5 Steps to Staging Your Home to Sell For Top Dollar

February 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

abbyThis past week I went to a continuing education class at Chicago Title where HGTV Design Star, Abby Vasek, spoke to a small group of Realtors on the ins and outs of staging a home before putting it on the market. WOW, was it eye opening! In two hours I learned how to get my listings ready for the market, design trends for 2015, cutting edge design tricks, local vendors to expedite the process and even a bit of coaching on how to elevate my business and myself.

Staging Basics:

  1. Declutter/Edit: If your home is anything like mine, you may have a bunch of stuff everywhere. Now just because it’s beautiful stuff or sentimental stuff, it’s still stuff, and it can be distracting to potential buyers. Anything from picture frames, memorabilia from travels, books, art, appliances, etc. can be extremely distracting. Anything personal, including family photos, makes it hard for the buyers to imagine themselves living in your home. Even appliances on the kitchen counter or toiletries in the bathroom, although very functional, can make countertops seem small and bring up concerns of not enough storage. Almost like a vacation rental, you want potential buyers to feel as though they could move right in and start visualizing where their things would go.
  2. Clean, Renew, Repair: Once you’ve edited your space, you need to put it through a deep clean. It is really important to hire a professional cleaner who will scrub cabinets, baseboards, crown molding, etc. and make your home shine! As much as our sellers want to save money to do this themselves, it can be really hard to see our own dirt! What may seem like a thorough cleaning to the homeowner may not cut it for a buyer. We have great resources and can help you hire someone who has done make-ready cleaning before. It is also important to fix anything that is broken, scratched or damaged.
  3. Lighten and Brighten:
    • Paint: It is amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do to the interior and exterior of a home. Hiring a professional to pick the latest and greatest paint colors can add serious appeal to your home. We recently put a home on the market that had a state house character so we repainted the entire house with high-end gorgeous paint colors similar to the ones in the White House. You cannot believe the transformation of the look and feel of the home with just the right paint! Most of the time we see too many paint colors in one house, and simply unifying the pain colors to two or three makes the home seem more fluid and transitional. Also, repainting the baseboards, windows, moldings and cabinets can make homes look brand new! We have a great paint crew who can do the work reasonably.
    • Windows: Taking down drapes that conceal the natural light can really brighten up a home. Replace drapery high and wide to make windows appear larger. Take the drapes all the way up to the base of the crown molding and only allow no more than 1 inch covering the side of the window. For a more dramatic look, take drapes further outside the window to make the window seem much wider. When buying drapes, look for back tapped drapery that unifies the folds in the drapery similar to a hotel.
    • Mirrors: Mirrors have the potential to really expand a room and give it more natural light. Place a mirror directly across from the window to reflect the natural light and open up the room. Also, placing them in the entry way or above the mantle can add drama to the space. Mirrors are a great affordable option to enhance your space.
    • Fixtures: Updating a fixture can change the entire dynamic of the home. If you want to make a downtown condo feel hip, add a fun industrial fixture. You can even use rustolium spray paint over old exterior fixtures to make them look new. Create a dining room space by adding a light fixture in an open room over where a dining table could go. Replace bulbs to make rooms brighter or add can lights in darker rooms or hallways.
    • Plants: A tall palm in the entry way or the corner of a room can make the ceilings seem higher and add life to a vacant home or empty room. Bringing nature indoors make buyers feel more relaxed in the space.
  4. Function and Potential: Show buyers the potential use of the room. If you have a small room that can be used as a bedroom, show the buyer by putting a large bed, two bedside tables and dresser to show them how much the room can fit. It doesn’t matter if you used it as a study; show them the potential of the room. Create a focal point in every room. When the buyer walks down the hall and looks into the room, is there something that catches their eye that will bring them into the room? A painting is a great focal point to add to a room, or using a structural design focal point such as a fireplace allows the buyer to move toward one object without their eyes darting all around the room. From that focal point, everything in the room should be placed accordingly, for example, furniture and rugs. Rugs define your space and can show the buyer how large a room is.
  5. Curb Appeal: This is the most important area to stage because it is the buyers’ first impression of the home. Make sure the front landscaping is well kept and trimmed. Add flowers to attract the buyers’ eye and add a pop of color. Paint the front door a bright, memorable color or replace with a brand new door. Add new hardware letters. The entryway sets the stage and the mood for the buyer before they enter the house.

Buyers buy based on emotion. Pricing, floor plan, location school district, etc. may get them out to come see the house and put it in the running, but once they are in the house, their emotions take over. Staging gets the buyer in the place where they become emotionally attached to the home and will do whatever it takes to get it. It creates the WOW factor when they walk in the door. They are able to imagine themselves in the home and are already mentally moving in.

Is your home vacant? Fill the space by adding music during your showings. Put a palm tree in the entryway. Add a candle or diffuser without a strong scent, for example, pine, mint or citrus. Rent furniture to give the buyer an idea of function and potential. Hire stagers who may have their own furniture to use while your home is on the market.

However, don’t feel like you have to do it all on your own! Every listing with West Austin Properties includes a complementary home staging consultation. Our stager is a designer certified in helping our sellers transform their home using items they already own and highlighting features of their home either structurally, or by rearranging furniture and adding a few props. Each consultation also includes a color consultation where our stager will go over wall color and additional action items to get the home ready for the market. By using a stager, we are able to maximize the value of the home and connect our sellers with reliable vendors who can make the process easy and affordable. Having our own preferred vendor list enables us to negotiate lower rates for our sellers.

Another benefit of using a stager is being able to market the home on certified stager websites. Stagedhomes.com, RESA.com, and HSR.com are a few of the websites where professionally staged homes are marketed. If you still need convincing on whether or not a stager is beneficial, these websites are also a great resource for before and after photos!

Posted by Katy Freshour, REALTOR, West Austin Properties, 3312 River Road, Austin, Texas 78703, katyfreshour@gmail.com

Austin Real Estate Market Report for February 2015

February 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Austin real estate market started 2015 with higher listing inventory, higher pending sales and higher home sales than this time last year. With 19.4% more of homes on the market this year than last year at this time, this is good news for many home buyers who’ve been competing with multiple offers and rising prices. If inventory continues to increase, this could mean more good news for buyers as prices may stabilize after the usual spring surge in home sales.


Pending home sales are also higher as the number of buyers in the market are absorbing the inventory. In fact, we had the highest number of January pending home sales in 7 years.  New appraisal rules that went into effect at the end of January may increase the time that it takes to get mortgage approvals. If that happens, homes may stay pending longer prior to closing and cause this pending home sales number to increase more than normal.

January home sales are also up over the same time last year, again the highest number in 7 years at just over 1400 sales out of a 4813 market inventory of single family homes. That means that there is 3.42 months of inventory available. Generally, 3-6 months of inventory is considered a seller’s market.  The lower the inventory, the more the seller has the advantage and we have appreciating prices.

To see all of the statistics in the Austin real estate market in January, take a look at the full report where we have the statistics outlined by price band and zip code.  We are also happy to give you a complete assessment of your home’s value in our market.

Posted by Laura Duggan, President, West Austin Properties, 3312 River Road, Austin, Texas, 78703, homes@westaustin.com




Real Estate Appraisal Rules Change Again

February 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

House money calculatorOn January 26, 2015 new appraisal rules went into effect that will likely delay residential real estate closings. The new FNMA/FLMC required appraisal review system called “Collateral Underwriting” (CU) is an automated system where appraisers must submit their appraisals for review. For the past 5 years, lenders have had to upload the appraisals to this database. Now, each appraisal submitted will be rated according to the stored data.

The comparable properties used to determine the subject property’s value will be compared to those stored in the database. Then the automated appraisal evaluation system will score the appraisal from 1-5, 1 being the best score, 5 being the worst. The automated system is designed to further justify or determine the value of the comparables used in the appraisal. Both the appraisal and the appraiser are rated on this scale.

What does that mean for consumers? Appraisers are likely going to spend more time gathering their comparable properties for each appraisal. Unique properties, those with unique characteristics that add value for a buyer but are hard to “comp”, may suffer in the process because comparable properties could be hard or impossible to find. The cost of the appraisal might also rise because of the additional time the appraiser invests in the process. Lenders who receive an appraisal with a high score, may reject the loan or require the borrower to come up with additional down payment money.

Because of these new rules, our preferred lenders say that we should plan on additional time for them to process loans. What was taking a week or two for the appraisal process, is now taking longer, more than two weeks.

Lots of other things can affect the time from contract to closing. The lender makes a big difference. Our recommended lenders have in-house processing and underwriting, and they rely on an approved list of appraisers that are vetted for their knowledge and competency in the Austin market.  We are happy to provide you with a list of these lenders.

For more information on the Austin real estate market or how these new rules may affect you specifically, contact Laura Duggan, Gail Boston or Katy Freshour at West Austin Properties, 512-750-2425 or visit our website at www.WestAustin.com

Austin Real Estate Market Still Brisk in 2015

January 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Austin real estate market continues to be one of the healthiest in the country. Our January Market Report, a compilation of last year’s numbers, shows the statistics by price range and zip code so you can check out your particular neighborhood and price range.  Although there are 7.45% more homes on the market now than last year at this time, the inventory of homes is still slim and real estate agents all over town are scratching to find good listings for their buyer clients.  Now we have just under 5000 homes on the market compared to the 9000 homes we had on the market at the end of the years 2008-2010.  Consider that we now have 1.8M people in our area, so the pressure continues to build on the housing market here.  Home prices and rents are still rising with the demand.


In his annual forecast, Angelo Angelou, a local economist with AngelouEconomics, reported that 66,000 people moved to Austin in 2014 and that 39,100 jobs were created primarily in the professional and business service sectors, and the hospitality industry behind that. He projected that Austin will add 69,400 new jobs in 2015 and 2016. Even though housing prices are up, the average cost being almost $300,000, our population and job growth are fueling the economy and driving the home market rather than creating a bubble once driven by speculation.  However, water, traffic and affordability are issues that could dampen the outlook in the future.

In it’s recent post, Best Buy Cities: Where to Invest in Housing in 2015, Forbes.com called Austin the #1 city to invest in the housing market because of it’s population growth rate 0f 8.9% between 2010-2013, its 3.6 annual job growth rate and it’s vibrant tech scene.

As always, the real estate market is constantly changing. We continue to research the market each month and plot the statistics so that we can predict trends, helping our clients make the very best real estate decisions. You’ll find our Market Reports posted each month on our website at WestAustin.com

Katy Freshour, Gail Boston and I would like to wish you a very happy and healthy 2015. It would be our pleasure to assist you in any way with your real estate needs.

Posted by Laura Duggan, President, West Austin Properties, 3312 River Road, Austin, TX 78703, 512-750-2425, homes@westaustin.com






Austin’s Real Estate Market Report: September 2014

September 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As summer ends and fall begins, we are starting to see a change in the seasonality of the Austin real estate market. What has been a hot, hot, summer and actually a hot last two years of of real estate, defined by multiple offers, increased sales prices, low inventory and increased demand, has in the past two months shifted. The past two months have shown us that the Austin market may have reached its peak for the year, as prices, inventory and demand start returning to Normal.

In March of 2012, the overall Austin market began to move from a Normal to an Extreme Sellers Market. This shift created high demand for the limited homes for sale and caused home values to rise. The rise of demand and home values continued for almost 28 months. However, two to three months ago, the Austin market began to slow, and home values began to stabilize overall. While the Austin market is still a Seller’s Market overall, it is clear that the market is changing. Each Price Range and Zip Code have their own characteristics.  For the most recent statistics for your neighborhood, check out our latest MARKET REPORT.


While we are currently still in an overall Extreme Sellers Market, the Months of Inventory is rising and we are getting closer to moving from an Extreme Seller’s Market to a Normal Sellers Market. In three months, the Months of Inventory have moved from 2 months to 2.6 months. Overall, it is now less of a Seller’s Market than last year at this time.

  •  Very few homes are now for sale under $100,000.
  •  There remains a strong demand for home prices from $100,000 to $400,000 and home values continue to slowly increase.
  •  Homes priced over $700,000 are entering a Balanced Market, with over 6 Months on Inventory; which means home values are holding steady. However, sellers are not currently seeing this market shift to normalcy and are still expecting home values to increase. This is causing many sellers to price their homes above market value.
  •  Last month, 6 homes sold out of 205 for homes priced over $2 Million,
  • In the last two months, zip codes that are in an Extreme Sellers Market have decreased from 15 to 11.
  • For the third month in a row, June through August, fewer homes sold this year than sold last year. For the fourth month in a row, May thought August, fewer homes are for sale than last year. For the last ten months in a row, from November to August, the number of Pendings have been lower than last year.
  • The Median price of a home in Austin has been continuing to rise for 28 straight months, since March 2012. However, for the last two months, the Medium price has fallen below the Median price of June 2014.
  • The Average price of a home in Austin has been continuing to rise for 29 straight months, since February 2012. However, for the last two months, the Average price has fallen below the Average price of June 2014.
  • The Average days a sold home was on the market was at its lowest level in six months from February to June of this year. During the last two months, July and August, Days on Market are higher than last year during the same two months.

Buying and selling in this market requires a deep understanding of the history and pressures in each area of town and price range. We hope the West Austin Properties Advance Market Report, with detailed information by price range, zip code and area, helps you make the best decision for you and your family. It is our pleasure to deliver it to you so together we can spot trends and prepare for the future. Please contact us if we can provide you any additional information; Laura Duggan, West Austin Properties, 512-750-2425 or laura@westaustin.com.

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