Meeting in the Middle

By Sean and Aimee McDonald | Friday, December 14, 2018
When trying to ascertain the value of a home, buyers and sellers understandably possess differing expectations.  Unfortunately, inexperienced buyers and sellers may arbitrarily set unrealistic objectives,

The McDonald Real Estate Team, Meeting in the Middlethereby preventing them from successfully achieving their real estate goals.  While differing perceptions are an ever-present reality when buying or selling a home, there’s value in acknowledging the competitive motives of both sides to avoid a negotiation impasse.

When listing a home for sale, sellers naturally expect they’ll receive a full price offer.  However, for a seller to accomplish their goal of selling at, or close to, their asking price, they must also competitively price their property according to market conditions.

A home’s market value is the most probable price the property should bring in a fair sale, but there are distinct differences between market value and market price.  Although a synergy between the two exists, they’re not always interchangeable.  The determined value of a home is not necessarily the price for which it’ll sell.  The final purchase amount may be higher or lower than the home’s market value.

There’s a dynamic that comes into play when sellers make incorrect assumptions regarding the valuation of their homes.  From over-confidence that the property will sell, to concern that it won’t, owners of overpriced homes are often forced to acquiesce to offers less than what they might’ve otherwise accepted had they appropriately priced their home in the beginning.

There are distinct differences between what the market will bear and subjective valuation.  In effort to ensure a home’s proper market position, sellers should have a comparative market analysis (CMA) performed to determine a price range conducive to market demand.  For some sellers, a home’s actual value can be an unwelcome wakeup call, differing from what they had originally perceived their home to be worth.  However, that’s not to say the reverse isn’t also sometimes true.  But in either case, a CMA is a valuable tool for establishing a realistic price point and removing subjectivity.

An overpriced home often languishes on the market, typically selling less than it otherwise would’ve, had it been priced correctly from the start.  Ultimately, an appropriately priced home is better positioned to sell in a shorter amount of time, than overpriced properties which are systematically reduced.  Understanding sellers are motivated to receive the highest and best offer possible, they’re usually better served in competitively pricing their properties from the onset of their marketing efforts.

Another concern of overpriced homes, is their ability to appraise.  A buyer’s uninformed commitment to purchase at an amount exceeding valuation may result in a contractual termination due to mortgage lending constraints.  Pricing a home slightly below the competition can be an effective means of edging out other comparable properties while remaining within appraisal limits.

Sellers have a significant amount of control when determining the terms and conditions they’re willing to accept; they should knowingly be prepared to entertain certain concessions.  Sellers who immediately reject competitive offers, in the off-chance of receiving a higher offer, may ultimately sell at a loss.  The wait for a higher offer is often overshadowed by perpetuating expenses encumbered in home ownership.  When in doubt, sellers should consider submitting a counter-offer.

In contrast, buyers customarily seek to purchase for the lowest price possible, of course, this shift presents its own unique challenges.  Whereas a seller is generally aware of other sellers, the effect of other prospective buyers in the marketplace isn’t always immediately apparent.  Homebuyers rarely see their competition until multiple offer situations occur. It’s in these circumstances when a buyer truly becomes aware of the influence of others.  The submission of an uninformed offer can result in unanticipated repercussions, and potentially the loss of a home.

When buyers first initiate a search their confidence levels are typically high; however, like sellers, overconfidence can lead to ineffectual decision making.  Understandably, prospective buyers want to purchase at a discount, but over time those who’ve consistently lost negotiations and become fatigued by the process, may be prone to impulsively submitting offers on properties not meeting their needs.

Arguably, each real estate market has its own competitive characteristics.  And, while it’s natural for most homebuyers to begin their search online for the best possible deal, buyers shouldn’t succumb to thoughts of purchasing at unrealistic prices.  Substantially undervalued purchase offers typically won’t be accepted and will only serve to frustrate both sides.  Preparing a compelling offer, respective of market conditions, is a far more viable and effectual means of attracting a seller’s attention and ultimately acquiring the right home.

Informed buyers are prepared to negotiate when the right opportunity is presented, and they’ll do so from a position which is based on knowledge.  Admittedly, there are times when a bidding competition with other prospective homebuyers may be warranted, but such engagements should only occur after predetermined not-to-exceed thresholds have been established.

Both buyers and sellers typically benefit from the counsel of an experienced real estate practitioner.  However, both parties must also remain objective, setting aside preconceived notions about improbable gains.  There’s value in having well-informed agents working both sides of the transaction to ensure fluidity is maintained.  Removing unrealistic expectations and acknowledging the needs of both sides of a transaction is crucial and can strategically position both parties for successfully meeting in the middle.

The Autumn Real Estate Market

By Sean and Aimee McDonald | Wednesday, September 12, 2018
As the seasons change and the transition from summer to autumn occurs, the real estate market undergoes its own unique The McDonald Real Estate Team, The Autumn Real Estate Markettransformation.  While the spring and summer seasons may be the busiest times of the year, times have also changed.  For many, the most advantageous time to buy or sell a home is in the fall.

Long-enduring misconceptions that real estate is a seasonal business, have given way to more pragmatic views.  While it may prove logical for some to purchase or sell during the spring or summer, not everyone is limited by these constraints.  There are distinct advantages to buying and selling in a fall market, often overshadowed by a long-held belief that real estate is a warmer season proposition.

Today’s homebuyers are no longer singularly focused on transacting the sale of property during the spring and summer.  In recent years, autumn has become an increasingly popular time to engage in real estate.  Driven by technological advancements, prospective homebuyers are now afforded numerous solutions to preview listings, correspond with real estate practitioners and discuss lending options with mortgage professionals.  Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers alike, are no longer limited by traditional practices from a decade ago.  Although fall was once considered by the industry as an inactive period, it now represents a wealth of opportunities.

Still, guided by traditionalist views, some homebuyers remain compelled to suspend their search during the autumn months; likewise, many sellers pull their listings off the market fearing inactivity.  But, misgivings about the market’s potential to flourish in the fall is misplaced.  While there are distinct differences inherent in a fall market, both buyers and sellers have opportunities to achieve their respective goals.

For homebuyers, summer has historically been the most expensive time to purchase.  But, home price averages tend to slowly decline during the fall and winter months, affording buyers a chance to purchase at favorable price points.  Buyers are further afforded greater access to mortgage professionals, real estate practitioners, home inspectors and property appraisers, during the autumn season, and many eagerly compete for business.  Given a reduction in competition from other would-be homebuyers, bidding wars are less likely.  In addition, sellers are often inclined to be more flexible on terms, while being open to negotiations.  Although a reduction in inventory may increase the amount of time it takes to find the right home, patience and perseverance oftentimes benefits buyers.

Yet, homebuyers aren’t the only beneficiaries in autumn markets.  While pricing averages tend to decrease during the cooler months, for sellers, a reduction in inventories also equates to decreased competition from other would-be sellers.  Autumn home seekers are usually serious buyers, less apt to be window-shopping, as is common during the busier seasons.  Those looking to purchase in the fall, are typically motivated to expeditiously move forward.

But, as with all seasons, sellers must competitively price their homes in alignment with other comparable properties.  Homes that languish on the market due to over-pricing, become stigmatized and typically won’t sell for what they otherwise might have, had they been priced appropriately from the onset.

When marketing, the smallest considerations often enhance buyer interest.  Embracing autumn themes, throughout a home’s interior and exterior spaces, is a prominent means of evoking a connection in homebuyers; while seasonal themes are oftentimes key to edging out comparable listings.

Enhancing a home’s curb appeal through the integration of fall colors and décor, creates a lasting impression.  Well-manicured lawns, immaculate landscaping, thoughtfully trimmed vegetation, and potted flowers such as chrysanthemums and marigolds, can greatly enhance a home’s presence.  Autumn themes should also carry inside; sellers mustn’t overlook the importance of showcasing their home’s interior spaces utilizing the same thematic expressions.  Subtle fall accents, decorative pumpkins, autumn wreathes, artfully staged fireplaces, the smell of apple cider, and fresh baked goods further evoke emotional connections in visiting guests.  Sometimes the simplest seasonal touches can make a profound statement.

Regardless, presentation remains paramount; market ready homes are free from clutter, depersonalized, meticulously cleaned, freshly painted, thoughtfully staged and in good repair.  Yet, it’s important to remember, shorter autumn days can make a home feel dark.  When showcasing a home, the property should be well-lit.  Sellers are encouraged to brighten their home’s appearance by opening blinds and draperies, and turning on the lights.  In anticipation of the forthcoming winter months, autumn buyers are likely to be attuned to a home’s functionality.  Fall sellers mustn’t forget the importance of preparing their homes to attract interest, while viewing their property from a buyer’s perspective.

Whether buying or selling, once an offer has been accepted, the systematic, co-dependent progression of each stage in the process is vitally important.  Contractually speaking, time is of the essence, and demands placed upon each of the professionals to complete the transaction often takes time.  However, fewer demands from fewer homebuyers, often expedites the process during the autumn season, not only benefiting buyers but also sellers.

Although there are misconceptions about the real estate market’s performance during the autumn season, the marketplace remains effectually resilient.  Taking the time to discuss opportunities with a knowledgeable real estate practitioner can prove beneficial.  Seasonal changes no longer mean the market has closed.  In fact, autumn may prove to be the most opportune time to either purchase or sell a home.

Home for the Holidays

By Sean and Aimee McDonald | Monday, October 29, 2018
The McDonald Real Estate Team, Home for the Holidays
As the year comes to a close and the holidays approach, many homeowners set their sights on re-purposing underutilized areas within their homes.  For some, enhanced entertainment space is desired, fostering social engagement with family and friends.  While others, seek to escape the hustle and bustle of the season, creating private personal retreats.  The redefinition of these areas is a departure from traditional home-offices or dens.  For example, a dining room may lend itself to becoming a gamer’s paradise, a finished basement may be re-purposed as a home theater, an attic or outdoor storage shed may be transformed into a man-cave or she-shed, or a spare bedroom may find new use as an art studio.

Generally speaking, the footprint of a home needn’t change and the chosen space can quickly be returned to its original purpose if so desired.  Arguably, technological advancements have redefined what it means to recreate with family and friends, but traditional incarnations of solitude remain ever-present considerations in re-purposed living space.

For many modern families, game rooms have become popular centers for social gatherings.  No longer relegated to the individual needs of adults or children, family gaming centers are now collaborative spaces, bringing families together.  Both modern and traditional options have their place; whether oriented around video gaming, darts, pinball, billiards, Foosball or board games, a home’s living areas can be reoriented around a family’s common recreational interests.

Thematic décor used to create the game room, should be reflective of the home’s occupants, allowing for personalization around each member’s tastes.  While unconventional, home gaming centers have the power to engage all members of the family and will quickly become places where people congregate.  Game rooms should be welcoming, functional and comfortable.  And, it’s important to furnish, light and design these dedicated spaces around their intended purpose.  For those limited on space, the elements of a game room can still work, providing a proper blend of form and function are also considered.

Gaming enthusiasts have the power to use their dedicated spaces to openly communicate their passions for sports, entertainment, vehicles, travel or pop-culture.  In fact, it’s expected a family’s game room will make abrupt departures from a home’s otherwise conservatively expectant décor.  As such, the expressions made in one household, as compared to the next, are likely to be quite diverse and unequivocally fun.

Other families seek to create personal home theatres when enhancing their home’s unrealized entertainment space.  Whether immersing oneself in the latest movie or tuning in to watch the big game, having the ability to fully capture the at-home cinematic experience has become a way for families and friends to engage.  However, creating a state-of-the-art home theatre can be financially cumbersome and a somewhat technically complex proposition.  But, through appropriate planning, creating inviting space where people gather together to enjoy a holiday classic or take in a concert, doesn’t have to be an arduous undertaking.  Arguably, deciding where to set-up is key; whether incorporating a theatre system into a home’s main living areas, repurposing a den or spare bedroom, or creating a ten-seat palatial cinema in the basement, opportunities for upgrades abound.  It’s important to balance the desired outcome with comfort, optimal viewing and sound reproduction.  Yet, such upgrades needn’t necessarily redefine the original purpose of the room selected.

Still, the repurposing of underutilized space needn’t always appeal to others.  For those desiring personalized areas, man-caves and she-sheds have become a popular means of attaining individualized space.  Limited only by imagination, both men and women alike, are now seeking private areas to call their own.  Where man-caves, metaphorically speaking, provide areas where men are empowered to decorate as they wish without disrupting the décor of the rest of the home, she-sheds have become their counterpart, and a place where women do the same.  Both serve as private retreats where men and women can escape everyday stresses, but also entertain should they so choose.  They’re places both men and women call their own, where décor and thematic expressions are boundless, limited only by individualized interests.  Still, whereas man-caves are typically found in repurposed rooms of the home, such as basements, garages, attics or dens, she-sheds are commonly found outdoors, in repurposed sheds, that’ve been transformed into private backyard getaways.  Yet, in either case, the design elements incorporated are intended to be fun reflections of their owner’s hobbies, interests and favorite past times.

Perhaps one of the most traditional and longstanding expressions of personalized space found within many homes, is the art studio.  Long before technology evoked a passion for electronic gaming or in-home theatres, home-based art studios, provided owners with a place of personal solitude.  Each artist’s home-studio possesses its own unique identity reflective of its owners.  Whether into painting, drawing, photography, writing, sculpture, crafting or general hobbies, the repurposing of underutilized rooms, centric to artistic interests and expressions, continues to be unencumbered by a home’s structural limitations.

From traditional to contemporary, the repurposing of a home’s living areas to meet the needs of its occupants is becoming increasingly popular and sometimes a hybrid of ideas proves beneficial.  Man-caves often incorporate gaming and home theatre elements; she-sheds often double as art studios.  This holiday season, whether seeking to heighten entertainment space or just create a quiet place to escape, the redefinition of living areas is limited only by one’s imagination.

How to Light Up the Season

By Sean and Aimee McDonald | Tuesday, November 27, 2018
The McDonald Real Estate Team, How to Light Up the Season

With the passage of Thanksgiving, it’s time to infuse some illumination into the holidays!  There’s no better way to intensify the festive curb appeal of a home, than through Christmas lights.  For many, Thanksgiving serves as the demarcation of the holiday season.  There’re those who’re motivated to brighten the exterior spaces of their homes in anticipation of what is soon to come.

In connecting with the spirit of the season, there’s a feeling of warmth and personal satisfaction that’s achieved from having decorated.  Yet, those efforts also provide a chance for social engagement and opportunities to dazzle family, friends and neighbors.  It’s not uncommon for people to venture out for an evening walk or take a leisurely drive to capture the many sights.  No other outdoor decorative elements have more prominence than well-planned lighting displays.

Today’s exterior holiday lighting efforts are a natural evolution of traditional Christmas décor.  Once relegated to trees brought indoors and accentuated by candles, the use of electric lighting for Christmas garnered national attention in 1895.  It was then, electric lighting first appeared on the White House Christmas tree.  Throughout the early 1900’s, electric lighting became increasingly popular, and admittedly, a less flammable means of holiday illumination.

By the mid-twentieth century, Christmas lighting had expanded away from purposes solely oriented around the indoors, to decorative applications outside the home.  In the years since, a diverse and technically advanced selection of outdoor lighting options have been realized.  Modern Christmas lighting now affords a diverse array of configurations and colors.

Until recently, incandescent lighting applications were the go-to when decorating the exterior spaces of a home.  However, light emitting-diodes (LED) have become popular alternatives to classic filament-based lighting.  LEDs generally last longer and are more durable than their incandescent counterparts.  But, LEDs cost more, and some say, lack the “warm twinkle” many have grown accustomed to from incandescent lighting.  Still, the options afforded from either are plentiful, allowing for customization relative to bulb size, style and strand length.

In recent years, decorators seeking to avoid the inherent frustrations associated in hanging lights, have sought laser projection systems.  A popular alternative to traditional string lighting, laser projectors are installed on a stake mounted in front of the house.  These systems, project colored images and patterns onto the face of the home and are oftentimes animated.  Their installation and removal are performed quickly and with ease.

When decorating, exterior lighting efforts should highlight the home’s architectural features while remaining complementary to other styling cues found within the community.  Establishing a unified theme is often key to creating a display that’ll be the envy of the neighborhood.  To achieve a classic look, decorators are encouraged to focus on their home’s eves, gutters and windows using one or two complementary colors that accentuate one another.  For those wishing to convey a more festive and prominent holiday message, the integration of diverse colors, layers and animated effects quickly become focal considerations.

Lighting a home’s surrounding landscape and walkways presents additional opportunities to heighten seasonal curb appeal.  The intertwining of lighted strands placed within the branches of trees, the draping of netted-lighting over bushes, the cascade of icicle lights suspended from the home’s roofline, the illumination of wreathes and sculptures and the weaving of stranded lights across railings, fences and lamp posts are just some of the many ways a home’s exterior holiday aesthetics may be further accentuated.

But, before undertaking the challenges of outdoor Christmas lighting, the creation of a detailed plan usually proves advantageous.  While determining the location of each exterior power source and the types of lighting that’ll be used is important, there’re other factors that mustn’t be overlooked.

Measuring the exterior dimensions of the home and notating where each strand will be placed and derive its power is crucial.  Determining the quantity of sets necessary, confirming each is in working order, and having the appropriate tools, hardware and ladders on hand is also of great importance.  Far too often, holiday decorators find themselves short on supplies, working with defective lighting and equipment.  It’s important to make a list and check it twice!

When hanging lights, decorators are encouraged to begin at the power source, ensuring each of their lighted strands remains taut.  They should follow each fastener to the end of the project, hanging one strand at a time, progressively adding additional strings in an end-to-end series.  However, decorators are cautioned not to overburden the series, as adding too many strands together or connecting incompatible sets, greatly increases the potential for fire.  Ensuring outdoor lighting and extension cords are in good repair is vital; decorators are encouraged to read all labels while heeding warnings to prevent unintentional mishaps.  When in doubt, seeking the consultation of a licensed electrician is advised.

Those who love decorating for Christmas should expand their passions to the outdoors if they haven’t already done so.  Outdoor seasonal décor has become a must have for avid holiday enthusiasts.  Exterior lighting has the power to transform the look and feel of a home and its surrounding landscape, while instilling a touch of holiday magic.  When searching for ideas, would-be decorators are encouraged to look at other homes in the area, perform online searches and visit local retailers for the latest ideas.  Doing so will help light up the season!

A beach house at Baja California peninsula

Think you have a “photogenic side” for camera? So does your home!

A picture is usually much more efficient, but in the case of your home’s listing photos, pictures can be thousands of dollars more efficient. It plainly makes sense: buyers often begin their search by surfing through online listings, and if the listing images are blurry or too dark, it’s a lot easier to mark a home off your must-see-in-person list. All in favor of the listings that simply look better on an image.

If you’re taking your photos by yourself, a nice quality camera will do it for starters…  But you also need to know what potential customers are looking for when they inspect homes online. “Taking photographs is one of the most serious steps in the whole selling process,” says Mary Dimario, real estate agent and a president of MER Properties based in MA.

So you’d better listen to these real estate agents’ top recommendations for capturing your home’s most beautiful qualities in a real estate photography.


1. Declutter and make a central stage

Just as you wouldn’t want your visitors or friends to see your home in a mess, you definitely don’t want prospective clients to know what exact brand of cereal you buy or to spot an old stack of some magazines in the corner of the room. This is where staging comes up.  “Spend time on the details: clean up the bookshelves, tidy up desks, and for a time being get rid of rugs or pieces of furniture that will block the view in your photos,” says Mike Becker of Coldbin Banker in Chicago, IL. “Walk through the the areas where you will photograph each room: What does distract the view there? Remove it to get the best shots of the spacious areas….”

2. Arrange the pictures in a meaningful way

When buyers bump into your online listing, you have only few seconds to get a hold on their attention…  Chaotically ordered photos can be distracting. Arrange your photos like an organized virtual tour of your home. First, welcome them through the front door and through the first floor before showing them the other parts of your place. This will help the prospective customer to get a better sense of the house layout and feel. “Less is sometimes more,” says Patrick McStephensons, a real estate agent with Douglas Ellan in Sag Harbor, NY. “Listing photos must welcome you into a listing. Don’t make the mistake of trying to completely over-sell it online.”

3. Make choice parts of your home vocal

While you may like your three freshly painted bathrooms, make sure to photograph the spaces you think will be a trigger a potential buyer and keep out all the rest. For example, if you have an amazing spa bathroom, use an image of that to put viewers in a relaxed mindset, as opposed to daunting and boring them with several images of similar rooms or areas…

4. Don’t take unrealistic photos

Honesty is always the best policy, especially when it comes to listing photos. “People want the photos to be truly representative of the house, so people come and they either see exactly what they expected they’d see or they comment that the house looks better in life than it does in the photos,” says Albert Bigelow, real estate agent with Kennon Williams Realty Larchmont in Los Angeles, CA. Use those fancy experimental new lenses for your next art project, and be sure to shoot rooms from the corner instead of straight on.

5. Show off architectural detailing

The time now is ripe to  brag about the crown molding, coffered ceiling, and a large bay window you’ve always been proud about in your home… Potential buyers are always  attracted by interesting architectural details that add to the value of the property (not to mention the home’s character), so show them off in the listing photos!

6. Exclude the street from exterior images

Just as when you’re taking indoor photos, you want to create the perfect vignette of the outside of your home. Superimposing too much street can make the image feel cold. “Preparation is the key element in achieving great listing photos,” says Carrie Bells, a real estate agent with Coladier in Aspen, CO. “Detect the right time of day or evening for each shot.” If you have beautiful outdoor lighting, so don’t miss taking images at dusk. This can give potential buyers a much better image of the property and landscaping.

7. Avoid blurry images

This sounds obvious, but every little details matters. Consider investing in a tripod or a steadicam to get your camera not shaking. That will allow you to get the best shot of the room. Check each image after a shot to be sure you got at least one or two crystal-clear images.

8. Do drone, aerial photos

Really want to make a great impression? Show off your home and acreage from above. Jim Hooks of Realty Two Group in Las Vegas, NV, suggests trying drone photography from the above! So if your neighborhood or homeowners’ association allows it, do it!  “The ‘wow’ factor alone is usually worth the cost,” he says.