Open House signs antique? like typewriters?

After returning to an “open” business environment after three months, the future of Open Houses seems to be bordering extinct. Or more accurately obsolete, like the typewriter.

Can you write with a typewriter? Yes, but why would you? Can you have an Open House? Yes, but with all the restrictions necessary and appointments required, why would you want to go?

Open House Pivot

Pivot is a word often used to express the dramatic and rapid changes impacting the real estate market due to COVID19. Some changes were underway but became accelerated, like virtual selling.

Others, like Open Houses, have completely “pivoted” to something other than what they were.

The non-committal and casual nature of Open Houses was a way to explore local real estate without an agent, or appointment.

Virtual Open Houses were a work around during our COVID19 shut down, using video previously taken or with the owner’s cooperation via Zoom video conference.

The new standard is to present a virtual Open House on Zoom with the agent guiding a tour of previously recorded video or navigating the Matterport 3D layout. Appointments are required, and if you “stop in” late you miss the video tour.

While it’s better than nothing, and a way to get a “peak” at the interior of the home, it’s not the casual easy way to explore real estate that we have enjoyed for so long.

Virtual Selling – the new standard of practice

In today’s market, virtual selling should be a standard of practice. I’ve sold homes virtually using video since 2008. It doesn’t make sense to book an appointment for a video tour that I already have access to, or should.

Every listing should provide a video tour. For my sellers I do a marketing video, think of it like a movie trailer;

Then I do the actual walk through video which takes you through the home as if you are there.

The home buying process has “pivoted.” Home buyers used to wait to interview and hire an agent until they were ready to buy. Now it’s best practice to do that at the beginning of your search.

Likewise, your pre-approval is needed early in the process as it’s required along with a COVID19 form to book showings.

Open House Standards Due to COVID19

Now that physical Open Houses are allowed, understandably there are awkward restrictions. As an example, here are highlights of a current brokerage’s Open House guideline for agents;

1. Sales associates and all open house visitors must wear a mask.
2. Social distancing rules should be maintained.
3. Disinfect all high-touch areas prior to and between each group of visitors; provide hand sanitizer if possible.
4. Sales associates should limit open house attendance to one group at a time to maintain appropriate distancing and accompany them through their tour to minimize unintended touching of surfaces. Additional groups can be asked to wait outside and to maintain social distancing while doing so.
5. Maintain a record of everyone entering the property, including name and E-mail address or cell phone number.

COVID19 is “here to stay” – we must adapt

The Economist recently published – COVID 19 is here to stay. People will have to adapt :

“The worst is to come. Based on research in 84 countries, a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reckons that…without a medical breakthrough, the total number of cases will climb to 200m-600m by spring 2021.”

We cannot just return to “business as usual” as the battle against this pandemic is far from over.

Protecting buyers and sellers from unnecessary public exposure and utilizing current technology to present a virtual buying experience is now a necessary standard of practice – not just an option.

While our local market is now pushed to pivot in this direction, it’s long overdue in terms of providing the highest level of service to our clients.

Home buying is a journey – not a transaction

I provide information, support, advise and guidance from early exploration of the market through negotiations and closing as my personal standard of practice. Sometimes the answer is to not buy, which is perfectly fine. It’s all about what’s best for you!

The rush to provide virtual Open Houses has been a push to generate “leads” or meet prospective buyers. Open Houses have always been more of a networking opportunity for the agent than a true selling tool for the home owner. Virtual Open Houses provide marketing exposure for the agent but present an awkward experience for buyers.

Virtual Home Buying Service

Using virtual selling expertise, I create video walk throughs of properties throughout the home buying process to narrow down selections and fine tune the home search for my clients. That way, the showings we book in person are in reality 2nd showings. This saves time, protects home buyers and sellers from unnecessary exposure and streamlines the home buying process.

Open House Signs – an antique?

When I sold luxury real estate on Kauai, my open house signs were often stolen and used for fighting rooster sheds, an illegal but popular local sport.

One way of repurposing them but not a big demand on the Main Line!

While I haven’t thrown my Open House signs away, they are in the back closet for now! My ‘go bag’ is full of video equipment instead.

Manhattan to the Main Line

While the migration of New Yorkers to Philadelphia is not new, post COVID-19 we are seeing some interesting shifts in demographics.

The New York Times recently reported on Where New Yorkers Moved to Escape the Coronavirus.

Prior to COVID-19, the largest demand in Philly from Manhattan luxury buyers was for Center City condos and townhomes with easy access to Amtrak’s 30th St Station.

For example, amenity rich condos like The Residences at Ritz-Carlton in mid-town Philly that resonate with a Manhattan luxury lifestyle – but less expensive, quieter and a little more friendly.

Why Philly? In 2018 The New York Times article, Leaving New York to find the American Dream in Philadelphia, highlights a migration of artisans, chefs, immigrants and business owners to Philly from New York. All with a dream in mind.

Settlement Day at The Stables – 2013

As an example, learn first hand “Why Philly” from my clients who purchased the first PASSIVE-Certified luxury home at THE STABLES in Northern Liberties.

They were originally looking at traditional offerings in Society Hill, but were fascinated with this more creative, cutting edge option.

Seven years ago, my clients moved from Manhattan to Northern Liberties where they purchased the first PASSIVE-Certified luxury townhomes in Philly

Remote luxury homes on the Main Line in areas like Gladwyne and Bryn Mawr are seeing a huge uptick in demand from Manhattan buyers.

While once criteria was “walkability” to train stations and shopping, but post COVID-19 New Yorkers are looking for privacy, acreage, flexible living space as highlighted in my recent article “Top 5 new features to sell your home post COVID-19.”

I had the honor of recently helping my Manhattan clients purchase this luxury Merion Station home during the COVID-19 shut down.

365 Meadow Lane in Merion Station offered the perfect mix of historic architecture and renovated interior living space. Going to Manhattan 2-3 days a week is easy with a short drive to 30th Street Station.

Another successful Manhattan to Main Line relocation

“Susanna is a total gem. We started looking for homes in early 2020. We had not yet found an agent, but struck up a conversation with her at an open house.

My husband and I immediately noticed how real she was: she was truthful and did not try to “sell’ us, either on the home or on her as an agent. As a result, we asked her to represent us.

Throughout the process, she was incredible: she educated us about the different neighborhoods, prepared fact books for each weekend that we looked for homes, and made sure she never wasted our time showing us homes that were not a fit.

At the end of the process, we found the perfect place. I can honestly say, it was all because of her. I cannot express how amazing she is and how rare as an agent: kind, thoughtful, realistic, honest, easy to work with.

I would work with her in a second if we ever needed to again, and so cannot recommend her more highly.”

If you’re looking for a luxury home or weekend retreat on the Main Line, contact me for off-market options. It’s my pleasure to help.

Top 5 new features to sell your home post COVID-19

How has COVID-19 affected home buyer demands?

The list of “must haves” has shifted. Buyers want their home environment to meet critical needs that arose during COVID-19 stay at home orders.

Preparing a home to sell means we must “stage” it to tell the story of your home emphasizing features in high demand from today’s buyers.

That doesn’t mean a major remodel – but it does mean taking a fresh look at how the areas within your home are presented.

Integrate these 5 “must haves” into the story your home tells in marketing for a successful sale in today’s real estate market.

Today’s TOP 5 new features on buyers’ demand list:

#1 – Multiple work zones

Multiple work from home zones are a must have with today's renters and buyers

No longer do people want an old fashion home office, closed off and perhaps near the front door. COVID-19 stay-at-home showed us the need for flexible space as well as multiple work from home zones.

Home office areas need to be light and inspirational. An empty bedroom can be staged as a home office.

One of my favorite easy solutions is to add a desk and chair to a large open space as an inexpensive and effective way to tell the story of multiple work spaces.

Easy home staging solutions for open extra home office space needed post COVID-19.
Easy staging solution to add a work zone

I recently hosted Christina Henck, owner of award winning Henck Design on my LIVE Broadcast who shared excellent home office design tips addressing COVID-19 work from home needs and demands.

Staging can be minimalist. Think of theatre – the stage isn’t furnished, just enough to tell the story and your mind fills in the details.

It’s about visual impact and creating a mental and emotional comfort for buyers that their needs are met.

#2 – Resort style outdoor space

Relaxing, working and entertaining outdoors is in top demand

Demand for outdoor space has become a premium! I hear from luxury agents across the country that it’s a must have for renters as well as buyers. If you have any outdoor space, it’s critical to showcase it and create an indoor / outdoor flow, with space to work, relax, host conversations and BBQ.

Both with work from home on high demand, and obstacles we face traveling for a quick getaway, homes now need to have a staycation element.

How can we tell the story of your home so that it feels like you’re in the Hamptons?

Main Line homes with pools are suddenly in high demand!

Pools are in high demand, but you don’t have to have a pool to successfully create an at-home retreat. From small decks to large yards, it’s important to open up the indoor / outdoor flow.

Changing window coverings, rearranging furniture inside and out as well as staging outdoor patio furniture will allow buyers to visualize working from home and soaking up Vitamin D without travel.

#3 – Grand central kitchen

Open flow kitchen with room for conversations and entertaining

We’ve all found ourselves cooking at home out of necessity during our COVID-19 shut down.

I’ve never understood why as an artist I didn’t feel creative in the kitchen. That broke through during our stay-at-home and I’m loving cooking!

Unfortunate for my daughter that this happened now, instead of when she was little. But it shows that no one’s hopeless. 😁

While restaurants are starting to open, cooking at home is a lifestyle shift for busy professionals that will stay. Meal prep is an event – part of open living with dynamic conversations, not a one-person chore.

Kitchens need to be stylish, inviting, polished, open and have space for fluid conversations.

#4 – Safe and smart tech

Smart technology, for safety and security are in high demand

Smart features of a home are in top demand. Both for technology connectivity as well as convenience and safety. If your home currently is not wired for today’s tech, let’s explore some modest updates to showcase your home for today’s buyers.

For instance, install a home security system with cameras. You can use a service and have them do the install. This also provides peace of mind while it’s on the market.

A smart app for front door access such as the August App won’t require a complete re-wire of your home but will greet buyers with high-tech security that they want.

While surround sound has been in high demand for new construction, the security and convenience of remote access and control is more important in today’s market.

#5 – Decompress zones

Yoga rooms are one of the easiest staging solutions

Personally, I cancelled my gym membership at the end of last year and while I thought about signing up in a new location during the New Year’s specials – I’m glad I procrastinated.

The future for gym memberships may be uncertain – but the demand for space to work out at home, and decompress is not going away.

Yoga rooms and home gyms along with mediations space are key demands for staging for success

Staging a yoga room is easy and inexpensive. I take an empty bedroom, or odd extra space – add a yoga mat and yoga ball, some calming art or zen like features and it’s done!

For larger homes often a challenge is too much furniture.

Move an extra chair into a sunlit area with a staged open book to attractively tell the story of a reading nook in a bedroom, or part of an open living space.

Staging isn’t an insult to your personal interior design taste. It’s literally theatre – setting the stage for buyers to be able to visualize themselves as the stars of their own show, instead of guests in your home.

When I work with my clients to successfully sell their home, I create a unique PR / Marketing plan to tell the story that will connect the best possible buyers to the home, maximizing exposure, creating sizzle and high demand from qualified buyers.

Our initial consultation can be done remotely using Zoom or FaceTime as we go through the home and construct a room-by-room marketing strategy for your success. Let’s talk!

1031 Tax Exchange Seminar – real estate investment strategies

Do you often wonder how does a 1031 Tax Exchange work? And if you can apply it with your investment properties?

Normally David and I host seminars with food and drinks. My apologies as we aren’t able to do that now – but please make yourself comfortable, and enjoy the LIVE webinar by clicking below.

Feel free to ask questions by contacting me. We are both here to help!

Click below to download David’s presentation slides.

Traditionally, a 1031 Exchange is used to defer payment on capital gains on investment properties. However, in today’s confusing market it can also be a strategy to minimize risk as well.

How has COVID-19 affected your real estate rental portfolio? Do you find that you are at risk of tenants not being able to pay their rent?

Are you considering taking advantage of the COVID-19 increase in demand for suburban rentals and wonder if a 1031 Tax Exchange can work during a forbearance?

There are several key strategies worth considering to minimize risk and maximize profit. One example is leveraging a forbearance to create a buffer of time to sell and transfer the proceeds into a less risky area, or a HUD guaranteed rental property.

For more insights for landlords and real estate investors, also visit my recent interview with Michael Daiello, Esq who shares key insights on What to do if your tenants can’t pay their rent due to COVID-19.

Let’s meet for “coffee” and discuss options – click on this link and pick a time that’s convenient for you.

How do I transition a traditional home to attract today’s luxury millennial buyers?

Millennial home buying trends have become a hot topic in luxury real estate. Millennials include anyone born between 1981 and 1996, and they’re quickly becoming a dominating force in real estate. In 2018, millennials represented the largest cohort of home buyers at 37 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report.

This group now outnumbers baby boomers, and what they’re looking for in a home is drastically different than what their parents wanted when they entered the market.

Now more than ever, luxury buyers are viewing time as a luxury. How does that translate?

Homes need to be move-in ready. It’s not just about the money. The time it takes to renovate is too “expensive” in terms of what it takes away from quality of life.

So how do you transition a traditional home with stately architecture to attract a modern millennial buyer? My LIVE broadcast guest, Christina Henck, owner of award winning Henck Design shared some valuable tips and insights:

When we talk about “less is more” it relates to a key design element we artists called “negative space” – that’s the “blank” or “empty” space on a canvas surrounding an image, or the space between and around elements of a sculpture. The negative space is as important in design as the “positive” space (image, element – or in this case furniture).

Check out the clean design and flow created in the “negative space” in this luxury home.

The “negative space” creates a visual flow as well as a physical flow for walk through traffic on home buyer tours as well as videos.

Both are important elements of creating the kind of “sizzle” you want to drive buyers to take action!

Let’s talk! Please book a private consult on my calendar, and we’ll look at your home through FaceTime or Zoom and discuss ideas to maximize the market appeal for today’s buyers.

What if my tenants can’t pay their rent due to COVID-19?

Attorney Michael Daiello shares insights into options to avoid foreclosure when you can’t pay your mortgage.

“I have received a number of phone calls over the past several weeks about the duty of landlords to pay lenders on mortgaged properties. The obvious best outcome is when borrowers and lenders work together for a reasonable solution. But what options are available if negotiations are unsuccessful? Does the current environment trigger a “force majeure” event under a lending agreement?

In spite of the lockdown, there is no general law that grants a borrower entitlement to cease payment. However, the language of any Note, Mortgage or Security Agreement may vary from case to case.

Failing to pay a mortgage will eventually result in a lender initiating a foreclosure action. A property owner receiving a notice of foreclosure often wrongly assumes there’s nothing they can do. Some of the options include applications for modifications of the mortgage, a short sale, a deed in lieu of foreclosure or fighting the foreclosure case in court.”

This month’s guide is a quick reference sheet of potential options for foreclosure defense. Please share this month’s guide with any small businesses or professionals that are concerned about foreclosure.

For more information on how to avoid foreclosure whether it’s your primary residence, vacation home or an investment property, visit FightTheBank.org and let’s talk. I’ve been helping home owners successfully avoid foreclosure and negotiate debt forgiveness since 2008. #fightthebank #phillymarketminute

Home Office Design Tips

What used to be a “like to have” on buyer’s wish lists has become a “must have” not only now but into the future as our way of life has changed due to COVID-19. Working from home, remote college classes and public schooling at home make this a very complicated, challenging part of interior design – and a must have as we face an ongoing battle over the next 18-24 months.

Award winning interior designer Christina Henck, owner of Henck Design offers Home Office Design Tips LIVE that can help even the most awkward home office convert to a functional, pleasant space. Check out Christina’s Portfolio of amazing transformations in Center City and the Main Line and click below to view our LIVE broadcast.

Complications of multi-generation home schooling and working remotely can overwhelm and challenge even the best planned home office.

I don’t feel so bad about my home office “studio” in the man cave when I see national late night hosts like Seth Meyers broadcast from his attic! 🙂

Having a well designed home office is no longer just a luxury amenity. Working with luxury buyers relocating from New York recently, we needed to find space for both parents and the kids to be able to work/school from home, along with space for music and art.

Luxury amenities like a home office and home gym don’t have to come at luxury prices!

Two examples for you – both under $300K!

Gorgeous move-in ready Germantown rehab offered for only $219K and includes finished basement perfect for home gym, plus 3rd floor loft that can function as a 4th bedroom or large home office.

For an urban, hip lifestyle – cherish the exposed brick and luxury details in this Fishtown rehab at 2360 E Harold St. Make the 2nd bedroom your home office, gym or art studio and walk to the best food, parks, bars and community activities that make Fishtown a #1 choice.

Be sure to follow Facebook LIVE and subscribe to YouTube for future LIVE Broadcasts. And check out my Luxury LIVE interviews every Wednesday.

How to host a virtual open house

Virtual Open Houses are likely to become our new “normal” even after social distancing directives are lifted. For now, working together virtually as business partners, we can successfully showcase your home online and create a virtual first “walk through” for interested buyers.

4 Tips for how to host a virtual open house during #stayathome:

  1. Communication – we will do a consultation first via Zoom going over how to prepare, what to expect and choosing a time that works for you and your family. We’ll prepare and discuss features you’d like me to highlight the day of the virtual open house.
  2. Coaching – I’ll teach you how to “host” using your phone’s camera connected through my Zoom account. My hacks and tips I’ve developed from over 12 years of doing real estate videos will make it easy for you!
  3. Preparation – cleaning and decluttering will be necessary just as you would for an in-person open house. Also, the day of the open house all lights should be on, and be ready to open and close cupboard and closet doors. Buyers will also want to see the basement and garage.
  4. Q&A – at the end we’ll leave time for questions and answers. In our coaching call, I’ll help you prepare how to address buyers questions if necessary.

Marketing is my speciality! I’ll create a Facebook event and promote heavily on all social media platforms, linked to an event site asking for registration. The Zoom link will be sent only to those people who RSVP.

You’ll be able to easily share the event with friends and family on your personal social media sites. My marketing strategy gives your property high visibility both to consumers and realtors, creating maximum exposure.

IRS Extends Tax Deadlines

If you’re working on your taxes during #stayathome, there’s some good news from the IRS that can dramatically help investors. Please read the update from Pennsylvania Association of Realtors below:

The IRS issued guidance Thursday evening to grant deadline relief for both 1031 like-kind exchanges and opportunity zone investments that are already underway.  Both of these programs are designed to promote economic growth in communities, and NAR made the case that investors in these programs should not be harmed due to the effects of COVID-19.

1031 Like-kind exchanges.  If an investor has taken the first step of a like-kind exchange by selling the old property, and either the 45-day or the 180-day deadline falls between April 1 and July 15, the deadline has been extended to July 15.

Opportunity Zones.  If an investor who sold a capital asset planned to roll over the gain into an Opportunity Fund and the 180-day deadline to do so falls between April 1 and July 15, 2020, he or she can make the investment as late as July 15.  

Tax preparations during COVID-19

Also, sole proprietors who pay quarterly estimated taxes now have until July 15 to file their second quarter payment.  As a result of an earlier IRS notice, first quarter estimated tax payments had already been extended to July 15.  This means that any individual or corporation that has a quarterly estimated tax payment due on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020, can wait until July 15 to make that payment, without penalty.  

For more information on how investors can thrive in the midst of the COVID-19 economic chaos, contact me today and let’s have virtual coffee via Zoom.

Virtual Real Estate

Recent COVID-19 crisis “stay at home” orders have up-ended traditional real estate activity. However, sellers still want to sell and buyers need new homes.

Virtual showings now become a primary tool for both buyers and sellers to overcome the COVID-19 challenges and accomplish their goals.

For instance, the video below is a walk through preview I did for my clients last week during a brokers open house. There’s so much detail, sense of place and flow of the design one can get from a virtual walk through that you can’t get with profession videos or even the best photos.

Working remotely with both buyers and sellers was a foundation of my business while selling luxury 2nd homes in Hawaii as most of my clients were remote. Some buyers went under contract “sight unseen” based on video walk throughs I shared with them, and then flew in for the home inspection. Of course, that was based on our strong working relationship and clarity of their vision for their new home.

Now is the time when you need a realtor with cutting-edge technology skills as well as experience and expertise. Let’s have “coffee” via Zoom video conferencing and discuss what’s going on in your local market and various strategies to accomplish your goals.