Christmas is a Great Time to Buy a Home!

Selling or buying a home in winter poses unique challenges — and real estate opportunities.

Seasonal swings in home prices and number of homes on the market happen in many cold climates, including Northern Nevada. Trees lose leaves, lawns turn brown. Hopefully, there’s snow on the ground. Sellers fret that buyers can’t see and appreciate the lovely landscaping they worked so hard on. Buyers must use their imaginations or rely on photos to understand the summer beauty of a home on the market in mid-winter.

Yet people buy and sell homes all year long. Families grow, promotions or new jobs require people to move, and many other life-changing events  prompt people to list a property for sale in winter.

Whether buying or selling a home, use these tips to get the most out of this real estate season!

Are you a  Buyer? 

Fact: There are fewer homes on the market from December – Marc2525 Rio Alayne Ct Sparks NV-print-006-1-11-2500x1668-300dpih, so buyers have fewer homes to tour and from which to select. BUT those homes that are available are there for a reason — their sellers are motivated! In many cases, price points may be less than homes that get listed in spring.

Fact: In many markets, prices frequently jump in the Spring and early summer, then level out or even retreat for the rest of the year. In winter, some sellers are more willing to negotiate, if not on price, on other points. Buyers who wait until spring to start looking, may miss the boat. If prices jump again, but a buyer’s budget doesn’t, then they may have to buy less house.

Fewer buyers = better chance at getting a great property at a better price.

Timing: The weeks before and after Christmas are great times to make an offer on a house!

The reason: Many agents and many buyers take the holidays off. Less competition may mean a better deal for those in the hunt for a great home.

Are You a Seller?

Homes for sale in mid-winter fchristmas-front-doorace the challenge of fewer buyers. Make the most of what your home has to offer with these tips:

• Turn the lights on! Outside  may be blustery, cold and dreary, so make the house you’re trying to sell warm and inviting.

Home buying is emotional.  Create a comfortable environment for buyers. Add lights to dark corners, Consider installing recessed lights in dark hallways. Add lamps on a timer. Both are fairly inexpensive, yet very effective tactics to make your home sparkle on a dark day.

• Keep the heat on! No one likes a cold house. Many modern thermostats have timers for night and day. Use one, especially in a vacant house. Set the daytime temperature at about 68 degrees.  If a home is barely warmer inside than it is out, clients just won’t stay very long. Don’t lose a sale over a few dollars for heat.ornament 2013

• Consider professional staging. Smart designers can re-purpose or re-arrange your furniture to give it a better flow for touring. Decorate — but not too much. Pack up your personal items — photos, toys, games, “stuff” you are moving anyway. Look at model homes — which maximize a room’s features by strategically placing a minimum amount of furniture. Just enough to give an idea.

Odd fact: empty rooms look smaller than furnished rooms. Again, play into the emotion of buying a home. You want a buyer to pick your property over all other options. Focus on staging the master bedroom and the rooms you spent the most time using and enjoying. Kitchens: Only one item on the counters, and perhaps a small breakfast table staged with coffee cups hint at cozy conversations.

• Show the summer scene with photos!  An album, 8×10 display stands clearly show buyers how much shade the now-barren trees provide your yard. Colorful fruit trees? Glorious roses? Share photos of how lovely your garden will be in just a few months.

dollar sign artReno Market Insights: Inventory is still low. Is buying new construction the answer? Maybe not. Developers used to price homes below existing homes in Northern Nevada. Not no much today — especially when factoring in lot premiums, nearly mandatory “upgrades” plus the hidden costs of window coverings, landscaping and customized paint. Buyers who think they really want brand new, may  find their dollars go farther in “used” home — especially before the traditional spring price hike hits.

So from today through January ‘Tis the Season to, perhaps find a great deal! 

For more information, call/text 775-762-7576 or send an email to

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor with Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada. 


Interest Rate Jump Hurts Home Buyers

Since the election, mortgage interest rates jumped 1/2 percent, according to a briefing this morning from one of our mortgage partners.

“Interest rates should increase gradually during the next four years under a Donald Trump administration, which could dampen growth in the housing industry, economists and housing experts predict,” according to The Street, an online economic blog.

It’s already happening. Rates offered to borrowers with excellent credit jumped to 4.25 percent for  30-year fixed-rate loan. That’s a real shock to consumers used to rates starting in the 3-percent range. The new numbers are low by historical standards — yet psychologically, it hurts.


It also cuts into consumers’ buying power. The lender I spoke with explained that a half percent adds about $44 per month to the payment on a $200,000 loan.

That may not sound exorbitant. Over time it adds up. And, it cuts buying power for many clients. Depending on their income and credit rating, every incremental increase in mortgage interest rates means they can afford less house.

Various economic websites are using “skyrocketing” “relentless move upwards” when talking about recent spikes in interest rates. Will rates continue to rise? I have no crystal ball. In one weekly report, 50% of economists said “yes” If that happens, buyers will afford less house.

25 Back 4 10611 Buckhorn Ridge Ct. High Res (36 of 59) Back

10611 Buckhorn Ridge, Truckee, NV $2,999,000

How does that impact buyers? Higher interest rates mean higher monthly payments and it will take a higher income to qualify for the amount a consumer could get last week.

How does it impact sellers? By shrinking the buyer pool. Will it hurt list prices for homes?  Not immediately. Logically a sustained increase in mortgage rates has to effect sellers.

  • Will it spur buyers to lock in a rate before they climb even higher?
  • Will it price buyers out of the market?
  • Will sellers have to lower the property price? Will they negotiate more?

What do you think? Let me know!

Holly O’Driscoll, Chase International Real Estate, Reno, Nevada. Call/text: 775-762-7576



Remodel vs Flip – Details Count


Remodel vs. Flips — understanding the difference matters in a long-term home investment.

Reality: Most home buyers want a home that’s “move in ready.” Investors, listing agents and savvy sellers know homes that show well sell faster and for more money.

Opportunity: No home is perfect. Those in need of updating or sold “as is” may offer buyers the opportunity to save significant money, if they’re willing to invest their time and elbow grease.


Challenge: Some “flipped” homes consist of little more than “slapping lipstick on a pig” and jacking the price. Examples include cleaning, painting and re-carpeting. If that’s all a home needs, then great … it’s a win-win. Some homes need much more and cosmetic fixes merely put a veneer on a sub-par property.

In older neighborhoods, buyers may want to search for a home that’s been “renovated” which, for today’s article means, its had extensive work done to professional standards. Quality counts. Google home renovations to read expert advice and data regarding projects that payoff, and those that don’t.lwk_3554

Location matters. The seller of one of my listings in Reno decided to buy and renovate a 1970s-era five-bedroom property zoned for some of the city’s most established schools. She intended to live there for years, then sell. She did a huge renovation. Professionals replaced the roof, furnace, a/c, water heater and updated the electrical. Inside, professionals installed new hardwood floors, gutted and remodeled kitchen, remodeled all the bathrooms, painted, updated light fixtures and more. Overall, more than $200,000 in updates brought this old home into the 21st century. The home shines.


2985 Rustic Manor Circle, Reno, NV 89509: Five bedrooms, 3 baths, 3,070 total square feet. Price: $600,000

The cost: At $600,000, this home’s features and amenities now compare favorably to many newer homes in the same zip code — plus it has RV parking and the advantage of not being in an HOA.

Whomever buys this home will have the best of both worlds — a quality-renovation of a home with character set in an older neighborhood near popular schools. The list of upgrades completed by licensed professionals makes it it so much more than a flip. If this appeals to you, contact me for a private showing!

Interested in learning more about this home or about real estate in Reno? I can help. Contact me! Email: Office phone: 775-850-5900.

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor at Chase International Real Estate in Reno, NV.

Real Estate Makes People Crazy!


My listing in South Reno recently sold for $269,500. This 1,738 sq/ft, 2-bedroom + loft condo has a 2-car garage. It was in contract 3 days after listing.

Rational, intelligent people become unreasonable, inflexible deal-killers when buying or selling a home. Why? Because money is emotional, and these days, real estate involves a LOT of money.

In northern Nevada, $250,000 (a quarter of a million dollars!) or less doesn’t buy much: most likely a tiny, older home, a manufactured property or perhaps a condo. Homes $250,000 – $300,000 buys a bit more. Most homes are higher. In many California cities, that wouldn’t buy a thing.  

Add to that the fact that even the most straightforward transactions usually have at least one “bump” in the road, and people panic.  The size of the investment dwarfs nearly any other transaction. It’s scary. I’ve had clients threaten to walk away from a $400,000 home over $150 in repairs. 

Realtors earn their commissions — at least I do! My services includes massive orchestration to transfer a home from seller to buyer. I manage 20 or more people per transaction: My client, the other client’s agent, the lender, the title company, the appraiser, various inspectors, the office people, and the repair people. Emotional support, mediation, discretion all play rolls.

Every transaction includes a learning opportunity — digging through county assessor records to discover when an easement was put in place, helping out of state buyers find good repair/remodel contractors, the list goes on and on.  

Experience matters. Service matters. Commitment matters. That’s what to look for in a Realtor!  Call/text me with real estate questiHolly O'Driscoll_AA_260x300 (1)ons! 

Holly O’Driscoll
Chase International Real Estate
Reno, Nevada


Disappointment at Napa Sonoma South

Saturday’s breakfast date had so much potential at Napa Sonoma South in Reno. If only … 20160521_092330[1]

  • Spacious dining area tastefully decorated
  • Cloth napkins wrapped the silverware.
  • Varied menu
  • High expectations based on reputation and experience at the flagship location

We entered the dark wood and brick store just after 9 a.m. A sign invited us to seat ourselves. Three parties occupied the dining room: A group of six (including two small children) and two couples.  We sat at a table near the brick wall.

And waited. After a while, I turned the stop watch function on my stop watch. Three more minutes passed.

An elderly couple with  a golden retriever came in and sat at a table near us. A server appeared — and offered them water and coffee.  Then noticed us and asked the busboy to offer us water/coffee. He brought coffee, but not water. The server was annoyed.

Menus arrived. We made our selections. The food arrived in a reasonable time frame.

Buttermilk pancakes by definition are bland. My companion said his were light, fluffy and unremarkable.

My Veggie Eggs Benedict looked great, with Hollandaise sauce draped nicely over the dish.

As I took my first bite, the phrase “if only” popped into my head. The Hollandaise sauce had a lovely flavor — but, sadly, was barely lukewarm. Perhaps the cold china plate cooled it off on the way from the kitchen. Perhaps the refrigerator-cold tomatoes and cold, crunchy onions that chilled the eggs and sauce. The avocado chunks were fresh and properly ripe.

Several other parties arrived for a late breakfast, and more wait staff appeared offering coffee refills every few minutes. No one asked if we needed or wanted anything. As I munched on fruit, a bus person reached across me to grab my empty plate.

The server quickly gave us our bill, didn’t thank us, didn’t invite us back.

Perhaps that’s a sign. So much potential. Such poor execution.

Have you eaten at Napa Sonoma South? Did you have a better experience? Tell me about it.

What’s Spring w/o Snow on the Daffodils?

By Holly O’Driscoll

Snow on Cherry Blossom

Spring snow! 

Spring has sprung in the Sierra. Cherry trees, flowering Plums bursting with color. Daffodils emerge from their long rest. Temperatures in the mid 60s. Lovely spring weather.

Which means this morning’s snowfall (12-inches and counting at
my house), was both
inevitable and welcome.  It’s March 28 Snowstill March!  Reno gets the
occasional snow storm in April, sometimes in May … and, every few years, a few flakes fly in June.

So, kuduos to those of us who still have snow tires on, who have both ski gear and bikes in the garage!


Favorite Spring Snow memories or photos? Please share!

Serene Mountain Retreat — New Listing! Price: $3.295M

25 Back 4 10611 Buckhorn Ridge Ct. High Res (36 of 59) BackRelaxed sophistication and timeless craftsmanship fill this 5 bedroom, 5.5 bath mountain retreat in Truckee, CA. Set on 8 level acres in a gated enclave, the 10,040 square-foot home is just 30 minutes from Reno Tahoe International Airport and an easy drive from San Francisco. Close to skiing, hiking and all outdoor sports, the property has private corporate retreat potential.

The price: $3,295,000.

Quality craftsmanship details include artisan-created hand-forged iron work, intricate masonry and stonework designs. Master woodworkers installed Douglas fir beams, floors and hand-oiled cabinetr2. Living room 10611Buckhorn2Int10 Living Roomy.

The recent $1 million-plus in renovation created:

  • Stunning formal living room and separate formal dining room with a
    massive two-sided fireplace
  • Game and billiards room with a full wet bar14. Master 10611Buckhorn2Int18Master Bedroom Fireplace
  • 2 offices
  • Quilting room (conference room/office potential)
  • Home theater/media room
  • Sunroom/lounge
  • 2 curved staircases
  • Master suite with 2-sided fireplace and spa-quality bath16 Master 10611Buckhorn2Int16 Master Bath
  • 4 bedrooms with lofts and walk in closets
  • Spectacular kitchen w/top-grade appliances, breakfast bar, wood-fired pizza oven, separate prep/catering kitchen with private entrance.

Outside, the flagstone patio has a stone fireplace, outdoor kitchen, bar seating, and a hot tub with spectacular mountain views that stretch for miles.

To see this property, contact me directly. Text/phone: 775-762-7576. Email:

See virtual tour for more photos. 

Real Estate Renovations – Done Right!

2525 Rio Alayne Ct Sparks NV-print-006-1-11-2500x1668-300dpiMany of my clients start their house hunt saying they’re interested in a “fixer upper.”  Turns out, “fixer upper” to many people actually means maybe they’d consider painting. Most people truly want move-in ready, without even minor fixes.

For those who have the skills to renovate — or are willing to learn — renovation can pay off when going to sell. Again, though, clients often like the idea conceptually, but really don’t have the time or skills to renovate in a profitable way.

Smart renovators know their skill limits and are willing to hire professionals to tackle certain jobs.

In the photo above, the fireplace used to be off center, with no surrounds and the floors were carpeted. Renovations included centering the fireplace, adding the stone surrounds and a mantle. Plus, new wide-plank wood laminate floors, recessed lighting and all new paint.

This is the family room at 2525 Rio Alayne Court, Sparks, Nevada. This 5 bedroom/3-bath 2,852-square-foot home went on the MLS on Dec. 22, 2015. It is available as I write. If you would like to see it … call soon! Price: $409,900.

What do you think of the upgrades to this home? What would you do differently? Let me know!

Top “Must Do” Chore for New Homeowners

Change Your Locks

Once you get the keys to your new home … one of the most important things to do is to Get Rid of Them!

Seriously, whether buying a new or resale home — top on your list of “must-do” chores BEFORE moving one piece of furniture in is to Change all locks! Even on a new subdivision house.

Here’s why: Who knows how many people have keys to the property?  The former owners, a property management company, builders, workers, cleaning people, the ex boyfriend/girlfriend of three previous owners?

How to do it:  Replace the entire lock — or “rekey” the existing lock.

  1. Most expensive: Replacing the whole lock, whether you do it yourself or hire a locksmith.  Hiring a locksmith may be the easiest, and most efficient way for buyers who don’t have time, interest or basic skills for a Do It Yourself projects. Yet, it is not crazy complicated to replace a lock. I’ve done it. Individual front door locks cost from $15 – $50. Fancy electronic/keypad locks cost more. Package directions and YouTube videos help! DIY replacement of four doors locks (typical for a home): less than $200. Locksmith’s charge for their time and expertise as well.
  2. Cheapest: Rekey the lock instead of replacing it. This job falls into the “it’s possible” to DIY — with help from YouTube, the hardware store expert and package directions. Generally it involves changing the cylinder part of the lock. Cost: Usually less than $50 for materials for four. A locksmith will also charge for time and expertise.

The important tip here: Change the locks! It’s a basic safety/security “must do” activity for any homeowner.Door lock

What’s on your “to do” list?  Leave a comment or email me.

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor(R) with Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada

Selling (or Buying) a Home Just Got More Complex

WCityscape taken from TMCC. Photo by Sandy Goff.hat’s your home worth? That’s a math — and market — question.  In a market that’s changing as fast as it is in Reno, just pulling up sales from the last six months won’t provide an accurate answer.

The real answer to “What is my house worth” is: The price a buyer is willing to pay. BUT with an important caveat: If the buyer needs a loan to purchase your home, the lender has to agree.  Lenders require a professional appraisal of value before funding a loan.

That adds a complex layer to nearly every home sale.  Realtors® use lots of data to analyze nearby homes — ones that have closed escrow, those pending sales and active listings to provide information to sellers and buyers.  This gives a general idea of what buyers might pay for a certain home.

You can take a look at what homes are for sale in your neighborhood at my new Chase International website.  Then contact me if you have questions about buying a property — or finding out what your home might sell for in today’s market.

As always, call or text me at 775-762-7576 or email me at