Tracy Tidwell Real Estate Commercial

Thursday, June 15, 2017

What Really Makes a Property Appreciate


A home’s value generally appreciates 3 percent to 4 percent every year, which is attributed mostly to population growth and inflation. However in 2016, homeowners saw appreciation jump to an average of 6.3 percent.®’s research team sought to find out what would boost a home’s value even more and what home features buyers may be willing to pay more for. Researchers analyzed millions of listings on® from 2011 to 2016 to calculate the annual price growth rate of homes with certain features.
Here are some of the clear winners in housing appreciation: 
Small homes: Homes smaller than 1,200 square feet appreciated by an average rate of 7.5 percent a year for the past five years. On the other hand, larger homes of 2,400 square feet or more rose by 3.8 percent a year. The smaller-home demand is being driven by millennials wanting to enter the market with a more affordable starter home and baby boomers who are looking to downsize,® notes. Further, smaller homes are in shorter supply, which is prompting prices to increase more due to the high demand, says Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, a real estate appraisal firm.
Two-bedroom homes: Homes with two bedrooms appreciate at a rate of 6.6 percent a year, compared to homes with five bedrooms that appreciate at 4.3 percent a year,®’s research team found.
The Hottest Home Features
(Noted below with the annual appreciation rate from 2011-2016.)
  • Open floor plan: 7.4%
  • Patio: 6.8%
  • Hardwood floors: 5.7%
  • Fireplace: 5.3%
  • Finished basement: 4.6%
  • Hot tub: 3.9%
  • Stainless steel appliances: 3%
  • Granite countertop: 2.5%
Open floor plans: Homes with open floor plans appreciate 7.4 percent a year. It’s the hottest appreciating home feature that® studied (see side for full list). As for features like stainless steel and granite, Miller says those amenities don’t really add any value to a home. "Those are what I call 'have-to-have' features,” Miller says. “A home needs to have them in a competitive market. But they don't add long-term value. … Ten years from now, when you update your kitchen, they'll be replaced."
Modern and contemporary homes: Modern and contemporary architectural styles have the highest potential for appreciation, increasing at about 7.7 percent annually. This style of home is known for simple, geometric shapes, and large windows. Newly constructed modern homes also tend to be energy efficient. Bungalows and Traditional are the next highest appreciating styles at 6.5 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, niche styles like Craftsman bungalows and Victorians are among the lowest appreciating architectural styles, at 3.7 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively. Researchers speculate that may be due to some of the maintenance responsibilities in staying true to the home’s historical architecture that is often connected to these styles of homes.
Green space views: Homes with a park view appreciate at 7.9 percent a year,®’s research team found. "[They] hold value over a longer period of time, and they recover quickly from a downturn," says Michael Minson, a real estate pro in San Francisco at Keller Williams. "Buyers appreciate the tranquility and outdoor activities. They like being close to nature." Indeed, homes with mountain views appreciated on average by 5.1 percent, and homes with a lake view at 4.9 percent. Ocean views appreciated the least of the “home views” studied, at just 3.6 percent a year. Recent storms may have spooked buyers from oceanfront properties as well as the fact that the highest-cost homes tend to be along the ocean,®’s research team notes.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

5 Environmentally Smart Landscaping Tips


A home's landscape provides curb appeal and, if designed smartly, it can also offer wellness and environmental benefits. When your clients undertake a new landscaping project, it's important that they keep the local ecosystem and environmental considerations in mind.
Since some areas of the country are still experiencing drought conditions, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) recently created an infographic that shares what your clients living in these areas need to know before designing their landscaping project.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Staging for a Cozy, Minimalist Look

staged living room
While decluttering a listing before putting it on the market will help sellers keep their homes cleaner and get a head start on packing, this practice also helps the product that’s for sale shine through more clearly. “Staging isn’t about decorating, but putting a room and its architecture in the best light,” says Chicago-area designer and stager Paula Winter.
Watch for these signs that you’re tipping the balance too far in one direction.
Too intimate:
Yellow; rich, dark colors; and textured or faux Tuscan-painted walls
Elaborate window treatments
Family photos
Floral or oversized patterns
Every wall covered with art
Too contrived:
Orchids or other fussy plants
A set table
Matching furniture sets
Nearly empty shelves and storage
Cookies baking in an oven during the open house
But stagers also caution against stripping too much away, which can make a space feel stark and uninviting. The happy medium is instead a modern, minimalist look that permits buyers to imagine how their furnishings may fit in spatially while exuding warmth from some carefully added accessories.
Staging, once mostly for vacant homes or high-priced listings, is now more widely used. Meridith Baer, who stages more than 140 properties a month through her eponymous California firm, says the practice can help increase the sales price and decrease the listing time for homes. The Real Estate Staging Association pegs the average time on the market for homes sold after staging at 21 days, an estimated 90 percent less time than unstaged properties.
Bear in mind that different generations have slightly different design tastes and tolerance for clutter or spareness, as do buyers in different geographic markets and price points. “Many in the greater Los Angeles area have been asking for a more minimal look, but in Orange County and Northern California, high-end properties still reflect a rich layering that shows a well-lived, well-traveled life,” Baer says. Here are five recommendations to strike the right balance.
1. Set the stage. It’s called staging for a reason. The idea is to set the mood in the same way that a theatrical backdrop does. Think of how to use furnishings and accessories to tell a story about how a buyer may live there. You want the listing to look modern and gender-neutral to show a home’s bones, not to remind buyers of an antiseptic hospital or laboratory, says Winter. Certified stager Susan Batka of Aerie Interiors in suburban Atlanta suggests adding a few textured pillows, a rug, and maybe a large piece of modern, colorful artwork to give the space the necessary warmth so it looks alive but isn’t overwhelming or too personalized.
2. Declutter. This is still the number one mantra for stagers. “The key to the desired Zen feel is to pick interesting but fewer decorative items and keep upholstered pieces clean and lean,” Baer says. She describes the goal as leaving “some breathing room. Not every wall space needs art and not every surface needs accessories.” It can be difficult to decide what to keep, but one good rule is to retain only the accessories that play up architectural features and strengths of the listing. Items that draw attention to built-in bookshelves or fireplace mantels are especially helpful. For example, Winter removes half the books on a shelf and arranges the remaining ones with turned-out spines or groups them by colors that work well with the room. She’ll winnow down collectibles on a shelf or coffee table to three key items rather than removing everything.
3. Heed the size and shape of the room. You can use staging to highlight a room’s distinct features. If it has volume due to high ceilings, Baer will use a few larger-scaled furnishings. If it’s long and narrow, she generally fashions two seating groups, turning a rectangle into two squares. That way buyers can imagine a comfortable space where visitors can sit and converse intimately.
4. Retain functionality within today’s style guidelines. Because space is highly valued, making the best use of all square footage remains a priority. Show this in listings by following the principles of cozy minimalism throughout a home. For example, in a master bedroom where buyers are looking to gain a sleep sanctuary, whittle down the furnishings to only the essential items of a comfortable bed, nightstands, and good lighting. The cozy factor can come in the form of blankets, pillows, a soft rug underfoot, and a soothing palette, says Batka. To outfit a spare room or a large landing, you might stage a workspace with a clean, modern desk and comfy upholstered chair.

5. Remember inexpensive tweaks. Good staging isn’t about grand gestures, large furnishings, or scads of accessories. Minor fixes can help what’s already there stand out without cluttering the space. Replace fixtures with bulbs of the same wattage and color, and hang clothing on similar hangers for a more uniform feel, says Jennifer Ames, a salesperson with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Chicago. “It gives buyers a good feeling as they walk through, that the sellers have cleaned and organized their homes,” she says. But in keeping with the cozy factor, avoid overwrought perfection. “Make anything you do look authentic, rather than contrived like putting out place settings at a table,” says Helen Bartlett, a RESA certified stager with Refined Interior Staging Solutions in Fairway, Kan. “Nobody lives that way.”

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Critical Questions Buyers Should Ask Sellers

Buyers will glean plenty of information from the seller’s disclosure agreement, the home inspector, and maybe even their new neighbors. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few questions they should ask the seller at the walkthrough or before closing.® suggests buyers ask some of the following questions of sellers:
Have you had any past problems with the home that you’ve repaired? 
Sellers typically must disclose existing problems or issues related to the home, but they aren’t always required to disclose past problems that have been repaired.
“Here in Georgia, anything significant that has happened—whether it was repaired or replaced—needs to be disclosed in the seller’s statement," says Bill Golden, a real estate pro with RE/MAX Metro Atlanta Cityside in Atlanta. “However, it varies by state and sellers aren't always required to fess up.”
Golden recommends buyers use the disclosure as a starting point to pry for anything more, such as by saying, "I’ve read the disclosure statement. Is there anything else that has happened or that you’ve done that would be helpful to know?”
Can you tell me where the water shutoff valve, sump pump, circuit box, and more are located? 
Ask the seller to show you the location of these important valves and switches. “Hopefully, the home inspector will locate all of these things and point them out to the new buyer as part of educating them about their new house,” Golden says. “But not all inspectors do that, so these are important safety questions.”
Is there anything you wanted to leave behind?
“Most things that are being left, such as appliances, are dealt with in the original contract,” Golden says. “But, as it gets closer to closing, sellers are often wanting to unload some other things, too. You might get lucky and wind up with something great." It might be worth at least a question.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Lowest & Highest Cost of Living States

Just how widely can the cost of living vary from state to state? Financial website culled 2016 data from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, examining six categories of living expenses: housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous items. The site used the data to calculate each state's overall cost of living index.
Hawaii is the priciest state to live in, where cost-of-living expenses are 67.4 percent higher than the national average, according to the analysis. Housing costs in the state top the national average by 130 percent, the study shows.
On the other end of the spectrum, the cost of living in Mississippi is the lowest in the U.S.—14 percent below the national average, according to's study. Housing costs there are 31.6 percent cheaper than the national average, and groceries are nearly 6 percent less. 
According to, the states with the highest cost of living in the U.S. are:
  1. Hawaii
  2. Washington, D.C.
  3. New York
  4. California
  5. Massachusetts
Meanwhile, the states with the lowest cost of living in the U.S. are:
  1. Mississippi
  2. Indiana
  3. Michigan
  4. Arkansas
  5. Oklahoma
Source: “From California to New York: The Cost of Living Across America,” (May 11, 2017)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Smart Homes Are No Longer a Futuristic Concept

The smart home has come a long way in just three years. In 2014, two-thirds of consumers with broadband were not familiar with smart-home services or products or where to buy them, according to a white paper from the Consumer Electronics Association and Park Associates. Now, 86 percent of consumers “are confident they know what it means when someone says they have a smart home,” according to a survey conducted by Finn Futures of about 1,000 U.S. adults.
Consumers see greater use for smart-home tech, now and in the future. For example, 77 percent of respondents recently surveyed by Finn Futures say they believe it’ll be normal to have a robot in their home within 20 years.
The top three smart home features consumers say they would value most now in a smart home are locks and doors (55 percent); thermostat (44 percent); and lighting (41 percent). A voice-controlled assistant (22 percent) and entertainment (25 percent) lagged behind.

"Emotion plays an important role when it comes to consumers' willingness to adopt connected technology," says Sabrina Horn, managing partner, U.S. technology practice with Finn Partners. "People want to feel in control of their lives and of their loved ones' well-being, so it isn't surprising that we always see peace of mind as the top motivator in smart-home adoption. Communications professionals need to help brands and other connected technology sectors tap into this finding with more visually oriented and multifaceted market awareness campaigns."

Monday, May 15, 2017

How to Make a Big Statement With a Small Yard

How to Make a Big Statement With a Small Yard
Here’s how to make a splash in even the most compact outdoor spaces.

Not everyone dreams of a lush and sprawling backyard. So playing down diminutive outdoor space in your listing could be a missed opportunity to connect with a buyer who sees a postage-stamp lawn or a compact front stoop as a plus, says Meridith Baer, owner of Meridith Baer Home, a staging firm based in the Los Angeles area. “Actually, it’s sometimes easier to make a small space charming. It might be as simple as adding shutters in a pretty hue and painting the front door, or putting that perfect set of chairs on the front porch,” she says. Whether you’re dealing with a small backyard in a single--family home or simply a balcony or patio for a townhouse or condo, these tips can help homeowners or stagers make a bigger statement.

Watch the Scale 
Decluttering is just as crucial for outdoor spaces as it is the rest of the house. “It’s important not to do too much and overcrowd a small space,” says Dennis Hammett, sales associate with Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®, in Dallas. Too many chairs around a table or even too large a tree can make a smaller yard feel confined. “Placement and size of plants becomes very important with a small front yard. You want to make sure that none are so big that they will block any of the home’s architectural features,” says Jason Evans, marketing manager for The Davey Tree Expert Co. in East Bay, Calif. Keep garden statues and ornaments to a minimum, Evans adds.

Set a Focal Point
Smaller spaces often benefit from an attention-grabbing feature, such as a water fountain, outdoor fireplace, or a restful nook in a compact garden. “If you have a small space, pick a focus to start with,” says Justin Hancock, garden expert with Costa Farms in Miami. “You might want to rent or borrow a small patio set or fire pit to get buyers thinking about how great the backyard will be for entertaining or outdoor living.” You can also draw attention verbally to a focal point. For example, call out the benefits to the home’s outdoor plantings—if they, for example, attract butterflies or hummingbirds, Hancock says. “A quick handout that highlights the upsides to areas of the yard can be helpful to consumers who may not realize those benefits on their own.”

Outdoor Reflections
“Try a trick borrowed from interior designers: Hang an outdoor-friendly mirror on an exterior wall to reflect light and to make these yards feel more open,” says Missy Henriksen, spokeswoman for the National Association of Landscape Professionals. While there’s no wrong or right style of outdoor mirror, Henriksen offers some suggestions: Hang the mirror no lower than eye level, ensure it’s rustproof, and try a mirror that mimics shapes and styles of real windows. Pay attention to what you’re reflecting, too. “You want to show off the gorgeous greenery of your landscape, not a bare wall or barbecue,” Henriksen says.

Go for the Vertical
Taller plants can add height to a doorway that feels closed off, Henriksen says. A spiral topiary in a container beside a front door can nicely accentuate a space. Another tip: Prune plants so they’re more vertical, training them to grow up rather than out. Also, consider a vertical wall of planters, like containers of ornamental grasses. You can also raise plant height by several feet using retaining walls, raised beds, or extra long, slender containers.

Accent With Container Gardens
Container gardens are portable, which make them an easy way to enhance a small space, particularly for a townhouse or condo where a homeowners association or shared space may limit what you can install. Matching containers placed on each side of a stairway or doorway can create a bookend look, suggests Hancock. Or, group a small cluster of different sizes of containers. Choose plants that complement or contrast with the color of your front door. For example, with a red door, choose red geraniums, salvia, or petunias, Hancock suggests. For a high-contrast look with a blue door, try planting easy-care golds and yellows, such as zinnias, marigolds, or celosia. “If floor space is at a premium, try a hanging basket or two,” says Hancock.

Layer the Light
Turn a spotlight on what you do have, from above and below. “Outdoor lighting is an easy way to showcase the entry and complement your landscaping,” says Hammett. Solar lights can be added affordably and without extra wiring. Point lights up at trees, and place them along the driveway and planting beds to create a landscape with a soothing glow, Hammett says. Also, consider wall-mounted task lighting, such as sconces, to spotlight outdoor cooking areas. “Gas lanterns can add a touch of elegance, “ Hammett says.

Fuse in More Greenery
Use the colors of nature to add lushness and texture to the space. You’ll be in good company with designers on this one, as the Pantone Color Institute’s color of the year is a verdant shade called “greenery.” NALP is also highlighting simpler greenery for 2017. A formal hedge of green velvet boxwood, a border of green lilyturf, or dense Boston ivy-colored trellises can have just as much impact as a garden full of colorful flowers, NALP notes. “Everyone loves a pop of color, but don’t shy away from the striking simplicity of outdoor neutrals, especially in smaller yards,” Henriksen says. Try ornamental grasses and trees potted in a container. In drought-prone areas, consider a small patch of low-water options like Kurapia, a ground cover with white flowers that can work in various soils and requires little watering to maintain.

Increase Privacy
Small yards often lack privacy, and neighbors are usually in close proximity. Taller plants, vines, bamboo, or an arbor with a large flowering vine can help create a more intimate space. A trellis on a balcony of a condo can also help. “Privacy doesn’t have to be expensive—even a lattice panel or two can do the job,” Hancock says. A hedge is the easiest and most affordable way to add privacy in a yard, Baer says. “If you want to save money, get a younger specimen and have the broker point out that in a year’s time you won’t see the neighbors,” Baer says.

Extend the Indoors Out
Connect the indoor space to the outdoor space to make the living space feel larger. Use the same colors you find inside the home in the exterior color scheme, starting with cushioned furnishings and outdoor throw pillows for an easy match. Add a waterproof rug to ground the space as an outdoor room. Consider a pergola or gazebo to extend the interior feel. “Outdoor structures can help define your space and do not have the confinement of four closed walls, so they are typically good choices for smaller properties,” Henriksen says.