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2015 Real Estate Outlook Summary

As the leading FSBO website, has unique insights into all aspects of how consumers sell and buy homes nationwide. While data and sentiments on the industry seem to change almost daily, one thing is certain: big changes are coming.

This 2015 Real Estate Outlook report reflects our perspective on what’s to come and how to navigate the changes on the horizon.

1. Bottlenecks to Recovery But a Brighter Road Ahead
While the housing recovery has gained momentum, it is not yet as widespread as anticipated, largely due to consumer hesitancy and low levels in new home construction. However, consumer confidence across the United States remains high.

  • 79% believe that when they search for a home they will be able to afford it
  • 70% say that owning a home is still a big part of the American Dream
  • 91% of Americans buying or selling a home in the next 12 months would consider selling by owner

2. Increase in Inventory Will Shift Market to Buyers’ Advantage
While 2013 and 2014 were dream scenarios for sellers, a noticeable shift is taking place that may very soon give buyers more power. Signs pointing to this shift include a less frenzied purchase process, more moderate price increases and improved consumer optimism.

  • 64% of U.S. consumers who have sold by owner in the past agree that now is a good time to buy a home in their area
  • 56% of by owner sellers believe that 2015 and 2016 will be a buyer’s market

3. Smartphones and Data Empower Home Buyers to Go Agent-less
The digital age has empowered consumers with access to more information than ever before. This is certainly true for the home buying process as 92% of consumers search for homes online. This rise in information right at your fingertips has also increased by-owner home sales.

  • 27% of total searches related to buying a home came from mobile phones in June 2014 – up 19% over last year
  • Mobile queries for open houses grew 36% in June 2014 over last year
  • 32% of Americans are more likely to consider selling by owner than they were a year ago

4. Real Estate Agents’ Roles Being Redefined
Just as the Internet has given the consumer more autonomy and power in the process of home buying and selling, it has also changed the role of the real estate agent. Less than half of Americans agree that the service agents provide is worth the fee, which means that as the digital revolution continues to change the way people buy and sell homes, it will only be more critical for real estate agents to stay relevant in the marketplace.

  • sellers’ average home sale price is $255,000, 8.5% higher than the typical agent-assisted selling price of $235,000
  • sellers consistently receive 97% of their asking price, in line with agent-assisted home sales
  • 17% of total Americans have previously sold a home by owner, with 88% stating they would sell by owner again

5. Gen X Bearing the Burden of the Housing Crisis
There is a clear generational divide when it comes to motivations and intentions around home buying. Confidence among Baby Boomers continues to improve, while true homeownership rates for Gen Xers are at their lowest level in two decades. Although Millennials are hesitant to buy (64% are still renters), their outlook and decisions will shape the market in the years to come.

  • 21.6% of 18 to 34-year-olds said they planned to purchase a home in the next year compared to 13.6% of 35 to 54-year-olds
  • Nearly 70% of Millennials believe owning a home is still a big part of the American Dream
  • 35% of Millennials believe that the general value of real estate agents is diminishing
  • 67% would consider selling by owner

6. Bright Lights, Big Cities: Urbanization Shows No Signs of Slowing

The trend toward urbanization isn’t slowing down anytime soon as Millennials and Gen Xers either currently live in a big city or intend to do so in the next two to three years. While there has been much anecdotal evidence pointing to Boomers’ inclination to move away from the suburbs to the cities, the number of Boomers living in single-family homes in the suburbs today is at least as high as before the housing bust.

View and download the entire report here.

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5 Scary Home Staging Mistakes to Avoid

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Expert Home Staging Tips to Avoid Deal Killing Criticisms

If you think that home staging isn’t important, or if you’ve left it off your “to do” list entirely, you may want to rethink that position, and here’s why:

Staging your home to sell before you list gets you prepared to sell and gets you better photos for your listing, which will create more views for your listing online. In turn, you drum up more interest in your property, which can translate into multiple offers and a greater chance that you will get the price you want. Getting the price you want equals a faster closing and a faster closing means… Well, you fill in the blank of what it means to you.

Today, 90 percent of home buyers search for homes online before ever actually setting foot on a property. Just imagine if you listed your home for sale today and you uploaded and posted pictures of your home right now. What would your photos reflect? What might the feedback from prospective buyers sound like? What opinions would they have of your home’s condition, upkeep, cleanliness and space? Would your home move to the top of their “must see” list, or would they decide that you’re asking way too much for far too little?

Not staging your home to sell or at a minimum consulting with a professional home stager to get advice may cost you more in the end, but following these 5 expert home staging tips can help you avoid any deal-killing criticisms.

Staging Tip #1: Decluttering

They say a happy home is a messy home but no buyer wants to see your cluttered counter tops and kids’ toys everywhere. If you think you can get away with decluttering by simply shoving things in your closets, drawers and garage you could be vulnerable to a deal-killing criticism.

Here’s how to cut through the chaos and declutter your home:

Pare down your possessions by packing away items that are out of season or used infrequently. If you are listing during the summer put away your winter clothing and vice versa if you are listing during the winter. You should also pack any unnecessary kitchen items such as holiday dinnerware or flatware.

Use Off-Site Storage
If you have big, bulky furniture or personal items that are cluttering up your home, consider utilizing a self-storage space. Often you can find a provider that will offer you the first month free or at a discounted rate without a deposit.

Organize for Open Spaces
There are probably plenty of objects around the house that you want to part with. An effective way of decluttering and removing unwanted items is to organize them by where you plan to take them – whether that’s the document shredder, an electronics store for recycling or a charity for donation – can be highly effective.

Staging Tip #2: Depersonalizing

Make sure that you separate the concept of decorating from staging. Decorating is personalizing while staging is depersonalizing in order to help the buyer visualize your home as their home.

These tips for depersonalizing your home will help buyers fall in love with your home:

Depersonalization is all about neutralization. From a neutral color palate to storing away your personal collections such as posters and memorabilia, you want to make your home a blank canvas that any house hunter can paint him or herself into and discover where they will add their personality.

Room Overview
The most important rooms to focus on are your living room and bedrooms as they will be the most personalized areas in your home. The kitchen and bathrooms are more utilitarian and functional, but you should still make sure that you are removing personal items from countertops and cleaning out cabinetry.

Staging Tip #3: Odors and Aromas

Smell is the sense with the strongest connection to emotion, which means an unpleasant smell can send potential buyers running for the hills. Make sure that you cast out evil odors and incorporate pleasant aromas.

Odors to Eliminate
Home shoppers will be able to detect all of the unique smells in your home from the smell of the previous night’s dinner to your dog or cat. Some specific odors that you should be on the lookout to eliminate include:

  • Smoke
  • Strong Cooking Scents
  • Pet Odors
  • Body Odors

Aromas to Add
After cleaning and eliminating any unpleasant scents, you can rely on the following 5 smells that have almost universal appeal:

  1. Lime
  2. Grapefruit
  3. Bergamot
  4. Orange
  5. Peppermint

Baked goods can also be an inviting smell for homebuyers as long as you avoid overly complex scents. Stick to simple chocolate chip cookies, bread or cupcakes to entice house hunters.

Staging Tip #4: Cleaning

A deep cleaning that covers every area and item of your home is a crucial staging technique. You need to make sure that you are as systematic and thorough in cleaning your home as a potential buyer will be at inspecting it. Follow these tips to keep your home clean for staging:

  • Dust from ceiling to floor including ceiling fans and light fixtures, furniture, archways, overhangs, walls and baseboards.
  • Deep clean your carpets.
  • Clean your wood and tile flooring.
  • Make sure that you give your kitchen and bathrooms special attention and don’t skip over a single detail.

Most importantly you need to make sure that you continue to clean throughout the time your home is for sale. Don’t risk all of your hard work coming undone because you let your cleaning routine slip.

Staging Tip #5: Use a Professional

To avoid deal-killing criticisms when selling your home, get professional home staging advice or hire a professional home stager before you list.

Decluttering, despersonalizing, eliminating odors and cleaning are essential steps in properly staging your home. If your busy scheduling is keeping you from completing any of these essential elements then it may be time to call in a professional home stager.

Whether you utilize a home staging expert for their services or just for their advice, you can avoid making any crucial mistakes while focusing on communication with the buyers a beautifully staged home will attract.

Darlene Parris is Interior Redesigner, Organizer and Home Stager with Upstaged!, based in Los Angeles.

This article has been republished for additional educational purposes. This article is not affiliated with any links or products that appear on the same pages. Read more about our editorial policy.

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23 Easy Home Staging Tips for Any Budget

Going the extra mile to spruce up a home and make sure it looks like a million bucks is a home seller’s first, best step towards finding a buyer. Homeowners might think they’ll need to spend a bundle, but many projects don’t require a lot of money. These ideas will work with any budget.

Display the Best Features of Your Home
Whether they’re gazing out a car window or looking at a photo on a smartphone or tablet, the first view prospective buyers have of your home probably will be from the street. As a seller, your goal is to impress them so much with your home’s curb appeal that they want to know more. If you fail to do this, buyers simply will go on to the next property.

“You only have one chance to make a first impression, and you want it to be a good one, one that a buyer will remember,” says Donna L. Stoutenburg of Artistic Endeavors 4 U, a staging and redesign company based in Streamwood, Illinois. “It’s imperative that your house looks good from the street.”

9 Inexpensive Projects to Increase Curb Appeal
1. Make sure exterior walls are not chipping or dirty. If there’s any dirt or grime, consider power washing.

2. If window treatments or furniture can be seen from outside your home, ensure that they complement the exterior.

3. Remove unsightly items that distract from your home’s overall appearance like toys, debris and dead vegetation.

4. Trim the lawn and pull any weeds.

5. If you have a mailbox, clean or replace it. Also make sure the house numbers are recent, legible and match the architecture’s design aesthetic.

6. Utility boxes often can be seen from the street and almost always look obnoxious, so camouflage them by painting them the same color as your home.

7. Repaint the front door.

8. When seasonally appropriate, add flowers to planters to create memorable splashes of color.

9. Sweep or shovel the entrance and all walkways.

Want to really impress? Stoutenburg tells her clients to paint their walkways. Although special paints are required, the process is straightforward. “Scrub the area thoroughly, give it a good acid wash and let it dry. Apply a coat of primer, then the colored paint and you’ve updated this (exterior) space,” she says. Be sure to check the weather forecast before you start: Stoutenburg cautions that successfully completing this project requires a sunny day with no wind.

Cook Up Something Memorable
Because members of a household spend so much time in the kitchen, this room requires special attention, according to Leslie Molloy, a Certified Kitchen Designer and residential designer at Normandy Remodeling in Hinsdale, Illinois. “People want to move into something that’s ready, and minor tweaks can really help a lot,” she says.

Patricia Marie Kelly of Marie Kelly Unlimited, a home staging and interior redesign firm based in Algonquin, Illinois, agrees, and emphasizes that kitchens are an area where clutter is a no-no. “No one wants to smell, see or view your dirty laundry … or a week’s worth of dishes piled in the sink or last night’s dinner in the garbage,” Kelly says.

4 Quick Kitchen Staging Suggestions
1. Repaint cabinets that are an outdated color like olive green or harvest gold.

2. Replace knobs and finishes on cabinets and drawers.

3. Remove magnets, postcards and school artwork from refrigerator doors.

4. If you have a little more to spend, consider replacing appliances and, possibly, installing a new granite or composite counter.

3 Simple Ways to Make a Bathroom Shine
1. “A lot of times bathroom fixtures are simply construction grade,” Stoutenburg says — meaning they’re functional but uninspired. For example, many bathrooms have “Hollywood” lights — a line of a half dozen or more exposed bulbs above the mirror that make you feel as if you’re getting ready for your close-up. She says that although there are kits that can simply cover up this dated fixture, the lights are not that expensive to replace.

2. Want to quickly stage a bathroom and make it look more upscale? “Remove the shower curtain, replace it with (just) a liner and add a floor-to-ceiling drape,” Stoutenburg suggests. “The drape would be made of linen or a similar fabric.” Use a tension rod to secure the drape.

3. Nothing emphasizes an outdated bathroom like a color toilet. “You can replace that for about $125 or so,” Stoutenburg says.

When It’s OK to Be Boring in the Bedroom
This is one room where private tastes quickly become public atrocities if not carefully staged. Surprisingly, Barb Schwarz of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals suggests borrowing a lesson she credits to Disneyland and Disney World, where placement of everything is carefully considered to convey a harmonious experience. When staging bedrooms, that means removing anything that would prevent a prospective buyer from seeing themselves in that bedroom.

4 Easy Expert Bedroom Staging Tips
1. Remove all evidence of hobby clutter. Schwarz has made clients deep-six golf ball collections, teddy bears, Hollywood memorabilia — and even Disney character posters.

2. Avoid bold, shocking colors. Many parents allow their children to decide what color to paint their bedroom walls, and the result is what you’d expect. Repaint in neutral tones.

3. Clean the carpet or the floors.

4. If you notice at the last minute that your favorite bedspread is torn or has a small stain, consider either flipping it over or adding strategically placed throw pillows or an extra blanket.

3 Details to Add to Any Room
Accessorize. Accessorize. Accessorize! It’s the little touches that can really make a big difference in every room.

1. Spice up a dull living room or den by adding a few throw pillows in fresh colors.

2. Enliven your home with strategically placed plants. If they’re real, make sure they’re healthy. Artificial plants can look surprisingly lifelike these days, too.

3. Want to make sure prospective buyers appreciate a room with a tall ceiling? Place tasteful, neutral artwork near the top so visitors look all the way up.

Follow these strategies and with just a little cash and elbow grease, you’ll ensure that your home is the one that prospective buyers will want to see again.

Read more: Prepare Your Home for Photos and Visitors