Category Archives: Home Builders

'I Wasn't Looking to Sell My Home, But for the Right Price…'

Francis, a Seattle homeowner, shares what it was like to sell a house without putting it on the market. As told to Jamie Birdwell-Branson.

Shortly after moving into my Seattle house in 2015, I listed it on Zillow’s for-sale-by-owner pre-market feature, Make Me Move. I got everything organized and listed my home for $100,000 more than what I had just paid.

I thought my home had a lot to offer. I played up the lot, which was giant for Seattle at about 8,000 square feet. The house was also in a really picturesque neighborhood with a great location. The real selling point of the house, though, was the excellent public school district, which I thought would speak to young families.

I knew that I wasn’t going to sell the house right away, because I didn’t want to pay a capital gains tax, which you incur if you sell your primary residence before you’ve lived in it for two years. Knowing this, I just wanted to feel out the interest in the neighborhood and the house – just to keep a pulse on the market. If I got a wild offer, however, I figured I’d take the 15-percent capital gains hit, even knowing that it would be more complicated to deal with than just waiting the two years.

A couple of months went by without anyone approaching me, but a few potential buyers and agents slowly started to reach out. Once the buyers started to throw serious offers my way, I thought I might need to raise my price, because I wanted to avoid selling it under the two-year mark. Eventually, I did increase the price, because I was getting too much interest. To help me determine a better price, I looked at the comps to know if I was under or over the appropriate value of the home.

Showing the home

Out of the 20 or so hits I got over the two-year period, I showed the house to seven people. When they wanted to check it out, I set up a time for them to walk around the house for 20 minutes. During the showings, I spoke very frankly about the home’s condition. And I didn’t feel the need to give a hard sell, because I had the benefit of not being in a rush to move. I could have gone either way between, “Oh yeah, I can stay here,” or “I’ll take the offer.”

I ended up with a cash offer, but it wasn’t enough. I got another cash offer that was pretty high, but then a couple whose friends lived on the street approached me with an even better offer. We sealed the deal on the condition that closing day would be after that official two-year mark so I could avoid the capital gains tax.

This was a pretty easy decision to make, because I knew I could buy my sister’s condo. That was really the deciding factor: I knew I could take the cash offer and buy a condo at a good price, without competing in the market with everyone else. At some point, you have to say to yourself, “OK, this is enough money to feel comfortable and happy moving from this investment to another one.”

The process

In comparison to a traditional real estate transaction, the Make Me Move experience was surprisingly straightforward. If you’re not in a big rush and you find a buyer that’s willing to work with you, drawing up a contract is relatively easy. If you’re hesitant to do it alone, don’t let the paperwork intimidate you, because it’s all boilerplate and very sensible. If you’ve gone through buying a house once, you can handle the paperwork without any issues.

Listing your home pre-market is a great way to test the market and buy or sell in a low-pressure way – and potentially save money.

The best thing about selling a house on your own is that everyone can just be honest about their expectations – whether it’s the buyer or the seller. For the buyer, it’s more transparent if the seller is serious. And then you can say, “OK, can I afford this? And is that what I want for that price?” versus just going into a blind bidding situation.

For the seller, you’re not on any hard timeline, and you don’t have to stage a house or lose money on a mortgage for a house that’s just sitting there. You can plan the logistics a little better when it’s all on your terms.

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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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Hidden Costs of Homeownership Typically Top $9,000 a Year

Buyers too often focus on a home’s list price or mortgage payment to determine what they can afford. However, the numerous less-obvious costs associated with homeownership can affect the monthly bottom line.

To help home buyers budget more accurately, Zillow and Thumbtack identified several common but often overlooked home expenses and calculated what homeowners around the country could expect to pay for them. The analysis also included utility cost estimates from UtilityScore.

While each extra expense might seem small, they cost U.S. homeowners, on average, $9,080 a year, according to the report.

Unavoidable costs

Nationally, homeowners pay an average of $6,059 a year in unavoidable costs, which include homeowners insurance, property taxes and utilities. Since nearly half (47 percent) of home shoppers today are first-time buyers, many of these extra costs may come as a surprise.

San Francisco homeowners pay the most of the metros analyzed ($13,019 on average), primarily due to the market’s high home values and property taxes. Indianapolis homeowners pay the least ($4,699).

Maintenance expenses

Nearly all homeowners (96 percent) have made some kind of improvement to their homes, according to the 2016 Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends. While many complete these projects themselves, those who pay professionals can expect to spend an average of $3,021 for the six most common hired home projects requested by Thumbtack users: carpet cleaning, yard work, gutter cleaning, HVAC maintenance, house cleaning and pressure washing.

Labor costs can vary significantly by region, with Seattle homeowners paying as much as $4,052 a year on average for those six projects, while San Antonio homeowners pay an average of $1,962.

Budget planning

More than a third of buyers go over budget on a home purchase. To help buyers better understand the total cost of homeownership, Zillow Group launched RealEstate.com, a website that allows people to search by the “All-In Monthly Price” of owning that home. In addition to the mortgage, the price includes estimated property taxes, insurance, PMI, utilities, taxes, HOA fees and closing costs.

Curious how much these hidden homeownership costs are in your area? Here’s a breakdown of the metros analyzed in the report:

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We Bought a Home Sight Unseen (Here's What We Learned)

“No. Absolutely not. Stop looking at those. Put your laptop away right now.”

This is how I talk to my husband, and I’m not proud of that. But having lived in three different houses during just six years of marriage, I was nervous to find him browsing real estate listings last summer. Can you blame me?

Our moves haven’t been around-the-block, either. From the booming (and baking) city of Austin, TX to the bucolic and rural village of Sharon Springs, NY to the New York City metro, we’d lugged our possessions across 2,000 miles of highways.

Our houses had been equally disparate in style: an eco-friendly house in Austin, a 160-year-old Italianate Victorian in upstate New York, and a glass box on a mountain in New Jersey with a view of the Empire State Building.

Now it was time to move again. While we’d enjoyed our adventures, our growing business and desire to be close to family pointed us in another direction: Nebraska. We got our New Jersey house prepared for sale, expecting it to spend a little time on the market. Instead, it sold within 24 hours. Oops.

House hunting from far away

Forced to act fast – with no time to fly to Omaha to view properties – we dug into home listings. We narrowed options down by budget and location, looked for houses that hadn’t been updated (as designers, we’d do that ourselves), and poured over each photo to pick out details.

I printed up neighborhood maps and highlighted nearby restaurants and parks for our dog. We enlisted the help of my parents and hired a family friend as our real estate agent, sending them to tour houses on our behalf. Dad measured rooms while Mom toured the neighborhood. Any bit of information they could gather was invaluable.

I finally walked through the house the day before closing. Roger was in New Jersey finishing packing, and I had driven out in advance. In person, I could see where our homework prepared me – and what remained a surprise.

The view out the windows, the way light played through the hallways, the “aroma” of a long-clogged garbage disposal – some things simply weren’t captured by the photos we’d seen. The living room was smaller. The dining room was square rather than rectangular. The smelly, grimy kitchen, which had been a “sometime next spring” renovation project, immediately got bumped up to the top of the list.

The kitchen, before renovation

All in all, we love our new home, and most of the surprises – from architectural details to friendly neighbors – have been pleasant ones.

Would I recommend buying a house without having seen it first? I think it’s doable with a little on-the-ground intelligence from people you trust. Will I do it again? Absolutely not. I’ve told Roger that we’re never moving again. And this time – fingers crossed – I think he agrees with me.

Chris (left) and Roger have left home shopping behind and moved on to planning renovation projects.

If you’re long-distance home buying

Buying a house sight-unseen? Here are a few tips for lowering your stress level (a little):

  • Sketch it out. It’s tough to wrap your head around the layout of a house from a handful of listing photos. Get a better sense of the flow by drawing a floor plan. If possible, get room dimensions to determine which furniture will have a place and what should be left behind.
  • Preview the views. Listing photos don’t always capture what you’ll see through the windows. For example, our dining room windows look out onto the neighbor’s wood fence. Ask your real estate agent to snap photos looking through the windows and, if possible, record a short video up and down the street to help provide a sense of the surroundings.
  • Embrace the folder. A move brings chaos. You’ll misplace your toothbrush, your phone charger, and perhaps even your smallest child. At the same time, buying a home requires lots of very important paperwork that you absolutely must produce at a moment’s notice. Do yourself a favor: Go to the office supply store and buy the most obnoxiously bright, neon green document folder they sell. Put all the essential closing documents in there, and keep it handy.
  • Take care of yourself. The first impulse may be to drop everything to focus solely on packing and preparing for your new home. That’s important, of course, but don’t neglect the routine activities that make life feel “normal” for you. If you go to the gym, keep going even if you have to cut workouts short. Catch a movie or concert. Meet a friend for coffee. This is an overwhelming and demanding time, but continuing to do things you enjoy will make your move less overwhelming.
  • Brace for impact. Walking into an empty house, particularly after seeing carefully staged listing photos, can be disorienting. The most common reaction? “Wow, this bedroom looks so small!” The scale of unfurnished rooms is notoriously hard to judge. Don’t freak out – once you get a few pieces of furniture in place, everything will feel more normal.

Shopping for a home? Our Home Buyers Guide offers plenty of advice and tools. 

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Designer Lookbook: Summer Thornton's Mediterranean Home Makeover

Interior designer Summer Thornton turned a newly constructed Mediterranean-style house in sunny Naples, FL into a beautiful vacation home, featuring refined decor and a soothing color palette.

“The homeowner wanted it to feel bright, casual, and elegant, so I steered the interior design toward more traditional furnishings and a light color palette with pops of color,” says Thornton of the second home.”It’s on a beautiful lot that backs up to water, so they’ve got amazing, peaceful views from the lanai and pool.”

Thornton was also tasked with seamlessly blending the Mediterranean architecture of the house with classic styling and relaxed, casual furnishings to create an abode that encapsulates “refined Florida elegance.”

Along with furnishing the home, the designer also helped with the interior architecture, choosing finishes throughout. And since it was a second home, Thornton also helped choose all the accessories, from the decorative tchotchkes down to the dishes.

“The homeowner wanted a space where they could have the whole family down for holidays and gatherings,” she says. “They’re grandparents, and wanted their grown kids and grandchildren to feel relaxed and comfortable.”

Hailing from the Midwest, the homeowners visit the home in the winter, and they wanted to keep the decorative elements elegant and not overly tropical.

Since the homeowner was gravitating toward a tranquil color palette of blue and white, Thornton used the color scheme throughout, from indigo fabrics to graphic wallpapers and Chinese ginger jars.

And as a nod to Naples’ gulf setting, Thornton incorporated tropical plants, like a fiddle-leaf fig tree, along with Audubon prints of herons and smaller decorative touches, like coral.

“In total, I think we had more than 200 pieces of coral – about 600 pounds, I believe – and over 50 pieces of blue-and-white pottery interspersed throughout the home,” she says.

Thornton used metallic accents, wood, textured wallpapers, and natural fibers to add warmth and a layered look to the home.

“A few of my favorite features include the flora and fauna hand-painted panels in the foyer, the blue-and-white Granada tile backsplash in the lanai, and the faux-bois wallpaper in one of the guest bedrooms,” she says.

Get the look at home

  • Look to nature for inspiration. “Too often I see homes full of beige and tan because people think it will go with anything,” says Thornton. “But if you look at nature, there’s a variety of tones and colors and shades found throughout. Green and blue are so prominent in nature that the eye actually sees them as a neutral.” Thornton advises mixing and matching colors when choosing furniture, paint, and decorative elements.
  • Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. “Most homes I see are 80 percent complete,” says Thornton. “They have all the furnishings, all the must-have items, but they’re missing the touches that make a house feel like a home.” Layering and stacking decorative accessories gives a room a finished look. Starting a collection is a good way to amass items that can add personality to your home. “Once you do, your home will feel more personal, unique, and complete,” she says.
  • Mix your metals.“I’m a firm believer that kitchens often feel flat because everything matches too perfectly,” says Thornton. “By simply changing your cabinet hardware, you create a whole new look.” In this home’s kitchen, Thornton mixed three different pull styles, and used both brass and polished nickel.
  • Find pillows that pop.“Most of the upholstery in this home was white, so we made it pop with colorful pillows,” she says. Grab your favorite pillows and textiles, and layer them on your couch or bed to give your home an effortlessly collected look.

See more home design inspiration on Zillow Digs.

Photos by Brantley Photography.

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Top 10 Most Shared Homes This Year

There are certain characteristics people tend to keep an eye out for when searching for their forever homes: aesthetically pleasing design, comfortable layout, safe neighborhood, good schools. Then there are the characteristics that make certain posts go viral. Spoiler: they don’t tend to have a lot in common.

These 10 homes are the most shared across our social media platforms so far this year. From superstar penthouses to the supremely quirky, you might not want to live in these homes – but chances are you will want to share them!

10. Sting’s Manhattan Penthouse

3,907 social shares and counting
Photo by Andrew Kiracofe.

People are always after glimpses into the lives of celebrities, so it’s no surprise the news of Sting’s New York penthouse going on the market in early May garnered so many shares. This spacious 5,417-square-foot apartment is located in one of the most exclusive addresses in the city and includes luxury features to match – like spiral staircases, a freestanding fireplace, floor-to-ceiling windows and a 400-foot terrace overlooking Central Park.

See more Manhattan homes.

9. Former Masonic Lodge in New York

4,413 social shares and counting
Photo from Zillow listing.

Most people wouldn’t think of living in a former Masonic lodge, which is one of the factors that made this listing so shareable. With over 12,000-square-feet and a design reminiscent of a castle, this home has some fun details (and some quirky ones!) like a bedroom in one of the turrets and a basement with the wood floors of the original bowling alley.

See more Little Falls homes.

8. Friendly in Florida

4,535 social shares and counting
Photo from Zillow listing.

This large Sarasota estate has a lot going on for it, like tons of space, a pool, outdoor kitchen and heated spa. But something tells us that’s not why this listing got a lot of social media love. Instead of the impersonal photos typical of a home in this price range (it’s going for $1.275 million), these photos feature two cheerful women posed throughout the home.

See more Sarasota homes.

7. Pennsylvania Fixer

5,302 social shares and counting
Photo from Zillow listing.

Billed as a historical home that “has been completely gutted and is waiting to be restored back to it’s original glory,” this 12-bedroom Pennsylvania home was a steal for someone eager to take on a true fixer upper. Clearly, someone was up for the challenge since it sold last September for $61,000.

See more Windber homes.

6. Catopia in Arizona

6,134 social shares and counting
Photo from Zillow listing.

Cats rank pretty highly in the social media success equation, so it shouldn’t come as a big shock that this feline-friendly home has been shared far and wide. Designed with cats in mind, the 2-bedroom Concho, AZ house – dubbed “Catopia” – boasts cat walkways, cat turrets and a multi-level medieval cat castle. And, lucky for you (and your 9,000 cats), it’s still on the market.

See more Concho homes.

5. Kentucky Collector’s Paradise

8,568 social shares and counting
Photo from Zillow listing.

Built in 1857 with bricks made on site, this 5,000-square-foot Greek Revival looks like your typical grand Southern estate from the outside. But the listing photos indicate the owners are collectors. Loosely organized by color, each room is overflowing with vintage furniture, elaborate decor and eclectic knickknacks. Sadly, the listing makes it clear the furnishings are not for sale with the house.

See more Princeton homes.

4. Pampered Ponies in Oregon

14,006 social shares and counting
Photo from Zillow listing.

Included in our roundup of most expensive homes in every state, the owners of this Oregon equestrian property are asking a cool $24 million. The main house includes a movie theater, gym and massive wine cellar, while the property also features four guest “casitas” with kitchenettes, a five-bedroom guesthouse, 2,800-square-foot farm manager’s home, barn, indoor arena, office, saloon, and more.

See more Sisters homes.

3. Wheels on the Bus in Colorado

21,296 social shares and counting

Tiny houses are all the rage, but Denver-based builder Charlie Kern has taken it a step further by converting school buses into stylish, practical and energy-efficient homes. Decked out with working kitchens and bathrooms, these tiny homes are not only affordable – they also travel with you!  

See more Denver homes.

2. Texas Mannequin Mansion

43,871 social shares and counting
Photo from Zillow listing.

The description of this large Richmond, Texas house focuses on the traditional components that make it a great listing, like the pool and four-car garage. But the Internet couldn’t see past the mannequins that can be found in nearly every room from the towel-clad mannequin in the bathroom to the child mannequin riding a tricycle … on the ceiling. The homeowner is an artist, and their vision certainly comes through in the home decor.

See more Richmond homes.

1. Surprise Sensation in South Carolina

64,176 social shares and counting
Photo from Zillow listing.

You wouldn’t think that a house in disrepair would end up the most-shared Zillow home listing of 2017 so far, but thanks to some intriguing mysteries in the description that’s exactly what happened. Most notably, the fixer upper comes with an upstairs tenant who does not pay rent and must not be displaced. After a massive public response, the identity of the homeowner and squatter were finally revealed.

See more Cayce homes.

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9 Easy Ways to Cut Your Electric Bill by up to $750

We all want to save energy and money, right? But it’s not always so easy – perhaps you don’t have the time for a home energy audit, or maybe there simply isn’t room in the budget for that energy-saving appliance you want.

No worries! Here are some quick and easy ways to reduce your home energy usage right now.

Reduce hot water usage

Don’t worry – you don’t have to take a low-flow shower! But heating up hot water does require energy, so take the simple and painless route:

  • Adjust the water heater’s temperature. Lower your water heater to 120 degrees F (49 degrees C). An added bonus – you’ll lower the risk of scalding accidents.

  • Don’t overuse the dishwasher. Try to run your dishwasher only once a day or when it’s completely full. See if your utility company offers savings for running appliances at off-peak times.
  • Wash clothes in cold water. Most modern detergents clean clothes very well with cold water. If you have items that you really need to wash in hot water, save them up and do one hot load every few weeks.

Projected savings: Up to $250 per year, depending on the number of people in your home.

Turn it off

Little things add up! An easy way to save money on your energy bill is turning off the lights, electronics, and other energy users when you’re not using them.

  • Leave a room, switch lights off. Make a habit of turning off everything in the room when you leave it – the TV, lights, your computer, etc.
  • Get the kids involved. Make a game out of turning off the lights instead of constantly reminding them to do it. Offer some sort of small, nonmonetary reward for remembering to turn off their bedroom lights for a week.
  • Install countdown timer light switches. For intermittently used rooms, such as the bathroom or laundry room, install a countdown timer light switch that will turn off the lights after a specified period, so you don’t ever have to worry about it.

Projected savings: Between $100-$300 per year, depending on the number of people and rooms in your home.

Heating and cooling bill savings

Generally speaking, the furnace and air-conditioner are the big energy hogs in your home. Here are some easy ways to reduce your dependence on them – and save money!

  • Use windows strategically. Install heavy drapes or blinds on windows located in sunny areas of your home. Open the blinds on cold days to take advantage of the sun’s warmth, and close them on warm days to block out the sun.
  • Install ceiling fans. This one takes a bit more effort than the others, but the payoff can be quite large. Run ceiling fans counterclockwise or downward during the summer to force cool air down into the room. Run them clockwise and upward in the winter to better distribute the warm air.

  • Adjust the thermostat. Yes, this sounds obvious, but one of the best ways to save on heating and cooling bills is simply lowering the thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer! A programmable thermostat is ideal, but you can save money even with a traditional thermostat. In winter, lower your thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees for at least eight hours – when you leave for work, before you go to bed, or both – then raise it when you’re back.  If you have air-conditioning, do this in reverse come summer.

Projected savings: From 10-30 percent on your heating and cooling bills each year.

Saving energy doesn’t have to be a chore. With some very simple lifestyle changes, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save big!

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9 Pools That Will Make You Wish Every Week Were Shark Week

We’re all bummed that Michael Phelps didn’t race a real shark. Instead of heading to the beach, we’ll console ourselves during the non-viewing hours of Shark Week by splashing around somewhere we know it’s safe to go in the water: a cool and refreshing backyard pool.

Check out these nine gorgeous swimming pools – any of which would be perfect for reenacting your favorite scenes from “Jaws,” “Deep Blue Sea,” or even “Sharknado.”

This San Juan Capistrano, CA pool, complete with diving board and slide, appears as though it were naturally formed into the stone.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Sleek and modern with clean lines, this pool looks like the perfect place for a romantic midnight swim.

Photo courtesy of Sprecht Architects.

The high temperatures of Palm Springs, CA are no match for this ultra-stylish pool with a water feature and views of the mountains.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Surrounded by beautiful stonework, this pool in Malibu, CA has more than enough room to host friends and family for a summer pool party.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Seamlessly blending into its tropical surroundings, this infinity pool in Longboat Key, FL offers a luxurious place to relax at the end of a long day.

Photo from Zillow listing.

In Kiawah Island, SC, the natural surroundings create a lush background for doing a few laps on those hot summer days.

Photo from Zillow listing.

This Santa Rosa Beach, FL pool boasts its own built-in hot tub for ultimate relaxation.

Photo from Zillow listing.

What could be better than your own lagoon complete with slide and waterfall? This pool in Vero Beach, FL has it all.

Photo from Zillow listing.

With a classic shape and design, this Seattle, WA pool provides plenty of space to soak in the summer sun.

Photo from Zillow listing.

See more swimming pool design ideas on Zillow Digs.

Top photo from Zillow listing.

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Understanding the Role of the Real Estate Agent

The road to homeownership can be bumpy, and it’s often filled with unexpected turns and detours. That’s why it makes sense to have a real estate pro help guide the way.

While real estate websites and mobile apps can help you identify houses you may be interested in, an experienced agent does much more, including:

1. Guide. Before you tour your first home, your agent will take time to learn more about your wants, needs, preferences, budget and motivation. A good real estate agent will help you narrow your search and identify your priorities.

2. Educate. You should expect your agent to provide data on the local home market and comparable sales. The home-buying process can be complicated. A good agent will explain the steps involved – in a manner that makes them understandable – and provide counsel along the way.

3. Network. An agent who is familiar with your target neighborhoods will often know about homes that are for sale – even before they’re officially listed. Experienced agents tend to know other agents in the area and have good working relationships with them; this can lead to smooth transactions. Your agent may also be able to refer you to trusted professionals including lenders, home inspectors and contractors.

4. Advocate. When you work with a buyer’s agent, their fiduciary responsibility is to you. That means you have an expert who is looking out for your best financial interests, an expert who’s contractually bound to do everything in their power to protect you. If you find yourself in a situation where the same agent represents both the buyer and seller, things can get trickier, advises Scottsdale, Arizona-based real estate agent Dru Bloomfield.

“A lot of people think they’ll get a lower price by going straight to the listing agent, but that’s always not true,” she says. “If I was representing both the buyer and seller, I’d be hard-pressed to take a low-ball offer to the seller. But, as a buyer’s agent I’d do it, because I have no emotional ties or fiduciary responsibility to the seller. Buyers should work with an agent who can fully represent them.”

5. Negotiate. Your agent will handle the details of the negotiation process, including the preparation of all necessary offer and counteroffer forms. Once your inspection is done, the agent can also help you negotiate for repairs. Even the most reasonable consumers can become distraught when battling over repair requests; an agent can do “the ask” without becoming overly emotional.

6. Manage minutia. The paperwork that goes along with a real estate transaction can be exhaustive. If you forget to initial a clause or check a box, all those documents will need to be resubmitted. A good real estate agent understands the associated deadlines and details and can help you navigate these complex documents.

7. Look out. Any number of pitfalls can kill a deal as it inches toward closing; perhaps the title of the house isn’t clear, the lender hasn’t met the financing deadline or the seller has failed to disclose a plumbing problem. An experienced real estate agent knows to watch for trouble before it’s too late, and can skillfully deal with challenges as they arise.

Professional real estate agents do so much more than drive clients around to look at homes. Find an agent you trust and with whom you feel comfortable working; you’re sure to benefit from their experience, knowledge of the local market and negotiation skills.

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Originally published July 21, 2014.

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Small Updates, Big Return: 5 Ways to Increase Your Home's Value

Whether your home improvements are for you or potential buyers, consider their impact on your home’s potential resale price before picking up your toolbox (or the phone to call a contractor).

A brand-new kitchen or bathroom will undoubtedly wow potential buyers, but there’s no guarantee you’ll recoup the money you put into those pricey remodels.

To help you navigate the choices that lead to the best return on investment, we asked two industry experts (and one enthusiastic DIYer) to weigh in.

Kitchen renovations

“Renovating the kitchen is always the biggest way to add value to your home,” says Grace Fancher, real estate agent at Kansas City firm Sarah Snodgrass. “People love to cook, and everyone tends to gather in the kitchen. If you add seating, such as an island with barstools, buyers go crazy for that.”

A full remodel is a major investment, but smaller projects make a big difference if you can’t – or don’t want to – go all out. “Nicer appliances really stick out to potential buyers – even if you’re planning to take them with you,” Fancher says.

She also suggests replacing tired finishes with fresh, neutral materials. “You don’t want to be too trendy, but you want it to look up-to-date,” she says. “Everyone loves clean, white subway tiles now, but they’re really a timeless look.”

Replacing dated countertops (quartz is your best bet, according to Fancher) and flooring is also worth the time and money.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Bathroom updates

The smallest rooms in the house can have a big impact on its value, so Fancher suggests adding a second bathroom or upgrading existing ones so your home features at least two full baths.

Joe Monda, co-owner of Seattle-based general contracting firm Promondo, agrees. “People are spending more on upgrading their houses before listing them,” he says. “They really want to maximize the potential house value.”

But if you’re remodeling a bathroom just to put your house on the market, keep it simple. “Most people don’t want to pay for upgrades, so you want it to be a neutral space that doesn’t look straight out of the big DIY warehouse stores – even if it is,” says Fancher.

She adds that an easy solution is spending a little more on details, like high-quality towel bars and upgraded hardware for those big-box store vanities.

Not in a position to remodel? “Re-grouting tile, or even just using one of those grout paint pens, gives any bathroom a fresher look,” says Sharyn Young, a self-proclaimed DIY addict from Minneapolis.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Lighting upgrades

“The brighter a room feels, the bigger it looks,” says Fancher. “And when you’re selling, you want every space to look as big as possible.”

She recommends replacing flush-mount ceiling lights with recessed and/or pendant lighting – a relatively cheap upgrade that looks modern and makes a huge impact.

“LED lighting has changed everything,” says Young. “There are so many readily available, inexpensive options now that are easy to install. I added Ikea under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen of my last house, and I was amazed at how that one simple upgrade made the space feel larger and cleaner.”

Photo from Zillow listing.

Fresh paint

Like lighting, a new coat of paint can also make a space feel cleaner and brighter. Stick to neutral shades, such as light gray and beige, and if you don’t have time or budget to do the whole house, start with the living areas you see when you first walk in.

An even quicker fix is refreshing just the trim. “Beat-up, dirty trim can give buyers a subtle impression that the whole house is dingy,” Fancher says. “Repainting gives a sharper look and shows the buyer that you’ve taken care of the house.”

Photo from Zillow listing.

Landscape improvements

“A lot of people overlook how important landscaping is, especially when you’re selling in the spring or summer,” says Fancher, adding that you can increase curb appeal by just putting down new, dark-colored mulch, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on planting.

Monda suggests paying special attention to the entry. Repair or replace any damaged stepping stones, concrete paths, and porch plants, then give the front door a fresh coat of paint and add some potted plants. “You want people to be excited to walk in the door,” he says.

Photo from Zillow listing.
Top photo from Zillow listing.

Get more home improvement ideas on Zillow Digs.

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6 Millennial Pink Homes Proving This Color Is Here to Stay

If you’ve never heard of Millennial Pink, don’t worry – you aren’t that out of the loop. Though the term was coined last year, it’s been popping up for years, and Pantone’s selection of Rose Quartz as one of its 2016 colors of the year was just a preview of the pink craze to come (yes, there’s a hashtag). Stars from Rihanna to Harry Styles have embraced light pink hues, though it’s more about the vibe than a distinct color, and its popularity goes beyond the 20-something crowd.

Millennial Pink has put rosy-colored homes on the map as well. While painting a house pink is nothing new – several historic, stucco and adobe homes sport the hue – it’s certainly on trend.

Check out these six homes for some Millennial Pink inspiration, and see what all the fuss is about.

Key West, FL

914 Grinnell St, Key West, FL
For sale: $1.43 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

Tropical color schemes are a trademark of Key West design and architecture, as embodied by this delightful revival-style duplex. Bright blue shutters pop against a pale pink exterior with white trim, while the interior bursts with cheerful, vibrant blues, yellows, greens, and – of course – more pink.

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Montpelier, VT

24-26 Loomis St, Montpelier, VT
For sale: $1.8 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

A former mayor’s home, this restored Victorian is Millennial Pink inside and out. With a whimsical two-tone pink façade and a few light pink rooms in the interior, the bright paint choice is architecturally on point. “We often see a color similar on Victorian homes throughout Vermont,” explains listing agent David Parsons, “and I believe it has a historical precedence.” Because of an increase in the number of pigments available and a reduction in the cost of paint, brightly colored homes became de rigueur in Victorian New England.

Find more homes for sale in Montpelier.

Charleston, SC

18 State St, Charleston, SC 29401
For sale: $1.995 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

This historic home full of Southern charm proves that Millennial Pink is nothing new. Built around 1815, the current owners bought the pink house in 2004 and simply repainted it the same color since it worked so well. “There are many pink houses in Charleston, including one on Rainbow Row which is a block away,” explains listing agent Adam Edwards. “Pink is a longtime popular color because it helps keep the interiors cooler in the hot summer months.” Black shutters and white trim give the house an elegant, refined look.

Find more homes for sale in Charleston.

Seattle, WA

920 Federal Ave E, Seattle, WA
For sale: $1.598 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

For a prime example of a bold Millennial Pink, check out this 4-bedroom, 3,080-square-foot gem close to all the action in Seattle. The exterior is painted a solid shade of warm, earthy pink called “New Pilgrim Red” and is complemented with off-white woodwork in “Navajo White.” “We had seen that on another Colonial Revival house years ago when we were just about to repaint,” owners Clint and Elizabeth Miller recall. “It looked dramatic to us and suggested a New England sort of look.”

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Albuquerque, NM

1323 Narcisco Ct NE, Albuquerque, NM
For sale: $430,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

Stucco exteriors are common in the Southwest because they’re durable and – most importantly, for a desert climate – energy efficient. This pink-hued home shows that stucco doesn’t have to be drab. Here, the pink provides a dose of personality while maintaining a neutral, earthy vibe that meshes with the landscape.

Find more homes for sale in Albuquerque.

New Orleans, LA

326 Warrington Dr, New Orleans, LA
For sale: $249,900

Photo from Zillow listing.

New Orleans is no stranger to colorful homes. In fact, this cute, single-story house is subdued in comparison to many in the Big Easy. But that’s part of its appeal – and of the appeal of Millennial Pink in general. It manages to straddle the divide between playful and refined, youthful and classic.

Find more homes for sale in New Orleans.

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