Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Preparing Your Home to Sell

Homes are selling, even in Cleveland, don't let anyone else tell you otherwise. What is helping them sell, over the many others buyers have to choose from? I believe it's Price,Condition and Amenities. I am going to focus on a home's condition and how little you may have to spend to make it appeal to a buyer over and above all the others out there.

A professional Realtor® (like myself!) can help you - but this is what I suggest as a first step: walk your house from room to room, look at your yard, your garage, your basement. Use a critical eye. Pretend this is not your home, but a house for sale. Here are a few things you might notice that can be corrected inexpensively:

1. Wash your windows, inside and out. Yes, even in cold weather. OK, you can't do it when the water would freeze to the glass, but get someone lined up to wash them for you on a day when the temps are above freezing. A cloudy window may make a buyer think your windows are in need of repair because they are so dirty. Sparkly windows increase your chances to sell. If you need a good recommendation, try a membership with Angie's List. Consumers recommend the people on Angie's List, that's the only way they get there.
2. Clean and Uncluttered, that is how your house should be when someone walks through it. This is not expensive. Store things in one room of your home, or in a basement room; Start packing things up and put things in the garage, in a POD, or if you really have a lot of things and it's making your rooms look smaller than they are, rent a storage space for a few months. As for cleaning? We need that critical eye of yours again! Do you always have the door to your extra bedroom open because you use it as an office? Has it been years since the door has been closed? Does that maybe also mean the dust bunnies behind the door have multiplied better than real bunnies? In each room, clean things that you don't normally clean. Moldings on doors, baseboards, window sills, closet floors, under beds, inside kitchen cabinets. Wash the curtains; keep your counter tops clean.

**The key is this; if a potential buyer walks through your house and the windows are dirty, the rooms unkempt, they may subconsciously think you have not cared for the home well enough and worry about repairs they might need to make that are unseen to them now. Even if there are no repairs to make, it's a subliminal thing, a comfort level they want.

Amenities. Should you remodel something? Can you recoup the costs? Can it help you sell your home? The National Association of Realtors (NAR) discusses this issue in a video on their website. According to NAR and other experts, a bathroom remodel can give you a very high return. You might want to consider remodeling an average sized bathroom by replacing the flooring, installing a new sink, freshening up the paint with modern colors. Another thing you can add for under 5k in most any house, is a deck or air conditioning. Or a fence. Are your funds limited? How about adding that disposal you always wanted but never got around to in your kitchen. Again, you might get an on line subscription to Angie's List and get an idea what repairs or upgrades might cost you. Find something you can do within your budget. The NAR site also offers you How To Remodel Your Home on A Budget.

I checked homes sales for the past 8 weeks in my Cleveland market areas, and I found the ones that sold while others sat on the market, had A/C, or a fenced in yard, or both - and at least a one car garage. If you have the funds available to add on one of these items, it might be just the thing that tips the scales in your favor while others sit on the market. At the very least, perform some easy steps like washing windows and replacing cracked outlet covers, getting rid of those growing dust bunnies behind the doors, little things that just might make a buyer pick your home over someone else's home.
Peace Out- 3C

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Jobs For Our Grads That Don't Include French Fries

You might think I'm on a rant about jobs. Hmm, I guess I am. I wrote a post the other day on the Cleveland Hub Initiative which could bring 6500 jobs to Ohio once the project gets off the ground. Today I'm still on jobs because, well, because we all want more jobs in Cleveland. I was lucky enough to talk with Rebecca Kusner, Vice President of the Workforce Development 'arm' of WIRE-NET, which is a cool acronymn for Westside Industrial Retention and Expansion Network. WIRE-NET has been around since 1988, doing things like helping manufacturing companies experience economic growth. There are over 200 member companies under the WIRE-NET umbrella (who knew there were THAT many manufacturing companies on the west side of Cleveland!)

What else does WIRE-NET do? Industrial Real Estate. They work with redevelopment corporations, city governments, individual companies. For example, Rebecca pointed out that WIRE-NET was involved in the recent successful efforts to implode the old Trinity Building (on Detroit in Cleveland) where a factory sat vacant. The City and well, all of us, now feel as if that land can be utilized for viable and much needed economic growth. WIRE-NET was instrumental in working on the brownfield remediation efforts there.

Rebecca oversees programs that help our companies with a pool of good job applicants. Their literature states that over 1800 people have been placed in jobs since WIRE-NET programs got started. They have Work Source, which places adults in jobs. Recently they have expanded their involvement to include continued supervision with the ability to provide job counseling for people placed in those jobs to help better ensure long term placement, and, as Rebecca said, overcome any barriers to job success. WIRE-NET has an on site program at Max Hayes High School, corporate sponsored and called School-to-Career. Rebecca Kusner told me WIRE-NET has been doing this for ten years. It includes training as well as job shadowing, paid work experience as an apprentice. There is also an Accelerated Introduction to Manufacturing (AIM) summer camp, opoen to 25 students. There is a recent graduate from John Marshall I am hoping to interview soon on this blog.

As an aside, manufacturing companies have been worried about replacing current workers as they retire. I remember reading that a majority of the machinists in our area are in their fifties. The WIRE-NET connection for these 200+ companies has been helping them replace that job force to keep the industry stronger.

Everyone wants to keep 'brain drain' from being a problem here, so a program like this can help keep our high school graduates off the streets and happily employed with a solid future. For more information: There is also a WIRE-NET blog with some insightful stories about manufacturing and manufacturers.
Enjoy this somewhat related music video by Bush :-)
Peace Out - 3C

Monday, January 29, 2007

Where to Buy the Cheapest Car Fuel In Cleveland

In my gut I knew I should have stopped to buy fuel for my car today. The sun was out, the price was under $2.00 and who knows what will happen tomorrow. This reminded me that I had heard about a website updated daily that tracks the best fuel prices each day. It's called Cleveland Gas Prices (I googled). They list the top (bottom?) least expensive stations discovered at 8am this morning. $1.89/gallon was the lowest price and Twinsburg Ohio was the winner at that price. You could buy it at $1.94/gallon at the Circle K in Berea or BP in Cuyahoga Heights. $2.25 was the highest price listed and they were all Speedways.

The site is more than just where to find good prices. Today they had a Poll: when you go on vacation, do you tend to take toll roads, divided four lane hwys, 2 lane roads, etc. (Would it not depend on where you are going?) There is a section on the latest fuel or car technology news (today an article on General Motor's work on hydrogen fuel).

It also led me to another cool site: Fuel Economy, where you can find the most fuel efficient cars - and they even cover a few cars from 1985. Mostly it's the 90s to the present.

And lastly, if you yearn for us to be less dependent on petrol, you can check out Willie Nelson's Bio Diesel site. He has outlets (mostly in the south) but his bio diesel is distributed Nationwide. You can imagine it's not a stale, dry site! Willie is even selling bumper stickers and hats that say Bio Willie :-) Peace Out 3C

Good 'Read' About Tremont

When I lived in Rockville Maryland I volunteered to put together a newsletter for my neighborhood. We were big on civic associations in Rockville, and they were not like homeowners associations. Most neighborhoods in my city had a civic group. We were called the Twinbrook Citizens Association(TCA), with about 1500 homes, a yearly party, lots of attendance at planning commission and council meetings, and monthly meetings. Here in Cleveland, if you are paying a monthly homeowners or condo fee, you have regularly scheduled meetings. But Tremont comes the closest to my experience in Maryland. They have block clubs, very active ones. I just read the best neighborhood newsletter I have read in years. which is what prompted me to write this blog. My shout out goes to the Tremont West Development Corporation(TWDC) for this 12 page newsletter, pointing out new businesses, restaurants, events, a yearly round up, updates on the Christmas Story House, reminders of Block Club and TWDC meetings. Tremont is a great model for neighborhoods around the City. The newsletter shows why it's such a coveted place to live. If you read the newsletter you might just feel the energy coming through the pages like I did. Peace Out - 3C

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Winter Doldrums? Laughing Helps

I love it that the days are lighter longer, but it's still winter. Good comedy can melt the ice off a snowman (I just made that up, how did I do?) We have some great comedy venues in Cleveland and greater Northeast Ohio. Famous people come to The Improv in the Flats (DL Hughley was just there). I like Open Mike night on Mondays. Some people should not quit their day jobs. But it's fun, free, there is good food to be had, and invariably, a couple people will have me belly laughing. And the others who are brave enough to get on stage and try to make us laugh....that takes guts!

Hilarities in Pickwick and Frolic is good too; food, drink and laughs. Are you looking to get your employees or co workers out of the winter doldrums? The Comedy Hypnotist might be what you are looking for. They will go to your meeting or party and provide the laughs. Cleveland Comedy and Funny Stop round out my list. Just enough comedy to get me through till Spring. And if you want to stay home and enjoy comedy. check out George Carlin's website. You can never go wrong with George. Peace Out 3C

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Is the Euclid Avenue Design Project A 'Better Idea?'

You know how people get together to brainstorm ideas? Businesses send their staff to retreats to come up with plans for the next year & brainstorm new projects; people get together over coffee to plan parties; students break up into groups to come up with ideas to answer questions or solve problems presented by the teacher. We all do it. Today, the spokespeople for The Euclid Avenue Design Project explained why they had a better idea. Instead of having people get together once in a while to do this, why not have like minded creative types all located in one core section of Euclid Avenue. Then a free and creative exchange of ideas could occur across the board at a moment's notice. If one company team is trying to solve a problem with one of their metal designs and they know that in the next building a design team used a similar thought process to solve one of their issues on plastics, they can call and set up a meeting. It's as if everyone on the panel came to the same conclusion: sharing good ideas and resolutions to problems can only make all of the businesses better, instead of keeping good ideas close to the vest so to speak, they will share openly.

I found out about all this by attending a Forum called Design District: A Progress Report, held in the Levin College Atrium at Cleveland State University yesterday. Speakers on the panel were passionate, progressive thinking leaders in their fields. I'll try to do a synopsis here.
At least this is my take on it.

Cleveland already has a 'position' or 'branding' in the world, as a manufacturing leader. 40 top consumer brands (like Moen for example) are already here. Each of these companies or brands spend time and money, a lot of each, developing new ideas, fixing product issues, testing products. Shorten the time involved and save money on it, if everyone is within walking distance of each other already. If we are a leader in this area, why not capitalize on that position and become even more of a leader. As they put it, The Milan of the Midwest. Put an 'idea design center' on Euclid Avenue (roughly, around Playhouse Square), aggressively recruit other companies to establish their idea design centers here, and have the buildings that house these places be storefront showrooms instead of in office buildings scattered hither and yon.

One of the panel speakers, John McCann from SAECO gave a good example. SAECO was founded in Milan Italy in 1981 (I guess that is where they got the idea for the Milan of the Midwest). Their USA 'arm' is headquartered in Solon. Their idea design team would be located in the Euclid Design District. SAECO is to espresso makers and coffee vending machines as Mr. Coffee (another Cleveland company) is to drip coffeemakers. SAECO markets around the world; they need design ideas, creative problem solving and consumer 'testers.' So he envisions a storefront showroom open to consumers who would come in and test products, taste coffee, help them with their future plans. SAECO's design staff would be right there, on Euclid Avenue, having close interaction with other design teams from the other companies as well as instant daily feedback available from their 'testers' at the jazzy showroom coffeehouse. Then imagine other 'brands' also having their showrooms. Now, not only would those of us walking in off the street visit, but people from other companies around the world would come to this 'Corridor' to see all the new or proposed products available in one location. No offense to Chicago, but apparently Chicago's 'Merchandise Mart' is a windowless, foreboding structure that does not add to the vibrancy of the neighborhood in which it resides, even though it obviously provides an excellent service to businesses.

What other types of 'designs?' This gets us to the next question this group has been tackling: how to retain the best and the brightest in each field here in Cleveland after they graduate. Rob Swinton - student at Cleveland Institute of Art(CIA) was a panelist. Along with his brother Matt, they have won prestigious awards for their house ware designs. The panelists asked Rob: What would it take to keep you here in Cleveland? He answered honestly, that the free lance work he has been doing so far has been free flowing and kept his design interest. For him to live and work here, there would have to be more of it, or he would have to feel as if the 'flow' would not stop because there was enough work 'to be had.' The Design Partners are tackling the 'student retention' issue as well.

Some other areas that seem to be a focus for idea design relocation here would be medical or bio design (because it already exists here) and architectural design (already here). So it's a spectrum, that would not try to compete with certain areas of design (I think furniture was one type listed in this category) that are already 'hubbed' elsewhere.

Along with the Idea Design showrooms would be live/work spaces and the Silver Line RTA (already in the works just try to walk on Euclid Avenue now LOL). Since we have institutions of higher learning like the CIA, CSU, Tri C, this Partnership wants another area of focus to be improving training in design.

For now, they will be spending a year or two working on getting a sizable core group of 'brands' to commit to moving to the Euclid Avenue Design District. They feel this is critical and needs to happen before they focus on other things needed to make this project happen. The only other thing I will mention, is the 'elephant in the room' Clevelanders have always dealt with, and that is the 'hassle' of dealing with City government when you try to get things done here (we can all relate to that one). The panelists seemed to think that our Government is becoming more 'hassle free.' Now that sounds like a better idea! Peace Out - 3C

Friday, January 26, 2007

TGIF Once a Month: Tremont Art Walk February 9th 6 to 10 PM

Yes it's cold out, but no reason to stay home and sulk! The Tremont Art Walk goes on in rain, snow, cold and oh yeah, in good weather as well. It's a blast, there is creative exciting art to see (for example, check out the Brandt Galleries). And for good food, Lucky's at Professor and Starkweather or Edison's Pub on Professor. No shortage of food and art. Held every 2nd Friday of the month, with many galleries to view and fun eating and libation establishments to visit. Bergen Village is one of the stops and we are hosting fabulous photographer Robert L. Stockham on February 9th. In Robert's words, he is featuring work that involves a 'silver emulsion process on canvas' and you can see an example of this work here. I know Robert from his black and white and color photographs of (mostly) gorgeous Cleveland architecture, bridges and landscapes. His exhibit called Cityview at our Ohio City Howard Hanna Smythe Cramer Office is just that, city views of Cleveland, housed appropriately near the West Side Market at 1903 W. 25th Street. Stop in between 9 and 6 - they are gorgeous. He can also be found in historic downtown Berea at the Book and Bean (where you can have great coffee too). At both of these locations you will see beautiful quality photographs; in order to see the Works on Canvas, you have to stop by Bergen Village, West Fifth and Literary at Tremont Ridge on February 9th between 6PM and 10PM.
Peace Out-3C

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

894 Homes Sold in Cuyahoga County in December 2006

They made some changes to the listing service (MLS) tax information section and it automatically provided some results I found a bit interesting. It covers home and condominium sales for October and November 2006 and compared them to sales in 2005 for the same months. This is for all of Cuyahoga County:

Sales Statistics
for CUYAHOGA County OH

Single Family Residence

Time Period
Number of Sales
Median Sale Price

Nov 2006

Nov 2005

Oct 2006

Oct 2005

2006 YTD



Time Period
Number of Sales
Median Sale Price

Nov 2006 151

Nov 2005

Oct 2006

Oct 2005


2006 YTD


I just did my own report, for all of Cuyahoga County sales in December 2006:

There were 894 homes and condos sold.

The average sale price County wide was $154,137.03

The only other thing I want to say about this chart is the comparison of 2005 to 2006.

Condos: fewer sold in November 2006 but the median sale price was higher by $10,000

Homes: 183 fewer single family homes sold in November 2006 than 2005, but the median sale price was $900 about the same but certainly not a decline!

I found it interesting to note that the 'bubble bursting' that we hear about on the National News or on National Websites has fortunately not been an issue in Cuyahoga County. We did have a few years when homeowners experienced a bit higher percentage of profit on the sale of their home than normal. Some communities like Lakewood and Westpark saw double digit growth. So this past year saw a slower pace of increases. Closer to 1%. I'll post monthly updates for the County, which means soon I can do January 2007. Granted, the above stats do not take into account how many people may have pulled their homes off the market because they changed their minds or the homes did not sell. It also does not reflect information on homes that sold privately without the benefit of a Realtor®.

Peace Out - 3C

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Steelyard Commons Opens and it's More Than WalMart

Ok, so I'm one of those people who could care less if a new Wal Mart is opening but Steelyard Commons has elements to it that appeal to the geek in me. Did you know that there is a playground that recreates an old blast furnace? Or that there is a Steel Museum on the property too? How cool is that! It's called the Steel Heritage Exhibit and Children's Steel Mills Playground. Now that is a good idea!

Steelyard Drive is opening this is bordered by Quigley Road and Jennings Road. I know there is an exit from Route 176 (The Jennings Freeway) as well. Yes it's cold out but I plan on checking it out. Home Depot is scheduled to open on February 1st. Steelyard Commons was developed by First Interstate Properties Ltd., also responsible for Legacy Village in Lyndhurst. First Interstate is a home grown Lyndhurst based company.

I'm a firm believer that cities need to embrace themselves and their image. We are the Industrial City as far as I'm concerned, and embracing our heritage and incorporating it into our new, modern lifestyles is what it's all about. Bessemer Steel first opened it's doors, or blew it's first blast of steam I should say, in 1868. Just think of all the families who made money by working in those mills, how many other States families were served with the products of those mills. I think in spite of the big box stores, this is a win-win situation. Well and okay, Target and Wal Mart and Famous Footwear give us places to shop as well. In addition, Steelyard Commons is adjacent to the Scenic National Railroad and the TowPath project. Check it out! (photo courtesy of the cuyahoga valley website)

Update on Five Year Plan

Apparently, the Business Community is responding to Mayor Jacksons/City of Cleveland's Plan announced yesterday. The Greater Cleveland Marketing Alliance is working on commericals to air Nationally - a volunteer plan at no cost to the City (meaning us). They have already raised 2 million dollars from private individuals or companies for this promotion.

On another less positive note, apparently our local ABC news channel (Newsnet5) did a poll (they of course neglected to say how many respondents there were) and asked this question: Do you think the new Five Year Plan will be a success? 65 percent said no. 35 percent said yes. I guess on the plus side, there were no undecideds? lol. I can certainly understand the skepticism, we've been there before. I'm hoping it will be different this time.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mayor Frank Jackson Unveils Cleveland's Agressive Five Year Capital Improvement Plan

When I first moved back to Cleveland in 1997, one of the first things I tried to do was go on line and see what kind of economic development issues were under way in Cleveland. Trust me, that was a frustrating experience. There was a one page website that at THAT time had not been updated in years. I tried to call and got no further. Basically was told that there were no public information pamphlets on initiatives to be mailed out! Over the last few years the City of Cleveland website made some progress, but now we are moving into the age of internet technology!

Cleveland's Mayor Frank Jackson made public his Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the next five years. The plan was actually put together by the Planning Department and focuses on the theme that our 36 neighborhoods are the centers of the City and initiatives should ocur that fit into each of these neighborhoods. So now we have a City Wide Plan which is apparently the first serious update since 1991. No wonder we have had some issues with fragmented progress lol. First, I am elated to see that the web (specifically the City of Cleveland Website ) is going to be the public location for updates to this plan. Cleveland has entered the modern era! I don't really want to sound sarcastic, I want to sound pleased, because I am. Apparently our Mayor has been working behind the scenes (along with Council I'm sure :-) to develop a strategy and make sure we can all be made aware of progress on that strategy. If he were running for re-election today I would vote for him in a heartbeat!

Ok, back to the Plan: Highlights
1.5 Billion Dollar Expenditure Over the Next Five Years
$90 Million for the Lakefront project to open it up to residents (to get an idea of Detroit Shoreway and Lakefront Plans click here )
1.1 Million Investment in Kamms Corners Streetscaping (details through Kamms Corner Redevelopment Center's Website)
$10 Million Investment in either Ward 10 or 11, for a recreational facility
$5 Million to the traffic on E. 105th to improve safety and aid access to University Circle (issue addressed in this 2003 pdf file )
(see enclosed pdf file through CIP Plan link above for complete details)

As a Realtor®, this next section of the Plan intrigued me. The City is dividing areas of Housing into several categories:
1. Areas of Choice (higher home values and excellent housing conditions)
2. Stable home values and condition
3. Transitional, or areas that are experiencing higher levels of foreclosures and maybe more moderate housing market values
4. Fragile areas, with lower market values, abandoned homes, some demolition ocurring.
5. Distressed, which really just means even lower market values, more abandoned properties and demolition needs.

The CIP addresses each of the five areas. Needed improvements of each of the areas can be identified by working with the Neighborhoods and Redevelopment groups involved. The City says to stay tuned to their website because we will all be able to (soon) download a more detailed plan for each of our 36 neighborhoods (well, it said each neighborhood, so hopefully all 36). (above photo courtesy of The Eco City website)
Peace Out - 3C