Friday, June 27, 2008

Things Buyers Will Just Have to Overlook...

My good friend Kim Brown suggested that I title this post "Crap Buyers Will Just Have to Learn to Overlook," but I'm trying to clean up my image (well, maybe just my language), here...

So, my previous two posts were some tough love posts for Sellers, outlining some of the things Buyers don't give a crap about, and several things they DO give a crap about.

It's your turn for a little tough love, Buyers. Don't worry, though, I'll be gentle...

In light of the touted "Buyer's Market", some Buyers are going a little crazy. They feel that they should get any house they want, for any price they want, and the Sellers should make any repairs they want done. I've seen offers come in on properties, asking for the property to be painted colors of the Buyer's choice, and appliances to be replaced. Drunk with power, some Buyers are asking for the moon, and fully expecting the stars to be thrown in for free.

Understand that, with a typical resale purchase, you are purchasing a home as you see it, not as how you want it to be. If you want to put on a larger deck, or want the bedroom painted red to match your linens, or hate the new pink carpeting, well, those are things that you are going to have to take care of on your own. You may make adjustments to your offer price for them to see if the Seller will make concessions that way. However, submitting a list of requested "upgrades" with your offer is the wrong tactic to take.

No house is going to be everything you've ever wanted. You need to have a little vision. Don't even look at paint and carpeting, because it's the cheapest fix around, and you're going to have to replace it at some point anyway. Look beyond their brass faucets, ugly chandelier, and gaudy mural. You can update the home however you like after the purchase. Asking the Seller to update the home to your liking isn't feasible. They're not going to do it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ringing Rocks - Really!

Today, the kids and I visited Ringing Rocks, located on Ringing Rocks Road in Upper Black Eddy, Bucks County. What a neat trip to take! We walked a wooded trail that opened up into a field of boulders. It looks like a hidden lake - of rocks.

Armed with small hammers, the kids started scuttling across the rocks like monkeys, banging to find the ones that sounded like bells.

They really do! They sound like a bell being rung when you strike them with a hammer or small rock. My oldest quickly racked up 160 "ringers." Not all the stones ring, but here's a hint - look for the one with obvious gray areas from hammers being struck against them. They usually are good "ringers."

While scientists don't know exactly how this works, we had fun making up excuses: aliens being number one. If you go, wear sneakers. My kids had no problem scurrying over the rocks, but I seem to have lost my agility in my old age. We did take a baby stroller for my toddler, but it was rough going, and we had to carry the stroller at certain points. It was definitely workable, though.

Need more information? Shoot me an email, and I'll be happy to tell you more about it. You can find directions here, and on my GPS, I just used the street name and it took me right there.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Why Wrightstown? Hortulus Farm

Stunningly Beautiful.

Those are the only words I have to describe the Hortulus Farm located on Thompson Mill Road in Wrightstown. I wrote about it previously in this blog, but finally got a chance to take the tour yesterday with a few girlfriends.

Our fabulous guide Mary, a landscaping architecture student at Del-Val College, was extremely knowledgeable, personable, and a lot of fun. She graciously tolerated our chatter and answered all our questions. She trecked us through the fern and hosta lined woodland walks, the yellow garden, the herb garden, the pool (This is actually the pool! You can just make out some white lounge chairs towards the left of the pool.) and other beautiful gardens. It is a treck, so be forewarned that you'll be hiking. It's totally worth the huffing and puffing though.

Part of an original land grant from William Penn, this gorgeous farmhouse and gardens have been lovingly restored and built over the past 30 years by Renny Reynolds and Jack Staub. I can't imagine possessing a) the knowledge or b) the artistry to build these gardens, let alone the stamina to maintain them.

If you have the opportunity, please find some time to take this tour. Tours are offered May through October for groups of 8 or more. If you can't organize a group of 8 or more, LUCKY YOU, they are having two public open houses in the coming months, when you can take self-guided tours of the gardens.

July 19th - Summer Open House

October 4th - Fall Open House

Thursday, June 12, 2008

5 Things Buyers DO Give a Crap About...

As promised, here are a few things that Buyers really do care about:

Curb Appeal

The first impression when a Buyer pulls up in front of your home gives them an initial "Ahhh" or "Ewww" to start off the showing. Even if the house is beautiful inside, it's hard to combat the initial "Ew" factor. The good news is that an initial "Ah" lends itself to Buyers looking a little more kindly on any interior fix ups. Set the tone. Your house should look happy and cared for. Grass should be cut, trash cans hidden, landscaping trimmed and mulched.


A house that has good maintenance records is golden. It screams to a Buyer "There are no hidden surprises here - I've taken care of everything." If you don't have good maintenance records, a flurry of upkeep can also communicate the same to the Buyer. Have the heater, chimney, and A/C units serviced prior to listing. Have your septic system pumped. Have a contractor come and make the multitude of minor repairs that you've learned to live with: leaky faucets, bad hinges on kitchen cabinets, ripped screens. Attach all your receipts to the Sellers Disclosure. Give the Buyer a sense of security that things in your home have been maintained.

Kitchens and Baths

Yeah, I know that you've heard this a million times, but I cannot stress it enough. Kitchens and Baths sell homes. The difficult part of this is that kitchens and baths get the most use (and dirt) and they need to show the cleanest. They have to be clean. Ruthlessly clean. They also need to appear spacious, even though they collect the most clutter. Here's the minimum of what you should do: clear off counters and sinks, invest in new towels for the bathroom, CLEAN.

Did I mention they should be clean?

(As an aside, I've got a great tip for an outdated bathroom: chocolate brown is the new hot neutral and chocolate / pink and chocolate / blue are hot combos. This covers a variety of outdated tile: brown, pink, and blue. Shoot me an email if you need help trying to figure out how to make your 50s tile look a little more contemporary)

The Schools

Maybe I just work with a lot of families with children, but almost all my Buyer clients search by school district rather than town. There's not much you can do about this. I'm just telling you it matters.

An Emotional Connection

Buyers are looking for "the one." They have to fall a little in love with your home. How can you help that emotional connection? The house should feel happy and well maintained - no kicked in doors from angry teenagers, no divorce papers lying around, no trashcans filled with beer bottles. Even if some not so happy things are happening in your home, the Buyers shouldn't be able to tell that.

Make your home inviting. Remember the things you fell in love with and highlight them. A great backyard? Stage a seating area under a tree with a fire/conversation pit. Was it the bright kitchen? Set the table with some cookies and a note for Buyers to sit down and help themselves.

I've got some recommendations for Buyers as well. As my friend Kim Brown put it "Crap Buyers will Just Have to Deal With." Look for that coming next...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

5 Things Buyers Don't Give a Crap About

How much you paid for your house

It has absolutely no impact on the Buyers at all. How much you are making or losing on your house is your problem. Just as a Buyer can't limit your profit, neither is he/she responsible for covering your losses.

How much money you need to move into your next home

Again, see above. YOUR finances are never the problem of the Buyer. A lot of Sellers will say, "What's another $5,000 over 30 years?" It's $5,000 more than the Buyer wants to spend on your house. That $5,000 is just as important to the Buyer as it is to you.

The special tile imported from France in your powder room

Unless you are rehabbing for resale, there are things that you have done to your house that are specialized. Things that you are absolutely in love with and for which you waaaay overspent (C'mon, admit it. We've all done it.) The Buyers? The probably aren't going to love it as much as you do, so they aren't willing to buck up for how fabulous it is.

The sentimentality attached to certain things in the house

I'm a sentimental gal. I have trees planted in my yard in honor of my first Mother's Day with each of my babies. I found an engraved Christmas tree ornament from the previous owners that I hang on the tree each year in their honor for building this great house. If I ever sell? I know that new Buyers will take down my first born's tree (it's, quite frankly, ugly). I doubt they'll care about the ornament. Buyers don't care that you spent 3 weeks restoring a mantle - they'll paint over it if they want. Your sentimentality is your own, don't expect the Buyers to share in it.

The "Possibilities" in the Home

You have to price your home as it is, not how it could be. Yeah, maybe you can finish your basement, but you can't expect a Buyer to pay you for a finished basement just because it could be one day. Same goes for unfinished construction projects, scarred wooden floors, closets with rough-in for plumbing, etc.

What DO Buyers give a crap about? Stay tuned for my next post...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Inspection Series - #5 The Septic Inspection

It's the discussion you've all been waiting for! Hope back your excitement, people, today we're talking about

Septic Systems

Fun! A septic system is an on-lot waste water disposal system, meaning everything that goes down a drain: kitchen sink, washer, showers, toilets, goes into the septic system in your back yard. A typical septic system is made up of a tank, distribution box, and drainage field. Waste water goes into the septic tank. Solids fall to the bottom, while any grease or oil floats to the top. The remaining liquid is sent into the distribution box, which then disperses it into the drainage fields or a sand mound. The water then seeps out into the soil surrounding the drainage fields or sand mound (all underground)and clarifies as it trickles through the soil to the underground water table.

Sounds gross, right?

Well, it is kinda gross if you're used to flushing and forgetting with public sewer, but you get used to the idea. As long as the system is working properly, you won't really need to think about it except to have the solids and oils pumped out regularly (Wrightstown Township requires every two years). When a septic system fails, THAT'S gross. You may see effluent on top of the ground, smell the system (gag), or have a backup in your toilets and sinks.

A good septic inspector is critical, since a new system can cost $25-30,000 (you read that right). I have two great inspectors that I can recommend, just shoot me an email.

Here is the EPA's Homeowner's Guide to Septic Systems. It's a great resource, and the diagram will explain the system much better than I ever could.

Have any questions? Shoot me an email. I know enough to be dangerous about different problems with the systems, alternate systems, etc.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Inspection Series - #4 The Water Inspection

This inspection is usually done when there is a well located on the property. You will have a water testing company come out, take a sample of your water, and test that water for potability. They'll test your water for all the nasties that may be there - choloform, bacteria, and other gross stuff. The water testing will indicate if these factors fall within safe drinking guidelines.

If the water tests come back with high levels of one or the other (or all), there are many different treatment systems available. UV light, shocking the well, filtration - there are many different ways to treat the water, and there are specialist who can devise the best route of attack for you.

Ok, so I feel like the inspection series is getting a bit dry (and boring), but stay tuned folks...

Next, we're talking about

duh, duh, duh....

Septic Systems!
You certainly don't want to miss THAT discussion! I have the unenviable title of "Septic Queen" since I've had many of my personal purchases fall through during the septic inspection. I know more about poo than any suburban girl should know, and I'm going to share the wealth of knowledge with you next time.
Stay tuned for the poo talk - it's an important one.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Inspection Series - #3 Radon Inspection

Radon gas is a scary thing. It's a naturally occurring, cancer causing gas that is odorless and colorless. However, it is an easily remedied problem, with radon remediation typically costing between $1,000-2,000. So, what does a radon inspection entail?

A house will be under closed house conditions during the test - no open windows or doors. (Sellers may have to kick on their A/C during this time - no fresh air for you!) An inspector will place radon detectors on the lowest floor of living space. Living space includes any area that can be finished in the future into living space. Full Basement? Living Space. Crawl Space? Not living space. The testing equipment will be in the home for 48 hours and the tests will be averaged to come up with the average radon reading in the home.

If the radon reading comes in at 4.0 pCi/L or higher, you should install a radon remediation system. If the test comes back at 3.9 pCi/L or lower, no remediation is necessary.

The EPA has some really good information on radon on their website. Here is the link to their Home Seller/Home Buyer guide to radon:

Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon

Want a referral to a reputable radon testing company? Shoot me an email or give me a call. I'll be happy to share my top 3 with you.