably never will. Instead of wasting time wavering over a not-quite-right house, just move on.

–Failing to research beyond the house itself.
Don’t forget to research the neighborhood, the quality of the local schools, and think about how commutes might work. Visit the house and neighborhood at different times of day, noting potential issues such as rundown houses, smells from local factories or businesses, and loud dogs.

–Waiting too long for the perfect deal or being too cautious.
Failure to make a move or procrastinating, especially in a rising market, results in missed opportunities and possibly paying more. Prices rise and fall, but the general trend is upward and waiting for a perfect deal will keep you out of the game.

–Not putting in a strong enough initial offer.
Make a strong initial offer to avoid losing out to other bidders or being rejected immediately by the seller.

–Not researching mortgages.
Know what kind of mortgage you can qualify for and get pre-approved before starting to seriously house hunt. Make sure you understand the various terms available and shop around to get the deal that’s best for you.

–Not knowing your FICO score.
If it’s low, make a concerted effort to raise it before seeking financing. A lower score can cost thousands of dollars in upfront fees and/or higher interest rates.

–Stretching the budget at the last minute
Some buyers get attached to a house and change their budget to make the deal happen. Decide on a budget beforehand and stick to it. If a major, unexpected problem shows up, it may be best to walk away.

–Choosing the cheapest home inspector.
The small initial money savings can result in missed problems and costly surprise repairs.

–Failing to add a contingency clause to contracts or accepting one that’s too limited.
Make sure there is language in the contract so can get your deposit or “earnest money” back in case of deal breaker-type problems, like major repairs being needed, financing falling through, or your current home not selling in a timely manner.

–Not budgeting for initial costs
Not matter how “turnkey” as house looks, there are going to be additional expenses for things like furnishings, window treatments, and utility deposits. Factor in moving expenses too. Don’t forget to add in other service fees for notaries, escrow, and loan applications. Many homes will also need extra insurance, such as earthquake or flood coverage.

–Not budgeting for predictable (and unpredictable) costs of homeownership.
First time home buyers often forget to factor in estimates of future major repairs and routine maintenance costs. There also may be higher utility bills, and monthly costs for things like lawn services or homeowner association dues.

–Failing to plan for the future.
Think about where you plan to be in a decade. Will you need more space for children, pets, or elderly relatives? Will the loan still be affordable for you in 10 years?

–Trying to save money by not hiring professionals.
Hiring experts during the process can save money by helping uncover or avoid problems. A buyer’s agent, for example, can help you navigate the process with their expertise about neighborhoods, pricing, contracts and listings. An agent’s connections can also help you in finding the best lenders and inspectors and other professionals, like contractors.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

How Do Buyers Evaluate Real Estate Crushes

June 19, 2014

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.




10 mistakes that could ruin your open house

June 12, 2014

By: Scott Van Voorhis, The Motley Fool
Yes, it’s true, it’s a seller’s market out there, but you can still ruin your chance at finding a willing buyer while mortgage rates remain low or landing the price you want if you mess up your open house.


Here are 10 open-house mistakes:

No. 1: Hovering

As a seller, your job is to get out of the way. Let your agent and their team interact with the buyers. Nothing scares off buyers faster than getting cornered by a desperate seller, says Elizabeth Weintraub, a Realtor with Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California. “Buyers don’t like it when they are hovered over. Give the buyer some information and let them look through the home on their own.”

No. 2: Half-baked staging

If you are going to professionally stage your home, stage the whole house, or at least one entire floor. Nothing is more jarring than two elegantly appointed rooms followed by an empty dining room or den, says Maureen Reddy, a professional stager and owner of DaVinci Designer Gallery in Winthrop, Massachusetts.

“Nothing done halfway is ever any good,” she says. And unless your agent is a professionally trained stager or interior designer, hire someone who knows what they are doing to handle this sensitive job. Don’t let your agent start bringing in his or her furniture for the open house — it happens more than you would think and it can backfire badly, Reddy says.

No. 3: Rookie agent on duty

Your agent may not be the one to actually show your house. But make sure you are confident your Realtor has a capable and well-trained team, Weintraub says. While you don’t want the agent at your open house to bombard potential buyers with information, you want to make sure whoever is there is available to answer any and all questions and is not more concerned with texting or reading a book.

No. 4: Music

You don’t need music to sell a house.

“At best it is distracting,” says Rona Fischman, owner of 4 Buyers Real Estate in Somerville, Massachusetts. “At worst, buyers will get suspicious that there is more road noise, or mechanical noise or neighbor noise that you are covering up.”

No. 5: Failure to provide marketing materials

All buyers who walk through your house should be able to pick up an info packet to take with them, says Weintraub. There’s no excuse for running out of copies. Otherwise it’s out of sight, out of mind.

No. 6: Smells

Forget heavy air fresheners. Like other attempts to spice up the atmosphere, at best it’s a distraction and at worst it may raise questions about what you are hiding.

And yes, while pristine cleaning is paramount, the night before your open house is not the time to plaster your abode with industrial cleaners. The stench of bleach — and the immediate questions it will raise in a buyer’s mind — will do more damage to your chances than that tiny patch of mold in the corner of the shower.

Skip the cookies baking in the oven as well. Maybe it worked in the 90s, but buyers figured that one out a long time ago, says Fischman.

“You only get one opportunity to make a first impression and if the impression is an overwhelming smell, you lose,” she says. “Whether it cookies or disinfectant, if it is noticeable — and not merely background — buyers will notice.”

No. 7: Leaving jewelry, valuables about

From gawkers to serious buyers, quite a crowd will tramp through your house. Don’t tempt anyone’s honesty. Besides losing something precious, you could also poison the deal with needless suspicion when something goes missing and everyone is suddenly is a suspect, Fischman says.

No. 8: Pets

Letting your beloved pets hang around on open house day could prove costly. Not only should you put your dog or cat in a kennel for the open house, you need to remove all signs of your beloved animal friends. That means litter boxes as well — a number one turnoff for sellers.

“The kitty-litter box has no place at an open house,” says Reddy.

No. 9: The wrong temperature

This one’s simple: Your house should be warm but not hot in the winter and cool but not cold in the summer. Don’t blow it by playing games with the thermostat.

No. 10: Bad photos

If the online photos of your house are dim, blurry, taken at odd angles or of odd rooms, don’t be surprised if no one shows up. Bad photos prevent potential buyers from ever showing up in the first place.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.


The Motley Fool is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news, analysis and commentary designed to help people take control of their financial lives. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.





DIY Summer Home Improvement Projects

June 5, 2014

Home DIY Projects Summer



By: Maggie Olague, ClientDIRECT™


Summer is a popular time for homeowners to make improvements to their home. With a little patience and a trip or two to the local hardware store, homeowners can change the look of their home while increasing the value of the house with these DIY home improvement projects.

Spruce Up Curb Appeal
Before any visitors or potential buyers down the road will notice home improvements, first they will see the exterior. Update the mailbox and address numbers, trim back shrubs, and add flowers or native plants from the region to dramatically change the appearance of the home. To gain a better perspective on the exterior, stand at the curb facing the house and make note of anything that could be updated. Investing in curb appeal can bring a return of four times what the homeowner spent when selling the house.

Freshen Up the Paint
Get out the paint. Whether it’s touching up a color you already have, or adding a bold accent wall, a fresh coat of paint is one of the quickest and easiest ways to brighten up the house. Before painting, make sure to patch up any holes, no matter how small, and lightly sand the patch work to give the walls a smooth finish.

Illuminating Ideas
Give new light to your home by painting current lighting fixtures or updating lighting fixtures with energy efficient fixtures or ceiling fans. Ceiling fans will not only provide light, but it will create a breeze, while reducing the use of the air conditioning. Before removing any lighting fixtures, turn off the breaker and disconnect the wires.

Revamp the Bathroom
A few minor changes in the bathroom can be advantageous without breaking the bank. Replace outdated noncompliant plumbing fixtures with compliant ones, and update the vanity. Consider adding new linens and accessories to give the bathroom a fresh, new, summery feel.

Spiff Up the Kitchen
Update the kitchen sink and faucet, install a backsplash, and give the cabinets a facelift by re-staining or painting them and changing the hardware to accent the new cabinets. Small changes in the kitchen can change the look of the kitchen. Investing in kitchen improvements can recoup up to 80 percent of the cost when you are ready to sell.

Add Architectural Interest
Crown molding, chair rails, and baseboards add a wow factor to a home and can be easily installed during a weekend home improvement project. Most hardware stores or lumber yards will cut the pieces for you, just be sure to measure and measure again to ensure accuracy. Crown molding won’t increase the value to the house, but will add to the overall appeal and it makes it easier for the homeowner to sell when ready.

Remove Popcorn Ceiling
Popcorn ceilings are outdated. Create a modern, sleek ceiling by removing the popcorn with a soften texture from a local hardware store and scraping the ceilings. If you prefer to have popcorn ceilings, applying a fresh coat of paint to the ceiling will brighten up the room. Although, removing popcorn ceilings won’t increase the value to the house, it will make it easier for you to sell when the time comes.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

Sellers Are Feeling Good About Home Prices

May 30, 2014

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.


SellersFeelingGood - Real Estate


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