Another important Listing Photo article…

This is a great article denoting the importance of good listing photos.  Additionally, an excellent (checklist) resource for getting your home ready to maximize your photo op.

Pictures put sale in focus

  • JUNE 10, 2013 2:37PM

THEY say a picture tells a thousand words and experts insist this is particularly true when it comes to buying and selling property.

Agents believe good photography not only helps find a buyer, but also helps increase the sale price.

A survey last year found 99 per cent of agents believe photos are the most essential tool for selling property.

Experts suggested vendors should declutter and scrub up their property before the photographer arrives.

They also said it was important to start planning weeks before the photo shoot to make sure the property is at its best.

Real Estate Institute of Victoria spokesman Robert Larocca said good photos were critical.

“Location may be the most important factor for buyers when determining price, but it is the photos that help entice them to the open house,” he said.

 “Buyers won’t buy the home on the basis of the photos, and nor should they as you need to see the home itself, but a poor set of photos will ensure it’s the last on the list when they are hunting for the right home.“Vendors need to think about the context of the sale; they are in competition with the other sellers in their suburb. Photos are a critical part of making their home stand out from among the crowd. In that light it’s well worth investing in great photos taken by professionals.”The survey by photography company Top Snap found 89 per cent of agents said good photos attract more buyers.Almost 80 per cent said they increase inquiries and 68 per cent said they increased clicks to online listings.And half said they helped secure a higher price for the property.Top Snap general manager Helen Clarke said sellers should be comfortable with the person taking the photographs.

“You want someone who will respect the fact that in many cases you’re putting your most valuable asset on the market and this represents not only a financial but an emotional transaction,” she said.

Property Snaps director Vince DeStefano said many buyers are initially drawn to a property because of the photos.

“You need photos that will `wow’ someone within three seconds of them looking,” he said. “So I think creating a photo that evokes emotion is very important.”

Mr DeStefano uses tools such as elevated poles and helicopters. His company is becoming Civil Aviation Safety Authority accredited to use a remote-controlled quad copter to take aerial photos.

“We also use the home’s features, such as swimming pools or impressive kitchens, to get a dramatic shot.”

ICON Property director Robert Mitchelson treats property photography as a major production.

He is a former TV and film extra, with a handful of commercials under his belt.

He has appeared in about 85 productions – including alongside Anthony LaPaglia in The Bank – and said property photography was like making films, in that they are all about emotion.

He said this was why his listings are only photographed at dawn or dusk.

“We sell on emotion and if you can get that emotional connection on a property the price becomes secondary,” Mr Mitchelson said.

“At dusk there is warmth – it makes a huge difference. Apartments can look pretty ordinary in the cold, hard light of day.”

Mr Mitchelson starts planning photography a week in advance, picking two nice days in a row based on the seven-day weather forecast.

He attends each photography session as well, to ensure the photos don’t make the property look too small – or too big.

“People will see it isn’t the same as in the photos,” he said.



* Clear all benches of clutter

* Remove and hide all appliances (kettle, toaster, etc)

* Remove all fridge magnets and photos

* Clean all appliances (rangehoods, stoves, etc)

* Hide loose electrical leads

* Hide tea towels

* Set table with good cutlery and plates

* Add table centrepiece


* Hide all TV revotes

* Turn TVs off

* Remove magazines and newspapers

* Remove gym equipment

* Hide loose home-theatre cables

* Clear clutter from shelves and coffee tables

* Arrange furniture to make the room look larger


* Remove toothbrushes and shavers

* Remove soap from showers

* Remove kids toys from bath

* Clean mirrors and benches

* Set out best towels and present the room


* Remove any clothes and clutter from floors

* Hide personal items

* Make all beds and straighten pillows

* Remove items from bedside tables

* Remove baby cribs if applicable

* Check globes in bedside lamps


* Move vehicles from driveway and front

* Remove rubbish

* Mow and edge grass

* Trim trees and bushes

* Sweep cuttings and leaves

* Put away kids toys, bikes, etc

* Make sure outside lights work


* Turn on lights and lamps

* Open curtains

* Close toilet lids

* Lock pets in the garage

* Park cars in garage or off-site

* Take the family out while photos are taken.

Source: Property Snaps

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WSJ Article on RE Photography

In Real Estate, A Picture Is Worth $1,000 or More

By Emily Peck

Attention desperate home sellers. Don’t want to lower the price on your house? Consider better photos. Real-estate listings that use photographs taken by the higher-end SLR cameras favored by photographers and photography enthusiasts, tend to do better than those that use photos from cheaper point-and-shoot cameras, according to a new analysis done by Redfin Corp., a Seattle-based brokerage.

Not surprisingly, listings with better photos command higher asking prices: If you believe your home is worth the investment of good photography, you’ll probably ask more money for it. The surprising part is that the tactic works. At the closing table, listings with nicer photos gain anywhere between $934 and $116,076–as measured by the difference between asking and final price–over listings using photos from point-and-click cameras.

SLR or single-lens-reflex cameras give users more control over what they capture and tend to produce high-quality images. They cost more than point-and-shoot cameras, but considering the data may be worth the investment for a home seller. Even better, ask your broker to bring in a professional photographer.

Redfin only looked at listings in Boston and Long Island, where there was enough metadata incorporated into photos to do a complete analysis.

The data also showed that listings with nicer photos get more online attention. And yet, for all this, only 15% of listings incorporate higher-end photography. This is even true at the high-end. Redfin found that more than half of $1 million-plus listings were shot with low-end cameras.

One exception: The low end of the market. Listings priced below $300,000 were less likely to sell with nicer photos, possibly reflecting unrealistic expectations on the sellers behalf. At the low-end, price cuts would seem to be more important than photography.

Redfin Corp.
The green bar represents SLR photography; the red is point and shoot.
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Great new article from LA Times on Home Equity Growth Trend

Good news about real estate: Home equity is growing again

After hitting a low of $6.45 trillion in the final quarter of 2011, Americans’ combined home equity jumped 20% during the next nine months to $7.71 trillion.

By Kenneth R. Harney

January 6, 2013

WASHINGTON —With all the nail biting over fiscal policy and the economy in the closing weeks of 2012, you might have missed some of the positive trends under way for real estate.

Start with home equity. It’s growing again significantly after five years of declines and stagnation. This is a huge piece of good news that hasn’t received much attention. After hitting a low of $6.45 trillion in the final three months of 2011, Americans’ combined home equity jumped nearly $1.3 trillion during the next nine months to $7.71 trillion — a 20% gain — according to the “flow of funds” quarterly estimate released in December by the Federal Reserve.

A homeowner’s equity is the difference between the market value of his or her house and the amount of mortgage debt it is carrying. If your real estate would sell for $400,000 and you have a mortgage balance of $200,000, your equity is $200,000.

Equity is a key measure of wealth — often the largest single item on a family’s financial balance sheet — and the Federal Reserve tracks the estimated equity holdings of millions of owners to come up with its quarterly numbers. As recently as 2007, homeowners’ collective equity exceeded $10.2 trillion. Between that year and late 2011, owners lost nearly $4 trillion in real estate wealth.

So the $1.3-trillion turnaround during the first nine months of 2012 was a big deal. It reflected the first sustained rebound in home prices in a long time in many — though not all — local real estate markets. In a study released just before Christmas, researchers at found that of 177 major metropolitan markets, 135 had experienced net increases in cumulative home values during 2012.

Zillow broke it down into specific dollar amounts added to owners’ net worth, city by city: Owners in Los Angeles gained a cumulative $122.1 billion during the year; Washington, D.C., owners gained $40.4 billion; San Diego, $31.2 billion; Seattle, $20.1 billion, Boston just under $16 billion; Tampa, Fla., $8 billion: Sarasota, Fla., $5 billion; Tucson, $3.8 billion; Oklahoma City, $3.3 billion; and Columbus, Ohio, $3.5 billion.

These are big numbers and hard to grasp, but think of it this way: The odds are good that even if you own a home in a market that experienced severe price declines during the housing bust, the value of your home rose last year, at least modestly. Even if you have negative equity, it’s likely that, thanks to appreciation in your area and your continuing payment of principal on your mortgage, your equity position improved.

Some of the most impressive gains in values were in areas that suffered the deepest price plunges — and the most painful losses in owners’ equity — between 2007 and 2011. According to a study by, list prices of houses in Phoenix were 21.4% higher in November than they were 12 months earlier. In the Riverside-San Bernardino metropolitan area, prices were up 13.3%; in Las Vegas 10.6%; and in Miami 10%.

What’s causing price surges like these in cities that cratered just a few years back? Part of it is a recognition by buyers, including investors, that prices hit bottom and won’t drop any further. The intrinsic economic value of houses and land simply exceeded the near-giveaway, foreclosure-sale prices prevalent in the post-recession years. Now prices are correcting upward as buyers come back into the market.

But something else has been at work: Virtually all major real estate markets across the country have seen declines in the availability of homes for sale, in part because some sellers still fear that they won’t get a good price, and because in some areas large numbers of potential sellers are still underwater on their mortgages. In Seattle, there were 43% fewer homes listed for sale toward the end of 2012 than at the same time the year before. In San Francisco, the deficit was 415; in Los Angeles 37.5%; and in metropolitan Washington around 28%.

Fewer listings mean more competition for what’s available for sale. That can bring multiple offers, higher prices and even the return of escalation clauses in contracts, where buyers’ offers contain automatic increases in multiple bid situations. That’s already well underway in parts of California, the Pacific Northwest and Washington, D.C., among other areas.

Ultimately, higher prices should begin to convince more sellers that they should list their homes, pushing inventory higher and creating a healthier, more balanced real estate environment for 2013.

Distributed by Washington Post Writers Group.


Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

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More on getting your home ready to list for sale…

The linked article from zillow provides great insight on preparing your home to list for sale and the consequences for doing it wrong.

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Anchorage lacking houses for sale?

Twice in the last week we have gone on listing appointments in South Anchorage to perform a market analysis on homes, which determines a range of value for a clients home.   When we do a market analysis for our clients we are able to use closed sales, pending sales, and active listings, whereas an appraiser can only use closed transaction to find value for a home.  After this latest appointment, it became apparent that lack of inventory is a big factor right now in the South Anchorage housing market.  In both market analysis we performed, one in Golden View subdivision and one on lower hillside-South Anchorage, we noticed a good track record of sales over the past winter months. Homes appeared to be holding value, maybe even increasing a bit with respectable marketing time.  What was unusual was the current available inventory heading into our busy home selling season.   We saw 2-3 sales every month in these respective neighborhoods for the past 6 months, which is a lot considering we are coming off our traditionally slowest months, winter. When I tried to find active listings, or as we like to call it “competition” for our clients home, there was not much to choose from.  If there are 3 sales a month on an  average and 90 days to sell, we should see 9 competing listings at any given time. Now these numbers estimates, but I think you get the point.

We are getting ready to list a home in Golden View, that is roughly 2,900sqft. So, I ran homes in GoldenView to see what the competition will be for our seller. When you plug in homes larger than 2,700 and smaller than 3,500sqft living space, there is only ONE home currently to choose from. That would lead me to believe that the estimated 2-3 buyers in the market right now looking for a home like this, only have one home to choose from and may end up competing to try and buy it. Same thing for our other listing. It is a South Anchorage smaller home on a large lot. Statistically 1-2 homes like this have been selling every month over the winter; right now, there are zero homes on the market this home would compete with. Of course when I say compete, I don’t mean by price point only or by location.  I try to see what makes each home unique and what type of buyer will it take to buy this home.   I then take into consideration what other homes would that particular buyer be looking at.  All in all, right now Anchorage has a demand for homes with the buyers out there, but there is not much inventory to choose from for those buyers.

If you are thinking of listing your home, right now could potentially be a great time to list.  If you are a buyer looking for your next home, you should make sure you know the market so when your “home” comes on the market, you can react quickly in hopes not to lose your home or end up having to compete with other buyers.  Call on us today to give you a free market analysis on your home.

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What’s an Ice Dam? blog credited to The Huebel Hammock, Liz Huebel…

What’s an Ice Dam?

So prior to living in AK I had no idea what an ice dam was. I mean I deduced that beavers weren’t the culprit, but I figured they were found in a river. WRONG. Here’s the web definition.

“An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home causing damage to walls, ceilings, and insulation.”

Exhibit A:


Exhibit B:

So, we too discovered what an ice dam was when we saw water dripping in our house near the window.

What the ice dam taught us:
*It’s good to have Alaskan neighbors who know about ice dams (Thanks Darren!)
*Apparently it’s a very common thing, especially during weird freeze/thaw winters like we’ve had this year
*The most important thing to do is get the snow off the roof ASAP. Ross was thumping around on the roof most of Sunday, trying to shovel all the snow off. Roma thought Santa landed on the roof, ie she was not a fan.
*Heat trace is only marginally useful because it doesn’t stay close enough to the ice to melt it
*If you have water dripping in your house, it’s hard to know the entry point when you don’t have attic access, but it’s safe to assume some of the insulation is wet which means you should drop your thermostat significantly until it dries. (I was wearing my coat and hat in the house.)

Now you know all about ice dams. Remember icicles are a bad sign. Store away this memory until that time in the future when you hear a “drip, drip, drip”… blog credited to The Huebel Hammock, Liz Huebel

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Short Sales and Foreclosures…What ARE the Differences?

What exactly is a short sale?   Is it different than a foreclosure?   These are good questions and hopefully I can clear them up here.

Most people are familiar with what a forclosure is.   Basically,  in a mortgage, a home owner has agreed contractually to pay back an bank/lender/investor and promises to pay them accordingly to the payment schedule as outlined in the contract or loan.    That contract states (summarized of course) that if the borrower fails to pay back the loan, the lender has the right to take back their collateral, known as the home.  If the borrower fails to pay back the loan in accordance with the contract and the lender elects to “forclose” on the property,  the legal process will engage and the home will be “foreclosed” on.  At the point of foreclosure, the homeowner has lost their right to the home, and the lender now owns the home along with the fees (like taxes) that stay with the home.  The home will most likely put it on the market for sale as a “foreclosure”.

If you are working with a realtor and they say this is a “bank owned foreclosure”, you now know what has taken place.  The banks will know nothing, to very little about the condition of the property, so make sure as a buyer you are doing your due diligence for inspecting the property.

Well, short sales are a totally different procedure.  A short sale basically takes place when a homeowner is no longer able to make the payments they have agreed to with the lender, and they are trying to sell the home to get from under the debt or payment.  The term short sale comes into play when the home owner owes more on their loan than their home will sell for in the current market; thus, when the home closes they will be “short” of their payoff to the loan.

Say you buy a home for $300,000 two years ago and you now owe approximately $275,000 on your loan; your family runs into hardship and can no longer make payments.  If you do nothing and don’t make payments you could ultimately be foreclosed on and lose your home.   If you try to sell your home and the current market price is $260,000, you would be selling your home as a “short sale”.  Now, if you have the means to pay the short of $15,000; the bank could try to collect that.  You will want to seek “legal” real estate advice on your best plan of action.

Keep in mind in either situation your credit rating will most likely be damaged.  Currently short sales do not hurt your credit rating as long as a foreclosure does, but that is changing all the time it seems. Also, if you do a short sale, you may be responsible to pay taxes on the dollar amount the bank excused you from, or your “short” amount.

In todays market, the rules and regulations of short sales, foreclosures, loan modifications, etc are changing almost daily.  If you run into hardship where you can no longer make payments, seek advice from a professional.  The market and rules are always changing, and no two circumstances are the same, you may have more options than short sales or foreclosure.

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5 Steps to staging your home

You certainly have heard the expression “there is never a chance to make a
second first impression.” This is particularly true in real estate and keeping a potential buyer’s thoughts direct at your property is critical to getting your home sold.   I have jotted down a few key points on this subject that my years of experience on paying attention to past buyers comments when selecting a home.

1) Curb appeal: A buyer is excited and they pull up to your home, it needs to look
nice from the curb. Do NOT have trash cans stacked up, bikes leaning on the
home, old flower pots, dead or unsightly lawn, or a driveway full of snow.
Also, keep in mind as the realtor is opening the door, the buyer is standing
there waiting to enter… What will they see while standing in the entrance? I
always recommend making sure when standing at the door, all is perfect. Paint
the door if it looks old or tired and make sure the trim and patio entrance have
fresh paint. The buyer will be looking around for the 15-20 seconds it takes
for a realtor to open the door so make sure everything looks great from their
point of view.

2) Clutter:  What one person calls decorating (or note taking) is what a buyer sees
as clutter. Those reminders on the refrigerator that are months old, do NOT
help sell a home. When you have pictures or flowers on every end table and
counter top space, it distracts the buyer from the home. We recommend getting
empty boxes and literally walking room to room and remove all items that are
not part of the home or remove items that will not help sell the home. An easy
trick is to stand back in the entrance of a room and take a picture; you would
be amazed what a room looks like through a lens.

3)Modify Home:  The goal is to make the home feel as open and light as
possible. Walk through the home and get rid of any unnecessary furniture. Open
drapes or blinds and make sure all lighting works. You can store furniture
neatly stacked in a garage corner or under a tarp. As long as it is neatly
stacked in the garage it will not distract a buyer. The garage is forgiving to
a buyer if clean. Most people love animals, but not all; do your best to rid
the home of all animal evidence. Water/food bowls should NOT be in the kitchen,
some people that don’t like animals would find this dirty. Try to have all
evidence of your pet in the garage, or tucked away out sight.

4) Proper Use:  So often we end up modifying our rooms to better accommodate our
own lifestyle. The problem is the buyer may not like your lifestyle. Turn your
home back into the intended use of the architect or builder. If you have been
using your dining room as an office, try turning it back into a dining room and
stage the table. Make sure things like outdoor patio are staged so you can see
their intended use. Basically- stage the home so the buyer can visually see the
intentions of the space; remember, be a minimalist so the space looks big.

5) Ambiance: Just like the first impression, you want to make sure the buyer
enjoys their tour of your home. Make it feel welcoming from the second they
step foot on your property. Turn porch lights and all interior lights on so the
buyer knows you are expecting them. This will help put the buyer at ease so
they don’t feel they were not welcome in your home. Once the buyer enters a
well lit home, make sure you have all the blinds open to let in as much light
as possible. Also, make sure all interior bedroom, bathroom or pocket doors are
open and inviting. You can leave closet or utility doors shut… Buyers don’t
like having to open doors to private rooms like bedrooms or bathrooms in fear
of surprising someone; help make them feel at ease. It also would not hurt to
have some fresh baked break or cookies on the counter for the buyer. Not only
will this help make the home smell nice, but it creates a friendly gesture that
the sellers are nice people and appreciate you looking at their home. If the
home has a strong bad odor, consider shampoo or detail cleaning, do NOT mask
the odor with a bunch or candles or wall scents; this will just mask the odor
and be an instant turn off to a buyer. They will notice you are hiding
something. Lastly, if you have a little radio centrally located, turn it on
quietly to your favorite easy listening station. Not too loud, you are not
trying to drown out noise but rather create a pleasant home viewing experience.

Remember that you are trying to make your home appeal to the largest market of
buyers. Real estate is all about numbers, and the more people your home will
appeal to, the higher the odds are you will get your home sold for top dollar
or in some markets simply sold! Selling your home is not easy, so if you are
comfortably living in your home while it is on the market, you may not actually
be “selling” your home.   Refer to my blog post about “Getting your home ready to Sell” for my ideas on preparations for this process.

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“Should I take my home off the market through the Holidays?”

Usually around his time of year when the turkey
is flying out of the cooler, our team gets asked the question;
“Should I take my home off the market through the Holidays?”
There is no right or wrong answer, it all comes down to the motivation of each individual
seller. Keep in mind, a home won’t sell when it is off the market. In a nutshell,
here is our team philosophy on the matter. We understand this time of year sellers are busy with
planning dinners, parties, maybe even having guests in town or leaving
town for the Holidays. If you don’t mind spending a little extra time in the evening or each
morning before heading off to work to leave the home clean, there really isn’t much
more necessary to facilitate a potential sale during the Holidays. Worst case scenario…
you could receive an offer at an awkward time. At this point, a seller’s
motivation will have to come into play and perhaps require some negotiating with the buyer.
There will be fewer showings during the Holidays,
but the showings you will get are typically more serious buyers and not just
“tire kickers”. We have found that during the Holidays more people have time off
from work and will actually start looking for their next home purchase. We see
an influx of buyers during the Holidays simply because they now have time to
“shop” for their home. Our recommendation to you is this; keep your
home on the market and understand you may have fewer showings but remember that the showings
you do get are typically serious buyers. When doing so, keeping your home staged and ready at all
times is a must. Don’t worry, a buyer won’t ask to see your home Christmas Eve during dinner.
Nonetheless, if we do everything right, with a little luck we could get an acceptable offer
during the Holidays! In this situation you can easily negotiate the closing date of your home
with the buyer; not too many buyers want to move in Christmas day.
The Haltness Donald Tutterow Group would like to
wish you a Happy Holiday Season and good luck with the selling of your home.

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Is a HOA (Home Owner’s Association) neighborhood right for you?

Is a HOA (home owners association) neighborhood right for you?

An interesting point of discussion I have had recently involves Home Owner’s Associations. When it comes to Home Owner’s Associations (HOA’s) we get clients from both sides of the fence. Some clients want to have the freedom to park RVs, boats, or any of their toys in their driveway or yard. They do not appreciate oversight on their home usage and maintenance.  They may also balk at the additional fees that come with supplied maintenance and repair plan for the Association’s common areas.  For every client that is opposed to the idea  of an HOA, we have those who will not buy without.

Those who support the  idea of HOA realize that the monthly fees and standards protect their  investment.   A prospective buyer recognizes the clean, de-cluttered
nature of the HOA development and is drawn to the level of upkeep the standards
provide.   Those living in the HOA development know that without the
HOA, it is possible one bad egg can spoil the whole carton.   No one
wants to live next door to a neighbor with a bad lawn and junk in their yard.
The HOA is your only assurances against such a scenario.

I’ve recently completed a market study on two identical neighborhoods similar in year built, size of homes, school zoning and the size of the neighborhood. The main
difference is one, Kempton Hills has an active HOA and the other, Huffman Hills
has no active HOA. Here are the findings for homes sold in 2011 in these two
South Anchorage neighborhoods.

Kempton Hills (HOA) vs.
Huffman Hills (no HOA):

Kempton Hills HOA dues:
$200 annually

12 sold homes in each
neighborhood in the past 12 months based on the median.


  • $401,000 sales price
  • $159 price per square feet
  • 2,521 square footage of living space
  • 59 days on market before sale

Huffman Hills:

  • $363,000 sales price
  • $156 sold price per square foot
  • 2,353 square footage of living space
  • 60 days on market before sale

What I take away from this survey is a home will sell for more in neighborhoods with HOAs than without.   My suggestion would be this, if you plan to be able to
park your RV, boat or snowmobile in your driveway and manage your own exterior
look and feel then you should look at neighborhoods which do not have an HOA.
It is a good thing to remember when purchasing your home that buying into a
neighborhood does not technically save you money. Statistically you can see
that when you sell your home in a neighborhood within an HOA that it will
traditionally sell for more than any dues that you will have paid, granted, you
are also paying more to buy. If you enjoy the uniform, de-cluttered look of an
HOA neighborhood and are willing to pay for it, then look for neighborhoods
with an HOA.

The bottom line is this; 1)don’t disregard a neighborhood based on the HOA fees, but rather choose a neighborhood that fits your lifestyle and 2) dues generally aren’t that much
considering the home (investment) you are purchasing.


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