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• May. 23, 2011 - Challenging Your Jackson County Property Tax Assessment

My husband says, "Did you see we received the property tax assessment on the house today?".  Yes, I did see that form.  As a real estate agent, I'm especially aware of our home's property tax value.  But when these notices go out, it also means I'll be hearing from past customers regarding how to fight property tax assessments, especially in this distressed housing market. I often hear from senior citizens, concerned that their home is not worth what the county says it is...which is usually  true.

If you feel your property tax assessment is too high, you can appeal to the county assessor's office.  Everyone I know who has appealed did get their taxes reduced.  Yes, it's a bit of a hassle and can be time-consuming--but ultimately, it may be worth it. Our taxes have been reduced the past few years based on lower property values and we didn't even have to fight the assessment.  Today, the Kansas City Star wrote an editorial about dropping home values and what it means for the tax collectors.  Just checking sales in the MLS for zip 64113, the average price of a  home in 2009 was $338,445.  In 2010, it dropped to $297,331.

In Jackson County, appeals must be filed by July 11, 2011.  You can get an appeal form by calling 816 881 3309 or, pick one up at the Kansas City courthouse or Independence courthouse (I did not see them online--why not??).  The process is explained in detail at www.jacksongov.org, click on Departments, then Assessment Appeals. One frustrating aspect of the forms sent out last week was it doesn't give you an estimated tax amount that will be due--only the estimated value of your home.  The actual bill comes in December.

Remember that the county is concerned about the 'question of market value' and that's what you are arguing, not the specific tax amount. If you 'win', your tax amount will be reduced.  The documentation needed to support your case can include an appraisal (can be expensive at $350-$400), a recent sales contract and/or documentation regarding recent home sales in your immediate area.  That's where an agent can help you--by providing information from the MLS on sales in your area. If the county has your house valued at $400,000, yet comparable sales are in the $300,000 range--you have a legitimate case for a lower tax bill.

If you would like a list of comparable sales for  your area--email me  and I'll be glad to help!




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• May. 16, 2011 - Brookside Area Home Sales Stats - April 2011

It's the busy spring selling season for real estate...not quite as busy as last spring when the $8000 tax credit was in effect..but still, here's some sales statistics for the Brookside area:

Zip code 64113

Homes sold in April:  20

Homes currently under contract:  41

Number of homes for sale:  155

Armour Hills subdivsion:

Homes sold in April: 3

Homes currently under contract: 8

Number of homes for sale: 30

Rockhill Gardens subdivision:

Homes sold in April: 1

Homes currently under contract: 3

Number of  homes for sale: 16

Would you like information for your neighborhood?  Send me an email with your street address, street and zip code--will send you a full report. Thanks for reading my blog!

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• May. 9, 2011 - Seminar for Seniors at Armour Oaks May 12

One of my specialty markets is working with seniors who want to downsizing. I'm not a senior yet, but there are days when I would like to downsize to living in three rooms!! It takes time and a commitment to make the move to a smaller home, and this informative seminar will provide details seniors 9and their children) should know.

Rightsizing for Your New Life/Selling Your Home will be presented at 4:30 on Thursday May 12, 2011 at Armour Oaks Senior Living Community, 8100 Wornall Road.  Senior Move Specialist Gerre Wade will share ideas and tips on downsizing, and I'll discuss selling a senior's home in today's real estate market (yes it can be done!). Seating is limited -- call 816 363 5141 for a reservation. There is no charge to attend.

The seniors I have helped move on to a comfortable, maintenance free lifestyle tell me "I should have done this a long time ago!".  The best moves happen when they are planned ahead and not forced due to illness, spousal death or health issues. Make plans to attend this seminar--and take control of your future housing needs by making informed decisions now. 

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• May. 4, 2011 - HGTV Star Vern Yip in Kansas City!

Who among us hasn't watched HGTV and wished 'oh, if only they could makeover my home!?'  That chance may be one in a million, but what if an HGTV star came to you?

Kansas City is lucky to feature an appearance by Vern Yip at the I.O. Metro store in Zona Rosa Thurday May 5, from 6:30-8:00pm. Stop in for a bit of design therapy, an autograph and 10% off one item purchased duriing the event!  If you are an I.O. Metro VIP, you can attend the 30 minute design class at 6pm.

Yip is partnering with I.O. Metro in upcoming advertisting campaigns, and throughout the store you will see "Vern's Picks" --items he has chosen personally as having outstanding design features. Vern will also guest blog for the store chain twice  a month. One lucky winner will also win "30 minutes with Vern" - register to win by stopping by the store prior to the 6pm VIP event.

I.O. Metro is a specialty lifestyle furniture retailer that sells eclectic import furniture and sccessories in stores across the Midwest. Each store has experienced design consultants to help you pick out just the right furnishings and accessories.  Get a double dose of design advice while visiting the Zona Rosa store during Yip's appearance!

Below are two other links for reference:


Thanks for reading my blog--reach me at mary.hutchison@prukc.com



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• May. 2, 2011 - Aging Seniors and Housing Options

Recently the Kansas City Star newspaper did a series of in-depth articles, outlining the challenges older adults face as they try to 'age in place' in their homes. The authors did an excellent job of outlining current problems that will only get worse as the boomers age: lack of transportation for seniors that can't/shouldn't drive; home health care expenses; children having to take care of their parents when the 'children' want to retire themselves; and the options for seniors who want to move to a maintenance free lifestyle.

What communities did they feature for seniors?  One was Mission Square, a new development at Martway and Lamar.  Entrance fees to rent an apartment here begin at $66,300.  Another retirement community mentioned was Tallgrass Creek at 138th St and Metcalf.  The price quoted in the story was $165,000 to move into a very basic two bedroom apartment, with monthly fees at $1855 for one person.  Sounds pretty pricey to me--and to many seniors as well. 

There is a perception that senior housing is not affordable for most--and yet, it can be. I wish the article would have identified some of the lesser priced options available for seniors in the Kansas City area--the Brookdale Senior Living centers or Armour Oaks in the Brookside area. Not every community has high entrance fees. Most seniors I know have a very fixed income. Even after selling their home, coming up with these entrance fees (and having some cash left over) would be difficult for many older adults.

Working with seniors is a specialty market I really enjoy. The smart senior who recognizes it's time to leave the house for a downsized, simpler lifestyle in a safe, caring community doesn't want to have to worry about paying huge entrance fees to get into a clean, active and attractive community. And for their  children who have to scramble and find a location in a hurry (because of a fall, a spousal death, failing health, etc.), they need reasonably priced options.  The Star should have highlighted some of these communities as well as the expensive ones.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you know a senior who is thinking of downsizing--contact me for more information on how to make this an easier transition!

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• Apr. 26, 2011 - This Brookside Home Needs New Owners!

Why do so many people want to live in Brookside?  It's the easy walkability...the friendly neighbors...the charm and character of the homes.  Here's a great home for sale in Brookside that needs new owners!

Special features:

Three bedrooms, one on the first floor, plus office space.Two full baths, one on 1st and 2cd floors.Eat in kitchen opens to family room.First floor laundry/mud room.Two car garage, private drive. Front porch, back deck, full basement, hardwood floors, fireplace.  Everyday amenities a few steps away:  grocery store, post office, several restaurants, drugstore, boutiques, flower shop..and much  more!

6323 Main Street, $264,900, seller will pay $5000 of buyer's closing costs. What a deal!! Stop in Sunday May 1 and see for yourself--it will be open 1-4 during the Brookside Art Fair.

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• Apr. 25, 2011 - Motivated Sellers Make It Happen

Several days ago  I listed a home near UMKC in the Brookside area.  Within a week, we had two offers.  In this depressed housing market, how did that happen?  One big reason:  I had a motivated seller.

What does this mean?  Mr Seller didn't just say he wanted to sell his house, he realized the work that needed to be done prior to listing and he did it.  He listened to my suggestions, had a few of his own, and spent the money to freshen up the home and make a few repairs.  In turn, I paid to have the house staged, made sure the photos looked great, came up with enticing listing copy and attractive flyers.  Most important of all:  Mr Seller and I had watched the market and agreed on a listing price, taking into consideration the comparables. We immediately had several showings, lots of interest, and one aggressive buyer's agent who quickly wrote an offer.

In the months leading up to the actual listing date, I know Mr Seller was worn out.  He and his wife work  full time jobs, they have  a toddler son and another baby on the way. I'm sure he was questioning if all the time and money spent would be worth it.  He worked many nights getting the house in shape--I also helped out one afternoon as we reorganized and cleaned out the basement.  In the end, all the effort paid off. 

Home sellers and agents have a lot working against them these days:  dropping home values, too many foreclosures and short sales, extremely picky buyers, oversupply and weak demand.  Having a truly informed, motivated seller makes a big difference..and brings a quicker sale.



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• Apr. 18, 2011 - What If?

The Obama administration wants to revamp the government's role in financing homes.  It recently released a report outlining possible changes.  What could this mean for the average home buyer?

First, a little background.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac currently back most mortgages in the US by guaranteeing payment to the bank if the buyer defaults on the loan. Knowing the Feds will pay if the buyer doesn't -- that's a simple explanation for how the housing market collapsed.  Banks took huge risks lending money, knowing the Feds would bail them out. The 'Feds' here is actually us taxpayers, currently paying out over $135 billion to bail out these two companies.

If Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac go out of business, banks will demand more of a down payment from borrowers and set higher interest rates.

The President's report offers  a few options. One would eliminate any government guarantee for mortgages.  Another is to offer guarantees to investors during difficult financial times. A third option would provide a government guarantee for some mortgages but the lender would first have to purchase a guarantee from a private insurer.

Like any financial reform proposal, there are pros and cons to each option. But let's think of it in terms of the average buyer.  Right now, the least amount of a down payment allowed is 3.5%.  If the government pulls out of backing loans, banks will require more of a down payment.  On an average $175,000 house, a 3.5% DP is $6125.  A 10% DP is $17,500.  With inflation going up, wages stagnant, student loan debt already in place and no strong job creation, buying that first home will be off the table for a large segment of buyers.

What's really irritating about this scenario is the fact that it was the bankers and Wall Street that created the mortgage crisis.  They walk away with millions and no legal prosecution while the taxpayers clean up the mess.  Government loan guarantees encourage home ownership.  If this reform goes too far, you will see less home ownership because it will be very difficult for that first time buyer  to save the several thousand dollars needed for a down payment.

On the pro side--there would be more demand for rental properties so it's a great time to become a real estate investor.



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• Apr. 11, 2011 - Brookside Area Home Sales Stats - March 2011

A brief recap of home sales statistics for two of the larger Brookside area subdivisions:

Armour Hills

Four homes closed in March, average sales price $195,500; average days on market: 111.

Currently, 25 homes are for sale, ranging in price from $159,900 to $335,000.  Average list price:  $241,922, average days on market:  141.

Rockhill Gardens

No closed sales in March.  Currently, eleven homes for sale, ranging in price from $119,500 to $274,500, average list price is $191,145.  Average days on market:  72.

Overall, there are 141 homes for sale in the 64113 zip code (the main zip for Brookside).  Prices range from $149,000 to $4.3 million for a mansion on Ward Parkway.

All stats taken from Heartland MLS--deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

If you would like sales stats for your particular area, email me with your address, city, zip.  Thanks for reading my blog!


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• Apr. 1, 2011 - The KCMO Earnings Tax-Does It Affect Home Sales?

Kansas City MO voters go to the polls once again next Tuesday to vote on the future of the earnings tax. (Actually this is a state wide election but I'm focusing on KCMO for this blog.) The opposition to the tax states one of the reasons it should be repealed is because it discourages buyers from purchasing homes in Kansas City.  As a Realtor working in KCMO, here's my take:

When I am working with buyers who are unfamiliar with the area, along with first time buyers deciding on a location, I always mention the Kansas City MO earnings tax.  If the buyer works in KCMO, it's not an issue--they will pay the tax anyway.  But if they don't--I explain that it is something to consider.  Essentially, paying the tax is  a 1% pay cut if you buy a home in KCMO.

Interestingly I have never had a buyer say this tax soured them on living in Kansas City.  Generally, buyers pick a location first--the neighborhood they want to live in and how much house they can get for the price they want to spend.  Certain areas of  KCMO that attract buyers feature amenities and activities that outweigh the tax:  locally owned restaurants and shops, decent public transportation, nightlife/cultural attractions, charming older homes and a location close to downtown and urban life. In my experience, the earnings tax isn't a factor in their decision on where to buy.  What does sour a buyer on living in Kansas City?

Crime statistics and the reputation of the KCMO school district. 

And those are issues a tax can't fix.


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• Mar. 21, 2011 - It's Spring--Why Does Your Listing Show Holiday Decor?


Recently I met  with a seller about possibly listing her house, as the current listing period with another agent is almost up. (This is possible to do in Missouri--in Kansas, an agent must wait until the listing is expired.) I have  toured this home, actually showed this home late last year, and am very familiar with the neighborhood.

So I looked up the listing to refresh my memory, check price history, disclosure, etc and what do I see?  The front shot of the house has a large blanket of snow with a holiday wreath.  Inside, the living room features a picture of a Christmas tree, prominanlty displayed in the living room.  In other shots you can see holiday decor. Pictures say a lot without words--what do you think this one is saying? 

This is a big pet peeve of mine--outdated, poorly shot photos.  Sellers, your first showing is ON LINE.  Just about every day, SOMEONE is looking at your house on line.  It could be other agents, out of town buyers, nosy neighbors or someone who has to buy a home within the next week. I cringe when I see dark photos, blurry photos,  odd angled photos, photos with lots of clutter --  why???  Please, sellers, look at how your home is presented on the internet.  Be sure your agent is updating photos and descriptive copy as necessary. It  matters.


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• Mar. 15, 2011 - Two New Listings-Waldo and Brookside Areas

On the Tuesday Realtor tour today I saw two really nice, move in ready homes I wanted to share with you.  They are not my listings--both are move in ready and well-priced.

Want that Brookside charm?  This house has it, at 241 E 73rd St just west off Oak. I love this house and so wish I had a buyer for it!  It's not a center hall plan..the first floor has original woodwork, porch off the living room, built ins in the living room, a formal dining room, eat in kitchen, plus two bedrooms and one full bath. The orginal art deco bathroom is in great condition--so cool and classic!! Upstairs, a small bedroom and full bath. There is a one car garage, private drive, plus a large deck. Totally updated and shows great.  Priced at $220,000--I think it will sell fast!                                      


For those with a smaller budget, this new listing in Indian Village is a great deal as well. Two bedrooms, one full bath, one car garage.  Newer everything:  roof, windows,a/c, hot water heater, updated interior, fenced yard with patio, very clean and ready for a new owner. I especially liked this large family room in the back off the kitchen. 128 Pocahontas Lane is $119,000. 


There is so much housing inventory now, and more listings coming on every day.  Interest rates are still low.  The bargains are out there if you are a buyer!

Thanks for reading my blog...you can reach me at mary.hutchison@prukc.com


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• Mar. 10, 2011 - Breaking It Down--The Commission Check

The perception is....most real estate agents make a lot of money.  The reality is...they don't.

This blog is inspired by the current national conversation of breaking up employee unions and demanding benefit concessions from public employees.  I'm not going to comment on that discussion, but it does relate in a way to what many people think: real estate agents make too much money from selling a house.

Let's look at a typical sale for  a $200,000 house.  The typical commission is 6%, split 50/50 between the seller's agent and buyer's agent. The commission check of $6000 goes to the seller's brokerage (i.e., Prudential, Remax, etc).  The brokerage will take, off the top, anywhere from 5-40%.  (That percentage is usually based on how much volume the agent sold the previous year. For example, an agent may have to sell over $4million in real estate to keep 75% of the gross commission check. That means you would have to sell 20 houses at $200,000 in one year just to keep 75% of your check).  Let's use a middle figure of 25%.

If the brokerage keeps 25%, that's $1500 leaving a gross check of $4500 to the agent. In turn, the agent should withhold about 25% for taxes, or $1125.  Now we are down to $3375. Take out another 15% for desk fees, dues, continuing education, errors and commissions insurance and supplies. That leaves $2869. Out of that figure, perhaps another 10% for marketing (flyers, camera, website, gifts, meals, signs,staging, etc).  We are at a figure of $2583. Haven't taken out the cost of health insurance yet!  Or a referral fee of 20-30% if a relocation company is involved. We'll let those expenses slide for now. And remember, no paid holidays or vacation benefits.

If your average sale is $200,000, and you made 12 sales per year, your net salary would be around $31,000.  Is that a lot of money? Depends on your perception.  Do most agents make 12 sales per year?  I don't know the answer to that one, but in this housing slump, probably not. And as noted above, an agent would have to sell 20 homes in a year with that average price just to keep the 75/25 split.

Most good agents work very, very hard for their customers.  Clients don't see the countless hours of work an agent puts in outside of the personal contact to make their business successful and clients happy.  Quite often an agent works longer hours on a small $150K deal than a $400K deal--for much less money. If a house doesn't sell--the agent loses money. If a buyer doesn't buy--an agent loses money. The expenses are still there.

Everyone is watching expenses more closely these days--agents are no different. We want our customers to get the best deal, spending the least amount of money.  But when you see that HUD statement showing a $6000 commission to the broker--remember that  your agent is probably netting less than half of that amount. 

(note: not all brokerages have the same split or expenses, these figures represent an example)

Thanks for reading my blog--your comments are welcome! 






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• Mar. 2, 2011 - New Listing in Prairie Village

What every first time  buyer wants--an updated home for under $150,000!

This new listing at 7733 Nall is totally updated and move in ready.  Three bedrooms, one full bath, new windows and newer HVAC.  the current owner installed insulation in the attic, and the utility bills are low.  Easy one  level living--the laundry room is just off the kitchen! Outside, note the one car attached garage and a fenced yard in back.


This home has a convenient location, close to shopping, grocery, and schools--in the coveted Shawnee Mission East high school district. 


Immediate occupancy--call or email me for a private showing.  7733 Nall in Prairie Village, offered at $135,000.

Thanks for reading  my blog--reach me at mary.hutchison@prukc.com





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• Feb. 27, 2011 - Brookside Bathroom Renovation - Final! Part 5

This is the final blog--for now--regarding my Brookside bathroom renovation.  And it's not totally complete.  I still need some decor:  a shade for the window, some artwork, searching for vintage water glasses.  But the bills are paid, and we are happy with the results.


Had problems with the second mirror, and it's not ready yet. At first, Westport Glass returned two mirrors but one was 1/2" smaller all around that the other. After the redo, there were two flaws on the frame. So they are redoing it again. I'm happy with their service, but irritated I've had to return the mirror twice.  Would think they would check the final product.  I love the penny tile, and specifically chose the darker grout hoping that it will hide dirt!  That's a Silestone counter, the least expensive one in this color, and sconces from Restoration Hardware. The small glass disc on the wall is a hook from Anthropologie that we use for a towel hook.  Soap dispenser from Target, bamboo tray from Crate and Barrel.


You can see the bench I had built in this photo.  It is supposed to slant a bit so the water runs off.  In the second photo, the hardware is from Lowe's, basic off the shelf design, and a shot of the listello (decorative piece)  between the light and dark tile. Frosted glass on the shower.


I had an extra piece of listello so the contractor and I put it in the soap box.  The vanity is from Martha Stewart.  Her line is less expensive than most, and probably doesn't have as good of a finish.  It arrived damaged and I'm waiting for a replacement piece for the false front drawer.  It will probably take 12 weeks, which is how long it took for the vanity--although when I bought it from Home Depot, they said it would take 6 weeks to arrive.

In conclusion, I don't think I would have changed anything about this remodel (unlike when I finished the kitchen remodel).  Was very happy with my contractor, with Scott from Home Depot, with the counter top, design, and services from Kenny's Tile. I feel like it looks like a new bathroom, but the design features fit  with an older home.  It cost about $3000 more than planned. Most of that was extra labor because of some unforeseen problems with the sink/counter and penny tile install.

We've been using the shower for two weeks now, and everything is working fine.  The only complaint I have is that it takes longer for me to squeegee all the tile than it does for me to take a shower!


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• Feb. 13, 2011 - Are You a "Typical" Home Buyer or Seller?

Recently the National Association of Realtors issued their 2010 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.  Lots of data here on the current 'typical' home buyer and seller.  This blog will share some of the statistics in the profile...and my comments from personal experience helping buyers and sellers in 2010.

NAR reports that 50% of home purchases last year were made by first time buyers. Part of this has to do with historically low interest rates, lower home prices due to the market crash, and the $8000 federal tax credit.  I had three first time buyers last year--and it was first time buyers who purchased five of my listings.  I would agree that almost half of my business involved a first time buyer.  Interestingly, NAR says  only 13% of buyers said the main reason for their purchase was the tax credit--the desire to own a home was the most important factor in deciding to buy.  With the media, friends and family saying 'it's a good time to buy' -- I think the $8000 tax credit pushed a lot of people off the fence.

For buyers who are 65 or older, NAR states key reasons for their purchase was the desire to be closer to family and the decision to downsize.  Not all of my 'older' clients were over 65, but I did help several people who either moved to independent living for seniors (a market I specialize in) or chose to downsize and move closer to family.  The middle aged buyers definately chose homes that would suit them physically as the years pass by--laundry and bedrooms on main level, open floor plans, few if any steps.  So this statistic echos my experience as well. 

The internet has had a huge impact on the way buyers and sellers come together for a transaction. While it's been said that using an agent may become obsolete, the role of an agent is still valid but changing. The survey showed that because more people search on line first for homes, it's increasingly  important to a buyer  that their agent help with price and contract negotiations, completing paperwork and expertise with inspections and repairs. Because I work primarily with older homes, my buyers do rely on my experience regarding what to watch out for in an older home, the usual (and unusual)  charateristics and what constitutes a 'good buy' in an older part of the city.

Overall, I would say my real estate transactions last year mirrored several facts mentioned in the survey.

What's in store for 2011?  Hard to say, with prices still depressed, the tax credit expired and the unemployment rates high.  Still, interest rates are low, there are many good 'deals' out there and the strong spring market is about to bloom.  If you are a potential buyer or seller-start researching  the market now  and see if the time is right for you to make the move!

You can read more about the NAR survey by clicking on the link below.


Thanks for reading my blog--you can reach me at mary.hutchison@prukc.com


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• Feb. 7, 2011 - Brookside Bathroom Renovation - Part 4

The renovation is almost done...the shower doors should be installed mid-week and there's a bit more work involving tile, paint, hanging towel bars, etc.  In this post I wanted to talk about buying mirrors,  a vanity incident and Lowe's.

I didn't think too much in advance about buying mirrors...because I thought it would be pretty easy. Wrong.  Restoration Hardware has a good selection, but they are pricey.  Home Depot and Lowe's--not much selection. I didn't want the oval mirrors that hang from pivots, just a simple frame that would go with the finish on the sconces.  I went to Target, Pier One, TJ Maxx,  Home Goods--no luck. Plus, I needed two mirrors. Finally went to Bed, Bath and Beyond.  They did have a simple, cheap mirror that would work.  But overall, I wasn't happy with the quality and the size.  So I went down to Westport Glass on Southwest Blvd.  Picked out a frame, and the mirrors are being custom-made.  Note it isn't the mirror itself that is expensive, it's the framing.  I was able to choose the size I want and the decoration I want--for about $14o per mirror.

Stopped by Lowe's yesterday with hubby to pick out some towel bars and tp holder.  On my way to the department, I noticed some tile boards.  To my surprise, there was a pretty good selection--not as much as Kenny's Tile but I did see some of the same samples I saw at Kenny's. I think these decorative tiles are special order, but still--it was nice to see a good selection of colors and styles at a big box store.  Didn't see anything like this at Home Depot. Overall, I get the impression Lowe's offers more decorative and stylish options than Home Depot.

Finally, had an incident with the vanity.  My contractor told me on Friday that the installer, Hallmark Stone, cracked the vanity during installation. It was towards the top of the piece, just under the countertop.  I'm not going to re-order another vanity (that would be 6-12 weeks), and my contractor can rig up a repair--as it is, you can't even see the crack unless you bend down.  However, I am asking for some sort of compensation regarding this incident--at the least Hallmark should pay the labor for the contractor.

Next post--should be pictures of the finished renovation! Thanks for reading my blog--you can reach me at mary.hutchison@prukc.com

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• Jan. 27, 2011 - Brookside Bathroom Renovation-Part 3

Today I'm talking about tile.

Inititally I went to The Tile Shop in Overland Park to pick out tile. Again, overwhelming. The first salesperson I worked with offered to put together some designs for me.  He never called back--when I called the store, they told me he no longer worked there. I'm thinking, what happened to my order? He had all the details written down, my name and number--no one was going to follow up with his customers?  I go back, start working with another sales person. I ask her to put together 3 options for me to consider.  She says, 'you only want two'.  No, I want three! They charged me to take the sample tiles home (understandable) and examine them in the bathroom. Ultimately I decided the listello pieces The Tile Shop offers are rather boring to me.  I wanted something with a little flair, a little vintage look--they have nothing like that.

I decide to go to Kenny's Tile in Grandview.  Wow, what a difference!  This is a family owned business and so friendly, so welcoming.  Again, an overwhelming selection.  After walking around for a while, I decide to pick out my listello piece first and build from there.  (They have SO many trim pieces to choose from--various colors, designs, materials--impressive!).  I showed their designer, Nancy, the trim piece and she walked around with me to find wall tile and floor tile to go with it--then drew a simple tile design for the shower on a piece of scrap paper for reference.  I was done! But wait, it gets better...

When I went back to pick up the tile, my trim piece had not yet arrived.  I always notice a Kenny's Tile truck parked on the next block from my house--I ask, do you think that employee could bring the trim piece home when it arrives and I'll pick it up from his house?  No problem!  He delivers the trim piece to my house AND, when I had to go back and order  a bit more tile and grout, he delivers those items to my house, saving me a trip to Grandview. I didn't even ask for that second delivery. That is great service!  I'm sold on Kenny's Tile.

One more note about the tile escapades.  The 'penny round' tile from Kenny's was priced at $20 a square foot.  Too much.  I did go back to The Tile Shop and found a penny round tile that worked for $5 SF. I needed 8 SF.  However, my contractor discovered during install that when you buy a SF of the penny tile, it does not cover a square foot of space. This is because of the shape--little round pieces of tile, about the size of a penny.   Ggrrr.  Now I have to go back and buy one more 'square foot'. 

Also, the promo book that The Tile Shop offers is very helpful--full of good design ideas and technical terms for tile and installation.  A good reference book to teach yourself the basics of tile. I did not use Tile Shop or Kenny's for the install tile--my contractor could do it for less money.

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• Jan. 20, 2011 - Brookside Bathroom Renovation-Part 2

Today was day 3 of the bath renovation, and the first day I had a crisis.  I thought I was so organized and ready to go, covered all the bases...nope.

Had scheduled the countertop template to be done today.  Had the sinks and faucets here as required.  When contractor positioned the vanity against the wall...too deep!  What??  I'm dealing with a very narrow space in this small bathroom.  And I'm not moving anything around--toilet, vanity, shower all stay in the same spot.  But with the old vanity and shower, there was just 26" between the vanity top and the shower door.  Today, it was about 21" when the vanity was positioned.  Checked  my dimentions and learned...

Although I made good measurements, I should have had builder Mike come in and make his own measurements.  On paper, the old vanity and the new one I bought were the same depth.  But how did I measure that vanity? Against the wall? Just the countertop? With this narrow of a space, 2 or 3 inches makes a big difference.  Also, Mike had given me a couple of extra inches when he rebuilt the shower.  I was momentarily panicked, but cool and calm Mike said--I can cut the back of the vanity so it's not so deep and rebuild the shower giving you another inch or so. 

Then we had to face another problem--the sinks I purchased were too large for the vanity.  How did this happen?  Was this my  mistake not measuring or should Scott at Home Depot have caught it?  I  bought two standard size (15") sinks, thinking they would fit my standard size double vanity.  Luckily, Dorfman Plumbing had the same 15" sink in the next smaller (12") size in stock--so picked those up. Two crisis solved, all before 11am. The countertop template will now be done on Monday.

What did I learn today?  Think about each part of the renovation step by step and what needs to be measured out, especially when dealing with a small space. The measurements I took are just not as precise as a contractor's.  Mike is always flipping out his tape measure. We should have talked measurements in detail before he started and before I bought the vanity, sinks, faucets.  I also learned that Mike has the go-with-the-flow, low key and laid back attitude I need going through this project. His solution to cut a couple of inches off the back of the vanity will cost me a few more labor hours, but much better than waiting another eight weeks for another vanity--or have one custom made.  We are just a couple of days now behind schedule--that's just fine.

Thanks for reading my blog, you can reach me at mary.hutchison@prukc.com



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• Jan. 17, 2011 - My Brookside Bathroom Renovation-Part 1

Our master bath renovation project just started....after four years of living in this Armour Hills home, we've finally saved enough  money to do it (although naturally, it will cost more than I had initally thought it would!).  So as the project goes along, I'll share a few tips and comments I've learned along the way.


I started working on this project a couple of years ago, I interviewed a few contractors and they each submitted bids.  Typically the bids give you an 'allowance' for each item: vanity, lighting, tile, etc and the labor costs. Each bid was itemized, and ranged from $11K-$18K.  I was hoping to get it done for around $8000.  Instead of hiring the contractor first,  I decided to go a different route.  I researched the cost of the materials I wanted,  and then picked a contractor.  Although it would be so relaxing and convenient to do this makeover like HGTV's Designer  Showcase,  that was simply not in the budget.  By choosing the materials first, I had a much better idea of my fixed costs up front.  I could more easily pick and choose what I wanted to 'splurge' and 'scrimp' on.  This took months of time and there was plenty of sticker shock along the way.                                             

For example, the sinks for the double vanity.  I ordered a standard size (not custom) double vanity and wanted two undermount sinks with a Silestone countertop.  Two basic white sinks from Home Depot cost $80 each--and $475 to install!  The countertop installer also mounts the sink and charges $375 for the first sink, $150 for the second. Even at $100/hour labor charge, I doubt it will take 5 hours to install two sinks--and this does not include the plumbing! Yes, drop in sinks would be less, but that style of sink takes up more counter space, so we chose the undermount. I compared buying a Corian or marble countertop--and the prices were a bit less but not that much different.  Plus, Corian scratches easily. So that's about $700 just for sinks plus install. Ouch.

I also wanted to mention that it was exhausting and frustrating at first to research the material costs for this project.  After driving around and visiting at least 4 'showrooms', it wasa bit overwhelming and overall I didn't feel I was getting good service from any of them. Sadly, no one seemed very interested in my business. Was it because I wasn't planning to spend $20,000?  Finally I went to Home Depot on Linwood and started working with Scott in the kitchen design department.  Because he doesn't work on commission, he was honest and straightforward with design suggestions that fit my budget, and helped me pick out materials that go together to get the look I want.  He also suggested other stores with wider selections of items I needed when Home Depot didn't have quite the right thing.  We spent many hours over the summer months, going through catalogs, talking about different materials, looking at finishes, colors, tile designs, etc.  He  has some type of design background but I'm not exactly sure what it is. Scott has a very easy and patient way about him that I appreciated--because I had many, many questions and of course changed my mind a few times.  If  you are thinking of a bath or kitchen remodel--call and make an appointment with Scott.  It's a good place to start. And take notes on what you like, plus pricing, each time you go.

Since I live in a old Brookside home, the goal is  an updated vintage look rather than the all beige suburban look that's popular now.  Hopefully, it will all come together within the next month.  More postings as the project progresses.

Thanks for reading my blog, your comments are welcome or email me direct at mary.hutchison@prukc.com


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Comments and information regarding Kansas City real estate on both sides of the state line: MO and KS. Areas include Brookside, Waldo, Prairie Village, Leawood, Red Bridge, Overland Park and others. Personal musings and random thoughts may be included as the mood strikes!


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