Fairway Independent Mortgage

Protecting Your Nest Egg as You Age

Protecting Your Nest Egg as You Age

 Newton, MA.  10:15AM EST

Retirement savings golden nest eggPeople pondering their retirement years often conjure images of spending more time on a favorite pastime or traveling around the country or the world.

Health concerns can intrude on those idyllic scenes, though, not only affecting enjoyment of life but also punching a heavy dent in retirement savings.

“As we age, usually our medical or long-term care expenses increase, sometimes depleting our assets to a level of crisis,” says financial advisor Jake Lowrey, president of Lowrey Financial Group.

“It’s important for retirees, and anyone planning for retirement, to become educated about what the pitfalls are and what they need to do to avoid losing their life savings.”

Long-term care especially can burn a hole in savings accounts. In 2012, for example, nursing home care averaged $74,800 a year, according to a report by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Meanwhile, assisted living facilities averaged $39,500 per year, and home-health services averaged $21 per hour.

More than 10 million Americans need some sort of long-term care, the Kaiser report says. That number covers all ages, even children, but about half are people 65 and older.

“Those older Americans had looked forward to enjoying their golden years,” Lowrey says. “They should be able to have actual golden years instead of what can end up being scary years, both personally and financially.”

Certainly, being able to maintain good health is a key factor in protecting savings and making retirement enjoyable and satisfying, he says.

But life doesn’t always work out that way. Fortunately, there are strategies seniors can use to lessen the impact of expenses brought on by long-term care needs. Lowrey says some of those include:

• VA benefits.
Military veterans may be able to offset nursing home or assisted-living expenses through benefits provided by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. A veteran’s eligibility for long-term care services would be determined based on his or her need for ongoing treatment, personal care and assistance, as well as the availability of the service in the area where the person lives, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Other factors, such as financial eligibility, a service-connected disability, insurance coverage, and/or ability to pay may also come into play.

• Medicaid compliant SPIAs. A SPIA is a single-premium immediate annuity. Typically, a SPIA is a contract with an insurance company where you pay the company a sum of money up front (the premium), and the company promises to pay you a certain amount of money periodically for the rest of your life.

A Medicaid compliant SPIA is a specially designed annuity that pays out over the person’s “life expectancy” and has other specific characteristics. A couple who put money in a Medicaid annuity are able to avoid having the income from that annuity count against the financial assistance a spouse receives for nursing home care.

• Setting up a trust. Trusts can help shelter wealth from the look-back periods in Medicaid requirements and assist in qualifying for VA programs, among other advantages, Lowrey says.

Choose Your Paint with These Fancy Apps

Choose Your Paint with These Fancy Apps

Newton, MA.  

Picking paint at the store can be overwhelming, and sometimes you’re less inspired by a paint chip and more inspired by photos, jewelry or Mother Nature. Now your phone can give you the tools you need to preview colors where and when the mood strikes.

Photo by: iStock

Here are five apps that can help you get the right color on the walls before you buy.

The ColorSmart by BEHR® Mobile app lets you preview, match and coordinate colors on-the-go. This fun-to-use app puts you in control with handy features like:
• Browsing through the BEHR Premium Plus Ultra® and Premium Plus® colors collections
• Photo-match to a BEHR color with their proprietary tool
• Preview function to see a color in different rooms and styles
• “Touch-and-tap” technology to paint a room image
• Sharing on Facebook and Twitter
(FREE for iPhone®, iPad® or Android)

The Benjamin Moore Color Capture® app makes it simple to snap a picture of anything that inspires you and instantly find its match among the more than 3,500 Benjamin Moore paint colors. Then you can save your pics and their coordinating color matches to your Favorites. Plus, you can:
• Group colors in Favorites to create personalized combos
• Share your favorite colors on social media and email
• Browse Benjamin Moore’s inspirational color cards and access the full color wheel to search colors
(FREE for iPhone®, iPad® or Android phones 6.1 or higher)

Besides letting you search by name or browse their library of 1,500 colors, ColorSnap® for mobile from Sherwin-Williams allows you to create personalized palettes with colors that inspire you. Simply upload an image and this app will instantly match colors in your photo. Then you can edit, delete or add colors to suit your artistic vision— you can even ask Sherwin-Williams for colors that complement your selections. The possibilities are endless with features that help you:
• Fine-tune colors for lightness, saturation and hue
• Get detailed color information such as names, RGB values and LRV numbers
• Save and access your Favorites across devices
(FREE for iPhone®, iPad® or Android)

With its intuitive navigation, ProjectPaint by Valspar puts over 3,000 Valspar paints right at your fingertips. Swipe, swish and tap through their catalog to choose colors for inside or outside your home, plus get recommendations for coordinating colors. This app even helps you calculate how much paint you’ll need for your project and creates a customized shopping list so you can make just one trip to the store.

Don’t want to limit your color choices to one particular brand? AnyPaintColor by MyPerfectColorlets you search over 130,000 colors from over 100 brands including Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren. It’s essentially a virtual fan deck that gives you the power to browse colors to your heart’s content without having to set one foot in a store.
($2.99 for iPhone®, iPad®, iPod Touch®)

The Top 7 Things to Do When You Inherit a Home

The Top 7 Things to Do When You Inherit a Home

Newton, MA.  12:30PM EST


1. Check the title. Make sure that the ownership is in the name it is intended so that it is freely transferable to you.

2. Make sure there are no liens against the property. If work had been done over the years on the property or it was given as collateral against any loan, there may be banking institutions or individuals that have a claim against your inheritance. You will want to research this and settle any claims before you consider or attempt to sell, lease or transfer title to the property. It may also affect the property’s value if somebody else has a claim against it.

3. Get a condition report from a licensed contractor or engineer to see what repairs need to be made. Oftentimes properties that are long-held in families can be—if they are not primary residences -in disrepair. You certainly want to protect the value of any inheritance and even minor repairs can enhance value.

4. If you are considering refurbishing and selling your inheritance, there are small things you can do to enhance the value. Consider a paint job, an upgrade of furniture, fresh flowers throughout if you are going to be showing your property and landscaping is often the first thing folks see when looking at a home so it can be a very worthwhile investment.

5. Modernize where you can. Updating a kitchen or bathroom or even flooring can make a huge difference in how a property appears to others. New drawer handles, doorknobs even small change can revamp the look of s property and bring it up to date.

Sotheby’s Significant Sales

Just a little something to make you smile.


Sotheby’s Significant Sales

Real Estate 101 — Supply and Demand


Two Graphs that Scream – List Your Home Today!

Real Estate 101 — It’s a supply and demand business.

Two Graphs that Scream - List Your Home Today | Keeping Current Matters

We all learned in school that when selling anything, you will get the most money if the demand for that item is high and the inventory of that item is low. It is the well-known Theory of Supply & Demand. If you are thinking of selling your home, here are two graphs that strongly suggest that the time is now. Here is why…


According to research at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), buyer activity last month (January) was three times greater than it was last January. Purchasers who are ready, willing and able to buy are in the market at great numbers.Buyer Demand | Keeping Current Matters


The most recent Existing Home Sales Report from NAR revealed that the months’ supply of housing inventory had fallen to 4.4 months which is the lowest it has been in over a year. Months Inventory of Homes for Sale | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

Listing your house for sale when demand is high and supply is low will guarantee the offers made will truly reflect the true value of your property.

Members: Sign in now to set up your Personalized Posts & start sharing today!

Not a Member Yet? Click Here to learn more about KCM‘s newest feature, Personalized Posts.

Have You Set Up Personalized Posts Yet? | Keeping Current Matters



7 Things That Make Your Home Look Dated

7 Things That Make Your Home Look Dated


Prevent any “What was I thinking?” moments a few years from now with these fresh — not faddish — ideas from Elements of Style author Erin Gates.

By Candace Braun Davison

  • The Backsplash Accent That Cuts the Walls in Half
    Marie Hélène Bilodeau
    That once-popular stripe of tiny, sea-toned square glass tiles — or practical, 4-inch strip of granite — above the stove isn’t just out of vogue; the contrasting color cuts your walls in half, making the ceiling seem lower than it actually is. To open things up, choose stone mosaic tiles in a herringbone pattern, or rows of white subway tiles, and extend them all the way to the ceiling (even behind and around the hood), recommends Erin Gates, the interior designer and blogger behindElementsofStyle.com, and author of the New York Times-bestselling book, Elements of Style.
  • The Throw Pillows That Set Pinterest on Fire
    Marie Hélène Bilodeau
    If the social network created a time capsule to chronicle its meteoric rise to fame in 2011, you better believe it would’ve included a pair of turquoise-and-white throw pillows. While the zigzag itself is timeless, its use — and that particular color combination — has been overdone, Gates says, much like green Imperial Trellisfabric years earlier. The easiest way to freshen things up? “Find a more unexpected way to use it, like black-and-white tile in a chevron pattern on the floor, or an ikat-chevron fabric on curtains, which doesn’t have the same crisp lines you normally associate with the print,” she explains.
  • The Stylish Pouf That’s Better Off as an Ottoman
    Marie Hélène Bilodeau
    Moroccan poufs have been touted as the entertainer’s standby for extra seating, but they’re typically too low to the ground to actually be comfortable to sit on, Gates says. Swap it out for a pair of X benches — you can tuck them under a console table when they’re not in use, and at 18 to 19 inches tall, they’re the same height as most chairs and sofas. For a truly timeless style, try a pair in leather.
  • The Cabinets Used in Almost Every Early 2000s Home Makeover Show
    Marie Hélène Bilodeau
    Maple and oak wood-stained cabinets (especially those with ornate, French-ish carvings) instantly age a kitchen, but thankfully, it’s nothing a few coats of paint can’t fix. White is a no-fail choice– Gates swears by Decorator’s White and White Dove by Benjamin Moore. Navy or black paint makes carved details less noticeable, though Gates recommends painting only the lower cabinets and island in darker colors, if your ceilings are 8 feet tall or shorter.
  • The All-Caps Word
    Marie Hélène Bilodeau
    Consider a more subtle alternative to those metal signs spelling out “eat,” “family” or “love” in 16-inch letters: In place of the “eat” sign in a kitchen, Gates suggests wrapping a corkboard in linen and framing it with molding to create wall art that doubles as a command center for your to-do lists, recipes and postcards. She recommends gallery wall of black-and-white photos of family members that you add to over time that telegraph the theme. “Just avoid those collage-frame kits or only using photos from one group photo shoot, or it will look too matchy-matchy,” Gates says.
  • The Pendant Light Fixture Installed in Every New Home
    Marie Hélène Bilodeau
    If your house was built in the aughts, there’s a good chance you’ve got overhead lights that look like frosted wine glasses dangling from the ceiling. The real problem with these mini-pendants? They’re always too small, Gates says. For a better — and more timeless — source of light, try an orb shape with an antique brass finish, likeHinkley’s Congress light or a two-tone David Hicks pendant.
  • The Sleigh That Doesn’t Come with Eight Reindeer
    Marie Hélène Bilodeau
    As grand as a sleigh bed looks, it can really swallow up a bedroom, making the space seem cramped. Canopy beds have been making a huge comeback recently, Gates says, though the posts are thinner and less detailed than what you remember from late ’80s, and the top is kept bare. The tall posts draw your eye up, but they don’t take up as much space, making the room seem airier and more open than its predecessor. Plus, this streamlined style doesn’t require that you live in a Georgian manor: The thin frame doesn’t overwhelm standard 8-foot ceilings. Pair with an upholstered headboard to add a touch of plushness; otherwise the bed can look sterile.

Inaccurate Zillow ‘Zestimates’ a Source of Conflict Over Home Prices

Inaccurate Zillow ‘Zestimates’ a source of conflict over home prices

February 12, 2015 Newton, MA.  2:45PM EST
Zillow execs follow housing data to surprising conclusions
Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff, shown in his downtown Seattle office, says Zestimates are “a good starting point” but that nationwide Zestimates have a “median error rate” of about 8%. (Ellen M. Banner / TNS)
By KENNETH R. HARNEY Real Estate Business

Home shoppers, sellers and buyers routinely quote Zestimates to realty agents as gauges of market value
Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff says that nationwide Zestimates have a “median error rate” of about 8%
When “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell asked the chief executive of Zillow recently about the accuracy of the website’s automated property value estimates — known as Zestimates — she touched on one of the most sensitive perception gaps in American real estate.

Millennials are finally entering home-buying market
Millennials are finally entering home-buying market
Zillow is the most popular online real estate information site, with 73 million unique visitors in December. Along with active listings of properties for sale, it also provides information on houses that are not on the market. You can enter the address or general location in a database of millions of homes and probably pull up key information — square footage, lot size, number of bedrooms and baths, photos, taxes — plus a Zestimate.

Shoppers, sellers and buyers routinely quote Zestimates to realty agents — and to one another — as gauges of market value. If a house for sale has a Zestimate of $350,000, a buyer might challenge the sellers’ list price of $425,000. Or a seller might demand to know from potential listing brokers why they say a property should sell for just $595,000 when Zillow has it at $685,000.


Disparities like these are daily occurrences and, in the words of one realty agent who posted on the industry blog ActiveRain, they are “the bane of my existence.” Consumers often take Zestimates “as gospel,” said Tim Freund, an agent with Dilbeck Real Estate in Westlake Village. If either the buyer or the seller won’t budge off Zillow’s estimated value, he told me, “that will kill a deal.”

Back to the question posed by O’Donnell: Are Zestimates accurate? And if they’re off the mark, how far off? Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff answered that they’re “a good starting point” but that nationwide Zestimates have a “median error rate” of about 8%.

Homeowners underestimate their property values 1.6%, research says
Homeowners underestimate their property values 1.6%, research says
Whoa. That sounds high. On a $500,000 house, that would be a $40,000 disparity — a lot of money on the table — and could create problems. But here’s something Rascoff was not asked about: Localized median error rates on Zestimates sometimes far exceed the national median, which raises the odds that sellers and buyers will have conflicts over pricing. Though it’s not prominently featured on the website, at the bottom of Zillow’s home page in small type is the word “Zestimates.” This section provides helpful background information along with valuation error rates by state and county — some of which are stunners.


For example, in New York County — Manhattan — the median valuation error rate is 19.9%. In Brooklyn, it’s 12.9%. In Somerset County, Md., the rate is an astounding 42%. In some rural counties in California, error rates range as high as 26%. In San Francisco it’s 11.6%. With a median home value of $1,000,800 in San Francisco, according to Zillow estimates as of December, a median error rate at this level translates into a price disparity of $116,093.

Some real estate agents have done their own studies of accuracy levels of Zillow in their local markets.

Last July, Robert Earl, an agent with Choice Homes Team in the Charlottesville, Va., area, examined selling prices and Zestimates of all 21 homes sold that month in the nearby community of Lake Monticello. On 17 sales Zillow overestimated values, including two houses that sold for 61% below the Zestimate.
In Carlsbad, Calif., Jeff Dowler, an agent with Solutions Real Estate, did a similar analysis on sales in two ZIP Codes. He found that Zestimates came in below the selling price 70% of the time, with disparities ranging as high as $70,000. In 25% of the sales, Zestimates were higher than the contract price. In 95% of the cases, he said, “Zestimates were wrong. That does not inspire a lot of confidence, at least not for me.” In a second ZIP Code, Dowler found that 100% of Zestimates were inaccurate and that disparities were as large as $190,000.

So what do you do now that you’ve got the scoop on Zestimate accuracy? Most important, take Rascoff’s advice: Look at them as no more than starting points in pricing discussions with the real authorities on local real estate values — experienced agents and appraisers. Zestimates are hardly gospel — often far from it.

Newton Real Estate Recap — We NEED Inventory

Newton Real Estate Recap — We NEED Inventory

Published February 11, 2105 EST Newton, MA.

We have been digging out for weeks now but the snow just keeps coming.  The real estate market is obviously slower than normal.  If we can widen some of these streets and walking paths soon the market will roar to life.  That being said, business is being conducted albeit at a slower pace.  We continue to struggle with a lack of inventory with only 81 homes for sale in what is normally the busiest time of the year.  A normal market has roughly 200 homes for sale.  I cannot remember the last time we had a normal market.    The market may be in the snowoldrums but 42 buyers snapped up a home since the first of the year across all price ranges.  The 1 million to 1.5 million is the most active segment.  I can attest that there are many buyers in that range.  I listed a home in early January for 1.279M and I had countless buyers through.  We received 3 offers and will close at the end of this month.  Interestingly, I see some of the same people at open houses I have seen for the past 2 years.  The truth is some of them are real buyers and some are tire kickers.  Most don’t have a broker and think they are going to get a great deal if they don’t have agent –WRONG!  An agent would help them understand if their wants are even possible and hopefully guide them to a great house.  That’s a blog post for another day.  The point is those people missed the market, there are no bargains out there.  We have an educated savvy buying population, they have seen everything, created a spread sheet and some of them know the inventory better than we do.   They can recite back details of specific homes with encyclopedic knowledge.

In any event, if you are thinking of selling I cannot think of a better time to sell or buy!



On-Market Snapshot
Report Run: 2/11/2015 11:06:47 AM
Property Type(s): SF
Snapshot Date: 01/01/2015
Towns: Newton
 01/01/2015  2/11/2015
Price Range Number of
Avg. Days
on Market
vs. today Number of
Avg. Days
on Market
Under $50,000
$50,000 – $99,999
$100,000 – $149,999
$150,000 – $199,999
$200,000 – $249,999
$250,000 – $299,999
$300,000 – $349,999
$350,000 – $399,999
$400,000 – $449,999
$450,000 – $499,999 2 9
$500,000 – $599,999 2 151
$600,000 – $699,999 4 90 2 68
$700,000 – $799,999 3 108 4 88
$800,000 – $899,999 4 69 1 155
$900,000 – $999,999 3 67
$1,000,000 – $1,499,999 10 130 20 81
$1,500,000 – $1,999,999 11 114 17 156
$2,000,000 – $2,499,999 10 238 13 219
$2,500,000 – $2,999,999 8 129 7 157
$3,000,000 – $3,999,999 9 185 10 227
$4,000,000 – $4,999,999 1 70 2 80
$5,000,000 – $9,999,999
Over $10,000,000
Total Properties 62 Avg. 140 81 Avg. 146
Lowest Price: $489,000
Median Price: $1,899,499.50
Highest Price: $4,195,000
Average Price: $2,015,180
Total Market Volume: $124,941,185
Lowest Price: $599,000
Median Price: $1,750,000
Highest Price: $4,300,000
Average Price: $1,988,265
Total Market Volume: $161,049,485


Pending Statistics
Report Run: 2/11/2015 11:08:24 AM
Property Type(s): SF
Start Date: 01/01/2015
End Date: 02/11/2015
Towns: Newton
Went Pending Current Status
Price Range # of
# UAG # CTG # Sold # Other
Under $50,000
$50,000 – $99,999
$100,000 – $149,999
$150,000 – $199,999
$200,000 – $249,999
$250,000 – $299,999
$300,000 – $349,999
$350,000 – $399,999
$400,000 – $449,999
$450,000 – $499,999 2 2
$500,000 – $599,999 2 2
$600,000 – $699,999 6 5 1
$700,000 – $799,999 3 1 1 1
$800,000 – $899,999 5 5
$900,000 – $999,999 3 3
$1,000,000 – $1,499,999 10 5 4 1
$1,500,000 – $1,999,999 5 4 1
$2,000,000 – $2,499,999 2 1 1
$2,500,000 – $2,999,999 1 1
$3,000,000 – $3,999,999 2 1 1
$4,000,000 – $4,999,999 1 1
$5,000,000 – $9,999,999
Over $10,000,000
Total Properties 42 30 9 0 3
Lowest Price: $489,000 Median Price: $1,014,450
Highest Price: $4,000,000 Average Price: $1,312,778
Total Market Volume: $55,136,698


Total Sold Market Statistics
Report Run: 2/11/2015 11:09:47 AM
Property Type(s): SF
Status: SLD
Start Date: 01/01/2015
End Date: 02/11/2015
Towns: Newton
Price Range # of
Avg. Days
on Market
Avg. Days
to Offer
Sale Price
List Price
Orig Price
$0 – $49,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$50,000 – $99,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$100,000 – $149,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$150,000 – $199,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$200,000 – $249,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$250,000 – $299,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$300,000 – $349,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$350,000 – $399,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$400,000 – $449,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$450,000 – $499,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$500,000 – $599,999 4 52 38 $566,250 $610,725 93 $620,500 91
$600,000 – $699,999 3 41 22 $657,333 $662,667 99 $689,333 96
$700,000 – $799,999 4 16 14 $744,522 $741,750 101 $741,750 101
$800,000 – $899,999 9 58 9 $846,497 $823,878 103 $829,433 102
$900,000 – $999,999 3 35 6 $933,629 $912,296 102 $912,296 102
$1,000,000 – $1,499,999 9 33 29 $1,251,278 $1,250,000 101 $1,278,333 99
$1,500,000 – $1,999,999 7 159 106 $1,691,857 $1,773,000 95 $1,872,286 91
$2,000,000 – $2,499,999 5 131 128 $2,159,105 $2,358,580 92 $2,698,580 81
$2,500,000 – $2,999,999 1 2 2 $2,900,000 $2,999,000 97 $2,999,000 97
$3,000,000 – $3,999,999 1 32 32 $3,775,000 $3,795,000 99 $3,795,000 99
$4,000,000 – $4,999,999 1 51 51 $4,000,000 $4,250,000 94 $4,250,000 94
$5,000,000 – $9,999,999 1 229 136 $5,495,000 $5,525,000 99 $6,295,000 87
$10,000,000 – $99,999,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
Total Properties 48 Avg. 71 Avg. 47 $1,410,510 $1,449,429 99 $1,524,202 96
Lowest Price: $545,000 Median Price: $1,138,250
Highest Price: $5,495,000 Average Price: $1,410,510
Total Market Volume: $67,704,476


Top 5 Ways to Boost the Value of Your Home

CR052K14-House_LawnTop 5 ways to boost the value of your home

Learn how to make 10 percent more money when selling your home

Newton, MA.  1:30PM EST
Cleaning up and clearing out is a must but the single biggest visual is paint!

This is a great time to be selling a house—or buying one. With housing prices at recent highs (in some neighborhoods they’re exceeding pre-2008 valuations), it’s no wonder about 5.3 million homes are expected to change hands in 2015, up about 30 percent from the bottom of the crash, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Buyers as well as sellers can benefit. That’s because purchasing a home is comparatively cheap right now, thanks to still-low interest rates (they recently dipped below 4 percent for a 30-year fixed mortgage). “A home buyer with the U.S. median income who buys the median-priced home will pay 15.3 percent of their income on their mortgage now,” says Skylar Olsen, a senior economist at Zillow, the online real estate marketplace. “The historical number is 22.1 percent.” And although home prices will continue to climb in 2015, they’re expected to do so at a slower rate than in 2014.

So how do you make the most money, no matter which end of the transaction you’re on? For answers, the Consumer Reports National Research Center turned to the people most in the know for answers—the real estate professionals who broker almost 90 percent of residential sales.

A panel of 303 pros from around the country (covering markets big and small, hot and cold, city and suburban) completed our recent online survey, filled with essential questions: What are the costliest mistakes sellers make? When is the best time to put a home on the market? How negotiable are broker’s fees, really?

The answers may surprise you. If you’re a seller, advice from the pros on smart presale fix-ups, coupled with our expert product ratings and tips, can help you get the best sales price for your home—an additional 12 percent, on average. With median single-family home prices hovering at about $205,000, that’s a potential gain of $24,600. In pricier markets, the profits will go many times higher.

And both buyers and sellers can come out ahead with our guide to savvy financial and negotiating moves. Avoid the most typical mistakes and you could gain 11 to 20 percent, and even more in some markets, of the home sale’s price.

April through June is prime home-selling season. So let’s get started!

Clean up, clear out

Cost range: $0 (DIY) to $2,500 (pro)

Potential return: 3 to 5%*

Nothing drives away would-be buyers faster than clut­ter, grime, and the weird smells that accompany a messy home. Bruce Irving, a renovation consultant and real estate agent based in Cambridge, Mass., tells clients to imagine their boss is coming to dinner with his or her spouse. “Your home should be at least that nice on the day of any open house,” he says.

Vital to the process is de-cluttering and depersonalizing the space as much as possible. Buyers will have a hard time imagining themselves in your home if it’s filled with family photos and other personal effects.

For severely cluttered residences, or if you’re downsizing and need help winnowing your possessions, consider hiring a professional organizer. Check the location-based member directory on the website of Next Stage Associates. “We’re not counselors, but we have skills to help people think through why they’re having trouble letting go of certain items,” says Jennifer Lava, president of the Austin, Texas, chapter. In addition to making your current home more sellable, a pro can help you get off to an organized start in your new residence.

Depending on the level of clutter, an organizer may need one to three months to get your home ready for sale, at a cost of $600 to $2,500—money well spent if it helps your property move more quickly. The service might even be worth it if you plan to stay put for the time being because living in a cluttered home takes a psychological toll.

Before hosting the open house, remember to open the curtains and blinds because natural light is just as important as order to making a home feel bigger. And give the entire interior a thorough cleaning, including vacuuming, dusting, and wiping down every surface. Your boss might not be coming over, but someone in the position to write you a very big check hopefully is.

*Potential increase in asking price, assuming home value of $205,000.

Spruce up the kitchen

Click on the image for kitchen upgrades.

Cost range: $300 to $5,000

Potential return: 3 to 7%

It’s a real estate adage that the kitchen, more than any other room, sells the home. In fact, 53 percent of real estate professionals told us that the kitchen is among the most important rooms of the home to have in good shape before selling.

But that doesn’t mean you should drop tens of thousands of dollars on a new one before putting your house on the block. “Given all the volatility in the real estate market, you can’t spend megabucks on any project, even a kitchen, and expect to get that money back,” says Bill Wilson, a real estate professional in upstate New York. His first advice to clients is to make all of those minor repairs that can lead to serious second thoughts for buyers—the leaky faucet, the loose light fixture, the burn mark on the countertop.

Once you’ve made the kitchen fully functional, think about a gentle spruce-up. For a few hundred dollars, you can probably paint the walls, update the cabinet hardware, and add new curtains, which will give the space a clean, fresh look.

If the kitchen is badly outdated, increasing your bud­get to $5,000 might make sense, especially if you could be in the home for a few more years. A couple thousand dollars will get you a top-performing refrigerator, range, and dishwasher, all with popular stainless-steel finish. New countertops and floors will cost about the same, especially if you go for DIY-friendly laminate and vinyl, both of which proved very hard-wearing in ourcountertop reviews and flooring tests. That will leave about $1,000 for odds and ends, such as light fixtures and a new faucet, as well as any necessary labor costs.

Freshen up the bath

Click on the image for bathroom updates.

Cost range: $300 to $1,000
Potential return: 2 to 3%

Buyers want to see that a home is clean and well-maintained, especially in the bathrooms. “Simple improvements like caulking the tub or re-grouting the tile floor will go a long way in the mind of a buyer,” says Bree Al-Rashid, an agent withRedfin, a real estate brokerage. And consider this: 42 percent of real estate professionals we survyed said the bathroom is one of the most important rooms of the home to have in good shape.

Installing new bathroom fixtures will make the space look brighter and more appealing. “I tell my clients to replace anything with a handle, especially if the home has hard water, since it causes so much metal corrosion,” says Ginny Ivanoff, a real estate consultant in Carlisle, Pa. Updating the mirror and lighting will improve the sensory experience.

If you’re not looking to sell right away, there are several larger upgrades that shouldn’t cost a fortune, given the small dimensions of many bathrooms. For example, you might be able to add a new floor and vanity countertop for less than $1,000, especially if you use inexpensive vinyl and laminate.

Adding new toilets is also a smart upgrade because it can improve the look of a home while also making it more water-efficient. We recently tested toilets to see how well they handle solid waste (using sponges and plastic balls) without leaving unsightly stains inside the bowl or creating a deafening whoosh.

Paint the rooms—selectively

Click on the image for paint upgrades.

Cost range: $100 (DIY) to $1,000 (pro)

Potential return: 1 to 3%

A fresh coat of paint is the quickest way to transform a room. But it probably doesn’t make sense to have your entire house repainted prior to putting it on the market. “I’ve seen people spend three, four, even five thousand dollars on a massive paint job, when all they needed to do was hit the walls with a Magic Eraser and maybe redo one or two rooms,” says Redfin’s Bree Al-Rashid. (Sixteen percent of real estate professionals said interior painting is an important element in fostering the sale of a home.)

Kitchens and bathrooms are two candidates for a complete paint job given the high traffic they see. You should also paint any brightly colored rooms. “Most people do not have the vision of what a room could look like, and instead they walk away and later say, ‘Oh, that’s the house with the purple bedrooms,’ ” says Kim Parten, a real estate pro from Horseshoe Bay, Texas. “I’ve had homes not sell, or sell for less, because of purple bedrooms.”

Whites and off-whites tend to attract the most buyers; the neutral palette allows them to focus on a home’s attributes. “Grays and beiges are both very reliable,” says Al-Rashid. “They’re not too warm, not too cold, and they work with most types of furniture, so buyers will be able to see themselves in the space.”

As for the paint itself, if you’re getting your home ready to sell, choose a paint that does a good job of hiding old paint and leaves a fairly smooth surface; several in our interior paint Ratings meet those requirements for less than $30 per gallon. Invest in a top-quality product if you’re planning to be in the home for a while. Our tough tests, which include scrubbing the finishes with harsh abrasives, found eight winners. Because a brand’s flat, eggshell, and semigloss formulations perform similarly overall, we’ve combined the scores into one to simplify the process.

You can paint the walls yourself or pay a pro about $300 per room, paint included, with added rooms costing $200, says Debbie Zimmer, a spokeswoman for the Paint Quality Institute.

Enhance the exterior

Click on the image for exterior updates.

Cost range: $150 to $7,500

Potential return: 2 to 5%

You wouldn’t go to a job interview without brushing your hair and putting on a crisp, clean outfit. Nor should you try to sell your home without sprucing up its exterior. Start with basic maintenance: mowing the lawn, trimming overgrown shrubs, applying a fresh layer of mulch to garden beds.

As with your home’s interior, it’s also important to make minor repairs, such as replacing cracked siding boards or repointing brick walls. “Any house could probably also stand a good power washing,” adds Ginny Ivanoff. Follow with any necessary paint touch-ups, especially to the front of the building, which will get the most scrutiny. It might be worth completely repainting the entry door, provided that won’t make the rest of the facade seem tired and outdated. A top-performing semigloss exterior paint, such as Lowe’s exclusive Valspar DuraMax Semi-Gloss, $40 per gallon, provides maximum protection plus a bit of visual contrast and shine.

The roof is another area to pay close attention to because prospective buyers are sure to do the same. Indeed, 31 percent of real estate professionals said the roof is one of the more important parts of the home to have in good shape.

“They always, always ask how old the roof is,” says Bruce Irving. “To be able to say the roof is new signals to the buyer that this house has been cared for, plus the project is usually a lot cheaper than people realize.” That’s particularly true if you choose standard three-tab asphalt shingles, which often cost about $75 per 100 square feet; including installation, a typical reroof might cost as little as $6,000. If you’re not in a rush to sell, consider upgrading to laminated shingles, also known as architectural shingles. They can cost two to three times as much as the three-tabs but in our tests proved much stronger. Whichever type of shingle you choose, look for a product with a warranty that can be transferred to the next owner.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the March 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

The Difference Between a Home’s Cost and Price

The Difference Between A Home’s Cost vs. Price


Newton, MA.  12:00PM EST


PThe Difference Between A Home’s Cost vs. Price | Keeping Current Matters

As a seller, you will be most concerned about ‘short term price’ – where home values are headed over the next six months. As either a first time or repeat buyer, you must not be concerned only about price but also about the ‘long term cost’ of the home.

Let’s explain.

There are many factors that influence the ‘cost’ of a home. Two of the major ones are the home’s appreciation over time, and the interest rate at which a buyer can borrow the funds necessary to purchase their home. The rate at which these two factors can change is often referred to as“The Cost of Waiting”.

What will happen in 2015?

A nationwide panel of over one hundred economists, real estate experts and investment & market strategists project that home values will appreciate by almost 4% by the end of 2015. Additionally, Freddie Mac’s most recent Economic Commentary & Projections Table predicts that the 30-year fixed mortgage rate will appreciate to 4.5% by the end of 2015.

What Does This Mean to a Buyer?

Here is a simple demonstration of what impact these projected changes would have on the mortgage payment of a home selling for approximately $250,000 today: Cost of Waiting | Keeping Current Matters