Nothing ruins a sunny day faster than a backyard that's too ugly to enjoy. Plus, a gnarly yard dings your home value, making it a double bummer.
Here are seven backyard before-and-afters to show how yards can become chock full of sunny-day delight — and home value.
Image: LandCrafters, Milwaukee, WI
Whoa. A total landscape makeover takes this home from "The Brady Bunch"-ugly to Insta-lovely.
Landscaping an entire yard is pricey, but you'll likely get all (or more) of the money back when you sell, says the from the National Association of REALTORS®.
And . . . you'll get a fabulous yard to love right now.
Decks are great. But when they need more repair than maintenance, it's time for plan B. This flagstone patio is set-it-and-forget-it, a classic look you'll still love when you're eligible for AARP membership. Plus, you'll recoup the cost if you sell before your membership kicks in.
Yes, grass adds value. But if mowing and seeding aren't your thing, it'll turn more gross than green. An attractive mix of hardscape and low-maintenance plants is money in the bank (returning around 100% — or more — of their cost) and gives you more living time, too. Fewer hours mowing mean more hours sipping cocktails on that fab patio.
Bonus: You can sell your lawnmower when the lawn is gone.
A) A patch of dirt
B) A serenity spot
Yes, exactly. It doesn't matter if Zen is your aesthetic; the point is you can transform a small yard by building the right features on it. This pint-sized yard lives large with the addition of a water feature, deck, and stone planter.
Buyers LOVE well-cared-for lawns. An au naturale backyard meadow? Not so much. Because a lawn is like an outdoor carpet — perfect to pair with a patio. The raised beds off to the side make gardening an option without overtaking the yard (and are easily dismantled if you want even more lawn).
The rule of pools is that they're all about love; they don't generally add home value. But let your pool turn into an abandoned waterhole surrounded by overgrowth, and it totally can affect home value — in the wrong direction. A savvy upgrade includes a built-in fire pit and a gorgeous patio, which both have legit ROI.
Image: Lovely Indeed
A master gardener would replant that dead flower bed. A master relaxer turns it into a budget-friendly patio with concrete stones and tidy brick edgers. It's money well-spent because patios almost always pay for themselves when you sell, so you'll feel even better about relaxing with a beer instead of tending to peonies.
All the world's a stage, said the Bard.
That includes your house. Which is for sale. And thus needs to look bee-yoo-tee-ful.
Staging entails hiring experts with a flair for interior design. They reimagine your living space and give your house a makeover (with temporary decor and furnishings) so that it gets "oohs" and "aahs" from the buying masses.
Great staging isn't an insurance policy — there's no guarantee it will bring in more money when you sell your home — but it's an important marketing tool. It presents your house in a flattering light and helps you compete at a favorable price. (In that sense, staging is like dressing your house for the price you want, and not the price you have.)
Staging also leads to eye-catching listing photos, which are especially valuable given that most home buyers begin their search by scrolling through listings online.
So, are you thinking about hiring stagers for your home? Here's what to consider.
But you don't have to take our word for it. A recent survey from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® revealed that:
Many listings agents offer staging services to clients as part of their services. If you want to use someone you find yourself, you typically will have to pay out of pocket.
Staging costs vary depending on where you live and how many rooms you're staging. On average, home sellers pay between $302 and $1,358 for staging, according to HomeAdvisor.com. If your house is empty because you've already moved, you might also have additional expenses for renting furniture and other homey decorations to make it look lived-in.
Many stagers offer consultations for as low as $150, Fixr.com reports. Using the advice you learn during the consultation to try DIY staging may be your best option if you're on a tight budget. Listen for tips on how to use the furniture and decor you already have to show off your home's best assets.
Related Topic: Sell a Home: Step-by-Step
Spoiler alert: No buyer wants to walk into a messy house.
So, take time to clean and declutter your home. Organize everyday household items into crates and keep them out of sight. Stow away seasonal decorations (that means no Christmas in July). Make time for — or invest in — a whole-house cleaning, including carpet shampooing. Change lightbulbs, finally make those minor repairs, and add a fresh coat of paint to any room that needs it. Clean out closet space - because buyers will want to check out the closets.
Also worth considering? Removing personal items from view, such as copious family photos, artwork, or religious keepsakes. The concern is not that home buyers will be offended by you or your lifestyle. The goal is to neutralize the space and help home buyers imagine themselves living there. (But don't go overboard. You don't want rooms to feel sterile, either.)
Yes, we did just tell you to clean out your closets. So where are you supposed to put all this stuff? If you don't have a discrete place to tuck things away, consider renting a storage unit.
If your agent doesn't offer staging services, he or she can likely recommend local stagers for you to work with. Before you hire a stager, it's best to interview at least three candidates in person. You'll want to get a sense of how much they charge — and whether they have good taste.
To do your due diligence, here are 10 questions to ask prospective stagers:
You don't have to stage your whole house to make buyers swoon.
Staging the rooms where people tend to spend the most time usually makes the biggest impression on buyers. Start with thefollowed by the master bedroom and the kitchen.
Keep in mind that you're not going for an HGTV-worthy overhaul: Even small touches, like putting fluffy towels in the bathroom or replacing shabby throw pillows in the family room, can make your home that much more attractive.
Your house has to look its best — inside and outside. After all, buyers form their first impression when they pull up in front of your home. It's no surprise, then, that curb appeal — how your home looks from the exterior — can increase your home's sales value up to 17%, a Texas Tech University study found.
If you've never had your yard professionally landscaped, now may be the time to do it. Landscaped homes have a sales price advantage ranging from 5.5% to 12.7%, according to research by Alex Niemiera, a horticulturist at Virginia Tech. That would mean an extra $16,500 to $38,100 in value on a $300,000 home.
Professional landscaping, however, can cost a lot. You're aiming for polish, not a new garden of Versailles. If budget is a concern, start with these DIY improvements:
Then move on to these easy upgrades to your home's exterior:
Even basic upgrades — like laying fresh mulch, changing porch lights, or installing a new mailbox — can help a buyer fall in love at first sight.
Just wait 'til they come inside and see what else you've done with the place.
Home is literally the center of your universe right now, so make sure it's a source of minimum stress. Here's how to keep your house clean and orderly all the time.
All eyes are on the American economy. As it goes, so does the world economy. With states beginning to reopen, the question becomes: which sectors of the economy will drive its recovery? There seems to be a growing consensus that the housing market is positioned to be that driving force, the tailwind that is necessary. Some may question that assertion as they look back on the last recession in 2008 when housing was the anchor to the economy – holding it back from sailing forward. But even then, the overall economy did not begin to recover until the real estate market started to regain its strength. This time, the housing market was in great shape when the virus hit. As Mark Fleming, Chief Economist of First American, recently explained:
Many still bear scars from the Great Recession and may expect the housing market to follow a similar trajectory in response to the coronavirus outbreak. But, there are distinct differences that indicate the housing market may follow a much different path. While housing led the recession in 2008-2009, this time it may be poised to bring us out of it.
Fleming is not the only economist who believes this. Last week, Dr. Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic, (@DrFrankNothaft) tweeted:
For the first 6 decades after WWII, the housing sector led the rest of the economy out of each recession. Expect it to do so this time as well.
And, Robert Dietz, Chief Economist for the National Association of Home Builders, in an economic update last week explained:
As the economy begins a recovery later in 2020, we expect housing to play a leading role. Housing enters this recession underbuilt, not overbuilt…Based on demographics and current vacancy rates, the U.S. may have a housing deficit of up to one million units.
Every time a home is sold it has a tremendous financial impact on local economies. As the real estate market continues its recovery, it will act as a strong tailwind to the overall national economy.
While many people across the U.S. have traditionally enjoyed the perks of an urban lifestyle, some who live in more populated city limits today are beginning to rethink their current neighborhoods. Being in close proximity to everything from the grocery store to local entertainment is definitely a perk, especially if you can also walk to some of these hot spots and have a short commute to work. The trade-off, however, is that highly populated cities can lack access to open space, a yard, and other desirable features. These are the kinds of things you may miss when spending a lot of time at home. When it comes to social distancing, as we've experienced recently, the newest trend seems to be around re-evaluating a once-desired city lifestyle and trading it for suburban or rural living.
George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com notes:
"With the re-opening of the economy scheduled to be cautious, the impact on consumer preferences will likely shift buying behavior…consumers are already looking for larger homes, bigger yards, access to the outdoors and more separation from neighbors. As we move into the recovery stage, these preferences will play an important role in the type of homes consumers will want to buy. They will also play a role in the coming discussions on zoning and urban planning. While higher density has been a hallmark of urban development over the past decade, the pandemic may lead to a re-thinking of space allocation."
The Harris Poll recently surveyed 2,000 Americans, and 39% of the respondents who live in urban areas indicated the COVID-19 crisis has caused them to consider moving to a less populated area.
Today, moving outside the city limits is also more feasible than ever, especially as Americans have quickly become more accustomed to – and more accepting of – remote work. According to the Pew Research Center, access to the Internet has increased significantly in rural and suburban areas, making working from home more accessible. The number of people working from home has also spiked considerably, even before the pandemic came into play this year.
If you have a home in the suburbs or a rural area, you may see an increasing number of buyers looking for a property like yours. If you're thinking of buying and don't mind a commute to work for the well-being of your family, you may want to consider looking at homes for sale outside the city. Contact a local real estate professional today to discuss the options available in your area.
A DIY painting job doesn't have to equal crooked lines, besmirched floors, and ceramic sinks speckled with robin's egg blue.
Use these easy painting hacks, to make the process faster and less messy — and ensure a fresh, modern look for your home.
Every DIY painter has been privy to the horrors of a day-old brush with stiff bristles that makes round two nearly impossible. Try this painting hack instead:
To keep paint brushes soft:
"That way, the bristles won't develop a bend and will retain their usefulness for your next painting adventure," says Artem Filikov, vice president of marketing and product development for home improvement website HomeYou.
Also, there's no need to rinse before using. The softener actually helps distribute paint more smoothly.Sweet!
When painting around a large, awkward item you want to keep clean, like a toilet or a standalone sink, use this painting trick from the pros: surround it with plastic wrap to keep drips from destroying its finish.
For an extra tight wrap, choose a wrap with an adhesive backing — your hardware store will even carry special painter's plastic wrap, if you really want to go all out — which will help it stick to the surface and prevent the odd drop from inching its way in. Once you've finished the job, just unwrap for a paint-free finish.
Paint's intense odor can get really old really fast. Overpower it with a little bit of vanilla.
Although there are vanilla-scented products specifically designed to use with paint, you can get the same effect with what's in your kitchen cabinet.
For darker paints, add a couple drops of vanilla extract (artificial is fine) per gallon to reduce the nasty smell and keep your room smelling sweet for weeks to come.
Because you don't want the tint of vanilla to ruin the color of your paint, swap it with lemon extract for light-colored paints.
Painting's a messy job, but using roll after roll of paper towels is neither efficient nor environmentally-friendly.
And while you could pick up a mega-pack of plain cotton towels to keep paint from splattering, why not use something you can find stuffed at the back of a drawer?
Run petroleum jelly along the seals of your doors and windows to prevent them from sticking.Geoff Sharp
Geoff Sharp, the owner of Sharper Impressions Painting Co., recommends cutting up old T-shirts to use as rags, saving money and resources (not to mention a trip to Goodwill).
"If paint runs down your roller or brush, it gets really messy, really quick," he says. "Always have a rag in your pocket so you and your brush or roller stay clean."
Oh no! A drop of Naples Sunset just splashed on your white window frame. You've only got a few minutes to clean up the mess before your mistake is sealed for eternity.
That's where Q-tips come in handy. Just stash some in your pocket for these types of emergencies.
Here's another use for that pile of cotton swabs tucked in your jeans pocket: Use them to touch up imperfections on newly-painted walls without dirtying an entire paintbrush.
A little bit of Vaseline can go a long way toward keeping your paint job clean.
Using a Q-tip (another reason to keep them handy), go over all the bits and pieces you don't want painted, like screws or hinges. With the petroleum jelly applied, even an accidental slip won't leave you heartbroken.
Painter's tape is supposed to make your paint job easier and stress-free.
But when strips of perfect paint peel off along with the adhesive — or you just can't get the darn tape to come off at all — you might feel like you wasted your effort.
To help stubborn painter's tape get a move on, turn a hair dryer (low heat only) toward your handiwork.
Holding it about three inches from the wall will help soften the adhesive and ensure an even line, making removal a stress-free affair — and ensuring you keep that dreamy, crisp paint line.
Some potential buyers are understandably skittish about making a move. A North Texas builder is hoping to assuage consumers' fears by offering a mortgage payment protection plan. Megatel Homes is agreeing to pay up to six months of mortgage payments if a new homeowner loses his or her job after the purchase. "People coming into our model homes were evading purchase now because they could lose their jobs," Megatel co-founder Zach Ipour said. "That's a concern of lot of people have that currently have a job – what if they get laid off three months down the road?" To make buyers more comfortable, Megatel is offering to cover the mortgage payments if the customer's job goes away. The program is available for houses in the company's completed inventory. He said the program, which has been quietly rolled out, has already boosted sales.
Megatel is also offering paying six months of new mortgages for health care workers and first responders.
Over 12,000 people already work in Cypress Waters – will double over the next two years
The booming Cypress Waters development northwest of Dallas adjoining Coppell has landed four more major office tenants. The 1,000 acre development at LBJ Freeway and Belt Line Road is already home to more than 12,000 office workers. "We are very excited to have four new tenants join our Cypress Waters community during this time," said Lucy Burns, Partner at developer Billingsley Company. "We have numerous other leases soon to be announced as well. We are thankful to see this type of positive momentum in times like these. Our property teams have been working tirelessly to prepare our buildings for re-entry." The newest tenants are Goosehead Insurance, Artisan Design Group, Northstar Builders Group and Robert Half. Cypress Waters is already home to companies including 7-Eleven, CorelOgic, Nokia, Brinker International, Nationstar Mortgage, Toyota Industries Finance, BT America and Constellation Brands.
The Cambridge Crossing community just west of the Dallas North Tollway will include 1,600 homes
Developers have opened the first phase of a new residential community in Dallas' far northern suburbs. The Cambridge Cos. is building the $1 billion, 639 acre Cambridge Crossing community just west of the Dallas North Tollway in Celina. The project will include about 1,600 homes plus mixed-use, office and retail. The first phase that opened up includes 330 home sites priced starting in the low 300,000s. Builders in the project include Coventry Homes, Highland Homes, Perry Homes and UnionMain Homes. Model homes in the community are already under construction. Cambridge Crossing will have a 6,700 square foot clubhouse for residents that will be built starting this summer. The community has five lakes and will have 89 acres of open space.
And the number of homes on the market is 14% less than a year ago
Dallas-Ft Worth home asking prices are down slightly and there are fewer homes on the market than a year ago. The median price of DFW homes offered listed for sale with real estate agents last week was down 4% from a year ago, according to Realtor.com. The decline in median sales prices of homes on the market in North Texas is a sign that sellers aren't being aggressive in valuing their homes for sale. The number of houses listed for sale in the area last week was down almost 14% from this time last year, with fewer owners deciding to put their homes on the market because of the pandemic. Across the country, home sales inventory has fallen 19% from where it was in early May 2019, according to Realtor.com. The time it takes to sell a home has also grown. In the DFW area, the average days on market measure for a property is now 22% ahead of where it was this time last year. Surprisingly, the number of sellers who lowered the price of their homes on the market has declines from a year ago. In DFW, the number of properties with price reductions are down by more than a third from a year ago.
Real estate professionals report that about 77% of potential sellers are preparing to sell their homes once stay-at-home orders from the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted, according to a newly released survey from the National Association of REALTORS®. More than half of REALTORS® report their clients are taking on do-it-yourself home improvement projects in preparation, too. "After a pause, home sellers are gearing up to list their properties with the reopening of the economy," says Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "Plenty of buyers also appear ready to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates and the stability that comes with these locked-in monthly payments into future years." NAR conducted an Economic Pulse Flash Survey May 3-4 and asked about 2,500 members how the coronavirus has been affecting their real estate business.
Home buyers are gradually re-emerging, but the pandemic has shifted some of their housing preferences, according to the results. Five percent of REALTORS® report that their clients have changed their neighborhood preferences from urban to suburban due to the pandemic. Also, one in eight REALTORS® surveyed say that buyers have changed at least one home feature that's important to them since the COVID-19 pandemic. The most common features identified are home offices, yard space for exercising or growing food, and more space to accommodate their family. But home buyers in search of a big bargain may not find one. Nearly 75% of REALTORS® report that their sellers have not reduced listing prices to attract buyers. Housing inventories are near record lows and that reduced competition may be prompting more sellers to stand firm on their home prices.
Home sales will likely plunge this spring in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but bounce back by the end of next year, according to a new forecast from real estate search site Zillow. Sales will likely plummet by up to 60% in some markets, as stay-at-home mandates and overall worries about the economy take the steam out of what was previously expected to be a robust spring home-buying season, according to Zillow's economists and analysts.
But prices will likely experience a much slighter slide, and a quicker recovery. Zillow expects prices to drop no more than 3% by the end of this year, and then creep back up throughout 2021.
Home sales should also increase by roughly 10% a month through 2021, according to the forecast. "Much uncertainty still exists, particularly with some states beginning to reopen and experts warning of a possible second wave of the coronavirus in the fall,'' Svenja Gudell, Zillow's chief economist said in a statement. "However, housing fundamentals are strong, much more so than they were leading into the Great Recession, and that bodes well for housing in general."
"Despite the difficulties, we're seeing several signs that there is still a good amount of demand for housing and buyers, sellers and agents are growing more comfortable moving transactions forward where possible,'' Gudell says.
Housing forecasters are scrambling to adjust their price expectations. In January, CoreLogic was predicting a gain of more than 5% nationwide for home prices this year. But now, the firm's researchers are forecasting U.S. prices to be up only 0.5% a year from now, thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dallas-area prices are expected to be down 1.8% by next March. Home purchases dropped 26% year-over-year in the last two weeks of March, said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic. "Rapid decline of purchase activity starting in the middle of March can be seen in other CoreLogic data and is consistent with our home price index forecast of slowing price growth in April," Nothaft said in the report.
"Although the economic fallout from lockdown orders ... will be profound, the basic supports for a rebound in home purchase activity remain in place," said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. "Once the shelter-in-place policies are lifted, we expect millennials who submitted home-purchase applications well into the crisis to lead the way back to a positive, purchase-driven housing cycle."
Zillow is predicting that nationwide home prices will fall 2% to 3% through the rest of this year and rebound by the end of 2021.
"Much uncertainty still exists, particularly with some states beginning to reopen and experts warning of a possible second wave of the coronavirus in the fall," said Svenja Gudell, Zillow's chief economist. "However, housing fundamentals are strong — much more so than they were leading into the Great Recession — and that bodes well for housing in general.
"Despite the difficulties, we're seeing several signs that there is still a good amount of demand for housing, and buyers, sellers and agents are growing more comfortable moving transactions forward where possible," Gudell said. "For those who need to sell, buyers are out there, and there are ways to embrace technology and practice social distancing to ensure a safe process."
With businesses starting to slowly open back up again in some parts of the country, it's important to understand how housing can have a major impact on the recovery of the U.S. economy. As we've mentioned before, buying a home is a driving financial force in this process. Today, many analysts believe one of the first things we'll be able to safely bring back is the home building sector, creating more jobs and impacting local neighborhoods in a big way. According to Robert Dietz in The Eye on Housing:
The pace of new home sales will post significant declines during the second quarter due to the impacts of higher unemployment and shutdown effects of much of the U.S. economy, including elements of the real estate sector in certain markets. However, given the momentum housing construction held at the start of 2020, the housing industry will help lead the economy in the eventual recovery.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) notes the impact new construction can have on the job market:
Building 1,000 average single-family homes creates 2,900 full-time jobs and generates $110.96 million in taxes and fees for all levels of government to support police, firefighters and schools, according to NAHB's National Impact of Home Building and Remodeling report.
These employment opportunities, along with the home purchase, drive the economy in a major way. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently shared a report that notes the full economic impact of home sales. This report summarizes:
The total economic impact of real estate related industries on the state economy, as well as the expenditures that result from a single home sale, including aspects like home construction costs, real estate brokerage, mortgage lending and title insurance.
Here's the breakdown of how the average home sale boosts the economy:
As noted above in the circle on the right, the impact is almost double when you purchase new construction, given the sheer number of workers it requires to design, build, equip, and finalize the sale of the home. The NAHB paints a clear picture of these roles:
The NAHB model shows that job creation through housing is broad-based. Building new homes and apartments generates jobs in industries that produce lumber, concrete, lighting fixtures, heating equipment and other products that go into a home remodeling project. Other jobs are generated in the process of transporting, storing and selling these products.
The same NAR report also breaks down the average economic impact by state:
On an emotional level, what's most important for today's consumers to feel confident about is the safety component that goes into the process. Mitigating the risk of essential personnel at this moment in time is more crucial than ever as we all aim to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Fortunately, the NAHB has put immense effort into a plan that prioritizes the health and safety of home builders and contractors:
This is why NAHB and construction industry partners have developed a Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Plan specifically tailored to construction job sites. The plan is customizable and covers areas that include manager and worker responsibilities, job site protective measures, cleaning and disinfecting, responding to exposure incidents, and OSHA record-keeping requirements.
Buying a home is a substantial economic driver today, and when new construction picks back up again, it will be an even stronger recovery force throughout the country. If you're in a position to buy a home this year, you can have a significant impact on your local neighborhoods and safely make the move you've been waiting for. It's a win-win.
The number of homes for sale in Texas dropped significantly in the first quarter as sellers headed to the sidelines at the start of the pandemic. Listings with real estate agents fell almost 9% from a year earlier, according to the latest numbers from the Texas Realtors association. The declines were steepest in Austin (-26.6%) and Dallas-Fort Worth (-17.2%), where fears of the coronavirus pandemic have reduced the number of houses on the market.
Housing inventories in Texas and around the country were already tight before the virus spread. The national inventory in March was at one of the lowest levels on record for that month. While Texas home sales were 7% higher in the first quarter than a year earlier, real estate agents and housing analysts are tracking a big fall-off in purchases that started in March as shelter-in-place orders took hold.
The real estate market has hit the pause button during the coronavirus pandemic. Sellers are holding off on listing their properties in what was already a low-inventory market. "The housing market was quite strong before the pandemic because of a pent-up housing demand and housing shortage, with not enough listings versus buyers," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors. "During the pandemic, we have even fewer listings."
Now, some realtors are predicting a surge in the housing market this summer and fall because of pent-up demand. "The autumn months will be better than the typical autumn or winter months compared to the season factors," said Yun. "The second half should be running a little better, but we are missing out on the spring buying season."
While there may be an influx of homes for sale in the coming months, some of those homes may not be planned listings. Some are worried there will be more short sales and foreclosures on the market. "You can't have this many layoffs and this many industries being affected without it negatively affecting some people," said David Lewis, a Realtor in Denver. "I don't think it'll be as extreme as before because the restrictions on mortgages have tightened up."
"Once the economy reopens, we expect many of the jobs that have been lost will return," Yun said. "Certainly, in areas like hair salons, day cares, dental offices, that they will be running 100 percent right away."
While it's hard to predict just exactly how the pandemic will affect the real estate market, experts don't expect housing prices to plummet, as most homes that are selling now are still being purchased close to the listing price.
Heading into the pandemic, North Texas' housing market was seeing record sales and rising prices. And when the worst of the COVID-19 economic downturn is past, the home market could be one of the best parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth and statewide economy, a top real estate economist predicts.
"Housing could be well be the leader in bringing the rest of the economy up out of the doldrums," Dr. James Gaines, chief economist at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University said. "We are going to have historically low interest rates that could boost the market. Housing could well be one of the leading industry sectors that gets us out. Home construction will come back - I think it will be prime recovery activity."
"We expected 2020 to be a good year but now all bets are off," he said. "March is probably going to be the last good month for housing for a while. April and May are probably going to be way down. It will now be July, August and September will be our best months of the year.
- Dallas Morning News, May 1, 2020