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Stay updated with the latest real estate trends, ideas, and expert advice.

Category: Real Estate (Page 2 of 32)

Real estate is an ever-changing industry.  This page will allow you to stay up to date with the latest insight. As a Realtor, I also believe it is vital to share my general knowledge and experience. In my blog posts, you will find info about the process of selling a home, how to afford a house, mortgages, and more. Not to mention the various tips for homeowners.

The next thing you will find in this category of real estate is news feeds. Therefore, you can keep up with the latest trends, advice, and interior-exterior designs. All of which are from industry experts. At the present time, there are currently three sources—Redfin, Homelight, and Keeping Current Matters. They cover a broad range of topics, such as foreclosures, the overall housing market, DIY tips, etc. Likewise, I also write about the marketplace I serve as a Realtor, Williamsburg, Virginia. On that note, I wrote a blog post about Virginia’s first-time homebuyer programs. This is a good read if you’re going to buy a house for the first time.

Generally speaking, the real estate category is a data hub for anyone with property needs. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out at any time. As a Realtor, I’m not really in the real estate industry, so to speak. I’m really in the sales, marketing, and consulting business. For instance, suppose you’re a homeowner in Williamsburg, Virginia, and you plan to sell your home in the future. In that case, I offer a broad range of marketing services to get your home sold.

WFH Forever with the Backyard Office of Your DreamsAllaire ConteHomeLight Blog

The coronavirus pandemic has led to more people working remotely than ever, with 42% of the U.S. labor force working from home full-time. Not only have employees grown accustomed to the five-second commute, but employers are seeing increased employee productivity and saving on brick-and-mortar costs. With benefits like these, all signs point to working from home becoming a permanent fixture of American life. So if you’re working from home, why not invest in building the backyard office of your dreams?

A home office is now an essential part of any house, and your backyard is the perfect space to build your personal HQ. But before you build, do your research. Not all backyard offices are equal in the eyes of future buyers or the appraiser. And design-wise, there’s plenty more to consider than the lumbar support in your desk chair. We spoke to leading industry experts to bring you the lowdown on how to make your new home office work for you.

Source: (Studio Shed)

To add-on or build-out: that is the question

Of the top six ways that COVID-19 will change real estate forever, there is a common theme: space. Homeowners and buyers alike want more of it, and if you’re considering adding a home office, space is a vital consideration. We broke down some of the most popular options to fit an office in whatever available space your home offers.

A backyard office with electricity.
Source: (Studio Shed)

Sunroom

Three- or four-season rooms (aka sunrooms) aren’t just a place to bask in the sun from the comfort of the great indoors anymore. These classic additions are gaining popularity for the workweek warrior looking for a room to call their own. This may be in large part because sunrooms are low-cost and relatively fast to build.

Costs

Expect to spend anywhere from $5,000 to north of $25,500 on this addition. For homes in mild climates, simple patio enclosures are the cheapest addition, averaging $8,000. If you live in a less temperate climate, you will likely need the additional insulation of a four-season room, which can average anywhere from $25,000 to $80,000 or more. Alternatively, you can purchase a prefabricated kit for a low-cost solution that you can complete in two to four weeks.

Considerations

Whether designing from scratch or constructing a prefab, this is your chance to create the ideal office environment for yourself. Ask yourself what conditions you are most comfortable in, then optimize your space with those features. Temperature control and Wi-Fi are the most important considerations:

  • Temperature control: While you might be able to get by during the warm months with a fan in the rest of your house, remember that you’ll be working in this space. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends keeping office temperatures at 68 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on where you live, you may need an HVAC system to keep your space optimized for productivity.
  • Wi-Fi: Since sunrooms are attached to the home, you can likely pick up your Wi-Fi signal from this home office addition. The real question, though, is: Do you want to? An easy upgrade for your home office is to purchase a separate internet modem. This allows for lightning-fast speed and no disruptions to your connection. If that feels like overkill, try a Wi-Fi extender; these easy-to-use devices are a cheaper solution to dead zones.

It isn’t always sunny in a four-season room, though — these additions do come with some drawbacks. Homeowners can expect a 50% return on investment; not a bad ROI but considerably less than some other options explored below.

Additionally, you should take glare into consideration when orienting your desks, as sunrooms are designed to optimize sunlight, not productivity.  You can reduce glare with solar shades or anti-glare film for computers, but glare could be a deal-breaker for workers with more sensitive eyes.

Lastly, because these rooms are an extension of your home, at-home office workers may still feel distracted by the hustle and bustle of homelife.

A studio shed addition used as a backyard office.
Source: (Studio Shed)

Studio shed additions

Expert Bay Area agent Rick Fuller, who has over 18 years of experience and has sold 96% of his listings, says, “What we find is the most popular and the most desirable option is often the prefabricated ADUs … because they’re more cost-effective.” And the numbers support Fuller’s findings: Sales of prefab backyard offices went through the roof in 2020 and are projected to continue in 2021.

These small accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, are manufactured in a warehouse, shipped nationwide, and built on-site. They offer the best of both worlds when it comes to home additions: They’re removed from the home’s premises and run off of the house’s utilities, making for easy installation and maximum additional space.

The timeline to complete this project depends on building permits, but once you secure the permit (if necessary), the turnaround time is typically four to six weeks.

Costs

Creative Director and Co-Founder of Studio Shed, Jeremy Nova, says that a single-room studio will cost buyers around $30,000. This includes the price of materials, shipping, white-glove installation, and utility hook-up. Larger units run anywhere from $100 to $140 per square foot.

A popular way to save on costs is to go the DIY route. Nova says that some prefer to construct their Studio Shed themselves: “It’s not like putting together an IKEA coffee table but if you know your way around standard home improvement tools, it’s something a lot of our customers do have success with. And it’s a great way to save money.”

You might not even need to worry about cutting costs, though. Backyard studios offer great gains for homeowners. “The typical appraised value of one of our buildings is about one and a half times the retail cost of it … So, the ROI on doing the project is excellent,” Nova remarks. With returns like these, this backyard office is an easy way to maximize productivity while adding value to your home.

Considerations

“Our homes are not necessarily a sanctuary anymore,” says Nova. “The distractions of everything in the home make it a difficult place to work, or create, or pursue a hobby.” For workers who find themselves needing to get away from the commotion of domestic life while still being at home, a backyard studio is the ideal choice. Nova says his customers rave about the benefits of having a detached office: “We hear from people, ‘I do my best work in my Studio Shed, I feel more creative,’ all those kinds of things … It really does change the way we live and work.”

You can easily outfit prefab structures for year-round use. A mini-split HVAC unit is a simple addition for temperature control; but depending on where you live, you may be comfortable with a quality fan in the summer and space heater in the winter. For the best internet connection, purchase a separate internet modem.

Mobile home

Maybe you already have an RV or camper trailer living in your driveway, or maybe, you’ve always fantasized about purchasing an old-school chrome Airstream. Whatever your inspiration is, RVs and mobile homes are perfect home offices for adventurous souls.

Costs

While the caravan lifestyle may look picturesque on your Instagram, it doesn’t offer as many benefits for your wallet as a sunroom or prefab backyard office. RVs and campers are vehicles first and foremost, which means that they depreciate value like cars do, even if you’re not driving them cross country. More modest versions start around $11,000, while deluxe editions can start at $35,000.

These price points are on level with the cost of other home office additions, but unlike those additions, RVs are considered personal property, not real property, and thus, don’t add value to your home. This option may be best left as a temporary solution or for those who already have an RV and need a home office fast.

Considerations

Camper trailers offer a wide variety of barebones to luxury benefits. Any necessary upgrades — like an HVAC system or custom desk — will largely depend on the model of the trailer and the surrounding climate. While this is true of all backyard offices, RVs offer a few additional factors to consider:

  • Power-source: With heating and cooling needs, lightning, internet, and device chargers, the power source for your RV or trailer office might be the most important consideration. If your office on wheels is parked in your driveway, the easiest option is to plug into your home’s power source — this will give you easy access to the power grid, and you won’t have to ration your usage. If you want to work from the road, though, you’ll need to consider your battery capacity and your plan for recharging (e.g., solar, wind, powered campground sites, or a combination).
  • Wireless cellular internet: These portable internet connections are the most popular way for those on the road to stay connected. You will need to purchase an additional plan, which can come with drawbacks like annual contracts and limited service in remote areas. However, the freedom these wireless routers offer can be well worth the trouble.

The best part of an RV or trailer workplace? After spending so much of 2020 indoors, these mobile offices give workers the chance to pick up and take their work anywhere — just make sure to get the clear from HR first.

A patio used as a backyard office.
Source: (Studio Shed)

Patio office

If you live in a temperate climate or want to make the most of your hometown’s fleeting good weather, move your office outside entirely. Not only is this an affordable option, but studies show that more time outdoors is linked to an improved sense of well-being.

Costs

If you already have a patio area, this office space is likely the most cost-effective option. All you need is some comfortable patio furniture, a patio cover, and a strong Wi-Fi connection. If you don’t already have a patio cover, it can cost as little as $300 to $700 to add a canvas awning.

While a patio office may be one of the cheapest options on the list, it offers little return on investment. With the working from home boom, many buyers prefer a dedicated indoor office space that can be used rain, shine, sleet, or snow. Furthermore, according to the National Association of Realtors, patio projects typically recoups about 67% of project costs — a solid return, but still lower than the potential ROI of an ADU home office solution.

Considerations

Patio offices don’t have to be a stand-alone solution —they are a great addition to any home office. Nova says Studio Sheds and the like offer a unique opportunity for this additional workspace:

“People usually find that they have some kind of unused space in their backyard. And a Studio Shed can be a catalyst for more of a backyard transformation … You can create positive space, more of a courtyard between your home or your back patio [by] having a destination.”

To make a patio office work, you’ll need a shady spot to protect your computer screen from sun glare and keep your devices between 50 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Since the outdoors are often noisy and unpredictable, it’s best to arm yourself with a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones to help you focus.

If it’s sunny,  remember to wear sunscreen, even if your workspace is mostly shaded. You might not realize that you’re catching rays while absorbed in your work, but it only takes 15 minutes to get a sunburn if the UV index is high and only 45 minutes of exposure to get a sunburn if the UV index is moderate. And don’t forget your allergy medicine — the last thing you need is a sneezing fit during your outdoor Zoom conference.

The inside of a backyard office.
Source: (Studio Shed)

Added perks of backyard offices

Whether you’re designing your backyard office for yourself or gettig your house market-ready, include these elements to reap the maximum benefit of your new space.

Flexible design

Any home addition boils down to functionality and flexibility, especially in 2021. We’ve all had to be a little more nimble when it comes to getting things done, and the space a backyard office provides is essential to that. Outside of the 9-5 grind, backyard offices can double as home gyms, lounge areas, or even mother-in-law units. This vast potential is particularly alluring to buyers hunting in a low-inventory market.

“I’m seeing built-in bookshelves, some custom desks. I’m seeing desks that operate as a treadmill. I see stationary bikes that are located in their office. I see exercise equipment in their office … All of that can be done at home,” Fuller comments.

Fuller points out that one of the hottest emerging home office trends is hybrid exercise/office furniture like the stationary bike desk. The hype is for good reason: Not only do these furniture options provide a convenient way to stay fit, but studies show that they increase productivity and boost health.

And even though you’re working from home, remember to personalize (unless you’re looking to sell); carving out space for pictures and other nicknacks like you would in a traditional office can help you settle into your new routine.

Home office tax deduction

If you’re running your personal business from your backyard office, the cost of constructing and furnishing your headquarters might qualify for a tax write-off. For business owners, any direct expenses — like that new printer and fresh coat of paint — are 100% deductible, while things like your internet bill or security system can only reap a partial deduction. When the time comes to sell your home, employers and employees alike can write off the added value of their new backyard office with a capital gains break, so long as the added value is under the IRS threshold.

Unfortunately, the tax break doesn’t apply to company employees working from home — but check-in with HR to see if your employer offers a remote work stipend.

A phone used to contact an agent about a backyard office.
Source: (Paweł Czerwiński / Unsplash)

Contact professionals before you build a backyard office

Whichever backyard home office design best suits your needs, Fuller underlines the importance of doing it by the books: “You wanna make sure it’s done with permits so that it can add value to the property. Often, when a homeowner takes on a construction project, they don’t obtain the necessary permits, and it minimizes the value that brings to the property.”

If you’re worried about your bottom line, consult a real estate agent before you build. These experts can give insight into the most popular designs for your area, offer strategies to maximize your ROI, and advise you on what permits your project requires.

Header Image Source: (Kenny Timmer / Unsplash)

As the workplace shifts to the home, real estate experts weigh in on the most profitable, sensible, and stylish backyard office solutions.HomeLight Blog

Brown Walls and Old World Touches Are Out: Here’s How to Update Your Tuscan HomeAllaire ConteHomeLight Blog

The old-world charm that was popular in the early 2000s is out, and fresh, contemporary coastal is in. Homebuyers are opting for a simple, airy design over warm tones, rustic iron, and wine-inspired vignettes. What does this mean for homeowners who bought or remodeled in the height of the Tuscan home craze, though? This is a dilemma that Milwaukee agent Pat Tasker, who built her home in 2004 with Tuscan design in mind, knows well.

She says that beginning in 2018, she noticed she was showing more modern homes with a light and airy style. “I started coming home and thinking, ‘Oh, wow, you have a lot of that yellow and gold…’ Then, as the year went on, I was like, ‘Oh, your house — even though it was built in 2004 and is not that old —it’s really outdated,’” she recalls.

As one of Milwaukee’s top agents who has sold 12% more homes than the average broker, Takser had an edge on revamping her home. Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert agent or designer to breathe new life into your Tuscan style villa. We sat down with real estate and design experts to bring their restyling advice to you. Here are their top six tips for taking your style out of the early 2000s and into the 2020s.

A home that's Tuscan style was updated.
Source: (Stone House)

1. Paint the walls a warm white

One of Takser’s first steps in updating her home was to bring in the expert advice of a stager. She enlisted Anna Franklin, owner and designer with top-rated design firm Stone House, who went straight for the walls. Franklin says, “When you think of Tuscany, you might have warm brick, warm wood, warm walls … In an ideal world, if I came in and staged a Tuscan [home], let’s just say I may suggest wall color immediately.”

It’s all about toning down the warmth of traditional Tuscan design, Franklin adds.  “A lot of the time when you get into the Tuscany looking homes, because there is so much of the heavy looking wood going on, we don’t want to introduce a new color or a new wood. We pick out a warm white color that would pair well with it.”

By neutralizing the gold and bronze tones, you instantly refresh the space. Franklin favors Sherwin-Williams’ Crushed Ice and other warm beiges and grays to balance out the other warm features in the home — like exposed brick or wood beams — that are harder to replace.

If your walls are Venetian plaster, consider hiring a professional to repaint them. The textured finish can be tricky to cover, especially if you’re making a drastic color change. You can even damage the wall if you accidentally sand off the finish that keeps it waterproof.

A bedroom that has an updated style.
Source: (Stone House)

2. Swap out Tuscan motifs for neutral upgrades

“Remove the decor items that fit that Tuscan look,” Takser says.

“If you remember, there were all those plaques you could put on the wall: pictures of vineyards, bunches of grapes and ‘Live Laugh, Love’ … Get rid of that kind of stuff.”

These motifs date your home back to the early 2000s.

Kitchen backsplashes

A tile backsplash featuring wine and grapes was a must for many. Today, however, these murals don’t fit the contemporary aesthetic that many homebuyers want. In HomeLight’s most recent Top Agent Insights Report, agents ranked a pretty backsplash as one of buyers’ most-wanted kitchen features. So if you’re looking to sell your home, swap out your vineyard view for one of these on-trend looks:

Vineyard murals

When selling a house today, top agents recommend avoiding accent walls, and wine country motifs are no exception. Tone down these distractions with a fresh coat of paint. Keep in mind Franklin’s advice to bring balance with neutral beige and grays. In addition to Sherwin-Williams Crushed Ice, she recommends Greek Villa and Revere Pewter as steadfast swatches.

Themed wallpaper

Busy or faux textured wallpaper is a major no-no when putting your house on the market. Not only is wallpaper a highly personal preference, but research shows it can put off buyers who imagine the cost and hassle to remove it. A fresh coat of paint is a cheap alternative with a big ROIup to 109%. Don’t give buyers any excuse to hesitate on putting in an offer and remove that scroll paper ASAP.

A living room that has an updated style.
Source: (Stone House)

3. Stage the primary living areas with coastal modern furniture

“The furniture that’s paired with a Tuscany style home can be as heavy as what you’re seeing on the walls or the woodwork or the flooring,” shares Franklin, noting that homeowners should update their furniture to lighten up the look. Heavy, earth-toned furniture can make rooms appear darker and smaller than they truly are — two qualities that turn-off prospective buyers.

If you’re selling your home and your budget permits, Franklin recommends hiring a stager to bring in new furniture. These experts update your interior’s style and layout, maximizing selling potential. In a study by the National Association of Realtors, over half of the surveyed agents reported that buyers offer more money for a staged home.

If you’re in your forever home, consider hiring an interior designer to help you transform your villa interior with transitional or coastal inspired furniture like this chesterfield sofa from Wayfair. These simple, lighter pieces help you achieve a contemporary look.

A fireplace that has an updated style.
Source: (Stone House)

4. Remove heavy fixtures

“A Tuscan home, if it’s done right, actually has really beautiful elements,” says Franklin. She highlights the craftsmanship of artistic brick inlays and exposed wood. “I don’t think [it] is entirely out. It’s just a matter of how and what it’s paired with.”

To highlight these beautiful architectural features, try these quick fixes:

A light fixture that has an updated style.
Source: (Stone House)

5. Shine a new light on your light fixtures

Maybe it’s all the time we spent indoors in 2020, but lighting is shaping up to be a focus of 2021 design. Unfortunately, though, the heavy, ornate chandeliers common in the early 2000s are out in favor of sleek, modern pendants. Whether you’re updating your home for the market or yourself, replacing your light fixtures is a must for any Tuscan re-do.

Go for glass

If you’re looking for a 1-1 swap for your chandelier, consider a glass sculptural pendant set. These fixtures provide the embellishment of a chandelier with a decided 2021 twist. The streamlined design also offers a strong counter to the scrolled look, a cornerstone of Tuscan design. The contrast can help offset any other Tuscan features remaining in your home while establishing a contemporary look.

Change the focal point with a floor lamp

Floor lamps can add brightness to any location in the home without changing the mood of the entire room, making them the perfect addition for those needing a lighter work-from-home space. Floor lamps are also an opportunity to contribute to your home’s new style. Check out this arc lamp as the kind of trend-setting piece to be on the lookout for.

Brass is back

You might even consider adding a few brushed brass fixtures to the mix. Brass has made a comeback in the last year, and all signs point to this trend sustaining. These metals’ reflective quality can help lighten the dark and heavy alcoves that are quintessential to Tuscan design, but too much of a good thing can appear gaudy. Check out these swivel wall sconces from CB2 for an idea of how to incorporate brass in small doses.

6. Remember to rebrand in your home listing

Searches for “Tuscan style homes” have dropped more than 80% since the fad’s height in 2004. As more of the home buying process moves online, you’ll need to rethink the search terms for your house featured in the listing to capture as many buyers as possible.

  • Instead of “Tuscan” try rebranding as a “Mediterranean villa.”
  • Highlight the craftsmanship of your original home by calling out details like hardwood flooring, granite countertops, exposed wood or brick, and other luxury features.
  • Most importantly, call out the recently completed upgrades so buyers notice the interior’s pristine finish.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, Tasker offers one piece of enduring advice: “Work with a stager that will tell [you] exactly what to do. That’s the best advice: work with an expert who knows what to do … and do what they say.”

Another expert you can lean on is your real estate agent. Agents are aces at more than home transactions. They’re also valuable resources who can connect you with local experts and help you decide how to prioritize what home improvement projects to take on. Even if you’re not looking to sell immediately, a top real estate agent can help you make impactful remodeling decisions.

Header Image Source: (robophobic / Shutterstock)

Real estate experts weigh-in on how to update Tuscan homes to bring them out of the early 2000s and into the 2020s.HomeLight Blog

7 Celebrity Interior Designers Worth Emulating When Revamping Your HomeGina RodriguesHomeLight Blog

Once shrouded behind fabric samples and paint color swatches, the creative minds behind popular interior design trends have stepped into the limelight. Today’s most famous interior designers are celebrities in their own right, as they boast TV deals, collaborate with national retailers, amass Instagram followings, and work with A-list clients.

We detail the rise of seven celebrity designers, document their signature style, and divulge their top tips for styling a home. For industry insider commentary, we spoke with Tatiana Machado-Rosas, senior interior designer at Jackson Design and Remodeling in San Diego, CA. Named one of the top 50 design innovators in the nation, Machado-Rosas chatted with us about celebrity-inspired interior design — and tips for achieving a similar vibe in your own home.

A living room modeling celebrity interior design.
Source: (Collov Home Design / Unsplash)

Joanna Gaines: Let some rooms breathe

Before breaking out as a celebrity designer, serial entrepreneur Joanna Gaines and her husband, Chip, started as shop owners in Waco, TX, and later focused on their home construction business. In 2013, HGTV launched Fixer Upper, the reality show documenting the Gaines’ work as they transformed run-of-the-mill homes into drool-worthy living spaces. The show introduced Joanna’s token farmhouse style to wider audiences and catapulted the duo to celebrity status.

Today, the Gaines’ home accessories line, Magnolia, lines the shelves at Target stores across the country. And the couple is moving back into the spotlight with a new venture, Magnolia Network, that reboots their popular Fixer Upper series.

Signature style

Gaines is best known for a vintage farmhouse vibe layered with industrial chic. Think whitewashed walls, warehouse-style barn lights, and metal dining chairs. Gaines’ name is also synonymous with shiplap, the interior wall siding trend with origins in the maritime industry.

Design tip

Whether you prefer minimalist design or a bevy of design accouterments, “It’s always good to find a balance, letting some rooms ‘breathe,’ so that it never feels too crowded,” Gaines says to Elle Decor.

Similarly, Machado-Rosas warns against overwhelming a space with too many patterns and colors. “Be careful not to oversaturate,” she says.

Nate Berkus: Stick with a neutral color palette — especially for a small space

Berkus first appeared on Oprah in 2002, and his recurring guest appearances on the daytime talk show cemented his status as a celebrity designer. Berkus’s additional television credits include The Nate Berkus Show, NBC’s American Dream Builders, and TLC’s Nate & Jeremiah By Design.

The designer has launched product line collaborations with Target, The Shade Store, and Living Spaces, a California-based furniture retailer.

Signature style

Berkus’ signature style evokes a classic, timeless feel with a neutral color palette — black, white, and earthy browns, plus oranges and blues for a pop of color. He prefers clean lines, leaning toward modern elegance set in a traditional foundation. Sculptural statement pieces, such as Berkus’s trio of mixed media nesting tables, transform everyday living areas into gallery-like spaces.

Berkus’s furniture collection includes neutral rugs with geometric patterns and understated bedroom dressers with a barely-there touch of French style.

Design tip

When it comes to designing a small space, Berkus prefers neutral palettes. “A lot of people in design might disagree with me, but I’ve found that using a series of layered textures and layered neutrals — and things that have patina and character — are really better in a small space than an explosion of vibrant pattern and color,” he says in an interview with MarthaStewart.com.

Machado-Rosas, who also prefers neutrals with dashes of color, says that your comfort level and personal taste make all the difference. If you want to experiment with styling, layer in pillows, rugs, and artwork to add color.

A couch modeling celebrity interior design.
Source: (David Huynh / Unsplash)

Bobby Berk: Take advantage of vertical space, particularly in smaller rooms

Berk worked for Bed Bath & Beyond and Restoration Hardware before becoming Creative Director at Portico Home + Spa. He started his own company in 2006 before launching a full-service interior design practice in 2015.

Best known as the Fab Five’s go-to interior designer on Netflix’s reality show Queer Eye, Berk continues to expand his design empire. He’s collaborated on a branded home furnishings line with A.R.T. Furniture and launched his own home collection that includes wallpaper and framed artwork.

Signature style

Berk’s design style borrows from the mid-century modern aesthetic with curved lines, geometric angles, and natural elements. He often designs with neutral color palettes — black, white, and brown — pairing lighter tones against darker shades for dynamic contrast.

In one living room, Berk pairs a charcoal-colored rug and black leather sling chairs with an ivory couch and marble coffee table. Combined with a minimalist approach to accessory styling and the sleek lines of his statement pieces, the resulting look radiates refined masculinity. Organic materials such as leather and wood warm up his design projects. Every once in a while, he adds a bold streak of color to a space, such as a ruby red sofa.

 Design tip

“Don’t just think about your space horizontally; think about it in 3D,” says Berk in an interview with Refinery29. Do you have a small bedroom and high ceilings? Try a loft bed to free up your floor space for a desk or sitting area, Berk recommends.

Shea McGee: Think of design style in layers

Originally working in communications, McGee switched to interior design when she began sharing her home’s redesign on social media. McGee’s status as a social media influencer blossomed, and she’s since amassed more than 2.5 million Instagram followers. She started Studio McGee with her husband, Syd, and launched the e-commerce brand McGee & Co. She’s also collaborated with Target to design for the retailer’s Threshold line.

McGee’s stardom continues to shine as her titles currently include New York Times bestselling author and co-star of the Netflix series Dream Home Makeover.

Signature style

McGee designs bright and airy spaces, balancing modern looks with a traditional feel. Walls are often soft white or cream, and she adds natural texture to rooms with earthy brown colors of jute rugs and antiqued brass accents. McGee loves to incorporate light walnut wood for floors, cabinetry, and furniture. Her usual color palette — neutral beiges and browns — perfectly accent the walnut wood doors, raffia rugs, and woven baskets in her design portfolio.

Design tip

Do your carpeted floors look uninspired? According to McGee, you don’t need hard flooring to anchor a room and add coziness with a rug. “Adding a rug to your living space or bedroom gives your furniture a place to ‘live’ and easily adds dimension and texture,” McGee says in an interview with People.

An entryway modeling celebrity interior design.
Source: (Collov Home Design / Unsplash)

Noz Nozawa: Keep sustainability in mind

Sunset Magazine crowns her the Queen of Colorful Interiors; Architectural Digest calls her a rising star; and House Beautiful places her on their Next Wave Designer hotlist. Noz Nozawa is undeniably the next great celebrity interior designer. After working in Houzz’s marketing department, Nozawa followed her creative aspirations to the design world and started her own firm, Decorist, in 2014. With more than 25,000 Instagram followers, the San Francisco-based designer’s vibrant aesthetic continues to turn heads and influence interior color palette trends.

Signature style

While best known for her bold use of color — her portfolio features pink doors and ombre blue walls — Nozawa prefers not to be pinned to any one style. Instead, she’s committed to an evolving and changing aesthetic. Woven into Nozawa’s unique style is an affinity for flora and fauna: an electric-pink flamingo stationed on a bookshelf, a cascade of blooms spilling out of a vessel, a zebra-motif throw rug, and the image of a splayed tiger on a throw pillow. Nozawa’s eclectic taste includes gold resin dripping down burnt-orange walls and mixing an antique-style balloon chair with a mid-century modern tulip table.

Design tip

Rather than discarding furniture every few years, Nozawa encourages her clients to invest in quality pieces that last. In an interview with Arkitektura Assembly, Nozawa notes that quality pieces “will become a part of the texture of your family’s story at home, is so beautiful, and a win-win when it comes to sustainable design too.”

Like Nozawa, Machado-Rosas values quality over disposable design. Machado-Rosas invested in an Italian dining table 20 years ago, and she still loves it. She says signature pieces such as an antique desk or armoire can mix with different styles, and you can rotate the furniture into different rooms as your taste evolves. “If you can afford a good piece that is timeless, purchase it,” Machado-Rosas advises.

Brigette Romanek: Build your room around one piece

A self-taught interior designer, Romanek explored music and fashion before settling on home design. A friend asked for Romanek’s design advice after spying the interior of Romanek’s Hancock Park home in Los Angeles. Now on Architectural Digest’s coveted AD 100 list, Romanek has designed spaces for celebrity A-listers such as Beyoncé and Demi Moore.

Signature style

Romanek describes her style as “Gap-meets-Gucci“: the intersection of functional style and visual extravagance. While she strives for beauty, comfort is key. With museum-worthy curation, Romanek blends an eclectic mix of textures, patterns, and styles. She often juxtaposes ornate, vintage pieces, such as a crystal chandelier or baroque portrait, with modern elements like curved-back chairs and globe lights.

Design tip

Choose one piece of furniture, work of art, or design accessory that you love. Use that as your starting point for designing a space. “Focus on one piece and then plan and build around that piece to create the rest of the room,” says Romanek in an interview with Chairish.

A chair demonstrating celebrity interior design.
Source: (Collov Home Design / Unsplash)

Adair Curtis: Sit in the space to get a feel for the room

Adair Curtis worked in the entertainment industry for VH1 before heading back to the classroom to study interior architecture. Curtis partnered with his spouse Jason Bolden, fashion stylist to the stars, to run JSN Studio. The company offers both interior design services and personal styling to its celebrity clientele. Curtis helms the interior design branch of the business, while Bolden focuses on fashion styling. The pair star in Netflix’s Styling Hollywood, which documents their escapades styling the homes and red carpet looks for celebrities such as Gabrielle Union and Dulé Hill.

Signature style

Curtis’ design style evokes relaxed luxury with a light, organic style and minimalist, modern furnishings. You won’t find heavy fabrics or drapes in a Curtis-designed space. His judicious use of negative space in furniture placement would almost suggest austerity. Oversized rugs stretch well beyond the collection of living room furniture; two chaise lounges face off across a room, its occupants well out of arm’s length from the retro coffee table at the center.

Inexplicably, Curtis’ generous furniture spacing lends a homey, comforting vibe instead of a disconnect. Perhaps he achieves this effect with natural materials such as wood and leather, and a warm, neutral color palette with black or brass accents.

Design tip

Think about how you want to feel in the space you’re looking to design, advises Curtis. Sit in the space. Are you looking for a happy feeling? Add a pop of yellow color in a piece of art or throw blanket. Do you prefer a calm, tranquil setting? Design the space with neutral colors.

Header Image Source: (Jorge De Jorge / Unsplash)

With TV deals and branded product lines, the interior designers on our list flex some serious star power. These 7 tips can help you emulate their style.HomeLight Blog

Add a Dash of 1920s Glamour to Your Home with This Art Deco Style GuideMikayla UberHomeLight Blog

Wondering how to add a dose of glamour to your living space? Art Deco interior design just might be the answer. Opulent, luxurious, and inspiring, this style continues to inspire nearly a century after its heyday. Marked by bold colors, geometric patterns, and statement accessories, Art Deco provides plenty of opportunities to enliven a 21st century home.

We spoke with Theresa Seabaugh, an award-winning interior designer based in Brooklyn, New York, to discover how Art Deco is trending today. As someone who has designed beautiful interiors for over eight years, Seabaugh knows a thing or two about pulling this trend off in the modern home. Read on for an overview of the current Art Deco trend and tips to pull it off in your space.

Trend overview: Art Deco through the decades

Art Deco, short for Arts Décoratifs, first gained popularity in the 1920s and ’30s. The name comes from the Parisian Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, where designers first exhibited the style in 1925. Art Deco remained at the height of popularity throughout the 1940s, celebrating modern ideas of progress and technology, as well as glamour, luxury, and sleek style.

Art Deco takes cues from a wide variety of design influences. You’ll find the geometric features of Cubism, references to the new technology of the era, the machine aesthetic of Constructivism, and a rich selection of cultural elements from the world over, including Mesopotamian, African, and Egyptian art. Art Deco embraces luxurious fabrics like velvet, gold and silver finishes, and rich gemstone colors such as emerald, sapphire, and ruby.

Given that we’re entering this century’s twenties, it seems all the more appropriate for Art Deco design to make a comeback. Seabaugh says she sees Art Deco influences everywhere in the market these days, particularly organic, curvilinear pieces, like curvy sofas, club chairs, and upholstered chairs.

“It makes you feel cozy like these shapes are enveloping you in their warmth. It speaks to what’s going on in the world today. We all want to be comforted now,” Seabaugh notes.

The key to making this 90-year-old trend work in a modern home is by focusing on a few design touches without compromising comfort or going overboard into period piece territory.

A chair and book shelf with art deco interior design.
Source: (Ron Porter / Pixabay)

Get the look: Here’s how to pull off Art Deco Interior Design

Art Deco’s opulent gold and silver finishes, fabulous fabrics, and bold furniture designs can elevate your interior to new heights. The following tips will help you add some Art Deco flair to your home (without making it feel like a museum).

1. Mix old and new decor pieces

One of the best ways to incorporate Art Deco is by mixing antiques with new pieces. Seabaugh says that having a mix “makes for a more interesting home and stops it from looking too kitschy. It’s important to realize that it’s cool to have some vintage pieces, but you don’t necessarily want all vintage pieces.”

For example, you can add beautiful vintage vases to a contemporary side table or spruce up your sectional with round velvet throw pillows.

2. Focus on geometric patterns

Art Deco is all about symmetrical geometric patterns. Think sunbursts, chevrons, zigzags, and overlapping triangles. Here are a few easy ways to incorporate Art Deco patterns in your space:

Area rugs

Seabaugh suggests adding “a repeating pattern carpet of square or two-toned colors, maybe an off-white and a charcoal.” Choose a pattern that’s not too busy but still gets the point across and adds texture to your room. The Rug Company has a great variety of rugs with abstract, Art Deco designs.

Geometric tiles

Seabaugh notes that she’s seeing Art Deco influence in the tile world, especially with hand-cut tiles. Even though tiling is a big commitment compared to decor, it’s a striking way to add interest to bathrooms and kitchens.

Wallpaper

Jazz up your space by adding some Art Deco wallpaper to a powder room, laundry room, or home office. Select a statement pattern for an accent wall or a more subdued geometric pattern to cover an entire room.

3. Incorporate jewel tones

While black, white, silver, and gold might be the first colors that come to mind when you think of Art Deco, the style also includes bold jewel-toned hues. These colors (think bright ruby, emerald green, sapphire, and amethyst) are ideal for soft furnishings like pillows, ottomans, and armchairs.

For a more subtle look, edge these striking colors with black. For example, Seabaugh suggests offsetting brightly-colored tiles with a black border in your bathroom. Check out @cheapoldhouses on Instagram for some vintage bathroom tile inspiration.

4. Go for sleek lighting fixtures

An easy way to add Art Deco flair to your space is through lighting. Look for fixtures with geometrical and round shapes, minimal detailing, and etched glass shades at local antique shops and online retailers reproducing the antique look. Etsy has a large assortment of unique finds, like this affordable green and gold lamp and this hand-blown opal glass fixture. This Coco Delux Wall Lamp by Contardi, with its shiny chrome finish and geometric shape, is another authentic Art Deco interpretation.

5. Embrace different textures and metals

Art Deco design is known for its sleek and reflective materials. Mix gold, silver, stainless steel, and chrome finishes to achieve a Gatsby-worthy interior.

“If you’re preparing your house to sell and want something more updated, you can switch out your kitchen cabinet knobs and make them in a different metal finish for an Art Deco feel,” Seabaugh advises. “Maybe you have brass cabinet knobs with a stainless steel refrigerator.”

6. Curate a room with statement artwork

The roaring twenties was all about living large and enjoying the finer things in life. The art market boomed, with people often buying over-the-top sculptures and oil paintings. Today, you can curate your interior with Art Deco-inspired mirrors, paintings, and sculptures to get this sophisticated look. Framed vintage posters are another easy way to throw back to ’20s style.

7. Don’t be afraid to reupholster

Fantasizing about fitting your old sofa or chair with Deco-inspired fabrics? While reupholstering furniture can be expensive, it’s also a cool way to breathe new life into an heirloom or item that has sentimental value. If you don’t own any vintage furniture, you can purchase original Art Deco chairs at antique stores or on websites like Chairish and have them recovered. It costs $50 to $2,000, or $800 on average, to reupholster a chair. Go wild with zebra and tiger prints, or play it safe with velvet and leather materials.

8. Incorporate thoughtful Deco details

A little goes a long way when it comes to Art Deco. With that in mind, it’s best to limit Art Deco home decor to a few items per room.

“The easiest way to do it is through your accessory pieces,” shares Seabaugh.

“That can be anything from mirrors or a couple of round pillows, ones that maybe your grandmother had on her sofa, or with a side chair.”

She recommends browsing the website Modway to find unique, inexpensive Art Deco pieces for your home.

A couch in a living room with art deco interior design.
Source: (Andrea Davis / Unsplash)

Art Deco interior design leaves a lasting impression

There’s a reason that Art Deco interior design is alive and well 100 years after the style first arrived on the scene. The repetitive designs, so often seen in nature, say ‘home’ to us and reassure the senses. When it’s time to sell, touches of this elegant style can make potential buyers swoon.

If you’re still struggling to implement the trend in your home, partner with an interior designer or real estate agent to bring an objective eye to the process.

Header Image Source: (Kaysh Shinn / Theresa Seabaugh Interiors)

A dose of Art Deco design could be just what your home needs to sell. Here are some tips and tricks for how to master this timeless style.HomeLight Blog

Crime Impacts Property Value. These 10 Websites Help You Keep Tabs on Neighborhood CrimeLori LovelyHomeLight Blog

Studies show that crime rates can impact property values. Not surprisingly, when crime rates go up, property values go down, and vice versa. If you’re a seller, it pays to know your neighborhood’s crime stats so you can adjust your pricing and marketing strategies accordingly.

While your real estate agent can tell you if your neighborhood is “up and coming” and help you decipher a crime report, they can’t discuss crime in-depth due to Fair Housing Law restrictions. You’ll have to conduct your own research to get the full picture.

To help you with that, we’ve combed the Internet to find some of the best resources, to let you know if you’ll need a security blanket in your neighborhood.

An image of a house to demonstrate the importance of knowing crime rates in your neighborhood.
Source: (Karl Edwards / Unsplash)

Crime impacts property values in different ways

Even though crime has decreased 51% from 1993 to 2018, crime in the U.S. remains higher than in any other developed nation. In areas with “hot spots” – pockets with frequent and even predictable crime – housing values may fall accordingly. A University of Vermont study found that high crime rates in nearby neighborhood parks or other amenities can impact a home’s value.

Burglary and theft

My Move states that homebuyers’ greatest concerns regarding crime are burglary and vehicle theft. According to the Union Crime Report the FBI released in 2018, there were 7.2 million annual property crimes, with victims of property crime (burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft) losing $16.4 billion. The same report indicates there were 1.2 million violent crimes in 2018.

Violent crime

Fortunately, violent crime in urban neighborhoods declined 20% from 2018 to 2019. That decrease reflects positively on house prices. According to a 2012 crime report by the Center for American Progress, an independent, nonpartisan policy institute, a reduction of one homicide in one year in a zip code results in a 1.5% percent increase in housing values in that same zip code the following year.

Sex offenders

Studies indicate that house values fall by as much as 2.3% in some areas when a sex offender moves in. On average, homes within 0.1 miles of a registered sex offender decline in value by 4%, according to the American Economic Review.

Find out if crime is impacting your neighborhood by consulting these sites:

AreaVibes 

This easy-to-use site ranks more than 45,000 cities and neighborhoods in the U.S. and Canada, awarding a “livability score” on a scale of 1 to 100, segmented into an A to F grade. Categories include amenities, cost of living, schools, employment, housing, weather, and crime rates. The site includes violent crime, property crime, total crime, and trends, all of which it compares to both national and state crime stats. Additionally, AreaVibes calculates your chance of becoming a crime victim in the neighborhood. Resident reviews add context to the numbers.

Features:

  • Customize search criteria according to zip code and any of the seven livability factors used in the scoring algorithm.
  • Adjust your map view to zoom in or out of target search areas.
  • Break down crime by the type, number of reported incidents, and number per 100,000 people.

Cost: Free

Neighborhood Scout 

Offering exclusive data and insights gleaned from law enforcement agencies and other sources, this site provides a comprehensive report covering six categories from demographics, housing, and schools to real estate trends and crime statistics, boasting 98% accuracy on neighborhood crime scoring.

Neighborhood Scout drills down into neighbors’ income, language, ancestry, and occupation and indicates rental vs. owner-occupied properties. Search your neighborhood or plug in your chosen search parameters for suggestions about neighborhoods that are right for you.

Features:

  • Learn 640 statistics about any U.S. address.
  • Review crime rates, trends, risks, and predictive analysis.
  • Sign up for alerts about registered sex offenders moving into or out of the neighborhood.
  • Read included “best,” “worst,” and “safest” cities listicles.

Cost: Pay $29.99 per report or by monthly subscription for $39.99.

Nextdoor 

Membership is required for this private social network app and applies to only one neighborhood at a time. Like pre-Internet gossip, Nextdoor enables real-time conversations between neighbors, who may report suspicious people or vehicles in the area, porch package theft, cars broken into, and other safety concerns. Neighborhood Watch groups can send members alerts through the app.

Features: 

  • Filter posts to crime and safety only if you don’t want all of the neighborhood gossip.

Cost: Free

A woman checking the crime rates in her neighborhood.
Source: (Daria Nepriakhina / Unsplash)

CityProtect (formerly Crime Reports)

With data collected from more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies, this map-based site presents crime information that is updated weekly, daily, and even hourly. Search by region, address, or zip code.

CityProtect lists a variety of reported crimes, including property theft, assault, and drug use. You can click on an incident to view details about what happened and how law enforcement dealt with it. Filter your search by the day of the week and time of day, or go macro and search for crime trends in the area.

Features:

  • Navigate with easy-to-read icons that provide information at a glance.
  • Register your home security camera to notify law enforcement of your cooperation if your camera captures footage that police could use in an investigation.
  • Submit crime reports currently missing on the site.

Cost: Free

SpotCrime

Aggregating data from law enforcement agencies, news reports, and tips, this site overlays icons representing crimes on Google maps. Click on an icon for details, including the type of crime, time of incident, and source of information.

Features:

  • Get alerts via email, Facebook, Twitter, or other platforms of your choice.
  • Report crimes anonymously.

Cost: Free

ADT SOSecure

Think of it as a virtual guardian angel keeping an eye on you. This interactive web and mobile app tracks you and lets approved family members keep an eye on you via a map or with alerts confirming you reach scheduled destinations. If you don’t check-in, the app will contact you, just like your mom would, to see if you made it safely. Besides providing current safety information, ADT SOSecure offers searchable crime data by location as far back as one year.

Features:

  • Send hands-free SOS alerts using the voice command feature.
  • Automatic Crash Detection Service alerts your emergency contacts for you.
  • Choose a secret phrase for emergency help by using voice activation.
  • Access 24/7 roadside assistance.

Cost: Free if you already use another ADT service; otherwise, a monthly fee of $3.99 (or $39.99 per year) applies.

Moving.com’s City Profile Reports

Moving.com’s City Profile Reports include comprehensive information on U.S. and Canadian cities, such as the cost of living, weather, schools, and crime reports. The site annually pulls data from several government agencies to provide the statistics behind the city snapshot.

Features:

  • Run reports to compare cities side-by-side.
  • Read helpful articles about moving.
  • Calculate moving, packing, and truck rental costs with easy-to-use cost calculators.

Cost: Free

An image of a house at night used to show the importance of crime reports in your neighborhood.
Source: (Sixties Photography / Unsplash)

Crime and Place 

This map-based app has a twist: Its “heat map” indicates high and low crime rates via a color-coded “crime compass” and lets you know if a neighborhood might be dangerous. You can download customizable searches and access crime projections for specific areas.

Features:

  • Set up a virtual fence and get alerts if you leave your safety net.
  • Set up notifications when you near high-crime areas.

Cost: Free, but only available on the App Store for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.

National Sex Offender Public Website 

This government website links state, territorial, and tribal sex offender registries in one national search site. Get current information on registered sex offenders in any neighborhood – not just where they live but also where they work or attend school. Search by state, county, city, zip code, address, or name. Click on the person’s name for detailed information.

Features:

  • Search for sex offenders within a radius of your device’s location on the mobile app.
  • Read tips on how to protect yourself and your family from sexual assault.

Cost: Free

Family Watchdog 

By plugging in an address, a map on this site reveals registered sex offenders in your neighborhood. Color-coded pins correlate to specific sex crimes such as sexual battery, rape, and crimes against children. Clicking on a pin reveals a photo and background information about the offender.

Features:

  • Filter searches by crime, address, or offender’s name.
  • Sign up for alerts when a registered sex offender moves into or out of the neighborhood.
  • Read neighborhood safety tips on the website’s blog.

Cost: Free

Note: You can also find registered sex offenders on the FBI’s website.

Crime rates matter

Potential buyers will be checking your neighborhood crime report to learn about the type of crime that prevails (whether property or violent), as well as the rate of crime as part of their due diligence to determine if your neighborhood is safe enough for their family. You can put their minds at ease if you’ve already done the research and can provide them with a neighborhood crime report that will let them sleep at night.

Header Image Source: (Michał Jakubowski / Unsplash)

Local crime impacts your property value. We’ve rounded up the best websites providing neighborhood crime reports so you know where your area stands.HomeLight Blog

All-white No More: New Kitchen Trends Are Set to Dominate 2021Kate Van PeltHomeLight Blog

2021 is bringing a wave of changes. Major news outlets are moving on from election drama. Toilet paper shortages are a thing of the past. We’re even using the word “unprecedented” a little less.

Americans are eager for a fresh start, and one way we’re scratching the itch is through remodeling our living space. According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, homeowners focused on upgrading outdoor spaces in 2020; but this year, the Association predicts kitchens will steal the spotlight.

We spoke to an interior designer with an eye-catching portfolio and a top real estate agent with more than a decade in the business to confirm 2021’s hottest trends in kitchen design, including the fixtures and features buyers love most.

Black cabinets is part of the kitchen trends 2021
Source: (Sven Brandsma / Unsplash)

1. Cabinets make room for dark tones

In the last decade, white has been the color of choice for kitchens across the country. But in 2021, we’re craving something bolder and even blacker.

Moody hues like matte black, navy, and forest and olive greens dominate the design space, giving homeowners the creative liberty to play with color and express their unique taste. Warm, earthy tones are especially en vogue, as evidenced by Behr’s 2021 Color Trends.

Despite this shift to the dark side, Mario Avalos, a top agent in Miami, Florida, says white isn’t gone yet. He suggests that homeowners preparing to sell opt for a lighter color palette to attract a broader base. “White countertops … or white cabinetry … makes it so much easier to sell,” says Avalos. “The developers that I work with, that’s been their cookie-cutter kitchen, and buyers love it.”

White kitchens continue to serve as a blank slate for buyers, allowing them to easily envision themselves in the space. But if you’re home for the long haul and love the darker look, consider painting your cabinets a green-gray like Royal Orchid or a dramatic shade like Broadway.

2. Invite nature in with natural woods

In recent years, design elements that draw the outdoors in are gaining ground. Oregon-based interior designer Molly Kidd of Light & Dwell shares that designers and homeowners alike are selecting natural wood finishes for cabinetry, flooring, and furniture in the kitchen.

“Wood tones are coming back,” Kidd comments. However, the natural wood we’re loving isn’t your mom’s honey oak cabinets. Instead, designers are sticking with softer hues for a minimal aesthetic. “White oak, in particular, is really popular right now,” says Kidd, who incorporated light woods throughout her recent Wolverine Drive project, from the kitchen island to the bathroom cabinets, and even the stairs.

White oak also pairs perfectly with other organic elements like rattan furniture and fiddle leaf figs. To upgrade your kitchen on a budget, sand and refinish your old oak cabinets with a light stain. For an elevated, minimalist look, ditch the upper cabinet doors in favor of open shelving.

New kitchen trends 2021 are table lamps
Source: (imnoom / ShutterStock)

3. Table lamps add to the ambiance

Oversized pendants have become a focal point for many modern kitchens, but in 2021 Kidd expects a different lighting form to take center stage.

“Absolutely loving lamps in the kitchen right now,” says Kidd, who uses lamps as an added layer of mood lighting in not only her designs, but in her own kitchen, as well.

“A lot of times … I’ll just have my lamp on because it’s just even more subtle. There’s a little more ambiance.”

Since lamps are affordable and easy to “install,” they’re a simple alternative to some hardwire lighting upgrades for the homeowners who want a fresh look without the hassle. Incorporate lamps in your kitchen with a table lamp on a large island or a lantern on a small stack of cookbooks. Kidd’s current favorites include this ocean-inspired Toulon Table Lamp from McGee & Co., as well as this vintage Terracotta Turkish Jar Lamp from Rejuvenation.

4. Quartz is king

Granite enjoyed a two-decade reign as the most popular kitchen countertop material, but quartz has taken the crown in recent years.

A 2020 survey reveals that 40% of homeowners favor quartz countertops for their kitchen renovation. Consider the perks, and it’s no wonder granite is losing its edge.

First of all, granite is a natural stone mined from distant countries, while quartz is an engineered alternative, made of 90% ground quartz and 10% resins. Consequently, quartz offers a more consistent color and pattern than its granite cousin — a desirable quality for homeowners seeking countertops with a uniform look. In addition, since quartz is manufactured as opposed to quarried in slabs, it’s an appealing option for eco-conscious individuals.

Finally, granite can stain if you don’t seal it properly, but quartz is nonporous, which means liquids like wine and coffee won’t seep into your counters. “Quartz is what I recommend a lot for clients that are really worried about durability or staining or anything like that,” notes Kidd.

Whether you commit to quartz or stick with granite, Avalos recommends choosing a countertop with light tones, such as whites and off-whites, to appeal to the majority of buyers.

Paneled kitchen appliances are part of kitchen trends 2021
Source: (Toa Heftiba / Unsplash)

5. Appliances blend in or go bold

With so many paints to sample and hardware to compare, it’s easy to forget that your appliances can also complement or clash with your design aesthetic.

“I definitely try to use paneled appliances, when possible,” Kidd shares. Paneled appliances, also called integrated appliances, blend in with the surrounding cabinetry to create a clean, seamless look. You can purchase custom panel-ready appliances to match from leading brands like Bosch.

When it comes to stoves, however, Kidd takes the opposite approach. French ranges featuring details like brass accents and royal blue faces are a hit among homeowners seeking a luxury, vintage look. “It’s kind of the jewelry … of your kitchen,” comments Kidd, who is partial to the Café line from GE Appliances, which allows buyers to customize their appliances’ finishes.

If you want to play it safe, Avalos says that homebuyers still love stainless steel. In a recent HomeLight survey, 75% of top agents agree that stainless steel is the most in-demand finish among buyers. “Stainless steel is … the bread and butter,” Avalos comments. “You can’t go wrong [with that] type of appliance.”

6. Brass is back in a new way

If you’re picturing 1980s Kohler faucets and ornate chandeliers, let us put your mind at ease. The brass of 2021 is a fresh take on an old trend, swapping the dated polish look for a brushed or satin finish. Current brass fixture and hardware styles are often minimal and sleek for a modern feel.

Inspired by European designs, Kidd has used brass accents for several projects, including her own kitchen, which features a gorgeous unlacquered brass faucet shipped straight from England. To incorporate brass finishes in your kitchen, steer clear of the polished finish and consider blending the brass with another metal finish, such as a matte black. Upgrading kitchen knobs and drawer pulls with a contemporary option like these simple knobs from Pottery Barn is an easy, inexpensive way to start. Or, try an elevated lighting fixture, such as this Princeton Sconce or Ormandy Rod Pendant from Light & Dwell designs.

However, if you’re preparing to sell your home, brass may be too bold for some buyers, and it may not blend well with your home’s architectural style. Take a look at local listings to see what’s common for properties in your area.

Large islands are the new kitchen trends 2021
Source: (House Method / Unsplash)

7. Large islands are the center of attention

According to HomeLight’s Q4 2020 Top Agent Insights Report, a new island is the top kitchen upgrade for 2021, with 62% of agents claiming this is buyers’ most-wanted feature.

Perhaps it’s the lingering preference for open living spaces or a longing for pre-pandemic parties that’s driving this desire. No matter the motive, a large, central island is sure to make buyers swoon. “Everybody wants that, and the bigger, the better,” says Avalos.

Step up your sophistication with a two-tiered island or showcase your creative side with a colored island that stands out from the surrounding cabinets. According to Houzz’s 2020 Kitchen Trends Survey, 39% of homeowners ranked gray and blue as top choices for contrasting island cabinets. Consider Benjamin Moore’s Wythe Blue for a coastal vibe and contrast the pop of color with a neutral countertop, like this versatile Blanco Zeus quartz from Michigan Kitchen Distributors.

8. Storage: homeowners can’t get enough

Islands may be buyers’ most-wanted kitchen amenity of 2021, but walk-in pantries (62%), and “plenty of drawer and cabinet storage” (57%) are not far behind in our survey. In the wake of stay-at-home orders and quarantine constraints, homeowners are filling their cabinets with air fryers, toaster ovens, stand mixers, and more — and they’re running out of room fast.

“It’s ridiculous how much storage people want,” Avalos remarks. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), four out of every five buyers consider a “walk-in pantry” a desirable or essential feature for their future home. “The stuff you use once a year you need to store somewhere,” adds Avalos.

If you’d like to add a walk-in pantry to your kitchen, start by contacting an experienced contractor and be prepared for a hefty bill, anywhere from $750 to $3,500.

Brass is back for kitchen trends 2021
Source: (Andrea Davis / Unsplash)

9. Mix up your metals

With up-and-coming trends like two-toned cabinets, double islands, and now mixed metals, designers are breaking all the rules in 2021.

“People are … doing a different finish on their hardware and then a different finish on their faucet and then matching their hardware finish to their lighting finish,” Kidd shares. “It’s not all matchy-matchy anymore in the kitchen, which is fun.”

With brass on the rise, homeowners can mix the weathered metal with a matte black or even a brushed nickel to add some depth and drama to their kitchen design. However, to make sure you pull off the mixed metal look well, you’ll want to follow some simple parameters. Limit yourself to two or three options, using black or dark metal as a base, and ensure that your selections aren’t too similar.

Header Image Source: (Collov Home Design / Unsplash)

Every year brings new design fads and faux pas. We’ve rounded up 2021’s leading kitchen trends to help you modernize your space and dazzle future buyers.HomeLight Blog

Heads Up Seller: You’re on the Hook for Paying Both Real Estate Agents’ CommissionMatthew StalcupHomeLight Blog

According to HomeLight’s transaction data analysis, the national average real estate agent commission rate is 5.8% of the final home sale price. So, who pays for real estate agent commission? The simple answer is that, customarily, it’s going to be the seller.

In the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) 2020 survey, 77% of sellers reported that they paid for the agents’ commission. With insight from a top real estate agent, we’ll explore the custom for the seller to pay commission, exceptions to the rule, and what activities commission covers.

An image of two real estate agents to demonstrate who pays real estate agent commission.
Source: (krakenimages / Unsplash)

In the majority of cases, the seller pays for real estate agent commission

The 5.8% figure mentioned above includes the fees for both the listing agent and buyer’s agent, who split the total commission payment.

“Sellers typically pay a 6% commission. Roughly half of that payment will go to their own agent, and the rest will go to the buyer’s agent. That’s how it works 99% of the time,” confirms leading St. Paul real estate agent Shawn Hartman, who has 16 years of experience selling homes and over 400 total transactions.

While the seller is the one who technically pays commission fees, they don’t pay the commission until after they’ve received their home sale proceeds. So, it’s ultimately the buyer who brings the necessary funds to pay agent commissions to the closing table.

There are a couple of rare exceptions

While the above arrangement is the norm, there are a few exceptions where commission varies.

The seller enlists a flat-fee listing agent or discount brokerage

Some listing agents (around 3% nationally) charge a flat-fee for their services instead of taking a commission based on the final sale price. Because these agents have a capped pay system, they may not have a vested interest in increasing the sale price of your home.

Furthermore, flat-fee agents usually only provide limited services like setting up lockboxes for vacant home showings or simply listing your property on the MLS. Even if your flat-fee agent is a full-service agent, they’ll have a smaller budget to market your home. In the end, this can bring down your sale price significantly. For these reasons, we recommend avoiding low-commission agents for most home sales.

The seller negotiates their listing agent commission

While the commission price is a negotiable agreement between you and your agent, keep in mind that you truly do get what you pay for when it comes to real estate agents. An agent willing to come down on their commission fee might be desperate for new clients or inexperienced with negotiations.

In the end, quality agents who charge a 3% commission easily recover their fee by boosting your net home sale proceeds. According to HomeLight’s research, top-performing agents sell homes for 10% more than their peers on average — that difference covers agent commission and then some.

The seller negotiates for the buyer to pay commission

Another exception to the norm is when a seller negotiates for the buyer to cover some or all of the commission. NAR reports that 11% of agents are paid by buyers and sellers jointly, and another 6% are paid exclusively by buyers.

While this might seem like an attractive option if you’re looking to save a bit of cash, Hartmann advises against it, saying, “If sellers tell buyers that they’re going to have to pay commission, they’re going to scare those buyers away.”

The seller sells FSBO and saves on listing agent commission

Some homeowners choose to forgo help from a real estate agent and sell their home For Sale By Owner (FSBO). According to NAR, FSBO sales account for around 8% of U.S. home sales and garner 35% lower prices on average than agent-assisted sales. It’s also important to note that sellers will likely spend a portion of their commission savings since they’ll need to pay for marketing and other items that an agent normally includes with their commission.

In most cases, FSBO sellers still pay the buyer’s agent’s commission, meaning that they only save 3% on commission, rather than 6%. However, some FSBO sellers avoid commission altogether if they’re selling to someone they know who does not enlist a buyer’s agent (for instance, if the buyer is a friend or a family member).

The buyer is not represented by a real estate agent

As mentioned above, a seller won’t pay the 3% buyer’s agent’s commission if their buyer isn’t working with an agent. NAR reports that 88% of buyers purchase their homes through agents or brokers, while another 6% buy directly from a builder or builder’s agent. This means that only 6% of buyers purchasing homes on the market are doing so without an agent’s help.

A staged living room to demonstrate who pays real estate agent commission.
Source: (Sidekix Media / Unsplash)

You don’t hand over commission for nothing — the fee pays for valuable services

When you partner with an expert real estate agent, you’re gaining access to loads of valuable skills and services. Here are some of the services listing agents and buyer’s agents provide in return for their well-earned commissions:

Listing agents

  • Staging: Staging involves decluttering and styling your home, so it looks as attractive as possible. The Real Estate Staging Association reports that staged properties typically sell 86% faster than unstaged homes. Your agent may bring in pieces of furniture or use virtual staging to attract buyers.
  • Negotiating: Going from an initial offer to closing involves many moving parts. A listing agent communicates with buyers to iron out the details of your deal, working out contingencies, title searches, and all the other components of the closing process while advocating on your behalf so that you end up with the best possible deal.

Buyer’s agents

  • Searching the MLS: A buyer’s agent has access to the Multiple Listing Service, meaning that they offer their clients a broader selection of potential properties.
  • Reporting property matches: To save buyers time sorting through hundreds of irrelevant listings, buyer’s agents curate the best available properties based on their clients’ preferences and price goals.
  • Scheduling showings: Buyer’s agents work with homeowners and listing agents to set up appointments for you to go and check out potential new homes in person. They also walk clients through the property and point out its best features, as well as any downsides they’ve identified.
  • Negotiating: Like listing agents, buyer’s agents advocate for their clients’ interests when negotiating the price and terms of the sale. A buyer’s agent rigorously researches a home and uses their pre-existing knowledge of the market as leverage during negotiations. After reaching a deal, a buyer’s agent helps their client understand and complete all of the necessary paperwork.

Choosing the right agent is important

You’re paying your agent to sell your home for the most money possible, so you should know that they have the experience and skill to get the job done. As Hartmann puts it, “You will ultimately end up getting what you’re paying for in the long run, and I’ve seen many people regret second decisions they’ve made after hiring the wrong agent.”

To get started on your search for the perfect agent, use HomeLight’s Agent Finder, a helpful tool that matches you with the three best agents for your home sale. Remember to interview your candidates and ask questions related to your specific selling goals. After doing so, you’ll have a tried-and-true industry professional on your side.

Header Image Source: (Mackenzie Freemire / Death to Stock)

In most cases, the seller is responsible for paying the full commission of around 6%, and the money is split between the listing agent and buyer’s agent.HomeLight Blog

Compare Countertop Materials to Totally Transform Your KitchenAllaire ConteHomeLight Blog

“All I can say is that you get more offers with a kitchen that’s done,” remarks Pleasant Hill real estate agent Kevin Kieffer. With over 20 years of experience and stats like selling of 76% more homes than the average agent in his area, Kieffer would know.

When it comes to remodeling the kitchen, countertops are perhaps the most important design element, adding more beauty and interest than any other feature. New countertops average anywhere from $1,800 to $4,100 but don’t feel intimidated by the cost — buyers will find some flexibility in their budgets for a fresh and finished home.

“If I were to go ahead and buy a home that needs a $90,000 kitchen, I close, and now I gotta go find another $100,000 to finish my kitchen. However, if I walk in and that’s done, I’m willing to pay up because that’s all mortgage money now,” says Kieffer, sharing that many buyers would prefer to wrap the cost of an upgraded kitchen into their mortgage than pay cash for a remodel post-purchase.

But how do you choose the best countertop material for your kitchen or bathrooms? With the declining popularity of king granite, there’s no easy choice for a countertop replacement. Luckily, we did the heavy lifting and mined the data to bring you the insider ore on today’s most popular countertop materials.

A countertop made with a granite material.
Source: (Jessica Lewis / Unsplash)

Natural stone countertop materials

A timeless and classic look, natural stone options continue to be a popular choice among homebuyers. Though natural stone varieties can be more expensive than their manufactured counterparts, these countertops are worth splurging on in any remodel. Despite a higher cost upfront, natural stone options continue to rank among the choices with the best ROI.

Granite

Cost: $40-$60 per square foot for stone slabs

Finish options:
Granite comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Today, homeowners prefer streaky patterns and solid slabs compared to the speckled pattern popular in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Matte finish, or honed granite, is also on the rise along with modern styles. While honed was once only embraced in high-end markets, Kieffer says that he’s now seeing it enter mid-segment markets.

“It’s usually done on a larger slab scale … if you have a large island and a big, nice slab of honed granite, it just looks stunning.”

Material overview:
Granite is one of the hardest natural stone countertop materials, meaning it’s extremely durable, scratch, and heat resistant. It is a porous stone, though, which makes it vulnerable to staining and bacteria. To maintain an immaculate surface, reseal granite immediately upon installation and regularly throughout the countertop’s lifecycle. Just how often you will need to will vary depending on your unique slab, though. You can count on resealing at least every one to five years, but you’ll need to treat lighter varieties more regularly to prevent stains.

Marble

Cost: $40-$100

Finish options:
Like all-natural stone, marble slabs are limited to what is available in nature. Popular varieties include Calcutta and Arabescato, cherished for their light coloring and gray veining. Dark and colored varieties are also available, but these styles are less in-line with current design trends. While marble slabs are the most popular choice for countertops, marble tiles are also an option. These cost-effective options can save you 30-50% and can be laid without visible grout lines for a seamless appearance.

Material overview:
Though it is an expensive option, marble is a long-lasting stone and can be one of the most cost-effective countertops over time because of its longevity. Want to get a sense of just how long marble lasts? Consider this: The marble sculptures of the Parthenon were first carved in the early 430s B.C. and are still in pristine condition today. However, marble can be finicky and requires proper maintenance to sustain. Before marble went through the metamorphic process to become marble, it was limestone, a carbonate rock with a high calcite content.

Since calcite reacts with acids, marble is susceptible to staining and etching. You can mitigate these risks by resealing the marble every three to six months.

A countertop made with a marble material.
Source: (Kevin Kieffer / EastBayPro Team)

Quartzite

Cost: $50-$75 per square foot

Finish options:
Quartzite is perhaps best known as a marble look-alike; the most popular variety, Taj Mahal quartzite, resembles its namesake’s pearly marble slabs. While quartzite is available in a wide spectrum of colors, including blues and browns, the white and gray varieties that resemble marble are most in vogue today. Take note of the double waterfall island countertop made of Princess White Quartzite pictured above.

Material overview:
For those who want the toughness of granite but prefer the appearance of marble, quartzite is a worthy alternative. Like marble, these metamorphic slabs take on a veined look in various shades, from white to gray. And like granite, quartzite is a durable surface that is heat and etching-resistant. While quartzite is less porous than most other naturally occurring stones, it still needs to be sealed bi-annually to ensure its longevity and protect against stains. Just make sure to use a cutting board if you install these countertops in your kitchen — quartzite is extremely hard and will dull your knives if you prepare your mise en place directly on it.

Man-made countertop materials

In recent years, man-made countertops have fallen by the wayside while natural stones like granite and marble took center stage. But before you write off the option, know that today’s engineered countertops aren’t your grandmother’s linoleum. Advances in technology have made these countertop materials customizable, and market analysts predict that the demand for them will continue to grow. Manufactured materials range in quality, though, so make sure to do your research on the manufacturer before placing your order.

Quartz

Cost: $75-$150 per square foot

Finish options:
Quartz countertops consist of 90% ground quartz and 10% resins. Thanks to the fact that this stone is man-made, quartz is available in a wide variety of colors and patterns, with options to add marble-like veining or granite-like dappling.

“They’re all trying to mimic each other,” says Kieffer. “[Quartz] is popular because it gives you the ability to get different shades because you’re able to manipulate it.”

The National Association of Realtors reports that homebuyers currently favor lighter varieties that have similar veining to marble.

Material overview:
Quartz is an engineered stone made of the mineral quartz—the same one found in the naturally occurring sibling of this countertop, quartzite. Like its sister stone, quartz countertops are extremely durable because of the natural hardness of quartz. Unlike quartzite, though, you don’t need to reseal quartz countertops annually thanks to the polymer resins. The tradeoff is that these same polymer resins make quartz vulnerable to heat discoloration. However, you can easily avoid damage by using heat-resistant trivets for any pots or pans that reach over 300 degrees Fahrenheit — and that’s just about the only maintenance you’ll need for this countertop material.

Concrete

Cost: $65-$135 per square foot

Finish options:
With nearly endless options in terms of color, thickness, shape, and size, concrete countertops rose to mainstream popularity on the coattails of the minimalism trend. Basic options for concrete countertops don’t look all that different from how the ubiquitous substance appears elsewhere: gray with a matte finish, but these countertops are highly customizable. Acid stains and dye provide a wide spectrum of colors, and veining is also an option to mimic natural stone.

Kieffer even opted for concrete in his own recent renovation: “I did concrete on my counters outside, just again, because it’s just such a nice matte finish and is really easy to work with. I could basically get whatever shade I wanted to compliment what my base was.”

Material overview:
Concrete is a popular choice for high traffic areas because of its enduring toughness. These countertops can take a beating and are extremely heat and scratch-resistant. However, they do require sustained maintenance throughout their lifespan. It is vital that you seal this countertop material properly from the start, and then reseal the countertops every one to three years. Otherwise, the material is susceptible to stains and even mold.

A countertop made of the material terrazzo.
Source (resized): (Decorative Concrete Kingdom via Creative Commons Legal Code)

Terrazzo

Cost: $50-$100 per square foot

Finish options:
Terrazzo is a composite material marked by a confetti-like aggregate. Traditionally, the aggregate is marble chips, though today many manufacturers prefer to use recycled glass. As an engineered material, just about anything is possible when it comes to designing your terrazzo countertops. Thankfully, most manufacturers offer popular samples to help you narrow down your options.

When it comes to choosing the perfect pattern for your kitchen or bathroom, there are four factors to consider: the size of the aggregate, the color of the aggregate, the type of binder, and the color of the binder. While there are only two options for binder material, epoxy resin or cement, there are infinite combinations of aggregate and binder colors. Buyers today favor larger, Venetian aggregate and color combos that complement modern styles.

Material overview:
Terrazzo first emerged as a flooring material and was adapted for countertops because of its durability and cost-effectiveness. While it reached the height of its popularity in post-WWI America, it recently has experienced a second life alongside the resurgence of art deco and mid-century modern design — Mandy Moore even features it as a fireside bench in her Pasadena home.

Terrazzo boasts many benefits: It’s durable, scratch and stain-resistant, customizable, and, best of all, eco-friendly. Most aggregates are made of recycled glass and renewable cement and epoxy binders, making this a favorite material for LEED-certified buildings. It is a pricier option for a manufactured material, but terrazzo’s low maintenance and longevity make it cost-effective in the long run.

Recycled Glass

Cost: $65-$140 per square foot

Finish options:
Recycled glass offers as many options as its conglomerate-cousin, terrazzo. You can opt for a pattern consisting of defined glass pieces, or melt the particles together for a more uniform slab.

Material overview:
This countertop material is made of post-consumer and post-industrial recycled glass bound together with a cement or resin agent. Cement and resin-bound slab options require different maintenance, so pay close attention when choosing your countertop material base. Though this material is relatively durable, glass countertops can scratch or chip; and, when they do, you can expect a sharp surface left behind. Use stone or epoxy adhesives for a quick and easy fix to clean breaks and work out scratches with a polishing compound or jeweler’s rouge.

Laminate

Cost: $10-$40 per square foot

Finish options:
Laminate sheets cover a supportive substrate — usually plywood or MDF. While plywood is the cheaper and more durable option, it is prone to imperfections and can create an uneven surface for the laminate. MDF will give you a smoother finish, but it is especially prone to heat damage and costs as much as five times the price of plywood. Like all the man-made materials listed here, laminate styles are seemingly infinite, but faux natural stone finishes remain the most popular.

Material overview:
Laminate countertops are an affordable and DIY-friendly option. If cared for properly, they can last a decade or longer, creating an even better cost analysis. They’re even an eco-friendly product if you choose exterior grade plywood or formaldehyde-free MDF. However, this countertop material is vulnerable to harm, particularly curling laminate at the edges, chips or nicked edges, scratches, and heat damage.

Formica

Cost: $15-$40 per square foot

Finish options:
Say goodbye to the iconic boomerang pattern of the ‘50s and ‘60s, and hello to a whole new world of Formica prints. Like its parent material, laminate, Formica comes in a variety of patterns and colors. The 180fx line specializes in true-to-scale natural stone replicas and provides an affordable alternative to marble, granite, and quartzite countertops.

Material overview:
Formica is the name brand when it comes to laminate countertopsit’s even trademarked. Because it is the same material, Formica carries all of the same maintenance and durability as other laminate varieties, but with the extra pizazz of name recognition. Although there have never been more sophisticated designs available, many homebuyers still view Formica as a dated material. If you’re looking to sell your home, opting for a natural or engineered stone is a better option; but if you’re looking for a reliable and affordable surface, Formica just might be the choice for you.

A countertop that uses butcher's block as the material.
Source: (Good Soul Shop / Unsplash)

Other countertop materials

These options don’t quite fall into the man vs. nature divide of engineered materials and stone slabs, but don’t let that fool you. These countertop materials are eye-catching alternatives.

Butcher’s block

Cost: $40-$100 per square foot

Finish options:
Maple takes the cake when it comes to this baker’s favorite, with cherry, walnut, and oak ranking as close seconds. You’ll need to consider more than just wood variety to make your butcher’s block countertop *chef’s kiss* perfect, though. Woodgrain is another design factor with choices including face grain, end grain, and edge grain construction. The latter is the most popular for its durability and affordability.

Material overview:
Butcher block is formed from slabs of wood glued together, resulting in a smooth and even surface. The countertop material is often a favorite among chefs, who enjoy the material’s ideal surface for food preparation, especially kneading and cutting. Even if you’re not a gourmand, butcher’s block countertops are the perfect centerpiece for a picturesque farmhouse kitchen — a style that HomeLight agents predict will be a driving force in home buying trends for 2021.

Upkeep presents a challenge, though. Butcher’s block is susceptible to staining, heat, and water damage. To keep your counters looking fresh, you will need to sand and refinish the wood at least twice a year and take special care to treat any knicks or scratches — both to protect the wood and protect your household from bacteria that can hide in the porous surface.

Tile

Cost: Price varies depending on the type of tile used. Ceramic tiles cost $3-$4 per square foot, while porcelain tiles range from $4-$8 per square foot.

Finish options:
Options for tile countertops are as vast as the materials themselves. There is a wide selection of tile sizes, colors, and materials, as well as different grouting options. Today, porcelain slab countertops are an increasingly popular option, as they can mimic natural stone for a fraction of the price.

Material overview:
Like all things ‘80s, tile countertops are making a comebackat least for your forever home. The versatility of tile provides the opportunity to mix and match color and texture and create offset designs which are also making a comeback in 2021. But these advantages don’t come without some drawbacks: Tile countertops are susceptible to stains and bacteria because of their porous nature. Proper installation and an epoxy grout made specifically for countertops can mitigate these risks, though. If your tile isn’t glazed, seal it according to the tile material’s specifications.

A countertop with a laminate material.
Source: (Chastity Cortijo / Unsplash)

The choice is yours

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the options, it’s for a good reason: There are pros and cons to each material, and it’s difficult to balance aesthetic and functionality when choosing your new countertop material. To help with this dilemma, Kieffer offers one last piece of advice:

“It’s worth the time and worth the money to have a designer come in and put [your countertop choices] together … They know exactly what works, the best way to put it together, and what’s trending.”

Even a pro like Kieffer enlists the help of these experts. “I rely on my designers,” he says. “I own several homes myself. I buy them, I fix them up, I rent them, but … I’m fixing them up ultimately to sell down the road. So I have [my designer] come in and give me all my design choices. I don’t go and make those decisions myself.”

Just like soufflés are best left to a pâtissier, your countertop material choice is in safe hands with a top designer skilled in bathroom and kitchen remodels. An expert agent can also serve as a valuable resource to determine the highest ROI materials for your area and connect you with trusted designers.

Header Image Source: (Sidekix Media / Unsplash)

Every stone has its faults. We’ll teach you everything you need to know about natural, engineered, and other on-trend counter materials for your kitchen and bathrooms.HomeLight Blog

Real Estate in the Digital Age: 3 Ways You Can Sell Your Home OnlineKristine HansenHomeLight Blog

Today, the success of your home sale hinges on your ability to sell your home online. Whether you sell your house to a cash buyer like an iBuyer or list your home on the market, you’ll encounter digital processes at almost every phase of the sale.

Your home’s online presence is particularly crucial if you’re selling it on the market. According to the National Association of Realtors, 52% of buyers found their dream home online — not by driving through target neighborhoods, flipping through brochures, or contacting an agent for leads. You have just eight seconds — the average attention span online — to grab a buyer’s attention.

Don’t worry: We’ll teach you how to do it. Our guide to sell your house online covers three options:

  • Selling your home to a direct buyer
  • Selling your home with a real estate agent
  • Selling For Sale By Owner (FSBO)

For added insight, we spoke with top agent Cyndie Gawain of Dallas, TX. Her expertise in digital marketing enables her to sell homes 58% faster than local agents.

A tablet used to sell a house online.
Source: (Lauren Mancke / Unsplash)

1. Sell your house online instantly to a direct buyer

A direct buyer isn’t just one type of buyer. Some companies purchase homes as-is for well below market price. While others, like iBuyers, buy well-maintained homes for just slightly below market value. Direct buyers are a great option for homeowners who need to sell their homes fast and are OK with taking a price cut to do it.

Unlike traditional buyers, many direct buyers will purchase your home without ever stepping foot inside. They use local property data to determine your home’s value and inform their offer. They may also ask for photos of your property to assess the condition.

Cash buyers care the most about your home’s main structures and features. They’re less concerned with aesthetic updates like painted cabinetry or new floor tiles since they can easily make these themselves after the purchase. Some direct-buyers prefer to purchase properties as-is for below market value and flip them for a higher profit margin.

But don’t put away the cleaning supplies and extra throw pillows just yet. Considering that direct buyers may not see your home in person, it’s more important than ever that your listing photos convey the property’s possibilities. If they see a shoddy landscaping job or fading paint trim, it tells a story (false or not) about the potential mess inside.

Unlike listing photos that show all the primping and staging to fully utilize a room or other interior or exterior space in a home, what you want the images to capture is the opportunity. If a room has high ceilings or natural light, make sure the photos show this off. Include photos of high-ticket items like a new roof, updated electrical, or a renovated kitchen with accompanying text providing details.

If you’re unsure how to find the best cash buyer or an iBuyer to sell your home to, check out HomeLight’s Simple Sale Platform. Plug in your basic property details, and we’ll connect you with the highest offer from our network of pre-approved cash buyers. Some users report receiving an offer within days after posting their home’s information.

Pros:

  • You can sell your home 100% online. Some cash buyers will purchase your home without ever having stepped foot inside.
  • Some direct buyers do not conduct a home inspection.
  • The process is faster and more convenient than selling your home on the market.

Cons:

  • Direct buyers want a deal so they can turn around and sell your house for more money than their purchase price. For instance, Collateral Analytics reveals that iBuyers charge fees between 13% to 15% of a home’s sale price; these fees are significantly higher than the average real estate agent of 5.8%.
  • There is little room for negotiation when working with a direct buyer.

2. Sell your house online with a real estate agent

If you plan to go the traditional route and list your home on the MLS with the help of an agent, you’ll be in the large majority of sellers. NAR reports that 91% of sellers listed their home on MLS, and 89% of sellers worked with an agent in 2020. Most buyers discover their dream home on MLS and 64% of Realtors® call the MLS their top tool.

“There’s a lot of advantages to using an agent besides ‘They’ll put it on MLS,’” comments Gawain. A real estate agent’s expertise in pricing, marketing, networking, and negotiating helps you sell your home for the most money possible —significantly more than you’d make with the other options to sell your house online.

But don’t just hire any agent. HomeLight’s research reveals that the top 5% of real estate agents sell homes for 10% more than the average agent. To find a top agent in your area, share your home details on our Agent Finder. We’ll crunch data to match you with the best three real estate agents for your home sale based on their outstanding transaction stats and client reviews.

The rise of contactless technology

Today, a greater portion of the home sale process takes place online than ever before. During the COVID-19 pandemic, agents and homebuyers, and sellers alike were forced to adopt innovative contactless procedures like virtual showings and digital-closing tools.

All signs point to this shift remaining the new normal. Sight-unseen purchases are at an all-time high, according to HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights Q2 2020 report. 46% of agents confirm that live virtual open houses and 3D tours have replaced video tours as the number-one tool for sight-unseen deals. In a pinch, Gawain will host a Facebook Live tour and include helpful ideas about how to use a listing’s atypical spaces to assuage buyer’s concerns. She’s also published video tours on YouTube to send to interested buyers.

Stunning photos sell your home online

Photos are the number-one way to sell your house online. 89% of buyers found photos very useful in their housing search. Listing photos that entice buyers to put in an offer is like gold to any seller.

A listing’s photos should walk a fine line between being “great pictures by a commercial photographer” and “not so professional it feels like a sales job,” says Gawain. She always requests that the photographer capture twilight shots for added drama. When it comes to 3D tours, Gawain adds warmth to the interior with a crackling fire in the fireplace — a far more dimensional image than a stagnant mantel, right.

Don’t forget to ensure your listing is mobile-friendly and not just stunning on a laptop or desktop computer. Most buyers peruse listings on a mobile device (smartphone, tablet, or iPad): 81% of older Millennials, 80% of younger Millennials, 78% of Generation X, and 68% of younger Boomers found their home this way.

Pros:

  •  Your agent runs point on prepping your home for the market, pricing, marketing, and negotiating to help you sell your home for the most money possible. Statistically, you’ll likely sell your home for more money with an agent than you would selling your home to a direct buyer or selling your home on the market without an agent.
  • A digitally-savvy agent can help you conduct an almost entirely contactless transaction.
  • There’s no need to familiarize yourself with using digital tools. A well-versed agent determines which options are the best fit for showing your home.

Cons:

  • Selling your home online on the market takes longer than selling online to a direct buyer for cash. In 2020, the average home sale took around 70 days from listing to closing.
  • It takes more effort to sell your home on the market than to sell to a direct buyer. You’ll need to prep your home with staging, landscaping, and light renovations, coordinate in-person or virtual showings with buyers, and potentially tend to home repairs the inspection deems necessary.
  • You’ll pay around 6% commission that the listing agent and buyer’s agent will split. For example, 6% commission on a $200,000 house is $12,000. However, note that even accounting for commission, you’ll still net more than you would selling FSBO or to a direct-buyer.
A house sold for sale by owner.
Source: (Andy Dean Photography / Shutterstock)

3. Sell your house online For Sale By Owner

If you’re sitting on a hot property in a hot market, you may consider selling your house online FSBO to save on real estate agent commission.

FSBO is the road less traveled; only 6% of sellers sold their homes For Sale By Owner in 2020. Some, however, like having total control of the transaction. As a FSBO seller, you’re 100% responsible for pricing, staging, marketing, open houses and showings, negotiating, and managing closing documents.

You can still list on the MLS

The average cost to publish your home’s listing on the MLS with a flat-flee MLS listing service runs between $100 and $500. You can also post your listing on FSBO listing websites to increase your reach.

You’re in charge of marketing

Without the help of a real estate agent, you’re responsible for spreading the word about your home sale. You’ll need to take on or hire out for professional photography, virtual tours, paid ads, social media, and physical signage.

If you prefer to hire someone to run point on these tasks, reach out to a professional marketing, communications, or advertising organization (such as American Marketing Association, Public Relations Society of America, or Professional Photographers of America). Just be mindful of costs. These professionals may charge a high fee, even if they have no experience in marketing properties.

Pros:

Cons:

  •  You’ll pay out-of-pocket for marketing and other services that are normally included in a real estate agent’s commission.
  • FSBO is time-consuming. Coordinating showings with buyers will eat into your leisure time, especially on weekends and weeknights when most people like to walk through homes.
  • Statistically, you’re likely to sell your home for less money using FSBO. According to NAR, FSBO homes sold for a median price of $217,900 in 2020, compared to the median price of $242,300 of agent-assisted sales. An independent study by Black Knight backs this up; the data provider found that FSBO homes sell for 5.5% less, and in some cases, nearly 6% less than agent-assisted sales.
  • If you sell without a real estate agent, the transaction’s legal responsibilities and risks are all yours.

Selling your home online has never been easier

Today’s home-sale process is tied to the internet. Whether you sell to a direct buyer or list your home on the market, a large portion of your home sale involves digital tools and online marketing. The key is to research your options before you begin your home sale journey to ensure the route you choose best meets your selling objectives.

Header Image Source: (Pickawood / Unsplash)

Selling your home online has never been easier. Whether you sell instantly to a cash buyer or on the market, you’ll encounter innovative digital processes throughout the sale.HomeLight Blog

Real Estate Agent Reviews: Decoding the Good, the Bad, and the ConfusingLori LovelyHomeLight Blog

You’re selling your home. You need a real estate agent. Whom do you choose? Where do you even start looking? In the social media age, a referral from a trusted friend isn’t enough.

Almost everyone checks them. More than half of Americans who read them say they trust online ratings and reviews, with 84% of them trusting those reviews as much as personal recommendations, especially if there are multiple reviews. Choosing an agent with top reviews is reassuring.

A woman reading real estate agent reviews.
Source: (Surface / Unsplash)

Where to find real estate agent reviews

You’ll want to study online real estate agent reviews, but even then, you need to critically assess the value of the review site and evaluate the merits of the reviews. We tracked down the most popular review sites — here’s what you need to know.

Google

Google Business Profile reviews claim the lion’s share of viewers. 88% of consumers consult Google reviews, with 72% of them confirming that positive Google reviews makes them trust a business more. People check Google for reviews more than any other website. About 74% of businesses have at least one Google review, real estate brokerages included. You can scroll through reviews to spot client comments on the brokerage’s real estate agents for intel.

The downside to Google reviews? Google often fails to spot fake reviews and rarely concedes to remove reported fraudulent reviews. Anyone with an active Google account can post a review, leading to potential for misleading data.

HomeLight

HomeLight agent profiles include client reviews and ratings. When you use HomeLight’s Agent Finder, we won’t match you with agents based solely on reviews, though. Our system crunches transaction data to match you with agents with the strongest sales history, based on factors like their average list-to-sale ratio, days on market, and total transaction volume.

Yelp

Yelp is an established review site for everything, averaging more than 178 million unique visitors each month, second in traffic only to Google. According to an online reviews survey, 45% of consumers check Yelp reviews before patronizing a business. Yelp allows people to customize search terms, so you can find just what you’re looking for. Search for an agent by zip code, neighborhood, or price range. Making the reviews on the site even more valuable, Yelp investigates and removes fraudulent reviews.

Facebook

More than half (53%) of the 7.6 billion people in the world use social media. That amounts to more than 4 billion users; of those users, almost 55% are on Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform that boasts 2.2 billion active users each month. Because of its high membership, Facebook is now #3 in review popularity, with 49% of U.S. internet users visiting the site to check business reviews. Even Google pulls from Facebook reviews.

97% of real estate agents use Facebook to promote their business, so you’re sure to find real estate agent reviews on their pages. One benefit of Facebook reviews is transparency; everyone can see who posted a review, thus lending more credibility and accountability than websites that allow anonymous reviews. Search for a brokerage or an agent by name.

Angie’s List

Once a subscription-only service, Angie’s List is now free – and that may be part of the problem. Although the site claims to vet reviewers by requiring contact information, using intelligent software, and having moderators read all reviews, some users think the site is slipping.

Consumer Reports questions the fairness of Angie’s List for two reasons: Companies can contact the person who left the review, and the companies who run paid ads have far more reviews.

In 2020, HomeAdvisor’s parent company, IAC/InterActiveCorp, acquired Angie’s List. In HomeAdvisor’s business model, service providers pay the company to connect them with homeowners. It’s too early to know how that may impact reviews on Angie’s List, but for now, you can search a real estate agent’s name or plug in your zip code to find agent reviews.

Better Business Bureau

The old stand-by, the BBB remains a reliable source of information about businesses. Although many people think of them only in terms of filing complaints, the BBB features an accreditation system that vets a company, ensuring they operate ethically and with their customers’ best interests.

The BBB awards a letter grade based on several factors, including the company’s complaint history, how they respond to complaints, the truthfulness of their advertising, and their licensing information. A company can earn a high score despite numerous complaints against it if it addresses them quickly.

Compared to the other review websites on our list, the BBB includes the least real estate agent reviews. However, it’s still worth checking in case your agent’s brokerage is listed.

Real estate agents’ websites

It stands to reason that you’ll probably find only positive reviews on an agent’s professional website. While that doesn’t negate those reviews’ credibility, it also doesn’t give a balanced account. Many agents solicit reviews, but only from happy clients.

Brokerages’ websites

More than 90% of real estate firms have a website, but, like an agent’s website, a brokerage’s site is likely to curate reviews, selecting only those that are five-star. You’ll get a more objective picture from third-party review websites.

Making sense of real estate agent reviews

Reviews influence the decisions of 93% of consumers. “People trust online reviews,” says Brenda Bianchi, a top agent who works with 76% more single-family homes than the average Largo agent. “Even if an agent is recommended by a friend, they’ll rely on reviews. A good review makes [an agent appear] more trustworthy.”

But reading reviews won’t be much help if you don’t know how to crack the code or if you’re not digging deep for details, as Bianchi cautions.

Some advice for deciphering reviews:

  • Read between the lines. A reviewer may claim that an agent is nice, Bianchi says, but you need to know more. “Why is the agent good? Do they negotiate well?”
  • Take the extreme reviews with a grain of salt.  Better yet, throw out the best and the worst reviews and concentrate on the mid-range reviews.
  • Quantity counts — the more reviews, the better. There is power in numbers. The more reviews you read about an agent, the more well-rounded understanding you’ll have about their service. About two-thirds of consumers consider online reviews important in their decision-making process.
  • Recent reviews are more relevant. “Look at the dates,” Bianchi advises. An agent may have improved their skills since a client left a bad review years ago. On the other hand, if an agent has only positive reviews, she would be suspicious. “It looks fake; you’re going to have negative reviews.”
  • Look for skills, not stars. Average star ratings provide a general overview of client satisfaction, but written reviews explain the rating, using examples. Details of an agent’s performance enable the next homeowner to make an educated decision.
  • The devil’s in the details. Look for reviews that weigh pros and cons and include specifics.
  • Look for trends. If several reviews comment on the same thing, it sounds like a legitimate issue. On the flip side, if many reviews highlight a positive quality, the agent is likely consistent in that area.
  • Take notice of the tone. Anger, name-calling, and vulgarity signal a case of sour grapes. Spelling counts, too; it indicates whether or not the reviewer took time to write a thorough, well-thought-out review. How (or if) an agent responds to a negative review can also provide some insight into the agent’s problem-solving skills.
  • Prioritize. Look for reviews that comment on aspects that relate to you.
A street where a real estate agent works.
Source: (Tyler Gooding / Unsplash)

What to look for in a real estate agent review

Don’t get distracted by flowery language. There are certain qualities you should seek in a real estate agent. Here are a few things to look for:

Communication

“The biggest complaint [about real estate agents] is lack of communication,” Bianchi says. Communication is vital to the whole process of selling a house, so it’s an important trait. 

Response time

Related to communication, response time might make the difference between scheduling a showing and losing a buyer. A white paper by WAV Group that sampled 384 agents in 11 states indicates that the average response time in 2014 was 917 minutes or 15.29 hours – and 48% of buyer inquiries were never responded to at all! 

Local expertise

Real estate is local. Knowing the local market enables an agent to take advantage of pricing and timing to get the seller the best possible deal. An agent who knows the area like the back of his hand can develop the most effective marketing plan.

Digital marketing skills

Not only is this the digital age, but it’s also a COVID-19 era. Going virtual is becoming second nature. The first step for 43% of home buyers was to look online for available homes for sale.

You want an agent who:

  • Embraces user-friendly apps
  • Runs a popular blog
  • Hosts virtual tours
  • Has a dynamic website
  • Executes eye-catching social media campaigns

Team support

If an agent has a team, find out if you’ll be working directly with the agent or a rotating roster of staff. But don’t shy away from an agent with a team. That extra support helps get your house sold, and, as Bianchi points out, many of the team members may be working behind the scenes on marketing or other tasks.

Are bad reviews ever good?

As Bianchi says, everyone gets bad reviews. If they don’t, it’s a reason for suspicion. A 2017 study revealed that more than 80% of people specifically look for negative reviews and believe that negative reviews prove credibility.

Remember, unhappy clients leave reviews 21% more often than happy clients, so a few negative reviews are to be expected. Don’t worry about a few, but if you see more than a few, it’s cause for concern. 

What’s more indicative than a bad review is how the agent responds to it. A 2018 study shows that 53% of people expect a response to negative reviews within a week, and 45% of them are more likely to do business with a company that responds to negative reviews because it indicates that the business listens to its customers. Furthermore, another study reveals that 33% of Yelp reviewers will improve their review if the business responds within 24 hours.

How an agent responds to negative reviews is critical. Bianchi advises agents to apologize – “even if you’re not wrong.” An agent should address the problem and be cordial. Remember: You can’t please all the people all the time … but you can try, and that’s what counts.

A coffee cup used while reading real estate agent reviews.
Source: (Annie Spratt / Unsplash)

Final advice

Read reviews on multiple platforms to get the best overall picture.

Learn how to spot fake reviews and revenge reviews. Inflammatory language and emotional testimony may indicate a disgruntled client with an ax to grind. Similar wording in reviews on multiple platforms may be a sign of a phony or of a paid review. You can use one of these free apps to identify fake reviews in real-time.

Check out the reviewer: Is she or he affiliated with the brokerage or related to the agent? Objectivity is paramount.

After completing your due diligence in deciphering the online reviews, remember to interview your final candidates to ensure they’re a fit for you.

Header Image Source: (Aleksandra Wantuch / Unsplash)

Find the best sites for real estate agent reviews and learn how to read between the lines to get honest and relevant information.HomeLight Blog

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