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Joseph Houlihan: Eight Simple Tips for Enhancing Your Home's Curb Appeal this Spring PDF Print Email

By Joseph Houlihan, Managing Partner, Houlihan & O'Malley Real Estate

Jun. 3, 2015:  With the horrible winter weather finally behind us and the "pollen tsunami" beginning to subside, now is the perfect time to turn attention to your house. This spring, why not give it some extra curb appeal? The goal is to make the home's exterior look crisp and clean and help it stand out, thus increasing your chances of enticing potential buyers to want to take a peek inside. Here are some helpful hints to get the ball rolling: 

1. Get the dirt, moss, and cobwebs off your home's exterior by using a power washer or a regular hose with a power washing attachment. And, while you're at it, clean off your outdoor lawn furniture. 

2. Wash your windows. A hose with a window washing attachment can get windows shiny and clean. And remember to clean inside windows, too, for the most sparkle. Don't want to do it yourself? Get references and hire a professional window washer. 

3. Clean and polish the outdoor fixtures, especially the knocker on the front door and entryway lighting. Metal polishes do a great job of making your hardware gleam. 

4. You might not realize it, but the roof plays an important role in curb appeal. Is your roof missing any shingles? Is it dingy and streaked? If so, a good cleaning or, if necessary, new roofing will go a long way toward improving your home's desirability. 

5. Fix stone walkways and retaining walls as well as the Belgian blocks lining your driveway that were ruined by winter snow, road salt, or careless plowing. The best way to find a top-notch mason is to check with colleagues and friends to see whom they recommend or ask your Realtor for a referral, as he or she often keeps lists of trusted vendors handy. 

6. Clean out garden beds and top them with natural mulch, which will help the soil retain moisture and give the beds a neat look. You may also need to reseed or add sod to areas of your lawn that are a bit bald. 

7. Plant annuals and perennials, along with an array of vegetables, to create an inviting setting where potential homebuyers can imagine living. In addition, position pots of flowers on the front and back porches and decks to add more color. And, even though you can't see it, fragrance can have a big impact on a person's experience as he or she walks up to your house. Consider sweet-scented roses, lilacs, honeysuckle, and jasmine or fresh herbs, like rosemary and lavender, to line the front walk. 

8. If your driveway has taken a beating or simply does not match the style of your home, it could be dragging down your home's curb appeal. So repave or repair cracks in the blacktop or consider other possibilities, such as adding brick, masonry, or stained concrete, which can all make for beautiful, durable driveways.

Pictured here:  Joseph Houlihan, managing partner at Houlihan & O'Malley Real Estate. His office is at 133 Parkway Road in Bronxville and he can be reached at 914-337-7888 or on his cell at 914-645-6640 or by email at  CLOAKING .

Photo courtesy Joseph Houlihan's office

Priscilla Toomey on the Art of Compromise in Selling or Buying a Home PDF Print Email

By Priscilla Toomey, Associate Broker, Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty

May 27, 2015:  Money turns some people into very different people. And many people think real estate is all about money. In some respects, it is. And many people get stuck on a number and it hurts their ability to accomplish their goal of selling or buying a house.

Intellectually, we all know that real estate is cyclical and that markets change in many ways over time. Tastes change, needs change, family size changes, aspirations change, and certainly price points change.

But when it comes to a house someone is trying to sell or buy, we think in more personal terms: "I love the way my formal dining room is wallpapered" (seller) or "That yard isn't big enough for my children to run around in" (buyer) and mentally adjust the price in our heads based on those thoughts. 

Everyone thinks that way to some extent, but it is easier for some people than it is for others to make those thoughts part of a larger picture. When you focus on the bigger picture, you're looking at the goal and not allowing yourself to get stuck on a detail.

The more flexible thinkers look at how motivated they are to sell or at how much a particular house is the one for them--and find ways to accomplish their goal.

Those who want to sell realize that an initial asking price is just that--an asking price. And, if they aren't seeing a reasonable number of lookers at their price point, they adjust until they find their market. It may take a price adjustment or it make take neutralizing the dining room by removing the wallpaper--or both--but they listen to the market and come to it rather than waiting until it comes to them.

Similarly, some buyers ask, "Do you have offers yet?" The real estate agent's response: "Do you want to wait until your offer is competing against someone else's?" Another comment often heard is "I don't want to bid against myself." The real estate agent's response: "If you want the house, you should make an offer and negotiate it to see if you can reach agreement." Timing is crucial--hesitation may lose you the house.

In other words, treat your real estate transaction like the business transaction it is, remove the personal feelings as much as possible, and focus on the goal--whether it's moving to the next stage of your life if you're selling or having a place you love to come home to if you're buying.

Pictured here:  Priscilla Toomey, associate broker, JD, ABR, Top5, certified EcoBroker, SRES with Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty, 2 Park Place, Bronxville, NY 10708; cell, 914-559-8084; e-mail, CLOAKING .

Photo courtesy Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty

Joseph Houlihan: What Westchester Homebuyers Are Looking for in 2015 PDF Print Email

By Joseph Houlihan, Managing Partner, Houlihan & O'Malley Real Estate

May 6, 2015:  Just what features and amenities are homebuyers looking for in 2015?

While stainless steel kitchen appliances and open floor plans are still in high demand, Westchester homebuyers have some new preferences when it comes to what they want in a home, ranging from composite countertops and energy-efficient appliances to outdoor entertainment spaces and faux-wood decks.

In southern Westchester, proximity to schools and public transportation has also become an increasingly integral part of a homebuyer's specifications. People want the freedom to walk to their destination and not have the hassle of driving to and parking at the train station or finding a nanny who drives.

Time is more important than ever to buyers, and for some, the location of their home can give them more of it. Many are willing to bend on other aspects of the house, such as age and condition, and even do major renovations to have the location they want.

Here are some of the top requests from homebuyers in 2015:

  • Upscale kitchens/composite countertops: Energy-efficient stainless steel appliances are still a favorite, but marble and granite countertops are no longer a requirement. Buyers are looking for more functional materials in their kitchens, including manufactured composites, such as Silestone and Caesarstone, which are nonporous and have bacteria protection. They are also stain-, scratch-, and heat-resistant.

  • Outdoor living and entertainment spaces: Decks are good, but yards with a walk-out patio are even better. Homebuyers enjoy being outdoors and want built-in areas for entertainment. Outdoor grills and kitchens are a highly sought-after feature, as are slate patios and faux-wood decks. Buyers are drawn toward decks made of wood alternatives because they look like real lumber but don't splinter or have to be stained or painted.

  • Energy-efficient upstairs laundry facilities: Nobody wants to haul loads of laundry up and down flights of stairs to and from the basement. They want laundry rooms that are close to the bedrooms and easily accessible. Just as important are energy-efficient washers and dryers.

  • Garage space, but not for cars!: A surprising number of people want to buy a home with a garage, but not for their car. A garage is still in demand, but it doesn't matter as much if it's connected to the house, because people are using them for storage. They would rather have a place to put lawn furniture, equipment, bikes, and other items.

  • Great rooms: Larger, open spaces that combine the kitchen, living room, and even dining room continue to be a big plus for sellers, because today's buyers put a high priority on having them. Great rooms bring a sense of togetherness to families yet allow them the space to do their own thing in a common place. The kids can do homework or play while you cook dinner, watch television, or do any number of everyday activities, and that appeals to many buyers.

Pictured here:  Joseph Houlihan, managing partner at Houlihan & O'Malley. His office is at 133 Parkway Road in Bronxville and he can be reached at 914-337-7888 or on his cell at 914-645-6640 or by email at  CLOAKING .

Photo courtesy Joseph Houlihan's office

Houlihan Lawrence Real Estate Ranked No. 13 Nationally for Extensive Sales Growth PDF Print Email

By Lauren Hovey and Dale Laplace, Houlihan Lawrence

Apr. 29, 2015:  Houlihan Lawrence has been ranked number 13 in the 2015 REAL Trends 500, based on dollar volume of sales.

The annual research report identifies and ranks the country's largest and most successful residential real estate firms and is the most trusted standard of performance measuring the nation's leading realty firms.

Among those ranked, Houlihan Lawrence achieved standout performance with double‐digit growth, outpacing other top-grossing companies with lower year-over‐year growth.

"We are extremely proud of the collective achievements of the over 1,200 agents in the Houlihan Lawrence family," said Stephen Meyers, president and CEO of Houlihan Lawrence. "The firm's 125-year heritage of success is grounded on providing superior client service with experienced analysis, local knowledge, and continued innovation. Our hardworking and immensely talented agents have placed Houlihan Lawrence as a nationally ranked top-tier brokerage."

This year's REAL Trends 500 rankings, released earlier this month, shows that Houlihan Lawrence's company‐wide sales volume was $5.3 billion in 2014, a 14% gain over sales volume of $4.7 billion in 2013. Moreover, this year's ranking advances the firm to number 13 from number 18 in the previous year's ranking.

Houlihan Lawrence expanded into Connecticut, opening an office in Greenwich, which contributed over $500 million in sales to the firm in 2014. The Greenwich office is currently ranked number 1 in Greenwich based on total dollar volume. Additionally, the firm's agents were responsible for one out of every three homes sold in Westchester County in 2014 and one out of every four homes sold in Putnam County.

Pictured here:  The little white cottage in Bronxville at the corner of Pondfield Road and Valley that houses the Bronxville office of Houlihan Lawrence.

Photo courtesy Cindy Landis

Priscilla Toomey: When It Comes to Selling Real Estate, Is the Price Right? PDF Print Email

By Pricilla R. Toomey, Associate Broker, Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty

Apr. 15, 2015:  One of the most challenging aspects of selling a home is pricing it correctly. But just what does "correctly" mean?

* To get the highest price in the shortest time?

* To get the highest price without a time limit?

* To get the best combination of price and terms (amount of cash versus mortgage, closing date, contingencies)?

* To beat the competition on price to achieve a quicker sale?

* To stimulate a bidding war in the hopes of getting a higher price?

* To build in enough "wiggle room" for price negotiation?

* To get the price the sellers have their heart set on?

A better place to start analyzing a pricing strategy is to take a close look at the market.

* How much competition is there for the property, what is the condition of the house, how long has it been on the market? 

* Do the same analysis for houses under contract and those that have sold within the past year.

* Know the current absorption rate--how quickly are homes at your price point and in your local market selling. If the absorption rate is about six months, the market is stable. If it is taking longer, the market is favoring buyers. If shorter, the market is favoring sellers.

* Try to be as objective as possible--try to look at your house through the eyes of a buyer. Ask your agent and other experts what they see as the positives and negatives.

* Hire a stager to put your home's best foot forward.

* Recognize that price per square foot isn't always the reliable measurement some people think it is. Measurements are taken by different people differently.

* Know what the property card and certificate of occupancy for your house say. That is what you are selling and your buyer will check into them and make sure they are in order. If something needs to be changed, such as the closing out of a permit, make sure to do that well in advance.

Welcome to the spring market!

Pictured here:  Priscilla Toomey, associate broker, JD, ABR, Top5, certified EcoBroker, SRES with Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty, 2 Park Place, Bronxville, NY 10708; cell, 914-559-8084; e-mail, CLOAKING .

Photo courtesy Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty

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