Monday, February 13, 2006

Staging Your Home

If you've been reading this blog or any other having to do with real estate you know by now that many markets across America are experiencing a cooling off period. With more inventory coming to the market it is more important than ever to set your place apart from the rest. From the moment you make the decision to sell your home, you need to stop thinking of it emotionally and start looking at it as your "product."

Have you ever walked into a new home development? One glance at the model homes and we're often sold. The marketers of these properties determine the demographic they're playing to and then designers come in to translate that vision into a dynamic theater of the art of the sale. In the same way, your home when staged properly will create a "feeling," of space, design, care and warmth. It will speak to your buying audience in a way that nothing else can and will definitely impact on your bottom line.

Sellers often say, when the subject of staging is broached, that they have no intention of putting any more money into a house they intend to leave. This thinking, though understandable, is short sighted. A small investment in time and money can add thousands to the homeowners pocket and make the process of selling faster and less stressful.

If you've lived in your home for any extended period of time you may need the trained eye of a professional or a good enough friend who can risk telling you a truth you may not want to hear about what your home says about you. Remember, you have only one chance to make a good first impression. Buyers often know within moments of entering your home whether they want to buy it. Clearly, the more potential purchasers for your home, the higher the price you'll likely receive.

Some basics to consider are:
  • Removing all clutter from every room in the house. If you don't use it on a regular basis put it away or store it until your move.
  • If you have too much furniture in a room, it looks smaller. Furnishings can be stored if they don't add to the ambiance.
  • Make sure there is a natural flow to a room. You don't want anything blocking the path or the view.
  • Keep it clean! Probably the most important thing you can do to help your agent get your home sold for the best price in the shortest time is to keep it in pristine condition. Homes that are dirty or sloppy suggest to buyers that they haven't been well maintained and it makes them question the major systems of the home as well.
  • Many people who have animals don't recognize the odors that permeate the space. At the very least, some well placed, nicely scented candles can help.

Staging is a rapidly growing aspect of marketing homes. It's popularity is crossing the nation and is routinely done in many markets. On Long Island it's a relatively new phenomenon, although I've been doing it for years. I still remember a home I had on the market years ago at a time when houses weren't selling fast and the competition was fierce. Having a few issues over which I had no control, I recommended to the homeowners that they replace some aging shag carpeting throughout the first floor and onto the second level. They resisted for months and the search for the right buyer was ongoing and frustrating for us all. Finally they gave me the go ahead and we ordered off white carpet to be installed over a quality padding. The installation took place on a Tuesday. With that very distinctive new carpet smell very much present, we held the house open on Sunday, as we had many times before. A buyer who had seen it several weeks before and said at the time it was $60,000 overpriced came in, toured the home quickly and made an immediate offer. He happily told his wife that the new lower price now made it a value. There had been no price adjustment at all. Total cost for this happy ending -- under $2,000.

If you're a fan of HGTV as I am, you've seen the wonderful staging done for $2,000 and some sweat equity on a program called "Designed To Sell." The dramatic results of these makeovers always net the sellers many thousands over the cost of the project.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Dyslexia - Educating The Educators

So much of what I do is dictated by my experiences in the world of real estate and in my life as an evolving human being. Just yesterday I had an in depth conversation with a client about her frustration with a system that failed to see what she as a mother innately knew. Early in her son's schooling, she began to notice that something was not quite right. This was not her first child and although all her interactions with the educators indicated that her son was doing "just fine," she knew it simply wasn't so.

Advocating for her son led her on a journey that I hope may help another family on Long Island, or anywhere else in the world. The diagnosis of dyslexia can be a relief for a parent, or a fear for the future of their child. Importantly, dyslexia is not a disease and there is no cure. Neither is it an indication of low intelligence or a behavioral problem. It is a learning disability and affects the way the brain processes language. Interestingly, many people with the disorder are very creative and adept at the visual arts.

One of the significant problems though is that learning is predicated on reading. Therefore, the child suffering from undiagosed dyslexia is often frustrated by the inability to keep up and the isolating emotions that come with "not fitting in." Mainstream education, because of the very structure of it, many times fails these children because teachers either lack the training or resources to accommodate this segment of the population. In researching this, I read a statement that perhaps says it best, "learning disabilities should be replaced by teaching disabilities."

Research studies have suggested that phonics is the best way to teach students to read. When I was a child, it was the only way. Have we come so far that we've regressed to a point where our children and our children's children receive less of the basic reading tools than we did so long ago. For children with learning disabilities phonics is critical and multisensory presentation of language (sight, speech, touch, hearing and writing) allows them to absorb it on a level that works.

If your child is experiencing difficulties in school that can't be attributed to anything else, dyslexia could be the cause. Here are some of the resources you can access: - for help on Long Island

Don't let "the experts" tell you nothing's wrong, if everything in you is screaming there is. Trust your instincts and look for help. Children have a right to self esteem and feeling "less than" and different can rob them of it. Good luck in your quest.

Author: Geri Sonkin

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Long Island . . . A Culture of It's Own

Ask most people about New York and they'll talk about Manhattan - "The Big Apple." With some 40 million visitors a year descending on the city, it's no surprise. The theater district, Central Park - an 843 acre oasis in the middle of the city - surrounded by steel and concrete; world renowned restaurants, museums and top notch hotels attract a steady stream of tourists from all over the world. Visitor spending in 2004 exceeded a staggering 21 billlion dollars. Add to this the entertainment industry with 40,000 location shoots and you have a thriving metropolis, known the world over.

But, and I'm reminded of George M. Cohan's song, "only 45 minutes from Broadway," there exists another culture, one as diverse and stimulating as it's towering sibling across the river. Long Island, home to world class beaches, golf courses, sports arenas and venues to excite the staunchest enthusiast, and a wine country growing in world prominence is also home to an impressive array of museums to excite the mind and memory. One of those is the Cradle of Aviation Museum. Even before Charles Lindbergh taxied down the runway at Roosevelt Field on May 20, 1927, for the flight that was a defining moment in aviation history, Long Island was a natural choice for fledgling aviators. Hempstead Plains as it was then called, with its proximity to the city and flat terrain made an ideal airfield.

Eleven years after Lindbergh's daring flight to Paris, a young man named Douglas Corrigan piloted his rickety nine year old plane to Dublin, Ireland from the same Roosevelt Field, telling one and all he was returning to California, from whence he'd come the week before. That trip earned him a lot of notoriety and the nickname, "wrong way Corrigan."

Long Islanders have had a long time love affair with aviation that continues to this day. A visit to the museum is an adventure. It takes you back to the earliest days of the contemplation of flight, to the jet age and space exploration.

Author: Geri Sonkin