Bill’s Blog

4 Tips to Improve Your Photos

Bill Allen, Broker Associate December 4, 2013 : Bill's Blog

I feel bad for professional photographers who have to stand by and watch as we amateurs get access to apps that provide a whole assortment of photo editing tools that, until recently, were only found in darkrooms. Suddenly, everyone is a photographer with the ability to take fantastic pictures, in many cases using nothing more than the phones in their pockets.

The rise and ease of digital photography has added to the list of things that today’s sellers think they can do just as well as we real estate professionals. And by the looks of some of the property photos online, they might be right. The days of point and click are over. If you really want to stand out from the crowd in today’s image-driven online world, you’re going to need to up your photography game.

Here are four steps to taking more interesting photos.

Step 1: A Smartphone Camera is All You’ll Need
Today’s smartphone cameras take a high-quality digital photo that will lay the foundation for a great image. Digital film is free, so take lots of shots and choose the best ones later. Use interesting angles and be sure to take close ups and panoramic shots. Be creative. Once you have a full inventory of images, you can move on to step two.

Step 2: Find a Great Photo Editing App
One of my favorites is Snapseed. Just open the app, select an image and let the technology do its magic. You’ll have access to a wide variety of filters to make the image really pop. If that perfect photo is a little dark, don’t worry. You can change the brightness, contrast, saturation and more. Within a couple of minutes, you’ll have taken a “six-out-of-10” photo to at least a nine, maybe even a 10.

Step 3: Combine Images and Text
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. With the Over app, you can add a few words by overlapping text onto your images. Add the property address, price, your name or whatever other branding components you think make sense. The result is a more interesting image.

Step 4: Combine Multiple Images
Do you have too many great photos to choose from? With the Diptic app, you can combine multiple photos into one image. With numerous layouts to choose from, you can surround the exterior photo with the master bedroom, dining room, kitchen and backyard. All together, this makes a pretty spectacular impression of not only your listing, but your skills.

Showcasing your listings, your market area and your brand through photography has never been easier. It takes just a couple of minutes to transform an ordinary photo into an amazing one. So, take out your smartphone, download these apps and start having fun with photography! Your sellers, your buyers and your personal brand will thank you.

Bill Allen, Re/Max of Boulder
ballen@boulderco.com, 303-441-5690
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More Flood Aid Coming to NoCo

Bill Allen, Broker Associate December 2, 2013 : Bill's Blog

Larimer County residents who suffered losses from September flooding will be able to get help from a group of more than 50 nonprofit agencies, government organizations, faith-based groups and citizens.

The Long-Term Recovery Group will set up flood victims with case managers who will assess situations, identify resources and refer residents to possible sources of aid, including funding available from the Long-Term Recovery Fund.

Case managers are available in Loveland beginning Tuesday. An appointment is needed to meet with a case manager, and residents can begin to make appointments on Tuesday by calling 970-461-2222.

The organization’s Loveland office will be located at House of Neighborly Service’s Community Life Center, 1511 E. 11th St. The office will be open between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

A second office will open in Estes Park in the coming weeks. The phone number and location will be announced at a later date.

A limited amount of funds have been raised so far for survivors who have not been compensated from insurance or other sources. Eligible uses of the funds include the following: repair or replacement of primary homes or personal property, loss of livelihood, temporary housing needs, health issues and other needs.

The organization will consider in its decisions to distribute funding factors such as flood victims’ finances and whether they have a documented disability or health problem. Other factors include whether a flood victim is a single parent or elderly or has an immediate need for safe housing.

Donations to the organization can be made to the United Way of Larimer County. For more information, visit www.UnitedWayofLarimerCounty.org or call 970-407-7000.

Bill Allen, Re/Max of Boulder
ballen@boulderco.com, 303-441-5690
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An Interesting Insight From A Talented Friend Of Mine-

Bill Allen, Broker Associate November 21, 2013 : Bill's Blog

When asked about his decision to play for the Denver Broncos,

It was the right decision when I made it,

and now I’m making it the right decision.

Peyton Manning    

           

           Above

Confidence

____________________________________

      

Second Guessing

                           Below

Teamwork trumps personal agendas.

Being effective is more important than being right.

Curiosity replaces frustration.

Change is embraced versus feared.

Focus is on Success versus failure.

Conflict is healthy.

Trust is the norm.

- Barbara Stoker


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Realtors Fight For Homeowners Impacted By Increase In Flood Insurance Premiums

Bill Allen, Broker Associate November 21, 2013 : Bill's Blog

Homeowners across the country should not be forced to pay for the sudden and dramatic flood insurance premium increases that are the unintended consequence of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, insisted the National Association of REALTORS® in testimony before the U.S. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance.

“We need a ‘time out’ from the implementation of the law,” says former NAR President Moe Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates, Inc. in Miami. “No one could have imagined rate increases of this magnitude. During the debate over Biggert-Waters, the prevailing wisdom was that actuarial rates would range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, not tens of thousands of dollars or the 1,000 percent rate increase shocks that we are learning about now.”

As the leading advocate for private property rights and housing issues, NAR strongly supports maintaining access to affordable flood insurance. NAR was a vocal advocate for the Biggert-Waters legislation to extend the program for 5 years and end the uncertainty of shutdowns that were stalling 40,000 home sales each month. However, due to the unprecedented scope of premium increases and other unintended consequences, NAR recommends that Congress seize the opportunity to pass the “Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act.”

This bicameral, bipartisan legislation introduced by Reps. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., would delay further implementation of major rate changes until the Federal Emergency Management Agency completes an affordability study required by Biggert-Waters; creates an office of the Advocate to investigate flood insurance rate increases; and reports to Congress with proposed solutions to any identified problems.

In the interim, NAR calls on FEMA to convene a national summit with key stakeholders to develop a longer term affordability solution. Realtors® believe the agency already has ample authority under current law to begin the discussion and should not wait for Congress to enact legislation.

“NAR stands ready to work with Congress and the administration to help homeowners transition to new rates and bring clarity to housing markets subject to Biggert-Waters reforms,” said Veissi.

Bill Allen, Re/Max of Boulder
ballen@boulderco.com, 303-441-5690
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Hard Work Pays Off In Curb Appeal

Bill Allen, Broker Associate November 19, 2013 : Bill's Blog

Time and time again, it has been proven that curb appeal sells homes. A clean and green look on a house can make a property stand out and prevent it from being forgotten in the mass of the market. Real estate agents generally agree that a house without curb appeal will sell for less, or even not at all.

“It’s easy to drive on to the next house,” said Susie O. Johnson, an agent in the St. Louis area. That’s why real estate agents take a tough love approach to customers.

“I’m pretty brutal. I’m not afraid to tell people what they need to do,” said Cheri Peterson, an agent and president of the St. Charles County (Mo.) Association of REALTORS®. “We did have someone who wouldn’t buy a house because they didn’t want to pull the weeds.”

Start with the main entrance.

“The front door is going to set the pace for the rest of the house,” Peterson said. So paint it, then “throw a wreath on it.”

“Green creates energy; red is inviting and draws the eye; black is elegant and dramatic; and orange is invigorating. Plus, add a door knocker,” says a suggestion sheet from a St. Louis real estate agency.

Add big, bold house numbers, Johnson said. They’re cheap and effective. Wash the windows, said Peterson, including the storm door. “Use Windex and a newspaper, not a paper towel,” she said. Paper towels leave track marks.

Look for holes in the eaves of the house. “If there are squirrels, they have to move out,” said Peterson. Ditto with the nests that insects build. “They look like a big daub of dirt. Gotta go.”

Siding gets dirty, and sometimes mossy on the north side of the house. “A house with green mold — it has to come off,” Peterson said. Rent a power washer and spray away.

With the outside spiffed up, it’s time to consider landscaping. Selling a house means becoming a landscaping artist. For those without big budgets, curb appeal means lots of time weeding the lawn and trimming shrubbery. Plant lots of flowers, and put planters near the front door, agents say. “Mums are really good in the fall. They have bright colors and they’re hardy,” Johnson said.

Peterson hates red mulch. “Use a dark-colored mulch, dark brown or black,” she said.

Don’t let shrubbery overhang the walkway or sidewalk. Buyers react badly when they brush against wet shrubs.

“Check the deck,” Johnson said. Shaky steps and wobbly banisters are a turn-off and say the home needs repair. If there’s a nasty-looking fire hydrant on your curb, call the city. Maybe they’ll paint it.

Sidewalks crack, rise or sink depending on whether tree roots are growing underneath or water is washing away the support. The home owner can replace the slab. But if sinking is the problem, a “mud jacking” firm might just lift it back into place. Buyers also will check out your neighbors, real estate agents say. They’ll notice the ratty junkmobile in the neighbor’s driveway, not to mention his overgrown lawn. This requires diplomacy, and sometimes volunteer labor.

“One of my clients asked if he could go pull their weeds,” Peterson said.

Bill Allen, Re/Max of Boulder
ballen@boulderco.com, 303-441-5690
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Green Bathroom Renovations With Style

Bill Allen, Broker Associate November 13, 2013 : Bill's Blog

Elegant, planet-friendly bathrooms continue to be a hot trend in home building and renovation. Bath products that respect and celebrate water have become trendier and more satisfying, proving that homeowners don’t need to sacrifice comfort, beauty and luxury in order to do something good for the environment.

The secret to achieving a pleasing and environmentally friendly bathroom renovation is choosing the right combination of fixtures and accessories – and realizing that the bathroom is one room that’s well worth investing a bit more in to achieve great upgrades that are modern and lasting.

Worth the investment

Bathrooms sell homes. An upscale bathroom remodel that costs around $50,000 will recoup more than 58 percent of its original cost at the time of resale, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. A mid-range renovation returns even more on your investment – 65 percent.

The bathroom is one room where dollar value also meets aesthetic appeal. Considering how much time Americans spend in the bathroom, and how many of us consider the bath a restful oasis where we can close the door on the 24/7 wired world, it’s easy to justify spending a bit more to achieve the bathroom of your dreams.

Eco-friendly fixtures

Life – and your morning – begins with water. So how do you create an environmentally friendly bathroom that is good for Mother Nature and your own lifestyle?

Start with upscale eco-friendly fixtures that strike the perfect balance between high-end aesthetics, high-performance design, and environmental stewardship. TOTO is the “coolest brand name” in the bathroom, according to Zillow.

TOTO product designs are distinctive but adaptable, so they work well with a wide range of styles and architectural expressions. The manufacturer’s elegant 11-inch Rain Showerhead uses a water-sipping 1.75 gallons per minute to deliver a luxurious shower experience and appreciable water savings. And its Keane Lavatory Faucet consumes just 1.5 gallons of water per minute, without sacrificing an ounce of performance.

TOTO toilets have earned a reputation as the “Sub-zero of the toilet world,” according to the New York Times. They perfectly marry exceptional design with EPA WaterSense-level conservation. The UltraMax II 1G toilet uses a single gallon of water per flush to effectively clear the bowl, and offers an elegant, upscale design to enhance any bathroom renovation.

Greener design elements

When it comes to other design elements in the bathroom, such as flooring and lighting, it’s easy to find greener options that are also high-end and visually striking.

The cost of quarrying and transporting from point of origin to point of sale can make natural stone less than eco-friendly. Instead, consider using recycled flooring material, such as pebbled tiles made from recycled glass or plain recycled glass tiles.

Reclaimed wood can also work wonderfully in an upscale bathroom, imparting a look that is both rich and rustic. Or, if you prefer newer wood, opt for cork or bamboo; both resist mold and mildew, and repel moisture. And both are among the hottest flooring choices for savvy interior designers.

Finally, improving the electricity efficiency of your bathroom lighting is as simple as replacing incandescent bulbs with energy-sipping LEDs or CFLs. The looks and sizes available in both types of energy-efficient bulbs seems to expand every year, so it’s possible to find one that will fit in any light fixture – turning even high-end luxury lights into eco-friendly, energy efficient options.

Courtesy of BPT

Bill Allen, Re/Max of Boulder
ballen@boulderco.com, 303-441-5690

 

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How to Hand Down a Family Vacation Home

Bill Allen, Broker Associate November 11, 2013 : Bill's Blog

Vacation homes are often places where happy family memories are made. Unfortunately, they can also be the source of headaches and disputes when heirs disagree about how to manage them. So, as many second homeowners are closing up their family retreats for the season, it might be a good idea for those at or nearing retirement age to think about how they might pass the asset down to the next generation — especially when multiple children and their spouses will be entering into joint ownership.

Here are some tips when it comes to handing down property assets to the next generation.

Create a Master Plan: Before anything else, have an honest conversation about whether there’s an interest in keeping the home. After crunching the numbers, it might not be desirable or feasible. Even if there is no mortgage, there are taxes and maintenance costs. Plus, there’s the cost of traveling to and from the home to use it, he said. If everyone is still game, create a master plan for the home, detailing its long-term future and how it will be handed down. For example, decide if the home is to be a place of solitude or used for frequent entertaining. Discuss any plans to develop the property further.
Some cabins are locked in time, but eventually, people may want modern conveniences. That costs money — and can make an inheritance more of a financial commitment than the parents ever expected.

Also, it might be a good idea to discuss the idea of renting out the home when it’s not in use. A recent report from HomeAway, an online marketplace for vacation rentals, found that vacation rental owners were able to make, on average, $1,778 for a weekly rental over this summer. But 39 percent of owners who rent out their homes said they originally purchased their vacation home for personal use, according to the HomeAway survey. When family members own a home together, there can be varied opinions on whether it should be rented out.

If all this planning feels like you’re treating the home like a business, you’re on the right track. This mission statement should be formal and set some structure for how the home will be used.

Handing Down Property: Property can be handed down through an irrevocable trust, or by creating a limited liability company, in which the grantors gift shares. Or, as a way to test the situation out, families can set up a revocable trust while the owners are still alive. It’s like inheriting the home with “training wheels,” incorporating rules for how the family can use and operate the cabin, she said. There are benefits and drawbacks to each; it’s best to consult a professional on what course is best for your family.
When there are multiple people who will gain ownership of the property, it’s also best to appoint someone as manager. That person will pay the insurance premiums, utility bills or repair the roof in the case of an emergency, she said. Sometimes the role of manager is rotated every couple of years, and it often comes with a reward of an extra time slot at the vacation home or a longer or a more desirable slot.

House Rules: By establishing house rules, everyone is clear about how time slots to use the vacation home are chosen, and how they need to leave the home once they’re done. Some families create a checklist to ensure towels are washed, folded and put away; the dishwasher is empty; and perishables are removed from the refrigerator. Failure to follow the rules can bring consequences, such as having your next use period shortened by a day or having the last pick of time slot next season.

It’s also important to create rules on how someone can get rid of their share of the home — especially if they don’t have the means to pay expenses. Even though selling should always be an option, you don’t want to make it too easy for someone to cash in their chips. Otherwise, you make it attractive for someone to get bought out when the market is hot, leaving the remaining owners on the hook for a greater portion of the expenses, she added. With a well-crafted escape clause, someone can get the money if they need it, but they’re not dying to sell.

Best,

Bill

Bill Allen, Re/Max of Boulder
ballen@boulderco.com, 303-441-5690
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