When Renovating, Should You Choose Value Over Happiness?

Homeowners typically will weigh the cost of a home renovation project against the value it will add to their house. But the pleasure of enjoying a new kitchen or bathroom should be considered, too, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), with insights from the National Remodeling Industry.

Let’s look at the kitchen renovation, for example. A little over 60 percent of the cost of a major kitchen remodel is recouped by the homeowner, according to the NAR report. But, the project earns the top score for the joy it brought homeowners, a perfect 10!

The 2019 Remodeling Impact Report examined 20 renovation projects and ranked them according to how happy homeowners were with their renovations. The study also measured return on investment. The top three projects with the highest “joy score” were kitchen renovation, closet renovation, and a full interior paint job. Renovations with the greatest return on investment were new roofing, new hardwood floors, and refinished hardwood floors.

So, should you tackle projects that will make you happy or ones that will add the most value to your home? Here are three factors to consider:

  1. Even if you’re not planning a move, ROI is an important consideration. Life is full of surprises and you never know when you may need to sell. ROI is as important for the young millennial family who just moved into their first home as it is to the Boomer couple looking to age in place. By choosing the correct projects, you can enhance the functionality, livability, and beauty of your home while increasing property value at the same time.
  2. Not all remodeling projects are created equal. Purchasing a home is often the biggest investment any individual makes, so it is wise to carefully consider any work that affects that investment. The improvements should be in line with the value of a home, just as the cost of a home should be in line with the neighborhood it’s in. So, while a homeowner might enjoy heated floors and imported tiles in her master bath, the cost of the renovations may exceed the value in the long run. By researching the value of specific renovations, homeowners can avoid unpleasant surprises when it’s time to sell the house.
  3. ROI can vary significantly depending on the local market and local buyer preferences. Generally speaking, remodeling a lower-priced home will increase the home’s value more than remodeling a higher-priced home. A brand-new kitchen in a starter home will stand out more than an upgraded kitchen in a luxury mansion. In higher end neighborhoods, installing a swimming pool may add more value. In colder areas, attic insulation may make more sense. Local variables need to be considered.

Should you do it? Back to our kitchen renovation example: what I’m seeing in the marketplace is buyers who are looking for HGTV-ready kitchens that are modern and beautiful, and also highly functional with state-of-the-art appliances, attractive light fixtures, and new hardwood floors. What’s more, today’s lifestyles center around the kitchen. It’s understandable that a completely renovated kitchen brings homeowners joy, and from my experience, an updated, sparkling kitchen can help seal the deal when it comes to selling your house.

My advice? Talk to your realtor about the local market. Balance your immediate desires with the big picture. Choose remodeling projects wisely. Avoid lavish lighting and ornamental wall finishes that are on trend today but may be out of date in a few years. The cost of highly personalized additions such as a children’s theatre, elaborate home gym with rock climbing wall, or indoor hot tub may never be recouped. In addition, steer clear of custom finishes. A large nautical star in your entryway floor may appeal to the boat lover in you, but not to a potential buyer with Western ranch on his mind.

If you’re planning to stay in your house for a very long time, and remodeling will enhance your enjoyment of your home, it may make sense to follow your gut on renovation projects. But ROI should always be a consideration. And remember, it’s not a one-size-fits all model. I’d be happy to help you evaluate your potential projects, and to talk to you about what’s selling in the Rye and Westchester real estate market.

For more information, call Fiona Dogan at 914-414-5147 or email her at Fiona.dogan@juliabfee.com

The Art of Pricing Your Home to Sell

Determining the right price for your home is complicated. It’s a balancing act. You don’t want to price so low that you are leaving money on the table, but you can’t go so high that would-be buyers are turned off. Pricing your home is part art, part science, and part psychology.  It is also the most important part of the entire sales process.

If you get it right, your home will sell quickly at a price that pleases you. But an overpriced home may cause buyers to simply wait till you lower the price or worse — they will move on quickly.  Remember, the list price of your home is not necessarily the sale price. The list price of your home is designed to generate showings, and produce offers. It usually takes into account some negotiation.

The critical time to attract buyers is the first 2-3 weeks of listing your property. If buyers perceive good value, you may receive multiple offers. If your house is not well-priced, you will lose showings.

So, how to master the art of pricing our home?  Here are five strategies you may find helpful:

  1. Price your home based on facts not emotion. Don’t assume that the buyer is willing to pay a premium for your years of happy memories. Do not compare the price of your house with a price your neighbor got a few years ago. Markets change quickly by season and by year. Buyers are able to do their own research, and decide how much your home is worth by deciding what they’re willing to pay for it.  
  • Determine the appraisal value. The most valuable marker for the price of your home is the appraisal value. A lender will set the appraisal value based on comparable sales within the last 6 to 12 months within a half a mile to mile radius. This will give you a valuable indicator of the value of your own home.
  • Package your home for sale. Your pool of buyers today may be very different from the buyer pool you were in when you bought your home. Today’s new young buyers, for example, are HGTV-savvy and have different expectations. So, be prepared to take your agent’s advice. They usually recommend that you bring your home into the best possible marketable shape by renovating, repairing, decluttering, and upgrading. The size, condition, and finishes will all influence the pricing.
  • Make it easy for buyers to make an offer. Sellers wonder why buyers don’t simply “make an offer.” Psychologically, if buyers feel the asking price is too far removed from what they are willing to pay they often do not want to insult the seller with a low-ball offer. They can also be reluctant to engage in a long and difficult negotiation process with a seller they perceive as being unrealistic and unmotivated. Buyers always have an eye on future resale and do not want to feel they overpaid. Pricing slightly below your competition can make your home stand out from the noise and reduce your days on market.
  • Don’t go at it alone. Bring in the professionals! Hire an outstanding local agent whose full-time job it is to track and analyze the market. The price you may want for your home has nothing to do with what it is actually worth on the open market. Your realtor is on your team! She is your best advocate. She will perform up-to-date quantitative analysis in order to make a realistic pricing recommendation to sell your home quickly for the best possible price.

Call Fiona Dogan at 914-414-5147 for more information on pricing or selling your home!

Life in Rye: 26 Things You Should Know, from A – Z

Welcome to Rye!

Congratulations on one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. As a Rye resident, you have access to top notch schools, great food, waterfront recreation, arts and culture, and a warm and welcoming community.

As you settle into your new hometown, you may have many questions about where to go, how to get around, and what to do in your new hometown.

I’ve called Rye home for over 25 years and feel uniquely qualified to offer some tips on this very special place to live. My children attended Rye public schools and I’ve been a very active member of the community (details here!)

I’m happy to offer a list of extensive resources for you to find answers to some of those questions! You’ll find links to important government, education, recreation, and community resources here.

Fiona Dogan’s ABCs of what every Rye Newcomer Needs to Know

For a more personal look at what I love about Rye, here’s a list from A to Z for you to discover what makes Rye such a special place:

A is for Arcade Books, Rye’s only independent bookstore. In operation for over 30 years, it’s a local favorite. A is also for the Rye Arts Center, a terrific community resource for art classes and so much more.

B is for the beaches! Rye Town Park has 34 acres of beach and swimming areas (also known as Rye Beach and Oakland Beach) and Rye Playland Beach is backed by the boardwalk and amusement park. Plenty of space for frolicking and fun in the sun and sand.

C is for the croissants and other delectable offerings at Patisserie Salzburg, a European-style café in Rye. 

D is for our lively downtown Purchase Street, lined with upscale shops for and restaurants. It’s also the site of many wonderful events put on by our active Chamber of Commerce, including the annual Sidewalk Sale and Mistletoe Magic.

E is for the Expat Connection, a terrific resource for the community of expatriates from other countries who now live in Rye.

F is for Frankie and Johnnie’s, Rye’s fabled steakhouse that is just a short walk from the Metro North train—perfect for dinner and drinks on the way home!

G is for the city-owned Rye Golf Club, home to a challenging 18-hole course with spectacular views of the Long Island Sound and an Olympic sized swimming pool.

H is for the hometown feeling you have when you live in this tight-knit community that is so warm and welcoming.

I is for indoor ice skating at the Playland Ice Casino, which offers a nice schedule of public skating time.  

J is for the Jay Heritage Center, the historic landmark home of American Founding Father, John Jay. An active museum, educational programs and historical tours are all offered here.  

K is for kid-friendly! There’s no community more suited to family-life than Rye! With top-notch schools, kid-friendly restaurants, waterfront fun, easy hiking, and a walkable downtown. Life’s a beach!

L is for Longford’s Ice Cream, simply the best! Small batch, premium ice cream for the past 26 years in downtown Rye.

M is for the 5.5 miles of pristine Long Island Sound shoreline you have access to, now that you live in Rye!

N is for Rye’s Nature Center, a wildlife preserve offering hiking, recreation, and educational programs and special events throughout the year.  And the Rye Newcomers Club — and excellent resource!

O is for oyster bar, as in Ruby’s Oyster Bar, a Rye mainstay serving up delicious steak, seafood and so much more in a chic and comfy setting.  

P is for Rye Playland, the historic art deco amusement park home to Westchester’s famous Dragon Coaster. Hours of entertainment!

Q is for all of your real estate questions I’m happy to answer! Just email me at Fiona.dogan@juliabefee.com

R is for our fabulous recreation department, which hosts several community events throughout the year including summer concert series, magic shows, Shakespeare in the Park, October Fall Festial, and much more.

S is for schools — Rye is home to two top-ranked public school districts, Rye Neck and Rye City school districts.  

T is for our beautiful 62-acre Rye Town Park with verdant spaces for relaxing and shoreline for swimming and historically significant buildings and structures.

U is for the dozens of upscale shops on Purchase Street which offer everything from clothing and home décor to wine, fresh produce and prepared food.

V is for very close to New York City! Whether you’re doing the daily commute or just popping into the city for dinner and a show, you’ll appreciate the quick trip in and back.

W is for the Wainwright House, a beautiful mansion that houses health, wellness, spiritual, and ecological centers. A great place to rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit!

X is for the eXcellent opportunities to volunteer in and around Rye. From getting involved in your children’s schools to joining a community organization such as the philanthropic Woman’s Club of Rye, there are several ways to give back to your new community.

Y is for the Rye YMCA, an important community organization offering exercise, swim, and sport programs, in addition to arts and community health programs. They host birthday parties, too!

Z is for Zoltar, the fortune-telling machine on the Rye Playland Beach Boardwalk where the 1988 fantasy comedy “Big,” starring Tom Hanks, was filmed.

Selling Your Parents’ Home? Here Are the Steps to Take

Selling a loved one’s home is a task many of us will face in our lifetime. Whatever the circumstances — you may be helping your parents transition to senior living, or handling their estate after death — the responsibility may be challenging.

To start, the sale of a childhood home triggers emotions and memories that would not be true of another home. Those pencil marks on the wall show how much you grew year to year; the scratch in the hardwood floor reminds you of the time you played hockey in the dining room. Plus, you may be emotionally drained because of the circumstances, and the real estate process can add to that stress.

But help is on the way! Working with an experienced real estate professional can help bring peace of mind and ease the stress of selling your parent’s home.

Four Tips for Selling Your Parent’s Home

  1. Gather important documents. You may have already had the conversation with your parents about important papers related to their home, including insurance documents, homeowner’s policy, and bank accounts. If not, be prepared to gather everything you need and put it in one place. You may want to change mail delivery to your home to ensure you receive any important updates.
  2. Take an inventory of the home. Categorizing helps: sort things according to what you, a sibling, or a neighbor may want to keep, what you will donate, and what can be trashed. Of course, that is easier said than done when it comes to your parent’s belongings. If that is the case, consider hiring professional appraisers to help establish the value of items.
  3. Pare down or purge! You may view the home and reflect on the lovely life lived there, but buyers will just see someone else’s belongings. Buyers won’t be interested in the majority of the items in the home, so ideally, you should purge most of them. After determining the value of furniture, clothing, and jewelry, arrange for the delivery of or disposal of the home’s possessions. For hazardous materials (fertilizer, chemicals, leftover paint) check with your town or local carting facility. A real estate professional can help decide what to keep for staging the home for sale.
  4. Get the home ready for market. Now that you’ve pared down the home’s interior it’s time to get the house ready for buyers to view. If the home was purchased 30 or 40 years ago, chances are the décor (paint, wallpaper, carpet) is outdated. If your parents were infirm prior to their move or death, there may be underlying structural issues that need to be addressed. A real estate professional can assess what needs to be updated or fixed prior to putting the house up for sale.

Saying goodbye to a home you and your parents have lived in for decades is hard. But selling it doesn’t have to be. Real estate agents can help you every step of the way, from providing referrals for services and staging the home for sale, to establishing the right price and negotiating the best deal.



Fiona Dogan Joins Prestigious Sotheby’s Producers Club

Dogan Now Ranked Among Top 3% of All Agents

Here’s some very good news for home buyers and sellers who are searching for a trusted real estate professional.

Realtor Fiona Dogan was invited to join the William Pitt Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty 2018 Producer’s Club, signifying that she ranks among the top three percent of all agents across the entire company. This impressive distinction places her among the top 30 brokers across 26 brokerage offices in Westchester County, Connecticut, and Massachusetts!

“The recognition is terrific, of course,” says Dogan. “But even more rewarding is knowing how many clients I’ve helped find a perfect home, or find the buyer that is just right for their property.”

As real estate decisions are among the most important financial and lifestyle decisions people make, it is critical to have the expert guidance of a broker who has successfully navigated the local and global market, time and again.

Broad expertise

Dogan’s expertise includes new construction, home staging, and buying, selling, and renting homes in Rye, Harrison, Purchase, Port Chester and White Plains. She also serves international clientele looking to relocate to the area. Dogan offers concierge service to her clients, a differentiating factor that has helped her become a top-producing broker.

“I help my clients with every aspect of the process, from identifying homes that meet their needs and evaluating options, to negotiating the best price and understanding home inspection reports. I go the extra mile,” she explains.

Being affiliated with William Pitt and Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty benefits her clients in myriad ways, she says.

“Through our affiliation with Sotheby’s International Realty, we achieve broader exposure than any other firm for our listings. Coupled with my own extensive network, I’m able to assist buyers and sellers locally and around the world.”

The William Pitt Julia B.Fee Producer’s Club is the latest in a series of accolades received by Dogan, who was also named among America’s Best Real Estate Professionals by Real Trends in 2018. Brava!!!


Prep Your Home Now for Listing This Spring

What you can do now to get ready for the spring market

If you’re thinking of putting your home on the market this spring, this is the time to get HGTV-ready!

As that popular show reminds us, today’s buyers are shopping online. So, you really need to make a striking first impression that stops potential buyers mid-scroll. Your home must dazzle someone who’s checking Zillow at 4 a.m.

Decluttering is no longer enough

Many homeowners are focused on tidying up, thanks to Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo, whose book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has sparked a global decluttering craze. But in order to achieve that picture-perfect look, you can’t just clean out a few closets; you must downsize your entire interior.

Less is more! What to clear out? If you have five sofas and chairs in a room, get rid of two of them. Imagine moving in two weeks: What are you going to take with you? If it’s not on your packing list, get rid of it or donate it now.

After your purge, take a good look around and ask yourself: What else can you do to make your home camera-ready?

My advice:

Get rid of heavy drapes and valances, and anything with pattern, including wallpaper. No one likes busy patterns or dark wood. Besides, they do not photograph well. Photos of your home have to sparkle and standout online. Think bling! Think bright and white!

I recommend that walls be all white or a very neutral light color. Other simple investments you can make and do yourself include putting in new light fixtures, new door hardware, and all-white bedding including comforters and shams. These are inexpensive items that will offer a huge bang for your buck.

Curb Appeal Counts

Lastly, if the weather is mild enough (even mid-winter), tidy up outside.

Clean up the last of the fall leaves and twigs, tuck away outdoor furniture, cut back shrubs and grasses so they’ll grow back nicely. Nothing looks lush and green in the early spring market, but you can make your property look trim and manicured.

Fiona Dogan is a Licensed Realtor® in the Rye office of Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty. She is a Westchester Five Star Real Estate Agent, Platinum Award winner, and an Accredited Buyer Representative. For more information, please contact Fiona Dogan at: fiona.dogan@juliabfee.com.

Let Fiona help you sell or find your dream home. Contact Fiona at 914-414-5147 or email her directly.