Top Return on Your Investment Home Improvement Projects in 2015

Photo of a young couple with their new house. smiling

If you think replacing your front door will be a good investment, you’re wrong. It’ll be a great investment! Year after year, it ranks at the top of NAR’s survey results.

For years, I’ve been tracking and publishing data on which home improvement projects give you the best bang for your buck. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) performs surveys each year they call their Cost vs. Value reports.

2015 Cost vs. ValueNow keep in mind, the values that are derived from these surveys are merely estimates. Sure, they poll real estate professionals, but the information we are given and asked to put a number on, is very limited. We should all take these results with a grain of salt the size of the Grand Canyon.

Let’s get jump right in!

Top Return on Your Investment Home Improvement Projects

So let’s see which home improvement projects will give you the highest return on your investment. The report separates the Midrange projects from the Upscale ones, which I don’t find to be particularly helpful. I’ve included two charts for your benefit, but I’m going to aggregate them for the purposes of our rankings.

1. Entry Door Replacement

Just as expected, our preeminent project is replacing your home’s front door. According to the survey, this home improvement project returns 101.8% nationally. Outstanding!

Now, this is only when you replace your current door with a steel door (midrange). If you go fiberglass, also considered midrange, the ROI plummets to 72%, which I find problematic. Sure, the fiberglass door is going to cost you more, but I would estimate the ROI to be well over 100% for this improvement as well.

2. Manufactured Stone Veneer

In year’s past, this option wasn’t included in the survey. In 2015, however, respondents estimated an 92.2% cost recouped when adding a stone veneer accent to your home.

It’s interesting that this merely visual enhancement returns such a large amount while more functional projects, ones that can actually add square footage to the house, ranked much lower.

Keep in mind that each of these high-return home improvement projects vary with their estimated values in different parts of the country. Feel free to visit the NAR website to get data more specific to your state.

3. Garage Door Replacement

Another door ranks third on our list. The survey reports a 88.4% gain if you replace your home’s garage door. This is the midrange value. Moving to upscale garage door, the value drops ever so slightly to 82.5%.

It’s interesting to note, that most values in this year’s survey have dropped from the previous year.

4. Siding Replacement

HardyPlan sample

HardyPlank is a recognized leader in residential siding with a large number of fiber-cement siding products.

HardyPlank is a recognized leader in residential siding with a large number of fiber-cement siding products.

Sliding into the fourth spot is siding replacement. Fiber-cement siding (upscale) achieved survey value of 84.3% nationally. This beat the vinyl siding (midrange) return on investment of 80.7%.

HardyPlank, a fiber-cement product, has long been recognized for its wood-like appearance but with low longterm maintenance and increased safety. Other companies have joined the fray, offering similar composite materials as demand has grown.

It appears the increased price of the upscale option is worth the money, if you are considering new exterior siding for your home.

5. Deck Addition

Nationally, it’s estimated that a standard deck addition would cost $10,048 and return a value of 80.5% to the homeowner. This is good enough for the fifth on our list of best return on your investment home projects for 2015.

Look through the included graphics to see how other projects ranked in this survey.

Key Observations

I think it’s important to note that these values are only estimates. As I mentioned at the start, without more specific data, such as the home’s location, level of finish of other homes in the neighborhood and the property’s current condition, throwing a number at a project is somewhat arbitrary.

At the end of the day, these bang-for-your-buck home improvement projects are fun topics of discussion but hardly something I would put much weight on if I were a consumer.

What I do recommend is for you to speak with a local professional who really knows the market. He could visit your home personally and get a first-hand understanding of your particular situation before making an informed recommendation.

I have zero doubt many home improvement projects would return more than 100% of their costs — far more than reported in these surveys.


Here are the specifics of research.

“An online survey containing project descriptions and three-dimensional illustrations, plus construction costs and median home prices for each city, was linked via email sent to some 200,000 appraisers, sales agents, and brokers. Respondents were instructed not to make judgments about the motivation of the homeowner in either the decision to undertake the remodeling project or to sell the house.”

If you’d like more information about return on investments for your Louisville home, please contact me.

Chart of Midrange Home Improvement Projects Return on Investment

Chart of Upscale Home Improvement Projects Return on Investment

Top 10 Real Estate Myths Busted, Bonus 5 Industry Myths Debunked

Hello and welcome to this full-featured, tell-all piece that will expose you to the truth behind popular real estate myths. Many of these widely held beliefs seem, at first blush, like common sense but I will bust these myths and explain what’s really going on.

So hold on tight! These Top 10 Real Estate Myths aren’t going to go away quietly… things could get messy.

Myths of Real Estate Buying

I’ve divided the Top 10 real estate myths into two categories. The first group come into play when buying a home. You may currently believe a few of these yourself.

1. Find the Perfect House First, Then Talk to the Lender

Top 10 Real Estate Myths Busted! Find the Perfect House First, Then Talk to the Lender

Find the Perfect House First, Then Talk to the Lender – Top 10 Real Estate Myths Busted!

I put this one first because it’s a very big problem. It might just be the most common real estate myth of all! There are a number of reasons why it exists.

First, the fun part of buying a home is looking at the potential winners online, picking your favorites and visiting them in person. We all do it! It’s almost a national pastime! The looking is so enjoyable that we forget the better path.

Secondly, buyers often underestimate the emotional appeal that comes when buying a home. You might fall in love with that great, renovated Cape Cod with the open-concept kitchen and living room, only to find out later that it’s nowhere close to being a home you can afford.

Getting pre-approved with reputable lender is the smart first step. Then, and only then, is it safe to begin your house hunting in earnest. I promise, this is the right way to go.

2. Agents Have to Show Me Any Home I Want

Like most working people, real estate agents don’t work for free. They don’t have to show you anything at all. Most want to show you properties, in the hopes that you will purchase a home, but not everyone looking is a serious buyer.

Some state regulations are such that the listing agent isn’t even required to show you their listing unless another Realtor makes the request.

In our day and age, we can’t always trust that someone is what they claim to be. There are many jobs where service is optional and entirely up to the judgement of contractor.

It’s not uncommon for thieves to target high-end homes, so in these cases the real estate agent is doing the homeowner a valuable service by not showing their home to a suspicious caller.

3. I’ll Get a Better Deal If I Work with the Listing Agent

This real estate myth can be a costly one. There’s a certain mindset that some might have that if they come to the listing agent without representation, they can negotiate a better deal for themselves.

Let me just say, this is a big mistake.

Between the two, which person has more negotiating experience when it comes to real estate transactions? That’s right, the listing agent. Who has greater knowledge about the true market value of the home? Yes, it’s the agent again.

It makes perfect sense that the homeowner wants as much as possible for their home, right? And the listing agent’s primary fiduciary responsibility is to their seller, not the buyer. So why would the listing agent push the homeowner to lower their sales price when that person is their client too? Answer: They won’t.

We haven’t even talked about the other parts of a real estate deal, like the home inspection, title search, date of possession, and other contract details. I’m not saying a buyer without an agent will never get a great deal. It’s possible but it’s a long-shot.

And at the end of the day, would they know the price they paid was really a good price or not?

4. Agents Need to Tell Me About Crime, Schools & Ethnic Make-up of Neighborhoods

You would think an expert real estate agent would know all about the city he’s been living in his whole life. So, why would he not share this information with his client that he’s trying to serve?

It turns out the answer is, “It’s against the law.”

Federal Fair Housing laws are currently stated to prevent a real estate agent from disclosing anything that might reflect poorly on certain protected classes.

Real estate agents may recommend sources of information for the home buyers to use but they can not tell you which neighborhoods might have a larger Hispanic population or which schools get higher test scores.

5. Agents Can Only Show Me Their Own Listings

Top 10 Real Estate Myths Busted! Agents Can Only Show Me Their Own Listings

Agents Can Only Show Me Their Own Listings – Top 10 Real Estate Myths Busted!

I’m not really sure where this myth came from. It makes sense that real estate agents would prefer their clients to buy their personal listings if there was a good match, but even the listing agent with the largest number of listings in a given market still only accounts for a small portion of the housing inventory.

Even if you increase the share to include all the listings for that agent’s company, there would still be thousands of additional properties that you, as a buyer, would want to consider.

This silly real estate myth needs to be put out of its misery.

Myths of Real Estate Selling

Now let’s head over to the selling side of things. These real estate myths aren’t any less troublesome though, so be warned.

6. Selling “For Sale By Owner” Will Save Me a Lot of Money

This real estate myth can be costly. Not just your money though, your time as well!

The number of homes sold by owner has steadily decreased over the years. Back in 2003, about 14% of all sales were FSBO. This past year it’s 9%. The rationale makes sense, if I don’t have to pay those pesky Realtor’s commissions, I can save a lot of money. I mean, how hard can it be? Stick a sign in the yard and wait for the phone to ring, right?

Well, if you live on a busy street you might have a shot. But there’s far more to marketing a home for sale than a yard sign. These days it’s all about digital promotion. Then there’s the paperwork, negotiations, inspections, and the list goes on.

But let’s get back to those commissions. Even if you have the opportunity to save the listing agent’s commission by doing all this work yourself, most buyers come with their agents who’ll want to get paid for their work.

Now, do you have a solid grasp on the current market value of your home? I hope you’re not trusting Zillow for sales data. Surveys have shown their information to be only 79% accurate. What if you underprice your home? You could lose far more than that half portion of the agent’s commission.

What if you overprice it and it sits there for 6 months? What if you get your home under contract but mishandle a legal requirement during financing phase? It’s been known to happen. This real estate myth is easily busted.

7. Staging My Home Isn’t Necessary

Top 10 Real Estate Myths Busted! Staging My Home Isn't Necessary

Staging My Home Isn’t
Necessary – Top 10 Real Estate Myths Busted!

I find this myth hard to believe. But it exists… I’ve seen these homes in person!

Here’s the tip. Just because you like something, doesn’t mean that everyone else does. You see, we’re are all creatures of habit. We’re more comfortable in our surroundings and any problems with our house are easily ignored. Or, perhaps you just have more pressing business? Life can certainly be hectic.

So when you see those homes on HGTV that are picture perfect and look like they belong in a magazine, you can bet that the buyers who are coming to your home have seen these shows too.

When your home doesn’t “measure up” you only have yourself to blame.

8. If I Reduce the Commission, I’ll Make More Money

This real estate myth might seem like it makes sense but here’s the problem. Reducing the percentage for the buyer’s agent introduces a disincentive to show your home.

By law everything is negotiable. In some cases, like a very rare but desirable property, a lower commission might not turn off a buyer’s agent from showing the home to their client. But most of the time, the most popular commission rate is the most popular commission rate for a reason, it’s market value for the work involved.

This is true on the listing side as well. The best agents won’t discount their rate because, why should they? They’re the best!

So you’re left with only the desperate, hungry agents will agree to a reduced commission. In the end, we all get what we pay for.

9. When Setting My Asking Price, I Should Always Leave Room For Negotiation

This might be the most common real estate myth of them all! It takes true savvy to know how to price a particular home. You need a extensive knowledge of the current market, what is selling quickly at each price point for every part of your city. It’s not easy but it’s incredibly important!

Elite real estate agents understand this. They can accurately identify true market value. Once that’s done, it’s been proven that pricing the home competitively from the start is the best way to get top dollar.

This is true because your listing will always get the greatest exposure when it first hits the market. Therefore, a competitively priced home in a seller’s market can often attract multiple offers. Cha-ching! Then, your only hurdle is passing appraisal.

Overpricing a home from the start is the surest way to have your house sit and sit and sit some more. The home will eventually need to be reduced in order to sell, why not price it right from the start?

10. Open Houses Are the Best Way to Sell Houses

What once was true is now ancient history. Not only is it now rare for a home to sell due to an open house, it’s also often for the wrong reason. The National Association of Realtors estimate that only 2% of homes are sold due to open houses.

In today’s society, we’re all moving at a hectic pace. Time is valuable. The internet let’s us view listings at the best time for our schedules. Then we also schedule our showings the same way.

Waiting until Sunday is no longer the norm. The open house has now become a tool that listing agents use to try and get more real estate clients for themselves.

Don’t forget, most buyers prefer to preview a property in private without a listing agent walking around promoting everything in sight.

Myths of the Real Estate Industry

Here I’ve collected five bonus myths of the real estate industry. See if any of these are ones you believe.

Bonus #1: All Real Estate Agents Make a Lot of Money

Real Estate Sales Agent - U.S. National Averages

As you can see, the median national salary of $38,866 is not exactly Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

The chart above tells only part of the story. In reality, the curve looks more like this. So, while those high-performing agents make a great deal of money, most real estate agents make far less.

It makes sense for people who have bought homes to see the commission amount on their closing statement. What they don’t know is that this amount goes the broker. The broker splits it with the agent according to their agreement. Then, the agent needs to take taxes, insurance, supplies, marketing and other variable costs of it.

What remains is their profit. And that number is under $40,000 nationally.

Here’s a piece I wrote about salaries in my Louisville real estate market.

Bonus #2: Home Inspectors Always Favor the Realtor

Inspectors can be recommended by your real estate agent but they work for you. You are their client. To help you believe that you’ve chosen wisely, they’re going to do everything in their power to find as many problems in a prospective home as possible.

The other side of the coin is that some home inspectors will try and sugarcoat a problem that might be a serious issue. The reason they might try this is because they do not want the deal to die and potential hurt their standing with the agent. Trustworthy Realtors won’t let this happen but not everyone in the business looks out for their client’s interest first.

With that said, home inspectors want a positive reputation in the market as well. A great rule of thumb is to work with professionals who aren’t new to their occupations. These are people who might make a novice mistake or compromise their principles to make a sale.

Bonus #3: Agents Will Say Anything Just to Make the Sale

This real estate myth might fall under the category of “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch.” Do people still say that?

Listen, I’ve been in this industry for more than a decade. I’ve worked with other agents, loan specialists, home improvement contractors, and even lawyers. (Yes, I listed lawyers last.) But throughout my experience the vast majority of real estate professionals are honest, hard working people, looking to do a good job.

Of course, every occupation has its share of rats. The barrier to entry for real estate agents isn’t very large. So perhaps we might have a larger share than most, but for every sleazy sales person who calls themselves a Realtor, I could find you 50 who are honest and want to serve you to the best of their abilities.

Select a full-time agent who isn’t just starting out and understand that long-term success is the #1 priority for most Realtors.

Bonus #4: Agents Get Kickbacks from Inspectors, Lenders, Etc.

Since the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) became law in 1974, getting a kickback from a service provider became illegal. This is definitely a real estate myth busted.

Some agents may try to skirt the law but the penalties are not worth the benefits; not by a long-shot. Losing their license would destroy years of work, not to mention harming their personal reputation.

Bonus #5: All Realtors Are Pretty Much the Same

Top 10 Real Estate Myths Busted! All Realtors Are Pretty Much the Same

All Realtors Are Pretty Much the Same – Top 10 Real Estate Myths Busted!

I saved this myth for last. Honestly, I’m not sure it holds much weight these days. It’s 2015! We’re all quite good at evaluating products and services, don’t you think? Why should real estate agents be any different?

There are outstanding agents! There are horrible agents! There are agents that quickly respond when you text them. There are also agents that couldn’t send you a text if their life depended on it.

Some agents focus on listing homes. Others prefer to help buyers.

We have agents who like to flip houses, while others prefer to manage rental properties.

Real estate agents are as varied as you will find in any occupation. Some like to have their faces splashed across billboards across the city. Others would be horrified that you even suggested it!

What it boils down to is what you need for your situation. Make a few calls. Ask lots of questions. In the end, just make sure you select a trustworthy Realtor that has your best interest at heart.

Photo of a Louisville KY home

Top 10 Selling Mistakes in Real Estate

Photo of a Louisville KY home

Just because you love your home doesn’t mean every buyer will. Avoid these Top 10 selling mistakes and you will find success selling your home in Louisville.

I’m always looking for ways to help my clients. Today, I’m even going to help all of you who are not (yet) my clients. I present the Top 10 Selling Mistakes in Real Estate.

Selling Mistake #10: Lopsided Listing Contracts

When sitting down with your agent make sure you are comfortable with the length of the listing contract. This figure is completely negotiable and both parties should come to an agreement before signing.

Contract length should be at least as long as the average Days on Market (DoM) for your area. Here in Louisville, that number has recently dropped and 3-month listings are now the most common.

It’s also a very good idea to ask about any remedies you would have if your agent doesn’t live up to their end of the bargain.

Selling Mistake #9: Misrepresenting Your Home

While it may be tempting to describe your family room as “a dream come true with more space than you could possibly imagine” in order to entice prospective buyers don’t do it. You need to remember that once a buyer arrives and discovers the room is average sized and not what you described, they will wonder what else you might be exaggerating about.

Don’t stretch the truth about square footage either, as buyers represented by Realtors are likely to notice the deception. As in life, honesty is the best policy.

Selling Mistake #8: Negotiation Failures

When you pick up that phone and hear those wonderful words coming from the other end, “We’ve got an offer!” you may think everything is golden. Just hold on a second. If you don’t negotiate the deal properly, things could go sideways and fast!

I’ve found that some sellers refuse to give ground in negotiations because they believe the buyer is already getting “a great deal.” It is very common for sellers to fail to bebe objective about their home because they’ve built an emotional attachment to it.

Market value is determined by comps. This is how true professionals help set the price. It’s not the seller, listing agent, buyer or buyer’s agent telling us the value… it’s the Louisville real estate market.

Selling Mistake #7: Lacking a Sales Strategy

Selling your home requires more than simply getting it listed in the MLS. There are literally hundreds of ways to promote a property.

Open Houses aren’t the powerhouse they used to be. Newspaper classifieds are a punch line. Direct mail? Sure, if you like to throw money away.

The real move since 2000 is digital promotion. Make sure the Realtor you choose is an Internet expert! Not all Louisville Realtors are, ask for proof.

Selling Mistake #6: Bad Timing

Sometimes you don’t have a choice. Your boss says, “You’re moving to Topeka” and it’s just a matter of time. This is unavoidable.

But if you can choose when to sell your Louisville home, here are a couple of points to remember. First, if you’ve only lived in the home a short time, consider staying a year or two longer. After only two years, you’ve barely built up enough equity in your home to cover closing costs and other fees.

Second, avoid listing your home during the holidays. Most buyers are focused on family during this time rather than shopping for a new house. In real estate circles, we call this the “dead period.”

There are other tricks here as well. As your professional Realtor, “Which is the best day of the week to list?” and see what he says.

Selling Mistake #5: Wrong Realtor

I can’t tell you how many times I hear someone tell me they’re using their Aunt or their sister’s cousin’s neighbor as their agent. Just because someone is related to you, doesn’t necessarily make them a good Realtor. It also doesn’t mean the won’t be.

Studies have shown that more than anything else, people want their agents to be trustworthy and professional. When it comes time for you to sell, interview multiple Louisville agents and learn about their work ethic and their strategy for marketing your property.

Some of the more successful agents feel like they’ve already paid their dues and don’t need to do the little things. It’s those “little things” that separate the good agents from the great agents.

Selling Mistake #4: For Sale by Owner

Current data from NAR states:

FSBOs accounted for 9% of home sales in 2012 and 2013. The typical FSBO home sold for $184,000 compared to $230,000 for agent-assisted home sales.

But that doesn’t mean you should always use an agent to sell your home. If your home is in one of those ultra hot neighborhoods and you’ve got a good understanding of the home selling process and you know how to price your home appropriately, then you might catch a break.

Keep in mind that there are a number of variables that might arise that would make having a professional on your side a wonderful thing. Never say “never” but you could find yourself months into the process with very few showings and even fewer offers. There’s a reason why the number of FiSBOs have dropped nationally.

Selling Mistake #3: Big Red Flags

There are certain problems that will scare off prospective buyers in a New York second. If your Louisville property has any of the following problems, you need to correct them before putting your home on the market:

  • foul odors
  • visible mold or mildew
  • siding or gutters that are separated from house
  • broken doors or windows
  • problems with the heating/cooling systems
  • “soft” floors or steps

Assuredly, some problems are bigger than others but problems like these will overshadow the positive qualities of your home.

Selling Mistake #2: Wrong Price

What used to be the most important aspect to selling your home is now second, and that’s the price. If the price is too high buyers won’t even consider your property.

A savvy Louisville Realtor will help you find comparable properties that have sold, as well as, what’s currently on the market. Also, how do your neighborhood compare to other parts of the city with similarly priced homes.

There are a dozen important factors to consider when determining the appropriate price. In the end, a good Realtor will set an appropriate price range for you and then ask you to select the Asking Price. It’s very important that you feel comfortable with the price.

Even though you can lower your price in the future, new listings get the most attention in the first couple of weeks after they come on the market and homes that stay on the market longer than average usually sell for less.

Selling Mistake #1: Poor Property Preparation

In today’s market, condition is huge! The move-in ready, shining and spotless homes are selling in the first week! (As long as none of the other Top 10 Selling Mistakes are made.)

Before listing your home, perform the following exercise. Drive up to your house and park on the street. Walk up the drive evaluating everything from the mailbox to the lawn and landscaping all the way up to the front door. What did you notice about your home?

A wise person once said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

If a buyer doesn’t like your home the first time they visit, they surely won’t return. Therefore, it’s critical to have your house “on its best behavior” when the guests arrive.

Remove as much clutter as possible. Make sure the grass is nicely trimmed. Turn on all the lights and open the blinds/curtains. Every little thing you do to show that your home is well-cared for will improve your odds of impressing those buyers.


If you can avoid these pitfalls, you will find yourself ahead of the game and well on your way to selling your Louisville home!

Interview From the Past

A few years back, I was interviewed by a writer for For those interested, here’s the piece which, apparently, is no longer on their website.

10 neighborhood homebuyer magnets

By Scot Meyer of SwitchYard Media

John Donne wrote that “No man is an island.” If he had been a real-estate broker, rather than a 17th-century English poet, he might have added that no house is, either. Context is everything, and neighborhoods matter.

According to a National Association of Realtors survey released in November, homebuyers say that the quality of a neighborhood (cited by 67% of respondents) was the biggest factor in determining where in a given area they would buy. The next top responses were affordability (45%) and convenience to family and friends (39%).

If you’re a home seller, you should know that certain neighborhood features are like magnets for some homebuyers, generating interest in your house even if it’s the ugliest one on the block.

Here are 10 factors to keep in mind and emphasize in your home listing.

Access to transportation

The ability to get to and from their neighborhood easily is important to homebuyers. The NAR study found that being near public transportation is important to 8% of buyers. That increases to 20% for buyers in urban or central neighborhoods.

In addition, 49% of homebuyers say that finding a house convenient to where they work influenced their neighborhood choice.

Attorney, mortgage broker and professor Dale Siegel says that easy access to transportation is particularly important in places such as New York City, where the difference between walking three blocks and 10 blocks to a subway station in the rain can be significant. But access can also be a selling point in suburban communities.

Siegel, who lives in Fort Lee, N.J., across the Hudson River from Manhattan, says that residents of her community appreciate that they can travel into Manhattan by bus or ferry and that they are near highways that can take them almost anywhere.

Good schools

School-district quality influenced the neighborhood choice of 27% of homebuyers in the NAR survey. That jumped to 55% for buyers with children younger than 18 but dropped to 13% for buyers without kids.

“One of the first questions I get from people relocating to the area is about the quality of the local schools,” says Cara Ameer, a real-estate agent with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. The issue is critical for people with children, she says. But it affects the resale value for buyers without children, too.

Nearby amenities

In a recent Coldwell Banker survey of real-estate agents, 68% say that their baby boomer clients sought proximity to restaurants and shops when looking for a home.

Siegel says the presence of these amenities signals that an up-and-coming urban neighborhood has “arrived.” “An area like Manhattan’s Lower East Side can become the hot new place to live, and everyone wants to move in,” Siegel says. “But that designation becomes more permanent when the services become available.”

Access to staples such as grocery stores and dry cleaners is important in suburban and exurban neighborhoods, as well.

Siegel says her brother chose to live in Surprise, Ariz., outside Phoenix, because of “the choice of stores, restaurants and other businesses within five miles of his house.”

Area architecture

In some neighborhoods, historical or architecturally significant homes can be a big draw for certain homebuyers.

“Other buyers are less specific,” Ameer says, “but they might tell me they’re looking for a neighborhood with character and charm or one that doesn’t look like the typical subdivision.”

Siegel points to Ridgewood, N.J., which has neighborhoods with Tudor-style homes and large yards, as the kind of community that would appeal to that kind of buyer. “Aesthetically, the town might be more desirable than places with cookie-cutter corner lots,” she says.

The NAR survey found that home design in a neighborhood is a consideration for 32% of homebuyers.


Buzz about a neighborhood can translate into buyer interest and higher sale prices, real-estate agents say.

“It’s an interesting marketing phenomenon,” says Tre Pryor, a real-estate agent in Louisville, Ky. “When an area becomes branded as the hot neighborhood, that reputation tends to stick, even though often it’s only 80% based on reality and 20% based on what people have heard or read.”

In Louisville, this is the case in the Highlands neighborhood, Pryor says. “It’s amazingly popular, and because of that, some neighboring communities have co-opted the brand and use it for themselves, even though they’re not technically part of the same area. It’s gotten to the point that the Highlands has started calling itself the ‘original Highlands.'”

Parks and outdoor spaces

Prospective homebuyers often appreciate having a park nearby, especially if they have children or pets, Ameer says. She also says that in her market, just outside Jacksonville, Fla., golf courses have appeal.

The NAR survey found that 18% of homebuyers say proximity to parks and recreation facilities influence their neighborhood choice. Among households with children, the number increases to 23%. For people buying homes in urban and central-city areas, it’s 22%.

Proximity to parks and recreation also has been deemed important by 34% of baby boomer homebuyers, according to Coldwell Banker’s survey of real-estate agents.

Low crime rate

People want to live where they feel safe. A low crime rate is key.

“Clients do ask about it, and it does affect the home’s value,” Pryor says, adding that real-estate agents refer people to objective online sources of local crime statistics, rather than sharing their opinions about “good” and “bad” neighborhoods.

People often are swayed as much by a neighborhood’s reputation for crime and violence as by actual statistics, Matthew Kaliner of Harvard University said in a 2008 study. In the study, he says that in Washington, D.C., a slight increase in the number of crime- or violence-related newspaper articles about a neighborhood could mean a $1,300 to $1,700 difference in a home’s sale price.

Your neighbors

The people who live in a community are important to home seekers, of course. But generalizing about what sort of neighbors make an area appealing is tricky. Research suggests that conservatives tend to like to live among conservatives and that liberals like to live among liberals, for example.

One factor to watch may be how long people have lived in the area. A study on neighborhood satisfaction and reputation from the journal Urban Studies in April noted that residents “who are satisfied with their neighborhood are thought not only to be less likely to move, but also to have a higher general quality of life.”

“Buyers always want the neighborhoods where there are the least amount of properties for sale,” Ameer says. “That’s very telling, because if people aren’t moving, they’re probably happy there.”

Local economy and stable home values

A home is a big investment, so buyers naturally are attracted to neighborhoods where property values are likely to go up rather than down. That means they may find a community without foreclosures or distressed properties more attractive. Pryor says that these neighborhoods are likely to see more sales and higher sale prices.

The market’s overall economic health also matters to homebuyers. Pryor wrote in a blog post last spring that the unemployment rate in Louisville is a major factor in market activity there. When more people are out of work, fewer people buy homes — and when jobs are plentiful, people move around.

Proximity to cultural experiences

Author and urban-studies theorist Richard Florida says members of a “creative class” — people whom cities want to attract and whom companies want to hire — prefer to live in neighborhoods with ethnic and cultural diversity, as well as easy access to nightlife, recreational facilities and the arts.

Convenient access to entertainment and leisure activities is a consideration in neighborhood choice for 21% percent of homebuyers, and 24% of unmarried couples, according to the NAR survey.

“People who want to be close to art galleries or other cultural amenities will definitely factor that into their search,” Ameer says, adding that Coldwell Banker’s website has a Lifestyle Search tool that can help people find neighborhoods that are hip, artsy and trendy.

Buying a Car Is Just Like Buying a House

When you go in search of that new pack of gum to buy, do you research the different brands, customer ratings and ingredients online first? Of course not! It’s a pack of gum. It’s a buck. Our time is too precious.

This makes a great deal of sense.

It stands to reason that as the price goes up the amount of time spent educating oneself should also increase, correct? As the kids say, “Obviously.”

So that brings us to today’s topic. We’re going to talk about the three ways that buying a car is just like buying a house. Then I’m going to hit you with the spoiler. Don’t skip to the end!

Right, let’s get started…

Time Spent Researching Cars vs. Time Spent Researching Houses

Just like buying a house: Low End

Often times the lower the value of the item, the more work it needs. But it should also come with a lower price tag.

When you need some wheels to get you from Point A to Point B and don’t have a lot of money to spend, what do you do? You buy a jalopie. A beater. A junker, clunker or bucket of bolts.

Odds are, you won’t spend nearly the amount of time on this purchase compared to buying a vintage Aston Martin.

The same holds true when buying a house. Most of the time, house hunters at the lower price levels will look at fewer homes and make their purchase faster than those in higher price tiers. It only stands to reason.

Car Investment vs. House Investment

Just like buying a house: Medium Tier

Middle class consumers are more likely buy a mid-size sedan along with a middle-tier house. After all, we’re all working our way on up!

So it’s not just time. It’s also money! Those looking to spend more money on their car are also more likely to spend more on their home.

Now, cars depreciate and homes appreciate but both are large purchases in the life of the consumer. And no, I’m not talking about leases, which are horrendous ways to finance a vehicle, I’m just referring to smart consumers looking to buy a medium priced car. These are the same folks who I’ll help buy their middle-tier home in St. Matthews or Jeffersontown.

These things work naturally the same way.

Car Criteria vs. House Criteria

Just like buying a house: High End

Now we’re talking! The life of the rich and famous, or at least those ready to put themselves in amazing debt.

When the price tag rises, so does the number of factors to consider. Satellite radio, heated leather seats and a navigation system please. Check.

Then my high-end home needs to come with high-end custom cabinets, a dedicated media room and an in-ground pool. Yes, I do believe it does.

Once the money starts flying, the number of criteria for both cars and houses goes through the roof!

Spoiler: Expert Assistance

Ok, now my spoiler. Ready?

In the case of purchasing your car, you’re basically on your own. Sure… the sales person at Tafel Motors dealership appears to be helpful, but all the while, they want you to buy their Mercedes and not drive down the street to Sam Swope BMW.

That’s where the buyer’s agent is different. We don’t care which house you buy. We just want you to be happy with your purchase. That way you’ll continue to use us in the future and recommend all your friends to us. (You will recommend all your friends to me, right?)

At the end of the day, the Realtor who helps you buy your home is actually on your side (or at least they should be, if they’re smart.)

But other than that… buying a car is just like buying a house.

Top 10 Professional Home Staging Tips for Louisville Sellers

Professional home staging tips is a major part of selling your home fast. And at the highest possible price! Properties that aren’t well-staged, remain on the market longer and end up selling for less than they are truly worth.

Don’t let this happen to you.

Great home staging can take your ordinary, ho-hum house and instantly make it feel more spacious, warmer, brighter and more welcoming! So, let’s jump right in.

Professional Home Staging Tips

Professional staging begins on the outside of your home. Potential buyers scrutinize your house as they drive up, park and exit their vehicle. First impressions are huge!

We are talking about everything they see. From the trees and landscaping, to the roof, windows, and even walkways, all will be carefully critiqued as these real estate clients walk up to your home.

#1 Make Your Front Door Inviting

Professional Home Staging Tips: Make Your Front Door Inviting

Your home’s front door is the single most powerful element of a potential home buyer’s first impression. Buyers have extra time to assess your home as their agent uses his/her technology tool to gain entrance to the property… sometimes up to 60 seconds!

Pay extra attention to the cleanliness and condition of your front door and the immediate area around it. There should be no cobwebs, windows should be clean and the doors hardware should be in great working condition. Front doors are a great place to put that splash of color as well. Make a great first impression!

#2 Declutter, Declutter and Declutter Some More

Professional Home Staging Tips: Declutter, Declutter and Declutter Some More

Having a clean home is mandatory, that’s why I didn’t include it on this list because you’ve already done that, right? But while you clean, also declutter. If you want to sell your home fast, this is the tip that’s going to make it happen.

I’m sure you love your knick-knacks, trinkets and tsotchke but I promise, potential home buyers will be far less impressed. Pack it up, move it out and you can thank me later.

#3 Eliminate Personalized Items

Professional Home Staging Tips: Eliminate Personalized Items

Now that we’ve decluttered, it’s time to remove personal items like photographs, plaques and other items that remind potential buyers that someone else lives here. Instead, we want them to picturethemselves in this space.

Rather than a beloved child’s art project, use a modern vase and flower arrangement. The goal is to make the decor less personal and more neutral, like an upscale hotel or a photo of a beautiful room in a magazine.

#4 Highlight Your Home’s Beat Features

Professional Home Staging Tips: Highlight Your Home’s Beat Features

Does your home back up to a lake? Draw the visitors outside with welcoming furniture. Maybe your home has an incredible fireplace. Light it for showings and instantly set the mood.

The same goes for any special, custom feature that puts your home above the competition. Maybe those are the features that initially drew you to buying this home. Promote these features, you never know what might “hook” the buyer.

#5 Less Furniture, Strategically Position

Professional Home Staging Tips: Less Furniture, Strategically Position

The bigger the home, the more it’s worth, right? You can’t increase actual size of your home, but you can enhance its perceived size!

Begin by removing all largest pieces of furniture in each in each increase the feeling of space. Then move furniture away from the walls and into warm vignettes. If a room has two large sofas and three chairs, remove one sofa and one chair then rearrange the remaining pieces for a functional yet more spacious space.

#6 Picture Perfect Exteriors

Professional Home Staging Tips: Picture Perfect Exteriors

Don’t forget your outdoor spaces! We’ve already talked about the importance of a great first impression with your home’s front door, but you should also pay close attention to how your backyard appears to potential buyers.

Backyards are huge to today’s home buyers. Staging your home’s landscaping is actually quite simple and less expensive than most other updates. Don’t miss out on this incredible simple but one of the most powerful professional home staging tips.

#7 Appropriate Use of Color

Professional Home Staging Tips: Appropriate Use of Color

We want your home’s largest spaces (walls, floors and ceilings) to feel warm but neutral. Outrageous color on the walls is a universal turn-off. But, this doesn’t mean that the whole space should be bland. Bathrooms are great places to utilize today’s trendy color.

Add additional color via throws and pillows on beds or sofas. This instantly adds the feeling of warmth and comfort to the rooms of your home. Include eye-catching “pops” of color to a space with accessories for shelves, wall nooks or tables. Less is more, but if done well, your home will give off that professionally staged vibe.

#8 Make It Fresh

Professional Home Staging Tips: Make It Fresh

Fresh is best! Change up your daily towels with beautiful guest towels. Replace artificial flowers to fresh flowers. It’s a simple tip, but it goes a long way to make a grand impression on your guests. Don’t forget about your outdoor spaces too!

#9 Set the Mood

Professional Home Staging Tips: Set the Mood

Making sure all of your lights are on is the first step. You can go further by setting the mood with lightly scented candles or room fresheners. The key word here is lightly. If it’s too powerful, people won’t like it and may think your home has some bad odor that you are trying to hide.

Soft, modern music is another way to set the mood and invite your guests to take their time touring your Louisville home.

#10 Lights, Camera, Action!

Professional Home Staging Tips: Lights, Camera, Action!

How many times have you heard a visitor rave about a room’s “light and airy” feel? The key portion of that overused phrase is light. It’s almost impossible to have too much light when it comes to staging your home to sell.

Draw open all the curtains, pull up the blinds, and make sure all the lights are on before the showing. Got any burned out bulbs? Don’t you forget to replace them with new ones, trust me on this one.


Most of these professional home staging tips are simple. When you follow what the pros do, you are putting your home above the competition and increasing its chance to sell fast and for more money.

Selling your home is an emotional process. It’s key to connect to potential buyers emotionally. A professionally staged home let’s them see themselves in this space, essentially letting them come home.

Women Call the Shots When It Comes to Real Estate

When I first got into Louisville real estate, Howard Stacey, a successful broker for Semonin once said, “Real estate is a woman’s business.” He didn’t mean it in a demeaning way, quite the opposite, he wanted us to know that when it comes to real estate women call the shots.

At the time, I thought the comment odd. I mean, looking at the leading agents in our company, sure there were some great female agents in the top echelon but the leading Louisville Realtors were men.

Now that I have almost a decade of experience under my belt, I can see the wisdom in Mr. Stacey’s words. Let me ask you a couple of questions that highlight my point.

  1. Most of the time, when searching for a new home, does the man or the woman have stronger feelings about their “must have” items?
  2. When a family sells their home, does the husband or wife have the harder time dealing with the move?
  3. Often the man does a larger share of the home improvement projects but from whom did he receive his marching orders?

I think you get the picture.

With that in mind, let’s look at a few photos that showcase the flair that sometimes happens when women call the shots. (If you have more great examples, please share them in the comments below.)

Women call the shots on pillows

Women Call the Shots on Pillows
Obviously, when it comes to pillows, women call the shots. A man needs just one and sometimes not even that.

No brainer here, right? I’m starting you off with an easy one. It’s so obvious, it’s the stuff of comedians!

Women call the shots on the pantry

Women Call the Shots on the Pantry
There’s organized and then there’s this!

Things simply work better when things are in their proper place. Logical. But every good practice can be taken to a completely unhealthy level. Goodness gracious!

If you are a man and your pantry looks like the one above, my heart goes out to you brother. 99.9% sure a woman is behind this obscene display of pantry full-on functionality.

Women call the shots on flowers

Women Call the Shots on Flowers
What do you wanna bet this guy’s smile is fake?

Now listen, I’m all for make sure that the exterior of your home is presentable. Trees, grass and throw in a couple of shrubs. Sure.

But if your property looks like an English garden then there’s a woman to blame. It’s a completely different mentality, one I (apparently) simply can’t fathom.

Women call the shots on the kitchen

Women Call the Shots on the Kitchen
Is all this hardwood trim and molding needed in order to better prepare my hamburger?

Kitchens can run the gamut from the stark utilitarian all the way up to the kind of artistic statement worthy of Degas or Rembrandt. Chances are, if your kitchen is trending towards the high end of that spectrum, there’s a woman to blame (or congratulate).

Women call the shots on wallpaper

Women Call the Shots on Wallpaper
My eyes! My eyes!!!

Is there ever the right time to use wallpaper in your home? The correct answer is, “No” but that doesn’t stop some women.

Looking for a pop of color? I’ve got a professional tip for you… there’s this stuff call paint comes in a large number of different colors. You’re welcome.

Women call the shots on the bathroom

Women Call the Shots on the Bathroom
When I first saw this I thought it was an optical illusion. But no, the floor covering is the same as the wall covering.

How many times have you been watching HGTV and hear someone exclaim, “I need my master bath to be an oasis.” Yeah, I know. It’s a troubling trend.

Odds are you didn’t hear those words coming from a man’s mouth. When it comes down to it, the only room that a man can call his own is the garage… and that just barely.

Women call the shots on the dining room

Women Call the Shots on the Dining Room
Well… uh, um… there are no words.

It’s not that this room is any more or less the woman’s domain, it’s just the best example of a photo where a woman’s sensibilities were on full display.

I mean, it looks like a something out of a fairy-tale princess’ castle. I’m speechless.


Hope you had fun reading through these examples. Understand that it’s all in good fun (please no hate mail). Men and woman just want different things. But gentlemen, if you’re out house hunting, save yourself some heartache and just let the women call the shots.

Live to fight another day.

Top 6 Things You Don’t Want Visitors to See When They Visit Your Home

It’s not difficult to find the best tips on home staging when you’re selling your home. I keep my Top 10 Ways to Prepare Your Louisville Home For Sale updated each year.

What might be more difficult to find are the “dont’s” of home preparation. What are the things we don not want prospective buyers to see?

Let’s count down the Top 6 things you don’t want visitors to see when they visit your home.

#6 Family Photos and Memorabilia

Photo of a strange family
Just because you love your family, doesn’t mean everyone will.

I think this tip is fairly well-known. If visitors see all the photos of your beautiful children, it’s clear this is someone else’s home. Instead, we want them to envision this house as their potential home.

Plus, some photos can be quite distracting, taking the visitors out of “housing hunting” mode. Remove the memorabilia and present your home as a blank canvas… ready for a new family to make their own.

#5 Valuables

Photo of valuables left out
Keep jewelry out in plain view. It might be a temptation too great for kleptomaniacs.

Some visitors might not be the most honest folks. It’s better not leave anything out to tempt them.

Anything that you consider valuable should be inside a safe, locked in a cabinet or at least out of plain sight. Just think, if it can be sold quickly at a pawn shop, put it away.

#4 Statement Makers

Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of congress but i repeat myself
Not everyone shares the same beliefs. So don’t give a prospective buyer a reason to get mad.

Today, almost nothing is as divisive as politics. But more than that, any item that forces a strong opinion should be hidden from visitors. Here in Kentucky, both UK and UofL fans can see what we mean, right?

#3 Weapons

Photo of a gun mounted above fireplace
This gun is probably not loaded but you never know.

Makes sense right? Why leave a gun or knife laying around? The liability alone should scare you to death.

Bottom line, if it can hurt someone, store it away. Wouldn’t want to make the evening news because of housing hunter went squirrel hunting with your loaded weapon.

#2 Anything Risque

Giorgione, Sleeping Venus
What some call art, others call pornography.

You want visitors to be focused on the house: the rooms, the layout, the upgrades… not the nude sculpture in the living room.

After visiting six properties, you certainly don’t want the buyers remembering your home as the one with all naked people on the walls.

#1 Taxidermy

Photo of room with mounted dead animal heads on the walls
Mounting dead animal heads on your wall is so 2nd Century.

Not everyone is a hunter. But even if they were, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to display your mounted, stuffed or otherwise preserved a dead animal to potential home buyers.

You’ve just landed the biggest deal killer (pun intented) of the bunch.


Hopefully these Top 6 Things You Don’t Want Visitors to See on home showings can help if you’re looking to sell my Louisville home quickly. If you need any other advice, always happy to help.

Most Affordable Cities To Live, Think Louisville

Louisville 8th in Most Affordable Cities to Live. Photo of riverfront
Louisville has so much going for it. Now we’re super affordable? Get out!

The smart people over at Forbes sorted through the Top 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and Metropolitan Divisions (MDs) to find which are the most affordable cities to live in the U.S. Each has a populations of 600,000 plus, so no small towns, which likely would have lapped the field in this contest.

Obviously, cities like New York City, Los Angeles and Honolulu did not make the Top 10. They’re simply too expensive. But which cities did make the affordability list?

Well, I wouldn’t be writing about it if Louisville hadn’t made it the list. Where did we rank? Number eight! That’s pretty cool, huh?

The rankings are made up of Cost of Living index weighted roughly 68% and the Housing Opportunity Index weighted around 32%. Real estate is certainly part of the equation but this way things you spend money on regularly are given more emphasis.

Without further ado.

Top 10 Most Affordable Cities to Live in the U.S.

  1. Buffalo, NY
    Population: 1,135,509 | Housing Opportunity Index: 88.5 | Cost-of-living index: 96.1
  2. Memphis, TN
    Population: 1,316,100 | Housing Opportunity Index: 78.7 | Cost-of-living index: 91.8
  3. Cincinnati, OH
    Population: 2,130,151 | Housing Opportunity Index: 83.8 | Cost-of-living index: 96.5
  4. Dayton, OH
    Population: 841,502 | Housing Opportunity Index: 85.4 | Cost-of-living index: 97.4
  5. Knoxville, TN
    Population: 698,030 | Housing Opportunity Index: 77.4 | Cost-of-living index: 88.9
  6. Akron, OH
    Population: 703,200 | Housing Opportunity Index: 86.8 | Cost-of-living index: 98.5
  7. Grand Rapids, MI
    Population: 774,160 | Housing Opportunity Index: 85.1 | Cost-of-living index: 97.6
  8. Louisville, KY
    Population: 1,283,566 | Housing Opportunity Index: 77.4 | Cost-of-living index: 92.4
  9. Oklahoma City, OK
    Population: 1,252,987 | Housing Opportunity Index: 77.8 | Cost-of-living index: 92.9
  10. Warren, MI
    Population: 2,475,666 | Housing Opportunity Index: 81.9 | Cost-of-living index: 98.7

Looks like Ohio is doing amazingly well with three cities in the Top 10. Tennessee also had two representatives in these rankings. In a bit of surprise, top honors go to upstate New York and Buffalo.

When we include the following cities to round out the Top 20 we get a number of cities in the South and Midwest but not a single city out West.

The Next Most Affordable Cities to Live in the U.S.

11. Toledo, OH (tie)
11. Detroit, MH (tie)
12. Birmingham, Ala.
13. St. Louis, Mo.
14. Virginia Beach, Va
15. Jacksonville, Fla.
16. Pittsburgh, Pa.
17. Tulsa, Okla.
18. Tampa, Fla.
19. Syracuse, N.Y.
20. Columbus, Ohio

Interesting to note that not a single city in Texas made the Top 20. That surprises me.

Very interesting stuff if you’re thinking about relocating and want to know where you can stretch your dollars the farthest. If your’re making a move, it’s smart to consider which are the most affordable cities To live before contacting a Realtor.

World Loves Louisville; Fodor’s Says “Go!”

You know who Fodor’s is, right? You don’t?!? Ok, I didn’t either, until I looked it up found out that they’re the “world’s largest publisher of English language travel and tourism information” so… they’ve got that going for them.

Fodor's take on why the World loves Louisville
Beautiful shot of a Woodford bottle that contains, uh… the best stuff on the planet–bourbon!

Well, since they obviously know a thing or two about great places to select for travel, it makes sense that the world loves Louisville because, well… Louisville is awesome!

Fodor’s made sure to include Louisville, Kentucky (special highlight to bourbon) as part of their Go List 2015. Here’s part of what they had to say.

Why Go Now: Amid the ongoing bourbon renaissance, Kentucky is ready for its close-up. In the rolling hills outside Louisville, bourbon distilleries give memorable tours through historic warehouses and production facilities, topped with flavorful tastings of the state’s signature drink. You can visit a handful of distilleries and still have time for a late-afternoon horse ride through the Kentucky bluegrass. In Louisville, the foodie scene continues to thrive, whether in high-end restaurants like Proof on Main or hipster joints like Garage Bar. At night, hit the Urban Bourbon Trail to sample some of the brands you missed during your distillery tours. Along with sleek hotels like 21C Museum Hotel and top-notch museums, there’s everything you need here for an eventful long weekend.

Sounds like they mean business. Gotta get in on that hot, bourbon action people.

For the full blow write-up, head over to Fodor’s take on Bourbon Country and Louisville, Kentucky.