Thursday, May 30, 2013

6 Affordable Champagne Features for Your Beer Budget Home

Modest. Affordable. Starter. There is no shortage of words we use to describe a home that cost less than the average in an area. But no matter how “low-priced” your home is or was compared with others’, chances are good that you are spending a good chunk of your hard-earned dollars on it. Think about it: almost no one looks at their monthly mortgage statement and says “Wow - it’s just so cheap!!”

Every owner deserves to come home to a place that is beautiful, comfortable and suitable for the activities that are a part of their life - without going into debt to do it. And even if you haven’t yet become a dyed-in-the-wool homeowner, understanding the champagne-style creature comforts that can be inexpensively added onto a home after closing can provide powerful inspiration for sticking to your beer budget.

Here are a few of those little, affordable luxuries (with links to pics and inspiration throughout!):  

1.  Automation.  For your home to automatically anticipate your preferences and living habits, and conduct itself accordingly, is a serious luxury that no longer requires a serious investment. Easily programmable thermostats and smart home systems are now available at very low prices. Check out the Nest  “Learning” Thermostat for one of the most simple-to-use, inexpensive alternatives around. Created by the man who designed the iPod, it “learns” the temperatures you prefer without any complicated programming process, it can detect when no ones home and change the temperature accordingly and it is even remote controllable via wi-fi and mobile app.

In some areas, home cable companies are now bundling temperature automation and smart home features like remote-controlled lighting, temperatures and security systems and even smoke and carbon monoxide monitors right into the same online dashboard you use to pay your bill or order a movie on-demand.  Word of mouth raves from users of these sorts of systems often include delight at money saved on overall more efficient use of electricity, time saved coming home to check that doors are locked and other little daily assists beyond the expected convenience.

These next-gen automations are able to be had in the $200 or less range, up front, though the size of your home and number of devices you require can send costs upward. Look for whether your automation system has a mobile app that allows you to control your home from your smartphone - many do, and it’s a major plus. Shop around, read reviews and make sure you understand any monthly subscription fees, before you buy.

2.  Nature’s Niceties. 
Visiting my grandmother recently, I was reminded that there is nothing quite so luxurious as craving a piece of fruit or a particular meal and being able to walk right into your backyard and grab the fixings for it - cost-free, and chemical free. This doesn’t even factor in the beauty of a kitchen garden right outside your window, or the healthfulness of gardening as a habit. 

The range of cost for landscaping and creating what many now call outdoor rooms is vast. But there are also dozens of inexpensive projects that can level-up your own home’s nature factor:
  • installing raised vegetable beds in your backyard
  • hanging a vertical garden on your kitchen wall
  • putting in window boxes or outdoor seating
  • installing a bird bath or planting a new tree.

Lush, green anything is a luxury that can cost very little to enjoy for years on end.

3.  Delicious Details.  Customizing, sprucing and even adding little details to your home can make a tract home feel custom, a condo feel personalized and can even take a home with character and imbue it with your character.  These little projects can also be bizarrely high in the aesthetic impact and feeling of polish they add to a home vis-a-vis the relatively low investment of time and money they require. 

Walk through your place and see where you can add, improve or tweak the details - consider projects like:
  • Adding crown moldings or baseboards
  • Adding interior or exterior shutters
  • Painting moldings, baseboards, mantles and door trims a contrasting color to the surrounding areas
  • Replacing doors and lighting fixtures (I just replaced the pendant lighting fixture over my own kitchen table and have to say, it looks like a new room!)
  • Replacing dated faucets, sinks, toilets and hardware - even recessed lighting soffits and door handles
  • Painting exterior eaves, doors, trims and fences.

4.  Solar.  A recent survey by Sunrun revealed that over 40% of Americans believe a solar system cost more than $20,000.  And get this: eight out of 10 homeowners said they would install a solar system at home if cost wasn’t a factor.  Solar is not for everyone, and not even for every home, but in states with sunny, hot summers and energy bills to boot, installing a solar system can create the double luxury of allowing you to run your home on renewable energy and reduce your energy costs in one fell swoop.

Truth is, in some states, cost isn’t a factor. There’s a new generation of companies - solar power service providers - who will pay for a solar system, install it on your home for little or nothing, and pay for its maintenance. In turn, you pay them for the power you use, at a rate that is generally lower than what you were paying the utility. 

These arrangements are not available everywhere, but if you’ve always thought you’d go solar if you could afford it, it’s certainly worth investigating whether you can find a solar service provider in your neck of the woods.

5.  Built-ins (or faux ones).  Built-ins like desks, book shelves, closet systems and even kitchen recycling centers feel particularly luxurious because they offer a polished approach to efficient use of the space you have, and often eliminate the need for bulky pieces of furniture.  When you initiate the installation of built-ins, though, they have the added luxury of being customized to the way you want to use your home, the activities you prefer to do in a given room and even the gear you have to use to do it!

If you’re handy, DIY-interested or even have a good local handyperson or carpenter contact, you might be surprised to realize how affordable it can be to build a desk or closet organizer into your existing space. 

If you haven’t a handy bone in your body, or you’d prefer to keep the space flexible, you should get up to speed on all the off-the-shelf built-in alternatives that are on the market, like a kitchen nook dining set in lieu of a built-in banquette. Think creatively: placing a day bed under a window with a bookcase on each end is a fantastic alternative to building a window seat between built-in shelves. You might even be able to score the built-in alternatives on Craigslist or Freecycle, then have it painted or reupholstered, to get a luxe, custom look at a very low price.

6.  Dedicated spaces.  Like custom built-ins, dedicating a space to a particular favorite activity is a special luxury, even if your home is not otherwise especially luxurious. Why not let every member of the family custom-tailor a corner of your home to whatever they love to do, or spend a lot of time doing?  The idea here is to simply dedicate a space to an activity, painting it, installing the appropriate furniture and carving out a place for all the supplies that are involved in that activity.  At my house, I just painted the office in bright colors that researchers have found to boost creativity, installing new project tables and bookshelves to facilitate the organization and stand-up work style I prefer. My friend AG has turned one bedroom into a room for her menagerie of pets - dogs and birds alike! 

At your house, this could include:
  • carving out a mudroom with storage racks for your family’s sports equipment
  • doubling-down on kitchen area entertaining by putting up a pot rack and adding extra seating and serving spaces
  • turning a corner of your great room into a screened meditation spot or homework area for the kids
  • creating a 2-, 3- or 4-person office space out of your dining room, so every member of the family has a place for all their study, work and bill-paying tasks.
  • Reposted by asktara@trulia

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Putting your property on the mkt..Fix vs. Don't fix for maximum ROI!

Online, you can find dozens and dozens of return-on-investment (ROI) calculators which aim to do the math on whether a given home improvement project is worth the money (or not). They tend to focus on how much of the remodeling spend will come back to you in the form of added value when the home is sold.  I submit that this is only one part of the equation, as the primary measurement for many home improvement projects should be tallied up in terms of lifestyle improvement over the years you plan to benefit from the increased comfort, joy or efficiency of your newly-improved home.

Surprisingly, this calculus of what home upgrades are (and aren’t) worth doing gets slightly more complicated in the context of preparing a home for sale.  It seems like it should be even more simple - dollars in vs. dollars out.  But most agents or stagers will tell you that preparing a property for listing is more art than science, in that there are many human factors that must be weighed and balanced against the costs involved. 

For instance, whether a given project is worth doing sometimes depends on the current state of the property vis-a-vis local buyers’ expectations at that price range.  It can also depend on the relative aesthetic and perceptual boost that a particular project promises, and on any negatives that the property needs to compensate for.  The seller’s budget and even local municipal codes all must be factored in.

Accordingly, there’s no single set of black-and-white rules that apply to every property and every seller.  But here are some rules of thumb and food for thought that you should walk through with your agent or stager if you’re in the process of trying to figure out which tasks to do - and which to leave for your home’s next owner - before you put your place on the market.

FIX:  Paint. There is simply no accounting for the massive upgrade a fresh coat of paint can bring to the look and feel of your home, inside and out - especially given the relatively low cost and high do-it-yourself-ability of painting.  A home that is freshly painted inside and out reads as fresh, clean and ready for new life, from a buyer’s perspective.  A taupe wall with white trims and moldings has essentially become the new white wall of this generation - the aim is to go neutral, not boring.

If you can’t afford the time or cost to paint everything, take a hard look at your walls and rooms and see which hallway or room(s) need it the most.  Also, painting your trims, doors and moldings can go a long way toward de-shabbifying a place.  Similarly, on the exterior of your home, I cannot overstate the polish potential of painting the trims a bright or deep, color. Changing the color and refreshing the paint on your exterior shutters, doors and eaves gives a powerful update and burst of color to the place. 

Check in with your stager and agent about your color palette for any pre-listing paint projects before you have the hardware folks mix up a vat of chartreuse semi-gloss for the kitchen walls.

DON’T FIX:  That uber-luxe kitchen remodel you always wanted. Do gorgeous kitchens sell homes? Yes. But they also easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Unless your home’s existing kitchen is truly cringe-worthy, a high-end overhaul just before listing is not likely to even recoup what you spend on it. I advise sellers who are hemming and hawing about a kitchen remodel to do it while they and their families can still enjoy it.  If you’ve already decided to move on from the home and the kitchen is so bad as to render the place un-sellable, your agent and stager can help you come up with a moderate plan for whipping it into shape without breaking the bank.  Repainting or refacing cabinets (instead of replacing them), installing butcher block counters (vs. marble or stone) and replacing your avocado green appliances with nice GE or Kenmore versions (vs. Wolf and Miele) might be the route to go. 

Caveat: if your home is competing with luxury properties and you insist on listing it at top dollar, you might actually have to go with a higher-end kitchen upgrade plan before you list it. Think long and hard about whether this make more sense than simply discounting the property or offering a kitchen upgrade credit to the buyer.

FIX:   Plumbing problems.  Plumbing leaks make noise, cause damage to the wood structure and areas around them and are often believed by buyers to cost more to fix than they actually do. In some parts of the home, plumbing leaks are prone to being called out as conditions conducive to long-term structural problems by pest and structural inspectors. If you can have a handyman or plumber come in and eliminate drips and leaks, you will simultaneously eliminate some buyers’ objections or concerns about your home. 

And this goes for sewer line issues, too.  An increasing number of areas are now requiring that the sewer line from home to the sewer main in the street be inspected before or during a home’s sale - and be repaired or replaced if it is cracked or broken.  If you’ve had chronic backups or your home’s sewer line is simply due for an inspection, work with your agent to get the appropriate inspector out there now to get an understanding of what sewer line work will need to be done to comply with any local point-of-sale ordinances.

A new sewer line is a great draw for a buyer, as is one with a clean bill of health. If your line does need work, you and your agent might decide not to repair or replace it, based on your budget, how much of a seller’s market your area is currently experiencing, legal requirements and standard practices in your area. But you should have the state of the sewer line in mind, for better or for worse, before you set the list price for your home and begin preparing your disclosures for prospective buyers.

DON’T FIX:  Malfunctioning, costly appliances.  Consider offering a credit for the buyer to use to replace appliances that don’t work - or don’t work well. Buyers appreciate the ability to select their own new appliances on your dime. That said, it can be difficult for some buyers to get past the collective aura of bad repair that arises when a home has a whole host of really old or beat up appliances.  In some cases, it might even make sense to simply remove an appliance entirely, without replacing it at all.  In others, a replacement or a credit might make more sense - this is a topic for discussion with your listing agent, who should have a good understanding of what’s normal in your area and important to local buyers.

If you do decide to replace an appliance, consider resources like Craigslist, where you might be able to find used items in good repair at a fraction of the new cost.

Caveat: if you are in a price point or area where the average buyer uses an FHA loan to finance their home, there are certain appliances which must be in the home at closing, like a functional stove.  Discuss with your agent before you start ditching the old appliances.

FIX:  Old and outdated hardware, fixtures and finishes.  Hardware can refer to the little metalworks that make things work (or not) throughout your home, like hinges that make a door hard to close, cabinet and drawer handles and pulls or your closet door and drawer slides.  These are all the sorts of things buyers test out while they’re viewing a home. However, it also includes things that might work fine, but look outdated, like light switches, door knockers and kick plates.  Hardware, as a general rule, is inexpensive as home fixes go - if it will make your home function more smoothly and look like it’s been well cared-for, the low investment is well worth an upgrade.

Scuffed and scratched wood floors; 80’s era carpet, gold-plate lighting and faucet fixtures and even more recent upgrades that have seen better days (e.g. bowing and warped laminate floor sections) should all go on the list of finishes and fixtures to fix or replace before you list.  All cracks, chips, scuffs and nicks should go on the list, for that matter.

The rationale is the same: they are a highly cost-efficient fix vis-a-vis the big bang they make on your home’s appearance to buyers.

DON’T FIX:  Replacing old windows.  This is a project that many crave to do, especially if the windows are single-pane, aluminum framed, or involve rotten wood casings.  But it’s also a project that can easily become extremely expensive, and one that often snowballs into costly, time-consuming framing repairs.  Aluminum frames around windows can sometimes be spruced or painted to make them look at bit better, if absolutely necessary. And even old wood windows that have issues often create a generally charming feeling that helps a buyer see the home’s potential they can restore, better than if you replace it with inexpensive fiberglass windows before listing the place for sale. 

This advice is primarily for those tempted to replace a whole house worth of windows - if you have one window that is particularly offensive or allows water in, or even have multiple window panes that are cracked or broken, these are things you might want to repair or replace.  Your agent can help you make a suitable action plan on this score.

By contrast, if you have old, dinged, ugly or broken doors, toilets and sinks anywhere in your house, these are things you may want to rip out and replace before listing your home.  You might be amazed at how fast and inexpensively these fixes can be done, and how much of a stylistic upgrade and update you can get out of them. 

Ron Goldstein, MBA
Silver Professionals, LLC.
Certified Luxury and Eco-Broker@Prudential
Check out my and

(o)312-264-5846 (c)312-771-7190 (f)312-264-5746

Offices in Chicago and St. Petersburg
Carpe Diem..Jobs & Homes..Base of our Economy!

Find us on:
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Reprint from

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Chicago.West Town mixed use.7950sf of (fully leased)possibilities priced right! 2007-9 W. Grand

 Front View Living Room Living Room
 2007-9 W. Grand
Zoned M3 (multiple uses), this West Town mixed use property is in a fantastic location. The property has 2, 2500 sf timber lofts w/soaring 20 ft ceilings & compl renovated, sky lights, W/D, lg closets & pkg. The units also have 4 oversized decks overlooking downtown and United Center. The 3500 sf. double commercial space has a florist now, but open to a myriad of ideas. Carpe Diem. 7950 sf of options, priced right! Email for more info. Or 3122645846
Priced right@$1,208,704  Taxes: $9,678 Monthly income:$8663
MLS #: 08324937
 Kitchen / Living Room Master BathroomBathroom 
2nd Bathroom Location 2 
(o)312-264-5846 (c)312-771-7190 (f)312-264-5746

Offices in Chicago and St. Petersburg
Carpe Diem..Jobs & Homes..Base of our Economy!

Find us on:
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Carpe Diem..Why rent when you can own: 2200 sf duplex office condo.Lincoln Park

Front View Lobby Kitchen
Office Lobby Room
Commercial condo..2409 N. Clybourn  Lincoln Park
Carpe Diem..Why rent when you can own: 2200 sf duplex office condo. Newly remodeled w/high end finishes,Exposed brick walls, hdwd flrg,custom cabinetry w/granite cntrtps,cork flrg in bsmt.Compl. underflr. drainage system w/ pumps. 7 offices,conference room,kitchen and admin area. Highly trafficked corner w/ great visibility! RE Taxes.1107
Assessments $150
Priced right@$329,700

Location 2Location 3  

Ron Goldstein, MBA
Silver Professionals, LLC.
Certified Luxury and Eco-Broker@Prudential
Check out my and for private showing or more info.

(o)312-264-5846 (c)312-771-7190 (f)312-264-5746

Offices in Chicago and St. Petersburg
Carpe Diem..Jobs & Homes..Base of our Economy!

Find us on:
Silver ProfessionalsSilver ProfessionalsRonGoldstein

Bridgeport Investment..9 cap.27 units..Just when you think inventory has been depleted..Carpe Diem..Check it out!

 Bridgeport Investment..9 cap.27 units..Just when you think inventory has been depleted..
Carpe Diem..Check it out!

Front View Front ViewFront View

 Kitchen / Dining Room Bedroom

Bridgeport rent rolls and offering package

3247 S. May Tenant breakdown.3-2br/1ba,1-4br/2ba,1-1br/1ba
Income $4070 monthly $48840 annual

Expenses..Owner pd. Uti1ities.$2000(2012 actual)

Insurance$2000 RE taxes $7200

Net Operating Income $37,640

5 flat can be deconverted back to 6 flat. All tenant heated. Washer/Dryer(Coin opp) Updated  in last 5 years. New windows, new roof

3225 S. May Tenant breakdown 9- 2br/lba,1-lbr/1ba,1-studio,1-3br/1ba

Income $9520 monthly $114,240 annual

Expenses..Owner pd. Utilities $5500(2012 actual)

Insurance $5000 RE taxes $9700

Net Operating Income $94,040

12 units. New roof. New windows. Renovated in last 5 years. Tenant heated

3157 S. Racine Tenant breakdown 2-2bd/1ba,7-1bd/1ba, 1 penthouse(3br/1ba..just finished)

Income $8197 monthly $98,364 annual

Expenses..Owner pd. Utilities $7500(2012 actual)

Insurance $6200 RE taxes $10110

Net Operating Income $74,554

10 units.Newly renovated in last 4 years. (Windows and units) 4 units have Washer/dryer..2 coin opp. Most units are Tenant heated

Actual Gross Income for all 3 buildings.$261,444  
Actual Net operating income for all 3.$206,234

Taxes.27,010 1nsurance..13,200 Utilities. . .15,000

Asking price for all 3.. $2,389,000 or 8.63 cap(based on actual NOI)
EMAIL for more info or private showing 

Ron Goldstein, MBA
Silver Professionals, LLC.
Certified Luxury and Eco-Broker@Prudential
Check out my and

(o)312-264-5846 (c)312-771-7190 (f)312-264-5746

Offices in Chicago and St. Petersburg
Carpe Diem..Jobs & Homes..Base of our Economy!

Find us on:

Silver ProfessionalsSilver ProfessionalsRonGoldstein