Friday, November 30, 2012

Two More Houses Sold In 10 Days!

The Puffer Team sold two more homes after they were on the market for 10 days...that's just over a week!

Check out these stats:


10 Duncan Creek Road; Fletcher, NC  28732

Listed:  $325,000   Sold:  $305,000, that's 94% list to sell!

615 Fairview Forest Drive; Fairview, NC  28730

Listed:  $300,000   Sold:  $300,000, 100% of list

Neither of these properties were in a multiple offer situation, they were priced right and ready for the right buyer.

Do you have a home in the Buncombe/Henderson area that you need to put on the market?  Put The Puffer Team to work for you, call Brad Puffer today!  828-771-2300,

Staging Shockers: 9 of the Worst Staging Decisions Ever Made

When it comes to selling a home you want to make the best impression possible, not leaving the buyer to be turned off by certain decor.  Below is another great article from Trulia about the worst staging decisions one can make.  Remember here when we talked about 10 Ways NOT to sell a house?  Read on

At the end of every year, my mind naturally drifts to what did and didn’t work this year, in an effort to double down on my successes and avoid repeating my mistakes. Occasionally,I’ll take a look back at my whole lifetime in this same way, reflecting on poor past decisions ranging from old high school sweethearts to bad fashion choices, misguided career moves to things I said and wished, instantly, I could take back.

Rather than letting them fester into regrets, it’s best to look at our mistakes as holding lessons - pitfall avoiding, action-inspiring material we can draw on as we move forward in life. In fact, I actually call my painful past mistakes “tuition”: the price I’ve paid to learn a valuable lesson. The keyword here is valuable. In school, tuition is worth paying because the learning you get in return holds economic value or is otherwise worthwhile.

Tuition is a lot like staging, really: they’re both up-front investments with the potential to make or save you money, in your life, your career, or the sale of your home. As we grow older and wiser, the goal should be to learn not just from the mistakes we’ve committed - but from those that others have committed, as well. Think of them as tuition-free lessons. I say we should try to do the same with staging - let’s take these ten shockingly bad staging decisions that other home owners have made and continue to make every single day, and boil them down into lessons every home seller can use to drive their own home staging success.

1.  Bizarre collection overload. Let’s face facts: it is very difficult for almost any collection to look orderly and neutral, two high-level aims of home staging. Unless you have attractive, high-end built-in cases for your collections and target buyers are share your affinity for the objects, even your cool clock collection or the dolls your grandmother gave you can come off as a pile of space-consuming clutter. 

But when it comes to shockingly bad staging decisions, the choice to give your taxidermy collection or your gun collection a starring role in your home’s staging ranks up there in the top few. These collections are highly likely to trigger (pardon the pun) ethical and sanitation concerns in the minds of many home buyers, and are completely distracting from the strengths and features your home has to offer.


Lesson Learned: Pack up your clown collection and put your bowling trophies in storage before you start showing your home. And if it once ran, flew or swam, think twice before putting its body out on display as part of your staging showcase (unless, of course, your home is a hunting lodge or in an area where hunting is de riguer). 

2. Echo chamber staging. In an echo chamber, sounds are amplified because they simply bounce around in that closed space.  The same can happen with your thoughts and ideas about staging, if you don’t open yourself up to outside input.  And unfortunately, it seems to be the bad staging ideas that get amplified, more than the good ones. For instance, no matter how great your taste is, if your home is heavily customized around your personal preferences, it can be very difficult for buyers-to-be to envision themselves, their families and their belongings in the place. Echo chamber staging happens when the sum total of your staging team is you, yourself and you - so that the only conversations that take place about your home’s staging plan are those that take place in the echo chamber of your mind. For that reason, I’m a big believer in professional staging (if you have the budget) and in professionally-assisted staging (if you don’)t.  That’s because the sellers who stage with zero external or professional input, are often the sellers who are unable to see:

  • that their homes are still significantly cluttered or over-full,
  • that their furniture is too plentiful and too large to show how spacious the home truly is, or
  • that their sweet feline companions are also rather malodorous to strangers.

The truth can hurt - so many home owners avoid it. Don’t fall into this trap. Bring in some trusted pros who are both invested in your success and willing to tell you the unvarnished truth.

Lesson learned:  Get input from the pros - and get out there on the market, to see what your competition is like, from a staging perspective, rather than being your own, sole staging adviser. Read some books on staging. View model homes or professionally staged homes that are on the market. Get input from your real estate agent. If you have a bare bones budget, consider hiring a pro stager for just an hour’s worth of advice - let them come into your home and tell you what they would do, if they were you. (And write it down!)

3.  Failure to edit. You’ve heard thirty-somethings who still live at home diagnosed with failure to launch? Well, failure to edit is a close cousin of this syndrom.  As the New York Times recently put it, “the job of stagers is to reverse the accumulated creep of hundreds of small and misguided design decisions, and to erase any hints of the messiness of daily life.”  You might have a fantastic rug, a beautiful sofa, amazing tchotchkes and the highest-end personal effects are high style. But chances are good that their cumulative first impression to a buyer viewing your home will still fall short of the “one broad stroke of gorgeousness” the Times piece correctly says home sellers should aim for, with their staging.

The failure to edit is a generalized syndrome which can manifest in all sorts of specific staging woes, from garden variety clutter to disastrous decor style mashups. 

Lesson learned: When you think you’ve edited as much as you can edit, edit again. Think of it as pre-packing. The goal should be to remove virtually everything that would allow (or force) a buyer to picture you or your family, or your daily life functions taking place in the home. As well, you want to create as much ‘visual white space’ in your home as possible.  If you’re a do-it-yourself stager, ask your agent and your friends to come in and help you decide what still needs to go, once you think you’re done removing furniture and personal effects.

4. Silly scenarios. The difference between staging and interior design is simple: staging is cost-and-time efficient design undertaken with the specific objective of showing a home off to its best advantage, playing up its features and helping prospective buyers visualize the best lives they could possibly live in the home, should they choose it. Unfortunately, this has led some well-intentioned sellers and stagers to believe they should stage one bedroom as a Parisian boulevard (Eiffel tower mural included), another with a full-blown butterfly theme and the third as the beach - complete with umbrella, towels on the wall and sunscreen bottles on the nightstand.  I saw this house, folks. With my own two eyes.

Lesson learned: Stage your home to show off its space, light and conveniences, and the best, basic purposes that unusally small or large spaces could be used for. If your backyard is a huge selling point, stage it with outdoor dining or living room furnishings. Or, for example, if you have a very large Master bedroom sitting area and your home is in a school district sought after by new parent buyers, talk with your agent about staging your sitting area as a nursery with a compact bassinet and appropriate decor. Similarly, if your home is a 2 bedroom with a bonus room in an area of 4 bedroom homes, staging the bonus room as a bedroom or home office helps buyers understand the solutions that can minimize the brunt of your home’s challenges. Staging your home to create “cute” scenarios with no relationship to the selling points or solutions buyers care about is of no value and can create a low-budget feel - which is the exact  opposite of your goal.

5.  The ‘lived-in’ look. When your home is being shown for sale, it must be immaculate, every single time it’s being shown. It should actually look like no one lives there: no toothbrushes, curling irons, protein shake mixes or paperwork allowed. No bowls of cereal on the counter - actually, nothing on the top of a counter or a table that is not intended to be a design element.

Is this difficult to keep up?  Absolutely, especially if you have children or animals living in the home while it’s being shown. But you’d be surprised at how bad an impression just a few personal toiletries or dishes can make, distracting prospective buyers and making them wonder why you didn’t care enough to pick up before you let them in.

Lesson learned: Work with your agent to set up ideal showing windows, and to come up with a reasonable advance notice requirement they can communicate to buyers agents. And work with your family to set up a system for putting everything away and wiping down all kitchens, bathrooms and other daily mess hot spots every single time your home is going to be shown.

6. Paraphernalia gone wild.  Similar to collections, any sort of paraphernalia that is allowed to take over a space has the potential to create an instant turnoff for buyers-to-be viewing your home.

This can include:

  • work-at-home electronics, supplies, cords and paper clutter
  • pet supplies like litter boxes, cages and food
  • children’s toys and sporting goods
  • cooking and crafting supplies
  • books, magazines, notebooks, piles of mail and writing implements.

Lesson learned: See #6, above. If you’re going to live in your home while it’s on the market, create a system for putting all your paraphernalia and supplies entirely out of view every single time your home is going to be shown.

7.  Closet cramming.  If you have years worth of personal belongings of multiple family members that need to be out of sight, but not discarded, it can be very tempting to cram everything in a closet, shove the door shut and call it good. Problem is, home buyers today are desperate for storage space, so will undoubtedly open those same, crammed-tight doors in an effort to evaluate how your home ranks for storage. 

Beautifully organized closets with ample room create an impression in the buyer’s mind that they, too, can have an orderly life in your home, a life where there is a place for everything - and everything has a place.  And even huge closets, if crammed to the gills, make buyers wonder how they’ll ever get by with so little closet space. (Closet cramming also makes some buyers wonder what else you might be hiding, whether or not that concern is justified.)

Lesson learned: Use the exercise of staging as an opportunity to sell, donate or throw out things you no longer need - then consider moving as much as possible of what remains to storage for a few months, if your closets are too full.  Your agent can help you decide whether your closets show well, vis-a-vis what local buyers are looking for. 

8.  Failing to stage for all the senses. A house that smells like pet mayhem or smoke or has a noisily defective heater is a tough house to sell, no matter how beautifully it is staged. Unfortunately, smells and sounds are very easy to get acclimated to, when you live with them. Buyers, though, will detect them the second they walk in - and the moment they do is the moment we in the business call “turn-off time.”

Lesson learned: Ask your agent to reality-check you on how your home smells and sounds. And don’t get offended if they have bad news - work with them to fix it, for your own good.

9.  Not to. Ultimately, the most shockingly bad of all staging decisions is the surprisingly frequent decision not to bother staging your home at all. This explains homes like the one I once viewed which had residents still sound asleep in their beds, in the dining room, as the listing agent walked myself and my mortified buyer clients through the property. On the less bizarre end of the non-staged spectrum, this is how lovely homes with vast potential - and vast, overstuffed 80’s couches and 60’s decor - end up selling at a discount, as cosmetic fixers at a discount. This is a particular tragedy in cases where the owners could have painted, spruced, moved loads of things out and a few newer things in and made much, much more money on their homes.

Lesson learned: Not staging at all - not even bothering to do DIY staging - happens every day, and it costs more than the costs of putting some time and effort into getting your home ready for the market. If you’re on a budget, talk with your agent, get some books and, again, consider hiring a stager just for a brief advisory session. It will, I assure you, pay off.


Are you ready to meet with a professional and start discussing what it is you need to do to get your home market ready? Call The Puffer Team today, 828-771-2300, or visit our website,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

5 Ways to Course-Correct When Your House Hunt Takes Too Long

Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases a person makes in their lifetime.  The process can have it's ups and downs and can take some time.  Here's a great article from Trulia on how to be sure the buying process goes smoothly and with the least amount of stress possible.


Some people have home-finding stories that are the real estate equivalent of the sky written marriage proposal tales. They drove by their dream home, knocked on the front door and the elderly owner offered it to them for a song. However, most recent home buyers have tales on the other end of the charming-and-easy spectrum; tales of year-long house hunts and fruitless offer after fruitless offer, followed by a nerve-wracking, hair-pulling, interminable negotiation with the bank are much more typical. 

If you've been in the market for a home for what seems like a very long time to no avail, here are five strategies for getting things back on track.

1.  Know how long is (truly) too long. If you've been saving up, primping your credit and fantasizing about your dream home for 5 years, then waiting for exact right moment in your life and the market to pull the trigger for 4, viewing 15 houses over 3 weeks might seem like an interminable amount of time.

And if you make an offer that is rejected? The agony of that defeat is outweighed only by the pain of your dream (home) being deferred. 

Be aware that today's market is a very slow-moving one. It's completely normal in some areas for buyers to view dozens of homes over as many months, and have several offers rejected before getting into contract. Talk with your agent about how long local buyers normally have to prowl today's market before getting some home buying satisfaction.

2.  Identify where your process is breaking down. In order to course-correct your wayward house hunt, you first have to figure out what the problem actually is. If you're looking at lots of homes, but not finding anything that suits you, you might have an expectation issue. These range from having champagne tastes on a beer budget to being part of a pair of buyers with conflicting expectations that no home will ever be able to satisfy (e.g., husband wants a fixer, wife wants move-in ready). 

If you're finding places you like, but your offers are consistently being shot down, you might need to work on bringing your home picks into alignment with your budget by increasing your price range, decreasing your wish list, or looking at a lower price range and making higher, more competitive offers.

Fact: an experienced buyer's agent is an expert diagnostician of house hunt ailments. If your agent told you 7 months, 43 prospective homes and 9 offers ago that your expectations are out of whack or that you need to consider some compromises, you might circle back to that advice - and consider taking it.

3.  Remember how many houses are in the world, but don't try to see them all. It's easy - but unproductive - to get upset about "the one that got away;" counter that frustration by reminding yourself that you are house hunting in a market relatively flooded with housing inventory.  On the other end of the getting-out-of-your-own-way spectrum, if you do find a home that really works for you in your price range, get over the idea that you have to see everything in town before you make an offer.

One more mindset reset along these lines: understand that the *perfect* house does not exist - at any price range. Petra Ecclestone just dropped $80 million in cash to buy Candy Spelling's Hollywood home and reportedly had the whole place gutted because the decor was not to her taste. In the same way people with curly hair wish they had straight and vice versa, people who have hilltop vistas wish they lived nearer to the grocery store and people who can walk to the store wish they had better views. No single home will ever satisfy every single one of your preferences, so don't hold out waiting for one that will.

4.  Rethink your deal-breakers. The greater the number of absolute deal-breakers you've communicated to your agent, the fewer prospective homes you'll see. And the more flexible you can be about which listings you'll look at, the higher the chances you'll find something you like.  I recently read an article in an architectural magazine about a woman who house hunted ad nauseum in a very small neighborhood she needed to be in, only finding success when her agent showed her a fourplex she could convert into the single family home she was looking for.

If you think your agent simply doesn't understand what you want, ask them to remove all pricing filters and send you homes that reflect what they think your dream house really is.  Alternatively, drive around and find homes for sale or visit Open Houses that you think are closer to what you want - then investigate their list prices, or send the addresses of "suitable" homes that aren't for sale to your agent to find out what that house would go for today. 

These exercises will get you and your agent communicating on the same page; will help you understand tradeoffs, wants and needs more concretely; and will very likely flick some of your mental switches around what you can expect from a property at various price ranges.  This strategy is especially useful for reality-checking the expectation of home buyers relocating to a town with a higher cost of living than their current hometown.

5.  Ignore the peanut gallery. People who have not bought a home in your town, your desired neighborhood and your price range at the same moment in time you find yourself house hunting are not authorities on any of the following:
     (a) how dirt cheap 'those foreclosures' are,
     (b) how much of a discount you should be able to negotiate,
     (c) how much is too much for you to pay, or
     (d) how desperate the banks or sellers are to sell.

That lack of authority, though, will not stop your family members, friends and neighbors from chiming in and offering their own critiques, exasperation, suggestions, or "what I would do if I were you is. . ."-style analyses of your own home buying strategies. Many a would-be homeowner has remained just that - a would-be homeowner - by following the advice or suggestions of someone who read a headline but has no idea of the real market dynamics you face.

Depending on where you're buying, those dynamics might include:
  • banks that refuse to do repairs and may take 6 months to green-light a short sale,
  • sellers who are so upside down they can barely afford to sell for the list price -- and certainly can't afford to sell for less, and
  • areas in which the norm is for foreclosed homes to sell above asking after receiving multiple offers.


Are you ready to begin the home buying process with a real estate Professional?  Call The Puffer Team today, 828-771-2300,

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

6 Unexpected Advantages of Having the Right Agent

Another GREAT article from Trulia, this one is on reason on why it's so important to find the right agent to assist you with your home search.  We at The Puffer Team pride ourselves on providing the BEST in customer service; that's why our motto is "Committed to Excellence....Producing Results".

I once worked with a buyer who had to fly to the other end of the world within a couple of days after we placed her offer. Needless to say, she was agitated and anxious about the prospect of being so far away during inspections and contingency removals, especially since I’d earlier stressed how important it was for her to be present.

Rolling with the punches and poor timing, we sat down just before she left and talked through the timeline, including which events would take place on every day of her absence - including some harmless glitches that commonly arise along the way.

I never will forget her laughter when the occasional glitch of this sort did, in fact, come up. She would say: “I would have been stressed out by that. But since I knew to expect it, I’m not!”

The list of pleasant surprises in real estate matters is really, really short. Normally, we all want things to tick along precisely according to plan, and almost anything unexpected causes us inconvenience or plain old stress. But there is one relatively common set of real estate surprises that is actually quite delightful: the unexpected perks of working with the right real estate pro.

Most sellers come to their real estate agent relationships expecting help selling their home on a particular time frame, and marketing the place to make that happen.  Buyers are most often seeking an agent’s help finding the right home and negotiating to buy it.

But both buyers and sellers are often pleasantly surprised at the other resources, strategic counsel and expertise their agents ultimately provide.Here are some of the biggest benefits that catch them off-guard:

1.  Insider knowledge.  In a recent survey, home buyers said one of the biggest benefits they got from their agent was an understanding of how the buying process would unfold. When it comes to something as infrequent, complex and high stakes as buying or selling a home, having an insider advisor who is dedicated to your success can alleviate your anxieties and otherwise put you in a power position, when it comes to making smart decisions and moves.

2.  Lifestyle design advice.  I recently spoke with Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Workweek, The Four Hour Body and his brand-new book, The Four Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything and Living the Good Life. I asked Tim flat out what would be in his dream kitchen, if he were in the market for a home and he answered without hesitation: a six-burner Viking range.

And that was it. No Carrera marble. No European soft-close drawers. To a world class cook, what really matters is the stove. In fact, he explained, he was briefed on the importance of the range, and only the range, to a great chef’s kitchen by chef extraordinaire Alice Waters.

The right agent can and often does precisely what Alice Waters did for Tim Ferriss: they can course correct you around what home features, transaction terms and even timing nuances will help further the lifestyle you are trying to create - and which won’t - based on their past experiences working with buyers and sellers in similar situations.

You might think that you are desperate to live in a particular neighborhood, but your agent can help you understand the realities of the commute in a way you didn’t before. You might want to wait to list your home until the summertime, but your agent can point out the wisdom of getting started prepping the place during your holiday vacation time so that you’ll be poised to take advantage of pent-up cold weather demand at the first thaw. Of course, for your agent to be able to do this, you have to give them as much information as possible about the lifestyle you aim to create.

3.  Save you from yourself.  As we discussed last week, there are many instances in which even the smartest buyers and sellers are their own worst enemies, committing unintentional acts of self-sabotage like overpricing, lowballing, overspending and the like.  If you equip your agent with a deep understanding of the overall life picture, financial picture and then home picture you’re trying to create with your buy or sale (or both), they can help point out when you’re about to take an action that will be inconsistent with or counterproductive to what you say is important to you.

Ultimately, it’ll be your decision whether to take a given red flag-waving step or not, but your agent can be a very valuable coach to gently point out when you might be getting in your own way.

4.  Stop you from buying the wrong house.  A surprisingly high number of home buyers report that their agent actually talked them out of buying the wrong house for them. Whether because the inspection results come back and are deeply worrisome, the sellers simply want more money than you can healthily afford or experience has taught them that a buyer with your priorities will not be happy with a house like that, the majority of agents would rather sell you the *right* home for your family next month than sell you the wrong one right now.

5.  Devise an pre-buying or -selling action plan. What a tangled web we weave, when first we fail to properly plan and prep to buy or sell our home. Okay, so it doesn’t have quite the ring as the original saying, but you get the gist nonetheless. Agents love nothing more than to get a call way in advance of when you think you’ll be ready to make your move. Calling them in advance allows them to sit down with you in an unhurried, unpressured environment to map out an action plan that sets you (and them) up for successfully achieving whatever your real estate goal is.

And that, in turn, can help you prevent the overwhelm, procrastination and eventual last minute scrambling and freak-outs that arise when your ducks are not all in a row.

Things an agent can help you plan out, significantly in advance of your target move-in or move-out date, include, among many others:
  • Referrals to mortgage brokers, financial planners, contractors, stagers and relationship counselors (just kidding on that last one!).
  • Setting up action steps you need to take and helping you understand when you need to take them to meet your target time frames.
  • Getting clear on the relative costs (and financial prep it will take) to buy in any of several neighborhoods, cities and even property types that you are considering.

6.  Illuminate options you weren’t aware were even possible. There’s no shame in not knowing everything there is to know about real estate - even very active real estate consumers will only buy or sell 5, maybe 10 homes in a lifetime. But your agent does this all day, every day, for their entire career. So off the top of their head, they might be able surface options in terms of
  • properties
  • neighborhoods
  • pricing plans
  • contract terms
  • marketing tools
  • negotiation strategies
  • and even post-closing protections and service providers
that you would never have known existed, if not for them.

The theme here is this: don’t limit your agent and the help they can provide you by what you *think* their job is, or what you think they do or don’t know.  Make sure that when you’re getting referrals or meeting agents online and in person early on in your agent selection process, you pay attention to their references and marketing plans, but also to how well your personalities mesh.

Ideally, you’ll find and work with an agent in whom you can confide everything from your big picture life vision to your truly confidential financial details.

Bottom line: The more you feel comfortable sharing with your agent, the more likely you are to be pleasantly surprised with the ways they can help you.


Call The Puffer Team today, 828-771-2300;