Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring statistics suggest slower sales

There is less demand for county homes this year than last. The number of existing homes closing escrow in March was 18 percent less than a year ago, according to the El Dorado County Association of Realtors, and April sales are tracking 20 percent fewer than April of last year. The pace at which homes […]

Faster sales with spring staging

It is a recognized fact that our behavior is influenced by the seasons. We may be more active in the spring, moody during the winter months and a little bit lazy during the hot summer. When marketing homes for sellers, my advice on its presentation will vary depending upon the season. During the fall I […]

Clueless in Sacramento

It is a fascinating phenomenon how often elected leaders can openly profess their commitment for one thing and do the complete opposite. Three recent examples are: State Sen. Leland Yee, a long-time gun control advocate, recently indicted on illegal arms trafficking; Sen. Ron Caldera, now under federal indictment for bribery who supported increased ethics legislation […]

What’s happening with my earnest money?

While experiencing a lingering case of writer’s block for this weekly column, I received an e-mail from a long-time reader with questions about his earnest money deposit. His problem was the return of his deposit after he decided to cancel the purchase contract after serious property defects were discovered during the inspection period. The seller […]

When moves align, or don’t

“Where are you moving?” People logically ask when they hear I am once again pulling up stakes. “I don’t know,” I say, which is sad, true and puzzling to most normal people, a group to which I have not belonged for some time. Eyebrows raise. Silences grows. Subjects change. People whisper. This I do know: […]

Endangered decor

Several months ago I wrote a column about feathers that got readers squawking. I wrote about how they were trending up in fashion and decor. Bird lovers cried, “Fowl!” And rightly so. Feathers are beautiful. When they are rendered as a motif in, say, wallpaper, fabric or tableware, they can be exquisite. But when actual […]

One decade, four houses, 520 columns

For 10 years — as of this week — I have been writing a nationally syndicated self-therapy column masquerading as home improvement advice. One decade and 520 columns later, this much I know for sure: Whatever remaining sanity I have, I owe to you. We have been through a lot together: four moves through three […]

Memories for sale: What’s a household worth?

It’s so true: Some things in life you just can’t put a price on. Until you have to. When it’s up to you to liquidate your parents’ treasure-filled home, you need to price the priceless. How much for that baby grand piano Mom used to play? How much for the sideboard that served up every […]

Siblings empty family house, find what matters

Up there in the category with death and taxes is this inevitability: At some point everyone will likely have to clear out a parent’s home. I’m not going to soften the blow. It’s like having open heart surgery without anesthesia. “It falls into the ‘most stressful’ category,” said Peter Brenton, of Medford, Mass., who with […]

Ten most common seller mistakes

Working with buyers can be unpredictable. One week they are convinced they want to live in the country and the next week we are in Folsom looking at new track homes. They wouldn’t consider paying more than $400,000 but all the homes they want to preview are priced at more than $450,000. Two-story homes are […]

The genius in everyday design

As someone chronically on the lookout for great design, like a sailor scanning the sea for shore, I sometimes need to check my compass to remind myself what great design is. It’s easy to get swept up by high-design and think a Lamborghini, a gown at the Oscar’s, a Cartier watch or a French chateau […]

Something old, something new

It’s the curly-hair-straight-hair dilemma all over. You have one, and want the other. Those who live in new homes covet the character and charm of old ones. Those living in old homes long for the modern amenities new ones offer. Having lived in houses ranging in age from so new the glue’s not dry to […]

Get it together

When the dog’s leash is in the drawer with your hairbrush, when you pull out the vacuum and three suitcases fall on your head, when you have 15 jackets but only wear two, when the space under your sink looks like the recycle bin and under your bed looks like the Dumpster behind Walmart, when […]

Window coatings: Not seeing is believing

It could be the best home improvement you never see. Or not. It’s hard to know. Window film — a transparent barrier that, its makers say, keeps big bad sunrays from eating up your furniture and driving up your air-conditioning bills — is at its best unseen. And that’s the problem. How do you know […]

A linen love affair

It happens every January. Once the glitz, glam, glitter and gluttony of the holidays are over, I crave simplicity. I long for austerity and to surround myself with natural neutrals. No frills, no excess. I want food no fancier than plain water and a tuna sandwich, and a home no fussier than a monastery. So […]

Handle with care: How to pack and ship heirloom china

I had just stepped out the door for a morning jog when I saw a blizzard of pink Styrofoam packing peanuts swirling and skipping down the street. What idiot did that? I thought. My stomach turned inside out when I realized the eye of the storm was my trashcan. Moments before, it had been filled […]

2013 lessons learned, part 2

As I close out a year that saw more changes than a newborn — a year during which I cleared out and sold my childhood home, sent my youngest off to college, moved into my fourth home in three years. and still managed to cover the gray. I am raising a Waterford crystal flute filled […]

2013 lessons learned, part 1

Every year about  now, I look back at what I learned — sometimes the hard way — during the previous dozen months through writing this column. I review the advice gleaned from others who know more than I do and sift out the best lesson from each month. I distill it down, and serve it […]

Purple reign: Color pros call violet Color of the Year

While many people dream of being in the winner’s circle at the Kentucky Derby, I want to be in the inner circle of the group that calls the color shots. Think of the power! Two years ago the Color Marketing Group, which forecasts color trends, predicted that Boyz-N-Berry – a jam-like violet – would be […]

Downsizing up

For years I was part of the move-up movement. Each time I moved, my home got a little bigger, a little grander, which felt, in that uniquely American way, like progress. A growing young family and a usually promising housing market whisked those moves along the way like a strong ocean tide takes a soda […]

Spike that room

This time of year, I have eggnog on the brain and soon, perhaps, also on the hips. But the big question when considering a holiday beverage is not how fattening is it? But is it spiked? One way is good; the other, well, can be extra good — if you go easy! The same holds […]

Two-tree trend: When you can’t decorate just one

My two daughters had the same burning question when they arrived home from college for Thanksgiving: “We’re decorating the tree right?” While many shop madly the Friday after Thanksgiving as if the country were on the verge of a merchandise shortage, not us. We decorate. “Yes,” I assured them. “That tradition isn’t changing.” However … […]

‘Doing What Works’ host shares best home advice

Some days I feel like a glorified Dumpster diver. I throw myself headfirst into the world’s big bin of home advice, rummage through the flotsam and jetsam and surface with a few nuggets I think useful. I buff them into little pearls and serve them up each week — at the end of some cathartic […]

Smart houses may mean better health

I just toured a home so smart it tells you when you’re being stupid. And here I thought that’s what my teenagers were for. The prototype smart home offers a peek at what’s to come. Hint: houses that talk back. Their mission is to help you eat right, exercise more and take better care of […]

How to know when it’s time to move

For those of you just tuning in — and I’m afraid that includes me — my home life has gone through a metamorphosis lately. Two and a half years ago, I lived in a mountain home I owned in Colorado with a husband, two kids, two dogs and a horse. Today I live alone in […]

Houses you won’t believe

Whether I’m exploring a cave, camper, cottage or castle, I never tire of seeing other people’s living spaces. As a professional voyeur, I have been in some pretty cool homes, including the Lascaux Caves II a precise recreation of the prehistoric caves families lived in 18,000 years ago, and the Palace of Versailles, arguably the […]

How to get your party on

Like many of you, this weekend I will be going to a party as someone I’m not. Halloween, after all, is the time of year we can don an alter ego, look foolish and be excused. Party aficionado Cheryl Najafi, author of the New York Times bestseller “You’re So Invited,” is all for it. “Themes […]

Home ownership as the American Dream? Maybe not

Anyone looking for a strong shot of unvarnished reality need look no further than Patrick Bet-David. The California-based financial services adviser is to romantic notions — like homeownership and dating — what sunshine is to fog. His outlook may be just what America needs. “I was sold an American dream,” said Bet-David, who immigrated with […]

Message from the president: Servant character of EDCAR

By Karen Larson The true mission of the El Dorado County Association of Realtors is to protect private property rights. By serving our clients with this goal in mind, we maintain professional business practices and provide buyers and sellers quality information to make good real estate decisions.  However, there is another side to the members […]

Single women do it better

Single women are buying a lot of houses these days. According to a survey from the National Association of Realtors, single women are purchasing homes at twice the rate of single men. The California Association of Realtors reports that 15 percent of all owner occupied purchases this year were made by single women. So why […]

Feng Shui principals still working

With more listings and less buyers looking at homes this fall and winter, sellers may need to give a little more thought to making their homes more inviting to previewing buyers. Creating a WOW experience is a sure way sellers will get a higher price.  This last spring and early summer, it was less important. […]

Don’t live with it, fix it

The pine kitchen table was getting more rickety by the day. And understandably so. The 6-foot workhorse had been through a lot over the years: thousands of meals, hundreds of homework assignments, numerous bill paying sessions, a million cups of coffee and six moves through three states. Come to think of it, I’m a little […]

Old World meets mid-century: Can the looks live together?

Three days of packing. Nine hours of bonding with three movers. Two days of unpacking and furniture arranging (uh, before you put that down, could we try the armoire upstairs?). Ten broken fingernails, two band-aids, 12 Advil and one icepack. And I’m in my new home. Not only that, the new place — another home […]

All the home’s a stage

The best part about moving into a new home is the fresh start. You have another chance to get life right. If you’re like me, you believe that somehow, if you put things just right, your whole life will fall into place. Oh but that were so. However, this is so: Put the right things […]

How to be a moving machine

The inevitable day has come. I’m moving. Again. Next weekend, and for the third time in as many years. This is what happens when you are a live-in home stager. As I pack, I ruminate like Plato on the good question: Why am I doing this? Oh yeah, no mortgage or lease. I have ultimate […]

What’s keeping buyers awake at night?

When I checked my e-mail one day last week there was a note from a family that I had recently been working with trying to find them a home. “Sorry Ken, we need to take a break from shopping for a home. The experience is just too stressful and keeping us awake at night.” I […]

Don’t be too precious

Too precious. When I first heard that expression used to criticize a home interior that was polished to perfection, I thought I was going to have to break something. No sooner had I gotten to the point where I could almost pull off a perfect room than I learned that wasn’t the aim. “It’s not?!” […]

Home show blogger shares 10 hot trends

Everyone over 40 needs at least one person in their life who is at least 20 years younger, and can help him or her dodge the dreaded dowdies. Though much emphasis gets placed on the need for the younger generation to listen to those who’ve lived longer, and appropriately so (slow down to think, send […]

Design duo dishes out remodel survival tactics

Some married couples, Lord knows how, work together in business. Some couples, heaven help them, remodel together. Jennifer and Steve Clark of Lafayette, Calif., somehow, do both. The Clarks, who have been married seven years and have three kids, not only team up to renovate other homeowner’s properties, but they also regularly tear up their […]

When pruning beware poisonous plants

I’d had it with the tree monster taking over my driveway. It loomed larger every day and threatened to eat me and my car every time we pulled in. As my personal rainforest grew thicker and more menacing, so did my resolve to hack it back … some day. Some day when I wasn’t dressed […]

Breathe easier in a healthy home

Warning: The contents of the following column may cause runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes. Just thinking about the dust mites, mold and toxins likely lurking in your home is enough to cause gasping and wheezing even if you don’t have asthma. In fact, ever since I talked to healthy space designer Robin Wilson, CEO […]

Cool it on air conditioning bills

Ahh, summer. Long days, lazy nights, the drone of a baseball game and a broken air conditioner. A variation of Murphy’s Law says: If something can go wrong, it will when you need it most. This time the upstairs air conditioner went down just as the first two hot weeks of summer steamrolled in. During […]

Branch out, naturally

Quick. Think of 10 ways to use a tree branch in your house. Go … I admit, after I’d lit on one use — burn it in the fireplace — I was uh, stumped (sorry). This is where creative types like designer Michele Beschen take over. Beschen, TV host of B. Organic, now in its […]

Why we should care about historic homes

Last week, America came frighteningly close to losing one more piece of history. A wrecking ball was set to swing on a beautiful historic in my town. All so a brand-new mansion could take its place. It should be a crime, but it isn’t. Meh, history, shmistory. I learned about the plan to take down […]