Thursday, May 26, 2016

Love Where You Live...

If you love where you live, you're allowed to brag, right?

When I moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, I was looking for:
-- a college town, because I wanted the liveliness and intellectual stimulation of being near and involved with a great university;
-- a small city -- big enough to have some good social/cultural/culinary offerings, but not so big it loses a sense of small-town, southern charm;
-- a real downtown area, vibrant and rich in history;
-- beautiful and varied waterways in which to launch my kayak; and
-- gorgeous beaches -- including undeveloped areas where I could enjoy peaceful, early morning strolls with the pup.
(I also have friends who included great golf courses, fishing and excellent harbors for their boats on their list.)

Wilmington has certainly met all my hopes and expectations, and thrown in a few surprises, too.
Examples:  Wilmington is a hotbed for entrepreneurship and business networking; interesting museums and a great aquarium can be found here; lots of new retail and residential development is occurring; there's a thriving artistic community; every week there are concerts, festivals, historic or nature tours -- always something to do!; and, ...there's an alligator who likes to sun in my back yard!

I love living here, and I'm not shy about bragging about my adopted home town.

If you live here, too, I'd love to hear what brought you to this area of southeast North Carolina.   What makes you love living here?

If you don't live here (yet), what are you hoping to find?
What will it take to make you love where you live?

(BTW, I am a full-time real estate agent, so of course I'd be happy to help you find a home here where you can start building new memories. Contact me.)

Caroline Beach State Park - early morning, where the hiking trail comes out on to the Intracoastal Waterway

Downtown Wilmington, with USS Battleship North Carolina in the foreground

Concert on the Riverfront
Some outstanding restaurants in Wilmington

Downtown River Walk
Fort Fisher Aquarium is south of Kure Beach

Prepping for the St Paddy's Day Parade
Local beaches are popular with surfers
(like my nephew here, who was just learning)

Izzy loves visiting the beach at Fort Fisher State Park

Kayaking on the Cape Fear River

Alligators - this comes as a surprise to some people.

Photo from my back deck.

Cape Fear Museum has some surprising exhibits -
like this Giant Ground Sloth

Bellamy Mansion, one of many historic downtown properties

4th of July on the River Front is amazing!

famous for its pine trees

Carnivorous Pitcher Plant,
at Carolina Beach State Park

Marina at Wrightsville Beach

Izzy--the wind catching her ears--finds her Zen at the beach. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Explore Wilmington! - 2016 Downtown Lifestyle Tour

The Downtown Lifestyle Tour this Saturday, May 14, 11 am - 4 pm, provides a fun opportunity to learn about our city and explore the local real estate scene.  Hosted by the Wilmington Downtown Initiative, this event allows you to tour spectacular lofts, condos, homes and "above the shop" living spaces throughout the Wilmington NC downtown area.  
This year, for the first time, the self-guided tour also includes many homes that are for sale, with real estate agents hosting Open Houses.  
Be sure to stop by 413 Church St., a delightful ca 1903 bungalow in the Historic District that's been converted into a sweet cash-flow duplex.  It's perfect for the savvy investor, or for the person who wants to rent one side and keep the other for their own use. This home is on a quiet, brick-paved street, but close to the vibrant Riverfront and downtown restaurants and shops.  I'll be there to answer any questions about this property from 11-4. 
Self-guided tour maps will be provided.  For more info and tickets, check out this web link:

Sunday, May 8, 2016

How to Amp Up The Resale Value of Your Home

Whether you're putting your home on the market this year or in the next five years, it is a smart decision to start building your home's resale value now. Here are some ways to create a comfortable home while making it easier to put more money into your bank account on closing day.

Small Maintenance and Repairs

If you think that home maintenance on the weekends waste your time and energy, think again. The small chores you do around your home prevents it from losing value. Neglecting small maintenance and repairs causes 10% of your home's value to walk out your door and slip through your windows. Most appraisers claim that homes showing little to no preventative maintenance can depreciate from $15,000 to $20,000.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University shows that regular maintenance boosts your home value by about 1% per year. However, ongoing maintenance costs offset that value, which means that regular maintenance actually slows down your rate of depreciation. Furthermore, because homebuyers generally notice any repairs needed upon buying a new home, proactive maintenance lets the homebuyer know that he or she will not have to spend extra money to maintain the basics. This makes your home more attractive, and thus more likely to get higher priced offers.

Maintaining the basics can cost you little money and certainly some effort, but there’s a way to accomplish this very important activity smartly. This article by HouseLogic, for example, shows you how to keep home maintenance below $300 a year.  Planning ahead will also help make maintaining your home easier. Most professional appraisers and real estate agents recommend a proactive maintenance schedule that includes:

·      Keeping enough cash on hand to replace systems and materials
·      Creating and following a maintenance schedule
·      Planning a room redo every year
·      Keeping a notebook of all your maintenance and repairs


The Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech published a study that shows landscaping can increase a home's value by 15%.  The study claims that a home valued at $150,000 could increase its value between $8,300 and $19,000 with the addition of landscaping. Particular landscape elements add different value. For instance, landscape design can increase your home's value by 42%, plant size can increase your home's value by 32%, and diversity in plants can increase your home's value by 22%.

Replace Entrance Doors

If your entry doors are wood, consider switching them out for either fiberglass or steel doors. Steel doors add style and architectural interest to your home while improving security; you can add a deadbolt and electronic keypads to keep out intruders. Unlike wood doors, steel doors do not rot or splinter.

Alternatively, fiberglass doors can be designed to look like wood doors and give your home a modern look. Fiberglass doors conserve more energy than steel doors.

Pricewise, a steel door will cost you $1,335 with a 91% return on investment whereas a fiberglass door will cost you $3,126 with an 82.3% return on investment.

Garage Door Replacement

At first, you might not think that your garage door increases the value of your home. However, your garage door distinguishes your home from the other homes on your block. As the largest entryway of a house, garage doors get noticed first because they're the focal point of your home. If you want to quickly increase the resale value of your home, you need to make the most of this space.

Some interesting things being done with garage doors include:

  • Increased Size: Bigger garage doors help homes stand out more, and homeowners can do more creatively with them.
  • Bold Colors: Bright and bold colors now can complement the color of your home, or you can build a concept around the color of your home.
  • Faux Wood: You can install fiberglass or steel garage doors that look like wood garage doors. This gives your home a new level of sophistication.
  • Windows: Large Windows on your garage door improve the aesthetic of your home, and provide light into your garage so that it's no longer a dark space.

More importantly, a garage door replacement will cost you $1,652 and add $1,512 to the value of your home; that's a return on your investment of 91.5%.

Fiberglass Attic Insulation

While energy efficiency is still not the sexiest selling point of your home, installing fiberglass attic insulation saves energy and garners a big payback on your investment. According to Remodeling Magazine's 2016 Cost vs. Value top trends report, fiberglass attic insulation gained the top return on investment among the 30 projects in this year's report. Using Remodel/Max as the cost source, a fiberglass attic insulation project cost $1,268 nationwide.  Real estate professionals surveyed estimated that the work would boost the price of a home at resale, within a year of its completion, by $1,482. That's a 116.9% return on investment.

Replacing Windows

Replacing your windows is another way to save energy and increase your home's resale value. Replacing your old windows with energy saving models will beautify your home, keep it comfortable, and ease the workload of your HVAC system. According to HGTV, you'll see a reduction in your utility bill by 7% to 15%. However, if you're selling your home, you could expect a 60% to 70% recoupment of your investment. The two types of replacement windows that fetch the best return are vinyl and wood. 

Remodeling Your Kitchen

Kitchen remodeling can get expensive, but small renovations can make your home more buyer friendly. Changing your kitchen's texture and color using a matte finish and neutral colors such as putty or grey enhances your home's resale value. Because matte finishes have transitional qualities, your potential homebuyer can easily match his or her stainless steel or black and white appliances. Also, refinishing cabinetry, or switching to Energy Star™ appliances provide comfort you like and pizazz buyers adore.

Flow is important to any interior design of a home. If you feel that your kitchen hinders a good flow, change it. A small investment to knock out a non-structural wall or remove a kitchen island creates space and provides flow that buyers love.

A minor kitchen remodel can cost you $20,122 while putting $16,716 of resale value into your home; that's an 83% payback on the project. If you want to do a major kitchen model, this can cost you about $60,000 and put about $39,000 of resale value into your home, which is only about a 65% payback on the project. Therefore, consider a minor kitchen remodel first.

Bathroom Addition or Remodel

Likewise, carefully consider adding a bathroom or remodeling your bathroom. Switching out your frosted glass shower doors for glass doors, cleaning the grout, replacing the shower and floor tiles, switching out your sink or toilet, or replacing your sink and shower fixtures can cost you little money.

Adding a bathroom can get expensive, but it can reduce congestion during hectic times and provide your guests with a bathroom. Consult with your real estate agent or a local appraiser before deciding whether a full remodel or addition is right for your situation. While a bathroom remodel will cost you about $18,000 with a return on investment of about 66%, a bathroom addition will cost you about $42,000 with a return on investment of about 56%. Therefore, it's best do your due diligence before working on your bathroom.

Your Needs and Buyers' Wants

On that note, if you need to renovate your home, be sure to consider how those changes will affect its appeal to future buyers. Knowing design trends will give you the opportunity to make changes to your home based on where your needs and your potential buyer's desires intersect, thus increasing your property's resale value drastically.

Designers and design websites provide great ideas when you’re brainstorming home renovations. Keep in mind as you research, however, that you don’t want to sacrifice your needs for a comfortable home just for the sake of what you think a future buyer will want!

Therefore, before you begin making any changes to your home, consult your real estate agent. Real estate agents, because we are constantly working with new buyer clients, have insider insight into what home buyers are looking for now and in the future. We’ll be able to help you make smart choices when remodeling or renovating your home.

If you think you might want to remodel or renovate your home in the near future, or if you are just curious about other ways you can increase its resale value, please reach out to me!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

This morning -- Rain and a Focus on Rental Investments

Despite the heavy rains, it was a great morning at Port City Java in Carolina Beach today! 

This morning, Shawn G., a newbie to the world of real estate investing, drove all the way from Jacksonville NC because he had questions about investing in rental properties. I was happy to be able to provide some of the answers he needed (and answers to questions he didn't know he needed to ask!), as well as insights in to the Wilmington market. We ran out of time today, so next time I'll show Shawn how to use an "Investment Property Worksheet" to help him estimate the potential first-year benefits of a specific real estate buy and hold investment.  Later this week, we'll go look at some properties I think will have good cash-flow potential for him.   (Have I mentioned lately how much I like my work?  The teacher and the Realtor in me just love to pair up.) 

If you think you might be interested in this Investment Property Worksheet, send me a note and I'll email you a copy.    ... or come to Port City Java, Carolina Beach, next week and I'll have a copy for you!

If you don't know this already, every Tuesday morning between 9 and 10, I settle in with a cup of coffee at PCJ with my sign that says "Coastal Real Estate Connections - Mornings with Mary." It's been a fun way to connect a little with the Carolina Beach community and with anyone interested in talking about real estate, the local market or just what's going on in the neighborhood. One of the great things is that it has also allowed me to reach out to people well beyond the Carolina Beach and Wilmington area -- folks from out of town who stop by at PCJ, or who find out about this and contact me by phone or email.  

Come join me at Port City Java some time! Tell the barista you're there for Mornings with Mary and you'll get a coffee on me.   Or call... or send a message.    

To find more info, follow this link to the site: