Thursday, July 31, 2014

Utah is a red state with a purplish hue

Well, here I was getting ready to write a bombshell article about how Utahn politics were more moderate than you think (I was playing a hunch, honestly), but it turns out that the guys over at Five Thirty Eight already did a much better report on the topic in 2012.

Here's the report. It's a pretty quick read, and will give you a much more accurate picture of Utahn politics than Facebook memes. The report points out that while Utahns tend to draw a hard line on being opposed to same-sex marriage (but this has changed; see below) and abortion (this has not changed), they tend to have much more moderate stances on immigration. Utah was the first state to initiate a guest worker program, and is one of three states where illegal immigrants can legally drive cars. It also points out that Jon Huntsman, a Republican, was re-elected to the Utahn governorship on a campaign to invest in renewable energy sources and protect the environment, which is typically thought of as a flagship of liberal ideology.

By Ikiwaner (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons


So is Utah a conservative Republican state? Sure, but it's more nuanced than that. Check out the report.

Noteably, the report was written in 2012, and due to an interesting twist of fate, Utah became the 18th state where same-sex marriage was legalized on December 20, 2013. Upon reading the significantly complicated story of the legalization, one might conclude that this was the case of the judiciary overruling public opinion, and that conclusion would be incorrect. That link is to a statewide poll taken by the Salt Lake Tribune that shows that Utahns are just about evenly split on the question of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Speaking as someone who has lived here for most of my life, let me tell you that none of this information surprises me. In my neighborhood, I grew up around a wide variety of political opinions, and the milieu of differing worldviews only increased when I went to BYU. I guess it's a little comforting to see the statistics validate my experience.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Easy ways to make your home sell for more money

I found this picture while looking for images to this article. It makes me inexpressably happy.

President Obama is unimpressed with this post. I live and work in Utah, though, so I'm not too worried. 


In my last post, I talked about Comparative Market Analyses (CMAs) and how realtors find the market value of your home.

What I hope was clear from that post is that setting the price of an asset like your home is fairly subjective.

Buying a home, much like selling a home, is an emotional process. This is one of the reasons it's important to have a good realtor, as we can act as a guide through what can become an emotional minefield.

When people are buying a home for themselves, they are going to instinctively picture themselves living in it. As the seller, your job is to make sure that the picture they see in their heads is unforgettably attractive.

Virtually every buyer has a couple qualities they're looking for in a home. For me, I wanted a yard that I could see a dog running around in. I've worked with folks who were really interested in having plenty of storage space, and also one buyer in particular who was enchanted with the idea of a closet under the stairs, because why not?

You can't appeal to all buyers at once, obviously, but you can work on the things that almost every buyer considers, whether they know they're considering it or not:

Curb Appeal:

I guess technically there's no curb here.
Photo by Andrew Shiva
The other fun reality of home selling is that buyers make decisions on homes way before you may expect them to. In many cases, the decision is made while looking at pictures, and merely confirmed when arriving at the home.

I'll cover pictures in a later post about staging, but let's talk about curb appeal.

Basically, curb appeal is what the buyer sees the moment they drive up to the house. The front yard, the front door, the windows, what have you.

Take care of your yard, especially the front yard. Plant brightly-colored flowers. (Friendly yellows, exciting reds, elegant blues, all good things. White flowers are overrated, but if you love them, go nuts.) Make the yard beautiful, and make the buyers' hearts flutter just a little when they look at your house.

The Front Door:
By Iampurav (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This is part of curb appeal, but is worthy of its own section. Your front door is really the face of your house, even if you never use the thing. It is, at least initially, where buyers will picture the ingress and egress of friends into and out of the home. The front door should be freshly painted in a tasteful color, in good repair, and generally inviting.

Smell:
Someone, at some point, thought this fountain was a good idea.
By Joseolgon (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

You don't want the house to stink, obviously. I think sellers intuitively understand that, but what I want to stress here is you really don't want any weird smells. This should be a priority in staging. The moment buyers pick up a musty smell, they're going to start worrying about mold. Now, buyers should always get an inspection that checks for mold, regardless of how suspicious they are, but you don't want to be the house they remember as "the one that might have mold in it."

There are different schools of thought on what your house should smell like. Some realtors push the idea of baking smells, which I think is sensible, although I know people who get suspicious when it seems like you might be trying to cover something up, smell-wise. I'm in the cleaning materials camp. Wipe everything down with pine-sol, and your house will smell clean. Which brings us to...

Cleanliness:
By Uploaded by Duk 08:45, 16 Feb 2005 (UTC) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It is basically impossible to overemphasize the need for cleanliness in your home when selling. I don't think a lot needs to be said about this, although it may come up again later in my staging article.

Kitchen and Bathrooms:

Depending on how you're staging a home, bedrooms are surprisingly nondescript. For the most part, they are relatively plain rooms that the buyer can imagine being whatever they want them to be. With kitchens and bathrooms, it's a different story.

You can't control the layout of your kitchen and bathrooms for the most part, but you can make sure that they are immaculately clean, completely devoid of anything on the countertops (put those appliances in cupboards while people are viewing your home!), and well lit. Potential buyers will picture themselves using the kitchen and the bathrooms, and they have their own loads of appliances that they'll want to put around the kitchen, and what have you.

Questions I hear:

I hope this helped. Now I want to address some things I hear fairly commonly.

Should I repaint the house?

If you think you need to, then probably yes. The nice thing about painting is that it's cheap, and the difference between an old, cracking paint job and a new one is a dramatic difference, indeed.

Should I install granite countertops/hardwood floors/a fountain/a spaceship/etc.?

Probably not. People have all sorts of ideas about what hypothetical buyers are looking for in a home. Generally, you'll end up projecting what you as a buyer are looking for in a home, but as I stated above, buyers are fickle and unpredictable creatures.

If you installed something in the home because you wanted it there, then chances are it fits well with the home and will impress at least some of your buyers. If you install something specifically to increase the home value, you are playing a risky game, and most of the time you'll only end up recapturing the expense of the installation. It's generally not worth your effort.

The potential exception to this rule is if you already have all the supplies you need to install the new thing because you meant to install it awhile ago and just never got around to it. Since you've already put the money into the supplies, you may as well do the installation and try to recapture the expense.

What about adding bedrooms and bathrooms?

The MLS system values an extra bedroom at $1,000, and an extra full bathroom at $5,000. Of course, there's no guarantee you'll actually fetch that price, but that's the system's estimation. Honestly, I would apply the advice in the previous question. If you already have the stuff, and you just haven't gotten around to installation, then it may well be a worthwhile endeavor for you.

Is there anything COMPLETELY FREE I can do that will dramatically increase the value of my home?

Why, yes there is! It's called staging, and most of what I've written here falls under that category. There are a couple other things that go more into the specifics, and I'll cover those in a later post.

How much is my home worth now?

Good question. Click here and tell me a little bit about your house, and I'll send you a CMA as soon as I can. (Generally within two business days.) It's free, and involves no commitment of any kind.

(Do you want to get home-buying and home-selling tips emailed to you? Do you want to stay up to date on the national and local real estate market? Do you like ninjas? Subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of this page!)