Customized Renovations Can Be a Hard Sell

Are you thinking of renovating your home and adding customized, truly unique amenities?

If so, think again.

There’s nothing wrong with having a Turkish bath, Atlantis-sized aquarium, gold-plated toilets, rock climbing wall, or monogrammed tile floor in any remodel … if that’s your taste. But if you’re planning to sell your home (now or at any point in the future), such amenities could actually depress your home’s value and limit your pool of prospective buyers.

Better to think about modifications that will improve your home’s curb appeal and boost the sale price because most buyers don’t appreciate too many personal touches. If potential buyers don’t like what they see, they’ll start wondering what’s it going to cost to remove your customized renovations instead of visualizing themselves living in your home. And that could be a deal-breaker.

I’ve heard woeful tales from both buyers and sellers: One person’s eclectic masterpiece may be another’s cluttered nightmare. Where you may see dollars signs, someone else might see empty wallets. Therefore, the goal is to have your home as close to turnkey as possible.

How should you approach renovating your home?

Choose your amenities wisely

Here are some tips to consider when renovating:

  • Avoid lavish lighting fixtures and ornamental wall finishes. That ultra modern chandelier or stone wall may be on trend today, but out of date in a few years.
  • Skip highly personalized additions such as a children’s theater with a stage, elaborate home gym with a rock climbing wall, or indoor hot tub (which could lead to you taking a bath on your asking price!).
  • Think classic and timeless when it comes to color. Use neutral décor, with small splashes of soft color; avoid heavily patterned wallpaper, loud colors, or overly ornate cabinetry.
  • Go for uniform flooring. Hardwoods offer more resale value than tile or composite materials. Steer clear of custom finishes! A large nautical star in the floor of your entryway may appeal to the boat lover in you, but not to a potential buyer with Western ranch on his mind.

The idea is to help a potential buyer imagine what living in the house would be like.

When in doubt, ask a professional. A real estate agent can tell you exactly what renovations make sense and which do not, and share the benefit of their experience so that you make the right decision.

Contact Fiona at 914-417-5147 or



Top 5 Outdoor Additions to Boost Your Home’s Value

At this time of year, the outside beckons. As we spend more time outdoors, it’s not uncommon for homeowners to want to update their outdoor spaces with the kinds of amenities that duplicate what they enjoy in their indoor spaces. We’re not just talking about a gas grill on the patio; far more elaborate open-air amenities are on the rise.

For those looking to invest in their backyard entertainment spaces—and add value to their home—I’ve created a round up here of some of the hottest outdoor home trends in exterior design. From built-in barbecues and pizza ovens, to weather-resistant televisions and overnight mosquito sprayers, your outdoor oasis awaits!

Five Ways to Enhance Your Outdoor Space

 1.  Al Fresco Media Rooms: When it’s 80+ degrees outside but you want to catch up on your Netflix viewing, an outdoor media room is in order. Homeowners are opting to install retractable screens in covered spaces that both protect technology from the elements and ensure sun glare won’t interfere with what’s on the screen. (Game of Thrones, anyone?) Weatherproof TVs that can handle rain, dust, salty air, and humidity also offer a higher brightness and more reduced glare than many indoor products on the market today.

2.  Outdoor Kitchens: Cooking outside used to mean throwing some hot dogs and hamburgers on a charcoal grill. Now, gourmet meals can be put together in outdoor cooking areas complete with high-end appliances. Rotisserie grills, ceramic grills, deep fryers, smokers and even pizza ovens can be found in some of the more elaborate outdoor kitchens. Don’t feel like carrying all the dirty dishes inside for washing? Dishwashers now come in outdoor versions, with winterization features. Add to the list custom cabinetry to store your outdoor flatware and dinnerware and…you get the picture.

3.  Free-standing bar: Tiki huts or similar free-standing bars that offer drinks and entertainment separate from the outdoor kitchen are on the rise, too. They can be designed to offer views of the pool or landscaped gardens, and may feature comfortable seating, a cocktail prep area, beer tap, and cold storage.

4.  High-tech outdoor systems: When planning outdoor spaces, homeowners are considering heating and cooling systems just as they do for their homes’ interiors. Fireplaces, fire pits, and stylized space heaters extend the use of outdoor areas in the cooler months, and ceiling fans and cooling mist systems keep the cool breezes flowing on the hottest days. To keep insects in check, mosquito control systems can be installed that will de-bug your backyard overnight.

5.  Indoor-worthy furniture and flooring: If you do make some of these investments in your outdoor spaces, you’ll need comfortable and attractive furniture on which to enjoy your entertainment and meals! Sitting on your old weather-beaten wicker won’t cut it. Advances in the industry make it possible to have fully upholstered, weatherproof furniture that’s comfortable enough for the duration of a leisurely dinner or two-hour movie. And for feeling barefoot and fancy free, new eco-friendly deck materials both look great and will leave you splinter-free. (That said, bluestone continues to be a hot trend).

The key to enhancing your outdoor space is to ensure that the work is done professionally and the materials are high-quality and built to last. Savvy buyers will appreciate well-designed exterior “rooms,” which add to a home’s value as well.

Before starting any project, do your research. You’ll need to find a great contractor, understand the rules governing your property and the permits you may need, and know which features will help maximize the ROI of your outdoor living additions. With over 15 years of experience helping my with this process, I’d be happy to help guide you through.

Contact Fiona at 914-417-5147 or




It’s All About Condition, Condition, Condition!

When it comes to selling a home quickly, the average Realtor will gently suggest to their client that a little tidying up goes a long way. The good Realtor will recommend getting rid of the clutter and staging their home professionally. But, an excellent Realtor bluntly tells their client that buyers have absolutely no imagination and that in order to get the highest price in the shortest time the house must look like a show home featured on HGTV!

Here’s what it comes down to: the pristine condition of a home, from the first impression of its exterior to the most detailed engineering inspection, is now the factor that will command the highest price from a buyer, even winning out over the best location.

Most busy young buyers, used to seeing “perfection” in homes on TV, in print, and on social media, don’t have the time, money, or inclination to renovate or even refresh a home. The same goes for older buyers who are downsizing and have no desire to spend their leisure hours on design and décor decisions in a new home.

In the past, sellers with homes in excellent locations were able to rely almost solely on their street address to increase the price of their home. If the house was a little dated or cluttered, the savvy buyer would overlook small blemishes to buy in the best location. Nowadays, buyers will bypass older, dated, and shabbier homes on the best streets in favor of other homes renovated and updated to such a high standard that they look brand new. Even homes in compromised locations, such as flood zones or busier/noisier streets, will sell more quickly and at a better price if they have been significantly remodeled or refreshed by the seller before they go on the market.

So, word to the wise: be a savvy seller. Be willing to go further than ever in order to dazzle buyers at the first showing, from installing modern light fixtures and appliances to, in some cases, replacing an unsightly roof, repainting a faded house inside and out, or installing brand new kitchens and bathrooms. In the best-case scenario, buyers will be so enchanted with a stunning well-prepared home, they will make an outstanding offer at the very first showing. Sellers may blanch at spending money on such big-ticket items, but more often than not, investing several thousand dollars up front can net you tens if not hundreds of thousands in resale. It will be time saved and money well spent!


Tips for Home Buying and Selling During December

The holiday season is always joyful and festive, but it also can be stressful and chaotic – with or without buying or selling your home. Yet, homebuyers and sellers may find unexpected advantages in the real estate market during this time. Here are some tips for making the most of this “quieter” time in real estate:

Tips for Buyers: 

  1. Sellers know that there are fewer buyers out looking during the holiday season, so they’re more likely to make a deal than wait until the spring.
  2. Some sellers are more motivated to sell their homes before year-end for tax reasons, and also to avoid having to keep their house on the market during the holiday season when family and friends may visit.
  3. Buyers can often negotiate a lower purchasing price during this quieter time, especially if a seller’s house has been on the market for several months.
  4. Because inspectors, appraisers, attorneys, contractors, painters, and handymen – professionals that buyers depend on – are often more available during the slower winter months, it can be easier and faster to put a deal together.
  5. Both buyers and sellers will enjoy their Realtor’s undivided attention as he/she is less likely to be overwhelmed with clients. Plus, a savvy full-time professional Realtor will ensure that a colleague covers holiday absences so that clients are always well represented.

Tips for sellers:

  1. The holidays can provide a timely opportunity to showcase your home with festive and warm holiday decor. This will set your house apart from the competition and leave the buyer with a memorable impression.
  2. Holiday lighting, wreaths, and trees help improve the curb appeal of your home, and will serve to attract a buyer.
  3. A Holiday Open House provides a unique chance for sellers to welcome potential buyers with cheerful music, freshly baked holiday goods, and seasonal punch or cider. This appeals to the emotions, perhaps more than any other time of year. Remember, ambience counts.
  4. Even though the pool of buyers may be smaller over the holidays, those who do make appointments will likely spend longer viewing your home due to vacations and slower work schedules.
  5. Sellers can take heart that buyers out looking at homes in the winter months are generally “the real deal” – folks who are motivated to make an offer and negotiate a sale. January is a strong month for corporate transfers and those executives often use the holidays to hunt for a home. They are often under pressure to make a decision and buy a home quickly.

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: or visit her website at


Don’t Miss the Boat! Prepare Your Home Now for a 2017 Sale

Are you thinking of putting your home on the market this spring? If so, now’s the time to get your home in top shape. Here are several helpful tips to get you started on the road toward a quick home sale at the best price:

  • Spruce up the exterior of your home. While the weather is still cooperating this fall, make sure to address any exterior paint, shingle, chimney, stonework, driveway, and landscaping issues. A long cold winter may delay these repairs and cause you to list your home in less than perfect condition or miss the prime March through June selling season.
  • Take exterior photographs of your home during the beautiful fall weather. Outstanding photography is the key to impressing a buyer. Once you’ve addressed any exterior issues, be sure to take stunning photos that include the fall colors. Put pots of chrysanthemums next to the front door for added color. Then, when you are ready to put your home on the market, you’ll have great photos to show.
  • Think about investing in a pre-listing engineering inspection. Buyers and sellers don’t like surprises. A pre-listing inspection can help you discover any issues your home may have in advance, give you time to correct any problems, and allow you to be confident that your home is in perfect condition and can withstand even the most detailed buyer scrutiny.
  • Use the long winter months to prepare the interior of your home. Start with de-cluttering. Decide what you must absolutely keep, and then sell, donate, put in storage, or throw away the rest. This will help make your space look larger and neater when your home is shown.
  • Consider investing in the most important rooms in the house: the kitchen and bathrooms. Think about re-grouting, replacing broken tile, and even re-glazing older bathtubs and tile to repair any scratches and update to a modern color. Old, dark wood kitchen and bathroom cabinets should be painted in brighter, fresher colors, and out-of-date hardware and lighting fixtures can be easily replaced with more contemporary styles.
  • Interview Realtors to decide whom you want to work with to sell your home. Make sure you interview more than one Realtor before you decide whom to hire. You may be working with your agent for several months, so it is important to find someone you like and trust. Your Realtor can help you save time and money, and can turn a potentially overwhelming and stressful experience into a smooth and successful one.

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: or visit her website at

Got A Fixer-Upper? Better to Fix It Up Before Selling

No more scuffed wood paneling, peeling paint, and worn carpets. This season educated buyers are spurning the fixer-upper for turn-key houses where they can simply drop their bags and start their new lives.

For years, houses that needed a little TLC were in demand for buyers who didn’t mind taking on do-it-yourself projects in the hope of flipping the house and turning a nice profit.

But now, buyers want their homes in move-in condition. It used to be location, location, location, but noticeably, especially in the past year, if the house is not in near-perfect condition, it could be on the best street but nobody wants to touch it.

One of the main reasons for this is that Millennials – the largest group of buyers these days – are working overtime on their careers and families and are spoiled by reality TV shows in which homes are spiffed and sparkling in a half-hour. They prefer their “gem” of a home already polished, not in the rough.

Sprucing up your home for sale need not be an expensive undertaking. Sometimes it can cost between a few hundred dollars for light staging to a few thousand for heavier repairs. But that investment will almost certainly translate to a much higher sale price. Using classic fixtures and furnishings from mid-range sources such as Home Depot generally makes more sense than buying at high-end stores, where most items are custom-made and would appeal to more specific tastes anyway.

Doing the work up front can add hundreds of thousands of dollars on a sale price and can save months, or even years on the market. If you pay $50 to $100,000 to replace the bathrooms or kitchen – the two key areas that will help sway a buyer – the successful sale price might go up as much as $300,00 or $400,000.

For example, former Rye residents Abbie and John Morrison spent $18,000 on home improvements to their Soundview Avenue property before selling it to move to northern California. That extra effort – repainting, refreshing bathroom tile, replacing carpeting and fixtures and some other work – enabled them to boost the asking price to $1,399,000, about $200,000 beyond what they otherwise might have listed their house. It sold for an even $1.4 million within a week.

It’s really all about making your house look like a model home so someone can imagine living there. Careful cosmetic improvements send a signal to buyers that the home is well maintained down to its foundation. If the house looks shabby or a little dated, the buyer often fears that there are deeper problems waiting to surprise them. A good Realtor should have a list of trusted home repair experts and a relationship with a professional stager, all of whom can help make your place look its best.

The good news is that after two to four weeks fixing up a home, it can often sell in 10 days, or even less. A fixer-upper, or one that looks like it needs a lot of work might linger on the market a year or two. The truth is that about one in a hundred buyers is looking for a home that needs work, and then it really has to be at a bargain price. And even those who think it’s a good idea to take on the projects themselves generally do it only once. After that, they say, ‘I’m never doing that again.”

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: or visit her website at

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