Author Archive

Selecting An Architectural Style for Your Home

By Leah Marks

shutterstock_17182252The architectural style of a home is often highlighted in its online description to help buyers understand its features. But if you don’t know your Tudor from your Craftsmen Bungalow, don’t worry. We can help you sort it out with this condensed “cheat sheet” designed to help you determine what style of house you want or what type you’re currently trying to sell to potential buyers.

Cape Cod
Popular in the 1930s, Cape Cod homes are usually one-story houses with wood siding, a steep roofline either from its initial construction or added in later via a roof replacement, multi-pane windows and hardwood floors. While most Cape Cod homes are fairly small, many have dormer windows and often these upstairs spaces can be finished or remodeled to give you more square footage or storage space, just keep in mind to contact stainless steel handrails Melbourne to get a resistible handrail for your home.

Colonial is the most popular style of home in the United States and typically has two to three stories, brick or wood exterior, and a fireplace, with the kitchen and family room on the first level and bedrooms upstairs. If the house is symmetrical and has evenly spaced shuttered windows, there’s a good chance it’s a Colonial.

This type of house became popular during the Arts and Crafts Movement, when the focus was on natural materials like wood, brick and stone. Known for their charming front porches and open floor-plans, Craftsmen homes also tend to have fireplaces, plenty of woodwork and built-in shelves and seats, exposed beams, and decorative braces under the gables. Craftsmen homes also have unfinished but useable space in the attic.

The name sounds like it’s derived from the Tudor Dynasty, but today’s Tudor houses are a more modern take on the late Medieval English style. You’ll be able to spot a Tudor easily because of its incredibly steep roofline, narrow windows and half-timbers made by custom timber furniture Melbourne for decorative effect.

Named for Queen Victoria, this style originated in the 1800s and is all about beauty, sometimes at the expense of functionality. Victorian homes tend to be asymmetrical, ornate, and feature multiple rooflines, a front porch, bay windows and patterned shingles. This romantic style also spawned other similar styles such as Queen Anne, Romanesque and Gothic Revival.

Often called the first pure American style of architecture, the Federal style home is almost always made of brick and has a high, impressive façade with tall windows placed symmetrically on either side of the front door. Look for the fan-shaped, semi-circular window that usually sits atop the front door. Make sure to hire a residential window installation company for this one as they can perform the installation as efficiently and seamlessly as possible.

Country French
France occupied a large part of eastern North America during the 18th the Country French architectural style originated. Country French homes have steep rooflines which you can view here, paired with shutters, stucco walls and are typically one story. Look for French double doors and rustic design elements throughout this style of home.

This style developed as builders imitated Western ranches. These more modern homes feature open floor plans with easy access to the outdoors. First seen in the 1930s, the popularity of this style exploded during the building boom of the 1950s and 1960s in American suburbs. It’s a great choice for buyers who want to upgrade or expand with a home addition. According to the architects we hired at, this style of architecture is perfectly suited for snowy and rainy climates.

For more information about the different architectural styles in our area, please contact me.

Tips for Home Sellers

By Leah Marks

shutterstock_50097079Sometimes selling a home can feel like a big job – one with a thousand small tasks required to get it done. But many sellers make the job harder by ignoring or avoiding some of the biggest factors that contribute to a faster sale. Use this list to see if your house is truly ready for that “sold” sign.

1) Price is paramount.

With the housing market climbing out of its slump, many sellers are banking on higher sale prices. Just make sure you don’t reach too far when pricing your home, and rely on a good agent to help you find the “sweet spot” for your listing. Go too high and you’ll risk slowing down buyer traffic. And once your home has sat on the market for a long time, buyers automatically become suspicious. Even though your home might look great, buyers will notice the listing’s “time on the market” and naturally wonder “What’s wrong with it?”

2) Tour your home like a buyer.

Thousands of sellers make the mistake of looking around their home with the eyes of someone who knows it well and loves it dearly. But buyers won’t see it that way. So walk through your home as if you’re seeing it for the first time, taking note of everything that might give you pause as a skittish buyer. Never assume that a potential buyer will be able to overlook what you perceive as small flaws in the house.

Stage your home with the help of a professional stager (or a friend who’s great at interior design and organization) to create positive word-of-mouth with Realtors. While you’re staging the house, put away all or most of your family photos and other trinkets that make it “yours.” Your goal is to make it look like a model home so buyers can envision themselves living there. Don’t wait until an Open House is scheduled for your property to do repairs, staging, cleaning such as stone cleaning, and de-personalizing. Do it before your house ever gets listed online. As President Error Samuelson said, “Web appeal is the new curb appeal.” According to a study done by, homes with six photos posted online are twice as likely to be viewed by buyers as homes with fewer than six.

3) Let them in!

Nothing is more frustrating for an agent than a seller who doesn’t want to let potential buyers in to see it. Yes, last-minute requests for showings are a hassle. Yes, it’s a real pain to keep the house clean all the time. Yes, it’s tough to do showings when you have babies or toddlers at home. But the homes that sell fastest are the ones people are able to see quickly and easily. If you have lots of requirements for showings or long wait times, agents are likely to skip your house and go on to the next.

4) Be social.

We live in an increasingly social world, so take advantage of connections by inviting your neighbors to tour your house. It’ll encourage them to spread the word to friends who may be looking for a house in the area. And ask your Facebook friends to help out by sharing a great photo of the house you’ve posted on their timelines. Some sellers even create video “love letters” to their homes and post them on YouTube to endear the home to potential buyers.

With the right price, the right look, accessibility and social connections, you’re well on your way to the “sold” sign you’re working toward.

Mortgage Rates and Housing Prices Expected to Rise in 2014

By Leah Marks

Mortgage Rates RiseEven though 30-year fixed rates dropped in the first half of January, many analysts expect fixed mortgage rates to go up somewhat in 2014, but to top out at around 5%. What this means for buyers is that while higher than 2013’s historic lows, the rates will remain favorable and predictable for homebuyers.

What is less predictable is the potential rise in home prices. In fact, a Fannie Mae survey shows that more than 90% of the nation’s consumers believe that home prices are likely to rise and that potential buyers should start looking sooner rather than later. Nationwide, home values rose as much as 10 to 20% last year and many consumers expect at least another 3 percent rise in the coming months. One factor driving home prices up is the lack of available inventory. Many homeowners have placed their homes on the market, but according to the Fannie Mae survey, at least 33 % are under the impression that this climate is great for placing their homes on the market. If inventory rises, prices may remain stable for awhile, giving buyers the opportunity to solidify their financial situation, set a budget, gather their down payment, double check their credit report and get preapproval for a loan.

Another potential driver of home prices is the cost of materials for new homes and remodels. The aftermath of disasters such as Superstorm Sandy and various wild fires has pushed the price of lumber up more than 5 percent overall last year. Labor cost increases due to changes in many state minimum wage laws and immigration rules, as well as rising insurance costs affect materials costs too. For sellers, this means placing your home on the market now has to potential to get it sold faster, and at a moderate price increase. As interest rates go up, however, prices will correspondingly come down to adjust to buyers’ debt-to-income ratio. To set the appropriate price on your home, work closely with your professional real estate agent.

Your neighborhood comparables and the “mood” of the housing market in your area, along with the input from your agent will help you determine the best price for your situation. Remember, the mood of the market includes more than the national reports tell you. Your market is made up of a combination of the local jobs report, home inventory, interest rates, local school popularity, which neighborhoods or home styles are trending, and the community’s perceived desirability of your address. Your professional agent stays abreast of this information and works with your to set the right price for your home.

Will a Bath Remodel Increase My Home’s Value?

By Leah Marks

Bathroom RemodelSpring is just around the corner and the lure of a new home has you thinking about putting yours on the market. Your neighbor added a new bathroom last year and you’re wondering if you should upgrade yours before you sell. Logically, a new bathroom should increase the value of your home, right?

From 2006 through 2012, the return on a bathroom remodel investment averaged around 62%, according to the cost vs. value report prepared by Remodeling magazine while a bathroom addition garnered only 51%. Beginning in 2013, however, those numbers began trending up, so a bathroom remodel in 2014 is hovering near 72% and an addition is at 60% ROI. Even so, you will be spending more money than you can expect in return. That being said, there are great reasons to go ahead with a remodel, and your professional real estate agent can help you decide if it is a good investment for you.

One reason is that if several similar homes are on the market in your neighborhood, an upgraded bath may help yours sell more quickly. After all, when comparing side by side, who doesn’t want a clean, fresh bath? Busy buyers looking to move in quickly won’t want to do the upgrade themselves. Another reason to consider updating your bath is to attract a different type of buyer. Flippers, investors and DIY-homeowners will want the bones of the house to be in great shape, but will probably offer a lower price because they plan to make upgrades and changes themselves. Qualified buyers that want move-in ready conditions will appreciate not having to worry about upgrading, remodeling or renovating.

If you and your professional real estate agent determine that a bath upgrade will improve your sale, be sure to do it right. Do not attempt a DIY project you’ve never done before just to save a few bucks. Poorly installed flooring may cost you a sale. Remember, some changes do have more appeal than others. For instance, if you only have one bath, consider putting in a double sink. Couples, families and even roommates appreciate multiple sinks when trying to get out the door in the morning. Even a small bath can accommodate a double sink with the right choice. A new eco-friendly toilet is a nice touch too. Simple changes and give your bath a fresh look without a lot of expense. Consider fresh paint, a new rain-style showerhead, new classy but neutral shower curtain, updated faucets, or a new toilet. Don’t skimp on lighting. According to Alicia Garceau at HGTV, a bathroom remodel should include task lighting for applying makeup or shaving, ambient lighting—that bounces off walls—to soften shadows, accent lighting to give depth and dimension, and decorative lighting to add luxury or play up an architectural feature.

Contact us and we’ll help you determine your home’s value and how to prepare it to sell.

Design Trends in New Homes

By Leah Marks

Pubsub New ConstructionWhen the housing market rebounded, so did home builders eager to show off their design skills. Buyers expect that newly constructed homes will be safer and more energy efficient, but they’re also looking for homes that meet the needs of the more modern buyer. Here’s a round-up of some of the most popular design trends seen in today’s newest homes.

Kitchen islands look more like continents.
Maybe it’s the Food Network’s influence or maybe builders have finally realized that people ALWAYS end up hanging out in the kitchen. Either way, kitchens are now being designed by professionals from to accommodate the crowds they always seem to attract. Kitchen islands with with granite countertops and  plenty of seating allow people to sit and watch the home chef in action, and they let the host and hostess interact while feeding family and friends. With lots of incorporated storage and attention to design details, the extra-large kitchen island is becoming the focal point and showpiece of the modern kitchen.

Foyers that earn their keep.
Home buyers don’t want to walk in the front door and straight into a living room setting. So foyers that give a sense of entry are making a strong comeback in modern construction. But today’s foyers aren’t just a short hallway. Builders are adding built-in benches, alcoves, book nooks or high-end places to hang your things up as you enter. Then, consider the invaluable benefits mix on site concrete services bring to construction professionals. Here is where Carters Concrete stands out, their service maximises productivity and minimises waste, a crucial consideration in the modern construction industry.

Extended uses for extended families.
As the Baby Boomers age, the number of multi-generational households continues to rise. Buyers are requesting more homes with two master suites – often with one upstairs and one downstairs, which better suites elderly parents living in the home. Also, small “shadow” homes are being built alongside the main house to give aging parents a more independent living situation that’s still only steps away the family.

Productivity in pocket offices.
While the popularity of a large, formal home office may have faded over time, people still want hard-working spaces where they can do the work required to run a household. These small “pocket offices” are being located off of high-traffic areas like the kitchen and great room, where parents can still be in the middle of the action but have a separate, dedicated space for paying bills, signing papers and checking email.

Connection is key.
When people started saying “There’s an app for that,” it was only a matter of time before that app frenzy worked its way into new homes. With everything from smart thermostats to smart garage door openers, home buyers want more control over their environments by using the one thing we hardly ever leave home without – the smartphone. Soon there won’t be any more worries over whether or not you left the door unlocked or the garage door open because a touch of a button on your smartphone screen will assure you that all is well; however, these doors still need garage door repair and maintenance from time to time, so if it needs a minor garage door repair make sure you do it as soon as possible before the issue gets worse. Look for complete home automation systems to take a big step forward in newly constructed homes.

Sneaky storage spaces.
Square footage has to work harder in today’s home and every inch counts. Builders are sneaking those highly-coveted storage spaces into places that were once overlooked. Cabinets under staircases, drawers inside stair risers and storage space under window seats are all creative uses of space that would otherwise be wasted.

Look for design trends like these to meet the demands of today’s bigger, busier, more well-connected family.

Pinterest for Home Buyers and Sellers

By Leah Marks

Some people are great at articulating exactly what they want in their next home. But some of us know what we want yet find it tough to explain that vision to someone else. It usually comes out something like this: “I’ll know it when I see it.” But seeing tons of listings can be frustrating and can waste your time unnecessarily. Enter Pinterest – the social network that lets you collect all those dream house mental pictures that are often hard to put into words. Pinterest has become a favorite online hang-out for home buyers and those who plan to build or remodel a home, so if you are planning to sell your Moore County house fast to get a new home and decorate it how you want, this post is for you.

After all, knowing what you want is half the battle in finding or creating it. With a few simple searches, Pinterest users are exposed to thousands of photos they can use as inspiration in their house hunt. High-end and creative home features are one of the most heavily populated areas of Pinterest so there’s no shortage of ideas to sift through. Some users have created virtual “pin boards” for each room of their dream house and yard, making it easier to organize ideas and find them later. Do a simple search for “bathroom” in the search bar and you’ll find everything from rustic cabin outhouses to over-the-top luxury master suites equipped with Oak Vanity Units Made to Last.

If you’re having a tough time explaining your vision to your agent, consider sharing your Pinterest photos with him or her. Seeing what you like best can guide your agent’s selections for which listings are most likely to interest you. Of course, no one can make every Pinterest dream come true in one house, but it’s a good way to get on the same page and narrow down the choices of which houses to see and which ones to skip. Pinterest photos can also guide your decisions when looking for a house with “good bones” that can be remodeled into your dream house.

Pinterest for Home Sellers

For sellers, Pinterest can be a great way to get insight on what potential buyers are hoping to find during their house hunt. If the same type of living room photo keeps cropping up on Pinterest, you can bet it’s representative of a style that’s trending right now. Consider using that photo as a guide for how you might update, rearrange or stage your own living room to reflect the current trend. Pay special attention to wall colors, room layout, window treatments and floor coverings. Appeal to visual thinkers by making your home’s online photos as “pin-worthy” as possible.

Cleaning and organization are also huge areas of interest for Pinterest users, and the tips found in these “pins” can help as you prepare to put your house on the market. Clutter and half-hearted cleaning attempts can thwart a deal with potential buyers. Use the tips collected on hundreds of Pinterest boards to find new ideas for eliminating cluttered areas. You’ll also find innovative ways for simple household fixes like repairing nail holes, cleaning baseboards and dusting window blinds – all things that discerning home buyers will notice.

Whether you’re buying, selling, building, remodeling or just plain “nesting,” Pinterest might become your favorite online tool for finding inspiration, advice and friends who share your vision.

Tips for Home Buyers

By Leah Marks

Tips for Home BuyersFinding a new home can be one of the most exciting times of your life. It’s a little like dating – the pursuit, the “getting to know you” period, the proposal (aka “offer”), and the marriage (aka “closing”). If you don’t want your relationship with a new house to crash and burn, you need to know a few things before you fall in love.

 1. Know thy numbers.

You’d be surprised at how many home buyers start their new home pursuit without really knowing what they can and can’t afford. Avoid being disappointed later by getting preapproved for a mortgage before you even get started, always make sure to make a mortgage deal with companies you can afford like the one at And be sure you know the difference between being “prequalified” and “preapproved.” You can be preapproved only after a lender has reviewed all your financial information and has told you how much the bank is willing to lend to you. Being pre-approved will let sellers know you’re a serious buyer, and it will also prevent you from falling in love with a home that is financially “out of your league.”

2. Love the neighborhood, not just the house.

It’s easy to get caught up in how perfect a house is and forget that the house is only part of a bigger picture. It won’t matter how awesome the master bathroom is if you discover that the neighborhood just isn’t a good fit for you. Spend as much time researching the neighborhood as you do checking into all the nooks and crannies of the house. Regardless of whether or not you have kids, ask questions about the neighborhood’s school district since that will impact the home’s resale value. And be sure to drive through the neighborhood at various times of day to make sure you’re not missing any “deal breaker” factors.

3. Beware the lure of the lowball offer.

Even though buying a home is a financial decision that involves legal contracts, that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of emotion. If you’re tempted to make a lowball offer on a home just to see what happens, be aware that some sellers will be so offended that they won’t entertain future offers from you. It may be a business deal, but this is still their home – and that’s personal. Make an offer based on the selling price of other homes in the same neighborhood and then determine what the average price per square foot is for that area. Also, make your offer number an odd number instead of a round one. For example, an offer of $352,500 sounds like you put some thought into it based on real calculations, whereas an offer of $350,000 sounds more like a shot in the dark.

4. Get a home inspector’s “blessing.”

Some churches require engaged couples to go through a few premarital counseling sessions before they can be married in the church. Similarly, you’d be wise to seek the counsel of a qualified home inspector before you make things official with a new home. If the house has hidden baggage, a good home inspector will find it, which gives you the opportunity to decide if it’s something you’re willing to deal with or not.

By following a few simple guidelines and leading with your head instead of your heart, your destiny with a new home is much more likely to end with “happily ever after.”

How Smart is the Kitchen in Your Home?

By Leah Marks

shutterstock_137492999Home buyers walk into a house with lots of questions. How much square footage does it have? How many bathrooms are there? Does the backyard have a fence? But soon they may be adding a new question to that list: How smart is the kitchen?

With the appliance sales boom, people have higher expectations for kitchen appliances. While our kitchens might not look like something from the Jetsons cartoons anytime soon, appliances are getting smarter each year. For example, a Siemens refrigerator (currently in the concept stage) may one day eliminate the need to call home and ask, “Do we need milk?” The new model comes equipped with Wi-Fi and multiple cameras mounted inside it which will allow people to use a smartphone app to visually scan their refrigerator shelves, even while they’re standing in the dairy aisle at a grocery store across town.

Through home automation technology installation, new appliances are also smart enough to save a few bucks. Whirlpool has developed a new line of appliances called 6th Sense Live, and they’re designed to run when energy prices are lowest. Using a Wi-Fi connection, a dishwasher could start its own cycle at whatever point in the day it determines that energy prices are lowest. (It does this by using a constantly updated database of real-time energy prices.) Appliances that break down have been a source of frustration and unexpected expense for homeowners, but today’s new smart appliances may have a solution even when things go wrong. LG has developed appliances with remote diagnostic services. It’s called “Smart Diagnosis,” and it works by allowing the broken appliance to “talk” to a smartphone app by playing a certain sound. The app can “decode” the tone it hears and give the owner instructions on what to do next. If the repair is simple, the app might send a text message to let the owner know it’s time for a new water filter for the fridge. For more complex issues, the app will automatically request a service call.

Kitchens aren’t the only room of the house where “smart” reigns supreme. Laundry rooms are also being revolutionized by the technological wave. GE has a dryer that automatically gets messages from the washer about the load it will soon receive. By customizing the cycle, clothes aren’t as likely to overdry. For now, the bells and whistles of smart appliances are still a novelty. Customers aren’t rushing into big box stores demanding appliances that can talk to the outside world via Wi-Fi. But most manufacturers are preparing for the trend. Samsung and LG, both based in South Korea, are on the leading edge of smart appliances. Samsung is best known for its high-tech refrigerators that feature a touch-screen. Wolf and Sub-Zero both have a few appliance models capable of communicating with smartphones. But some manufacturers, like Bosch, are holding Sense Live, and they’re designed to run when energy off until the appliance industry institutes a standard way for all smart appliances to communicate.

Last year, sales of smart appliances were only about $613 million, a low number according to a Pike Research report. But executives like Bob Baird, vice president of merchandising for Home Depot, was quoted in a report on saying that, in time, more and more customers will request these types of machines, adding “It’s going to happen.”

Exciting New Feature: The NEW Admin Menu

By Leah Marks

A Brand New Layout for the Virtual Results Admin Menu!

From new features to new themes to new services, Virtual Results is always looking for ways to keep their sites on the cutting edge. So we have decided to start off 2013 with a bang!

Introducing an Exciting New Feature: The new Admin Menu!!
Throughout the next week, VR will be activating a brand new upgraded Admin Menu to your dashboard! This new admin menu is sleek and clean with additional integrated functionality, such as direct access to your IDX, Market Stats and Email Marketing accounts, training webinars and our continually growing support center.

Here are some of the improvements to our new Admin Menu:

  • Accessing our Support Center

The Virtual Results Support Center is constantly growing and contains wonderful tutorials, webinars and articles that will help you manage your site and its content. Now you can access our support center directly from your dashboard. Learn how to add items to your menu, create new content, utilize SEO plugins, edit your sidebar and footer, activate more features, tools, and so much more!

  • Using your Complementary Accounts

There are so many wonderful features that come with your Virtual Results account. We have set up a direct link to some your complementary control panels, such as your IDX dashboard and Altos Research login. For example, your Altos Research account is more than dynamic charts. It also provides branded statistical reports and full market analysis, lead capture tools, branded marketing, and one-on-one coaching. Yet many people never get around to using these tools. We hope the new design will inspire you to take a more proactive look at all the services that come with your site.

  • Managing Your Content and Understanding Your Settings

With our new layout, you will find it much easier to manage your content and settings. Everything is organized and simplified, making it easier for you to find and manage the tools and features that come with your Virtual Results website. For those users who have been more proactive in managing your site, these changes will allow you to maneuver more easily and rapidly. For those of you just starting out, it’s never been easier to learn! This is a great time to learn how to add and manage content, and how to fully exploit the valuable lead generating tools that come with your Virtual Results account.

  • Introduction to the New Admin Menu Live Webinars

Ready to learn more? Great, because it’s time to explore your new Admin Menu. These 30 minute sessions will include a short walk through of your new admin menu and a Q&A session with Leah Marks, WordPress expert and Customer Support Manager. There are three sessions scheduled for your convenience, listed below. Register Now!


Monday, January 21 – 12pm (PST)/ 3pm (EST) – Click Here to Register

Thursday, January 24 – 10am (PST)/1pm (EST) – Click Here to Register

Friday, January 25 – 2pm (PST)/ 5pm (EST) – Click Here to Register

NEW FEATURE: Blog Post Thumbnails

By Leah Marks

Virtual Results announces a brand new feature for AgentPlus clients – The Blog Post Thumbnail

We are happy to announce the development of a new feature, the ability to display a thumbnail image in your blog post excerpt. Activating this feature is a great way to spice up your site, offer a better user experience and add some great images to your blog and to your home page. This is an important feature because adding images to your articles will increase the number of page or post views exponentially. This is a visual culture, where the world’s largest social network, Facebook, and 2nd largest search engine, YouTube, have found success primarily due to their focus on multimedia. Those browsing the web are more inclined to stay on a webpage that contains images, rather than just text. Consumers are more likely to purchase a product they’ve already seen, rather than one that’s just been described. The value of images on your site increases every day. Plus it’s just fun! And it has the potential to make your site look amazing!

And the Virtual Results Community Agrees.

Virtual Results has activated this feature on the following sites, with great results! Take a look at the websites below:

Casa Bella Boca
Search Minnneapolis Condos

Need More Information?

If you would like more information about this feature, please contact Virtual Results at

If you would like this feature activated on your site, please complete the form below and the VR Support Team will be happy to set it up for you.

Blog Post Thumbnail Signup

Please activate the Blog Post Thumbnail Feature on my site!


This is just one element out of many we are planning to launch in the coming weeks and months and we are excited to show you the new features and tools we’ve developed and are continually developing that will improve the site aesthetic and functionality. So stay tuned!