Friday, May 31, 2013

Q: We’ve seen several places with you and we’re getting excited about finding a home on Vashon. I have a question about this business of staging.

My wife says not to bother asking you about it but I just don’t get it.  Some of these places, especially the vacant ones, look weird with phony fruit in a bowl and the table all set like someone lived there.  What’s the point?
A:  Staging a home for sale is a fairly recent phenomenon in our local market.  Real estate professionals in cities have been doing it a lot longer.  There are several types of staging.  One is to make the house looked lived in when it’s really vacant.  It makes the place look warmer and more inviting and allows potential buyers to imagine their own furnishings in each room.  The best of these make the home look as if the sellers are still there, but just very tidy.

Another form of staging is working with a home when the family really is still living there.  The listing agent helps them decide how to de-clutter their home and remove distracting items.  They may suggest adding some bright new color or rearranging furniture to have the place look larger and roomier.  This is actually the hardest form of staging since the sellers have to be convinced to change the way they have been living in the house.

Another type of staging is sort of suggesting the uses for the rooms.  This could be a child’s chair and teddy bear against the wall of a small bedroom to suggest a child’s room.  It could mean a single, nice piece of furniture in the living room or a TV and chairs in a family room.  You’d be surprised how many buyers aren’t sure of the use of some rooms.

I think the wax fruit and the wine glasses set up in the dining room is going a bit overboard.  It doesn't fool anyone and often makes potential buyers laugh.  But well staged homes do show better and sell faster.  You can't argue with that.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Q: I know we have rats here in the Northwest and most homes have at least a few, especially under the house.

We’ve been keeping them down with rat poison in those little containers so that our dog can’t get at it.  Now our neighbor is claiming we poisoned her cat because he ate one of the dying rats.  I know this isn’t exactly real estate related but since you sold us our house I thought I’d find out what you think.
A: It’s very possible that the neighbor’s cat died from eating a rat that was dying from poisoning.  Poison is not a humane way to kill rats in the first place.  They die a slow and painful death.  As they become disabled from the poison and unable to move fast, they become an easy target for dogs, cats, eagles, owls, hawks and other raptors.  The poison is ingested by the predator animal and can sicken or even kill them.
   I recommend traps.  This is more humane and the rat’s not walking around for days as it is dying or crawling into your walls or under you house to die.  If you’ve had that happen you know the smell will drive you out of your home.

   There are many kinds of traps.  The old fashioned metal traps work fine but can kill squirrels, chipmunks and harm curious dogs.  Try the newer heavy plastic traps that are easier to handle and not as attractive to other animals.  Even better are those traps that electrocute the rodents.  They are fast, humane and effective.
   The best way to take care of this problem is to stop attracting rodents in the first place.  Don’t leave pet food or garbage out where it attracts them and be sure your basement or crawl space has no small holes where rats can enter. All of that also protects you against raccoons and other animals that are out looking for a handout or a comfy place to have babies.

   NOTE: This isn’t a fun topic but it’s one that people keep asking about over and over again. 

Friday, May 03, 2013

Q: We were very disappointed that the sellers refused to repair everything on our repair list after we did the home inspection.

There were a lot of things wrong and we don’t want to have to move in just to do a bunch of repairs before we can be comfortable in our home.

A: I think you’re making the same mistake many buyers do when it comes to the home inspection. The inspection is, in my opinion, good for three specific things. First, is to find out if there is something seriously in need of replacement or repair that should be done before you buy the house. This would include things like major plumbing leaks, dangerous wiring, leaking roof or major structural problems. These can be a "deal killer" and if they’re not dealt with by the seller you might not want to buy the home.
The second reason for the inspection is to get acquainted with the house. Things like: where is the water shut off, how does the dishwasher work, or how often should you change the filter in the furnace? It’s an opportunity to measure rooms for your furniture, visualize different room colors you might prefer, and understand how all of the various systems of the home work.
The third thing is to complete a list of maintenance items that you might need to deal with on a regular basis. A common one in our region is cleaning gutters. They need cleaning several times a year. If the gutters are full of leaves when you buy it, that’s just a routine maintenance issue, not a serious defect of the house. If the decks and porches are in relatively good shape but could use a new coat of stain, that’s routine maintenance, not a "problem" that you have to have the sellers fix.
I’m not trying to discourage you from asking that the sellers fix something that’s really wrong with the house; I’m just suggesting that minor deferred maintenance issues, things that you’ll have to do while you live in the house anyway, are not worth fighting over.