A Home Is Where the Heart Is

A Home Is Where the Heart Is
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Monday, August 9, 2010

8 Camera Tips to Capture a Room's Size

Make sure every square foot counts when photographing interiors. Try these tips to expand the space.
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey

August 2010
Buyers love spacious homes. They also love to look at online property photos. But it’s not always easy to squeeze square footage into a camera shot—and sometimes furniture arrangements or floor coverings actually do a disservice to the way your listing is presented online or in marketing photos, says Debra Gould, president of home staging company Six Elements Inc. in Toronto and creator of the Staging Diva training program.
She offers these tips for making sure that every room of your listing looks as large in photos as it does in real life.
1. Remove area rugs. Rugs break up the expanse of the floor and can make rooms look smaller. Keep the floor as clear as possible.

2. Use a wide-angle camera. A camera with a wide-angle lens (28 millimeters or less on a DSLR, or the equivalent on a point-and-shoot) is best for interior shots because it magnifies the distance between objects and showcases a room’s depth, Gould says. But beware of fisheye lenses or ultra wide-angle lenses, which tend to make rooms look wider but can mislead buyers into thinking there’s more space than there is.

3. Get creative with furniture. Make sure that furniture doesn’t block views or walkways so you reveal as much of the floor as possible. If there’s too much furniture packed into a room or the furniture is too large, it can also work against you in photos. In a crowded room, try removing a few pieces of furniture or swapping in a smaller piece. In a kitchen or dining room, it might look better if you remove that extra leaf from the table. Try using furniture to create new spaces in large rooms and really show off that square footage. For example, Gould added a reading corner in a master bedroom to show that more than just a bed could fit.

4. Fill up an empty space. Buyers have trouble imagining how their stuff will fit into an empty room; the space can seem smaller than it really is. If possible, bring in furniture for staging. "If the rooms are furnished, they look larger and much more inviting," Gould says.

5. Use mirrors to your advantage. A reflection in a mirror can reveal more of a room when you can’t squeeze everything into your photo. This can be a great technique particularly when photographing bathrooms. Use the reflection of the bathroom mirror to show the extras, such as that soaker tub. Just be sure to shoot photos at an angle so that you don’t capture your own reflection!

6. Lighten up. In photos, brighter rooms typically come across as more open and welcoming, whereas dark rooms can look small and dingy. Pay attention to the light sources in a room to get a better shot. Turn on all of the lights and open the curtains to let in natural light and expand the space. But don’t shoot directly into a light source; it’ll darken a room.

7. Shoot at an angle. The diagonal line is the longest visual line in a room. Try shooting from the corner; back up as far as you can before you shoot. But don’t limit yourself: Take shots from three or four different angles so that you have plenty of options, Gould recommends. Also, try getting low to the ground to show off the length of the room. Eye level doesn’t always work best to capture floor proportions.

8. Remove clutter. You’ve heard it before, but clutter makes a room look cramped and steals attention from a room’s intended focal points. Clear away paper stacks, crowded walls of artwork, cluttered countertops, magnets covering the refrigerator, and towels hanging from the stove.

Finally, do your best to ensure that any major changes you make to a room’s layout for the purpose of photos are kept in place for showings. "You’ll create a disconnect if the house looks great only in the online photos," Gould says. "If buyers feel let down, they’re not going to buy the house."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Kitchen Remodels on the Comeback Trail

By Jean Patteson

RISMEDIA, July 12, 2010--(MCT)--The explosion of remodeling shows on TV and makeover spreads in magazines has whetted America's appetite for glamorous rooms brimming with the latest furnishings, appliances and color schemes.

Kitchen remodels are among the most popular, according to a report in the just-published August issue of Consumer Reports and online at consumerreports.org. And the economic slowdown means there are outstanding deals on everything from cooktops to countertops. It also means kitchen designers and building contractors are eager for work and willing to negotiate.

But bargain prices and good looks aren't everything, said Celia Kupersmzid Lehrman, Consumer Reports' deputy home editor.

"When remodeling a kitchen, functionality is every bit as important as style. Fortunately there are many products that look good and work well," she said.

The design of your kitchen is every bit as important as what goes into it, said Jim Spence of Spence & Vaughn Fine Kitchen and Bath in Maitland, Fla.

The most functional design is based on the "work triangle" — the relationship between the prep area, the cooking area and the sink, he said. Ideally, the distance between them should never be less than four feet or more than nine feet. Of the three areas, the most-used is the sink.

When planning a remodel, determining your budget is one of the first steps. The National Kitchen & Bath Association calculates the average kitchen remodel costs between 10 percent and 20 percent of the home's value. But obviously, the extent of the makeover determines its cost. In its latest issue, Consumer Reports takes top-performing products and creates three design schemes: a do-it-yourself makeover for $5,000; a plan that costs $15,000 (the average spent on a kitchen remodel); and a full-scale renovation for $50,000.

Determining your priorities is another key step, said Phil Johnson, a partner at Spence & Vaughn and a certified kitchen designer.

"Do you love to cook? If so, now might be the time to consider professional-style appliances," he said. "Do you have a large family? Consider how best to accommodate them in your new space. Think about the things you love in your old kitchen — and the things you dislike."

In addition, Johnson recommends the following steps for a successful remodel:

—Do your homework. Watch TV remodeling programs, clip appealing pictures and articles from magazines, attend remodeling seminars, visit home shows and parades of homes. Consult with a kitchen designer who is a member of the NKBA, who has the training and experience to avoid many of the things that can go wrong with a remodeling project.

—Visit a showroom. Examine the options in cabinets, countertops, appliances, flooring, plumbing and lighting. Decide what you want — and can afford.

—Schedule a home visit. The designer/installer need to measure the kitchen and adjacent rooms, and make a note of existing walls, doors and windows, electrical supplies, ceiling height, attic access, type of wall construction, plumbing details, etc.

—Finalize the project. The design is refined, construction plans are completed, appliances and supplies are ordered — and the initial deposit is paid.

—Survive the dust, noise and workers. With proper supervision, the disruption can be kept to a minimum. Make sure materials are ordered and on the way before beginning the tear-out. Clear a space in the garage for workers' tools and supplies and items removed from the old kitchen. And communicate regularly with the designer/installer.

The August issue of Consumer Reports identifies these four rules for a successful kitchen remodel:

Don't rush. There are many kitchen products that combine value, performance and good looks. Take time to meet with professionals, browse the Internet and visit showrooms and home centers. Haste can be costly. Changing your mind after the project is started typically adds about $1,500 to the cost of a kitchen project.

Size matters. In addition to being expensive, oversized kitchens can be exhausting to work in and keep tidy. A more compact kitchen often functions better. The National Kitchen & Bath Association website, nkba.org, provides guidelines for optimal space between appliances, cabinets and islands.

Beware of budget busters. Leave a 10 percent to 15 percent cushion for surprises, such as unexpected structural repairs. Avoid settling for a cheap option, thinking someday you will replace it with something you really want. Chances are that will never happen.

Get it in writing. When using a professional for a remodel, the written contract should list each phase of the project; every product, including the model number; and copies of each contractor's license, and workers compensation and liability insurance to confirm they are current. Call references and, if possible, visit them.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Home Prices Rise for First Time in 7 Months

TUESDAY, June 29, 2010

Case-Shiller home price index posted a 0.8 percent gain for April

Due to government tax credits, home prices in April rose for the first time in seven months. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index released Tuesday posted an 0.8 percent gain. Eighteen of 20 cities showed price increases in April from March. Dallas showed a 2% + increase.  Eleven cities reversed declines from the month before.

Only Miami and New York recorded price declines. New York hit a new low for the index.

Nationally, prices have risen 3.8 percent from their April 2009 bottom. But they remain 30 percent below their July 2006 peak.

My Response

Due to the tax credit expiration, housing sales are expected to decline. As a listing agent, since the tax credit expired, I have personally experienced showings slowing down, with an occasional spike over the weekends. However, to encourage anyone with a house on the market, if priced right, a home will sell. In spite of predictions, Open House events, for sale signs, buyers and sellers, and hardworking real estate agents, will continue exist. 

See original article Published by Associated Press

Teresa Noland
The real estate professionals you can rely on.
I guarantee it!

OPEN HOUSE!!!  Friday  July 2, 2010  1pm-4pm  1377 War Admiral, Winners Circle Gated Community, Terrell, TX

Friday, June 11, 2010

Texas Home Loan Programs

 The  home buyer tax credit has come and gone, leaving many potential home buyers feeling as though they missed the boat, while sellers, still counting the number of days on the market without an acceptable offer, are left with the same feelings and sentiments, wondering, "What next?"

 Sounds just like the news when you turn it on doesn't it? 

 Don't sweat it!  I know that our summers are hot and you can't get around cutting a sweat here, but, what I mean is, in regard to the housing market, we can all wipe our brows. There is no doom and gloom in the Lone Star State.

 Ahead of the game, when the hustle and bustle to buy was taking place, the State of Texas, in order to counter the approaching tax credit deadline and a fast moving housing market from coming to a near and screeching halt, remained focused on a healthy housing market and was busy putting in place plans for Texas Home Buyers Programs.

 The programs, now in place with reserved funds, for first come-first serve, qualified buyers, will continue until the well runs dry. For the credit worthy want to be homeowners, who may have passed on the tax credit, simply due to the lack of funds for a down payment or for closing costs, these programs are a real home run, providing necessary financial provisions, from down payment assistance to below market interest rates.

 A searchable database of homebuyer-assistance programs, created by the Texas Association of REALTORS®, can be found at the Texas Home Programs site.  At this site, buyers can enter basic household and income information to see if down payment assistance, below-market interest rates, or other programs are available to them. 

 With the Texas summer upon us and the rush to buy before school starts and the Texas Home Programs added into the equation, the future is bright for those trying to sell.  For home buyers, the dream of owning a home can become a reality. 

 Living in the Lone Star State is great! Chins up and a thumbs up for Texas!

Teresa Noland
The real estate professionals you can rely on.  I guarantee it!
Keller Williams Realty

Monday, May 31, 2010

How to Lure Buyers Past the Front Door: Aim for the Heart

I've always said to my clients who are selling that we have to get buyers through the front door. Just getting buyers to the door, is indeed, the real issue. In fact, you have to get buyers out of the car, past the curb, to the front porch and then to the front door. This is why curb appeal is so important. Landscaping, a clean and staged front porch and the condition of a front door, will always determine a buyer's first impression and first emotional experience. And, the first emotional experience will determine if they even open the car door.

When viewing homes, all buyers have emotional experiences and first impressions determine the start of that emotional experience.  If you have your home on the market, put yourself in the buyer's shoes and in their car.  If the front yard is full of weeds and the front porch is concealed with plant overgrowth, while the front door appears weathered, with chipping paint, would you get out of the car or, like most buyers, would you say, "Pass."?  Unless you're an investor, looking for a good flip, a house like I just described, will create a sad and negative emotion, causing you to step on the gas and move on to the next house.

So, how do you "WOW!" that potential buyer and call out that positive, "In love", "This is it!"emotion?  Well, if that old saying, "A home is where the heart is", is true, then aim for the heart. Here's how you can do that.

The Lawn

Unless it's winter, when the grass is dry and without color, the lawn is where you want to start. Keeping the lawn trimmed and edged is extremely important. This may require getting the mower and edger out, two to three times a week. Also, a lawn that is green is a pleasurable scene. With this in mind, as soon as the season allows, be sure to fertilize the lawn. To maintain a green lawn, if Mother Nature isn't doing her job and if water restrictions allow, be sure to give the lawn a good watering, two to three times a week. Then, get out the weed killer and get into terminator mode. Weeds are a lawn's worst enemy and if not tended to early on, they will take over a lawn. If you don't have the time for this or have physical limitations that prevent you from doing it yourself, consider paying a lawn service.

Lawn care companies can be very costly, especially when used throughout the season. Still, there are alternatives.  Many firemen, because of their work schedule, have side jobs and offer services, such as lawn care, at very fair price. You will usually fine them advertising on cork boards, in various businesses or in the newspaper. If you can't find them there, drop in at the local station.  There are also teenagers, looking for ways to make some money. If there aren't any interested teens on your block, consider inquiring with the youth pastor of your local church. Church youth groups are most always working to raise funds for mission trips, camp, etc.. Teenagers may require some supervision but, with some positive coaching, direction, and redirection, they can do the job and for a lot less than a lawn care company. Personally, I prefer the alternatives. For one, my money is applied to a good cause or with the fireman, I'm giving a business opportunity to express my appreciation.

Trees and Shrubs

Trees and shrubs are great for enhancing the exterior appearance of a home. If you don't have any, plant some. Without them, the landscape of a home is left bare. However, if not trimmed and kept up with, trees and shrubs can turn into yard monsters. Yard monsters are trees, vines, and shrubs that give a haunting or scary appearance, like the houses in the television series "The Adams Family" and "The Munsters". They are dead trees or trees with dead branches or branches that are too close to a roof, threatening to cause damage. They are shrubs that have monster like shapes or that climb up the brick, hiding a home and appearing as though they are holding it hostage. Vines and Rose bushes, included. When it gets like this, it's time to get out the trimmers, start trimming and set that house free!

Be sure to proceed with caution. The last thing you want is to have a limb fall on yours or your neighbor's house, wreaking damage or causing personal injury. The task may very well require a bonded and insured tree trimmer.


Flower beds should give a home color and texture. When designing a flowerbed, choose plants that are indigenous. A variety of plants, flowers and ground covering, when bedded together, will result in a splash of color with varying height and texture. Adding a colored mulch will always complete the look and make any garden stand out. However, keep in mind the maintenance. If  limited in time or have physical limitations, your best bet is to stick with low maintenance greenery or a rock garden with colored mulch and various decorative types of grass. What ever the choice, be sure to keep it trimmed up and free of weeds.

Walkway to the Door

When was the last time you approached your home the same way visitor's do. With attached garages, most people enter their homes through the garage door. If this is your case, take the time to walk up to your front door the very way a potential buyer would. Whether the walkway is made of cement, paved stone, etc.., be sure to look for cracks or areas that aren't level.  Besides the poor cosmetic appearance, a walkway with cracks and protruding cement or stones, can be dangerous and a liability. Again, put yourself in the buyer's shoes. If you were to trip and fall, ending up with an injury, where would you be going? Into the house, to complete the showing, or back to the car, so you can head to the hospital for aid?  So, not only does it take away from your home's appearance, it also becomes a liability.  Address the problem, as well as you possibly can and do it right. Potential buyers can always spot when a problem area has been addressed with a simple band-aid. And, daily, make sure the walkway is clear of toys, bikes or any lawn equipment, obstructing the way.

Front Porch

Like back yard patios, today, front porches are looked at as outdoor living space. If you have the space, stage it appropriately. Just don't over do it. A crowded front porch is a huge distraction. Many people love yard art and other decorative outdoor items. Remove your signature  and taste from the house so that it has a better chance of catering to everyone versus a few. Be sure to pick up water hoses and any lawn equipment. Potted plants and hanging baskets are great for staging a front porch. If your have them, be sure to keep them maintained. A dead plant = a negative and sad emotion from a potential buyer. It, along with many other things, may communicate that the homeowner has just stopped caring.  

Since the front porch is exposed to the elements, examine everything, such as, the porch posts, rails and door mats. Especially examine any seating, such as a porch swing or rocking chair. If something is weather worn it's better off removed. In regard to anything hanging, make sure it's secured. Anything made of wood, check for wood rot. Again, consider your liability. The most dreaded showing feedback you can get is that that porch swing came loose, with the buyer in it.  As a Realtor, I can't tell you how often I've seen buyers take advantage of a place to sit and rest, while giving a particular home some serious thought.

The Front Door

So, you've done such a great job with the lawn. The trees and shrubs are trimmed, the front porch looks like the ideal place to sit down and relax, with a glass of ice tea in hand. Coming from the buyer's view, in the car, everything looks great! The buyer gets out of the car and slowly walks up to the house, admiring the manicured lawn and flowerbeds. Then, they get to the door. You got them this far. Now, what does the front door say to them?  Does it say, "Welcome and please come in."?  Better yet, will they be able to get in? 

As I said earlier, most people enter their home through the garage and because of this, they have no idea how well the key and locks are working.  A door knob that hardly gets used can at times refuse to cooperate with the key. Before you hand over the keys to your listing agent, test your key and door hardware. If it's a hassle to work with, try spraying some WD-40, into the key hole.  If this doesn't work, replace the hardware. As a Realtor, a lock that does not work can be very frustrating. In fact, I've been in situations in which I couldn't get it to work at all, and sadly had to turn to my buyers and say, "Sorry, we can't get in."

While taking the time to address the front door hardware, take a look at the door. Is it calling out for a new look? Or, is it hurting because it's chipping away?  You may be able to get by with a new coat of paint. If the door is outdated, consider replacing it. Every front door makes a statement. A statement of pride and prestige, or a statement that says, "better days have come and gone."  What does your front door say?

Perhaps a new coat of paint will do the trick. When choosing a paint color, choose a color that will pop and stand out and at the same time blend and mesh with the brick or the trim on the house.

If a new coat of paint isn't going to cut it and you choose to replace the front door, take a picture of your home (front elevation) and an additional photo of the exterior side of the door, making sure you zoom in on the location of the door knob. When you go to make the purchase, take the photos with you. You will find them to be very helpful when deciding on what style of door to purchase. The photos will also help determine if replacing the door will require a left hand or right hand door. Determining if a door is left hand or right hand, can be confusing. Instead of trying to make the decision on your own, leave out the guess work and show the photo to an associate at Lowes or Home Depot.

Now, after having read all the above, you're probably thinking, "This requires too much money."  That couldn't be further from the truth. If you take the time and money to make these improvements and if your asking price is in line with the neighborhood and the interior of the home is up to par, you can expect showings to increase. In fact, your chances of getting your asking price are greater. Failure to make improvements can result in getting no offers and the longer you stay in your holding period, the more house payments you will have made and the prorated amount of property tax gets higher ,every day you fail to get a buyer. Just as well, homes that appear distressed on the outside tend to attract offers from investors or very low offers from potential buyers.

Do you want a "This is it!", reaction?  Then remember, a home is where the heart is.  Aim for the heart.

Teresa Noland
REPRO TEAM..The real estate professionals you can rely on. I guarantee it!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Foreclosure Help

Need Foreclosure Help?

Article From Houselogic.com

By: Lara Edge


Behind on your mortgage payments? Worried the bank is going to take your home? HouseLogic can help you navigate the options and be proactive about solutions.

blah blah blah


Once you miss at least one mortgage payment, the steps leading up to an actual foreclosure sale can include demand letters, notices of default, a recorded notice of foreclosure, publication of the debt, and the scheduling of a foreclosure auction. Here's what to do and what to expect:(http://www.houselogic.com/articles/facing-foreclosure-what-do-right-now/)


Lenders are notorious for refusing to take calls from homeowners behind on their mortgage. But there are ways to get through and work with them. Here's how.(http://www.houselogic.com/admin/editorial_content/content/add/Dial the number on your mortgage statement, and ask for the Loss Mitigation Department. You might stay on hold for a while, but don't hang up. Once you do get someone on the line, take notes and record names.)

Reprinted from HouseLogic (houselogic.com) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (R).
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

If  you are in need of immediate assistance, I would be happy to help you. We all go through difficult seasons in our lives. I promise not to judge you. I promise to listen.I promise to keep the details confidential.  I promise to do everything I possibly can to help you. I promise!
Contact me now. I really can help.
Teresa Noland
RE-PROs Team
Keller Williams Realty

Monday, May 24, 2010

Choosing A REALTOR®

It amazes me when I get a random call, from a sign in the yard, and I ask the question,"Are you currently working with a Realtor?"  Some reply, "Yes.", but most often the response I hear is, "No. We're just driving around."  Driving around?  What they really mean to say is, "We've been on line looking at houses. We want to buy a house and we're checking out the neighborhood. We're just not sure if we need a realtor. We think we can do this on our own. Besides, we don't want to feel pressured."

Some homeowners attempt to buy their home themselves, only to be disappointed with the end result. Buying your own home requires you to educate yourself about the industry, the type of market you’re hoping to live in, and negotiating and buying techniques to name a few. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the hours of time and energy you will spend throughout the home buying process. If that isn’t enough, consider the paperwork and legal forms you are responsible for filling out.

An experienced REALTOR® will know the required contracts, forms, and disclosure statements necessary for each sales transaction inside and out. Each legal document must be completed properly. REALTORS® also have access to forms not available to others. If you make a mistake at some point in the real estate transaction, you may find yourself unable to close the deal.

The Teresa Noland REPRO Team will work hard to find just the right home to fit your needs. We will assess your dream home's actual market value as compared to the listing price and negotiate with the homeowners’ selling agent on your behalf.  All to ensure you get the best house for the best price possible. Ultimately choosing The Simmons & Noland Team is the most important step in guaranteeing your home buying experience is successful. It's time to stop driving around. Give us a call.

Teresa Noland