Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thinking about a Remodel?

You may not realize that I discuss potential renovation projects with a good dozen clients each year--I not only provide referrals for contractors, architects and vendors, but also review needs and wants and provide feedback regarding how the market might view your plans, whenever you go to sell.

Improvements are sometimes complicated to suss out. I like Sarah Susanka's Not So Big Remodeling because she's very thoughtful about the creeping incrementalism that can overtake remodeling projects, and how to avoid it. Bumping out a room involves not just those construction costs, but also the new foundation, and sometimes even the extra garage space. Can we go back at it and carve out an office niche somewhere, rather than expand the footprint of the house?

Remodeling magazine offers some very interesting insights for your deliberations. Each year, they survey Realtors regarding the cost vs. value ratios for various home improvements. See the graphic above for a nice summary of recent trends: As construction costs have held relatively steady, but home prices have declined, the ratios have trended downward at the national level across projects. See also this article for great resources to inform your decisionmaking. (And don't forget that if a new bath downstairs returns 80.6% of its cost (as the analysis suggests), that you're enjoying all the functionality for your years of ownership for only 20 cents on the dollar, throwing NPV out the window for the time being.)

The Bay Area is a unique area for these analyses. Across the board, the returns on home improvement investments here outstrip those nationally by about 20% (except for installation of backup generators...). In fact eight projects return more than their cost on Day One: Vinyl and wood window replacements (and that excludes the lower utility bills you'll see); major and, even better, minor kitchen remodels; entry door replacements (first impressions are everything); deck additions; basement remodels; and attic bedroom additions. Only replacing the front door garners a cost vs. value ratio over 100% at the regional and national levels. Other key takeaways: minor remodels are more cost-efficient than major replacements, and middle-of-the-road remodels generate stronger returns than upscale remodels (what most would consider "over the top").

For a copy of the San Francisco area report for this year (or for past years' reports), email me!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Continuous Improvement---

I spent a couple of days in December sitting in front of my computer, listening to 12 hours of lecture from a professional from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since so many of the homes I've sold have historic roots (and my 1907 home is the "youngest" of those I've lived in over the years), I thought it made sense to get their special training for real estate agents.

We walked through architectural styles, of course, but also federal and state/local preservation ordinances and approaches.

Over the years, I've taken over 600 hours of training--everything from classes to earn my broker's license (most agents are licensed "salespeople" rather than brokers), to EcoBroker certification to Institute for Luxury Home Marketing training to training in staging from the doyenne of staging, Barbara Schwartz (though I know enough to suggest that clients rely on the fabulous stagers we have here in the East Bay).

And I can't tell you how many times I've come back from these trainings with ideas I'm able to put to work for clients immediately. From a words/few photos marketing campaign (as with 26 Slater Lane, thanks to Austin-based Stan Barron), to developing an offer from the seller and handing it to a wavering buyer, hoping to get him/her to come off the fence (thanks to Florida-based Frank McKinney) to organizing a cocktail or renovation party to sell the house (as with 25 Mesa Ave. and 421 Wildwood Avenue in Piedmont, thanks to Dallas-based Laurie Moore-Moore), the benefits all come home.

Continuous improvement

Sunday, December 6, 2009

26 Slater Lane, above the Claremont, Coming 12/7!

If low rates and great economic news lead you to consider a purchase:

Imagine waking up to a great Bay view, marveling at it while eating breakfast out on the deck, and then descending a classic city path for coffee at Peets, only to catch a bus ride to BART, the University, or the Financial District.

Imagine working at your home office with a great Bay view, needing a break, and heading down to Rick and Ann’s for lunch.

Imagine having friends over for drinks on the cool east-side patio in the summer, and then shifting to the dining room for dinner and a great Bay view. Soak in the hot tub overlooking San Francisco on the deck afterwards (ah, yes, the timer makes sure it’s nice and hot)?

Imagine reading a book in your living room with the great Bay view to your left, while enjoying a fire in the fireplace that anchors the north wall.

Imagine admiring the great Bay view as you head down to meet friends for tennis, a spa date, dinner at Meritage or Paragon, or a play date at the Claremont Club pool.

If you’re looking for great value, take a look at 26 Slater Lane, Berkeley:

--A stupendous location:

• 250 feet above Rick and Ann’s (according to Google Earth--see this GoogleMap mashup);
• Just a short distance from the Evergreen Path AND the Eucalyptus Path which end near the express E bus to San Francisco’s Financial District;
• Facing the end of a small private cul-de-sac enveloped by oaks and bay laurels;
• Easy access through the tunnel to Lamorinda and beyond, OR avoid the traffic and go over the tunnel and down Fish Ranch Road!
• Berkeley address, Oakland taxes (and schools);
• In a neighborhood whose sales prices averaged over $1.3 million over the last three years (according to the MLS).

--Wonderful mid-century design in a mid-century enclave that survived the East Bay Hills fire;

--Shares many elements with an Eichler: Lots of built-ins, Philippine- or luan mahogany-paneled walls, open floorplan, and dramatic roofline;

--Just a couple steps below the carport level, the house is otherwise level-in, on a single story, and offers effortless indoor-outdoor flow;

--Big windows let the east, west, and north light pour in;

--Cathedral ceilings allow this space-efficient house to “live big”;

--A “killer” Bay view from the master, living room, north-side deck, and third bedroom/den;

--cedar hot tub on the deck overlooks the Bay and San Francisco beyond;

--Private and pet-friendly enclosed patio adjacent to the second large bedroom; Garber Park is closeby and dog-lovers abound;

--Ned Clyde seismic retrofit and piers installed 10 years ago; updated kitchen; entire roof and hot water heater replaced in November, 2009. Pest inspection, home inspection, seismic work outline, and deck repair estimate available.

Three bedrooms, one bath, washer-dryer, two-car carport, and plenty of storage for $575,000.

Act now: The sellers found a perfect home in Sonoma and want to sell their long-held home first. A departing relative of the owner, and a roommate, currently live in the home. No time for staging, and no photos yet! Offers, if any, Sunday, December 13th.

Don’t forget: 26 Slater Lane faces a private cul-de-sac drive. Tunnel Road to Alvarado. Left off Alvarado onto Slater. You’ll pass the For Sale sign. At the end of Slater, turn right onto Evergreen, and then take the first hard right turn into the cul-de-sac. Or better yet, park on Slater and wander around the neighborhood and private trails! We're organizing open houses for Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Email me (Kennedy@MaureenKennedy.Net) for a schedule. As I never represent both sides of a transaction, if you decided to get serious, I'd refer you to an excellent colleague for representation.