Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Thank you to all the generous donors

Thank you to all the generous donors of n95 masks, masks, wipes, shoe covers, gloves! Picked up and dropped off at Kaiser today. I can pick up any other donations you have. The medical staff still need more supplies especially n95 masks. Thank you Kitty Lee for boxes of shoe covers, Seriri Tsang wipes, Anonymous donor of n95s and gloves, Sam Lee and Cristi for a ton of wipes, masks ++, Sabrina Gee for shoe covers and wipes, Alex Clark, Nancy Weber, Leah Tracy for shoe covers.


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

How to transform a dorm room into something special

How to transform a dorm room into something special


A few weekends ago, I spoke with a lovely mother-daughter duo who were in shopping for some new bedding. The daughter was headed to Kentucky for her freshman year and they were searching for the perfect shade of blue to show off her new school pride. It got me thinking about how bedding can transform a cold, impersonal room and how fun it could be to showcase collegiate looks and dorm room design tips.

There is so much to get ready when you are moving out on your own for the first time. I remember being so excited to start my journey at the University of Missouri-Columbia (don’t hold that against me, Kansas fans) as an “official adult” (in my head at least), and the first thing on my journey to adulthood was creating my living space. I was ready to leave behind my boy band posters and childhood bedroom for a life of style and sophistication — then I saw what a dorm room actually looked like. As you know, dorm rooms can be very impersonal and intimidating at first, but even the most beautiful art starts with a blank canvas.

How does one turn a new home-away-from-home into a space that is uniquely hers? Besides the obvious (although often limited) floor and wall space, most dorms are equipped with a basic bed, desk and chest of drawers. While there is not much you can do about the generic, standard-issue furniture, there are touches you can add that will make a big impact on those pieces. Even though we’re designing a space that will last for a semester or a year, many of the pieces we talk about below will live far beyond the dorm days.

Let’s start with bedding. To match or not to match? You can make either option work beautifully. I can’t resist a set of matching twin beds; I love using symmetry in design and in small spaces to help keep visual clutter to a minimum. Matching beds are easy to put together if you and your roommate have similar tastes. If you don’t, consider sticking with neutrals and just trying to land on an accent fabric that speaks to you both. Add a personal finishing touch with monogrammed pillows.

If you want to coordinate but not match, consider again sticking with a neutral base for both beds and playing up your favorite patterns in the same color palette in accent pillows and throws. One fun idea: Get two duvets with the same fabric on one side and different but coordinating fabrics on the other. Place them on each bed neutral side up and turn them down for a fun pop of pattern and color. Finish each bed with pillows and throws that coordinate with each duvet.

Perhaps a roommate isn’t part of the equation for you (or you’re not sure who you’re rooming with yet). You can still have a gorgeous bed. Dress up your basic dorm bed with textiles you love. If a DIY headboard isn’t for you, but you still want to cover up the one you’ve been assigned, just add some large pillows — one euro or two king pillows go a long way in helping to hide what you might not want to see. Add a Wilton bedspread — it’s long ruffled drop are great for hiding all of those under-bed storage containers. Finish off your look with a school spirit pillow or two or, of course, a monogrammed lumbar.

With bedding covered, it’s time for some vignettes. We love vignettes styled on trays for any space, but they are fabulous and especially functional in a dorm room where you may need to move things from bed top to dresser top to desktop quickly and often. In these spaces especially, don’t shy away from using every day and often-used items in your groupings. Maybe those biochem textbooks will be far more appealing tucked under a trinket tray full of baubles. Add cute containers for your student ID, phone charger and other essentials for student life for a vignette that is practical and pretty.

Let’s shift our focus to the desktop. I spent a lot of time at my desk in school (and I mean a LOT), so this might just be my favorite dorm room element. Desks can be the real “workhorse” of the room; they are where you put in all those study hours, of course, but they also act as a vanity, a “meal prep” station (cheese and crackers counts as a meal, right?), a dinner table and more.

Because you need empty space on a desk to actually do all of the above, don’t pack it full of tiny accessories that will clutter it up. Instead, leave room for all of your essentials and add one or two impactful pieces like a statement lamp and a family photo dressed up in a fancy frame. Both items will look great when it’s time to move into that first apartment, too.

We can’t forget the aforementioned walls and floors. While nails are a no-go, there are plenty of practical items you can “command strip” to blank walls (my dorm room was practically held together with 3M strips). For instance, instead of a basic mirror and hook, add a fanciful detail like these antiqued mirrored hooks for jewelry and your room key. Pull the whole space together with an indoor/outdoor rug to soften up the space and add an inviting layer that’s easier to clean (at least between semesters).

By Katie Laughridge

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Landscaping the perfect garden: Dream first, budget second

Landscaping the perfect garden: Dream first, budget second


Do I need to sell one kidney or two? That was the main question I had as we waited for our landscape designer to send over his cost estimate for the plan he’d presented the week before.

My husband, DC, and I loved the vision Tony Evans created to transform our ho-hum backyard into a place we would actually look forward to coming home to — as opposed to one we hid behind pulled drapes.

However, before budget realities could dash our dreams – The fountain! The fire feature! The spa! — we indulged in the fantasy of seeing our backyard through the magic spectacles of a professionally rendered design in which almost anything is possible. And we played how much do you think? We bandied about numbers as high as a year of college tuition – for the plan without the pool and spa, which was an option. Adding the pool, we figured, would double the cost. (P.S. We weren’t wrong.)

DC had the cardiac paddles ready as I opened the email containing the estimate — and Evans got on the phone to talk me through the initial shock.

“It’s all phase-able,” Evans said, as I began to digest the numbers. “We can start small, and work a bit at a time.”

To prevent hyperventilation, he wisely submitted the cost estimate in three ways: good, better, best. Good, for example, eliminated the pool and used mulch instead of the more expensive beach rock, among other trade-offs.

Although the price estimates were not too far from our calculated guesses, none included must-have features like the wall fountain, the fire bowls, the patio furniture or the lighting. To get that yard, we were going to have to get creative or win the lotto. But this much we knew: Now that we’ve seen what’s possible, we’re not turning back.

As DC and I mulled which organ to sell, we revisited the factors that Evans considered when designing our yard — or any yard:

Take inventory: “When approaching a design, first I look at what the property has that we want to keep,” Evans said. As I looked across our yard, I couldn’t imagine what deserved salvaging. His answer: a couple of trees, a blooming bougainvillea and the fence, which we couldn’t move if we’d wanted to.

Prioritize privacy: “If people can see you in your backyard, you won’t use it,” he said. To screen the neighbor’s view into our yard, Evans’s plan calls for a row of tall bamboo trees (the kind that don’t send runners) and more hedge material along the back fence.

Downplay negatives: A good landscape design should play up a property’s strengths and play down its weaknesses, he said. Like every yard, ours had both — including a long garage wall with no windows that needed to be minimized. “On its own, it’s not nice to look at,” said Evans, “but some of best gardens in the world have courtyard gardens up against walls.” His plan calls for covering the wall with fig ivy, putting a fountain against it, and flanking the fountain with generous potted urns, turning a minus into an appealing plus.

Play up positives: “Similarly, I try to take what’s good – like your view — and make it better,” he said. Our yard’s best feature is the green space it opens onto, which is visible when you walk in the front door. To capitalize on that, Evans developed site lines down the property, and placed eye-catching fire bowls, to draw the eye out.

Create rooms to scale: When designing outdoor rooms, Evans routinely steals proportions from the home’s interior. If your eating area is 13- by 10-feet, match that outside. Similarly if your living room is 16-by-20, recreate that proportion outdoors. Our yard’s plan turns the covered patio into a living room, offers an eating area off to the side with an adjacent outdoor barbecue station and, completing the triangle, has an entertainment “room” with chairs circling a fire. It fits the home’s proportions, and makes sense.

Design for flow and connection: Our outdoor dining table currently sits on our covered patio by the back door, interrupting the flow between the house and yard. “It creates a barrier rather than an invitation,” Evans pointed out. His plan moves the table out into the yard, and replaces it with a sitting area you can walk through. Like an indoor floor plan that flows, the outdoor rooms are well connected. From the house, you step into the outdoor living room, then can move to the outdoor dining room and then the hearth room with the fire.

As you can see, the possibilities for a great yard are practically infinite. I just wish our budget were, too.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

How to sell your ‘ugly’ house when no one is biting

How to sell your ‘ugly’ house when no one is biting

In today’s market, renovated move-in ready properties sell at a premium.

But what if you can’t or won’t fix up your house? A property that is dated, unrenovated or unloved, can linger on the market for months, pushing the price down.

Fixer-uppers may have been appealing a decade ago, but today they leave buyers cold, said McKenzie Ryan, an agent with Compass in New York City.

“Ten years ago, most people wanted to add some value and put their own fingerprint on it,” she said. “Now it has been such a shift, particularly with millennial buyers — they want a finished product. They don’t want to put in the sweat equity.”

For homeowners without the money or time for a renovation, new options can help sell a property with no out-of-pocket costs.

Pre-sale renovations with no upfront cost

Some real estate agencies, like Compass, Coldwell Banker and Keller Williams, are offering renovation services with no upfront costs to their clients. The firms then recoup the cost of the renovation from the price of the home after it sells.

Ryan was hired to sell a two-bedroom, two-bath condo on Manhattan’s Upper West Side after the owners were unable to sell it with another agent at a list price of $1.3 million.

The feedback the sellers received was that prospective buyers would be more interested in the home if it were updated.

So, together with the owners, Ryan is fixing it up. Her company’s service, Compass Concierge, fronts the cost of the home improvements. The condo will be painted, the floors will be sanded and stained, kitchen cabinets will be painted and receive new hardware, and a bathroom will get a new vanity, flooring and a light fixture. Once all the renovations are complete, the condo will go back on the market for $1.395 million — a price that will more than make up for the cost of renovations.

“When I’ve done this with properties, my listings have sold quicker and at a higher price compared to similar properties in the building,” Ryan said.

Sell quickly with no showings

Many investors — called instant buyers or ibuyers — advertise quick cash offers for “ugly houses,” often at below-market prices. They flip the properties for a profit, saving sellers the hassle of showings and costly renovations. Even real estate firms, like Zillow and Redfin, have ibuyer divisions that will make a cash offer on a home— often sight unseen — based on the specific location and attributes of the property.

Sundae, a real estate company based in southern California, buys homes with a quick cash offer, and then renovates and flips them. After a representative does an in-person evaluation of a home that is then analyzed by a construction cost expert and a valuation expert, Sundae makes the seller a cash offer.

Homeowners can sell as-is, with no fees, repairs, cleanups or showings and also get up to a $10,000 cash advance from the sale upfront to help with the move, if needed. Some closings have happened in as little as 10 days.

“When people come to us we evaluate three things: Do you have the money for renovations? Do you have the time? Do you have the know-how?” said Josh Stech, CEO at Sundae. “If the home needs a little bit too much work, selling to Sundae may be a good option.”

And Stech said, people sometimes need a hand to hold, since a quick sale is often brought on by an unplanned life event.

“Often people are in duress,” Stech said. “They are going through a transaction that is unfamiliar and high stakes and typically there is a relocation, divorce or death involved.”

Selling the home with no showings — especially for people with serious pet issues, a history of hoarding or estate sales in which family members may not be nearby — can be the most appealing part for some sellers.

For many people, he said, it matters what happens to the house even as they walk away.

“They want a family to live there,” said Stech. “They want to see that the house has the kids and dog running around the backyard like they remember from 30 years ago. They just can’t do the work to get it there.”
By Anna Bahney

Friday, February 14, 2020

What further negotiations can take place after an offer is accepted?

What further negotiations can take place after an offer is accepted?



- Once the purchase agreement between buyer and seller has been accepted, there are still items that can come up and require further negotiating. One of the most common is the home inspection - and unless a home is flawless-which few are-there will probably be some negotiations between the parties before the close of escrow.
The purpose of the home inspection is to find significant defects that would cause a buyer to not want to move forward with the transaction, or, at the very least, have the items repaired. Negotiating repairs after a home inspection should be kept to what is vital, and not previously known prior to writing an offer.
When negotiating home inspection items, we always recommend a credit at closing, or a price reduction, whenever possible. There is too much uncertainty and stress on seller to do repair work if it can be avoided. The buyer is likely to be particular about the quality of the work, and if not done to their satisfaction, could cause delays. For sellers, it is important to recognize problems that could be issues with anyone, and deal with them-which is why we always recommend pre-sale inspections, prior to listing a property.

- These days disclosure package are part of any offering. They have anywhere from 150 to more than 250 pages and include such items as inspections, permit records, leases, estoppels, seller questionnaires, warranties and bids for corrective work.
Buyers, and their agents, are asked to review the disclosures prior to submitting an offer so as to be able to make an informed, hopefully non-contingent offer.
However, once in escrow, changed circumstances may dictate renegotiation: further inspections called for in the pest report did not get done upfront and now reveal unexpected damage; a tenant finally tuns in his estoppel and claims protected status; the sewer lateral backs up; a tree comes down in a storm. This is not the time for the blame game but rather for reaching a prompt, equitable resolution. And this is where good agents shine.

- Contingencies can be included for inspections, finance, appraisal, or HOA documents, for example. This allows time to continue investigating for any deficiencies, the ability to continue the lender qualification, and protects them in the event that an appraisal is less than the purchase price.
Negotiations can occur if something new is discovered, or if a property does not appraise. Perhaps a credit or a revised price could be options.
In San Francisco, listing agents often have disclosure packages available during the marketing process, giving buyers the opportunity to review pre-inspections, invite their own inspector/architect, and for them and their agent to review pricing.
In cases where there are multiple offers, it is not uncommon for buyers to waive these contingencies when they feel confident with the pre-inspection process and confident with their ability to secure financing, even if it doesn’t appraise.