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Preparing to Sell Your Home? Here’s How to Attract Multiple Buyers



brick house curb appeal lush landscaping

Preparing to sell your home is a big task. And even if it’s a seller’s market and homes are flying off the shelves, this doesn’t mean yours is guaranteed a quick sale. In fact, a home in need of some TLC may find itself sitting on the market longer than other homes in its area, which could make buyers think differently about the value of your home. To ensure your house stands out and attracts as many buyers as possible, you’ll need to consider what homebuyers are looking for in 2021. 

With so many changes over the last year, home features that were once just nice-to-haves have now become must-haves for buyers. Features like home offices, beautiful kitchens, and move-in ready homes can’t be overlooked. So, how do you make yours stand out in the 2021 housing market? By taking all the right steps when preparing to sell your home – from necessary home upgrades to stunning listing photos.

“Must-haves” to make your home the most attractive house on the market

Eye-catching curb appeal 

Making a great first impression begins with the exterior of your home, and beautiful curb appeal is key. Having a well-manicured lawn and freshly-planted flowers can make all the difference. Lush landscaping will catch a buyer’s eye and certainly leave a lasting impression.  

Home office 

Many people will continue to work from home in 2021 and beyond, making a home office an essential feature for homebuyers today. When preparing to sell your home, take the time to spruce up your home office area and make it a primary feature when showcasing your home. If your house doesn’t have a designated office space, you can always stage a spare room or empty area as a home office. If possible, choose a space where natural light pours in. 

Outdoor space that’s perfect for entertaining

With all the time spent at home over the last year, it’s no surprise that having an outdoor oasis is more desirable than ever. As you’re preparing to sell your home, put in the effort to make your backyard a “usable” space and a place where potential buyers can envision themselves spending time in. Homebuyers want backyards with outdoor dining areas and other amenities, such as a deck, pool, or firepit. But even if you live in a condo in Chicago and only have a small patio, add a couple of cozy chairs, a small table, and hang string lights across the top to help make your backyard space pop.

updated white kitchen stainless steel appliances

Updated kitchen with stainless steel appliances

If your kitchen looks outdated or lacks desired features, like stainless steel appliances, there’s a good chance your house could sit on the market longer than you’d like. Opt for a sleek and modern look in your kitchen by adding a fresh coat of paint, matte black or gold hardware, and luxurious statement lighting. If your budget allows, update your honey-toned cabinets to a neutral hue and replace outdated countertops with a sleek granite or quartz countertop. If you’re only taking on a few home projects before selling your home, make updating or remodeling the kitchen a priority.

Neutral color palette

Bold or outdated wall colors can be off-putting to potential buyers. Play it safe by sticking to a neutral color palette when freshening up your paint. However, if you’re planning on incorporating color through decor or furniture, be sure you’re selective and not overdoing it. Buyers want to be able to imagine themselves in your home, and having distracting colors can make this difficult.

Your home is move-in ready 

In 2021, buyers are looking for homes that are move-in ready. They don’t want to dedicate the time or resources to update a home in need of a new kitchen or major bathroom upgrades. When a house is move-in ready, there’s typically less maintenance issues and unexpected costs to worry about.

modern and neutral home office

As you’re preparing to sell your home, replace these home features as soon as possible

Popcorn ceilings 

There’s a handful of features that will show your home’s age – and not in a “historically charming” kind of way. Popcorn ceilings are an immediate giveaway of your home’s age and let’s face it, buyers will be turned off by the thought of needing to get it removed on their own time and dime. Do yourself and potential buyers a favor and add ‘hiring a professional to remove your popcorn ceilings’ to your checklist.

Carpet all throughout your home 

While there’s nothing wrong with having carpet in your home, having carpet in every room of your house can make it feel outdated. Homebuyers want hardwood floors, which are actually one of the top 10 most valuable features in homes for sale across the US. So it’s in your best interest to upgrade some – if not all – of your flooring from carpet to hardwood.

Wood-paneled walls

Even though they may have been a popular choice in the 70s, wood paneling on the walls is no longer an attractive feature for most buyers in 2021. Although removing the panels is ideal, if you have too many tasks on your plate as you’re preparing to sell your home, there are simpler ways to update this outdated look.  Painting over the panels with a neutral color or using wallpaper to cover them up are budget-friendly options to give wood-paneled walls a much-needed refresh. 

Warm and bright living room

Making sure that your home attracts buyers goes beyond home upgrades, here’s what else you need

Professional photography is an absolute must 

Making your home the most attractive house on the market goes beyond home improvements – it needs to stand out online, especially as more people are looking at homes in other cities and even other states. If your listing showcases dark, blurry, or distorted photos, chances are your home won’t attract many potential buyers, even in a seller’s market. This is why professional real estate photos are essential when preparing to sell your home – they help your home sell faster and for more

Tip: Make sure the main cover photo stands out. You want potential buyers to be so enticed by the cover photo that it makes them want to see more. This means that choosing an exterior photo isn’t always the best option if you have a beautifully remodeled kitchen or your living room staging looks like a feature in Architectural Digest. 

A listing description that sells

Your real estate agent will guide you through the home selling process and be the one responsible for writing your listing description. Your description should accurately reflect your home, while also highlighting its best features – especially the new upgrades you’ve made. When it comes to listing descriptions, the more interesting they are to read, the better. The goal is to make potential buyers both excited and wanting more.

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Real Estate

As Workplace Health Becomes Job No. 1, Respirators Lean High-Tech



The image deconstructs a respirator mask to illustrate the features and functionality of its design and engineering.

Following the latest Centers of Disease Control guidance, mass confusion reigns about the role of mask-wearing.

As summer seasonal activity opens up after a full year in limbo, and as corporate and commercial America take on the challenge of rebooting normalized workplaces as an anchor of economic dynamism in the period known as “learning to live with Covid,” confusion is likely asking for trouble.

The bottom line – mask or no mask, work, play, or anywhere in between – comes down to fresh air flow, which happens naturally outdoors, and may or may not happen mechanically in indoor or otherwise closed in working environments. As firms press “go” on plans to bring some perhaps new modicum of workplace operations up to full strength, it may be that construction job sites offer a template for occupational health and safety in this latest patch of pandemic time.

“As what we call ‘Act 2’ of living-with-Covid gets underway – and particularly as the season brings warmer weather into play – the most important factor we now know about that wasn’t clear when the CDC was giving guidance a year ago is that Covid is an atmospheric virus,” says Dan Carlin, M.D., CEO and founder of JobSiteCare and CEO of WorldClinic, a Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C.-base occupational health and safety consultancy. “As capacity restrictions relax and case rates decline, the important go-forward area to focus on is on ventilation, air flow, and indoor air exchange – inside, or in tight working conditions where the air exchange is low – we’d recommend wearing a mask.”

That advice – whether it’s a window installer, a subflooring contractor, a crew member whose job involves ascending 30 floors in a buck hoist, or any other indoor employee – applies to workplaces generally. This McKinsey & Company analysis of PPE industry prospects notes: “Tailwinds and headwinds will continue to have a divergent effect on the $13.5 billion US PPE business for the next several years, both for end-user industries and specific product segments.”

There’s even a mask challenge, an initiative from the Department of Health and Human Services – Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, partnering with The CDC’s – National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Its aim? To develop better designs, materials, and technologies that are more acceptable to wearers and that ensure quantified measures of performance.

Still, who should, who will, and who does wear a mask as personal protection in the days, weeks, and months ahead, as well as when, and where are questions open to intense and material debate, on a personal, workaday, and societal level. The issue’s contentiousness has been prompted in part by the timing of the White House-supported CDC guidance – which advises that fully vaccinated individuals may now go fully-unmasked, both outdoors and indoors.

Many experts contend that the timing is odd, citing three big reasons for worry.

  • As of mid-May, 40% of US citizens – 270 million doses of vaccines – are at least partially vaccinated against Covid’s – meaning that two of every five Americans, including young children for whom safety and efficacy trials continue, remain unvaccinated.
  • While daily infection rates and the number of hospitalizations have declined in the U.S., what many experts and clinicians worry about now is that Covid variants, especially more transmissible and likely more fatal ones raging in India have yet to be fully appreciated as a presence in North America.
  • As more and more businesses – corporate, operational, retail, restaurants, entertainment, and other commercial activity – reopen, bringing large numbers of people out of the relative protection of their homes and back into circulation, many of them in indoor environment, accessed via elevators, etc.

This last consideration is particularly meaningful in occupations – such as construction, where skilled workers are already in crisis-level undersupply nearly everywhere in the country – where there’s a strong correlation between country of origin and heritage of workforce members and a reluctance to vaccinate, for any number of reasons.

Occasion for anxiety about these three X factors centers not only on the public health risks – both to individuals and to groups of people in circulation who may be exposed to Covid infection by unwitting, asymptomatic Covid spreaders, some percentage of whom may or may not have been vaccinated for protection against the disease’s most harmful effects.

What’s more, that anxiety could itself work at odds with public sentiment and consumer confidence at a moment an economy navigating a delicate passage from triage damage-control to normalcy can least afford it, if people – teachers, nurses, check-out clerks, grocers, and other front-line workers – take ill in the weeks and months ahead.

For that reason, societal common sense may work as a more reliable beacon of return-to-normal behavior regarding mask-wearing than any current public health sector proclamation can. At the same time, at least one of the reasons people give as to why they’d rather not mask – even if it reduces their risk of either contracting or unintentionally spreading Covid is comfort. Although N-95s are the standard of construction jobsite performance at filtering contaminants – whether it be silica dust, other airborne particulate matter like asbestos, lead, carbon monoxide, or welding fumes, or aerosolized virus – anyone who’s had to wear one for an extended period of time, especially when it’s hot, has experienced pain enough to make one question as to whether the mask is necessary or worth it.

Technology, in design and comfort as well as in performance, durability, and usability, now figures into choices can make – taking at least some of the sources of resistance to common sense effort to keep oneself and others protected from Covid spread off the table.

For instance, Miami-based Octo Respirator Masks, created a year-plus before many of us heard of the novel coronavirus, and designed for people who work long shifts (8-12 hours) in fields where access to clean breathing air is can be difficult. Once – only about 18 months ago – that specifically applied to workplaces for construction, mining, healthcare, first responders, people living in wildfire or earthquake zones.

Now, especially amid mask-confusion, unknowns about indoor air exchange both where we work and in our means of commuting to our jobs, that means almost all of us.

Here’s where technology and design have changed the game in masks, and why that may matter more than ever as the economy tries to kickstart into high-gear and as infection rates remain a little high for comfort.

Construction workers historically use N95s or P100s, which tend to be disposable or require replacement parts – and involve throwaway filters. That’s problematic environmentally and economically, and it’s difficult to keep up with. The Octo mask tested to – and surpassed – N95 standards. Further, it’s reusable, lasting for regular use for up to a year.

Octo mask developers Natasha Duwin and Tobias Franoszek recognize that performance efficacy is only part of the equation needed for adoption and traction for their respirator device.

“N95s are usually not worn properly,” Natasha Duwin said. “Even healthcare workers misuse N95s, because they need to be fit-tested and they need to train on how to wear them cupping and sealing the face properly, which affects their breathability. But with the Octo mask, there’s minimal learning curve, because the seal fits on the face perfectly and it’s comfortable.”

Duwin notes that the genesis of the Octo technology traces back to a viral epidemic past, the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which in turn led to global standards for workplace air and personal protection safety, the 2009 Breathe Report.

This federal government report called for 28 improvements needed in respirator masks and the Octo Respirator mask is the only one, to date, to meet the report’s 28 improvements requirements.

So, while who, when, and where to wear masks may remain open to contention as local, national and global economies reignite their engines, it’s clear that if common sense prevails, and people choose to wear a mask as they work indoors, technology has improved the comfort and performance of masking options.

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Real Estate

Housing Concept Honored As Finalist In Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards



render of ARCspace two-story home with solar panels.

California is extremely challenged by the nation’s ongoing housing crisis. Developers there are pressured by these challenges, so are coming up with innovative ideas that can go to scale, reducing the need in California and beyond.

One such solution also is one of this year’s finalists in Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards for Spaces, Places and Cities: ARCspace, ARC standing for affordable, relocatable, community.

Christian Johnston is the founder and CEO at ARCspace and says, “What we need more than just architectural designs and renderings is actual physical building solutions that can go to scale affordably. This current housing crisis needs carbon world solutions that are ready now.”

ARCspace’s innovation is housing at a completely new level, bringing together the expertise of the construction professionals from its parent company, Sustainable Building Council. Those experts have created the ARCspace homes to be power and water grid-independent, with temporary foundations that support relocation, using smart building technologies, energy-efficient materials, and climate-proof elements such as hurricane impact glass and fire-retardant materials.

Plus, the ARCspace project is a modular build to address California’s issues with material and labor. The efficiencies of modular will allow the company to dramatically cut down the longer timeline of stick built.

“The pandemic is pushing the cost of materials up,” Johnston said. “There aren’t a lot of trades; there’s a huge lack of labor. It’s a crunch to build at scale. Plus, we’re approaching the eviction crisis, with 40 million people with threats of eviction. It’s a huge number that might be on the streets. Modular has speed and the accessibility to have prefab elements come together much quicker.”

Those material and labor issues are pushing the cost of construction of most affordable housing units to price out at more than $500,000 in Los Angeles where the company is located. Developers like ARCspace are trying to make all price reduction innovations possible. Johnston believes that ARCspace will make a very consequential impact on development costs, coming in at about 50% less than the average affordable housing.

Andre Champagne serves as the chief sustainability consultant for ARCspace and brings his expertise from the movie industry where he built on-set RVs to be off-grid, a process that led to several patents, including the off-grid mobile capsulation that allows the units to be energy self-contained. On the Avatar and Avengers set, he provided trailers that were there for a year, used daily and never plugged in, and that never required secondary generator backup power. He now uses his expertise to bring the technology to mobile and residential properties.

Champagne worked with a team of engineers from battery manufacturer Lithionics to specifically design and utilize lithium-ion batteries configured to 51 volts versus the standard 120 volts for home use to be more efficient and effective.

He also collaborated with global energy specialist Schneider Electric to transform commercial-grade, off-grid inverters to be the complete accompaniment of the rest of the energy products in the home. Their commercial grade inverters were the right size at 7,000 watts each to handle everything else the home needed to get to net zero, including the incredibly efficient photovoltaic panels and ultra-efficient thermally charged variable refrigerant flow DC inverter HVAC systems that Champagne selected.

Champagne took an auditor’s approach to building the HVAC, since it consumes so much energy.

“A standard home can have an energy draw anywhere from 3,000 to upwards of 15,000 watts with all appliances running simultaneously,” Champagne said. “Our averages were 800 to 4,000 watts, which is a 65% reduction of the standard energy consumption. When you reduce the heating and cooling draw that substantially, the PV and the other energy generating applications on the home become that much more efficient. If I had a 3-bedroom, 3-bath home, and it was running consistently at 5,000 or 6,000 watts and had an array with 4,000 watts, it wouldn’t achieve maximum energy efficiency. You need to start at the interior of the unit and reduce the use power consumption internally, regulate refrigerant value and then set the array to be more than the consumption.”

The system uses Freon that is charged on the roof by running in photovoltaic wrapped copper lines, so it only takes about 20 to 30% of the power to heat the Freon to run the AC. Plus, it’s married with a hyper-efficient, thermally-charged, variable refrigerant flow DC invertor compressor. Champagne says that the greater the sunlight gets outside, the more efficient the HVAC system runs.

These radical energy saving technologies marry with other sustainable solutions designed in the home, such as Hydraloop, a greywater reuse system within the building envelope, which recycles water to then be used for irrigation.

Fresh water is critical now in many parts of the world and will be even more important moving forward, so ARCspace uses low flow water systems, atmospheric water generation units, and hydro-panels that generate two liters of water per day.

If ARCspace can produce homes at this price point and with these technologies, home owners will save hundreds in utilities every year. But, it’s expensive to have these systems for every house, so Johnston envisions a plan to connect four homes and create a microgrid that creates a shared economy with costs shared across the community.

Regardless, these self-sustaining technologies can alleviate the multi-thousand-dollar fees associated with setting up utilities. Plus, the ARCspace homes are relocatable, so if the home has to move, the in-ground cost for putting in utilities isn’t wasted.

Several groups are noticing the innovation that ARCspace offers and are working with the builder now on concepts and prototypes.

Seth Wachtel is an associate professor and the program director of the architecture and community design program at the University of San Francisco and leads the Youth Spirit Artworks Empowerment Village project that offers youth from foster care temporary housing with life and job skills training.

The project just launched 28 homes, but the conventional construction required a lot of time and volunteer labor, which was a strain. So, Wachtel started looking for other ways to do it more rapidly and efficiently. Plus, half of the cost of the project was infrastructure, lines, plumbing, utility, and sewer, which were costs that could be eliminated with a product like ARCspace.

“ARCspace contacted us and it seemed clear that its approach addressed all these issues,” Wachtel said. “A prefabricated system that designs in windows and doors from the beginning, that can be outfitted on the site, and be done relatively quickly would be a perfect solution to add more youth housing.”

Another ARCspace project is currently in the middle of construction to be delivered and to be on display this month in downtown Los Angeles. The display will run six months and will allow the city to have a rapid affordable housing solution as a living lab to understand water and energy use as an ongoing opportunity to test clean technology.

“With ARCSpace, they have thought of the delivery of utilities and innovative ways to do that,” said Elizabeth Selby, who serves as housing innovation, senior project manager at Los Angeles’s Office of Mayor Garcetti. “They are thoughtful and creative. They are putting a prototype up and then we will do a virtual tour of it. When we look at prototypes like this, it allows us to have a conversation about how to scale it.”

While Selby is attracted to innovative ideas, she admits that there are challenges when they get into the details. However, if the concept is a success, there is the opportunity to get more support from the city.

But the bottom line is that California needs housing and needs it now. So, the self-sustaining and temporary elements of the ARCspace solution are critical to bring it online fast.

Johnston and the ARCspace team are working on getting private funding, along with unused property owned by the city, to provide 480-square-foot homes that demonstrate rapid density. There are 600 unused sites currently identified across the city, where he can spend the next couple years delivering four-unit communities.

“Now that we are fully operational with many projects in the pipeline and ready to scale, we have begun conversations with investors about a seed round to accelerate our expansion and meet this critical need faced by our nation,” said An De Vooght, co-founder and global advisor overseeing investor relations and partnerships at ARCspace. “The pandemic has changed the face of housing worldwide, creating a massive market opportunity for social entrepreneurs willing to tackle this issue. I am excited that we can bring a triple-bottom line solution, and that we can do it now.”

The bottom line is that there is a huge, urgent demand for housing across the country. The self-sustaining and temporary elements of the ARCspace solution could bring affordable housing solutions online fast.

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Real Estate

Bette Davis Lived Here And Now You Can, Too



Oceanfront half-timbered house.

Few Hollywood stars achieved the stature of Bette Davis. With a career spanning more than 50 years and 100 acting credits, she was noted for playing unsympathetic characters and was famous for her performances in a range of films. A recipient of two Oscars, she was the first actor to be nominated ten times. Her career went through several periods of eclipse, but despite professional and health setbacks, she continued acting in film and on television until shortly before her death in 1989.

Now her Laguna Beach home is for sale for $19,995,000. While she has not lived in this oceanfront French Normandy estate since 1950, locals still refer to it as The Bette Davis House.

Local lore holds that the house was built in 1929 as a summer home for Charles H. Prisk, a wealthy newspaper publisher and owner of the influential Pasadena Star-News and Long Beach Press-Telegram. It was designed by Laguna Beach artist and architect Aubrey St. Clair, who was responsible for a number of grand waterfront homes designed for area A-listers. Past owners of the three-story, white stucco house have preserved many of the original features from when the actress lived here.

Located on a bluff overlooking rocky Woods Cove, a short distance from the shops, restaurants, and art galleries of Laguna Beach, the 5,400 square foot, six bedroom house perches high above the cove, with private-access steps leading to a sandy beach.

The main house, anchored by a baronial great room, leads guests to the Lookout Room and adjoining family room and dining room, all with stunning views of crashing waves and sea. With solid oak floors and updated styling throughout, the home encircles a central spiral staircase topped with a conical roof and spire.

A large, updated kitchen (one of two) has the appliances, space and finishes sought by passionate home chefs and caterers; the adjoining breakfast room’s vaulted ceiling hints at the house’s European style antecedents. Besides the four en-suite bedrooms in the main house, there is a two bedroom guest house with its own kitchen and a breezy, beach-house feel.

The vast main house butler’s pantry wears a charming, retro color scheme that is contemporary and sophisticated while evoking the 1940s, when Bette Davis’s career was at its peak.

The upper floor bar area has an ornate stained-glass ceiling. On this level there’s also a wine cellar and a fitness room. The estate boasts 5 full and 3 partial bathrooms.

This extraordinary house is listed by agent John Cain, of Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty. 

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