The Epic Party House: A Los Angeles Mid-Century Modern Made for Entertaining

Mid-Century Modern fans in Los Angeles don’t have to look far to find a home they adore. But if it’s a dream house they seek, this four-bedroom, $1,799,000 home in the Los Feliz neighborhood offers everything an aficionado might desire.

Entertainers should keep one palm firmly affixed to their jaw, lest it drop to the floor.

“The house is known for some epic parties,” says photographer Kate Turning, the homeowner.

It’s no wonder: The home features a wet bar, which is completely original “down to the hand-crank Atomic ice crusher hanging on the bar wall,” Turning says. While present-day Americans might find the vintage wood-paneled space charming, ’50s-era Americans held a different outlook. The house’s original deed included a document permitting the bar sink—as long as the owner promised not to run a speak-easy.

Wet bar
Wet bar

As awesome as it is—and it is, indeed, awesome—the wet bar isn’t the only feature that makes this idyllic pad party-friendly. The kitchen’s floor-to-ceiling overhaul added green slate floors, granite countertops, and oak cabinetry without sacrifice its Mid-Century bones.

Outside, a small raised-bed garden lets buyers grow the perfect herbs to complement their dinner. Lemon, avocado, and apricot trees keep snacks coming year-round.

The backyard’s classic kidney-shaped pool received a 21st-century remodel. Turning and her husband also installed a hot tub, barbecue station, dining pavilion, and fire feature. If the SoCal heat gets too unbearable, family and friends can head under the roof of the cozy indoor-outdoor living space, painted a signature Mid-Century teal.

Covered patio area
Covered patio area

Expect to impress guests long before they get outside. The inviting, curvaceous entryway features waved glass and a rounded chrome wall, a perfect bit of ’50s cool. And the hardwood floors—Brazilian rosewood, chosen to match the home’s original mahogany walls and built-ins—are a gorgeous, authentic pick.

“I love the drama of the entry,” Turning says.

Prefer aligning your chakras to adjusting your tie? Don’t think this home is just for parties. Turning transformed a formal nursery into a yoga and meditation room. A custom-tiled mural surrounds a skylight above.

However you make the space yours, this home’s classic bones promise to make any day beautiful.

Meditation room
Meditation room

Ali Wentworth and George Stephanopoulos Selling in Southhampton

Actress Ali Wentworth may be “Happily Ali After,” but her former Southampton home doesn’t get to join the fun: Along with husband George Stephanopoulos, she recently listed her five bedroom estate for $6.995 million.

Wentworth starred in Fox’s sketch comedy series “In Living Color” and appeared in guest spots on shows like “Seinfeld” and “Felicity.” Husband Stephanopoulos is certainly the bigger name of the long-married couple: As ABC’s chief anchor and co-anchor of “Good Morning America,” fans of “Sexy Stephanopoulos” can find him on-air whenever they want.

Their Southampton home is worthy of TV royalty. No expense has been spared in outfitting the house with every luxury one might require, from a gated entrance to a 1,000-bottle wine cellar to a covered veranda that spans the length of the house.

Inside, the kitchen is impeccably designed, with a long marble island, subway tile, and on-trend white cabinetry. A unique tin ceiling adds some vintage-like appeal to the hyper-modern space. Beyond, French doors open directly to the backyard.

Entertainers will love the 1.5-acre property. A spacious lawn, perfect for flag football or a grand soiree, is tucked between the pool and sunken tennis court, designed for all-weather play—and a great stress reliever for busy anchors.

 

A modern kitchen.
A modern kitchen.

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An ideal veranda for entertainers.
An ideal veranda for entertainers.

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The traditional estate.
The traditional estate.

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Golfer Jason Dufner Selling Auburn Home For $540K

Professional golfer Jason Dufner won’t be Dufnering in this four-bedroom, three-full- and one half-bath home in Auburn, AL., anymore. He’s put the home he purchased  for $457,000 in 2010 on the market for $539,900.

Dufner houseThe Dufner house

The 3,103-square-foot home feature an open floor plan with formal dining room and a master suite on the main level. The master bath includes both a soaker tub and large walk-in shower. A large outdoor space complete with built-in grill provides great entertaining possibilities. Diana Ramage, a former Auburn golfer herself as is Dufner, is the listing agent.

Dufner had lived in the home with his wife Amanda but the pair divorced in early 2015. Amanda reportedly received a $2.5 million settlement while Dufner received this house and another he was building on 46 acres in Auburn, where he went to college. Amanda Boyd was rumored to be involved romantically with Tiger Woods.

Fellow pro golfers coined Dufnering in 2013 after a picture was published of Dufner slouching against a wall while visiting a school. Dufner has since slimmed down and changed his eating habits after health issues kept him away from golf in 2014. Selling this house likely fits in with his new slimmer regime of jettisoning dead weight.

Rock Hall of Famer Steve Miller Selling Secluded Mansion in San Juan Islands

It looks like newly-minted Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Steve Miller is attempting to fly like an eagle from his gorgeous spread on Washington’s San Juan Island. He recently listed his northwestern nest for $16,800,000.

That may sound like a princely sum, but Miller isn’t playing the joker. San Juan, the namesake island of the remote archipelago, is a 40-minute sea plane ride from Seattle, which makes it an ideal respite for actors, musicians, politicians and tech titans.

Steve Miller's estate on San Juan Island
Steve Miller’s estate on San Juan Island

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Miller’s estate is located in the Friday Harbor area and encompasses nearly 39 acres, some of them waterfront, set on the shores of the sheltered bay. Naturally, it comes with a deep water dock that can accommodate a large yacht. The park-like grounds include hiking trails and sweeping views of the bay, Zen gardens, a Japanese tea house, plus a manicured pasture for a space cowboy’s horses.

There is fine custom woodwork through out Steve Miller's main residence on San Juan Island
There is fine custom woodwork throughout Steve Miller’s main residence on San Juan Island

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The 11,686 square foot contemporary main residence has plenty of open space and huge rooms. There may be only two large bedrooms, but there’s a sizable recording studio that can be used as-is or divided into even more bedrooms, according to listing agent Michael Ford of Sotheby’s International Realty. There are four-and-a-half baths, plus a 5,723 square foot finished basement. You’ll find elegant custom woodwork throughout—bookcases, drawers, paneling, even on the deck spa just off the master suite.

The custom spa of the master suite in Steve Miller's San Juan Island estate
The custom spa of the master suite in Steve Miller’s San Juan Island estate

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Ford added that in addition to the main residence, there are eight additional separate structures on the property, including a barn, shop, greenhouse, and caretakers’ accommodations.

Miller began his career playing blues and rock, with the likes of Les Paul, Muddy Waters,and Boz Scaggs. From the mid-1970s through the early 1980s, he and the Steve Miller Band recorded a series of chart-topping hits including ‘Fly Like An Eagle,’ ‘Rock’n Me,’ ‘Take the Money and Run,’ ‘The Joker’ and ‘Jungle Love.’

 

Former QB Ty Detmer Selling $1.24M Austin Home

In preparation for a cross-country move, BYU’s offensive coordinator is packing up his Texas belongings. Ty Detmer—who once played quarterback for his new employer—recently listed his four-bedroom Austin home for $1.24 million.

Detmer won the Heisman trophy (along with a litany of other awards and accolades) during his all-star stint with the BYU Cougars in the late ’80s and early ’90s. His college success didn’t translate to NFL glory: He served as backup quarterback for six different teams before leaving professional football for coaching in 2005.

Fans can see evidence of his success all over his 4,673-square-foot house—including the two-story office, still home to his Heisman.

The large covered patio in the back is the “perfect place to entertain,” says listing Realtor Joanna Lee. “It’s just this beautiful, big patio, with plenty of room for al fresco dining.”

Buyers can transform the 1.86-acre yard into “the backyard of their dreams,” she says. “It’s flat, it’s usable. It’s a blank slate. There’s nothing in the way that would keep someone from building whatever they would like.”

And because the home is tucked away at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, anything you build will be private, peaceful, and all yours.

So much potential in the enormous backyard.
So much potential in the enormous backyard.

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Major curb appeal.
Major curb appeal.

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Picture windows overlook your outdoor space.
Picture windows overlook your outdoor space.

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The Queen of Versailles Is Back! An Update on the Biggest Home in America

Almost a decade ago, Jacqueline and David Siegel ‘s extravagant project to build the largest private residence in the U.S.—named Versailles, natch—ground to a halt as the recession dented their fortune. The rise and fall of their grand ambitions were captured in a critically acclaimed 2012 documentary, “The Queen of Versailles.”

Plans for the American Versailles, a 90,000-square-foot behemoth near Orlando, FL, clearly aimed  to make the French original look shabby by comparison. Did Marie Antoinette have 10 kitchens, an ice-skating rink, and a 5,000 square foot closet? We think not.

But when hard times hit, the unfinished estate was put up for sale, with no takers. It was all in the film, which made a big splash at the Sundance Film Festival but horrified the Siegels, who filed a lawsuit for defamation of character (which a judge later dismissed).

Jacqueline Siegel with her famous golden throne
Jacqueline Siegel with her famous golden throne and portrait of her husband David in the background

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But now the colorful couple—he is the owner of Westgate Resorts, she a former beauty queen—is back on track with their dream. Having recovered their financial footing, they have resumed construction of their beloved Versailles with plans to make it more lavish than ever.

Jacqueline Siegel, known as "The Queen of Versailles"
Jacqueline Siegel, known as “The Queen of Versailles”

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Curious to hear what the Queen is up to now, we caught up with her—over fried mozzarella sticks and champagne—to hear her grand plans for her much maligned mega-mansion.

Q: When the documentary ended, you had put an unfinished Versailles on the market. What’s up with the mansion now?

Well, we put it up for sale but we weren’t really selling it. To satisfy the bankers, they told us to list a bunch of our properties, but it wasn’t like we had to sell it. So now we’re finishing and keeping Versailles. Of course, if anyone wants to offer us a crazy amount of money, we would take it.

Versailles, after the recession hit and construction was halted.
Versailles, after the recession hit and construction was halted.

JacquelineSiegel.net

Q: What would be considered a ‘crazy amount of money?’

I don’t know, probably over $100 million. We’ve got over $50 million in it now, and will spend a lot more before it’s done.

Q: When do you expect Versailles be completed?

It should be livable by May third of next year, for my husband’s birthday. At least that’s the plan right now. By then it should be done enough to move in, but I’m sure there will be a lot of finishing touches still to be done.

Q: So it appears that your husband’s business, Westgate Resorts, has rebounded?

Yes. His business is doing great. He just had one of the best years ever. Last summer he bought the Las Vegas Hilton, which is a 3,000-room hotel where Elvis Presley used to perform. He bought the Orlando Predators, a football team, and then he bought the Coco Beach Pier, which—I didn’t even know you could buy a pier. I didn’t know those kinds of things were for sale.

Versailles, now that construction is moving forward.
Versailles, now that construction is moving forward.

JacquelineSiegel.net

Q: When you started building, 90,000 square feet would have been the largest home in America. Now, a couple of spec homes over 100,000 square feet are in the works. Will you add another 10,000 to keep Versailles at the top?

The thing is, with the spec homes, they’re not one house under one roof. They’re including guest houses and all the extra buildings. Those are compounds. Ours is 90,000 all under one roof. I could throw in a bunch of guest houses too, to make ours bigger, and we probably will, but the 90,000 square feet is just in the main house, and doesn’t count the guard house, the tennis house, and all that.

Jackie on the Versailles grand staircase, before construction was temporarily halted.
Jackie on the Versailles grand staircase, before construction was temporarily halted.

Castaldo Studio

Q. What’s your favorite part of the house?

My favorite part is probably the ballroom. It’s going to be spectacular. We have a dome with beautiful and colorful inlaid glass in the ceiling. That was over half a million dollars and took the artist a few years to make. It’s like something you’d see in the Vatican. I plan on having the floor set with semi-precious stones to kind of mirror the image of the dome. Lapis and onyx and things like that. I plan on throwing a lot of charity events there. I love entertaining and I love making other people happy. When they see this room, people are going to be really happy.

The ornate glass dome over the Versailles ballroom-one of Jackie's favorite features.
The ornate glass dome over the Versailles ballroom-one of Jackie’s favorite features.

JacquelineSiegel.net

Q: Are there still going to be 10 kitchens? What do you do with so many?

Everyone always asks that! So, we have a commercial kitchen for our catered events, with stainless steel refrigerators and everything. We’re going to have a kitchen with a sushi bar and a hibachi grill, which we can also use like a griddle for brunches, so it will serve two purposes. Then we’ll have a normal, family kitchen that I can cook in, and my kids can be there with me. Then all of the staff quarters have kitchens, and all the guest suites have kitchenettes, so you don’t have to get on the elevator and walk 100 yards to get a glass of milk in the middle of the night.

Q: I heard your office is going to have a giant shark tank in it.

Yes, the thing with that is that we were approached by the TV show Tanked, and they heard that I was going to put a fish tank in there, and they said they wanted us to be on their show, so we met with them and came up with the idea of building the largest shark tank in a private residence. And we’d have Sea World maintain it. And then I want a jellyfish tank too.

Q: The documentary made it appear that Versailles caused a strain on your marriage. Is that true?

I actually think it was good for our marriage. I personally feel that he [David] kind of exaggerated our position in order to pull the reins in on my spending. Like most husbands, he thought I spent too much on my credit cards. But I think it made us stronger.

Jackie and David Siegel

JacquelineSiegel.net

Q: What would be your advice to someone else building their own dream home?

Well, first this wasn’t actually my dream home, because I couldn’t even imagine there could be houses this big. This is even bigger than my dreams. It’s even bigger than the President’s home. I think it’s important for people building their dream homes to be very hands on with it.

Q: If you were to start all over again tomorrow, what would you do differently?

You know, it’s strange that when we started building this home so many years ago, my husband and I had just visited Versailles in France, and we were inspired by the French architecture. But my tastes have changed and evolved, and now I’m kind of into a more modern style. I’ve seen so much more than I had when I was a virgin to architecture, so I don’t know, I might have to find a way to combine some modern with the French somehow.

Q: Will Versailles have special facilities for the dogs? We know you love your dogs.

Dogs will have free roam of the house—they’ll be first class residents and VIPs. They’re 50/50 house trained, and we do have doggie doors in different parts of the house now, but sometimes the dogs get lazy — they don’t want to walk that far. It’s crazy. We’re like, “Don’t you dare!”

Where Americans Are Moving—Right In This Minute!

The graduation season has arrived. After some inspiring commencement speech and mortarboard throwing, many new grads need to sit down and think about where they are moving next. Not just college grads, Americans of all days are becoming mobile again as the economic downturn fades, jobs open up, and financial prospect improve.

To get a glimpse of where that flow is happening, we have three datasets at our dispense: 1) The Census Bureau migration data collected from 2009 to 2013 that tracked people who moved in and out of their own metropolitan areas; 2) The number of cross-metro moving requests on moving.com®; 3) Cross-metro search traffic on realtor.com®. Each dataset allows us a peek into past, current and future moves. So we thought, why not combine the three to get the most holistic view?

Take a look at the most common long-distance (longer than 100 miles) migration paths among the 50 largest metropolitan areas based on the volume of people making the moves:

move_in-01

It‘s hard not to notice the exodus from New York. Indeed, the New York metro has the most movers, but it’s also the biggest city. So we controlled for city size and based our calculation on the ratio of inbound to outbound moves, to come up with the most desirable cities where more people move in than out:

 Rank  Top Inbound Metro Areas  Median List Price  Unemployment rate
 1  Tampa, FL  $230,000  4.4
 2  Jacksonville, FL  $272,400  4.4
 3  Charlotte, NC  $257,500  4.9
 4  San Antonio, TX  $275,000  3.7
 5  Austin, TX  $399,000  3.1
 6  Las Vegas, NV  $260,000  6.0
 7  Orlando, FL  $262,400  4.3
 8  Nashville, TN  $315,000  3.2
 9  Raleigh, NC  $297,200  4.6
 10  Portland, OR  $416,300  4.6

What do they have in common? Affordable housing and strong job markets. The city that caught our eyes was Raleigh. We first noticed this dark horse back in March when it popped up on our monthly hottest markets report and stayed ever since. It turns out, Raleigh has one of the best job markets in both hiring opportunities and job satisfaction rate, according to Glassdoor.

Florida is clearly the winner with three cities making the cut. In addition to the retirement draw that’s remains strong, central Florida—Tampa and Orlando—and north Florida—Jacksonville—are looking attractive as strong job creators. With the state’s housing prices not fully recovered, and big condo markets as lower-cost housing options, Florida is poised for big gains. Plus, the state has no income tax.

“The only ‘bad’ story in Florida is the decline in foreign buyers, which is causing inventory to grow in southern Florida. But that’s actually a positive for domestic migration because there’s actually inventory to buy and prices are not rising rapidly as a result of growth in inventory,” said Jonathan Smoke, our chief economist.

And the The Lone Star State! The San Antonio metro famous for the River Walk, and of course, the Spurs, saw a 2.2% population growth in 2015, according to Census Bureau, among the fastest in big U.S. metros. About 80 miles away, Austin—the city that’s competing with San Antonio for the true home of breakfast taco—is officially home to 2 million people, according to Census. That’s about eightfold compared to half a century ago when IBM opened a facility that set up a stage for the high-tech boom. Austin now counts Apple, Google, Facebook, Intel, Samsung among the top employers in central Texas. In the city that wishes to keep itself weird, hipsters, live music, turtle racing, and a famous tower of junk harmoniously coexist.

On the contrary, America’s largest cities are losing residents in droves:

 Rank  Top Outbound Metro Areas  Median List Price  Unemployment rate
 1  New York, NY  $399,000  5.0
 2  Chicago, IL  $258,500  6.6
 3  Detroit, MI  $191,000  5.6
 4  San Jose, CA  $983,900  3.9
 5  Los Angeles, CA  $657,000  4.8
 6  Milwaukee, WI  $202,500  5.0
 7  St. Louis, MO  $173,200  5.1
 8  Cleveland, OH  $146,000  5.5
 9  San Francisco, CA  $859,000  3.8
 10  Philadelphia, PA  $229,900  5.0

Leaving New York, rather than moving to, has established itself as a solid trend—away from harsh winters, high taxes, high cost of living, and bad-tempered drivers. On the West coast, where a San Francisco shack is going for $1.38 million, soaring home prices are pushing local residents out and scaring away potential new ones.

Where are they going? New Yorkers are moving to Florida, San Franciscans to cheaper cities away from the coast (but not outside California!), Angeleno to Las Vegas. All are moving to Texas.

The moves driven by affordability is more troublesome than those fleeing the Rust Belt cities on the list. A 2015 research showed that the tendency to move from high-productivity regions to low-productivity ones had lowered U.S. aggregate GDP by 13.5%.

General observations can hardly speak to the different needs of various age cohorts. While a bedroom community in Arizona may be ideal for baby boomers, the soul-crashing boredom may repel millennials. To have a more accurate picture, we sliced and diced our traffic data by age groups. Let’s start with the top destinations for the fun-loving, opportunity-driven millennials:

 Rank  Top Destinations For Age Group 25-34  Median List Price  Unemployment rate
 1  San Antonio, TX  $275,000  3.7
 2  Jacksonville, FL  $272,400  4.4
 3  Tampa, FL  $230,000  4.4
 4  Miami, FL  $349,500  4.9
 5  Orlando, FL  $262,400  4.3
 6  Oklahoma City, OK  $219,000  3.9
 7  New Orleans, LA  $238,500  5.6
 8  Charlotte, NC  $257,500  5.1
 9  Austin, TX  $260,000  3.1
 10  Raleigh, NC  $297,200  4.6

Worth calling out is Oklahoma City in the Great Plains. Young and educated millennials choosing between bustling city life and cozy small town, exciting opportunities and affordability will find Oklahoma City as the perfect compromise. It’s Wallethub‘s 7th best city to start a career, taking into account factors like availability of entry-level jobs, median starting salary, economic mobility and workforce diversity.

On the other end of the spectrum, top destinations for retirees seem more predictable:

 Rank  Top Destinations For Age Group 65+  Median List Price
 1  Tampa, FL  $230,000
 2  Jacksonville, FL  $272,400
 3  Raleigh, NC  $297,200
 4  Las Vegas, NV  $260,000
 5  Charlotte, NC  $257,500
 6  San Antonio, TX  $275,000
 7  Phoenix, AZ  $305,000
 8  Birmingham, AL  $189,200
 9  Nashville, TN  $315,000
 10  Virginia Beach, VA  $260,000

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IuriiSokolov/iStock

IuriiSokolov/iStock

 

IuriiSokolov/iStock

Not everyone can qualify for a mortgage on their own. Many home buyers need to jointly sign for a mortgage—usually with a significant other or family member—to be able to buy a home. When this happens, both people on the mortgage are co-borrowers, and each is responsible for mortgage payments. In turn, each holds an equal stake in the house.

Effect on loan qualification

You and your co-borrower will have your credit score, financial history, and job history evaluated for a loan. Your rates and qualification eligibility will be affected by each other’s financial history, so ideally, both of you have good credit.

Even if you don’t, the good credit of one borrower can be enough to help the other borrower qualify for a joint mortgage. As long as your co-borrower has the credit score needed to qualify, his or her income and assets can be added to yours to get the loan you need.

Whoever is on the loan is responsible for the payment each month. If a payment is missed, both parties’ credit scores are penalized. Likewise, on-time payments help both parties’ credit.

Divorce and separation

Most co-borrowers are in a relationship. But if things go south or end in divorce, you will need to explore some options:

  • Sell the home and split the profit.
  • Refinance into a new loan with just one person on the mortgage.
  • Convert the home into a rental and split the profit.
  • Ask your bank to allow one party to assume the loan (rarely accepted).
  • Maintain the current loan, keeping both parties responsible for the home.
  • Settle who gets the home in court.

If you choose to refinance, the party wishing to keep the home needs to qualify for the loan alone. This can be problematic, as what was originally a mortgage evaluated with a combined income will now be a mortgage with only one income to consider. You may need a co-signer if your credit isn’t good enough. A co-signer is someone without a direct interest in the property (parents are a common example) who will be responsible for paying the mortgage if you default.

In rare instances, your lender may allow one of you to assume the loan (take on full responsibility for the loan, releasing the other party). The lender will still want to make sure the person remaining on the mortgage loan can afford the payments each month. It’s uncommon, but it’s worth asking your lender about it

If you don’t have enough equity in your home, you will probably need to continue with the mortgage loan as is by working out an agreement with your co-borrower. You may want to consider turning your home into a rental so you and your co-borrower can split the profit. If you go this route, make sure your loan allows the home to be rented out (for example, some state-specific loans don’t allow it). If not, it will need to be refinanced into a loan that allows for it.

Updated from an earlier version by Laura Sherman

3 High-Tech Ways to Help Sell Your Home

Does your home need a drone?

If you’re selling your house in 2016, it might not be a bad investment. Same with using virtual reality and staging. Even in this market where sellers have the upper hand because of tight inventory, some new high-tech marketing techniques now making their way into the real estate market might help lucky sellers get even more attention.

“The power of these tools is that it motivates people to take action,” said Brian Balduf, chief executive of VHT Studios, a home photography, video and virtual staging company in Chicago.

Here’s some new methods sellers are using to attract buyers:

Virtual staging

The tried-and-true method of home staging with over-stuffed rental furniture and some carefully-placed candlesticks and wall art has a new partner, or perhaps new competitor—virtual staging. Thanks to Photoshop and other visual effects software, virtual staging companies can take an empty room, or a room with older furniture, and make it contemporary. Even adding light fixtures and different wall colors can be done at the click of a mouse.

Virtual staging really became popular during the recession, by helping banks and other homeowners attract buyers and move properties like foreclosures more quickly, said Balduf. “It helped people visualize what could be there,” he said. And while a traditional stager can only do one look for a room at a time, a virtual stager can see how it all comes together as an ensemble s, said Balduf. It also allows sellers to mix and match different styles of interiors with buyers. “You don’t always know what the buyer wants, maybe if it’s a Victorian on the exterior, they want a Victorian interior instead of contemporary,” he said.

Exterior virtual staging is also a growing field, showing how a house looks at twilight, nighttime, or in the daytime, as well as summer, fall and winter. The cost is far less than real staging at about $100 a room, compared to as much as $5,000 a month for staging costs, Balduf said.

Balduf said a professional virtual stager can make a virtual room layout look imperceptible from an actually staged room, by careful use of shadowing and shading. Anybody can take some clip art and shop it into a photograph,” he said.

Virtual staging also allows a room to be recreated for different uses, such as creating an image of a child’s bedroom with toys and bright colors for a family or a study with office furniture for an older couple, said Balduf.

Of course, there are key ethical factors involved. While virtual stagers can swap out furniture, or remove garbage cans from an exterior shot, most say they won’t ever remove something permanent from a photo, such as a water tower or an high-tension electrical pylon. “Removing a water tower crosses a line,” he said, and he often has to caution agents and sellers of the ethics of removing permanent features. Still, Balduf says adding a fire in a fireplace or greening up grass is acceptable in virtual staging

Chris Kershisnik, a Realtor in Germantown, Md., said virtual staging doesn’t present an ethical issue to him, but buyers still need to get their actual eyes on the property before they buy. “I don’t think virtual software or Photoshopping a picture frame is a problem,” he said. “The pictures are meant to generate a showing.”

”Others don’t even view the property first. Bruce DarConte, also a Realtor in Washington, D.C., said that sometimes virtual staging is the only way you can see what a property might look like, especially when the homes haven’t been built yet. “I bought my home without ever seeing it. Just a model and floor plan,” he said.

Shell Brodnax, the chief executive of the Valley Springs, Calif.-based <a class=”icon ” href=”http://www.realestatestagingassociation.com/” target=”_blank”>Real Estate Staging Association</a>, or RESA, which represents physical stagers, said the organization doesn’t in most cases allow its members to use any of the virtual techniques at all.

“RESA does not endorse virtual staging,” she said. “Staging is a physical act of using furniture, art and light as accessories to create a visual way to showcase a property for sale. What some call ‘virtual staging” is really an artistic rendering of a room.” For example, RESA members cannot add or take away furniture in a scene, or change wall colors, or change exterior views. Only small blemishes can be removed, such as lamp cords, she said.

If you do go with a virtual stager, like anything else, check the quality of their work and ask to see samples, says Balduf. Also, ensure that you and your agent are up front to buyers agents and buyers that what they see is what the home could look like, not how it does look like, he said.
<h2>Drones</h2>
If you’re selling a home and want to show off its surroundings, consider a drone. In real estate, the three most important things are location, location, location. And using a drone is an easy way for properties to show off locations, whether the property is on a beach, near a golf course, or next to some other amenity.

Prices for a drone range from $200 to $500 per shoot and can shoot still photography or full-motion video, said Dan Isaacson, owner of <a class=”icon ” href=”http://www.cavuvideos.com/” target=”_blank”>CAVU Aerial Photography</a>, a drone operator for real estate and commercial clients in Chicago, whose 15-pilot company shoots about 80 to 100 drone videos a week nationwide, with about 80% of the shoots real estate related.

“Every single house has a story to tell that isn’t shown by traditional still photography,” he said. Often a drone can help a buyer too, by steering them away from a home where there are visual blights like water towers or electrical pylons. “There’s always something that can be a deal-breaker, like the home is near a freeway or in a cul-de-sac,” said Isaacson “You wouldn’t have known that with just a still photographer.”

Not every property can use a drone. Under FAA rules, the 6,000-plus commercial operators must be licensed pilots, can’t fly their drones higher than 400 feet and they can’t be more than five miles from an airport. So if you live within five miles, using a drone is out, said Isaacson. Most drone operators however have GPS so they can tell in advance whether they can use a drone near your home, he said.

Drone operators advise consumers to look at the body of work before you buy. “You’re not buying a pilot, you’re buying a visual marketer. Just because they know how to fly it, doesn’t mean they’ll do a good job showing off your house,” said Balduf. As the client, you have creative control of what the drone can shoot, so use it to your advantage, Balduf said. “A good pilot will work with a homeowner by doing a walk-through and story-boarding,” said Isaacson.

Keep in mind though that like any photography, put your best foot forward by putting trash cans away, tying up hoses and putting toys and cars in the garage, said Isaacson. Still, just like a virtual stager, an ethical drone photographer won’t edit anything permanent out of the footage they shoot, he said.
<h2>3-D tours</h2>
If you don’t want to spend a day in a car going house to house looking at various properties, then 3D virtual tours are likely going to be a major boon to buyer, seller and Realtor. Soon, buyers will be able to walk through homes, either from their own home or at an agent’s office. “You are immersed in the house and you can navigate room-to-room,” Balduf said.

Realtors, who often have to pay their own way to drive clients, are some of the biggest proponents of 3D tours, which can help narrow down homes before they’re ever seen in person. In addition, 3D tours can improve safety for Realtors (especially female Realtors), who are often advised never to show a property after dark and always to tell their brokerage where they are and to have them check in regularly.

A 3D-tour costs about $200, said Balduf, though it can take longer than a regular photo shoot, with about an hour for set-up and camerawork in each room. Turning the raw 360 degree footage into a 3D shoot takes about another two days, Balduf said.

“Some agents say, ‘There’s nothing special about this property,’ but to me that’s a perfect reason to do something different,” said Balduf. “A home is the most expensive product they’re every going to buy, so they don’t want to see some photos some agent took with their iPhone,” he said.