Your Front Door Holds the Key To Boosting Street Appeal
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Your Front Door Holds the Key To Boosting Street Appeal

First impressions matter, even in today’s red-hot real-estate market.

By Jessica Dailey
Thu, Sep 30, 2021Grey Clock 4 min

When sisters Char Riley and Candace Carroll renovated a Los Angeles home last winter with the intention of flipping it, they knew the exterior needed some serious TLC. To complete the home’s Spanish-inspired look, they lined the porch with clay saltillo tiles and added teal and orange tiles to the stairs, which complemented the terracotta roof and seafoam green trim. They removed a tree blocking the house, planted new grass and installed an Old World-meets-modern front door made of dark wood.

Their parents, who partnered with them on the flip, were hesitant to spend so much effort on the exterior. But the sisters, both experienced investors and Sotheby’s real-estate agents, have flipped nearly 120 homes and knew it would pay off. They were right: The home, which they bought for US$995,000, sold for $100,000 over asking price, closing in May for US$1.6 million.

The street appeal lured the buyer. “His parents happened to drive down the street one day and sent him a photo of the house,” says Mrs. Riley.

In today’s market, with low inventory and quick sales, sellers might think they can turn a big profit without having to do much. But agents say that’s not the case.

“The houses that are flying off the market are the ones that are done nicely,” says Mrs. Riley. “When you have a house where you forgot about the front yard, that sets the tone. People aren’t going to want to pay top dollar.”

According to Zillow, 51% of homes sold for above asking price in July 2021. “Half of homes are selling at or below asking,” says Amanda Pendleton, Zillow’s home trends expert. “That says you still need to do all the fixes to appeal to the most number of buyers.”

Compass broker Robin Kencel recommends sellers consider the experience from when a buyer parks their car until they reach the front door. “I’m a believer, as Barbara Corcoran says, that in the first eight seconds, you know if you’re going to buy a house.”

That was the case for one of Ms. Kencel’s clients, who is listing her Greenwich, Conn., home for US$8.995 million. When she bought it 46 years ago, she didn’t have to step inside—the front door screamed “welcome.” While preparing to list, she painted it a French blue, in the spirit of the original color.

“The front door reflects an owner’s personality,” says Cara Fox, owner and lead designer of The Fox Group, a design-build firm based in Salt Lake City. A solid wood door exudes formality and privacy, while a Dutch door, with its windowed top that opens separately—a style Mrs. Fox and Ms. Kencel are seeing more of—is more casual and inviting.

Fresh paint is an easy and inexpensive way to upgrade a front door, but choose wisely. Bright primary colours are made for Instagram, but a 2018 Zillow report found that homes with charcoal or black front doors sold for $6,271 more than expected.

Mrs. Fox, who likes deep greys like Farrow & Ball Plummet and Benjamin Moore Raccoon Fur for front doors, recommends a high gloss finish for darker neutrals. “It brings elegance,” she says.

Hardware and house numbers allow for expression. Mrs. Fox’s clients mix styles, like vintage backplates and Victorian knobs on modern doors, and colour-coordinated address plaques.

Architect Robert Hutchison says it’s also important to focus on an entrance’s progression. “We like to prolong the entry experience, rather than make it an abrupt transition,” he says. “The aim is to create something layered with a sequence of spaces.”

Mr. Hutchison used seating and planters along the front stairs of a Seattle home he worked on. For one Greenwater, Wash., house, he built a hidden inner courtyard beyond the entry wall. “It’s about connecting back to the city, the site and the landscape,” he says.

Blythe Yost, CEO of online landscape design company Tilly, says that foundation planting helps connect a home with its surroundings. “It’s what’s directly across the front of your house,” she says. “It knits it to the landscape. A house without foundation planting looks a little naked.”

A few perennial shrubs can help frame the door, but Ms. Yost recommends creating a layered look that’s higher in the back, with mid-size plants in the center, and a ground cover that spreads out in front. “It gives the landscape a richness that a single or double row can’t do.”

She warns against making a front garden “look perfect at every moment.” Instead, plant something—like bulbs that bloom in early spring or a flowering tree that dazzles every May—to create a landscape that’s “really awesome at one point in the season — something your neighbours will remember.”

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: September 23

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Private club memberships and luxury cars are some of freebies on the table.

By SHIVANI VORA
Mon, Aug 15, 2022 6 min

When Ryan Wolitzer was looking to buy an apartment in Miami Beach late last year, several beachfront properties caught his eye. All were two-bedroom homes in high-end buildings with amenities aplenty and featured glass walls, high ceilings and an abundance of natural light. But only The Continuum, in the city’s South of Fifth district, came with a gift: a membership to Residence Yacht Club, a private club that offers excursions on luxury yachts ranging from a day in south Florida to a month around the Caribbean. Residents receive heavily discounted charters on upscale boats that have premier finishes and are stocked with top shelf spirits and wine. Mr. Wolitzer, 25, who works for a sports agency, was sold.

“The access to high-end yachts swayed my decision to buy at The Continuum and is an incentive that I take full advantage of,” Mr. Wolitzer said. “It’s huge, especially in my business when I am dealing with high-profile sports players, to be able to give them access to these incredible boats where they experience great service. I know that they’ll be well taken care of.”

Freebies and perks for homeowners such as a private club membership are a mainstay in the world of luxury real estate and intended to entice prospective buyers to sign on the dotted line.

According to Jonathan Miller, the president and chief executive of the real estate appraisal and consulting firm Miller Samuel, they’re primarily a domestic phenomenon.

In the U.S. residential real estate market, gifts are offered by both developers who want to move apartments in their swanky buildings and individuals selling their homes. They range from modest to over-the-top, Mr. Miller said, and are more prevalent when the market is soft.

“When sales lag, freebies increase in a bid to incentivize buyers,” he said. “These days, sales are slowing, and inventory is rising after two years of being the opposite, which suggests that we may see more of them going forward.”

Many of these extras are especially present in South Florida, Mr. Miller said, where the market is normalizing after the unprecedented boom it saw during the pandemic. “The frenzy in South Florida was intense compared with the rest of the country because it became a place where people wanted to live full time,” he said. “Now that the numbers are inching toward pre-pandemic levels, freebies could push wavering buyers over the finish line.”

Kelly Killoren Bensimon, a real estate salesperson for Douglas Elliman in Miami and New York, said that the gifts that she has encountered in her business include everything from yacht access and use of a summer house to magnums of pricey wine. “One person I know of who was selling a US$5 million house in the Hamptons even threw in a free Mercedes 280SL,” she said. “They didn’t want to lower the price but were happy to sweeten the deal.”

A car, an Aston Martin to be exact, is also a lure at Aston Martin Residences in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Buyers who bought  one of the building’s 01 line apartments—a collection of 47 ocean-facing residences ranging in size from 325 to 362sqm and US$8.3 million to US$9 million in price—had their choice of the DBX Miami Riverwalk Special Edition or the DB11 Miami Riverwalk Special Edition. The DBX is Aston Martin’s first SUV and retails for around US$200,000. It may have helped propel sales given that all the apartments are sold out.

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An Aston Martin came with the sale for some buyers at Aston Martin Residences in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Aston Martin Residences

The US$59 million triplex penthouse, meanwhile, is still up for grabs, and the buyer will receive a US$3.2 million Aston Martin Vulcan track-only sports car, one of only 24 ever made.

“We want to give homeowners the chance to live the full Aston Martin lifestyle, and owning a beautiful Aston Martin is definitely a highlight of that,” said Alejandro Aljanti, the chief marketing officer for G&G Business Developments, the building’s developer.  “We wanted to include the cars as part of the package for our more exclusive units.”

The US$800,000 furniture budget for buyers of the North Tower condominiums at The Estates at Acqualina in Sunny Isles, Florida, is another recent head-turning perk. The 94 residences sold out last year, according to president of sales Michael Goldstein, and had a starting price of US$6.3 million. “You can pick the furniture ahead of time, and when buyers move in later this year, all they’ll need is a toothbrush,” he said.

Then there’s the US$2 million art collection that was included in the sale of the penthouse residence at the Four Seasons Residences in Miami’s Brickell neighbourhood. The property recently sold for $15.9 million and spans 817sqm feet. Designed by the renowned firm ODP Architects, it features contemporary paintings and sculpture pieces from notable names such as the American conceptual artist Bill Beckley and the sculptor Tom Brewitz.

But it’s hard to top the millions of dollars of extras that were attached to the asking price in 2019 of the US$85 million 1393sqm  duplex at the Atelier, in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood. The list included two Rolls-Royce Phantoms, a Lamborghini Aventador, a US$1 million yacht with five years of docking fees, a summer stay at a Hamptons mansion, weekly dinners for two at lavish French restaurant Daniel and a live-in butler and private chef for a year. And the most outrageous of all: a flight for two to space.

It turned out that the so-called duplex was actually a collection of several apartments and a listing that went unsold. It did, however, generate plenty of buzz among the press and in real estate circles and was a marketing success, according to Mr. Miller.

“A listing like this that almost seems unbelievable with all the gifts will get plenty of eyeballs but is unlikely to push sales,” he said. “Empirically, it’s not an effective tactic.”

On the other hand, Mr. Miller said that more reasonable but still generous freebies, such as the membership to a yacht club, have the potential to push undecided buyers to go for the sale. “A nice but not too lavish gift won’t be the singular thing toward their decision but can be a big factor,” he said. “It’s a feel-good incentive that buyers think they’re getting without an extra cost.”

Examples of these bonuses include a membership to the 1 Hotel South Beach private beach club that buyers receive with the purchase of a residence at Baccarat Residences Brickell, or the one-year membership to the Grand Bay Beach Club in Key Biscayne for those who spring for a home at Casa Bella Residences by B&B Italia, located in downtown Miami and a residential project from the namesake renowned Italian furniture brand. The price of a membership at the Grand Bay Beach Club is usually a US$19,500 initiation fee and US$415 in monthly dues.


The Grand Salon at at Baccarat Residences Brickell in Miami.
Baccarat Residences

Still enticing but less expensive perks include the two-hour cruise around New York on a wooden Hemmingway boat, valued at US$1,900, for buyers at Quay Tower, at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City. The building’s developer, Robert Levine, said that he started offering the boat trip in July to help sell the remaining units. “We’re close to 70% sold, but, of course, I want everything to go,” he said.

There’s also the US$1,635 Avalon throw blanket from Hermes for those who close on a unit at Ten30 South Beach, a 33-unit boutique condominium; in Manhattan’s Financial District, a custom piece of art from the acclaimed artist James Perkins is gifted to buyers at Jolie, a 42-story building on Greenwich Street. Perkins said the value of the piece depends on the home purchase price, but the minimum is US$4,000. “The higher end homes get a more sizable work,” he said.

When gifts are part of a total real estate package, the sale can become emotional and personal, according to Chad Carroll, a real estate agent with Compass in South Florida and the founder of The Carroll Group. “If the freebie appeals to the buyer, the transaction takes on a different dynamic,” he said. “A gift becomes the kicker that they love the idea of having.”

Speaking from his own experience, Mr. Carroll said that sellers can also have an emotional connection to the exchange. “I was selling my house in Golden Isles last year for US$5.4 million and included my jet ski and paddle boards,” he said. “The buyers were a family with young kids and absolutely loved the water toys.” Mr. Carroll could have held out for a higher bidder, he said, but decided to accept their offer. “I liked them and wanted them to create the same happy memories in the home that I did,” he said.

The family moved in a few months later.