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Category Archives: Helpful hints

Seven Smart Strategies for Bathroom Remodeling

Seven Smart Strategies for Bathroom Remodeling

By: John Riha

Published: March 4, 2011

Here’s how to get the bathroom of your dreams without making your budget a nightmare.

You dream about a bathroom that’s high on comfort and personal style, but you also want materials, fixtures, and amenities with lasting value. Wake up! You can have both.

A midrange bathroom remodel is a solid investment, according to the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. A bath remodel with a national median cost of $30,000 will recover about 50% of those costs when it’s time to sell your home.

Regardless of payback potential, you’ll probably be glad you went ahead and updated your bathroom. Homeowners polled for the “Report” gave their bathroom renovation a Joy Score of 9.6 — a rating based on those who said they were happy or satisfied with their project, with 10 being the highest rating and 1 the lowest.

1. Stick to a Plan

A bathroom remodel is no place for improvisation. Before ripping out the first tile, think hard about how you will use the space, what materials and fixtures you want, and how much you’re willing to spend.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends spending up to six months evaluating and planning before beginning work. That way, you have a roadmap that will guide decisions, even the ones made under remodeling stress. Once work has begun — a process that averages two to three months — resist changing your mind. Work stoppages and alterations add costs. Some contractors include clauses in their contracts that specify premium prices for changing original plans.

If planning isn’t your strong suit, hire a designer. In addition to adding style and efficiency, a professional designer makes sure contractors and installers are scheduled in an orderly fashion. A pro charges $100 to $200 per hour, and spends 10 to 30 hours on a bathroom project.

2. Keep the Same Footprint

You can afford that Italian tile you love if you can live with the total square footage you already have.

Keeping the same footprint, and locating new plumbing fixtures near existing plumbing pipes, saves demolition and reconstruction dollars. You’ll also cut down on the dust and debris that make remodeling so hard to live with.

Make the most of the space you have. Glass doors on showers and tubs open up the area. A pedestal sink takes up less room than a vanity. If you miss the storage, replace a mirror with a deep medicine cabinet.

3. Make Lighting a Priority

Multiple shower heads and radiant heat floors are fabulous adds to a bathroom remodel. But few items make a bathroom more satisfying than lighting designed for everyday grooming. You can install lighting for a fraction of the cost of pricier amenities.

Well-designed bathroom task lighting surrounds vanity mirrors and eliminates shadows on faces: You look better already. The scheme includes two ceiling- or soffit-mounted fixtures, and side fixtures or sconces distributed vertically across 24 inches (to account for people of various heights). Four-bulb lighting fixtures work well for side lighting.

Today, shopping for bulbs means paying attention to lumens, the amount of light you get from a bulb — i.e., brightness. For these bathroom task areas, the Lighting Research Center recommends:

  • Toilet: 45 lumens
  • Sink: 450 lumens
  • Vanity: 1,680 lumens

4. Clear the Air

Bathroom ventilation systems may be out of sight, but they shouldn’t be out of mind during a bathroom remodel.

Bathroom ventilation is essential for removing excess humidity that fogs mirrors, makes bathroom floors slippery, and contributes to the growth of mildew and mold. Controlling mold and humidity is especially important for maintaining healthy indoor air quality and protecting the value of your home — mold remediation is expensive, and excess humidity can damage cabinets and painted finishes.

A bathroom vent and water closet fan should exhaust air to the outside — not simply to the space between ceiling joists. Better models have whisper-quiet exhaust fans and humidity-controlled switches that activate when a sensor detects excess moisture in the air.

Related: Everything You Need to Know about Exhaust Fans

5. Think Storage

Bathroom storage is a challenge: By the time you’ve installed the toilet, shower, and sink, there’s often little space left to store towels, toilet paper, and hair and body products. Here are some ways to find storage in hidden places.

  • Think vertically: Upper wall space in a bathroom is often underused. Freestanding, multi-tiered shelf units designed to fit over toilet tanks turn unused wall area into found storage. Spaces between wall studs create attractive and useful niches for holding soaps and toiletries. Install shelves over towel bars to use blank wall space.
  • Think moveable: Inexpensive woven baskets set on the floor are stylish towel holders. A floor-stand coat rack holds wet towels, bath robes, and clothes.
  • Think utility: Adding a slide-out tray to vanity cabinet compartments provides full access to stored items and prevents lesser-used items from being lost or forgotten.

6. Contribute Sweat Equity

Shave labor costs by doing some work yourself. Tell your contractor which projects you’ll handle, so there are no misunderstandings later.

Some easy DIY projects:

  • Install window and baseboard trim; save $250.
  • Paint walls and trim, 200 square feet; save $200.
  • Install toilet; save $150.
  • Install towel bars and shelves; save $20 each.

7. Choose Low-Cost Design for High Visual Impact

A “soft scheme” adds visual zest to your bathroom, but doesn’t create a one-of-a-kind look that might scare away future buyers.

Soft schemes employ neutral colors for permanent fixtures and surfaces, then add pizzazz with items that are easily changed, such as shower curtains, window treatments, towels, throw rugs, and wall colors. These relatively low-cost decorative touches provide tons of personality but are easy to redo whenever you want.


Don Martin, a 33 year veteran real estate broker and firm owner, helps people save many thousands of dollars selling their own houses and using the MLS for peak exposure. Details of that process here. He is the author of sixteen books, and has been called the most prolific real estate professional in the country today. Follow his real estate blog here and his writing blog here.  His Amazon page is here.

Martin Properties – List your own house in the MLS at

Listing Contracts

Types of Listing Contracts

A listing contract is an agreement between a seller and a licensed real estate broker that authorizes the broker to represent the seller in the process of selling his home. There are several different types of listing contracts, but very few of them are used. The most common one used is the “Exclusive Right to Sell” listing. But you will find that there are a lot more types, allowing you to choose the level of services authorization to give to your agent. Here are some of them:

Join our merry band of peeps and get a FREE REPORT – click here!

One-Time Showing

This type of listing contract is  in effect for one showing to one prospect.  Otherwise the owner is free to sell the house themselves and pay no commission.  This relationship only makes sense if the house is not listed, and not in the MLS.   The listing contract identifies the potential buyer and guarantees the agent a commission if that buyer buys the home. Just like open listings and some exclusive agency listings, this type may lack  marketing efforts on the part of the agent.

The commission the seller will spend is negotiable, with negation made prior to the showing, and may cost as much as the buying and selling side of a traditional listing, payable at closing- transactionally funded.

Exclusive Agency Listing

This one involves a broker, who, therefore makes it possible to have the house in the MLS for the exposure. An exclusive agency listing will give sellers the right to sell their own home, without paying  commission unless the house is sold through a licensed real estate professional. Should the house be sold without any help of agents, the contract allows homeowners to pay no commission at all. The reason why this type of listing contract is widely used is the temptation of not having to pay a broker.

The expense to the seller may be that of the buyer’s agent side of a traditional sale, payable at closing, and a smaller, flat-fee to the agent who gets the house in the MLS, usually payable in advance.

Exclusive Right to Sell Listing

The most popular type of listing with some sellers and all brokers, this contract gives the full right for your broker to do whatever it takes to sell your house. For obvious reasons, this is probably the type of contract where you can expect the most incentive from the agent – a good marketing effort can take place here, and the homeowners’ work is much reduced.

The cost to the seller is the most of these three, but it is usually paid out of the proceeds at closing.

Any of these listing relationships can involve different levels of service.  Before you choose your contract, always make sure you know every type of listing available to you. Take in mind how much effort you would like to contribute to the home selling – this is often what distinguishes the types. Discuss the possibilities and disadvantages of each type. Remember, a listing contract is your first legal step in selling your house – take that step carefully and have it in writing exactly what you are expecting from the agent.  The best surprise is NO surprise!

profileBroker Don Martin, founder and CEO of Martin Properties, besides helping hundreds of FSBOs save thousands of dollars, also delivers seminars, keynotes and motivational messages to real estate and sales professionals. His 30+ years of experience in sales, marketing, real estate, promotion, management and technology has empowered thousands to expand their knowledge and achieve their goals. Connect with Martin Properties on Facebook,, or


Earnest Money

In a real estate transaction and negotiation, an important issue is how much trust the seller has in a buyer and how “strong” the offer is. The existence and size of an earnest money deposit can help put a seller at ease to some extent.

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Good Faith Deposit

If you are selling your home, you should always require a buyer to make an earnest money or good faith deposit. The deposit simply establishes that the buyer is serious and, to some extent, has the financial capacity to complete the purchase.

The amount of the deposit is often dependent upon the agreed sale price of the real estate. Although percentages vary from state to state, a cash deposit equal to three percent of the sales price is typical. For instance, the deposit would be $3,000 for home selling at a price of $100,000. As with most transactions, this percentage is negotiable.   The size of the deposit somehow reflects the “strength” of the offer by some yardsticks, as though a low offer may be offset somewhat by a high earnest money deposit.  I have, over the years seen $500 and $1000 earnest money deposits, and once I saw a rather nice wristwatch used as an indicator of good faith.

Once the buyer and seller agree to the amount of the good faith deposit, you have to decide what to do with the deposit. Importantly, the seller should not hold the deposit as doing so could make the buyer uncomfortable. Instead, the money should be held in an escrow account of a third party.  Potential third parties include escrow and title insurance companies, an attorney, as well as your agent’s company or your buyer’s agent’s company if there is one.  It should be somewhere safely protected from buyer and seller, because if the transaction falls through, and the disposition of the deposit is contested, the matter may eventually go to a legal interpleader hearing.

A good faith deposit can act like insurance for a seller.  A transaction can take 30 to 60 days, during which the property is off the market. The earnest money essentially compensates the seller for this time in the event the buyer is unable to complete the purchase of the property.

Depending on the laws in your state, a buyer who can’t close will forfeit his earnest money. Typically, the only exception to this is when the contract language indicates the deposit will be returned if the buyer can’t get a home loan. Of course, including such language can open the seller up to repeated frustration when bad credit buyers fail to get funding.

Earnest money deposits are just a fundamental part of a real estate transaction. Buyers should expect to pay them and sellers should demand them.

profileBroker Don Martin, founder and CEO of Martin Properties, besides helping hundreds of FSBOs save thousands of dollars, also delivers seminars, keynotes and motivational messages to real estate and sales professionals. His 30+ years of experience in sales, marketing, real estate, promotion, management and technology has empowered thousands to expand their knowledge and achieve their goals. Connect with Martin Properties on Facebook,, or


Staging your home like a “Boss.”



Are you considering putting your house up for sale, but not even sure where to start? Maybe it will take too long to sell, or maybe you won’t get the price you want? Think about “staging” your home, or in other words,  making it easy for a prospect to imagine owning your house.

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To be really effective, you need to look at both the outside and inside of your home. Here are three tips to get you started with the inside:

1. De-clutter. This is one of the most important things you can do.  It may be easier to think of de-cluttering like this you are just getting a headstart on moving!

Pack up everything you don’t need and store the boxes out of sight in the garage (or consider temporarily renting a small storage locker or what is called a “pod.”)

2. Organize your closets – put similar colors together, pants together, skirts together, and shirts together.  It will make the closets look bigger.  An organized closet appears bigger, and you want your closets to look as spacious as possible.  Have the shelves almost empty if you can.

3. Make your home look more like a model. You want to remove as much of your “stuff” as much as possible so potential buyers can imagine themselves and their own belongings occupying that space in your house. That means minimizing – putting away everything you won’t  use while on the market. Clear off the kitchen counters as much as possible – stash unused appliances, and small clutter in a few attractive baskets or boxes or hide it away.

And the biggest tip of all? Imagine yourself as a potential buyer looking at your house for the first time. What first and second impressions are you getting? Would YOU buy this house? What would you like to see different before you put an offer on your house?

And don’t worry about spending some bucks to get your house ready to sell – you’ll get it all back when your house sells. Don’t ever spend a dollar unless it will make you a dollar, but the correct staging will help you sell your home in a shorter time and at the price you want.

profileSpeaker Don Martin, founder and CEO of Martin Properties, besides helping hundreds of FSBOs save thousands of dollars,  delivers seminars, keynotes and motivational messages to real estate and sales professionals. His experience in sales, marketing, real estate, promotion, management and technology has empowered thousands to expand their knowledge and achieve their goals. Connect with Martin Properties on Facebook,, or


The MLS is not just a glorified TRADER’S POST or CRAIG’S LIST.

MLS is made BY Realtors FOR Realtors.

In the beginning, the group of real estate agents who held themselves to a higher standard of ethics and practice, and called themselves Realtors, realized that they needed to be able to share knowledge of each other’s activities.  When Realtor A was engaged to sell a property, he often depended on the help of Realtor B and Realtor C so the total of all their efforts would be more effective.  The Multiple Listing Service, the MLS was borne out of the necessity for communication of the different Realtor’s efforts one to the other.  When Realtor A listed a property “For Sale” the details about it was available to the other members of the MLS

Then along comes the For-Sale-By-Owner, FSBO, who decides to sell his property himself to save the commission he would otherwise pay to an agent to do the job.  Not all real estate agents are Realtors and therefore not all agents are members of the MLS.  But it is becoming more and more necessary that, to sell quickly, it must be in the MLS.  The FSBO can’t be a Realtor or a member of the MLS either, of course, but they still need that exposure.

Enter the flat-fee, limited-listing broker who will let the homeowner sell his own house and still have the details about it available through the MLS by way of the membership of the flat-fee, limited-listing broker.  The FSBO now has a huge exposure for a lot less commission.

What the MLS will do for you.

In my area, just being in the MLS gets your house in front of 5000 pairs of Realtor’s eyes.  Some of them may be currently working with a prospect who would be perfect for your house.

Almost as importantly, this information is gathered by secondary and tertiary websites that expand the exposure.  These days, when people are looking for a new house, the often enjoy searching these secondary sites on their own from their living room.  Then, if they like a particular house, they proceed from there.

There is no telling how many tens or hundreds of thousands of eyes see your house on those sites.  And the speed of the home sale is often directly associated with the amount of exposure.

What you can’t do.

People are occasionally surprised and even a bit disappointed by two factors.  Their contact number will not be placed where anyone but other Members can see it.  The whole purpose of the MLS is for its members.

The homeowner is confined to the template of the MLS.  They cannot include long, flowing descriptions when the area they want it to be is a very limited area or even a multiple-choice pull-down menu.  Sometimes the pre-conceived idea gets whittles down to the bone.

Flat rate MLS Services

If you are interested in speaking about your house, please call me.  I am Don Martin, The Reasonable Realtor.


FSBO Flat Fee MLS Listing in Nashville

Flat rate MLS Services

FSBO Flat Fee MLS Listing in Nashville is a good thing, and it gets you started on the path of selling your house, and paying a lot less or even no commission.  Here is a good place to get that. But that is only part of the story.  Here is some of the rest of it.

You need to keep your home presentable.  That is easy or not easy depending on the number of people living in your place, and depending on how you define presentable.  Still it’s going to require more effort than usual.

You are going to need to keep yourself fairly available to answer your phone.  You can use voice mail, but that isn’t perfect, because, as a civilization, we are used to the internet and auto-responders.  We want what we want and we want it now.  If you use a voice mail, you may need to discipline yourself to check it frequently.

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They’re pulling your leg

You need to sell your house.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are over and the dead of winter is coming pretty soon.  Everyone says nobody will be shopping for a house now.

Guess what- everyone is either wrong, or they are pulling your leg.  It may be winter, but some people still have to move.  Maybe they have been transferred in their job.  Maybe there is a problem with their current house.  Maybe their lease is up.

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Helpful hints and tips to help you save and/or make money in the New Real Estate era as a For-Sale-By-Owner!