Don’t Scare Your Home’s Buyers

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No matter how gorgeous your home is, it still could contain an item or two that happens to scare the pants off anyone who walks through your door. That might not be a problem if you don’t like guests, but it could be a huge problem if you’re trying to sell your place. It doesn’t take much to scare off home buyers—with so much on the line, even the smallest detail can give them a shiver or icky feeling they can’t shake. To make 100 percent sure your home-selling efforts aren’t getting tripped up on some freaky feature you overlooked, Realtor.com offers this checklist of items that can make house hunters get out…quickly.
1. Too many locks
An excessive number of door locks might prompt someone to wonder what the danger is? Thieves? Stalkers? SWAT teams? Granted, maybe you’re the “better-safe-than-sorry” type, but anything beyond two locks per door doesn’t generally sit well with buyers because they might think it’s unsafe.
2. Uncomfortable art
Perhaps you have an eclectic taste in art, and display “classy” nude photography with no shame. That’s great—but be aware that others might freak out over it. Sure, this stuff can be removed when you move out, but it might be too late—the psychological damage could already be done to the buyers who tour the home.
3. Taxidermy
While a single deer head on a wall might possibly fly in a den, stuffed dead animals generally creep people out. Only a fellow hunter or taxidermist will appreciate such décor in almost every room
4. Faulty or half-done repairs
Your house might be newly renovated, but if those upgrades weren’t done to code or lacked the proper permits, your buyers will beat a hasty retreat. Even worse are repairs that are not yet complete. Bottom line: Even if you are hoping to sell your home “as is,” make sure the house at least looks like it isn’t falling apart.
5. Unfriendly pets
No matter how much you love Fido or Fluffy, not everyone is comfortable around animals. Some might harbor bad childhood experiences with cats and dogs, or suffer from allergies and worry the effects might linger, even after your pets are gone. The best option is to board your pets with a friend or family member while your house is for sale—or at least get them out of the house whenever someone visits.
6. Dust and dirt
Don’t tell yourself that those cobwebs are just part of your Halloween décor. Your house has to be spotless to attract buyers. Whether it’s an oven that’s never been cleaned, a refrigerator with 6-month-old Chinese food or a laundry room piled high with dirty clothes, remember that people want to buy a home that looks shiny and new.
7. Mystery smells
“Mystery smells” or a vague scent of your beloved pets or mold are going to cast a pall over a home showing. That’s why many real estate agents bake cookies, which serve double duty as both an air freshener and a buyer-seducing snack. You also might want to try remedies such as air fresheners or candles, and sometimes you just need to replace carpet before placing your house on the market.
8. Hair-raising decor
An epidemic of outdated wallpaper and wood paneling. Garishly purple bedrooms. Popcorn ceilings. At one point in time, these fads were in vogue. However, buyers don’t like traveling in a time warp while house hunting; they also don’t relish burning loads of cash to bring the home into the present.
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HOW TO STAGE YOUR OUTDOOR SPACE TO SELL YOUR HOME QUICKER

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Everyone loves the idea of indoor-outdoor living. And when you’re selling a home, staging your outdoor space can be an important way to show off one of your home’s best features while attracting prospective buyers. Whether your property has a sweeping lawn or a small city balcony, Redfin suggests some ways you can help buyers envision themselves happily hosting an al fresco dinner party, passing breezy summer afternoons on the porch or sipping a glass of wine under the stars—making your home their own.

Outdoor Furniture 

Today’s homebuyers want to be able to use their patios, yards and porches like extensions of their living and dining rooms. Show them how it can be done in your home by arranging comfortable, clean-lined outdoor furniture in both lounge and dining settings on your home’s patio. Make an outdoor sofa or sectional the star of the lounge area, and add an outdoor coffee table and side tables to make the space look even more functional. Use an outdoor rug and a few planters or large lanterns to create room-like definition for the space. Outdoor rugs also work well under dining tables to add a sense of indoor comfort and texture, and a patio umbrella over the dining table gives the space a fun, festive look. For private showings and open houses, consider leaving a cold pitcher of lemonade and a covered plate of treats to tempt buyers to linger and take in the feel of the space.

If you’re working with a small space such as a balcony, use a bistro table and chairs to invite buyers to imagine sunny, intimate breakfasts outdoors or unwinding at the end of the day with a cocktail hour for two. A small woven rug or runner also can make the area feel more inviting and special. On a porch, a pair of low lounge chairs with cushions and brightly patterned pillows looks like the perfect spot for watching the world go by. And as with staging the interior of your home, consider placing simple bouquets of fresh flowers on tables for an extra bit of cheer.

Fire Pit, Grill and Lights 

If the home you’re selling doesn’t have a built-in fire pit, you can purchase a metal one, add some attractive logs and arrange a welcoming grouping of chairs around it on your patio. If you have a nice grill, shine it up and make it part of your outdoor staging so buyers can imagine themselves hosting a family cookout or holiday weekend barbecue. Consider hooking a new pair of tongs and an oven mitt on the side of the grill for a touch of realism. Year-round string lights have become a popular way to make outdoor spaces large and small look festive after sunset, and if you really want to play up your outdoor space as a selling point, consider hanging the lights and asking your photographer to come back and take a few photos at dusk, before it’s truly dark outside. As long as you’re at it, light a few candles on your tables.

Flowers and Landscaping

Flowers are a foolproof way to improve the look of your outdoor space. The goal should be lush and vibrant, not overgrown or out of control. If you have bare spots in your flower beds, ask an employee at your local garden center for easy-care blooms that will add color and interest for several months. To create a more welcoming vibe on your porch or patio, scatter some clean, neutral pots and planters of various heights filled with pretty but hardy plants.

Tidying Up 

It’s important to keep your outdoor space ship-shape throughout the selling process, from the day your listing photos are taken until the day you close on the sale. After all, you never know who’s driving by—or even if your first contract will make it to closing. Be sure the grass is neatly mowed and any weeds along the walkways or on the patio are kept in check. Trim the bushes, neatly store away hoses and add a layer of fresh mulch to your landscaping wherever it looks dried out or faded. Remove anything that adds clutter: old rain bins, plastic storage containers, toys. Rinse and sweep your porch, walkways and patio regularly, knock down cobwebs, check for errant pieces of litter and pick dead blooms off your flowers. If your doormats are looking a little worse for the wear, update with fresh ones.

How to Sell your Home FAST

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Need to sell your home in a hurry? By using these easy and inexpensive tips, Trulia.com says you can expect an offer in no time.

Get a storage unit

Anyone who tours your home is going to check out the storage spaces, which means that disorganized, overstuffed closets only serve as evidence that your home is lacking in that department. Opt instead for a storage unit to house the things you won’t need while your home is on the market. The general rule? Get rid of a third of your stuff. If you don’t use it every day, store it. This includes holiday decorations, baby gear, seasonal clothes and the bread maker you’ve never used. Bonus: If you choose a portable unit, it can be transported to your new home, making moving day a cinch.

Hire a professional to stage and photograph your home

A professional home stager sees your home from a buyer’s perspective—a good one understands how to highlight its strengths and soften its flaws. Your buyer’s first impression will be the listing photos, and studies show that homes with more than six listing photos online are twice as likely to be viewed by buyers. But not everyone wants their home staged (or has the money for it). Another option: Have a friend stand at the curb and walk through the house with fresh eyes to offer their perspective on decluttering, and then the agent can go through from a marketing standpoint.

Find the right real estate agent

Don’t hire a real estate agent just because they’re also a die-hard fan of your college football team or they’re from your hometown. What really matters? A track record of sales that proves they know how to sell your house fast. Are they familiar with the benefits (and negatives) of your neighborhood? Can they walk into your home and tell you precisely what buyers will love and hate? One way to be sure is to check the online client reviews and feedback on all of the agents you’re considering. You also should make sure your agent promotes their properties online. Make sure they hire a professional to take photos and includes a variety of photos on their site and social media.

Remove personalized items

Removing personal photographs or memorabilia will allow the prospective buyer to imagine themselves living in your house and make it easier to focus on the home’s highlighted features. In the same respect, don’t distract from the house itself with art, which could be unappealing to a buyer.

Make small upgrades

Don’t go overboard on major remodels. Chances are, you won’t get your money back. Instead, focus on small upgrades, particularly in the kitchen and bathroom, where you’re most likely to see a return on investment. A new sink and cabinet hardware in the kitchen, or light fixtures, shower curtains and hand towels in the bathroom, are inexpensive but can instantly transform your space. Rather than splurging $30,000 on a full kitchen remodel, get rid of your unmatched old appliances and spend $3,500 on a new stainless-steel appliance suite. Small upgrades can have a big impact.

Light it up

A dark or poorly lit home feels damp and depressing. Brighten it up by using natural and artificial light. Get the highest wattage light bulb for that light fixture, and it will instantly brighten up the room, and when you leave for showings, turn on the lights and open curtains and blinds. A fresh coat of paint also can brighten a room. A deep cleaning also will help brighten baseboards, windows, and light fixtures.

Amp up the curb appeal

Your home’s exterior is typically the first thing a buyer sees in person and on listing sites. If it doesn’t look good, a buyer won’t even consider looking at the interior shots. Tidy up your yard by trimming and shaping hedges, refreshing mulch and edging the lawn. Consider pressure-washing your house, walkways and driveway, or even adding a fresh coat of paint to your trim and shutters. Everything matters—even things as small as the brass on your front door. Polish the kick-plate and doorknob, and clean any cobwebs or bird droppings off your front porch. Flowers, particularly near the entryway, add a hint of color, making your home feel alive and inviting.

Sell at the right time

Spring and summer are typically known as the best time to sell your home. If you can wait until then to list, you should consider it. But be forewarned that increased inventory means spring and summer buyers can afford to be pickier—so make sure your home is in tip-top shape. You also need to price your house just right. Just because you want to sell for a certain amount doesn’t mean your home is worth your magic number. Do your own research about area comps, get listing price suggestions from a couple of agents and then listen to your agent when it comes to negotiating.

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Test Drive a Home Before an Offer

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While that newly renovated home looks great in photos, what’s really behind that real estate listing could be too good to be true. When it comes to assessing a potential new home, the savvy buyer knows to relentlessly sleuth for any hidden problems. Like you would at a car dealership, test drive your potential future home for important features that easily go unnoticed. Here, Trulia.com explains how to make like a crime-scene detective and put your potential home to the test—before you submit an offer.

1. See what the neighbors are like

Before you step foot into a potential new place, drive by a few times. What’s the foot traffic like in the neighborhood? Do the strolling neighbors look more like young professionals or married couples with children? How much noise do the neighbors make? (Sneak in a Saturday night visit to get the full taste.) If you drive to work, test your morning and evening commutes and time how long it takes you.

2. Head out on a walking tour

Once you’ve examined the place by vehicle, it’s time to repeat on foot. See how long it takes you to get to the nearest coffee shop or restaurant, and make sure you love the local cuisine or cup of joe. (A walkability score considers only quantity, not quality, of amenities.) Scope out the nearest public transportation stations while gauging the condition of sidewalks and public plantings—a well-manicured neighborhood usually suggests stronger civic engagement.

3. Test out the plumbing

Don’t get seduced by the stand-up shower with the exposed copper pipes and wraparound glass doors—try it out yourself. How hard is the pressure? How quickly does the water heat? Test the bathroom and kitchen sinks while you’re at it. Water pressure shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but low pressure could indicate a damaging leak and more water problems (and expenses) down the road.

4. Open the windows

Even if it’s chilly, open a few windows, especially in the room that may be your future master bedroom. This is a good way to check if any windows are stuck, but also an opportunity to listen. Can you hear a lot of traffic or neighborly noise? Do your windows seem to bring in a lot of cross breezes, or do neighboring buildings block the airflow? When the windows are closed, can you feel drafts around the edge of the frames? Windows are crucial for the look and feel of your home.

5. Inspect the home’s natural lighting

If the open house happens on a cloudy day, schedule a follow-up visit when the sun is shining. See how the natural light flows through each room, especially high-traffic areas. If a room seems especially dark, consider whether the paint color is causing the problem. On the same note, you’ll want to see how dark the bedrooms can get. Close all the shades in all the bedrooms and see if the light still filters through; you might want to throw room-darkening shades onto your shopping list.

6. Keep your ears open for any unwanted noise

This is a biggie—condo sounds, in particular, can drive homeowners insane. Make multiple visits to a unit to catch surrounding neighbors when they’re home and making noise. If there are multiple condos for sale in the building, bring a friend and walk around upstairs or in the adjacent unit to see how noise travels. And be sure to ask if children live in the building; the pitter-patter of little feet is far less charming to those who live below them.
Once you’ve assessed noise levels, you should determine how sound travels within the home. Turn on the dryer to hear how loud it is. March around in the guest bedroom to determine how thick the walls are. If you’ll need to invest in sound insulation and throw rugs, it’s better to know now.

7. Scope out storage space

Some sellers clear their homes of all clutter, but many don’t. Rather than turn up your nose at an overstuffed bedroom closet, take out the tape measure and record some dimensions. The space may be larger than it seems; you can also take those measurements home and plan out a closet scheme online to see how much stuff it can really handle.

8. Don’t forget your marbles

Are those newly stained hardwood floors level? Bring a marble to find out. Discreetly place the marble on the hardwood floors: Does it stay put or start rolling? If the slope is especially steep, there might be a structural problem at play, but even a slightly uneven floor can become a bargaining chip.

HOMES NEAR WHOLE FOODS MAY HAVE HIGHER HOME VALUES

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Everyone wants to retain a high home value, and location plays a key role. Although not many people would imagine living next to a specialty grocery store makes a difference, Zillow uncovered homes near Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have the highest values.
This phenomenon is linked to ” The Starbucks Effect.” During the time period of 1997 to 2014, homes situated a quarter-mile from a Starbucks Cafe increased in value by 96 percent. This was approximately 30 percent more than other locations. In major metropolitan areas, this makes a big difference. For instance, the largest increase occurred in Boston. Home values near Starbucks in this city were boosted 171 percent. Taking a look at the bigger picture, values were not dependent on coffee alone. It had much more to do with neighborhood modernization. When a new Starbucks chain is built, it gives developers the idea that the area is in an upward swing.
Since 2000, homes near specialty food stores had higher property values than other pieces of real estate. The trend was especially evident in 2014. By the end of this year, houses within one-mile of these retail outlets had a value doubling other areas.
There is a great lessen to be learned, especially if you are searching for a new place to live. Looking through listings near a specialty grocery store or Starbucks Cafes will almost guarantee a retained or increased home value. However, you should be careful not to spend all your savings on groceries or coffee.wpid-20110910_104935.jpg

GIVING THE GIFT OF REAL ESTATE? KEEP AN EYE ON TAX RULES

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Instead of wasting money on Christmas presents no one uses, you may consider giving the gift of real estate. Although it may seem overly generous, if you are in a solid financial position, gifting a home may be a smart option. However, it is essential to keep tax rules in mind.
Purchasing a Home OutrightTo fill all preferences, it is recommended to choose a home after collaborating with the recipient. Instead of giving the house, accountants explain it is better to give money.When you give cash, you must remember two tax limits. Each year, you can give up to $14,000 tax-free. However, lifetime exemptions cannot exceed $5.45 million. Most individuals will never reach this limit, which means there are no tax implications, but the gifter must file a gift tax return.
Gift a Down Payment
Gifting cash for a down payment works in the same manner. However, this may cause problems during the mortgage process. Most times, it is necessary to submit a certified letter that explains the money is a gift.
Gift an Existing Home
Although your children may be interested in your family home, gifting it may not be smart. Down the road, when your children sell, they will have to pay expensive taxes.
If you still want to gift a home, there are other options:
Revocable Trust. This helps heirs avoid probate costs and allows you to gift your current home after you die.
Sell for a Low Price. The difference between your home’s value and the sale price follows your lifetime exemption, and the sale is tax-free.
Give Seller Financing. Instead of sending your children for a mortgage, you may consider offering seller financing.
When gifting a home, it is essential to watch your allowed exemptions. Besides these issues, it is a possible tax-free solution that helps family members retain a nice place to live.
Tags: gift, home buyers, home owner, real estate
« Pending Home Sales Post First Gain in Three Months10 Tips to save energy over the Holidays »

Save Energy During the Holidays!

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You have probably dropped a load of money on Christmas gifts and do not want any extra expenses. To curb energy bills, here are 10 simple tips that will help you conserve energy.
1. Switch to LED LightsRunning LED lights costs a fraction of the money it takes to use standard bulbs. As you decorate your home, it is worth switching your old strands for new LEDs.
2. Turn Out the Lights
Although Christmas lights look beautiful, it is essential to turn them off when you go to bed at night. It is also possible to use automatic timers as well.
3. Shop Around
Electronic devices and appliances are popular gifts. However, it is important to choose “Energy Star” models.
4. Shop Smart
It is wise to finish all your shopping during one mall stop so that you save gas on multiple visits.
5. Kitchen Efficiency
To save energy in the kitchen, it is wise to heat leftovers in the microwave and to take all ingredients out of the refrigerator at once.
6. Cut the Heat
The ideal temperature setting on your thermostat is 68 degrees. With a fire going, this can be lowered.
7. Burn Wood Efficiently
When filling your fireplace, it is wise to use man-made logs, which are natural and inexpensive. They are good for the environment and your wallet.
8. Fireplace Smarts
When you extinguish the fire, make sure to close the flue. This keeps heat from escaping.
9. Junk Mail
Junk mail kills 53 million trees a year. To help the environment, buy online and avoid mailing lists.
10. Change Your Dress
To remain warm indoors, you should wear layers so that you can keep the thermostat turned low. It is important to wear slippers as well.
By following the above tips, you will enjoy lower energy bills and help preserve the environment.
Tags: holidays, home owners, real estate, tips

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