Friday, September 4, 2015

Is a Kitchen Remodel in Your Future?



Seven Kitchen Remodeling Decisions You'll Never Regret!

I’ve seen lots of kitchen trends during my years as a Realtor, so I know it’s easy to get swept along with what’s in vogue, only to get bummed out by your faddish design choices a few years later. Thank you — and damn you — Pinterest!

But chances are you’re only going to remodel your current kitchen once. After all, the annual “Cost vs. Value Report” from “Remodeling” magazine pegs the average price of a major kitchen remodel at $56,768. With that much on the line, you want to make all the right moves. If you do, you could recoup about 68% of your investment if you sell.

So I’m here to future-proof you from angst by naming the seven definitive kitchen features that will retain their beauty, marketability, and value — all while giving you lasting enjoyment.

#1: White is the Dominant Color

Bottom line: White is the most marketable color. You’ll always find it atop the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s annual survey of most popular kitchen colors. It simply doesn’t go out of style.

White’s mojo:
  • Throughout history, it’s been associated with happiness, purity (think Snow White), and new beginnings.
  • It’s a bright color that reflects light and makes even small kitchens feel larger.
  • It’s a neatnik’s dream — dirt has no place to hide.
 Even better, it’s uber-tolerant of both your budget and taste: A standard color for any manufacturer, you’ll find white cabinets, tile, counters, faucets, sinks, and appliances at any price point.

And with a white backdrop, you can be as conservative or expressive as you want. After all, it’s about your enjoyment, not just dollars and cents. For example:
  • Add your personal touch with colored glass knobs and pulls.
  • Show off antique Fiesta ware on open shelves or in upper cabinets with glass fronts.
  • Paint walls the color du jour — even off-white!
Heck, with a white palette, you can change your mind about paint color on a whim. Those all-white basics will make any hue you choose look fresh and contemporary.

#2: Hardwood for Flooring

It’s been our foot fetish for years. That’s especially true ever since hardwood flooring was mass-produced during the Industrial Revolution, making beautiful flooring readily available at a reasonable cost.

Today, more than half of home buyers who purchased a home without hardwood floors say they would have paid an extra $2,080 for them, according to the 2013 Home Features Survey from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. And among buyers of any age, upwards of 80% say hardwood floors are “somewhat” or “very important.”

“It’s the one feature men and women agree on,” says Debe Robinson, NKBA treasurer and owner of Kitchen Expressions Inc. in Sheffield, Ala., who’s also worked in the flooring industry.

Why? The love of wood is in our genes. Our nesting instincts know that hardwood has warmth, personality, and makes our homes cozy and inviting. That’s why this clever chameleon pairs well with any kitchen style — from casual cottage and sleek contemporary to the most chi-chi Park Avenue traditional.

More reasons why wood flooring is the goof-proof option:
  • Perfect for open floor plans. It flows beautifully from the kitchen into adjoining rooms.
  • It’s tough. Hardwoods such as oak, ash, and maple will shrug off your kitchen’s high-traffic punishment for years. Solid hardwood flooring can be refinished 10 to 12 times during it’s typical 100-year lifespan.
·         It’s eco-friendly. Hardwood is considered a green building material when it’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and comes from sustainably managed forests.

#3: Shaker Style for Cabinets

Thank heaven for the Shakers. While they were busy reducing life to its essentials, they made cabinets with clean, simple lines that will forever be in style.

Shaker cabinets are an enduring legacy of American style and, like wood flooring, have the knack for looking good in any setting. Their simple frame-and-panel design helps reduce the amount of busyness in a kitchen, making it a soothing, friendly place to be.

“In a kitchen with a timeless look, you want the cabinets to be part of the backdrop,” says Alan Zielinski, a former president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. “You don’t want to be overpowered. You’re looking for plain, simple, clean lines.”

Those plain, simple, clean lines are a perfect fit for transitional style — a beautiful combo of traditional and contemporary styles. In fact, the National Kitchen and Bath Association says that after creeping up on traditional for years, transitional is now the most popular kitchen style.

As our families grow more diverse, transitional style will only get more popular. It lets us personalize and blend cultural influences — Latin, Asian, Mideastern — into our homes; it’s the perfect balance of old and new, just like Shaker-style cabinets.

#4: Carrara Marble for Countertops

Carrara marble is a timeless classic that’s been used in homes for thousands of years. (Michelangelo’s “David” was carved from Carrara.) It’ll look as good in the next millennium as it does now.

Here’s why:
  • Carrara’s lacy graining and subtle white colors look terrific in a white kitchen (or any kitchen, for that matter).
  • It has a whiteness you won’t find in other natural stones.
  • It’s readily available, making it less expensive than other high-end choices, such as quartz.
  • It’ll last for generations.
If you Google it, you’ll find a lot of debate about it (and marble in general) because it stains easily. But if you want something truly timeless, Carrara is the answer. And with today’s sealants, the problem of staining is almost moot if you reseal once or twice a year.
  
Still not sold? Or don’t have the budget? Laminate countertops are relatively inexpensive and can be upgraded to stone when you do have the budget.


#5: Subway Tile for the Backsplash



Subway tile goes back to the early 1900s, when it was used to line New York’s first subway tunnels. Classic subway tiles are white, 3-inch-by-6-inch rectangles — a look that became popular in American kitchens and baths, and has stuck around ever since. Now it’s an iconic part of the American design vernacular, destined never to go out of style.

In the kitchen, ceramic tile excels as a backsplash, where it guards against moisture, is a snap to clean, lasts forever, and always looks classy.

Sure, a backsplash can be an opportunity for a blast of color and pattern, but neutrals will always be current and blend with any look. Plus, a subway tile backsplash and a marble countertop make a dashing couple that will stand the test of time.

To make it even more enduring, keep it achromatic and camouflage dirt with gray or beige grout.

#6: Ergonomic Design

Adaptability and universal design features mean easy living at any age. A recent survey on kitchens from the American Institute of Architects points to the growing popularity of smart ergonomic design, a sign that kitchen adaptability will stay in vogue.

Smart ergonomics simply mean convenience — for young or old, party people or homebodies — a key factor when remodeling a kitchen that will function well, retain its value, and always feel right.

No matter you or your buyer’s current or future needs, everyone wins with these approaches:
  • Create different countertop heights. Standard height is 36 inches, but you can raise or lower sections of cabinets by altering the height of the base. Add color-match shim strips to the bases of countertops that don’t include sinks or appliances. You (or a new owner) can easily remove them or add to them to adjust the height.
  • Swap a standard range for a wall oven and a cooktop. Ranges have fixed heights. There’s no getting around the fact you have to bend to access the oven. But a wall oven conveniently installs about waist-high.
  • Add pull-out shelves to base cabinets. Lower cabinets with doors mean having to twist like a pretzel to see what’s inside. Pull-out shelves put everything at your fingertips.
  • Keep wide clearances. Kitchens attract people, and with open floor plans, you’re apt to have folks hunting for snacks, helping you cook, or just hanging out while you prep meals. Keep traffic flowing with a minimum of 42 inches between counters and islands.

#7: Smart Storage

Today’s families store about 47% of their kitchen stuff outside the kitchen — in laundry rooms, basements, even sheds — according to data released at the 2013 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show.

We blame it on the fact that kitchens have evolved from a tucked-away place at the back of the house into a multiple-chef, multi-tasking space that’s the hub of family life. Plus, our love of open kitchens and stocking up at warehouse stores means less wall space and more stuff, kitchen design expert Robinson says.

The solution: smart storage. Cabinet manufacturers have you covered with nearly unlimited storage options — shelves and compartments that unfold, turn, extend, and slide.

But it’s not just about having storage, it’s about designing it smartly. Follow these guidelines to make your storage timeless:

Create a primary storage zone. This is an area 30 to 60 inches high and within two feet on either side of your body. Store your most-used items here — your favorite work knives, measuring cups, salt and pepper for cooking, your trusty pots and pans. With one easy motion, you can grab what you use all the time.

Plan for the unknown. A truly timeless kitchen anticipates and adapts to future needs, such as:
  • A space that can easily convert to an office, wine storage, or a closet.
  • Lower cabinet spaces that can accommodate a wine cooler, under-counter refrigerator, a second dishwasher, or new must-have kitchen appliances on the horizon. (Remember when microwaves didn’t exist?)
  • An open space that fits a freestanding desk or favorite antique that can personalize the kitchen — no matter who owns the home.
 I work hard to keep you informed about all the latest news, trends and happenings in home style, prices & sales in the Triangle NC area.  Thinkin of buying or selling a home?  Call me today for more information.  



Elizabeth Scott, Realtor®, Broker

Be Savvy...Call the Smart Realtor!


Diamond Award – High Sales Volume
e-PRO, Strategic Pricing Specialist

Fathom Realty NC, LLC        
Phone: 919.306.9699
EmailElizabeth@TheSmartRealEstateAgent.com







Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ten Things That Can Go Wrong During a Real Estate Transaction



Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let My Realtor Handle It!

Every day in real estate is a fresh, new day!  That's what I love about this business - no two transactions are ever the same!  Some go so smoothly, you arrive at the Closing table and can't believe that there hasn't been on bump in the road.  

Others...well, not so much!  That's when you will be glad you have an expert Real Estate Broker to help and guide you.

Here are 10 things that can go wrong during a real estate transaction.  I'll bet you can add to this list & I'd love to hear about your experiences.

10.  Buyer remorse - In an era of bidding wars, it's human nature to want to 'WIN!'  A few days after winning the bidding war, especially if buyers have gone significantly higher than list price, buyers tend to feel a little remorse.  Some, to the extreme, ultimately making the decision to terminate the Contract to purchase the home.

9. Unknown structural issues arise - One of the BEST ways to avoid this is to have a pre-inspection when you are listing your home.  This way, if there are structural issues, you have time to remedy them prior to the sale.  Buyers are typically terrified (albeit they don't always need to be terrified) of structural issues, which can cause a cancellation of the sale.

8. SURPRISE!  You've got SOMETHING (leaky pipes, unconnected ductwork, termites)! - This can also be a deal-killer and again, can be avoided with a pre-inspection.  Buyer is going to find it anyway, might as well be prepared and have an expert real estate agent there to help you negotiate.

7.  Buyer has been pre-approved - but, wait!  Buyer has NO CREDIT! - Yes, this can happen.   The lender issued a pre-approval letter based on income only.  The buyer had NEVER had a car loan, credit card or student loan and therefore, when the documents got to the underwriter, the file was rejected!  Of course, the deal fell through but, the seller was able to quickly take the back-up buyer and seal the deal!

6. WAIT!  You can't take it with you!  – Have an expert real estate agent  review the Offer to Purchase in NC and the FIXTURES section.  On occasion, a Seller will remove an item deemed a permanent fixture and the Buyer is NOT happy about it!  Or, a buyer expects an item of personal property to be included and they didn't request it in the offer.  Be sure you know what a permanent fixture is and what it isn't. 

5. Sellers failed to properly complete repairs - As a Seller, your best best is to hire a contractor to make all of the repairs.  Be certain that this contractor offers a warranty as well.  Having someone handle all repairs also makes your life easier - after all, you are packing to move and this is a very busy time for you.  You honestly don't need to be running to Lowe's to buy caulking or plumbing items - just let someone else handle that work for you.  This way, if it is not done properly, the responsibility falls on the contractor to come back and make it right.  Or, as in the case of one of my buyers, seller had to pony up money at closing because carpets were not cleaned as they had agreed (even though they had an "invoice" stating it had been done).

4.  Lender drops the ball - One reason to be SURE to use your Realtor® recommendations when it comes to lenders.  Just as all real estate agents are not created equally, nor are lenders!  We recently had to pull a loan from a lender who had put the Buyers' file on the back burner and truly FORGOTTEN about the file!  Thankfully we realized this (yes, the Seller side realized it first!) in time to have the new lender meet the Closing deadline.  We (the Sellers) demanded that the Buyers utilize one of our preferred lenders who got the job done in 10 days...appraisal and all!

3.  Faulty appraisal - This happens for a variety of reasons but, the top two reasons are that the appraisers have difficulty showing appreciation within a community whereas it's easy to show depreciation.  The second reason this occurs is appraisal management companies send appraisers from out-reaching areas and they are not familiar with the comparable properties enough to generate an accurate appraisal.  

2.  Buyer goes shopping for big ticket item(s) like cars, furniture, Alaska cruise, etc.  - This doesn't fly with lenders if your debt-to-income ratios are tight.  It's best not to make ANY purchases with credit or your savings until AFTER the Closing.  This way, you aren't in jeopardy of losing your new home and all of the money that you've spent in preparation of being the new homeowner (inspection costs, due diligence fees, earnest money deposit, appraisal costs, Title search costs, etc.)

1.  The SELLER decides not to SELL! - Yes, I've had a BUYER change their minds before closing but, never a Seller!  I've heard of a Buyer who had worked through inspections, appraisal and was headed to Closing, only to receive the call, "I'm so sorry but, the Seller has changed their mind - they're not going to be selling their home!"  This can be a very costly mistake as buyers have the right to recoup damages, including but not limited to, any and all costs associated with their home purchase.  If you're thinking of selling your home, be 100% sure that you are prepared to go through with the sale before you list your home for sale!

Thinking of listing your Apex, Cary, Raleigh or other Triangle home?  Give me a call or text at (919-306-9699 or email Elizabeth@TheSmartRealEstateAgent.com for more information on how to have a relaxing & successful home sale.


BE SAVVY...CALL THE SMART REALTOR!

Elizabeth Scott, Realtor®, Broker
Diamond Award – High Sales Volume
e-PRO, Strategic Pricing Specialist
Fathom Realty NC, LLC        
Phone: 919.306.9699
http://www.thesmartrealestateagent.com/contact/
Email:  Elizabeth@TheSmartRealEstateAgent.com