By Sarah Anderson, vice president marketing, VHT Studios
Have you found yourself in the past month mysteriously decluttering and refolding your clothes, all the while holding each one in your hands and pondering if they truly “spark joy?”
Since the release of Netflix’s newest hit show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, decluttering and reorganizing our homes has become a virtual overnight sensation. It seems everyone around us is in a tizzy decluttering and reorganizing their belongings and proudly posting their results on social media.
But the KonMarie method of tidying up applies not just to keeping your drawers neat and organized. KonMarie can also be applied during this spring’s real estate season. That’s why now is the perfect time to “Marie Kondo” your condo – whether it’s a starter home or townhouse, or a luxurious mansion or penthouse with downtown or ocean views.
Tidying up a real estate listing and preparing it for sale doesn’t have to be stress-inducing and labor intensive either. One of the hottest trends in real estate – virtual staging technology – can certainly help.
“Marie Kondo”-ing your condo or home doesn’t have to involve identifying, and purging clothes, books, knickknacks, or kitchenware and hauling them to the resale shop. Popular virtual staging tools used by the most successful real estate professionals are a powerful way to apply the KonMarie method to help home owners “spark joy” by selling their homes quickly and at the best price.
1. Virtual Declutter
Virtual Declutter is photographing each room in a condo or home and combining science with an artist’s eye to eliminate clutter from walls, floors, and countertops. It will impress buyers, without the added labor and cost of decluttering, furnishing, and renovating a home.
Virtual Declutter can magically remove personal effects and knickknacks from surfaces in a photograph and present a more spacious and visually appealing
home. And of course, that will help to “spark joy” among prospective buyers.
For instance, many older Americans in downsizing mode have accumulated a lot of stuff that will be passed down or donated so they can move into a more compact and clutter-free home. If they’ve procrastinated in sorting out their belongings for showings, offer the Virtual Declutter tool as part of their real estate photography package. Whether a home has stunning architectural features that are lost in clutter, or it’s a starter apartment or studio, Virtual Declutter can be applied to any listing photograph and dazzle prospective buyers.
2. Virtual Paint
Real estate professionals may want to consider other virtual tools that are presenting a listing in the best possible light too. Walls covered with faded paint or outdated wallpaper won’t elicit feelings of joy for increasingly discerning buyers. That’s where Virtual Paint can refresh any wall and eliminate hassles of hiring a painter and waiting for project completion.
3. Virtual Stage and Furnish
For vacant listings, or those with outdated furniture, Virtual Stage and Furnish can fill a vacant room with furnishing without the expense or inconvenience of having to rent and move in tables, chairs, sofasm or beds. Let’s face it – not everyone’s design choices will put smiles on today’s buyers’ faces. They’re not interested in seeing the owners’ tastes in furniture and décor.
Virtual Stage and Furnish alters the décor of a room, based on the likely style preferences of potential buyers and how they may use each room in a home. Virtual Stage and Furnish can even transform a bedroom into an office, or a nursery into an exercise room or library.
Also, there’s no joy in a vacant home, which is often devoid of personality. Even worse, it’s hard for buyers to visualize how their furniture will fit in a vacant living room or bedroom. By virtually staging and furnishing it, you can provide a frame of reference for where the sofa will go, or the available space for nightstands or a comfy chaise in the bedroom.
Buyers want to envision their own lifestyle in their next home and increasingly expect a real estate listing to appeal to their tastes and preferences. Virtual tools may help clients better envision the possibilities of properties and spark some joy as they view the homes. And remember, that’s what the KonMarie method is all about.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Anderson is Vice President Marketing at VHT Studios, the nation’s leading real estate photography and visual marketing firm.
The fireplace is a hot home accessory to accent when a home is for sale, and a little staging can go a long way in giving it the attention it deserves. Staging and real estate professionals submitted some of their favorite staging photos and tips for our new slideshow, How I Staged It: Give the Fireplace Top Billing. Check out these stunningly staged fireplaces for ideas to inspire your own staging.
Want to have your photos featured? We’re looking for staging insights and photos for making over the entryway and dining room. Submit your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NAR released a summary of pending home sales data showing that December’s pending home sales pace was down 2.2 percent last month and fell 9.8 percent from a year ago.
Pending sales represent homes that have a signed contract to purchase on them but have yet to close. They tend to lead existing-home sales data by 1 to 2 months.
All four regions showed declines from a year ago. The South had the biggest drop in sales of 13.5 percent. The West fell 10.8 percent followed by the Midwest with a decline of 7.2 percent. The Northeast had the smallest dip in sales of 2.5 percent.
From last month, three of the four regions showed declines in contract signings. The South region had the biggest drop of 5.0 percent. The Northeast fell 2.0 percent followed by the Midwest with a dip of 0.6 percent. The only region with an incline in contract signings was the West, which had a gain of 1.7 percent.
The U.S. pending home sales index level for the month was 99.0. November’s data was revised up to 101.2.
December’s decline was the pending index’s first drop below the 100 mark after 55 consecutive months over the 100 level.
The 100 level is based on a 2001 benchmark and is consistent with a healthy market and existing home sales above the 5 million mark.
In recent years, we’ve seen increased popularity in glass and steel for front doors and shower enclosures on Houzz. But good ideas spread quickly. We’re seeing more glass and steel dividers between interior rooms and expect that to continue in 2019. They give an open feeling while still providing some privacy and noise control, along with a stylish graphic element or contrasting color to otherwise white walls.
Black is entering kitchens in a bigger way. Black range hoods, island accent colors, and all-black cabinets are popping up in more designs. Houzz predicts more kitchens featuring black cabinets paired with white walls, backsplash and countertops for a dynamic and sophisticated contrast.
In the kitchen, built-in bench seating in a dining nook is not only trendy but also offers extra storage as an added bonus. Designers are bringing in bench furniture pieces, which offer an affordable and convenient alternative. “It turns almost any dining spot into more of a lounge area, and you can tuck a few storage baskets underneath for blankets, games, place settings and more, giving you the feeling of a banquette without the commitment,” Houzz notes.
The modern farmhouse look is still going strong throughout the home, but exteriors are also reflecting it now too. “The board and batten method of construction delivers that homey look and adds texture and interest to what might otherwise be a flat facade,” Houzz notes.
Wood vanities can help bring a large dose of warmth to the bathroom. Wooden vanities have long been popular on Houzz, but the latest designs are turning toward reclaimed wood or light wood with clear stains that draw out grain pattern details and knots.
The REALTORS® Confidence Index (RCI) survey gathers monthly information from REALTORS® about local real estate market conditions, characteristics of buyers and sellers, and issues affecting homeownership and real estate transactions. This report presents key results about market transactions from December 2018. View and download the full report here.
Market Conditions and Expectations
The REALTORS® Buyer Traffic Index registered at 48 (66 in December 2017).
The REALTORS® Seller Traffic Index registered at 39 (47 in December 2017).
The REALTORS® Confidence Index—Six–Month Outlook Current Conditions registered at 59 for detached single-family, 48 for townhome, and 46 for condominium properties. An index above 50 indicates market conditions are expected to improve.
Properties were typically on the market for 46 days (40 days in December 2017).
Seventy-five percent of respondents reported that home prices remained constant or rose in December 2018 compared to levels one year ago (90 percent in December 2017).
Characteristics of Buyers and Sellers
First-time buyers accounted for 32 percent of sales (32 percent in December 2017).
Vacation and investment buyers comprised 13 percent of sales (16 percent in December 2017).
Sales of distressed properties (foreclosed or sold as a short sale) accounted for two percent of sales (five percent in December 2017).
Cash sales made up 22 percent of sales (20 percent in December 2017).
Twenty-two percent of sellers offered incentives such as paying for closing costs (10 percent), providing warranty (9 percent), and undertaking remodeling (3 percent).
Issues Affecting Buyers and Sellers
From October–December 2018, 75 percent of contracts settled on time (71 percent in December 2017).
Among sales that closed in December 2018, 74 percent had contract contingencies. The most common contingencies pertained to home inspection (54 percent), obtaining financing (45 percent), and getting an acceptable appraisal (42 percent).
REALTORS® report “interest rate” and “low inventory” as the major issues affecting transactions in December 2018.
About the RCI Survey
The RCI Survey gathers information from REALTORS® about local market conditions based on their client interactions and the characteristics of their most recent sales for the month.
The December 2018 survey was sent to 50,000 REALTORS® who were selected from NAR’s more than 1.3 million members through simple random sampling and to 9,600 respondents in the previous three surveys who provided their email addresses.
There were 5,886 respondents to the online survey which ran from January 2-11, 2019. The survey’s overall margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level is one percent. The margins of error for subgroups and sample proportions of below or above 50 percent are larger.
NAR weighs the responses by a factor that aligns the sample distribution of responses to the distribution of NAR membership.
The REALTORS® Confidence Index is provided by NAR solely for use as a reference. Resale of any part of this data is prohibited without NAR’s prior written consent. For questions on this report or to purchase the RCI series, please email: Data@realtors.org
 Thanks to George Ratiu, Managing Director, Housing and Commercial Research and Gay Cororaton, Research Economist for their data analysis and comments to the RCI Report.
 Respondents report on the most recent characteristics of their most recent sale for the month.
 An index greater than 50 means more respondents reported conditions as “strong” compared to one year ago than “weak.” An index of 50 indicates a balance of respondents
who viewed conditions as “strong” or “weak.”
 The difference in the sum of percentages to the total percentage of sellers who offered incentives is due to rounding.
NAR released a summary of existing-home sales data showing that housing market activity this December, fell after two straight months of gains and was down 6.4 percent from November. Sales of existing-homes dropped 10.3 percent from December 2017. December’s existing-home sales reached a 4.99 million seasonally adjusted annual rate.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $253,600 in December, up 2.9 percent from a year ago. This marks the 82nd consecutive month of year-over-year gains.
Regionally, three of the four regions showed growth in prices from a year ago, with the Midwest remaining flat. The Northeast had largest gain of 8.2 percent followed by the South with a gain of 2.5 percent. The West had a modest gain of 0.2 percent from December 2017.
December’s inventory figures are down from last month 10.9 percent to 1.55 million homes for sale. Compared with December of 2017, there was a 6.2 percent increase in inventory levels. It will take 3.7 months to move the current level of inventory at the current sales pace. It takes approximately 46 days for a home to go from listing to a contract in the current housing market, up from 40 days a year ago.
From November 2018, the Midwest experienced the largest decline in sales of 11.2 percent. The Northeast had a decline of 6.8 percent followed by the South with a dip of 5.4 percent. The West had the smallest decline of 1.9 percent.
All four regions showed declines in sales from a year ago. The West had the biggest drop in sales of 15.0 percent. The Midwest had a decline of 10.5 percent followed by the South with a drop of 8.7 percent. The Northeast had the smallest drop in sales of 6.8 percent. The South led all regions in percentage of national sales, accounting for 41.9 percent of the total, while the Northeast had the smallest share at 13.8 percent.
In December, single-family sales were down 5.5 percent and condominiums sales were down 12.9 percent compared to last month. Single-family home sales fell 10.1 percent and condominium sales were down 11.5 compared to a year ago. Single-family homes had an increase in price up 2.9 percent at $255,200 and condominiums rose 2.3 percent at $240,600 from December 2017.