Autumn: The Deadliest Season For Pedestrians

Across the country, leaves turn crimson, the air gets crisper and thoughts turn to the end-of-the-year holidays. It can be downright distracting which is why, perhaps, that fall is when the country experiences the largest number of pedestrian fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSA).

While adults older than 64 account for the largest number of pedestrian fatalities, children under the age of 16 make up the second largest group. Let’s take a look at three fall events that contribute to the high number of child pedestrian fatalities.

Getting To And From School

Slower speeds in school zones and regulations about passing school busses help keep kids safe when they’re near their schools. However,

One-third of child pedestrian fatalities happen after school

And, they happen between 3 and 7 p.m., according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). Kids are easily distracted, so it’s up to the adult motorist to be mindful and pay attention while driving through neighborhoods, near parks and other places where children tend to congregate.

In fact, slowdown in these areas. “A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster,” suggests the experts at AAA.

They also caution us to pay attention when vehicles in front of us stop – and don’t shoot past them. They may be stopping to allow pedestrians to cross.

Parents of young children should remind them, consistently, of pedestrian safety rules:

  • Always use a crosswalk.
  • Look both ways, TWICE, before crossing the street.
  • Make eye contact with a driver who stops to allow you to cross. Make sure the driver actually sees you.
  • Never chase a ball, pet or anything else into the street.
  • Never play in, under or around parked vehicles.

Saving Daylight

There’s more to Daylight Savings than setting your clock back an hour in the fall. Carnegie Mellon University scientists claim that pedestrians are three times more likely to be killed by a vehicle when we “fall behind” in autumn (this year we’ll do that before going to bed on Saturday, November 4).

“The change that’s going to occur [when we set our clocks back] is going to have some pronounced effects on your risks of walking between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.,” Carnegie Mellon’s Dr. David Gerard said. “Basically, these are the hours when it’s just getting dark. But people walking and people driving won’t have adjusted. The baseline risk for getting killed is almost tripled.”

He goes on to say that

pedestrians are at the highest risk on the evening after we make the switch and remains high for the following two weeks until drivers have adjusted to the reduction in daylight during their evening commute.

Halloween Nightmares

Halloween is a blast for kids but not so much for their parents. Checking the goody bag for tainted candy is just one concern, however.

“Kids have a greater chance of being fatally injured by a car on Halloween than any other day of the year, including the Fourth of July and New Year’s Day,” according to State Farm® Insurance and Sperling’s BestPlaces.

The study reveals that most of the fatalities happened in the middle of a block and to kids age 12 to 15 and they were perpetrated by drivers between the ages of 15 and 25.

The deadliest hours on Halloween? Between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Halloween is the ideal time to remind younger children of safety rules and for cautioning young drivers to be extra alert. No cellphones, no playing with the radio and keep the passengers in their seats and quiet.

Parents can provide additional protection to their trick-or-treaters by using reflective tape on costumes, shoes and goody bags. Purchase small flashlights or glow sticks for them to carry, providing additional visibility for drivers.

Stay safe out there!

What You Don’t Know About Adjustable Rate Mortgages May Cost You

When shopping for a mortgage, have you noticed how much lower the rates are for a variable mortgage than a fixed?

For example, as of this writing, the average 30-year fixed-mortgage rate is 3.69 percent, while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM, is 3.09 percent, according to BankRate.com.

Despite this, many borrowers shy away from ARMs, based on the horror stories they read in the media or hear from friends and family.

Now, we aren’t mortgage experts, but we know plenty of them. Here are some things to consider about the adjustable rate mortgage that they want you to know about.

What Is An Adjustable Rate Mortgage?

The ARM is a mortgage loan program with a fixed rate for a pre-determined amount of time. After that, the rate may vary, either up or down, depending on which major mortgage index it is tied to (MTA, COFI or LIBOR).

A popular ARM is the 5/1, where the 5 means that the loan carries a fixed rate for the first five years and the 1 is the number of annual adjustments you may expect.

The second number, by the way, doesn’t always indicate this. “ … there is no set formula defining what the second number indicates,” cautions the staff at Investopedia.com.

ARMs Aren’t Scary, If You Understand Them

The Great Recession: that was one rough period we went through from December 2007 to June 2009. In fact, it’s considered our economy’s “largest downturn since the Great Depression,” according to the experts at Investopedia.com.

The housing crisis hit Americans hard, zapping their home equity. Those who bought their homes with little- or no-documentation “liar loans,” with ARM products, were particularly hard-hit.

Since the lenders pretty much disregarded whether or not the borrower had the ability to repay the loan, and handed them out like candy, millions of homeowners found themselves with a mortgage payment that skyrocketed just as they were laid off from their jobs.

Unemployment checks can be stretched only so far – so, naturally, with falling home values, when the adjustable period on their mortgages kicked in, many homeowners bailed, walking away from their homes.

Today, proof of the ability to repay a loan is the new norm in the mortgage industry.

But the ARM’s nasty reputation remains. In fact, CNBC‘s real estate correspondent Diana Olick claims that “A wide swath of borrowers today may be paying far too much on their home loans, simply because they are overly cautious.”

It’s a pity, however, because the ARM offers a valid alternative to the fixed rate mortgage for many homebuyers.

An ARM May Be The Ideal Solution When Interest Rates Rise

Funny how myths persist, right? No, the iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign and, indeed, the Las Vegas Strip aren’t located in the City of Las Vegas, Mozart did not compose “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and Abner Doubleday didn’t invent baseball.

Many Americans are under the misconception that when interest rates are on the rise, the adjustable rate mortgage is even riskier. Matt Weaver, with Finance of America Mortgage, however, says otherwise.

“ARMs are more attractive when 30-year interest rates increase,” he tells Olick.

This is because most ARMs carry caps, which limit how much the interest rate can change during the adjustment period. So, even if rates were to skyrocket, your rate can only go so high.

On the flipside, it’s probably not a good move to go with an ARM when mortgage rates are low, according to Matthew Frankel at MotleyFool.com.

“Simply put,” he says, “with interest rates still just above record lows, the probability that rates will be lower once the initial teaser rate expires is not good.”

At current low rates, “30-year fixed-rate mortgages are cheap enough that it’s simply not worth taking the risk of a big increase in the mortgage payment a few years down the road,” he concludes.

ARM Rates, At First Glance, May Not Appear Much Lower Than Fixed Rates 

There is a potential savings from $10,000 to $20,000 with an ARM over a jumbo loan, according to Navy Federal’s Katie Miller.

“That’s enough money for a down-payment on a car, or part of your child’s college tuition.”

One way to learn how much you might save is to use an online fixed vs. adjustable rate mortgage calculator.

Who Should Consider An Adjustable Rate Mortgage

The ARM is an inexpensive way “for borrowers who don’t plan on living in one place for very long to buy a house,” say the experts at BankRate.com. And, according to the National Association of Realtors, the average time a homeowner lives in a home before selling, varies by age group.

Millennials, for instance, will typically sell their homes within five years of the purchase, whereas older Americans tend to stay put, on average, for 13 years.

The ARM may also be a good choice for the borrower who expects his or her income to increase before the adjustment period kicks in. Then, there are those “borrowers who are willing to bet they can invest their mortgage savings for a greater return elsewhere,” according to Jeff Brown at MarketWatch.com.

Weaver warns, however, that education is paramount for borrowers considering an adjustable-rate loan.

Since they understand your current financial situation, your best counsellors include your financial planner, accountant or lender.

Learn more about the adjustable rate mortgage, its risks and rewards, at consumerfinance.gov.

Inside America’s Most Expensive Home For Sale

Sure, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, and hubby Justin Theroux and Jay-Z and Beyonce own drop-dead gorgeous homes in Los Angeles’ swanky Bel Air community. But, theirs don’t hold a candle to the newly-crowned priciest home in the U.S. right now.

History

Back in the 1960s, there was barely an adolescent girl in the country that didn’t want to be Elly May Clampett, the animal-loving, Ozark-to-Beverly Hills transplant on TV’s “Beverly Hillbillies.”

It’s no wonder then that the front of the family’s TV home became iconic and, if you’ve ever watched old reruns of the show you’ll surely recognize the nation’s most expensive home for sale — “cement pond” and all — 750 Bel Air Rd. in Los Angeles.

Known as “Chartwell,” to some and “Kirkeby Mansion” to others, the 25,000 square-foot estate was built in 1933 by Lynn Atkinson, the engineer who built Boulder Dam, who never moved in.

Instead, he sold the manse to Arnold S. Kirkeby, “a bond dealer, developer, and hotelier with rumored mob ties who had just bought the Beverly Wilshire” Hotel, according to LA Curbed’s Adrian Glick Kudler. Kirkeby, by the way, paid $250,000 for the home that is now on the market for $350 million.

Well, that’s one story. Another says that Atkinson gave it to Kirkeby to pay off a debt. A home that cost $2 million dollars to build ($36,859,847.33 in 2017 dollars), given away to repay a debt.

Chartwell … Or Kirkeby, If You Will

To give you an idea of just how lavish the Chartwell/Kirkeby estate is, “Betsy Bloomingdale supposedly walked into the White House in 1975 and said ‘This looks just like Carlotta Kirkeby’s house in Bel Air,’” according to Kudler.

It was so opulent, in fact, that Atkinson’s wife refused to move into it, considering it too ostentatious.

By 1986, the manse was owned by Jerry Perenchio, former CEO of Univision, and he undertook massive restorations.

Today, the home features 25,000 square feet of living space. Hard to picture? Fenway Park in Boston is about 14,400 square feet. We could squeeze more than two of Jefferson’s Monticello and nine of America’s average sized homes (2,687 square feet) inside of Chartwell.

This massive square footage contains the typical Bel Air-type amenities, with a ballroom, a huge wine cellar, a “formal salon” (do we even know what that is?) and gold-plated doorknobs and fixtures in the bathrooms.

But wait –there’s more (there better be for $350 million, right?). The French neoclassical Beaux Arts-style property also features 10 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms, Baccarat chandeliers, a waterfall and an elevator to whisk residents from the home to the underground tunnels that lead to the 75-foot pool.

Outside, the new owner will have 10.3 acres on which to roam, thanks to the brilliant thinking of Perenchio, who snatched up several homes surrounding Chartwell (including President Reagan’s former home) to provide the estate with additional seclusion.

Impeccably manicured gardens can be seen in the Google satellite view of the home but there’s also parking for 40 cars (covered parking, naturally), a pool house and tennis court.

Finally, it takes three brokerages (and six listing agents), to market the home.

 

3 Easy Ways To Make Your Home Healthier And Happier

Nature is good for us, according to psychologists. In fact, there’s an entire branch of their profession devoted to studying how nature impacts our happiness and well-being, known as environmental psychology.

When we incorporate natural elements in our home’s décor, we are practicing what is known as “biophilic design.” Adherents subscribe to the belief that “humans are hard-wired to need connection with nature and other forms of life,” according to Timothy Beatley, author and professor at the University of Virginia.

It’s a proven scientific fact that when we’re in nature, our stress levels are reduced, our moods are enhanced and even our academic performance improves.

We’ve also learned that bringing outdoor elements into the home offers the same benefits. Let’s take a look at how you can incorporate nature into your home’s décor to make your home happier and healthier.

1.Get Wet

Living in an aquatic locale gives you a “six-point increase on the 100-point happiness scale compared to urban settings’ according to Zachary Slobig, in Psychology Today. Thankfully, we don’t need to live near a body of water to derive these benefits.

A koi pond or fountain in view of the home’s main living space is an aspect of biophilic design, but since the sound of water also offers benefits, consider installing a water feature inside the home. From wall water features to table-top fountains and even aquariums, you have a lot of options.

2. You’ll Get More Work Done And Be Happier In Natural Light

Most of us are familiar with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that typically occurs when days get shorter. One of the more holistic treatments for SAD is light therapy.

SAD sufferers are instructed to spend 30 minutes each morning next to a light box that emits 10,000 lux – light that’s “about 100 times brighter than usual indoor lighting,” according to Michael Craig Miller, M.D., with Harvard University.

Studies of workplace lighting have shown that productivity is enhanced when indoor lighting mimics daylight. They’ve even learned that this type of lighting in stores produces higher sales and that when used in classrooms, students perform better.

Believe it or not, one study showed a decrease in dental decay in students who attend classes in rooms with lights that mimic daylight.

It all has to do with our levels of serotonin and melatonin and how they affect our moods, weight loss, how we sleep and even health conditions.

If you don’t have giant windows that let lots of sunlight into the home, fake it. Replace lightbulbs with daylight LED bulbs or shop for lighting listed as “full spectrum.”

3. Bring The Outdoors Indoors

The air inside our homes is likely to be more polluted than outdoor air, “even the largest and most industrialized cities,”

according to the EPA. Carpeting and furniture offgass toxins such as benzene and formaldehyde. Then there are the various chemicals we use in our daily lives, such as cleaning products and pesticides, which also emit toxins into the air.

According to NASA studies of the closed environments in our space stations, plants clean the air of these toxins. In fact, flowering plants go after benzene, while popular houseplants such as pothos and philodendron will absorb formaldehyde.

Make your home healthier by incorporating live plants wherever possible. The experts at NASA recommend that you place 15 plants per 1,800 square feet of living space. And they recommend plants in 6- to 8-inch containers. NASA has compiled a list of suggested houseplants and you can find them online, here.

Plants provide other benefits aside from physical health, according to Beatley.

Scientific research, he claims, proves that items in nature make our moods more positive, improve our cognitive functioning, increase academic performance and lower our stress levels.

In Beatley’s book, “Biophilic Cities -Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning,” he mentions a study of post-operative hospital patients. Those patients who could view a tree outside their windows remained in the hospital for a shorter period of time than those patients without a tree-view.

So, while bringing various elements of nature indoors will amp up your family’s health and happiness, merely placing these elements within view from the interior of the house has benefits as well.

The EPA estimates that we spend 90 percent of our average day indoors, in polluted air, whether it’s at work or at home. Protect your health and happiness by bringing the outdoors indoors.

 

Disaster Assistance For Homeowners: What You Need To Know

Atlantic hurricane season: June 1 through November 30. Wildfire seasons vary, depending on region. Earthquakes have no season – they strike without warning.

Depending on where you live, natural disaster preparedness may be a vital undertaking, but stocking food and water only takes care of one’s immediate needs.

What happens if your roof is blown off, your walls collapse or your home is completely destroyed? Even the most diligent retrofitting can’t foil Mother Nature.

Our hearts go out to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. We know that once their safety is assured and their immediate needs are taken care of, their thoughts will turn to the safety and overall livability of their homes. So, today we thought we’d take a look at some preliminary steps to take.

Head For Safety, First

Don’t remain at or return home if you have any doubts about the soundness of your home. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army typically provide shelters during disasters. You can locate shelters by texting “SHELTER” and your ZIP code, (for instance, “SHELTER 75043”).

The Recovery Process

Now that you’re safe, take these steps to begin the recovery process:

  • Get in touch with your mortgage servicer to request a forbearance on your mortgage payments. Document the home’s damage, how your job may be impacted by the disaster (and, thus, your income) and anything else that may hamper your ability to make your payments.
  • As soon as possible, document the damage to your home and belongings (photographs are ideal) and secure the home if you cannot remain there safely. Your insurance company will want to know the extent of the damage and be assured that you’ve secured the home from further damage by weather, looters and squatters.
  • Keep all receipts for any disaster-related expenses, including hotel rooms, food, clothing and supplies purchased to board up the home’s windows or patch holes in the roof (anything purchased in your efforts to secure the home).
  • Contact your homeowner insurance agent and flood insurer. It’s important to get the ball rolling on this as soon as possible. Ask your insurance agent if you have coverage for alternative living expenses during the time you’ll be unable to return to your home. Then, get the specific steps you’ll need to take before repairs can begin.

Remember, even if you lack flood coverage, you may still be eligible for assistance.

Get the details at disasterassistance.gov.

Whether or not you can obtain federal disaster assistance depends upon if your county is declared an official disaster area. If it is, apply for disaster assistance, even if you have insurance. FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Assistance program offers grants for some home repairs, rent payment assistance and other disaster-related necessities. You can apply online, here.

Don’t wait to apply for assistance – if you do, you run the risk of missing FEMA’s deadline to apply.

Scammers Will Be Out In Full Force

Authorities with FEMA warn that phony contractors, housing inspectors and those hawking offers of government aid will be circling the area like vultures.

Always ask for official identification and never entertain anyone who asks for money.

“There is no fee to apply for or to get help from FEMA, the Small Business Administration or the state,” they warn.

Report suspicious scammers to FEMA at 866-720-5721 or by contacting your state’s attorney general’s office.

While Hurricane Harvey’s floods are top-of-mind right now, disasters of many stripes can occur across the country. Keep this information handy as it applies to earthquake, wildfire and other disaster victims as well.

The 3 immutable laws of home selling

The sun will always rise in the east and set in the west. All people will someday die and, as long as you make a certain amount of money, you’ll always pay taxes. There are some things in life we cannot change, no matter how much we wish otherwise.

Real estate, too, has its immutable laws and there are three very important ones you should pay attention to as you get ready to put your home on the market.

1. No, your home in need of repair won’t be popular, unless you price it at rock bottom

Unless you absolutely cannot afford to fix what’s broken in your home, making repairs is a must. At least if you want to make the most money possible.

Don’t make repairs and your home is like chum in shark-infested waters. The buyers most attracted will be investors who won’t pay you anywhere near what you hope to make.

And, if the necessary repairs are major, few lenders will loan a buyer the money to purchase the home unless and until the repairs are made.

Even a home in need of minor repairs – dripping faucets, ratty carpet, walls in need of patching – loses perceived value. Right now, the majority of homebuyers are millennials and a recent National Association of Realtors study finds that these buyers neither have the money nor the desire to make repairs after they purchase a home.

“They want to cook in that kitchen from day one and entertain in the backyard that very weekend,” according to Consumer Report’s Dan DiClerico.

Want to make a profit when you sell your home? Fix anything that needs it.

2.Overprice your home and it will stay on the market longer and, trust us, you won’t like the offers you get on it

It’s truly a wakeup-call for many homeowners when they learn that, no, they don’t determine what their homes are worth. Homebuyers do and, ultimately, the lender’s appraiser will.

Homebuyers today are savvy enough to have either researched market values in your neighborhood or had their real estate agent do it for them. A higher-than-market-value price then, isn’t fooling anyone.

Often, a homeowner’s rationale for overpricing is to leave “wiggle room” for negotiations. The problem with this tactic is that buyers who can afford what your home is actually worth won’t even see your listing. Your listing will appear in the MLS adjacent to homes that are larger, newer or better-maintained.

Thus, you’ll have few potential buyers to negotiate with.

Now, suppose someone does offer what you’re asking. What are the chances that the appraiser will come up with an inflated value for your home? Slim to none, actually. So, to keep the buyer, or attract another, you’ll need to lower the price to where it should have been in the beginning.

3. Signs don’t sell homes, marketing does

Yes, that’s a nifty for-sale sign in your front yard and, yes, those full-color fliers are attractive. But it takes a lot more to sell a home than an MLS listing, a sign and a lockbox. Sure, it’s easier now, when we’re in a hot sellers’ market, but it won’t always be this easy.

And, even though right now buyers are lining up for certain types of homes, homes in good condition in decent areas, you won’t get top dollar for yours if it isn’t marketed properly.

The internet has changed just about everything when it comes to home sales. The biggest change, however, is that potential buyers can and do begin their home search from the comfort of their homes or offices.

They’ll surf the internet, both real estate brokerage sites and the big real estate aggregators, poring over listings of homes in the areas in which they want to live.

And, while it is your agent’s responsibility to market your home, it’s you who bears the responsibility of giving that agent something to work with.

Ensure that both the exterior and the interior are captivating enough that when potential buyers view photos of the home online, they’re compelled to want to tour it.

In eye-tracking studies, “We find that the photo is overwhelmingly viewed first,” according to Michael Seiler, founder of the Institute for Behavioral and Experimental Real Estate at Old Dominion University in Virginia.

In the age of technology, the basics of readying a home for the market – decluttering, deep cleaning and increasing its curb appeal – are no longer choices, they are necessities. At least if you hope to get the most money possible when the home sells.

Making needed repairs and properly readying your home for the market will increase its perceived value. Pricing it competitively will help it sell quickly. It’s like hitting the trifecta!

Lost your job? What to do about your mortgage

It happens to the best of us – one day you’re gainfully employed and the next day you’re not. Despite the fact that the nation’s unemployment rate is at a 17-year low and job growth is strong, layoffs are still occurring.

While unemployment rates have fallen in many other cities across the nation, in a dozen or so states they have actually gone up. From public schools laying off teachers to states laying off workers, if you work for someone else there is no guarantee that you won’t find yourself unemployed.

If you find yourself among the jobless, now is not the time to panic. Read on for some tips to keep in mind while you make a plan on the next steps to take.

Get some advice

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers no-cost housing counselors to help walk you through your options. You can find one in your area on HUD’s website.

If you’ve waited too long and you’re facing foreclosure, contact an attorney. If you are income-qualified, you may be entitled to free legal services. Find out by contacting your state’s legal aid department. You’ll find the contact information for each state’s legal aid office, here.

Be upfront

The first step is to know exactly where you stand financially. Go over all of your monthly bills to determine how much you owe and to figure out ways to cut your budget.

Next, determine whether your situation is temporary or if there’s a chance that your unemployment may be long-term. With this information, you are ready to call your mortgage servicer.

Don’t put this one off. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. It may even be embarrassing, but one of the worst things you can do is crawl into that hole of procrastination that is beckoning. Be proactive.

If you expect to be back at work in the near future, ask the servicer for a forbearance. This is an agreement wherein the lender promises not to exercise the legal right to collect the debt or to foreclose due to non-payment. You will need to agree to the servicer’s plan on how you will get current on the loan and you’ll typically be given a time limit.

In a two-worker household, you may be able to make smaller payments. If this is the case, ask the servicer for a loan extension. While the advantage of this scenario is obvious (your payments will be reduced), the loan will end up costing you more in the long run.

Some servicers will allow the borrower to pay only the interest on the mortgage until he or she is back in the money.

Not all servicers are willing to make these concessions, but they are, by law, required to discuss your situation with you and the earlier you notify them, the more amenable they may be to your proposals.

Get help from the government

Although the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) expired last year, the Home Affordability Refinance Program (HARP) is still in effect, but only until the end of September, 2017. You may be eligible for this program if the following applies:

You are up-to-date on your mortgage payments and have no late payments (30 days or longer) within the past six months and have no more than one within the past year.

  • Your loan is owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.
  • You obtained your mortgage before May 31, 2009.
  • Your loan-to-value ratio is greater than 80 percent.

You can find out if your loan is owned by Fannie Mae, here and click here to find out if Freddie Mac owns your loan. Then, calculate your loan-to-value ratio using Fannie Mae’s calculator.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Max will offer the new Flex Modification foreclosure prevention program, which kicks into effect on October 1 of this year.

The program will provide a 20 percent reduction in mortgage payments to those who qualify. You may qualify even if you’re 60 days delinquent on your loan but it is also an option for those who are current.

Again, this program is limited to loans owned by Freddie and Fannie.

Although asking for help may be uncomfortable, losing your home is worse. Seek help right away if you find yourself unemployed and unable to make your house payments.

Forget about your parachute – what color is your home?

Want to make an extra $1,500 on the sale of your home? Paint the front door dark gray or navy blue, according to a study by Zillow. Nab another $1,500 by painting the home’s exterior greige (a mix of beige and gray).

Or, you can leave that taupe or medium brown paint alone and take a chance on losing nearly $2,000 on the home’s sale. Just as color can impact us positively, some colors can be the kiss of death.

It’s all about the curb appeal

Never underestimate the power of curb appeal – it’s your home’s first impression and it can make you a bundle of money or cost you dearly.

In fact, according to a Texas Tech University study, projects that improve a home’s curb appeal can bump the home’s value as much as 17 percent.

Landscaping is the first curb appeal project most homeowners take on, neglecting the exterior condition of the home. It’s a bit like putting lipstick on a pig, however, because your lovely landscaping isn’t the first thing potential buyers will notice.

It’s a well-known fact that homebuyers choose which homes to visit in person by viewing them first on the internet. Ninety percent of these buyers will base their initial judgement on the color of the home, according to a study entitled “Impact of Color on Marketing,” (Satyendra Singh, Department of Administrative Studies, University of Winnipeg in Canada).

So, while spiffing up the front yard, walkway, driveway and porch are all important to the home’s overall curb appeal, peeling paint on the home’s trim or the wrong color on the exterior walls may doom the homeowner to a mediocre final sale price.

Consider your home’s architecture

Sure, you can navigate to the nearest “What Color Should I Paint my Home” advice column on the web, but few of these “experts” remind readers that color choices should take into consideration the home’s architecture as well as other caveats.

Have a Cape Cod? Go for deep blue colors. Farmhouse-style homes take well to white paint and designer Amy Hendel chose Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White for one of her recent farmhouse projects.

Victorian homes are called “Painted Ladies” for a reason, and they practically scream out for colors chosen from a precise palette, while owners of tract homes can play it safer. In fact, gray with white trim is a big seller, according to Bob Villa, host of TV’s This Old House.

On his website, Villa features a slide show entitled “8 Exterior Paint Colors to Help Sell Your House,” and one home in particular resonated with readers. Built by a Minnesota developer, the home’s photo ended up on Houzz.com and the builder said he received thousands of requests from folks wanting to know the paint colors.

For the record, he was happy to oblige: Benjamin Moore Copley Gray (which actually looks rather brown, at least in the swatch), trimmed with Benjamin Moore Elephant Tusk.

Accentuate the positive

Accenting the negatives is one of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when painting the exterior of their homes, according to the color experts at Sherwin-Williams. “Unattractive elements such as gutters, downspouts, a protruding garage door, air conditioning units, unevenly placed windows” are all things that need to be downplayed.

The experts advise homeowners to accentuate “interesting architectural detailing; it can often sparkle with a contrasting or accent color.”

Tips for choosing color

Naturally you want your home to stand out among all the others, but choose a color that doesn’t clash, but harmonizes with surrounding homes. A darker or lighter shade will still make your home stand out.

The Sherwin-Williams experts suggest that you take color samples home with you and look at them outdoors, during different times of the day and at different angles. When you’ve finally narrowed the choices down but still can’t decide between several colors, buy them each, in small quantities, and find an out-of-the way spot on the home to test them out.

Need more tips? You’ll find them at Houzz.com, BobVila.com, bhg.com or try the nifty color selector tool at Valspar Paints.

Color gives you an opportunity to create psychological connections with potential buyers and optical illusions that will help direct their vision where you want it to go. A fresh coat of paint is an inexpensive and easy way to create a positive impact when selling your home.

DIY that unfinished basement

Even if you aren’t considering selling your home in the near future, a finished basement offers more living space – something most homeowners dream about.

If you are considering selling, you’ll recoup 70 percent of the cost of the remodel, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report. Furthermore, keeping your basement-finish budget to no more than 10 percent of your home’s appraised value makes it a smart investment, Lending Tree Home Pros’ Neil Salvage tells HGTV.

And, you won’t be alone. The National Association of Home Builders places the project as the third most requested, behind kitchen and bath remodels and additions.

The nationwide average cost of a basement remodel is between $10,583 and $27,103, according to HomeAdvisor. But, some homeowners pay as little as $4,800.

You don’t necessarily have to go full-blown remodel to whip that basement into shape. Use a few of these DIY ideas to turn it into a livable area that will add value to the home.

Wet basements aren’t livable

More than 60 percent of homes with a basement have leaks, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors. Furthermore, 38 percent of those homes run the risk of developing basement mold. So, before you tackle the decorating and design aspects of your unfinished basement, undertake the repairs necessary to set a good, healthy foundation for all of your hard work.

You’ll need to find the source of the leak, which is easier said than done in many cases. The most obvious place to look is the area of the wall where pipes enter. Also check that the landscaping outside the basement slopes away from the home and that the gutters on the home aren’t clogged with debris and that they extend at least 4 feet away from the structure.

Fixing leaks may sound intimidating but many repairs are inexpensive and easy. Filling in cracks with epoxy, installing additional downspouts, re-sloping the landscaping (the University of Minnesota recommends a slope of one inch per foot for at least six feet away from the foundation wall), and installing flashing are DIY projects that won’t break the bank.

Consider purchasing a dehumidifier for the basement as well. Then, seal the walls. Tom Silva at thisoldhouse.com suggests applying waterproof masonry cement to walls.

Start at the top and work your way down

Sure, you’ll want to paint the ceiling but what else is up there, hanging from it, that can ruin the comfy vibe you’re aiming for? Pipes, air ducts and more can be painted to match the ceiling, in the hopes of making them blend in.

Or, look for products like coffered ceilings or wood planks that add style and the results are easier to achieve than most people think.

Then, of course, there is always the option of using drywall or large, removable tiles (to allow access to all that “stuff” hanging from the ceiling). Get more ideas on ways to camouflage ceiling “junk” at houselogic.com.

What will you walk on?

Naturally, carpeting is the flooring of choice for most basements, according to research by the National Association of Home Builders. But, factoring in the cost of moisture-resistant padding and carpet can be a bit pricey.

If you’re on a tight budget, consider vinyl. Some of the new wood-look luxury vinyl floor planks add a surprisingly realistic wood-look to a room, they’re inexpensive and can be easily installed by homeowners.

If you fear water leaks, tile may be a better choice. Since basements are notoriously moist, however, shop for tiles with anti-slip finishes, such as glazed ceramic tile. Or, consider leaving the concrete floor exposed and acid-staining it. With lots of area rugs scattered about, feet will stay warm.

 Create a warm ambience

Proper lighting is crucial in a basement that you plan to use frequently. Choose ceiling fixtures, such as track lighting or pot lights and then add table lamps around the room.

The effects of a low ceiling and lack of natural light in most basements can be thwarted by choosing light-colored accessories, such as upholstery fabrics, rugs, pillows and artwork.

Choose soft rugs, thick blankets and fluffy pillows to seal the warm ambience of your newly-finished basement.

Finishing a basement is a big project but not only will it give you more living space, it will help sell the home in the future. Tackle as many DIY project you can to keep costs down.

Who will buy your home?

Writers have a target audience in mind as they peck away on the keyboard. Radio DJs are admonished to hold a mental image of their audience (one person of a certain age group, by the way) every time they open the mic. And, the key to success for professional marketers is to “know your audience.”

The latter uses market research to determine from what pool of consumers will come their potential customers. When a home is the product, however, we don’t need expensive research or a crystal ball to determine who will be most interested in it.

Thankfully, the National Association of REALTORS and others have done the legwork for us, so we have a pretty good idea of which demographics drool over which types of homes. Naturally, there are the basic needs that seem to cut across all demographics, but some homes appeal to certain folks.

Once you have a clear picture of your likely buyer, we can better focus our marketing efforts.

The luxury home buyer

High-end home prices soared in the first quarter of 2017 to an average of $1.65 million. Is this a trend? Only time will tell. What we do know, however, is that if you own a high-end (meaning high-priced) home, your most likely buyer will be a woman and a member of the baby boom generation. This group of Americans, by the way, controls a large share (51.3 percent) of the country’s wealth and that percentage is expected to grow.

According to CBS News Money Watch, “America’s most affluent women are typically in their 50s and 60s,” and a recent survey of real estate agents finds that 62 percent of their luxury home buying clients are between the ages of 45 and 54.

Another survey reveals that most homebuyers who purchase at the top of the luxury home market – in the $10 million and more price range – are entrepreneurs. Finally, most of the people that will tour your home are local to the area.

By the way, today’s luxury home buyer doesn’t necessarily view the purchase as an investment, as was the case before the recession. Instead, it’s more of a lifestyle choice –  a home in which to raise a family and build memories.

This information helps us, as your listing agents, narrow our marketing focus (sophisticated and laser-targeted) to appeal to these buyers.

The condo/townhome buyer

When it comes to condos vs. single-family detached homes, the owners of the latter will have a better chance of selling. Now, this isn’t to say that condo owners can’t sell their homes. On the contrary.

Your buyer will likely be a retiree, seeking to downsize. This is especially true if the condo is located in a walkable area that offers plenty of recreational opportunities.

Urban condos are attractive to young, single professionals who are seeking a home in close proximity to work and to social opportunities. The bonus for them is that condos are generally less expensive than single-family homes and require far less maintenance.

Then, there are the young couples who aren’t planning to start a family right away. Naturally, the location of your condo and the amenities the community offers will help us narrow down your ideal buyer pool.

The single-family, detached home buyer

The single-family, detached home category represents a broad range of homes, from small, starter homes to luxury homes and even ranches on multiple acreage. The most popular single-family home, according to NAR, is one that was built in 1991 and has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 1,900 square feet of living space.

Now, most real estate agents will tell you that the home needs to be in move-in condition to sell quickly but recent studies show that millennials actually want a home that needs a little work if it means they don’t have to buy a cookie-cutter home.

What they don’t want are old appliances, dinky master bedrooms and a one-car (or no-car) garage. Fix those problems and we can market your home to this demographic.

If your home is large, more than 2,000 square feet, and in a quality school district, your buyer will most likely be a Gen Xer.

“Buyers 37 to 51 are in their peak earning years and thus their incomes are the highest among all generations of buyer types at $106,600. They are both the generation most likely to be married and most likely to have children under the age of 18 in their home,” according to the National Association of Realtors 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report.

Why does it matter?

Earlier, we mentioned that knowing who your likely buyer is will help us hone our marketing efforts. While we won’t exclude other possible buyers, if your home fits perfectly a certain demographic’s wants and needs, it only makes sense to stage the home and craft marketing pieces to attract them.

As you’ve probably guessed, marketing a home for sale entails so much more than entering the details into the MLS database and pounding a sign into the front yard. We’re happy to discuss our marketing plan with you when you’re ready to sell your home.