A bit of a twist for this week’s topic… When I was in my teens, I was given one of the best bits of advice from Mr. Pete Stanley, who was like a second father to me and the leading Realtor in the area for many years where I grew up. Pete ALWAYS looked his best and one day I commented on how he was always “dressed up.” I remember his words and expression today as clear today as I did then. He said, “you just never know when you have to make a good impression.” I just had that very instance happen again yesterday and I was ready. The result was new business. It’s more than just making a good impression – it’s how I best represent my clients. Thanks again Pete – you’re legacy continues.
To help property owners get the best selling price they can — without burying themselves in expenses — U.S. News has created a list of 10 cheap ways to boost your home’s sales price by spring:
1. Retouch the front shell: If your property’s exterior isn’t appealing, no one will want to see your newly remodeled kitchen. Property sellers must first ensure that their home projects a cozy, inviting feeling.
The shell — the outside front — is probably the most important area for improvement, the area where you can make the biggest improvement with the smallest amount of cash.
Touching up the paint on the front-entry portion of the house can be an inexpensive but effective way to make the entire property more inviting. Really focus on that outside, external shell, You would be amazed by the amount of people that drive by a house and say, ‘Ah, that’s not for me.’ And they can tell just by the way the upkeep and the outside looks.”
2. Trim the greenery: Ensuring that the lawn, hedges and flowers are well-maintained helps make your home more alluring to prospective buyers. Property owners can hire professional landscapers or break out the lawn mower and get busy themselves.
Many people have landscaping that is overgrown and too heavy, and it is concealing a lot of the house, Trim the trees, trim the hedges … (and) add a little color to the flower beds.
3. Paint the interior: Putting a fresh coat of paint on the home’s interior is a cost-effective way to make a home more appealing to buyers. When choosing the color, homeowners should be conservative. The caution is that your favorite color may not be the favorite color of the buyer. Instead, homeowners are best off using neutral colors. Go with something that is a very light yellow or a light cream with a contrasting white, so it just looks very fresh and crisp. … Having the paint in good condition is almost more important than the color.
4. Don’t forget the floors: Improving the condition of a home’s flooring is also a smart move for sellers — and you don’t need to refinish wood floors or install new carpets to make them more attractive.
5. Make all major repairs: Because tighter lending standards demand higher down payments, today’s homebuyers won’t have much cash left for improvements once they’ve made their purchase. So it’s imperative for sellers to make all major home repairs — fixing the leaky roof, rebuilding the front stoop — before they put the property on the market.
To determine what needs to be done, property owners can scrutinize their homes themselves or bring in a home inspector to examine the property professionally.
The home inspection piece, is something that is a huge value, particularly if there is something that is a question.
6. Put appliances under warranty: To give buyers more confidence in a home’s appliances, we recommend that sellers put them under warranty. Sellers can buy home warranties, which cover repair and replacement costs for many home appliances, from several different companies.
If I have got a 40- or 50-year-old house, it is going to be harder for me to persuade a first-time home buyer with a limited amount of cash to buy it because they will say, ‘Well, what happens if something breaks down?’ If I have a home warranty … that solves that problem.
7. Make energy-efficient home improvements: Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is another good way to make your property more attractive to buyers. Some improvements, such as adding solar panels, still come with federal tax benefits. In addition, a growing awareness of human impact on the environment means that homes that have these upgrades will stand out from other homes.
If you have some cruddy old windows that are leaky and just not energy efficient, you can put in new replacement windows and take advantage of the tax credit. Those are really practical things that make your house more sellable. Many contractors will conduct a so-called energy audit free of charge to determine where efficiencies can be created. If your house is more energy efficient — you use less energy, it’s better insulated — it is going to be more desirable for a potential buyer.
8. New light fixtures: Replacing old or broken light fixtures with new ones can also be a low-cost way to add value. Installing a new light fixture in the foyer can be a particular benefit, because it can make a strong first impression on would-be buyers. Creating an inviting feeling in the interior entryway helps get home shoppers more interested in checking out the rest of the property. I can update those features so that somebody can walk in and say, ‘You know what? (The homeowners) took care of this.'”
9. New stove: While some homeowners might think the only way to jazz up a dated kitchen is a full-on remodeling job, we recommend a much less costly alternative: buying a new stove. “If there is an updated stove in the kitchen, it is amazing how that draws people in, and people say, ‘Wow, this kitchen is going to be great. While upscale homeowners may have to shell out for top-of-the-line appliances to maintain their kitchen’s décor, others can budget well under $1,000 for the upgrade. You can get a really nice stove for $700 or $800, You can basically have the look of a new kitchen that is going to be really enticing to someone — and what you are really trying to do is differentiate your house from somebody else’s.
Property owners in neighborhoods where most homes have granite counter tops can consider making this upgrade as well. But Lupberger says the project makes sense only for homeowners with extremely dated kitchens that are going to serve as a serious impediment to finding a buyer. A real-estate agent with experience in the local market can help you determine whether the upgrade is essential.
10. Freshen up the bathrooms: Getting rid of mildew stains on the bathroom caulking can boost a home’s appeal as well. Such stains “scream, ‘These people haven’t taken care of this house. It’s going to be a money pit.
Want to sell your home quickly and for top dollar? Staging can help. Staging is presenting your home in its best and most appealing light to the majority of home-buyers.
In theory, staging isn’t hard or costly, but in reality, many homeowners find it difficult because it’s often hard to see something objectively when we love it.
An easy way to see effectively staged homes is to visit decorated models. Decorating a model is expensive, but builders are willing to invest the cost because they understand just how well a staged home sells.
Basic Staging Rules
#2 – Fix. Got a dripping faucet or a cracked tile? These will send the wrong message to potential buyers. Getting them fixed before you put your house on the market is a smart idea.
#3 – Eliminate Clutter. The “50% Rule” requires that you eliminate the clutter in your home by at least half. This may be the hardest rule of all! We love our clutter — it reflects our memories, hobbies, and values. But it doesn’t sell homes! Clutter makes homes seem smaller and disorganized. (Have you ever noticed that the really expensive stores seem to have an expansive, clutter-free layout, while “cheap” stores are often a jumble of merchandise?) Even the ancient practice of Feng Shui has as a central focus the elimination of clutter.
#4 – Executive Neutral. Neutral colors sell. It’s a fact. Try to convey an image of quality and neutrality. Potential buyers walking through your home want to imagine themselves as the owners. Staying high-quality, but neutral is safest.
#5 – De-personalize. Remove objects that your potential buyers won’t be able to identify with. For example, political and religious items may turn off whole groups of buyers, because they cannot “imagine” your home as their home. Buying a home is an emotional decision, and you want potential buyers to make an emotional connection with your home by being able to “see” themselves in it.
“Curb appeal.” They say you can only make one “first impression,” and people usually form their first impression within 30 seconds. What potential buyers see when they drive up to your house will be their first impression. This is a good place to spend a little extra time and money. Plant flowers, trim bushes, weed, pick up leaves, repaint your front door, replace tarnished house numbers or a dented mailbox, get a brand-new neutral doormat, park your old car somewhere else.
The entrance. The first glimpse inside your home should give potential buyers positive, uplifting feelings. Make your entryway as light and bright as possible. Leave all the lights in the house on. (Have you noticed that model homes do this?) Get rid of all area rugs. (Even authentic, high-quality carpets should normally be removed since they break up the expanse of floor space, making rooms look smaller.) Limit your cooking to very plain foods so odors don’t linger. (No cabbage, garlic, or onions!) On the other hand, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie smells are just fine! They evoke a homey feeling for almost everyone.
Kitchen. Kitchens sell homes, so the importance of making your kitchen appealing can’t be underestimated. Clean and de-clutter! Anything taking up counter or floor space must go (the only exception would be the types of designer touches seen in model homes). Anything displayed on the refrigerator must go. If your cabinets are old, consider resurfacing them. If your counter knobs are old or out-of-date, replacing them can be a relatively inexpensive “facelift.” If your cabinets are wood, get a wood tone touchup stick from your home supply store and fill in any nicks and scratches. Shelves and pantries must appear orderly and very spacious. Potential buyers will be turned off by kitchens that seem to have inadequate storage space. Put those extra items in your newly rented storage unit or give them away!
Bathrooms. Again, clean and de-clutter! You absolutely must get rid of any mildew/mold. If you have a glass shower door, squeegee it after every shower. A mold-and-mildew remover and a soap scum remover can work wonders. Glass cleaning products do a good job of cleaning windows and mirrors (but be careful if you have brass fixtures since ammonia will cause these to pit). Do not display any personal toiletry items! Remove all deodorant, mouthwash, electric toothbrushes, etc. and put them in your cabinet. (Model homes never, ever display such items!) Pick up all bath mats and rugs. Keep your soap dishes pristine. If you have bars of hand soap, they should look new. Get a new set of high-quality, neutral, fluffy towels and display them. (Model homes always do this!)
Rest of the House. Clean, repair, de-clutter, and de-personalize! You’re going for that Executive but neutral look, since almost everyone can “see themselves” in a home like that.
Once you accept the challenge that you’re turning your home into a “model home” to sell at top dollar and in record time, you’ve won half the battle. You’ll be well rewarded for your efforts!
Tips for buying a house
The top 10 things you need to know when buying a home.
1. Don’t buy if you can’t stay put.
If you can’t commit to remaining in one place for at least a few years, then owning is probably not for you, at least not yet. With the transaction costs of buying and selling a home, you may end up losing money if you sell any sooner – even in a rising market. When prices are falling, it’s an even worse proposition.
2. Start by shoring up your credit.
Since you most likely will need to get a mortgage to buy a house, you must make sure your credit history is as clean as possible. A few months before you start house hunting, get copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you discover.
3. Aim for a home you can really afford.
The rule of thumb is that you can buy housing that runs about two-and-one-half times your annual salary. But you’ll do better to use one of many calculators available online to get a better handle on how your income, debts, and expenses affect what you can afford.
4. If you can’t put down the usual 20 percent, you may still qualify for a loan.
There are a variety of public and private lenders who, if you qualify, offer low-interest mortgages that require a small down payment.
5. Buy in a district with good schools.
In most areas, this advice applies even if you don’t have school-age children. Reason: When it comes time to sell, you’ll learn that strong school districts are a top priority for many home buyers, thus helping to boost property values.
6. Get professional help.
Even though the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings, most new buyers (and many more experienced ones) are better off using a professional agent. Look for an exclusive buyer agent, if possible, who will have your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process.
7. Choose carefully between points and rate.
When picking a mortgage, you usually have the option of paying additional points — a portion of the interest that you pay at closing — in exchange for a lower interest rate. If you stay in the house for a long time — say three to five years or more — it’s usually a better deal to take the points. The lower interest rate will save you more in the long run.
8. Before house hunting, get pre-approved.
Getting pre-approved will you save yourself the grief of looking at houses you can’t afford and put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house. Not to be confused with pre-qualification, which is based on a cursory review of your finances, pre-approval from a lender is based on your actual income, debt and credit history.
9. Do your homework before bidding.
Your opening bid should be based on the sales trend of similar homes in the neighborhood. So before making it, consider sales of similar homes in the last three months. If homes have recently sold at 5 percent less than the asking price, you should make a bid that’s about eight to 10 percent lower than what the seller is asking.
10. Hire a home inspector.
Sure, your lender will require a home appraisal anyway. But that’s just the bank’s way of determining whether the house is worth the price you’ve agreed to pay. Separately, you should hire your own home inspector, preferably an engineer with experience in doing home surveys in the area where you are buying. His or her job will be to point out potential problems that could require costly repairs down the road.
Top 10 Tips for Selling Your Home During the Holidays
Attract homebuyers even during the holidays with these useful tips!
The holiday season from November through January is often considered the worst time to put a home on the market. While the thought of selling your home during the winter months may dampen your holiday spirit, the season does have its advantages: holiday buyers tend to be more serious and competition is less fierce with fewer homes being actively marketed. First, decide if you really need to sell. Really. Once you’ve committed to the challenge, don your gay apparel and follow these tips from FrontDoor.
•Deck the halls, but don’t go overboard.
Homes often look their best during the holidays, but sellers should be careful not to overdo it on the decor. Adornments that are too large or too many can crowd your home and distract buyers. Also, avoid offending buyers by opting for general fall and winter decorations rather than items with religious themes.
•Hire a reliable real estate agent.
That means someone who will work hard for you and won’t disappear during Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s. Ask your friends and family if they can recommend a listing agent who will go above and beyond to get your home sold. This will ease your stress and give you more time to enjoy the season.
•Seek out motivated buyers.
Anyone house hunting during the holidays must have a good reason for doing so. Work with your agent to target buyers on a deadline, including people relocating for jobs in your area, investors on tax deadlines, college students and staff, and military personnel, if you live near a military base.
•Price it to sell.
No matter what time of year, a home that’s priced low for the market will make buyers feel merry. Rather than gradually making small price reductions, many real estate agents advise sellers to slash their prices before putting a home on the market.
•Make curb appeal a top priority.
When autumn rolls around and the trees start to lose their leaves, maintaining the exterior of your home becomes even more important. Bare trees equal a more exposed home, so touch up the paint, clean the gutters and spruce up the yard. Keep buyers’ safety in mind as well by making sure stairs and walkways are free of snow, ice and leaves.
•Take top-notch real estate photos.
When the weather outside is frightful, homebuyers are likely to start their house hunt from the comfort of their homes by browsing listings on the Internet. Make a good first impression by offering lots of flattering, high-quality photos of your home. If possible, have a summer or spring photo of your home available so buyers can see how it looks year-round.
•Create a video tour for the Web.
You’ll get less foot traffic during the holidays thanks to inclement weather and vacation plans. But shooting a video tour and posting it on the Web may attract house hunters who don’t have time to physically see your home or would rather not drive in a snowstorm.
•Give house hunters a place to escape from the cold.
Make your home feel cozy and inviting during showings by cranking up the heat, playing soft classical music and offering homemade holiday treats. When you encourage buyers to spend more time in your home, you also give them more time to admire its best features.
•Offer holiday cheer in the form of financing.
Bah, humbug! Lenders are scrooges these days, but if you’ve got the means, then why not offer a home loan to a serious buyer? You could get a good rate of return on your money.
•Relax — the new year is just around the corner.
The holidays are stressful enough with gifts to buy, dinners to prepare and relatives to entertain. Take a moment to remind yourself that if you don’t sell now, there’s always next year, which, luckily, is only a few days away.