Wednesday, February 16, 2011

And the Oscar goes to...

I love watching the Oscars but probably not for the same reason as most. Yes, I like watching the hunky leading men and the down right, it's not fair they have that hair, sidekick gal just as much as the next. But that's not it for me.

My family laughs at me. I can be halfway through a movie I swore I never saw and the "aha" moment hits and I realize, well yes I have seen it. It use to bother me, not remembering movies I had seen, until I figured it out. You see, I don't watch movies for the dialogue (a blessing in most cases), nor because of the actors, the plot, the hype. No, I watch movies for the set design. That's right, I am hopelessly in love with movie sets! I will stop, rewind, replay a scene until the cows come home in order to figure out what was that wall paper, and what style sofa or headboard was that, or who made that rug?

A favorite movie of mine for this very reason is 'The Holiday'. Set in Surrey, England, Iris' darling Rosehill Cottage is right up my alley! Yet, what is fascinating to me, for example, is that this beautiful cottage is only temporary. Merely hobbled together (thoughtfully so I should add) with timber, wire and Styrofoam.
No need to worry about the roof caving in. I realized after researching this movie, that Rosehill Cottage is just a set.

I have gone so far as to ask my designer (fabulous gal by the way) if we could replicate the sweet and oh so cozy bedroom from the movie. If you haven't seen it, please rent it next will love it. Totally gorgeous sets in both locations - Surrey, England and in Beverly Hills! I watched this movie so many times over winter break that my husband gave me a copy for my birthday.
I fell in love with this cozy, understated bedroom from 'The Holiday'

The living room of Rosehill Cottage is warm and inviting
So back to my obsession. As I was heading down this path to redesign my bedroom - BAM, my daughters had me watching 'The Nanny Diaries' and hello gorgeous....I fell in love with Mrs. X's guest room. I think I might need therapy.
This tranquil and traditional guest room from The Nanny Diaries calls to me... does the entry and the living room

Clean and contemporary furniture with traditional accessories used throughout this upper east side apartment makes it oh so chic!
Perhaps the best interior set design, however, is from the romantic comedy 'Something's Gotta Give' with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. The interior sets of Erica Barry (Diane Keaton's character) are perfectly executed spaces of a Hampton's shingled home. The designs swept through the marketplace creating a demand on striped rugs, sea shells, blue and white fabric, cozy slipcovers, and kitchen designers were inundated with photos of Erica's kitchen.

As I look forward to the Oscars this week, I think about the sets and wonder which movie I would choose for best picture?

The King's Speech

Black Swan

The Fighter

The Kids Are All Right


127 Hours

The Social Network

Toy Story 3

True Grit (check out the pig in the basket in the foreground)

Winter's Bone
If I had to choose, based on my criteria of set design, I think I would have to go with 'The King's Speech'. I mean '127 hours' spends 126 on a rock, 'The Fighter' is fought in the ring, 'True Grit' and 'Winter's Bone' spend most their time traveling the countryside, 'Black Swan' is played out on the stage, 'The Social Network's' set is cold, as is 'Inception's', 'Toy Story's' sets are not real (shhh don't tell the little ones), and 'The Kids Are All Right', while homey, just didn't inspire. 

So here's a shout out to you. I will end this week's blog with a contest. Tell me which picture you think will win the Academy Award. If you are right, you will be entered to win dinner and a movie on me!

Have fun!

Until next week,

la chasse au bonheur

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Could the IRS be right?

The IRS defines Fair Market Value as follows: "Fair market value (FMV) is the price that the property would sell for on the open market. It is the price that would be agreed on between a willing buyer and a willing seller, with neither being required to act, and both having reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts."

I think they nailed it.

I do a lot of CMAs in my business. CMA, Comparative Market Analysis, is a report used to assess the value of a property. CMAs rely on recent solds, pendings (homes under contract but have yet closed), pending inspection (homes that are under contract and are in the inspection period), and actives (on the market but not under contract-these are less important as they do not tell us what a buyer will pay for the property).

Based on the comps of like sq. ft., building styles, neighborhoods, quality of build and level of finished materials, you can determine the value range for a property. Combine that with a comparison of assessed value-to-sold ratio and you have a pretty good idea of what the house SHOULD sell for.

Sounds pretty neat and tidy, doesn't it?

Of course, then there are the companies that do the calculating for you! Now you won't hear me say I don't like Zillow. I think there is a place in this market for everyone. But it's important to keep in mind that companies like Zillow provide estimates, Zestimates in their case, based on county tax data. I will tell you one thing, my home is listed as a 2 bedroom, 1 bath home on the King County Tax Records while in fact it is a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath home. Their Zestimate won't even come close to the real value of the home. So why aren't tax records accurate? I have lived in this house for over ten years and never has a city assessor popped in for a tour.  Much of the upgrades to the home didn't require a permit (a way the city can track upgrades) and I am certainly not about to call them up and deliver the 411.

But I come back to the IRS's definition of 'an agreed on price by a willing buyer and a willing seller'.

None of the above reports begin to factor in the human element. What if at that point in time there was an increase in the number of buyers and a short supply of homes in your area/price range/home style and size? Or, on the other hand, what if there were no buyers for months but one? Don't those factors play a role in the final price? How about the seller who just digs in his heels and says "No!  I have lived here for 42 years, I raised my five children in this home, Ethel died in this home and I am not budging!" (yes, I have heard that before).  What if this one buyer, who just inherited some money decides it is not worth the anguish of upsetting this dear old man and pays an extra $15,000 for the house. Now not every one would do something like that, but some (and I have represented them) do. Data in doesn't always represent good data out, because none of these specifics are reported with the sale of the home.

You can see how a range is created due to varying factors, none related to duress to act.

So, unless you know the story, unless you have stepped inside the house, unless you understand the human side of the transaction or the market, you really can't place an exacting price on a property.  Yes, average price per sq. ft., assessed value, etc. are nice to know, but it really comes down to what price are you willing to buy it for, what price are you willing to sell it for, and finally can you agree?

I always say, real estate is a real market, but a commodity it is not.

Until next week,

la chasse au bonheur