How hot is color? Put it another way–what colors are people using in their homes, what colors are helping sellers sell and buyers buy?     Time was when Realtors advised homeowners to use neutral colors in their homes: Keep things light, bright and white. That way, potential buyers could see for themselves the possibilities the home offered.

Then, along came Doug, Hildie, Frank, and the rest of the crew from TLC’s “Trading Spaces.” They boldly went where few had dared to go. Walls and entire rooms got bold and audacious treatments, with chocolate, blue, even deep, dark reds.

Of course, that wasn’t the first time that colors had been in the forefront. Remember the 80’s, when rose, gray and teal perked things up? More recently, shades of yellow and especially orange have found their way into the kitchen.

So the question remains: What to do today? Don Toffolo, a Realtor with Pat O’Brien Associates in Boyne City, says he believes it is still in the seller’s best interests to keep things light, airy and neutral. “We think dark and bold are on their way out,” he said.

Not so fast. Interior designers by their nature tend to be a little more adventurous, and Kristi Brubaker of Brubaker Designs in Empire still advocates for a more colorful home. “I love color. I think people aren’t as fearful of color,” she said.“It makes me happy, and when I walk into a home where they’ve used color it gives you the feel of people who are happy.”Perhaps best of all, as Brubaker notes, “It can always be changed.”

It’s always difficult to know how things are really trending when you are in the middle of it, and if we could predict the future we would all be rich.

That said, how are things looking for real estate sales these days? For some, things are already looking up. But there are still storm clouds on the horizon.

At Pat O’Brien and Associates in Boyne City, the first half of the year was down substantially, as much as 40% off. But the third quarter has been better, with sales recently returning to what might be deemed a more normal status.

But while sales are up, prices are still greatly depressed. “All of us are confronted with foreclosure and short sales and it has taken the fun out of this real estate business,” said sales associate Don Toffolo. “Sales may be up now but prices are down and many sellers are unwilling to accept the loss of equity, in many cases as deep as 50%.”

The hit is not as great on homes priced under $200,000, but it is quite drastic on higher-priced properties. Among higher-end homes, lakefront properties seem to be holding their value better. People who built non-waterfront homes in the $300,000 to $900,000 range over the past 10 years as retirement homes or investments are now finding it very difficult to sell at their pre-conceived 2005-2006 prices.

Are things looking up down the road? Depends on who you talk to, but one speaker at a real estate conference in Traverse City last week, Steve Harney, painted a rather bleak picture for Michigan, Florida, Nevada, Arizona and California. His statistics showed that next year will not be any better, and in fact we will see more foreclosures, especially in the higher priced properties. His projection was bleak until 2013, and he said that we would not return to the pricing of the peak years (2004-2006) until 2023.

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