Ask Judy O.: Why should I stage my home when I sell it?

Hello Judy O.: When I put my house on the market, is really necessary for me to stage my home and what is staging exactly?

Answer:  This is one of my favorite topics to discuss, because it has several correct answers. As a general rule, ALL houses need some staging. Staging is a way to maximize the presentation of your home to reach the greatest pool of buyers and should be the goal of every seller. It gives buyers a sense of the possibilities–how the rooms could function as well as a sense of scale.  For instance, what might be an awkward vestibule or tiny bedroom could be re-envisioned as a compact guest bedroom, reading room or home office through staging. Most buyers want to be seduced into their purchase and have the reasons to justify their investment. A well-staged home is the best tool for overcoming buyer uncertainties.

Staging can be simply de-cluttering, doing some paint touch-up and furniture rearrangement or as full-blown as investing in the services of a professional stager. These decisions are predicated both on budget and an honest assessment of the condition of the house itself and your furnishings.  In the case of merely using your own furnishings, it becomes a matter of judicious editing, and often I can help with this.   You can find a great example of a home staged with the sellers own furnishings on our “sold” listing at 11580 Cerro Gordo.  In my professional opinion, it is always better to stage your home. You will inevitably recoup the costs of such an enterprise. When measured against a price reduction of $25,000-$50,000 because  the house is not selling due to not showing well, the cost of staging is money in your pocket.

What question do you have?  Use my Contact page and ask me a question and see your answer here on Distinctive Properties LA.


Ask Judy O.: How do we negotiate for repairs?

Dear Judy O.: Some first-time home-buyers of mine in escrow asked -  How should we handle negotiating a credit for repairs?

Answer: I know that you are looking at a lot of out-of-pocket costs after your purchase to bring this property to where you want it to be. We have discussed this a number of different ways during the past few weeks–if not month. In the bigger picture though, if you did put $30,000 into this property – adding that to the purchase price – you would own a home at $545,000 with an amazing number of pluses you could not find at this price. After more than a year of looking, I think you know: A 3 bedroom 2 bath home with usable attic space, sitting on a 12,000+ sf lot with views, down a semi-private road in a great location is not going to be found for less than $550,000.

My point of reference with respect to inspections and credits is generally this: Anything the parties negotiate as a credit is really “good faith” money. It is not meant to be a dollar-for-dollar compensation for repairs that the buyer intends to make. The buyer can always cancel the transaction if they feel the value is not there or if they feel these costs are beyond their comfort level. That’s why there is an inspection contingency. I think you need to feel that the value is in your location. If you don’t, then I suggest you cancel this escrow and look for something newer and one without so many repairs.

If you have a question, you can even use “snail mail” me.  My office address is 1714 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027.

Ask Judy O.: Does it matter what season we sell our house?

Dear Judy O.: We are contemplating downsizing and selling our home.  Does it really matter what season we sell in?

Answer:  Traditionally, springtime has always been the busiest and best time to sell your home.  Most families with school age children want to be situated before the beginning of the school year and therefore focus on the house hunting process after tax season and before the summer vacation months.   This is the time when inventory is the highest.  With that said, sometimes it’s it can be a good strategy to market your house in slower months (January-February or September-November) because there may not be much inventory in your price point or location, creating  increased interest in your property.  Here in California where the profile of the buyer is so diverse and the inventory for good homes never quite meeting demand, the best time to sell is always going to be when it is best for you.

If you have a question that you would like me to answer, contact me via the Contact Page – Judy O.

Ask Judy O.: Did we buy the right house?

Dear Judy O.:  Can you take us off your mailing list for new listings?  It’s funny, my husband and I both find that our blood pressure rises a bit when we see them. His because he’s so happy in this house and doesn’t want to relive the house hunting experience… and mine because, happy though I am here, I live in fear that something in our former neighborhood is going to come up.

That said, we do absolutely love our new place. And we feel like we got a great deal. The house two doors down that was just ‘flipped’ (smaller and with some rather boring choices) is now in escrow and the seller told us he had two offers that were 50k more than our house!

Answer: Yes, of course I’ll take you off our mailing list.  I fully understand.  I hope you aren’t harboring regrets about the house you wrote an offer on and didn’t get.  In the larger picture, you made the better choice… and in the long run I sense you’ll fully embrace the move to your new neighborhood, because it’s so wonderful there.  Additionally, when the home down the street closes escrow you will have increased the ‘equity’ in your own property by $50K – with only a few short months of ownership. Pretty awesome in my book!

Ask Judy O.: Will a bank-owned seller give credits?

Dear Judy O: Should we even bother asking for credits on the bank-owned house we are buying because we heard banks don’t give credits ? The house is old and the garage is pretty rotten, windows painted shut and bad drainage in the back.

Answer:  I think that you until you go through the process of having your own inspections and subsequently approaching the bank for credits, there is no way to know what the bank is going to do in advance.

Unfortunately, when you buy an old house, there are always going to be things to address.  It’s important to distinguish between the things that are desired by you versus those that are actually critical.  There are “upgrades” and there are “necessities”.

With respect to old detached garages and their condition or ability to house a modern car:  I typically tell clients that old garages like this are a “gift with purchase.”  They’re rarely in good shape and really are a bonus if you can get some use out of them structurally.  You likely have a driveway which gives you off-street parking, which is a good thing.

With regard to the windows, I think that in the space of a day you can probably get a handyman to at least chip away at the old paint and get them to open.  New sash cords and making the windows operable may be a wish list item and something you may need to save for.

Regarding drainage issues:  Historically, most homeowners never paid much attention to drainage and runoff until recent years.  But, as homes keep getting older, technologies have improved and access to hands-on ways of dealing with potential problems became more available to the homeowner.  There are ways to deal with drainage that are not expensive.  In a transaction, issues relating to drainage or cracked/failed retaining walls that don’t impact on the house itself are in the realm of  an “upgrade” or improvement to a property.  A seller rarely will pay for this type of request.

If this were an investment property that someone bought for its current price and upgraded, would it be worth approximately 25% more in today’s market?  If you use this formula you can determine if  there’s already equity in the house at its sale price.  But you’re the ones that will ultimately be the arbiter of its value.  I always say, it never hurts to ask for credits, but especially with a bank owned, don’t expect too much -  if anything.

Have a burning Real Estate Question?  Please send your questions to Ask Judy O.

1627 Benton Way, Silver Lake – SOLD


1627 Benton Photo hero resized 2

1627 Benton Way, Silver Lake
Sold for $906,000

We represented the buyer on this sale.

We represented the buyer in this transaction.  This home – which was a cosmetic fixer – was over 1900 square feet and had a guest apartment and an art studio… all things on our client’s wish list.  Originally under-priced at $749,000, it garnered a lot of attention.  The open houses were a beehive of activity.  We knew there would be fierce competition.  Within a week, 10 offers were presented to the seller and out of the 10, only 4 were given counter offers.  Luckily our client was one of those lucky 4.  She countered with gusto on price and no contingencies (other than a short inspection period).  She got it!  After all, this house had everything on her wish list.  It shows that it really makes sense to “step up to the plate” when it’s something you really want.

Our client is busy sprucing up the place and hopes to move in soon. Turns out there were only a few minor plumbing issues and the rest was basically re-doing the hardwood floors, painting and some landscape clean-up.

If you have any questions or are curious about any other aspect of what we wrote in this email, don’t hesitate to contact one of us and ask… we’re happy to share information.

Judy and Dean

3820 San Rafael Avenue, Mt Washington

3820 San Rafael Avenue, Mt Washington

Sold for $1,200,000

We represented the buyer on this sale.

I represented the buyer in this transaction in prime Mount Washington who was looking for the perfect character home with room for a pool.  This was a quintessential Spanish style hacienda that had it all and more.  The very private 3 bedroom, 2 bath walled estate with sweeping views also came with an historic pedigree.  The home was noted in An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles by Robert Winter and David Gebhard . Apparently it was custom built in the 1930s by the Cubbison family of the Mrs. Cubbison’s stuffing mix fame!  Originally listed at $1,169,000, it was not surprising that it sold over asking.  It was both formal yet welcoming with abundant period details,  dramatic 2-level living and dining rooms with fireplace and a large view balcony,  a large cook’s kitchen with center island and a very large master suite with fireplace and sumptuous bath opening onto a patio.  All of this set within almost a third of an acre that included a fruit orchard, formal landscaping, walkways and patios.

If you’d like to know more about this or any other property mentioned here, don’t hesitate to call us at Distincive Properties LA.

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