Home Improvements: The Smartest Move Sellers can Make

Remodeling Magazine Releases 2014 Cost vs. Value Report

As the housing market recovers, more homeowners are looking to remodel their home to boost its value and equity. Remodeling Magazine’s 2014 Cost vs. Value Report shows a positive trend when it comes to recouping dollars spent on home improvements when it comes time to sell.

Even homeowners who aren’t selling today, but remodeling for their own enjoyment can increase the value of their home by considering updates that will pay off in the future. “It’s always important to consider future plans to possibly sell when making updates to ensure the home will appeal to buyers,” reminds Patti Stern of PJ & Company Home Styling.

For the second consecutive year, Cost vs. Value data shows the value of remodeling is up for all  35 projects in the survey.

One of our favorite points as interior decorators and professional home stagers is Remodeling Magazine’s finding that the best-performing kitchen and bath project is a minor kitchen remodel — which includes new appliances and counter tops, and a facelift for cabinets. We do this all the time for our interior decorating and home staging clients and show an example below.

Thomas Kitchen Before After  This kitchen update by PJ & Company included professionally painting cabinetry, replacing laminate counter top with granite, adding new light fixtures and adding  trim and detailing to the existing island to give it a custom look.

To see the full report click here Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs Value Report.



Surviving A Home Renovation: A Decorator’s Personal Guide and Tips

Whether you are an experienced do-it-yourselfer or a first-timer, a remodeling project can be intrusive and overwhelming to every aspect of your life.

That’s why hiring a professional can save time, money and a lot of unnecessary stress. Recently, my husband and I decided to finally renovate the last room in our home that remained untouched — our master bathroom. My vision was to transform our 1969 master bath into a modern, stylish space but I didn’t want anything too custom as we may sell our home in a few years. The design and décor needed to appeal to our personal style, as well as potential future buyers.

Our 1969 Master Bathroom was Cramped and Outdated.

The first step of the renovation was deciding if we could knock down the wall between the master bathroom and our guest room closet to maximize the space and upgrade to a double vanity and larger shower — the most important elements of the project. Once my talented carpenter determined we could, I was off and running with the design.

As my own general contractor, I managed every element of the project and deciding on the design elements was particularly daunting, since this was a project for me and my family. I ultimately decided on a modern, spa-like design with an earthy color scheme — dark espresso vanity, glass tiles and a stone shower floor.

The actual renovation involved taking the original bathroom down to the studs and building from scratch (remember, this shower lasted 44 years). Working with my carpenter, excellent vendors, and my own knowledge of renovation projects helped the process along to final completion just a few weeks before the New Year.

 The Entire Bathroom was Gutted to Provide a Blank Canvas for the New Layout and Design.

The final reveal, pictured below, features a frameless shower door, which opens up the space, accent glass tiles on the walls and floor, modern 8-inch faucets, and jeweled light sconces affixed to the wall-to-wall mirror. We also added a silent ceiling fan for air flow and circulation.

The New Master Bath Features a Modern, Spa-Like Design with an Earthy Color Scheme and Includes an Espresso, Double Vanity.    

 Throughout the process, I kept a journal and noted some key tips and advice for all homeowners when taking on any renovation project including:

  •  Have A Written Plan. Be sure you are absolutely clear with your interior decorator, contractor, and carpenter — whomever you are working with — regarding the remodeling job and have a written plan and contract.
  • Plan Ahead. Make sure you have all of your design plans and materials for your remodeling project ahead of time (including windows if applicable). Sometimes, though, things do have to change once the remodeling starts. For example, I opted for one large mirror instead of two as originally planned. Be flexible and plan for an additional 10-15% above your budget for “just in case” scenarios.
  • Don’t Skimp Where It Is Important. When putting in a shower floor, for example, make sure your contractor is using the right materials to prevent leaks, mold and mildew. Sometimes spending more on better quality items will save you money in the long run.
  • Have An Alternate Space For Getting Things Done. If your bathroom or kitchen is under construction, where will you cook or manage everyone’s personal daily routines? Set up a makeshift kitchen in a basement or garage, color code towels in the bathroom, or add temporary storage in a hallway.
  • Think About The Big Picture. How will your remodeling project affect any other rooms or even future plans for your home? Will a wall being knocked down impact another room? If so, you may have to consider painting or repairing any walls in the impacted space. Are you thinking of selling your home in a few years? If so, you’ll want to make changes you’ll enjoy now but will appeal to potential buyers in a few years.
  • Plan Around Any Entertaining of Special Events. Don’t plan any holiday dinners, parties or invite friends over on a Friday night if you are in the middle of a major remodeling job. No matter how good your contractor might be, dust goes everywhere!



2014 Design Trends We Love

Every year new design trends offer a chance to update your home’s current style and start the year with a fresh look. We’ve featured some of our favorite style influences and predictions for 2014 below to offer you a glimpse in to what to expect to see in home furnishings and decor.

Choose your favorite new trend and layer new styles, colors and patterns with the furnishings you already own — with new home accents and accessories — a simple and cost effective way to freshen up your existing interior decor.

Soft, muted pastels balanced with bold, bright hues will dominate this year’s home decor. Intermixed with these brighter tones, we’ll see warm neutrals and earthy hues to create balance. Grey continues to be the new neutral. Use light or charcoal grey as your foundation and pair it with pops of color such as yellow, raspberry, plum, or teal to create a chic, modern style and look.

Redefined, modern rustic styling took off in 2013 and will define 2014 decor. Spaces that mix clean lines and modern styling with rustic natural wood finishes and elegant accents and accessories appeal to today’s lifestyles. Together these elements create warm, refined spaces for living and entertaining. Natural and organic influences will carry over into textile patterns as well. Geometric patterns, chevrons and stripes have dominated but this year will be replaced with softer, less defined patterns including more floral and organic prints, animal, ikat and honeycomb patterns.

Gold is considered to be one of the hottest trends for 2014 and just a touch of gold will add a bit of luxe to any space. Gold accents and accessories, gold nail head detailing on furnishings and gold finishes and trim on pillows and draperies will become more popular in the coming year.

We can’t have an article on 2014 home trends without mentioning the two most important spaces — kitchens and baths. White has become the overwhelming choice of most homeowners for their kitchen cabinetry. Think modern and refined — not sterile, operating room. 2014’s other trends cross over into kitchens as well — we’re seeing rustic flair with earthy finishes and woods for counter tops as well as gold fixtures. In 2014, bathrooms are either getting dressed up or down — being transformed into spaces that are serene and spa-like or make you feel like you are walking into a jewlery box. Finishes and features including frameless shower doors and glass tiles, are a must.

“Pivotal” 2013 Housing Market Brings High Expectations For 2014

Improving. Strong. Energized. Pivotal. We asked a group of realtors and agency leaders across Connecticut to share a one word recap of the 2013 housing market and gathered together their insights. The consensus – 2013 was a year of change and growth that many hope will carry into the New Year.

“2013 showed a marked increase in sales and expectations,” according to Joel Grossman, sales manager of Calcagni in Wallingford. “2014 will continue the trend with increased sales in both our resale and new homes divisions. Both buyers and sellers will fare well as we expect interest rates to remain low,” he adds.

While Connecticut’s housing recovery has lagged behind much of the country, 2013 gains have the state’s housing market finishing with slow and steady growth.

The Warren Group, which collects data on the New England housing market, recently reported that Connecticut demonstrated a jump in sales growth and pricing for September – the best September since 2007. That momentum has given many realtors we’ve spoken with a brisk start to the fourth quarter and hope for the future.

PJ Louis, sales manager of the William Raveis office in Avon, expects 2014 to be better than 2013 as the economy and new construction numbers improve.

Tight Inventory Conditions Questionable for 2014
We’ve said it over and over again in 2013 – buyer traffic is outpacing seller traffic and tight inventory is boosting pricing. Both in Connecticut and nationally, inventory shortages have been a key marker of the housing recovery.

According to NARS Chief Economist Lawrence Yun’s Housing Marketing and Economic Outlook, in 2014 home pricing could either slow or accelerate – the housing starts will be the deciding factor. He adds that the industry needs to reach 1.5 million starts soon or face a persistent shortage that will impact pricing and affordability.

Staging Gives Sellers a Market Advantage in 2013
This year’s inventory shortages provided sellers with a market advantage in many areas and those sellers who staged their homes were able to leverage that advantage further and capture buyers. The year got off to a busy start and from January on PJ & Company worked on over 25 homes, with many selling in record time after staging.

Statistics released throughout the year also continued to support the benefits of staging. New figures from the Real Estate Staging Association and Staged Homes reinforced that if you want to sell, stage it first.

As the market evolves in 2014, we asked realtors why staging a home for sale will continue to be important in today’s real estate market.

“A home that is staged or as I like to say, “romanced”, stands out from the competition. There are many benefits to staging a home for sale besides exciting the agents in the community to show and sell. A staged house is memorable, a staged house is often “move-in” ready and perceived as a great value.”
Joel Grossman, Calcagni, Wallingford 

“For my sellers staging brings the most value in the shortest amount of market time over their competitors. Staging makes the home appealing to the largest variety of buyers.”
Lorraine Amaral, William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty, Danbury

“Today’s buyers demand clean, fresh, organized homes to become excited in their purchase process. Sellers who fall into distressed, tired home syndrome will be rejected by buyers unless very low priced. A home is either really exciting or boring! Anyone can list a home, not all can get it SOLD! A staged home is exciting!- Ruth Ratner, CT Properties/Keller Williams, Cheshire 

Hopeful for 2014
As we look ahead to 2014,the biggest hope for many is that the housing market will continue to recover to stable levels analysts will define as healthy. Ruth Ratner of CT Properties/Keller Williams shares with many in the industry hope for continued increases in listings and sales that will drive the market and allow buyers to find affordable, move-in ready homes.


Decorate For The Holidays In Style

Holiday decor and accents can transform your home during the holidays. For many though, finding just the right holiday style that matches your home’s existing decor and taste can be a challenge. If this Thanksgiving weekend you’ll be decorating you home instead of shopping we’ve featured two of most popular holiday decor styles – Vintage Holiday and Rustic Luxe – below to inspire you.

Vintage Holiday
Vintage inspired holiday decor reminds us of holidays from years past. Muted colors, natural tones, sparkling metallics and bright whites define this more elegant and warm style for the holidays. Traditional textures, mercury glass, classic ornaments, simply decorated trees, antique glasses, touches of evergreen and nostalgic decor define this style. Group vintage accents and accessories together and pair with a few clean, modern elements to create an updated look.

Vintage Holiday Collage

Rustic Luxe
Rustic Luxe decor is the perfect pairing of a mountain lodge and NY penthouse. Defined by mixing and matching elements inspired by nature with shimmery metallics, rich textures and elegant styling this look creates a warm, glamorous style perfect for holiday decor and entertaining. Mix warm woods and earthy elements with silver and gold. Accents and decor including animal themes and feathers layered with modern touches complete this look.

Rustic Luxe Collage