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With the San Diego for-sale inventory at an all time low there are more buyer’s than sellers!

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Top 10 of 20 Mistakes When Staging – Continued

11. Don’t add personality. Now is not the time to bring in your unique style into the home. Staging is all about de-personalizing the space, and creating more of a luxury hotel or a Model Home look that will appeal to most everyone.

12. Don’t neglect the outside spaces. With outdoor entertaining becoming more and more popular with each year, the importance of these areas should not be overlooked when selling the property. A neatly groomed front yard and a cozy and comfortable backyard can turn some lookers into buyers instantly. So mow the lawn, plant some blooming flowers, add some outdoor furniture and you’ve created an outdoor oasis that buyers will instantly imagine themselves enjoying for years to come.

13. Don’t neglect the refrigerator and the pantry. Go through your entire fridge and pantry and get rid of any old and expired items. Thoroughly clean the entire fridge and pantry from the inside out, and then neatly organize only fresh produce and food items back in. Make sure that there aren’t any odors when you open the fridge. A good tip to remember is to leave an opened box of baking soda in the fridge. Baking soda absorbs odors and prevents them from interacting with each other.

14. Don’t neglect the closets and the storage spaces. According to a recent study, 86% of buyers said storage was one of the most important items on their wish list. When you move, you are going to have to pack anyways, so why not get started a bit earlier and do something that will benefit the sale of your home at the same time? Purge through all the clothes and linen closest and other storage spaces, get rid of anything that hasn’t been used or worn in over a year or two, pack away seasonal items and only keep the essentials. It will make the closets and storage spaces appear a lot more spacious if they are not crammed with clothes and other things. Attract more potential buyers with an organized home by installing closet design organization systems in lieu of cabinets

15. Don’t neglect the laundry room/area. Often the laundry room or area becomes a catch – all place for all the odds and ends that you couldn’t figure out where else to store. It is time to address this issue and de-clutter. Make sure that the only things that are left are laundry related and are neatly organized.

16. Don’t neglect the garage. People are looking to buy space, so having your garage piled with boxes and other items will make it look smaller. Store all things off premises if possible. If you can’t find a friend or a relative to ask to help out, there are other storage solutions that are affordable these days. The investment will pay off in the long run.

17. Don’t neglect the basement. Most of the time the basement is a place for all things unfit elsewhere. Excess furniture, clothes, books etc. Pack whatever you’ll be taking with your to your new home away in boxes and arrange the rest in attractive seating or lounging areas. Poorly maintained basements can leave a bad overall impression on an entire house.

18. Don’t keep your photos and knick-knacks out. Buyers are there to potentially find their dream home, and it would be impossible to try and imagine their own lives, when they’re surrounded by constant reminders that this is someone else’s house. So eliminate anything that will cause buyers to be reminded that it’s not theirs, since you want them to feel at home and envision their own family enjoying the space.

19. Don’t list your house if you’re not ready. It is truly false economy to rush and list your house if the house is not ready for showings. Instead invest the time and money to prepare your house to be viewed and judged from all angles, and then watch it be snatched up in the first few showings, because people will fall in love with it, when they see how well maintained the house is.

20. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. It can be an overwhelming and daunting task to know exactly what to do and how. A professional stager will provide you with the knowledge and expertise to transform your home into a Show Home, which will be invaluable to the success of your home’s sale. Depending on the scope of the project the investment in staging can cost you anywhere from $300 to $5000 dollars, and it will certainly be recuperated after your house sells. And remember one last thing, your first price reduction will probably be more than the investment in preparing your house to show at its best!

Source: Design & Stage, 8/22/09

Top 10 of 20 Mistakes When Staging

Home staging is quickly becoming a necessity and an integral part of selling real estate. Gone are the days when staging was simply an option; in today’s tough real estate market proper staging is the only way to set your house apart from the competitors down the street or in the same neighbourhood. Overall, staging follows some simple and proven techniques to maximize the appeal of your home to the greatest number of buyers. However, despite the theoretical simplicity of the staging concept, there are quite a few common mistakes that undermine the success of staging and a potentially successful sale of your home.

Here are top 20 common mistakes that sellers make when preparing their house for sale. You should keep these in mind if you’re thinking of or getting ready to sell your house:

 1.  Don’t neglect the clutter. What might seem like clean and organized to you, might not translate the same to others. Make sure to tour the house top to bottom by enlisting a friend or the help of a professional stager that will give you an honest opinion about what needs to go and what can stay.

2. Don’t do any major renovations.This is not the time to splurge on expensive renovations and replacing all appliances. Smart investment dollars can go a long way in creating the desired, updated look. Sometimes simple things like adding an attractive backsplash in the kitchen, replacing the faucets, light fixtures, hardware and door handles, and painting the walls a warm but neutral colour can go a long way. To finish of the look, it is important to bring in attractive accessories that will compliment the rest of the space and add warmth.

3.  Don’t block light & views. Natural light is extremely important and blocking it off with heavy curtains or bulky pieces of furniture is false economy. Especially if you’ve got attractive views, instead of hiding them – make them the focal point, and see the positive result it has on the buyers.

 4 .  Don’t paint with dark, intense and custom colours. Now is not the time to bring in your personal taste to the table. Choose a nice, neutral and warm colour, such as any of the following families: beige tones, grey tones, or light blue or pale greens. You’ll be surprised at the transformative effect a few coats of fresh paint will have on your space!

5.  Don’t take it personally. When you make the decision to sell your house, you have to realize that now is the time to emotionally detach from your home and think of it as a product. The same way that products in a store are marketed, your house will have to be treated with the same marketing strategies in order to secure a successful sale. It can be a very emotional and difficult time letting go of your beloved home, but you have got to keep the bigger picture in mind, and think that you will create more amazing memories in your new house.

6.  Don’t stay at the house during showings. It can be quite awkward and uncomfortable for buyers to have you around, as they will not feel comfortable to voice their honest opinion in your presence. Make sure to leave the house for all the showings and trust that the realtor will do a proper job at showing your house.

7.  Don’t leave your pets around during showings. This goes along the same lines of not taking it personally. It is important to keep in mind that not everyone loves animals, and some people might either be allergic or afraid of them and therefore, some will even refuse to walk into the house, knowing there is a certain creature in there. So take them away on a mini adventure during showings, and make sure that all the pet odors have been eliminated as well.

8.  Don’t think the house will sell itself. Real Estate is like a game in any market, and especially in today’s market conditions, you have got to implement some preparation strategies if you want to sell quick and for maximum profit. So de-clutter, de-personalize, clean, make all the small repairs, paint if you have to and overall create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Make sure to take some attractive photos for online listings, as that is the first step most buyers take when starting their search. Read this post and learn How To Take Magazine-Style Photos for Online Listings.

9.  Don’t over-stage and over-accessorize. It is easy to get carried away when decorating, but the thing to remember is that there is a huge difference between decorating and staging to sell. A few, well thought out accessories in key places is all you need. No need to fill the tub with bubbling water and sprinkle bath salts in order to create a spa feeling. Instead, a few candles, fresh towels and minimal bath accessories will do the trick!

 10.  Don’t buy all new furniture. If you current furniture pieces are not working because they’re outdated and unattractive, there is other ways of going about it. You can always ask to borrow friends’ or relatives’ furniture for the time being, or rent furniture items while you’re selling. The problem sometimes can also be that there is just too much of big and bulky pieces, and a simple rearranging of key pieces and removing the rest will make all the difference.

To be continued…

Source: Design & Stage, 8/22/09

S&P: Housing market may have ‘turned around’

Are we heading toward a housing recovery?

Signs are pointing to yes, based on Tuesday’s S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, a commonly watched housing report that’s released every month.

San Diego and 19 other major cities tracked in the index posted price increases from May to June. Locally, prices rose 1.1 percent, which essentially means we’re flat. San Diego home prices have seen either an uptick or flatness for the past five straight months, Case-Shiller analysts have reported. June marked the second straight month in which all 20 cities posted monthly gains.

When comparing June 2012 to June 2011, San Diego was among six cities that saw a drop in prices. Looking closer, the change locally is basically flat year-over-year, a drop of 0.2 percent. The other cities that saw a price decline from a year ago were were Atlanta, (-12.1 percent); Chicago, (-1.7 percent); Las Vegas (-1.8 percent); Los Angeles (-0.6 percent) and New York (-2.1 percent.)

On a national level, homes prices are moving upward. The 20-city composite index rose 2.3 percent month-to-month and 0.5 percent year-over-year. This week’s report states home prices across the country are at 2003 levels, as of the second quarter.

Homebuying activity is typically strongest in the spring and summer. Still, Case-Shiller experts are confident about the latest numbers.

“We are aware that we are in the middle of a seasonal buying period,” Tuesday’s report stated. “But the combined positive news coming from both monthly and annual rates of change in home prices bode well for the housing market.”

“…We seem to be witnessing exactly what we needed for a sustained recovery; monthly increases coupled with improving annual rates of change,” analysts added. “The market may have finally turned around.”

The Case-Shiller index has a two-month lag and covers repeat sales, which explains why it takes the S&P longer than other places, such as DataQuick, to release their housing numbers.

Source: San Diego Union Tribune, author Lily Leung, 8/28/12


5 Ways to Spot a Home with Hidden Potential

Remember metal detectors?  Fast forward a couple of decades, and what seems to be our constant craving for a treasure hunt has shifted to a different medium, fed most prominently by PBS’Antiques Roadshow. Loyal viewers like myself watched “The Roadshow” with anxious anticipation for those twin appraisers to come out, before they got their own show. When those guys showed up, it was usually a sign that someone’s auntie’s hideous chest was about to be deemed worth six figures.

But there’s a real estate version of this treasure hunting phenomenon, too – and it’s not recreational. Rather, the search for a home with hidden potential is most often undertaken in the very serious effort to stretch every ounce of home-buying power out of a savvy buyer’s real estate dollar. Some buyers’ lifestyles require them to focus on home they can move right into, with no work to be done – and their budgets allow them to do so. But others know that the gap between the home they eventually want and the home they can afford right now is so wide that the only way they’ll get their dream home is to buy it while it’s still a diamond in the rough. (Very rough, in some cases.)

1. Significant discount compared to other homes in the neighborhood.By definition, hidden potential is all about unrecognized and as-yet-untapped value – the gap between what you pay for a home in its current state and what it can be, monetarily and otherwise, with your investment of time and energy. If the discount is not significant, the potential is not hidden – it’s already being realized by the current owner (i.e., not you)!

Don’t expect the homes with the most hidden potential to announce themselves  and –  their discounts – as such. The discount you must ultimately be  concerned with is the discount that is reflected in the ultimate sale  price (not the list price) vis-a-vis the comps (recently sold homes in  the neighborhood).  So, one way to manifest hidden potential is to look  for homes that are listed at only a slight discount (or no discount at  all!) and have lagged on the market a very long time compared with the  average in their area, then negotiate a meaty discount from the seller.

The other critical discount to look for is a significant discount between  what you can secure the home for and what it will cost you, in total,  after you put in the work necessary to manifest the property’s  potential. Anyone can turn any old hovel into a palatial estate if  they’re willing and able to spend and spend and spend.  True hidden  potential is about latent possibilities that can be unveiled, not  created from scratch and at great expense. The only way to truly know  what this discount will be is to educate yourself about what the various needed improvements will actually cost, by obtaining estimates from  contractors and/or pricing DIY projects out.

2. Really, really bad cosmetics. First, let’s be clear – many homes with bad  cosmetics don’t have great potential, or are insufficiently discounted  for the home to truly reflect much potential at all. However, there are  two flavors of bad cosmetics that can signal great hidden potential. The first are homes that were almost overly loved by their previous owners – they are in excellent shape inside and out, but they have been so  heavily customized with terrible cosmetic choices and unattractive  finish materials that other buyers are completely turned off. I speak  from experience: when I bought it, my first home had wallpaper featuring kittens (no joke) on more than one wall – and it turned out to be a  fantastic home and investment.

3. An unfortunate backstory. Often, homes with hidden potential are those  that have fundamental, structural integrity and well-functioning systems (plumbing, heating, etc.), but have been less well-cared for on the  surface. And in some cases, what caused the surface neglect is an  unfortunate set of circumstances affecting the previous owners/sellers.  By no means is spotting homes with this sign of hidden potential  unethical or taking advantage of another’s misfortune, as some might  suggest. In fact, if that’s even a concern, rethink it: there’s not a  single thing wrong with recognizing and activating the potential the  previous owners were unable to nurture due to their divorce, family  dispute, age or budget limitations.

4. No photos. To be completely fair, this one is more about finding hidden  opportunity than hidden potential, per se. The vast majority of home  buyers start house hunting online and simply refuse to go homes whose  listings lack photos.  Sometimes homes are listed without photos because of bad cosmetics or deeper condition issues; other times, because of  technical difficulties that have zero to do with the house, its look or  its condition.
If your dream home has been elusive, consider taking the time to go check  out a listing with the ‘just right’ specs, in terms of square footage,  beds, baths and neighborhood – even if it doesn’t have photos. If you’re house hunting in an area or at a price point where there will  undoubtedly be multiple offers on a great home, a home with no or only  one listing might offer you an opportunity for low or no competition on a great property – or one with great potential.

5. Great neighborhood, square footage and floor plan. It can be relatively  simple and inexpensive to manifest a home’s potential when it can be  converted into your ‘dream’ home without having to move or add any  walls. It’s also much more likely that you’ll hang in there through the  discomforts and uncertainty of the seemingly endless process of  remodeling (rather than selling it in despair, before you’re done) if  the home is of ample size and optimal layout to house your family and  your activities as they evolve over time.

Also, many folks find that a fantastic home in a not-so-great neighborhood is  less desirable than a not-so-great home in an fantastic neighborhood;  the latter can be easier to live in and stay committed to during the  course of the remodel as well. Accordingly, homes with the ‘just-right’ square footage and floor plan that also happen to be located in the ‘just right’ neighborhood are the ultimate hidden potential triple  threat.

Source: Tara@trulia, August 22, 2012

Home prices: 20 hottest ZIP codes in July

The median price paid for a home in San Diego County in July rose to $342,000, a four-year high, based on the latest numbers from DataQuick. Did they go up in your neighborhood? Here are the 20 hottest areas in San Diego County, ranked by highest percentage change in median home price.

Hottest ZIP codes, by price change

Rank Neighborhood ZIP code Sold ’11 Sold ’12 Median ’11 Median ’12 Pct Change
1 Kensington/Normal Heights 92116 34 27 $287,000 $439,000 53.0%
2 San Carlos 92119 27 37 $275,000 $392,000 42.5%
3 Golden Hill 92102 15 31 $170,000 $235,000 38.2%
4 Penasquitos 92129 46 65 $410,000 $565,000 37.8%
5 La Mesa/Mt. Helix 91941 25 46 $292,500 $400,000 36.8%
6 Ocean Beach 92107 20 27 $421,000 $571,500 35.7%
7 Imperial Beach 91932 11 11 $242,000 $320,000 32.2%
8 Paradise Hills 92139 31 22 $190,000 $243,250 28.0%
9 Escondido S 92025 35 41 $274,000 $339,500 23.9%
10 Encinitas 92024 51 60 $650,000 $800,000 23.1%
11 Rancho Bernardo E 92128 61 91 $325,500 $400,000 22.9%
12 Escondido W 92029 27 25 $447,500 $549,500 22.8%
13 Lakeside 92040 36 31 $273,000 $323,000 18.3%
14 Vista W 92083 23 22 $242,000 $285,000 17.8%
15 National City 91950 27 37 $189,500 $222,500 17.4%
16 City Heights 92105 37 36 $160,000 $185,000 15.6%
17 Vista S 92081 32 33 $302,000 $345,000 14.2%
18 Rancho Bernardo W 92127 72 94 $610,000 $696,500 14.2%
19 Oceanside N 92057 76 96 $265,000 $300,000 13.2%
20 College 92115 51 61 $279,220 $315,000 12.8%
Source: DataQuick
Source: San Diego Union Tribune: author, Lily Leung, 8/15/2012

Did you miss Tuesday’s coverage of what’s going on in the local housing

5 Perks and Pitfalls of Old and New homes

The decision whether to buy an older home or a newer one can pose a similarly mixed bag of pros and cons. Some buyers have a strong inclination to an older home’s charms or a new home’s conveniences. Sometimes your area or your price range will dictate your decision for you, one way or the other.  In some areas, old homes are seen as worse because of their location or disrepair, while in other areas, like mine, older homes are often seen as better and can even be pricier than new-ish properties on the basis of their neighborhoods and school districts. If you’re not a buyer who is completely clear on whether you want to buy an older home or a new-ish one, here are some of the factors to consider, pro and con, as you compare and contrast homes built in different eras:

1.  The Charm Factor. Obviously, “older” and “newer” are relative terms. If your area is one where “older” homes are those which were built in the ‘60s or ‘70s, you might not find them to be particularly charming. But many buyers do find there to be a particular charm and aesthetic detail in homes built in the early part of the last century – from the 1900’s to the 1940’s, say – that is uber-attractive and decidedly craveable. (To be fair, in some areas, the Eichlers and other modern styles of the mid-century are seen as having similar cachet as much older homes, especially when compared to 80s, 90s and later construction.) The Tudors, Victorians, Craftsmans and other classic styles and eras tend to have strong appeal to large groups of home buyers, as do the maturity of the trees and other details, from lights to benches to outdoor staircases, lining the streets on which such homes were built. Buyers who are committed to having this “Charm Factor” in their lives and their homes are not likely to find this particular feel in newer neighborhoods, though many builders and subdivisions do make an effort to replicate the best qualities of older homes and neighborhoods with reproduction features.

2.  Neighborhood establishment.  Having hundred-year-old trees along the streets can be a critical plus point of living in an older home, but so are the many other upsides of an established neighborhood, from well-developed parks with great recreational programming to long-time standout school districts, to great neighborhood infrastructures for things like neighborhood Watch Groups, email listservs, annual block parties and farmer’s markets. That said, not every “older” neighborhood has these benefits; and many older neighborhoods come with longstanding issues like neighbor conflicts, eyesore or blighted properties and even ongoing challenges with crime, traffic and noise. On other other hand, some newer neighborhoods haven’t “taken” yet, and it can be difficult to project how the neighborhood will evolve over time. But you can’t necessarily dismiss every newer neighborhood out of hand.  Some developers and cities have gone to great lengths to imbue newer subdivisions with some of what was great about – or missing from – older, nearby areas. You might find that “newer” neighborhoods in some towns are more likely than nearby older areas to have amenities like dog parks, newer clubhouse and recreational facilities, schools and stores interspersed well and walkably into the neighborhood and better infrastructure when it comes to lighting, street width, parking and public transportation.

3.  House history. Newer homes have little or no history – anyone who has ever bought a brand new home can attest to the relatively blank slate of disclosures they receive from the builder.  A blank slate sounds great, but also means you really don’t know about what glitches the property may have, and my experience has been that every home – even brand new ones – have glitches or quirks. The sun might create a funny bleach spot on the floor in one room, or the place might settle over the first few years to have an unexpected slope. A roof on which it has never rained might even turn out to have a design flaw or leak. And the fact that the home hasn’t been lived in means that no one can flag these issues – or fix them – for you in advance. (Most newly built homes do have warranties that cover the worst of such ‘lemon’ home issues.) Older homes may come with a lovely family history or even just a detailed record of what has and hasn’t worked – and what has and hasn’t been repaired and replaced over time, with which newer homes can’t compete. But they also may come with the tough-to-erase remnants and consequences of historical occupants and their activities on the property, from lead paint remains in the soil that prohibit you from growing vegetables in the ground to the very unfortunate (and extremely toxic) consequences of illegal activities like the manufacture of methamphetamine.

4.  Conveniences. One would think that newer homes would almost always have conveniences that older homes lack, especially in the realm of newer appliances and mechanical systems like plumbing, air conditioners, heating and even insulation.  But there can critical periods at issue, here – while very new homes are likely to have the latest of everything, homes built 20, 30 even 40 years ago can be more out of date than homes built 70, 80 or 90 years ago – especially in areas where very old homes are very desirable, as the latter might be more likely to have been updated by a recent owner.  However, as you look at and compare older homes with newer ones, also give thought to the less easily updated differences across the construction eras, like:

  • Layout: Older homes are less likely to have wide open floor plans, sky-high ceilings and the massive windows that allow in the natural light that more contemporary styles let in.
  • Size: Some eras of older construction simply didn’t focus on building homes beyond a basic 1,500 or 2,000 square feet – in areas where those homes predominate, it might be difficult to find a home much larger than that, if that’s what your household requires.
  • Room Size: Older homes tended to be designed around smaller rooms – and especially smaller bedrooms and fewer, smaller closets and storage spaces – than newer homes.
  • Accessibility: Depending on the era, older homes might not have the space and layout suitable for homeowners who are looking to ‘age in place,’ or care for an older relative; early-century eras of construction may include stairways, hallways and doorways too narrow for wheelchairs and walkers to easily fit through.

5.  Maintenance. Unless you’re able to find that best-of-both-worlds older home with recent upgrades, with an older home you should take extra care to understand the age and condition of all the home’s mechanical and electrical systems, and to get a good sense for the cost of any upgrades you’ll want to do – before you finalize the purchase. Also, be aware that some of the ornate classic home styles may have intricate woodwork, like the so-called gingerbread adorning many a Victorian home, that is both prone to damage (from water or termites) and costly or impossible to replace. Flip side: new homes *can* pose a lower maintenance cost, but the fact is that new home buyers still face the ‘potential lemon’ problem of being the first to discover any glitches or design/construction flaws. In densely populated areas, new homes may be built on fill or what some see as less sound ground; by the same token, in earthquake or tornado-prone areas, some see older homes and neighborhoods as having proven their ability to withstand natural disasters due to the quality of classic construction. Ultimately, there’s no one right answer to the older/newer home decision. It’s really a matter of fit. But in any event, whether you buy an older home or a brand new one, work with your agent to make sure you have an appropriate home warranty policy in place before your home purchase closes escrow.


Source: Tara@Trulia, 6/19/2012

5 Verbal Staging’ Statements Sellers Should Make

1. Do Tell: Anything in or around your home that is ‘new’ (or nearly so). To a buyer, seeing features, amenities and appliances described as new-ish creates several connotations beyond the dictionary meaning of the word:

That said, you should actually avoid using the word ‘new’ – unless something has been installed since you’ve moved out, and has truly never been lived in or with. Better to specify ‘recently remodeled,’ ‘installed this year,’ or ‘updated in 2011,’ to avoid legal problems later.

Think broadly when you’re thinking about how to apply this advice – work with your agent to determine whether to call out anything that’s new-ish about your home, whether that be appliances, a recent kitchen remodel, paint or landscaping. For that matter, look beyond your home with this point, to anything new in the neighborhood that might be relevant to buyers-to-be, like a new school, park, subway station, shopping strip or Farmer’s Market.

2. Do Tell: Your home’s dominant features. Ask yourself: what’s the very best thing about this place? Then ask again until you have maybe a handful of items. That handful of things may contain great fodder for your home’s marketing materials.

If you have to choose, prioritize features that (a) visitors to your home often comment on, and/or (b) that you have immensely enjoyed while living in the place. And think outside the box: consider things like the light, the floor plan flow, the amazing block parties, the Zen you achieve sitting in your garden, the smells and sounds and the nearby attractions you haunt. (Did I already mention the neighborhood Farmer’s Market?)

3. Do Tell: Anything that’s exceptional about your home – the things that differentiate your home from the competition. Is your home larger or does it have more bedrooms than the average home in your neck of the woods? Is your lot bigger or more private? Is your home a ‘regular’ sale in a sea of short sales, or the lowest priced listing in your super-chic subdivision? Does it have panoramic water views in an area where most homes overlook a canyon? No rear neighbors where most properties are surrounded?

What you’re looking for is not something to exaggerate into a stunning selling point; rather, the goal is to find something that’s unique about your home relative to other nearby or competitive properties.

4. Do Tell: The features your home has that you know buyers crave. If your home has uniquely compelling features compared with its competition, then say so. But even if your home’s features are not so unique, if it has some nuts-and-bolts features that give it wide desirability for a large segment of buyers in your area, it behooves you to express and emphasize them.

If people buy homes in your area because of its great school district and family-friendly activities, then mention the big, level backyard; the play structure and the fenced/covered pool. If your target buyers are looking for chic, car-free, urban living, talk about the Whole Foods Market and the gym on the ground floor of your building and the multiple public transport options within spitting distance.

Here’s where it’s good to mention any such features your home has that you know buyers in your area tend to look for that may be pleasantly surprising to those who just see your home onliner. This may include the actual size of very large rooms, the fact that you have a living room and a den, or all the amazing built-ins and customizations you’ve had professionally installed in your kitchen, closets, office, workshop, craft room or garage.

5. Do Tell: Incentives, extras and details that make the transaction easier or more favorable than a buyer would expect. If you or anyone else is providing any sort of bonus or incentive that promises to make the transaction even a small amount less expensive, smoother, easier or faster than the norm in your area, call it out!

This may include:

  • HOA or closing cost credits paid by you (or your bank or relocation company)
  • Personal property you’re willing to leave behind (i.e., furniture, electronics, yard equipment)
  • Your willingness to finance part or all of the sale price
  • The fact that your listing is not a short sale or foreclosure – or anything else of this sort.

Because you’re probably not nearly as well versed in what area buyers expect from a transaction as your agent is, this is one particular area in which you should look to your agent for strategic counsel.

Insider Secret: Keep in mind that prospective buyers may only see a few lines of your home’s description online, and may not be able to see everything that would go on a flyer, or even the detailed or agent-only remarks that local agents can see on MLS listings. So after you talk with your agent about which of these ‘verbal staging’ points to include, it’s important to actually view your home’s online listings to ensure that buyers can actually see the important points.

Source: Tara@Trulia.com, 5/15/2012


7 Steps to Avoid a DYI Disaster

Some of us figure out our talents early in life; others take longer. But for the majority of us, those talents have nothing whatsoever to do with the construction sciences, so to speak. Nonetheless, tight budgets and hours of home improvement television watching, shelter magazine perusing and Pinterest board-fixating have stirred up the jones to do-it-yourself in many a homeowner.The widespread perceptions that contractors charge exorbitant amounts and are difficult to manage have only increased the sense that doing home improvement projects ourselves seem like the way to go. The fact is, there are many home project that are fun and smart for a home owner to try their hand at. But DIY project veterans (myself included) can attest: DIY is by no means the no-brainer way to get every type of home project checked off your to-do list. In fact, a bad project can turn your experience of your home from an exciting project to a mortifying money-pit in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, whether your home improvement project goes swimmingly or scarily is well within your control from the very beginning – and hinges largely on making the right decision for a given project about whether to hire a contractor or go it on your own. Here are seven questions to ask yourself as part of that decision-making process, in order to avoid a DIY disaster:

1.  What’s the project?  Define the project, in writing, as completely as possible. This will equip you from the very start to outsource some or all of a project that is beyond your skill set, rather than running to a contractor in a panic in the middle of a project (when you’d certainly be charged a panic premium price). Depending on your aptitude level and the time you have, what seems at first glance to be a highly DIY-able room refresh with paint and new wood floors can snowball beyond the realm of reasonable DIY-dom if you add in a lighting or plumbing project. To do this, sit with your project, your magazines or your Pinboards for a few days, weeks or even months, keeping a running list of the things you want included in your project as you live in your house and your desired post-project lifestyle changes come to mind.

2.  Does it require permits?  Generally speaking, electrical, plumbing, major renovations, erecting new walls and structures and adding square footage are all projects highly likely to require permits. Hint: if you use the word “gut” when describing what you’re planning to your friends and relatives, chances are good you’ll need a permit. If you’re not sure, a quick website visit or phone call to your City’s Building Services or Building Permits Division should clear things up. Building code requirements can be exceedingly arcane, and the process of applying for and obtaining permits if you’re not well versed in them can be tedious, stressful and time-consuming. It can also be full of unsuspected pitfalls, like doing one home improvement that triggers a City requirement to add a slew of new outlets or a new sewer line. Call the city and/or talk to a couple of licensed contractors as soon as you’ve fully defined your project – but before you’ve started any work – and get a good sense for whether it will require permits to stay in good graces with the City. Cities are required to grant permits to homeowners, but the more complicated the permitting process gets for a given project, the more sensible it becomes to have a professional contractor or at least a professional permit expediter involved to avoid running afoul of the city, incurring penalties for unpermitted work and to maximize your ability to get an increased resale value for your home as a result of the upgrades.

3.  Are there health and safety issues?  I’m a big believer that high decks (i.e., decks, balconies and similar structures that are tall enough that a collapse would cause injuries to those standing on it), additions and gas/electrical work are things home owners should rarely do on their own. Now, I’m not saying you can’t install track lights or change a light switch to a dimmer. Rather, I’m cautioning that that if you’re doing work in these categories beyond that level, calling a contractor can avoid a disastrous outcome.

4.  What are the relative hard costs? “ANYONE can paint a room,” I’ve heard time and time again. I’ve done it, so I know this to be true. But I also know that from the first time I got actual paint bids from my trusty neighborhood handyman, I have never painted a room since! In my humble opinion, the money I’ve spent was well worth the time and other resources I saved (see #5, below), and I’m certain they’ve done a better job than I could or would have. Just because you can do a project DIY, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the smart thing to do. It also doesn’t mean that the hard, financial costs of doing it yourself are necessarily much cheaper than hiring a professional. Don’t automatically assume that doing a job yourself is the cheap route to go, or that it will save you scads of cash. Until you’ve actually gotten 3 bids from reputable contractors or vendors, based on the full scope of the job, and have compared that with the cash you’d spend to DIY, you cannot know for certain which is the less expensive way to go. They might qualify for bulk discounts on materials that you can’t get, and you might have to rent a truck, equipment or tools that they already own. In any event, calling contractors out can be educational in terms of understanding every element of the job and troubleshooting things you might not otherwise have anticipated.  So, unless you’re uber-handy and just love to do projects, or know for certain the project will be uber-cheap for you to do, I’d strongly urge you to get a few pros to come out and give you real bids for what it would cost (including supplies, labor, any subcontracting, permits – soup-to-nuts), and compare that to your own DIY cost estimate.  (Hint: I’d also encourage you to add a little buffer on the top of all the estimates – theirs and yours – for unforeseen costs that might arise.)

5.  What are the relative soft costs? Cash is just the beginning of the resources required to get a home improvement project done. They also take time – which some might see as opportunity costs. Ask yourself the question: what could I do with the time I’ll have to spend on this project?  There are also the energetic and emotional resources involved.  Some people simply have sharp mechanical and logistical aptitudes, have the spare time and love to use it bettering their homes and have infinite patience for figuring out workarounds when the project doesn’t go as planned.  And then there are people like me! So, if you’re like me, you should definitely account for that when you’re deciding whether to do-it-yourself or whether to hire your home improvement projects out.

6.  Is it really DIY-able? Remember, the ‘Y’ in DIY stands for YOURself.  The decision whether to DIY or call a contractor in for a job is not based on whether your Dad, your neighbor down the street or Bob Vila made a similar project look simple. Rather, it needs to be made based on your own, personal:

  • skill and experience level
  • aptitude for whatever sort of work you’re completing
  • patience level
  • frustrate-ability
  • spare time available for the job, etc.

If you’re not excited about the prospect of doing the project, and you can afford to have someone else do it, don’t let the wanna-be handypeople in your life talk you into biting off more than you can chew.

 7. What could go wrong?  If your project is uber-simple, like replacing a toilet or painting a wall, there are a limited number of worst-case scenarios which might be annoying and inconvenient, but are far from the end of the world. The kitty-cat wallpaper might be harder to get off than you thought – that sort of thing. But as the project grows larger in scope or more complex, the more potentially disastrous your worst-case scenarios are – and the more costly calling someone in to fix a DIY-gone-wrong will be. Generally speaking, I’m not one to advocate worst-case scenario thinking. But when it comes to home improvement projects, the many moving pieces and relative inexperience of the average home owner suggest that an abundance of caution is just plain old smart. If your project’s DIY worst-case scenarios conjure up visions of bodily harm to your family members, buckets catching the rain or virtually anything caving in think long and hard before you take it on yourself, versus calling in a pro.

Source: Tara@Trulia, 7/18/2012

The Benefits of Home Staging

Hiring someone to prepare your home so it makes a good impression on buyers can pay off.

With the real estate climate making selling your home difficult, home staging can be an effective tool to help seller’s out. You probably know that your property needs to be as clean, clutter-free and in as good repair as possible, inside and out. But you can further distinguish your home from the competition by having your home staged — or window-dressed — for sale.

Professional stagers can see your house as buyers will, and they’ll set the scene so that buyers can imagine living there. They’re likely to simplify or streamline the furniture in a room for better traffic flow and to enhance its spaciousness. They may neutralize a too-personal color scheme or add touches of color or accessories where needed. In vacant homes that feel cold and lack visual landmarks, stagers often bring in rental furniture and create “vignettes,” say, a seating area in front of the fireplace.


Source: Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Pat M. Esswein, 2/26/09

SELLERS: 5 Musts for Generating Multiple Offers

As you might have heard by now, multiple offers are the new black. Well – kind of; if your own home is on the market or soon to be, it can seem like you break your back to prepare your home and it lags and lags on the market while all the cool kids houses and their sellers sit idly by, making champagne toasts while they are inundated with more offers than they can shake a stick at.

Let’s bust one myth: getting multiple offers rarely happens by luck alone. That’s good news for you, as it means that generating multiple offers is more of a science than an art. And that, in turn, means there’s a whole lot you can do to replicate these results with your own home’s listing.

Here are five elements I nearly always see in listings that get multiple offers:

#1. Listed low. As I alluded to last week, homes that get multiple offers are often sold in what industry insiders call an auction atmosphere. If you think back to the last auction you saw on TV or participated in online, you’ll remember this basic element of Auctions 101: the starting price is lower – sometimes quite a bit lower – than the final sale price.

In fact, it’s the low list or starting price that gets people excited about the possibility of scoring a great value, whether they’re bidding on an antique Chinese pug figurine on eBay or on your home. And when it comes to your home, it’s that same, low-price-seeking excitement that will cause many more buyers to show up and view your home than would have come at a higher price point.

In real estate, more showings are an inescapable prerequisite to more offers.

Now – I’m not at all suggesting you give away the farm, just that you price your home from a retailer or auctioneer’s perspective, rather than the all-too-common backwards reasoning to which home sellers so often fall prey. Work with your agent through the comparable sales data – as recent and as comparable as possible – and then do your best to list your home as a slight discount, not at a slight premium, compared to the recent neighborhood sales. That will get buyers’ attention.

#2. Easy to show. Walk a mile with me, if you will, in the shoes of the average home buyer or their agent. Let’s say there are 50 homes on the market which meet your rough specifications in terms of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, price range and location. You can narrow it down to your 30 top priorities to see. But you only have time to see 8 today. Now, of those 30 top priority properties, about 15 are short sales or foreclosures and you can get into them anytime you want. And the other 15 are split down the middle – half of them are available to be seen with nothing more than a single phone call. The other half require you to hurdle an arcane obstacle course of phone calls, 24 hour notice requirements, strange hours of availability and more phone calls to get an appointment to see the place.

Which would you go see, and which would get ruled out?

I am not exaggerating one iota when I tell you that your home could be priced well and marketed well, but if you make it too difficult for buyers to get in to see it, the statistical probability is that they will (a) find and choose another home from those that are more easily accessible to view, and/or (b) assume you are not motivated to sell, get irritated and pass on your home as a result.

Want multiple offers? Make sure your home is available to be shown on demand, or as close as possible to that. Inconvenient? Yes. Frustrating? Sometimes. A challenge to keep the place clean at all times? Assuredly. But, my dear reader, no one ever promised you a rose garden; decide what your priorities are and, if you decide that getting top dollar for your home is at the top of that priority list, then also decide to be willing to deal with the inconvenience involved in churning up multiple offers and getting your home sold.

#3: Immaculate look and function.The homes that get multiple offers (outside of the foreclosure arena, anyway), are those with look, feel and function that can be described in one word: covetable. You’re not trying to create a situation in which your home barely edges out the listing down the street in the hearts and minds of your target buyer. If you want multiple offers, what needs to happen is for multiple buyers to fall deeply in love with your home – enough to brave the competition and put their best foot (and top dollar) forward.

Today’s buyers are no dummies. They’ve just lived through the worst real estate recession anyone can remember, and they’re much more frugal that buyers were at the last peak of the market. To boot, mortgage and appraisal guidelines and their own smart sense of frugality prevents them from just hurling dollars at any old place. Accordingly, they are not easily tricked into competing for a home by a slipshod paint job and a few pieces of Pottery Barn furniture.

To generate multiple offers, prepare your home by ensuring it is:
*immaculate from the inside out – basements, garages and crawl spaces included
*decluttered and staged to the nines – including fresh paint, carpet and other things that need replacing
*in fine mettle – make sure things like doors, windows and systems buyers test (e.g., stoves, faucets, heating and air conditioning) are not creaky, wonky, leaky or otherwise dysfunctional – and if you’ve done any major home improvements or replaced any appliances or systems lately, market that fact to show off the move-in readiness of the place.

#4: Just enough market exposure. If you’re home is so lucky as to get an offer the first day or so on the market, count your blessings. But also calculate your opportunity costs: many buyers can’t get out to see homes that quickly – some are unable to house hunt except on the weekends! In my local markets, I’ve seen time and time again that listing agents who are skilled in cultivating multiple offers often plan from the jump to allow the home to be exposed to the market long enough for all qualified and interested buyers to see it and get their offers on the table.

And what’s more, they expressly message the calendar for market exposure, Open Houses and even the offer date and review timeline in the listing, from the very beginning. Here, it’s very common to see a listing come on the market with a calendar of 1-2 Open Houses and an offer date sometime early in the week following the second one. Ask your agent to brief you on the standard practices for market exposure in your local area.

Allowing for ample market exposure – and including the timeline in the listing – lets buyers know that they will be able to get to the property and get their offers considered, and creates some urgency, as well. Smart buyers interested in properties like this will take care to have their agents contact the listing agent as soon as they think they may want to submit an offer, though; this way, if someone makes a so-called ‘pre-emptive’ offer, you’ll get a call from the listing agent and a chance to compete.

#5: Sellers who are willing to revise. f you think most of the tips here are not for you because you’ve already blown your chance to sell for more than asking – think again! A number of times, I’ve witnessed what I call the Sweet Spot Phenomenon, where an overpriced home sits on the market for months with no bites, sometimes even through multiple price reductions. Finally, the seller lowers the price to the ‘sweet spot,’ and it generates multiple offers and sells for more than the final list price.

There are definitely homes whose sellers net more than they expected because they were willing to revise the list price downward in response to market feedback (i.e., no showings, no offers or lowball offers).

If your home’s been lagging on the market, talk with your listing agent about what sort of price reduction strategy is likely to maximize your net sale price. Hint: many more buyers are attracted by chunky reductions or reductions below a common online search price point limit than by tiny, incremental reductions. For example, you might draw more flies buyers, and ultimately more money, with the honey of a price reduction from $499,000 to $474,000 than with a series of small reductions from $499,000 to $479,000, because there is a set of buyers who may be cutting their search off at $475,000 – so a price cut below that point will expose your home to a whole new group of prospects.

Emotion, emotion, emotion!

The difference between Infusion Home Design and the other staging company is EMOTION!

We know San Diego and we know the neighborhoods!  When staging a property we take into account the area as well as the design of the property.  When staging a property we want the buyer’s to feel the emotion set in the home.  We don’t just place furniture to take up space!

When walking into our staged homes you can feel yourself living there.  It’s not a matter of just hanging towels on the towel bars or stuffing glasses with pretty napkins.  We try to emulate what the potential buyer might do for a living, if they are world travelers, whether they have children or not have children.

Our furniture and all the accessories are hand-picked for each staged property.  We do not have everything already grouped together.

Most of our staged properties go into Pending within two weeks for asking price.

Emotion, emotion, emotion!  That’s what makes the difference!

What’s Happening in San Diego!

May 4

28th Annual Old Town Cinco de Mayo
Old Town comes alive with a celebration of art, culture, and history of the 1800’s. Ride in a horse drawn stagecoach, enjoy music, carnival rides and games, car show, chalk art, riding and roping show, Mexican wrestling, and other activities. Visit museums and specialty shops, and dine on delicious food and drink. Free.

Time: Fri. 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm / Sat. 11:00 am – 10:00 pm / Sun. 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Location: Old Town State Historical Park, San Diego Ave.

For more information visit www.fiestaoldtown.com

May 5

The Salvation Army 3rd Annual Spring Fling Festival
This festival will feature dozens of local crafters in indoor and outdoor booths. There will also be live musical entertainment and a fun carnival zone for the kids. A special feature will be the Silent Auction featuring donations from many San Diego businesses.

Time: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Location: The Salvation Army, 4170 Balboa Ave., Clairemont

For more information visit www.sandiegocitadel.com

May 5-6

Escondido Renaissance Faire
Travel back to the 16th century and the glories of the reign of Elizabeth the First. Activities include several of Will Shakespeare’s new plays, battle pageants, music in the streets, jugglers and hundreds of costumed re-enactors performing in this giant outdoor play. There is an admission fee, which covers all entertainment.

Time: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Location: Felicita County Park, 742 Clarence Lane, Escondido

For more information visit www.goldcoastfestivals.com/Escondido.html

May 6

16th Annual Festival Cinco de Mayo – Chula Vista
Festival guests will receive a true cultural experience as they sway with Mexican dancers, peruse the work of local artisans and taste authentic south of the border cuisine. Tune in for a Mariachi Band Battle at one of the two festival stages in addition to the popular Kids Fun Zone. Come join the 30,000 community members who enjoy this celebration of Hispanic culture.

Time: 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
Location: Downtown Chula Vista, Third Avenue

For more information visit http://www.thirdavenuevillage.com

May 6

Carlsbad Spring Village Faire
The largest one day fair in California. Features hundreds of exhibitors with a little of everything such as arts and crafts, antiques, clothing, a large variety of food stands serving International foods, and children’s rides.

Time: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Location: Carlsbad Village

For more information visit www.kennedyfaires.com/carlsbad

May 11-13

11th Annual Gator by the Bay

A family event featuring Zydeco and Cajun bands, Blues bands and community musical groups performing on multiple stages. Enjoy Cajun and Creole food, cooking demonstrations, strolling entertainers, dance lessons, and more.

Time: Refer to website for schedule
Location: Spanish Landing Park at Harbor Island – Harbor Drive – San Diego Bay

For more information visit www.gatorbythebay.com

May 12

Asian Cultural Festival of San Diego
Enjoy musical performances, costumed dancing, martial arts, craft-making, merchandise booths, cultural exhibits and cooking demonstration. There will be a food court, picnic area, and a kid’s area.

Time: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Location: Liberty Station – NTC Park, near Cushing & Roosevelt Rds, Point Loma

For more information visit www.asianculturalfestivalsd.com

May 13

4th Annual Mother’s Day Fancy Dress Swim
Fundraiser for World Swims Against Malaria. Mothers will “dip” in the ocean wearing their Mother’s Day finest. A five dollar donation is all that is needed for this World Swim Against Malaria.

Time: 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Location: Oceanside Pier, Oceanside

For more information visit www.onesandiego.org/

May 16-20

Ocean Beach: Beach Ball Festival
An outdoor live music, action sports, and microbrew festival. Lots of food, merchandise, beach volleyball games, a big ferris wheel, a waterslide, mechanical bull rides and a human hauler contest.

Time: Wed.-Fri. 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm / Sat. 10:00 am – 10:00 pm / Sun. 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Location: Ocean Beach: Saratoga Park, Veterans Plaza, Lifeguard & Municipal Pier Parking Lots

For more information visit www.oceanbeachsandiego.com

May 19

24th Annual Tierrasanta Patriot’s Day
Celebrate Armed Forces Day with a delicious BBQ dinner under a shaded canopy while listening to pleasant music. There will be a beer & wine garden, game area for kids, raffles, dancing, plus a fireworks show.

Time: 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Location: Tierrasanta Recreation Center, 11220 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Tierrasanta

For more information call 858-268-0044

May 19-20

7th Annual Encinitas Sports Festival
Join 300 of your closest friends and family for two days of sports and fun in Encinitas. The City becomes a sports destination the weekend before Memorial Day and you don’t want to miss it. Triathlons, Duathlon, Bike Tours, 5K Run, Kids and Family 1K Walk/Run, Moonlight Beach Paddle & Swim, and a 2-day sports expo.

Time: Refer to website for schedule
Location: Encinitas – various locations, refer to website

For more information visit www.encinitasrace.com/esff.html

May 20

Annual North Park Festival of the Arts
An explosion of arts, culture and entertainment with live entertainment, specialty booths, food court, beer garden, Kid’s Art Beat, and tons more!

Time: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Location: North Park – University Ave. & 30th St.

For more information visit www.northparkfestivalofarts.com

May 20

26th Annual Navy’s Original Bay Bridge Run/Walk
A running and walking event across the Coronado Bay Bridge is a rare opportunity, and now is the time to do it! The route begins downtown and proceeds across the bridge to the Coronado Island to Tidelands Park, concluding with fun festivities.

Time: 7:00 am – 12:00 pm
Location: Bayfront Hilton Parking Lot, One Park Blvd., San Diego

For more information visit www.mwrtoday.com

May 20

19th Annual Sicilian Festival
Celebrate Sicilian-Italian American heritage and enjoy delicious cuisine from local restaurants in a festive setting in Little Italy. Music, beer, wine, dancing, ethnic art & craft items to browse. Free.

Time: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Location: Little Italy, Downtown San Diego

For more information visit www.sicilianfesta.com

May 20

Escondido Street Faire
This faire will feature live entertainment as well as over 600 booths showcasing arts & crafts, unique clothing, and international foods. Children’s rides, rock climbing wall, and more!

Time: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Location: Downtown Escondido, Grand Ave. between Center City Pkwy and lvy.

For more information visit www.kennedyfaires.com/escondido

May 26

Santee Street Fair
Live bands, entertainment, food, arts & crafts, vendor booths, beer garden. In just three years the Santee Street Fair has become one of the best events in town. Over 300 food and vendor booths, 3 stages of live music and entertainment, and fun rides.

Time: 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
Location: Santee Town Center – behind Santee Trolley Square, Mission Gorge Rd., Santee
For more information visit www.santeestreetfair.com

May 27

Annual Ethnic Food Fair

A cultural food festival at Balboa Park will be offering a delicious assortment of ethnic foods along with entertaining costumed performances. Free.

Time: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Location: Balboa Park, House of Pacific Relations International Cottages

For more information visit www.sdhpr.org

May 27

Vista Strawberry Festival
Strawberries will be the main event along with a 5K Fun Run and Kids Runs, as well as 200+ vendors at our street fair, carnival rides, a Strawberry Pie Eating contest, Strawberry Idol, Ms. Strawberry Shortcake, and much more! Free admission.

Time: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: Downtown Vista, 127 Main St., Downtown Vista

For more information visit www.vvba.org

East meets West!

Yup, East meets West at Infusion Home Design. With all of Cynthia’s expertise and experience, growing up in Southern California she welcomes Colleen Lacombe from the East Coast with all her clean line designs and cosmopolitian flare.

We have INFUSED the two and made San Diego’s Premier Design and Staging company even more hot and sexy!

As always we stage with emotion! We don’t strive to make your property look like a model or hotel! We dress your property up and use different styles and textiles to show a unique and beautiful property!

IHD Supports Chelsea’s Run 2012

How Many Cows Does It Take to Make a Sofa?

So where does that leather in your sofa or car come from?  It takes the skins of many cows to make one sofa. That leather from cows comes from cows raised for both beef and milk. Cows raised for beef are fed an unnatural diet chicken feces, rendered remains of other animals, high-bulk grains, and other fillers, including sawdust, until they weigh 1,000 to 1,200 pounds.

Leather is not the environmentally friendly product that the industry has suggested.  The adverse environmental and health impacts of the leather industry are huge.  Animal skin is turned into finished leather by the use of many dangerous mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and cyanide based oils and dyes.   These chemicals prevent the leather from being naturally biodegradable as the industry claims.  Leather products can last thousands of years and the toxic chemicals with which they are infused leach into the environment during that time.   Leather pieces found in Northern Germany were estimated to be 12,000 years old, dating from the Neolithic and European Bronze Ages!

People who have worked in and lived near tanneries have died of cancer from groundwater contaminated by the toxic chemicals used to process and dye the leather.   A New York State Department of Health study found that more than half of all testicular cancer victims worked in tanniers.

Sports use huge amounts of leather. It takes 3,000 cows to supply the National Football League (NFL) with enough leather for a year’s supply of footballs!  It takes the leather of 3.8 steers to make the 72 footballs used in every NFL SuperBowl alone.

It is so easy for us to break the chain of separation from nature that has allowed such cruelty to exist. All we have to do is stop buying leather.