Category Archives: Home Builders

9 Listing Photo Do's and Don'ts

Your bags are packed, you’re ready to move and the last thing you want to do is follow your agent’s advice about putting time and money into your listing photos. But if you don’t, your photos could prevent the home from selling quickly.

Consider these nine do’s and don’ts to help your listing attract the attention it deserves.

1. Do: Take a shot from the curb.

Keep your home’s curb appeal top of mind. Buyers often decide in a matter of minutes (or seconds) whether they want to keep looking or move on to another listing.

Make sure you get the whole house in the shot, and don’t let cars or other objects block your line of sight.

Don’t: Create a landslide.

When taking a shot from the curb, be mindful of your camera’s angle. The roofline should be parallel with the photo’s frame to make it look level – not like there’s a landslide on the property.

2. Do: Welcome visitors.

An attractive front door and entryway go a long way in setting the tone for the rest of your home. Leaving the door open in one of your photos can also send a welcoming message.

Don’t: Threaten visitors.

Remove any threatening signs or barriers on the property before taking photos. The goal is to create a feeling of warmth with your listing photos – not scare onlookers away.

3. Do: Consider a bird’s-eye view.

Taking a photo from above is a great way to show off a large property or a waterfront location. Crop the photo close enough so the home is visible without having to draw an arrow or a box around it.

Don’t: Consider a fisheye lens.

Some folks use a fisheye lens to make smaller spaces appear larger. However, it often has the opposite effect, making the space feel smaller and distorted.

As a general rule of thumb, stick with a traditional lens for listing photos, and make small spaces appear bigger with design tricks.

4. Do: Capture your home’s selling points.

You may think it’s best to skip the bathroom when taking listing photos, but if yours was recently updated, show it off! Bathrooms are among the first spaces to be upgraded in newly owned homes, and research shows that blue bathrooms sell for more than expected.

Don’t: Capture yourself in the mirror.

While a vanity can be a selling point, you want buyers to picture themselves in the mirror – not you. Stay out of your listing photos by avoiding angles where you or your camera’s flash may be reflected.

5. Do: Stage each room.

The goal is to put your home’s best foot forward. That means staging each room to sell shoppers on the lifestyle your home offers. Create cozy vignettes in each photo so it’s easier for shoppers to envision themselves living there.

Don’t: Stage a mess.

If there’s one absolute “don’t” for listing photos, it’s capturing a mess. Tidy up each room before taking any photos so your home looks its best.

6. Do: Play up the season.

Even if your home has been on the market for a while, it will feel up-to-date if the photos reflect the season. If it’s summer, take a sunny photo of the backyard. If it’s winter, create a cozy feel with a fire and a warm blanket.

Don’t: Play up your holiday decor.

Over-the-top holiday decor can be a turnoff, especially if buyers don’t celebrate that holiday. Instead, consider ways to decorate for the season as a whole and take photos of rooms without themed decor.

7. Do: Show off the view.

If the view is one of your home’s selling points, you’ll definitely want to show it off. It’s best if you can capture it with a part of the house in the shot, like the deck or porch. That way, buyers can picture themselves there.

Don’t: Show off your pets.

Focus on the parts of your home that will be there when a buyer moves in. Unfortunately, your pets don’t fall into that category, as cute as they are!

8. Do: Show off architectural details.

Archways, beams and other architectural quirks may be hard to photograph, but they give your home character. Try to capture a few of the architectural details if you can.

Don’t: Show off architectural blunders.

Every home has its blemishes, but that doesn’t mean you have to capture them all in the photos. The listing is the time to put your best foot forward – the open house and inspection are when the buyer can take note of the imperfections.

You may also want to consider making a few small improvements, like updating the bathroom, before listing your home.

9. Do: Take a night shot with the lights on.

While it’s easy to assume daytime shots are ideal, a nighttime exterior shot can create the right amount of contrast to make your photos stand out. The key is to leave your home’s interior and exterior lights on while you take the photo.

Don’t: Capture a dark room.

When it comes to interior photos, you want all the light you can get. Use lamps and daytime window light to make your photos as bright as possible while still looking natural.


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Can't Buy a House With Cash? You Can Still Land the Home

All-cash buyers are active in many markets, and they can strike fear in new home buyers. The cash buyer can perform and close quickly and provide sellers with a sense of comfort.

But, does this mean a solid buyer putting down 20 percent or more shouldn’t attempt to compete with the cash buyer? Absolutely not.

What if you can’t buy a house with cash?

The truth is, a buyer getting a mortgage can still compete against a cash buyer and win.

These are the questions that can make the difference:

  • Do you have a 20-percent down payment?
  • Are you well employed?
  • Do you have cash reserves in addition to your down payment?
  • Do you have very little debt?
  • Do you have good credit?

If you answered yes to most or all of these questions, your purchase should be as bulletproof as a cash buyer’s.

Paying cash for a house doesn’t guarantee a buyer will win over the seller. Well-qualified buyers who put in a little extra effort can seal the deal.

How can you compete against a cash buyer?

  • Be up front about your finances. Make your offer as strong as cash by providing the seller the confidence they need to accept your offer. In addition to a pre-approval letter from your lender, be open to allowing your agent or lender to provide financial information with your offer. Tell them what you make, and how much money you have in the bank. Show bank statements and even a copy of your credit report. Overload the seller to show them that you’re as solid as the cash buyer.
  • Ask your lender to get a head start on the mortgage. See if your mortgage professional can move the process along sooner. Send the lender a copy of the preliminary title report, if available. If you’re buying a condo, find out if a condo questionnaire is available and give it to your lender. If you take any of these steps, let the seller know. Of course, if you have not already, provide the necessary financial documentation to your lender right away.
  • Shorten the loan and appraisal contingencies. Ask your lender how quickly they can send an appraiser to the property, and how long the loan would take to turnaround. In some parts of the country, loans are being approved in less than 14 days – sometimes even 10.
  • Pre-order an appraisal. This may not be as easy with a bigger bank. But smaller banks, direct lenders or mortgage brokers can line up the appraisal in advance. At the time your offer is written, tell the seller the appraisal has already been ordered. If you can get the appraiser out within 24-48 hours of coming to terms with the seller, it’s half the battle.
  • Inspect quickly. Along with the quick appraisal and loan contingencies, get your inspector in and out. Shelling out a few hundred dollars and getting the inspections done within days of having your offer accepted shows the seller you mean business. It also gives them comfort that they’ll get over the biggest hurdle quickly.
  • Overpay. Cash buyers nearly always expect a discount from the seller simply because they’re offering cash and are a sure thing. As a result, the cash buyer will often make a lower offer. To increase your chances, top the cash offer, even if means paying a little more than you think the home is worth. If a seller is faced with a few thousand dollars’ difference, the seller probably wouldn’t risk it. But what if your offer is five percent higher than the cash buyer’s? The seller, perhaps wanting the best of both worlds, may ask the cash buyer to raise his or her offer. Some cash buyers will offer more, but not always enough to match. If you plan to live in the house for many years and it’s the home of your dreams, paying a little more to get the deal might only translate into $20 per month over the course of a long-term mortgage.
  • Make yourself known to the seller. Some buyers write “love letters” to sellers, hoping to appeal to their personal side. Does this work? Sometimes! If you’re competing with a cash buyer, particularly an investor who plans to rent the home out, it can’t hurt to get a little personal. The seller almost always wants to know more about the potential buyer. Ask your agent to write a cover letter and an introduction. Let the seller know who you are, why you like the home and what your intentions are. It usually works.

Do the best you can and be realistic. Make sure your financial “‘house” is in order. Work with a good local real estate agent, and start working with a local mortgage professional well in advance. Structure your offer to show that you’re ready to roll.

For more home-buying tips, check out our Home Buyers Guide.


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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4 Things to Do Before Gutting a Home

Do you have a bit of a fixer-upper on your hands? Or maybe you’re just ready for a major change? Remodeling your home can be a lot of work, but the results, when done well, are well worth it.

Before you get too excited and start tearing down walls and ripping up the floors, read through this guide to keep yourself on track.

Check the space allocation

Having enough space, especially in bathrooms and kitchens, can make or break a home. You can install gorgeous flooring, countertops and fixtures, but if your knees touch the wall or the bathtub when you’re sitting on the toilet, the amenities won’t make up for it. And if you forget to take large kitchen appliances into consideration, you can end up with a cramped space that only looked great on paper.

Before you gut the house and start moving walls, take the time to triple check your measurements.

Draw out your space with accurate measurements of desired appliances included before you change a wall or buy a tub. Make sure there is enough room for doors to open and close with ease. Ideally, you should be able to open your cabinet door and your oven door at the same time.

Remember – it’s easier and less expensive to make changes before you buy new appliances or knock down a wall.

Inspect the structure and foundation

Before you start gutting a home, look for problems that may be hidden beneath the surface. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on new flooring, for example, only to have to rip it out to deal with structure or foundation problems.

Put simply, fixing structural problems is hard, expensive, and requires knowledge and experience that the average new flipper or homeowner doesn’t have. Attempting to minimize costs via DIY efforts can lead to mistakes that make the process even more expensive and difficult.

This step is particularly important if your home (whether it’s a new-to-you fixer-upper or a house you’ve owned for years) has recently gone through heavy rain or flooding, natural disasters, or pest problems.

Shop around for professionals

Don’t wait until you need a professional ASAP before shopping around – you’ll quickly find yourself at the mercy of whoever is available with marginally good reviews. Before you start your remodel, do your due diligence and find professionals who fit your budget and project needs. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.

It’s a good idea to find an electrician and plumber before you start your project. While you can probably learn how to handle small projects like installing an outlet, you’ll need help before your remodel is through. Unless you have a lot of experience, you shouldn’t tackle extensive electrical or plumbing fixes on your own.

A trusted home inspector is also a must-have. Here’s a tip: Find an inspector who is used to houses similar to yours in age, design and location. They’ll be familiar with common problems others may miss.

And don’t just read the report at the end. If possible, walk through the home with the inspector. You’ll learn more and have the opportunity to ask questions as they come up.

Know what sells houses in your area

If you’re remodeling your house in order to sell it, invest in changes that will help sell the house and increase the sale price. Don’t waste your money on updates that don’t give you a good return on your investment.

Do your research. Talk to real estate agents in the area or tour houses in your neighborhood that are for sale. Do buyers looking in the area prioritize large windows or large bathrooms? Do they buy based on roof condition or flooring? Once you identify the factors that help houses in the area sell, build your budget accordingly.

This doesn’t mean you can cut corners. Unless a buyer is looking to flip a home, they’ll expect the whole house to be up to a certain standard. However, if you have to pick between hardwood floors and top-of-the-line kitchen equipment, it’s good to know which one will be more likely to lead to a profitable sale.


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U.S. Homeowners Spend $15,000 in Hidden Costs to Sell a House

Selling a home not only takes time, but also costs money. To help with budgeting, Zillow and Thumbtack identified several common – but often overlooked – seller expenses.

From closing costs to home prep projects like carpet cleaning, U.S. homeowners can expect to spend more than $15,000 on these extra or hidden costs to sell the median home, according to Zillow and Thumbtack’s Hidden Costs of Selling Analysis.

Closing costs

The two largest closing costs are agent commissions and, in most states, sales or transfer taxes.

Nationally, sellers spend $12,532 for both closing costs on the median home. Sellers should also prepare for a variety of other smaller closing costs, including title insurance and escrow fees.

Home prep costs

Most sellers will complete at least one home improvement project before listing.

While some sellers prefer to complete these projects themselves, those who outsource can expect to spend more than $2,650 nationally to cover staging, carpet cleaning, interior painting, lawn care and house cleaning – five of the most popular seller home prep projects.

Location, location, location

As with all things real estate, these extra costs can vary significantly by region.

In San Francisco, homeowners can pay more than $55,000 on the median home to cover these combined closing costs and maintenance expenses – the highest among the markets analyzed.

Compare that to Cleveland, OH where home sellers pay just over $10,000 for the same costs.

Estimating profit

Even though selling a home costs money, most (73 percent) of sellers are still satisfied with the transaction, according to the Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends.

To estimate potential profit, sellers who have claimed their home on Zillow can use Zillow’s Sale Proceeds Calculator. It factors in the home’s sale price, mortgage balance and agent commissions, along with other common seller fees.

Curious how your metro stacks up for sellers? Here’s a breakdown of the metros analyzed in the report:

Looking for more information about selling your home? Check out our Sellers Guide.









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What is Tax Assessed Value, Tax Appraised Value, and Market Assessed Value?

Tax assessed value

This figure varies throughout the U.S. since it is determined by the taxing authority of the city, county, or state where you live. Sometimes it is the same as the market assessed value and other times counties will multiply the market value by an assessment ratio to get the tax assessed value, which is often lower than the market assessed value.

For example, suppose where you live, homes are assessed at 100 percent of market value. If you have a home that has a market value of $150,000, your home will be assessed at $150,000. However, if your taxing authority assesses homes at 70 percent of value, your $150,000 market value home will have a tax assessed value of $105,000.

Tax appraised value

This is the value of real or personal property based on the valuation established by a government tax assessor.

Market assessed value

This is the price the government tax assessor estimates the property would sell for on the open market as of the effective date for the assessed value for the year in question. The assessor’s market assessed value is based on actual historical sales of similar properties for a specified study period.
For example, a market assessed value with an effective date of January 1 may have been determined considering comparable sales during the previous 12 months ending September 30 of the previous year. Sales study periods vary by assessment jurisdiction. Because historical sales are used, assessed values are typically less than current market values.


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Real Estate Agent Commissions: How Much Should You Pay?

Fact: Real estate brokers’ commission rates are not regulated in any state and are ALWAYS 100% negotiable.

When you decide to sell your house, if you are like most people, you will want to hire – or at least consider hiring – a real estate agent to handle the process.

Surprisingly, many people think that real estate brokerage commission rates are “set” in their area and they have to pay a specific percentage of the sales price to the agent in order to get their services. This is absolutely not the case, and in fact, you can pay whatever you and the agent agree to.

What is a fair amount to pay for real estate commission?

“Fair” is whatever you and the agent decide is fair, and just as you are not under any obligation to pay more than you want to, the agent is not under any obligation to do business with you if they are not going to earn what they want.

You will probably find that most agents will want to get a commission rate somewhere between 4 percent and 7 percent, depending on your particular area. While you may think that this is too much, keep in mind the following:

  • The agent is not getting the entire amount. In fact, they get about 37.5 percent of the total, on average (this varies also by geographic area), because the buyer’s agent’s company usually gets half of the entire amount, and of the remaining half, the listing agent’s company gets about 25 percent of that or more.
  • If the sale goes smoothly (and real estate transactions rarely do), the agent may not put a huge amount of time and effort into the process, but if complications arise (there usually are some), the agent may put in a great deal of time and energy, including many evenings and weekends.
  • The agent has no guarantee they will get paid, and if you change your mind halfway through and decide not to sell, the agent may have invested a lot of time and energy for nothing.
  • The agent is most likely on straight commission and has to pay for all business costs (i.e., gas, cell phone, signs, insurance, etc.) out of their own pocket.
  • While it is understood the listing side pays for marketing the home and facilitating the showings and feedback process, the listing agent also plays an important role in keeping the buyer and seller at the negotiation table. For example: A buyer offered an initial price of $15,000 less than the list price. The seller countered at $4,000 under list, and the buyer responded that they had offered their top amount and there would be no counter. The seller was offended and the talks were off.  Two weeks later, the listing agent convinced the seller to counter again and invite the buyer to the table to see if the buyer would be willing to come up from his initial offer.  He did, and eventually, the deal was closed and everyone was happy. Ultimately, the listing agent recognized that some amount in between the offer and the counter was reasonable, and was successful in coaching the seller to see the benefit of dealing with this particular buyer.
  • You might consider an incentive-based compensation for the agent.

So, if your house is not going to sell for very much and/or is probably not going to be an “easy” sale for whatever reason (perhaps there are a lot of homes on the market and not selling quickly, or you are in the middle of a divorce and you know the agent is going to have to deal with a lot of tension and communication with multiple parties), when you do the calculations, you may find that the agent is actually doing a lot of work for very little compensation.

However, if your house is worth half a million dollars or more, and houses are flying off the market, then asking for a 1-percent or 2-percent reduction of the agent’s requested rate might be very fair for both of you.

How is the commission divided between the listing agent’s company and buyer’s agent’s company

Let’s say you agree to pay 6 percent to the agent you are going to hire. The assumption is that 3 percent of this amount is designated for the buyer’s agent’s company that brings the successful buyer to the table.

The question you should ask is, why do you have to pay 3 percent to the buyer’s agent’s company? Can’t the buyer pay that themselves? Then, you could just pay 3 percent or thereabouts to the listing agent and you would save yourself a lot of money, right?

Well, here’s how it works: Most buyers use a buyer’s agent to help them in the home buying process. They could pay their agent themselves, but then they would probably expect about the same amount they are paying to be discounted from the price of your home.

In other words, consumers understand that real estate commissions are built into the price of the home. Even though you as the seller are paying the entire commission, you are still probably going to net about the same as you would had you only paid the listing agent.

The problem in most states is that the contracts used are written by lawyers paid for by the real estate associations, therefore making it difficult to benefit from not having a licensed agent during a purchase.

Could you offer less than half of the total commission to the buyer’s agent?

How about this: Why not offer less than half (3 percent, in our example) to the buyer’s agent – say 2 percent, instead of the 3 percent? You absolutely could.

But, some people will tell you that if you offer less than the “going rate” to buyer’s agents, they won’t show your home. But in general, this isn’t true.

What buyer’s agents want more than anything is to find their buyer a home that they will like, get the sale done, make a reasonable commission, and move on to the next client. What matters most is whether the price of the home and its condition are favorable to buyers.

What about “discount” and flat fee MLS companies?

You could use a “discount” or flat fee MLS company instead of a “traditional” company (actually, since commissions are not regulated, there really is no such thing as a discount company).

But unless you are willing to do a lot of work yourself (being present at showings, inspections and/or other appointments), the extra that you pay the listing agent over the flat fee company may actually be worth it – and you may even net more money by having a dedicated agent to negotiate for you at all times.

Selling via flat fee MLS is growing rapidly in slower markets. Many resort to this alternative selling method as it is the most economical and flexible way to sell.

Recommendations for dealing with the real estate commission

  • If your home is not worth very much and/or it’s not in a great market for sellers, pay the “going rate” after shopping a few prominent real estate agents. You will need all the help you can get, and the agents are not actually going to be making a ton of money for the time they put in.
  • If your home is worth a lot and/or it’s in a hot seller’s market, tell the agent that you think it is fair to pay them slightly less of their side as well as slightly less of the buyer’s agent’s side. For example, instead of 3 percent to each side, pay 2.5 percent to each side.
  • Make sure the agent will do the following: Put your home in the local MLS; add as many high-quality photos as possible (make sure they choose the best looking photo for the “primary” MLS photo); put an attractive “For Sale” sign out front; put a continuous supply of flyers in a flyer box; put a lockbox on the door; offer whatever amount you have authorized them to offer to buyer’s agents in the MLS; and guide you well in preparing and staging your home.


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10 Ski Homes Under $1 Million

Is cross-country skiing calling your name? Are you mapping out black diamonds in Aspen or craving a steep downhill course at Winter Park? Whatever your ski style might be, here are 10 mountain homes on the market for less than $1 million.

Bonus: Some of them are ski in/ski out, so you can start the day from your own backyard. See you at the chairlift!

Stratton, VT

777 Stratton Arlington Rd
For sale: $199,000

Photo by Adam Granger.

Halfway between a couple of popular ski resorts, this Vermont getaway puts not one but two mountains within driving distance. Perched on two acres of land, this 3-bedroom home is near snowmobile and cross-country skiing trails. Plus, it’s in the heart of Green Mountain National Forest, offering access to snowshoeing, hiking trails and more.

View more homes in Stratton.

Windham, NY

25 Two Trees Ln
For sale: $895,000

Photo by Eric Lenseth.

There’s nothing quite like spending après ski cozied up next to a roaring fire. To indulge all those toasty post-ski dreams, this Windham, NY mountain home features two outdoor fire pits and a hot tub to keep guests warm after a long day on the slopes (plus an indoor fireplace for when the weather is frightful). The Windham Mountain ski resort is a short half-mile drive down the road, making the morning commute to the chairlift quick and easy.

Find more homes in Windham.

Snoqualmie, WA

11 Guye Peak Ln
For sale: $589,000

Photo by Robby and Rhonda Mullikin of Nikillum Images.

For fans of the Pacific Northwest, this 4-bedroom ski home provides the perfect escape from booming Seattle. The 2,230-square-foot getaway is roughly a 45-minute drive from the city and has stunning views of several mountains near Snoqualmie Pass. There’s an outdoor hot tub for unwinding under the stars, a mother-in-law suite to host guests in style and a local brewery within walking distance.

View more homes at Snoqualmie Pass.

Stowe, VT

216 Maple St
For sale: $975,000

Photo by Grant Wieler Photography.

Snow-covered trees set the backdrop for this historic brick home in Stowe, VT. A nature trail down the street means cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are practically at your doorstep. Much of the original home, built in 1860, is intact, from the wood-burning fireplace to the exposed natural-wood beams. Modern additions include a fully upgraded kitchen and an outdoor hot tub – the perfect place to unwind after a day of carving turns on the mountain.

See more homes in Stowe.

Steamboat Springs, CO

31215 Star Ridge Rd
For sale: $636,500

Photo by Chris McGaw.

Snowshoe right from the backyard of this Colorado home, which borders a national forest (read: endless miles to explore on skis or in a snowmobile). This 3-bedroom hilltop house has a classic wood-paneled exterior and views of the Rockies. Bonus: It’s just a quick 15-minute drive to the gondola at Steamboat Resort for the days when downhill is calling your name.

Explore more homes in Steamboat Springs.

Truckee, CA

10656 Jeffrey Way
For sale: $705,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

Craving Tahoe? Or a retreat to Reno? This California mountain house is just a short drive from both. Surrounded by gorgeous, stately trees, the home features a number of outdoor decks to take in the crisp mountain air. Plus, with three bedrooms and four bathrooms, there’s room for the whole family – or friends who want to spend the weekend.

Check out more homes in Truckee.

Big Sky, MT

679 Big Pine Dr
For sale: $719,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

Brand-new construction in Big Sky Country means moving into a home truly your own. This 2,184-square-foot house is a zippy four-minute walk to the heart of a growing downtown development, so you can get your skis tuned while enjoying a slice of pizza or a cup of coffee. Modern features and a cozy fireplace round out the details at this warm winter getaway.

Explore more homes in Big Sky.

Breckenridge, CO

5780 State Hwy #9
For sale: $605,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

Breckenridge, CO gets an average of 14 1/2 feet of snow each winter, but this traditional log home is easy to spot, with its bold red door and detached barn. Nestled on a wooded piece of land, the 4-bedroom house is just a few miles from downtown “Breck,” as the locals call it. An outdoor hot tub allows for unwinding under the stars after a long, taxing day of skiing the Rockies.

Find more homes in Breckenridge.

Stratton, VT

138B Sun Bowl Ridge Rd
For sale: $995,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

This bright 4-bedroom home hugs the ski slopes of the Stratton Mountain Resort in Vermont, which means first tracks could be yours all winter long. The 2,700-square-foot retreat also has a cozy fire pit for warming up after a long day in the snow, along with hot tubs nearby. Plus, there’s a private game room inside the house – perfect for when Mother Nature dumps a blizzard on your doorstep and you just want to watch it from the comfort of your own couch.

See more homes in Stratton.

Windham, NY

191 Mitchell Hollow Rd
For sale: $589,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

With views of Windham Mountain, this 3-bedroom ski retreat lands you not only within six miles of the mountain but also in a spot to stare at it every single morning. Some rooms boast warm, wood-paneled interiors, plus there’s a fireplace to rest your feet after a day of skiing in the Northeast. For outdoor gatherings on milder days, a fire pit is at the ready.

Check out more homes in Windham.

Top featured image from Zillow listing.


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What NOT to Do When Remodeling Bathrooms

While a bathroom might not be the first room a potential home buyer asks to see, it can make or break the sale.

Here are five common mistakes both rookie and seasoned flippers and homeowners make when renovating a bathroom.

Mistake 1: Ignoring proper spacing and layout

Bathrooms may seem straightforward, but a lack of spatial awareness in the renovation planning stages can lead to problems down the road.

Remember: Just because you can fit something into the bathroom design doesn’t mean it can function within that space. Always keep function in the forefront of your mind and in your design.

For example, if you choose a shower with a door, your bathroom layout should leave plenty of room for it to fully open. No potential home buyer will want to squeeze out of a partially opened shower door every morning. Other considerations include providing enough space to comfortably get on and off the toilet, open cabinet doors, etc.

Spatial considerations also include making sure elements of the room are close enough together to function. For example, the toilet paper holder should be within a child’s arm’s reach of the toilet, and outlets should be easily accessible from the counter.

Mistake 2: Choosing the wrong materials

Because of the sink, toilet and shower, bathrooms deal with more moisture than any other room in the house. Homeowners also use many of the strongest cleaning products on bathroom surfaces. Both of these factors, if not taken into consideration, can lead to significant damage if you don’t select the right materials for the job.

Go with materials that can stand up to harsh cleaners and are not highly susceptible to mold, warping or distortion. Avoid porous materials that will retain moisture and allow hidden mold to grow.

Mistake 3: Ignoring storage space

No one complains about having too much storage in the bathroom. When planning a bathroom remodel, incorporate plenty of storage space into the design.

Consider how many people will use the bathroom. Don’t make the mistake of providing only enough bathroom storage space for one person in a 4-bedroom house.

Additionally, most people prefer a bit of privacy with bathroom storage, so a set of floating shelves, while helpful, will not be sufficient on its own.

Mistake 4: Forgetting about ventilation

Ventilation isn’t a glamorous part of a bathroom renovation, but it is essential. Forgetting to work in enough ventilation can lead to mold, mildew and other costly problems in the future. It can also make a bathroom uncomfortable if it’s not properly ventilated during or after a shower.

If possible, work in a combination of natural and artificial ventilation sources. A well-placed window can go a long way, but it won’t be very helpful during cold winter months, when a homeowner won’t open it. Make sure to install a quality ventilation fan that can handle the size of the bathroom.

Mistake 5: Putting off lighting plans until the end

Many people think of lighting as a finishing touch to a renovation. While lighting is often installed later in the process, you should plan your lighting fixtures at the beginning of the renovation.

Bathrooms are often where people get ready for the day, which is why lighting is essential. Recessed lighting can create shadows on your face in the mirror, and the last thing you want when trying to sell a bathroom is unflattering lighting.

Waiting until the end to address lighting can also lead to dark patches within the bathroom. Depending on your preferred shower style, you may or may not need lighting above the shower or tub.

Similarly, no one wants to use the toilet in darkness. When drawing up your plans, consider what type of lighting will best accommodate your space and room design. Making adjustments in the planning stages will be much easier than making them at the end of a project.

Top photo from Zillow listing.


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4 Surprising Things That May Increase How Much Your Home Is Worth

For most Americans, their home is their most important financial asset. But in the past, homeowners only knew how much it was worth when they bought or sold their home. Zillow was founded to democratize this sort of information – starting with the Zestimate, Zillow’s estimated market valuation tool.

To understand how much your home is worth, it’s important to understand the variety of factors that go into assessing the value, both existing (assessed and appraised) value, as well as potential real value on the market. The Zestimate is Zillow’s tool for extrapolating real market value of your home based on existing home-related data and actual sales prices in your area.

Thousands of data points correlate with home values and sale prices – some of which are obvious (like the condition of the home), and some that aren’t so obvious.

Here are several surprising things that can affect either the existing value of your home or the price someone is willing to pay for it, all based on data.

1. How close you are to a Starbucks

How far do you have to drive to get a Frappuccino? If the answer is “not that far,” you’re in luck.

Photo courtesy of ShutterStock.

A 2015 Zillow report found that, between 1997 and 2014, homes within a quarter-mile of a Starbucks increased in value by 96 percent, on average, compared with 65 percent for all U.S. homes, based on a comparison of Zillow Home Value Index data with a database of Starbucks locations.

To evaluate if this effect is isolated to Starbucks, or if it extends to other caffeine purveyors, the research team also looked at another coffee hot spot (one with particular pull on the East Coast): Dunkin’ Donuts.

The analysis of that data showed that homes near Dunkin’ Donuts locations appreciated 80 percent, on average, during the same 17-year period – not quite as high as homes near a Starbucks, but still significantly above the 65 percent increase in value for all U.S. homes.

2. Blue kitchens and blue bathrooms

Beyond America’s obsession with lawns and all-around “curb appeal,” what’s inside your house counts a lot, too – especially the colors you’ve painted the rooms (particularly the kitchen).

According to Zillow’s 2017 Paint Color Analysis, which examined more than 32,000 photos from sold homes around the country, homes with blue kitchens sold for a $1,809 premium, compared to similar homes with white kitchens.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Blue is also a popular bathroom shade. The same analysis found that homes with light pale blue to soft periwinkle blue bathrooms sold for a whopping $5,440 more.

Walls painted in cool neutrals like blue or gray can be signals that the home is well cared for or has other desirable features.

3. Trendy features

Joanna Gaines’ aesthetic is permeating more than just your YouTube search history. Zillow listings mentioning some of the shiplap queen’s favorite features – keywords like “barn door” and “farmhouse sink” – sell faster and for a premium, according to a 2016 Zillow analysis of descriptions of more than 2 million homes sold nationwide.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Listings with “barn door” in the description sold for 13.4 percent more than expected, and 57 days faster than comparable homes without the keyword.

Meanwhile, listings touting “farmhouse sink” led to a nearly 8-percent sales premium. This “barn door” effect doesn’t seem to increase the value of the home off the market, but is seemingly due to the popularity of this style at the time of the analysis. Sellers can use the listing descriptions to highlight trendy details and features that might not be noticeable in the photos.

4. How close you are to a city

If you own a home in a major metropolitan area in America, you’re most likely sitting on a significant (and rapidly appreciating) financial asset. Case in point: Home values in the New York, NY metro area are worth $2.6 trillion, per a recent Zillow analysis – which is more than the value of the entire French economy.

Long Island City, Queens. Photo courtesy of ShutterStock.

The average urban home is now worth 35 percent more than the average suburban home. Since 2012, the median home value in urban areas have increased by 54 percent, while in suburban areas the median home value is up 38 percent.


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Quiz: What Style Is Your Dream Bedroom?

Ahh, the bedroom of your dreams. Will it include fuzzy pillows or homespun quilts? Perhaps it’s covered wall to wall in plush rugs. Or maybe it’s a clutter-free, serene space.

Rest assured that this quiz will help you discover your style.

What’s Your Nesting Style?

Take the quiz to find out.


Clean lines, neutral colors – for you, less is more. While others banish beige, you say bring it on. It takes a renegade like you to strip away the unnecessary clutter and focus on a few statement-making features.


You’ll take all the reclaimed wood and wrought iron, please. Your look is all about keeping things light, yet cozy. If it’s rustic, knitted, homespun or antiqued, you’ll welcome it with barn doors wide open.


This isn’t granny’s doily collection. You’re going for refined elegance, which means delicate shapes paired with ornate details. Think curvaceous frames, chandeliers dripping in crystals and lush florals with creamy whites.


You’re vibing hard on ikat prints right now. Surround yourself with bright pops of colors, crocheted textiles, and patterns on top of patterns on top of patterns. You’ll feel like you’re in an exotic locale, even if it is just the suburbs.

Which season do you enjoy the most?

Where would you love to go on vacation?

What is your ideal date?

What is your must-have accessory?

What midnight snack do you reach for?

What is your preferred beverage?

Which accent do you need in every room?

If you had an extra $100, what would you spend it on?

What best describes your fashion sense?

How do you like to unwind?










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