Home Improvement News

Home improvement guide: Tips from a Katy-area Realtor, designer

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Community Impact Newspaper asked Realtor Tim Sojka, owner of See Tim Sell, and Veronica Solomon, creator of Casa Vilora Interiors, for their advice. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Residents looking to buy a home face a variety of decisions when it comes to choosing a Realtor. Similarly, homeowners face a variety of choices when it comes to deciding how to decorate.

Community Impact Newspaper asked Realtor Tim Sojka, owner of See Tim Sell, and Veronica Solomon, creator of Casa Vilora Interiors, for their advice.

Tim Sojka

Sojka has sold real estate in West Houston for 15 years. Sojka and his team have sold more than $600 million in real estate.

What should homeowners ask when selecting a Realtor?

Before they call a Realtor, they should see what kind of reputation they have. Look at their Google reviews and their [Houston Area Realtors] reviews—and they should look for somebody who has more than one review, because that [could be their] mom.

When you meet with a Realtor, the first question you should ask is, “How many deals have you done?” Then, “How many deals have you done in my neighborhood? Do you have experience in this price range?” A good Realtor should know these. “How many days on average are your homes on the market?” In this market, it’s like four. And then, “What would you say that your strengths and weaknesses are as a Realtor?”

What are the neighborhoods in Katy that people are looking at the most right now?

The question is not what neighborhood—it is really what master-planned community. A master-planned community will know where the schools are going to be, where the convenience stores are going to be. Master-planned communities are getting more popular: Cinco Ranch, Cross Creek Ranch, Elyson. Grand Lakes is still an amazing neighborhood even though it has been sold out for years. The thing I like about Katy’s master-planned communities is they have all had their day in the sun, and they all excel for different reasons.

What is the market like in Katy, and what factors are contributing to it?

I’ve been doing this for 15 years. It’s the strongest market we’ve ever had. Flooded with buyers, and we’re bereft of adequate inventory.

Katy, of all the major suburbs, probably has the easiest transportation to and from Houston. Katy has the best school district, and the best marketed school district in the Houston area. When people have kids—they move to Katy.

People are moving from other states because real estate isn’t available there. It isn’t available here either—but [if] they find it, it’s a lot cheaper. People move because they aren’t happy in their state—and Texas is business friendly.

Next, people don’t want to live in apartments anymore. Homes have more intrinsic value than ever before—having to stay home has shown that.

Do you have tips for people looking to sell their homes right now?

Price it as close as you can to a hard number. Most homes are selling above list price, and you want to make the home as easy to find as possible by pricing it at $450,000 instead of $460,000. The way search engines are set up—multiples of 50 and 100 matter. Price your home on a hard number. If your Realtor advises you to price at $399,000—fire them.

Veronica Solomon

Solomon has been featured on more than 10 nationally recognized design brands, including HGTV and Southern Living.

What should homeowners consider when they think about designing their homes?

The first thing is to figure out their needs and the scope of work. Many times, clients have a lot to do but they may not be able to do it all at once—then, they do not know where to begin. They should make a wish list and prioritize.

The next thing they should do is consult with a designer. These days, [clients] do not necessarily have to hire a designer for full service or for a huge project. Designers are happy to just do consultations to help put a client on the right path and guide them through the decision-making process.

How should homeowners go about selecting a designer?

They should make sure they like the designer’s work. They can start by looking online. Instagram, Pinterest and Houzz are good sources.

Once they identify designers they like, they should explore their websites. Designers are very transparent about how we work. They will find that a lot of designers have those things on their websites. It will be a long-term relationship with this person—so [clients should] be sure their personalities mesh and the designer is knowledgeable and able to deliver what they want.

What are some simple changes someone can make to add to the value of their home?

Painting is a huge way to just add some freshness and make everything look newer. That is simple, not [super] expensive. Then, [organize] your space and [get] rid of things that do not show the home in its best light. Go through pantries and closets. Take the time to scale back.

Figure out a good way to lay out your furniture. Proper traffic patterns, showing the square footage of the home, are important. They do not want furniture that is too small or large for the space—they just want something that will make the space look bigger. When someone is going to sell a home, arranging furniture is a key thing to do.

What decor items can help the most in making a room look finished?

Artwork on the walls and filling bookcases with books. I will see people put a whole bunch of accessories on bookcases. Books should be a part of a bookcase—as the name implies. It looks warmer and homier—and pillows are wonderful. I like them in asymmetrical ways—such as two on one side and one on the other. Then, I suggest putting something on the tabletops. I usually do a nice arrangement on a tray—that way, the tray can be picked up and moved if space is needed.