In a recent Puget Sound Business Journal article, Emily Parkhurst declares that “This is the best time to list your house for sale in Seattle.” The dates she’s referring to? The first couple of weeks in May.
What to Look for During Your Home Inspection
Before making an offer on a home, nearly all real estate experts recommend conducting extensive inspections. Home inspections are designed to protect you from unexpected repairs and costs after move-in. If any problems are found during a pre-sale inspection, the buyer can then negotiate with the seller to have the issues resolved before closing or incorporate the cost of repairs into the offer. By assuring the buyer that they are purchasing the best home for their money, home inspections are an invaluable resource in the home buying process.
In most cases, home inspections analyze a number of factors both inside and outside the home. We begin with the six most critical inspection concerns for the exterior of the home.
- Foundation â€“ The most important thing to check for in the foundation are cracks. If any cracks or irregularities are noticed in the foundation, a further inspection may be needed to check the integrity of the construction.
- Roof â€“ When the roof is inspected, it must first be determined if any leaks are present. If the roof is free of leaks, a proper inspection will then attempt to determine if the roof possesses any flaws that could cause leaks in the future. During inspection, it is also important to notice if any large trees hang over the home. Wet leaves from such trees can sometimes cause serious problems for homeowners.
- Drainage â€“ The most important thing to consider is how the home is situated on the property. To ensure adequate drainage and prevent flooding in the home, the surrounding land should slope away from the home and 6-8 inches of the concrete foundation should be visible. Additionally, all gutters and drainage spouts should be angled away from the home.
- Windows and Doors â€“ Besides looking for broken glass, a check of the windows should cover many factors. Ideally, all windows should open and close properly with a good seal, be free of rot around the window sills and have all screens intact. Similarly, all doors opening to the exterior should open and close properly with a good seal to prevent extra heating and cooling costs.
- Siding, Trim, Gutters and Paint â€“ An inspection of the exterior siding or paint should check for the presence of bubbling or peeling. Also, all exterior fixtures that do not impact the structural integrity â€“ such as ornamental trim and rain gutters â€“ should be checked for overall condition.
- Decks and Porches â€“ If the home has a deck or porch, the inspection will try to uncover the presence of rot or insect damage.
Now, we will look at six factors that should be thoroughly inspected within the interior of the home.
- Walls, Floors and Ceilings â€“ All walls, floors and ceilings inside the home should be checked for the presence of water damage â€“ usually present as mold or other stains â€“ and signs of insects or pests. The areas near plumbing fixtures should be given extra attention to check for mold and water damage, while gaps or cracks in exterior walls should be checked for the presence of insects. Lastly, all wall and floor surfaces â€“ such as paint, plaster, wood floors, tile bathrooms and carpet â€“ should be checked for overall condition.
- Appliances â€“ Typically, home inspectors will run one dishwasher cycle and check all functions of the oven and stove. If the home is being sold with a full set of appliances, it is wise to check the working order of refrigerators, washers, dryers and microwaves.
- Electrical, Heating and Cooling Systems â€“ These inspections of the homeâ€™s infrastructure are some of the most telling assessments of a propertyâ€™s quality and, by extension, value. An inspection of the electrical system will typically test all outlets, light fixtures and circuit breakers. If it is an older home, an inspection should look for updated features such as ground fault interrupt (GFI) outlets in the bathrooms and kitchen. When checking heating and cooling systems, inspectors typically test the furnace, monitor the response of the thermostat and assess the overall ventilation of the home.
- Plumbing â€“ The inspection of the plumbing system begins with a check for leaks around all fixtures and pipes. Next, both cold and hot water pressure should be tested by turning on multiple faucets. In the bathrooms, the areas around each bathtub and shower should be inspected for water damage. Lastly, try to ensure that the hot water heater is up to code and functioning properly.
- Basement â€“ If the home has a basement, the most important thing to check for is the presence of water damage. An inspection of the basement is primarily an extension of the previously mentioned check for walls, floors and ceilings.
- Chimney and Fireplace â€“ An inspection of the chimney and each fireplace will check for loose bricks and mortar, assess the overall stability and check for obstructions within the chimney.
Keep in mind, if an inspection uncovers a problem, you should not necessarily be deterred from buying the home. More than anything, the inspection will help you determine the value of the home and prevent you from overpaying or experiencing unwanted repairs. Depending on what is uncovered during the inspection, you may want to conduct an additional inspection of the problematic element or simply work with the seller to resolve the issue as part of your offer.
The staff at Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC writes select articles about important topics related to real estate. For more information about buying a home or selling your current property, visit ColdwellBanker.com today.
Tips to Ensure a Smooth Move
For many families, moving can be a very stressful event. Besides coming to terms with your new life in a new home, you and your family will also need to think about moving day. Too often, families get caught up in various activities before moving day and fail to make the proper preparations. If you and your family are preparing to move, try to stay calm and organized throughout the process. For a few extra pointers on how to make your moving day a success, consider the simple advice outlined here.
Make a detailed checklist
It can be difficult to keep track of all the tasks associated with moving. Hence, you should try to organize your days leading up to and beyond moving day. If you have a reminder of what needs to be done and where you need to be, you are more likely to have a smooth moving day.
Prepare for day 1
Prior to packing all of your boxes, you may want to assemble one box of necessities for the whole family. As most families finish unpacking their trucks late in the evening, there is often little desire to open several boxes to find pillows and toothbrushes. To prevent a stressful first night in your new home, try to place anything your family might need in the first 24 hours in a separate box, mark it clearly and keep it accessible during moving. Also, if you have any valuable or irreplaceable items â€“ such as jewelry and personal keepsakes â€“ you should try to wrap the items well and keep them with you while moving.
To help with your checklist, you should try to include all of the following items in your day 1 box:
- Personal toiletries
- Toilet paper
- Snacks and drinks
- Set of plastic plates and cutlery
- Paper towels or tissue
Pack manageable boxes
Unless you have lots of large, lightweight items â€“ such as down comforters and blankets â€“ you shouldnâ€™t need too many oversized boxes. Oversized moving materials often force homeowners into packing boxes that are too heavy and unmanageable. Instead, try to find plenty of midsized boxes and distribute weight evenly. Furthermore, if you are moving yourself, make sure you have all the necessary materials on hand before packing, including bubble wrap or packing peanuts for fragile items.
Label every box
When packing your boxes, try not to place items for different rooms in the same box. After sealing up each box, simply mark which room the items belong in. When you arrive at your new home, you will be able to take each box to its rightful place and each family member can spend time organizing their own space.
De-clutter as you go
As you prepare to move out of your home, try to organize your belongings and set aside unwanted items. After unpacking in your new home, you will be happy having more space and fewer items to arrange. Before moving out, you can hold a yard sale or make a charitable donation to get rid of your unwanted belongings.
Get the family involved
If you have children, help them get excited about moving. With something to look forward to â€“ like the chance to decorate a new bedroom â€“ children often get more involved in the moving process. Also, you may want to ask your friends and family for help on moving day. Even if no one is able to move furniture with you, a family member could watch your pet for the day or take care of errands.
Though moving day can be a very overwhelming time for families, proper organization can make help turn that stress into excitement. If you follow your timeline leading up to moving day, you and your family will have no problem approaching the big move with confidence.
The staff at Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC writes select articles about important topics related to real estate. For more information about buying a home or selling your current property, visit ColdwellBanker.com today.
Five Topics to Discuss With Your Real Estate Agent When Selling Your Home
Thinking of selling your home? Before you place the â€œFor Saleâ€ sign in front of your house, there are a few things you should consider in order to maximize your home value and make the sales process smooth and efficient.Â Be prepared to discuss the following subjects with your real estate agent when youâ€™re ready to sell your home and youâ€™ll be one step ahead in the market.
1) Best Time of Year to Put Your House on the Market Conventional wisdom dictates that spring is the best time for selling a home.Â The weather is getting warmer, the school year is coming to an end, and people who have just received their tax refunds may now have extra cash to use for a down payment on a home.Â However, since not everyone can sell a home in the spring, here are some other seasonal factors to consider. According to annual home sale data from the National Association of Realtors, the slowest selling months of the year are typically January and February, since fewer home sales occur during the holidays.Â In spite of this, with less competition in the marketplace, you may be able to ask for a higher price for your home, or a quicker closing.Â Additionally, temperate locations like Florida and California donâ€™t see the seasonal fluctuations in the housing market, where house-hunters are almost always looking.Â And a late winter or early spring in the Northeast may extend the typical â€œselling season.â€Â These seasonal variations, as well as a variety of local factors, will all influence the housing market in your area.Â Be sure to talk to your real estate agent regarding the current state of the market and how it will affect the sale of your home.
2) Open House Strategy and How to De-Clutter At an open house, first impressions count, so youâ€™ll want to enhance your homeâ€™s perceived value. Make your home inviting by taking care of bothersome minor repairs; clean bathroom and kitchen counters and clear them of dishes and clutter. Arrange storage areas neatly and put unused items in a closet. If you have pets, consider having a neighbor watch them for the duration of the open house. Itâ€™s a good idea for you to be absent during the open house, also. If you must be present, let your agent do the talking.
Decorate your home to sell by arranging the furniture to look as spacious as possible. Add color and fragrance to any room with fresh flowers. Lastly, donâ€™t forget the outside of your home. Put away all gardening equipment and neatly arrange outdoor items like firewood or furniture. Even take a hard look at your mailbox and make sure it reflects the value and character of your home.
3) Features to Accentuate While you may have long determined which aspects of your home you love, having a fresh set of eyes assess its best features is a smart idea. If youâ€™re considering selling your home, take the time to walk through it methodically with your real estate agent. Together you can determine which features of the home should be accentuated.Â Does your home have a wonderful view? Make the most of it by sprucing up window treatments and arranging furniture to draw the eye toward the windows. Perhaps the location of your house is truly incredible. Your real estate agent can help accentuate this feature in sales and marketing materials.
4) Desired Price and Bottom Line Price Itâ€™s great to shoot high, but when determining your home value, itâ€™s also important to identify your bottom line. By assessing recent home sale statistics in your area, your real estate agent can recommend an appropriate target price range. Working with your agent, you can set an initial asking price, as well as privately determine the absolute lowest price you would comfortably accept for selling your home. By crunching the numbers and setting parameters early on, you can avoid emotional rollercoasters during the process of receiving, countering and accepting offers.
5) Disclosures When selling your home, you may be obligated to disclose problems that could affect the propertyâ€™s value or desirability. In most states, it is illegal to fraudulently conceal major physical defects in your property, such as a basement that floods in heavy rains. And many states now require sellers to take a proactive role by making written disclosures on the condition of the property. Ask your real estate agent for the particular laws of your state.
The staff at Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC writes select articles about important topics related to real estate. For more information about buying a home or selling your current property, visit ColdwellBanker.com today.
Tips for Marketing Your House to Potential Buyers
As you prepare to sell your home, you may want to devote some time to thinking about your buyers. With new homes listed everyday, homebuyers have plenty of options. However, if you market your house properly, prospective buyers wonâ€™t have any trouble finding your home. If you have already found an agent that understands your needs as a seller, you can utilize their knowledge and resources to make your home as attractive as possible. While you may choose to work very closely with your agent during the marketing process, here are a number of marketing tactics that you can try out on your own.
One of the most important steps in marketing your home may be taking photographs. As many home buyers and real estate agents conduct their initial research online, a flattering collection of photos is helpful to include with your listing. Begin your photo shoot outside the home and try to snap pictures that highlight your homeâ€™s best features. As you want your home to be focus of all the photos, remove cars from the driveway and try to clear plants that block a view of your front door. Begin with photos of the entire property â€“ cropping out the sidewalk and street â€“ and move in to take close-up pictures of exterior features.
Inside the home, you should take at least one photograph of every room. Though you may choose not to display every room in your listing, you may find some great images where you least expect. As you prepare to photograph the interior of your home, you should open all of the blinds or curtains and turn on lights in each room. You may also want to remove certain items â€“ such as personal photos and undesirables like garbage cans â€“ before taking photos. In the kitchen and dining room, consider placing floral arrangements on the table to add a peaceful atmosphere to the space. As you move room to room, focus on the most interesting aspects of each room â€“ be it a large closet in a guest bedroom or a fireplace in the living room. When you are finished, the photos you have taken should represent all the best elements of your home.
After you have placed your listing with photos, try to work with your agent to place adequate signage on the property. A useful sign should list the agentâ€™s name and contact information and, if necessary, additional contact information for the nearest real estate office. If you reside on a quiet residential street, you may want to ask the neighbor residing on the corner of the nearest busy street if you can place a small, directional sign in their lawn. Lastly, one or more of the photos used in your listing should also be included on the fact sheet available outside your home. This takeaway brochure will typically list the details of your home â€“ number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage and lot size â€“ and can also be used during open houses as a reminder to prospective buyers.
Depending on how you want to market your home, there are a number of advertising options available to you and your agent. Many homeowners choose to list their properties in local newspapers, typically in special weekend real estate sections. You may also want to look at local real estate publications and check printing dates to see if your home is a good fit. However, even more than print advertisements, the internet features a world of opportunity for home sellers. There are numerous classified sites and databases that prospective homebuyers check daily, many of which offer free listings. You and your agent can also use the internet to publicize your open house and offer additional details that may not have been featured in your print ads.
After you have completed your first round of marketing, you and your agent may want to schedule an open house. Granting prospective buyers an opportunity to view your home in person is often one of the most important steps in selling a home. Prior to the open house, your agent can actively seek for prospective buyers. If an interested buyer or agent is unable to visit your open house, your agent can also arrange private tours to make sure all prospective buyers have a chance to see your home.
While there is certainly no guarantee that any specific marketing tactics will sell your home, utilizing some of the above mentioned tactics will help increase the odds of prospective buyers finding your home â€“ and getting them to your front door is the first step in making the sale.
Tips for Preparing Your Home for an Open House
Every seller wants her home to sell quickly and bring top dollar. While there are some factors you canâ€™t control, like neighborhood popularity and market fluctuations, you can help your house put on its best face for showings and open houses. If you want to sell your home, here are some tips to prepare your house and turn it into an irresistible home.
Before any physical preparations, you first need to prepare yourself emotionally. Begin to dissociate yourself, and decide to let go of your attachments to the home. From now on, this is a house you really want to sell, not your own beloved home.
Itâ€™s important that potential buyers can imagine calling your house â€œhome,â€ too. Make it easier for them by de-personalizing the space. Remove personal photos and family heirlooms. Buyers should be allowed to connect with the space, and to imagine displaying their own photos and artifacts. You want buyers to think, â€œI could see myself living here.â€
Itâ€™s no surprise that youâ€™ll want a tidy house for a showing, but what about those hidden areas of the home? Buyers need to look everywhere; they will open cupboards and peer into closets. So, make sure storage areas are organized, and that coats hang neatly in hall closets. Stack dishes and re-arrange kitchen drawers. Tidy other stored items, like books, games or CDâ€™s. Bathrooms and kitchens should be especially clean, with counters clear of miscellaneous personal items and knick-knacks. Donâ€™t forget the outside of the home. Give your house curb appeal by trimming the lawn, sweeping the front walk, and artfully arranging outdoor furniture.
Now is the time to take care of those bothersome little repairs youâ€™ve been putting off for years. Buyers will notice the flaws that youâ€™ve grown accustomed to. From replacing light bulbs, to cleaning scuff marks off walls, to replacing missing tiles in the bathroom, or fixing the broken screen door, take care to repair all the minor problems with the house before the open house.
While you may have long determined which aspects of your home you love, having a fresh set of eyes scrutinize its best features is a smart idea. If you want to sell your home, take the time to walk through it methodically with your real estate agent. Together you can point out which features of the home should be accentuated...and which elements should be downplayed. Does your home have a wonderful view? Draw attention to it by sprucing up window treatments and arranging furniture to draw the eye toward the windows.Â Is the kitchen small and cramped? Make the most of it by lighting the space well, clearing counters of debris and displaying a vase of fresh flowers.
If you want to take window coverings, built-in appliances or fixtures with you when you sell your home, remove them now. If the chandelier in the dining room once belonged to your great grandmother, take it down. If a buyer never sees it, he won't want it. Once you tell a buyer he can't have an item, he will covet it, and it could blow your deal. Pack those items and replace them, if necessary.
Finally, when it comes time for the open house, try to avoid being home. Not only does it make buyers uncomfortable, but it can interfere with your real estate agentâ€™s sales process. Whether you head to the office or just out for a walk with the dog, you can rest assured that in your absence, your house will look enticing to its new owners!
Tips for Reviewing a Purchase & Sale Agreement
When selling your home, itâ€™s likely that your primary focus is receiving the highest price possible for your property.Â And while this is certainly an important factor, there are other details that must be considered when you receive an official offer on your home in the form of a Real Estate Purchase Contract (REPC).Â Negotiating this wordy and legally binding document can seem daunting, but understanding the information contained in the REPC will save you time, money and heartache during the process of selling your home.
The Real Estate Purchase Contract, also known as a Purchase and Sale Agreement, or a Real Estate Contract, is an agreement between a buyer and a seller to purchase real estate.Â Your first encounter with a particular purchase contract will be in the form of an offer from a potential buyer. After reviewing the offer, you have three options: to accept the terms of the offer, thus entering into a contract; to change the terms of the offer in a counter-offer; or to reject the offer wholesale.
After considering the price offered by the buyer, savvy sellers will then determine if the Real Estate Purchase Agreement contains any contingencies. One common possibility is that the offer to purchase your property is contingent on the sale of the buyerâ€™s home. If the buyers' property sells, the sale goes through. But, if it does not, the sale is off and the buyers' deposit is usually returned. There are ways to structure a contingent sale offer to make it less risky for sellers. One way is to include a release clause in the contract, which allows sellers to continue marketing their home in the hopes of finding a better offer. If such an offer comes along, the sellers notify the buyers that they must remove the contingency by a certain date and show that they are able to close. Otherwise, they must withdraw from the contract. The sellers are then free to proceed with the other offer.
Another red flag to watch for is a request by the buyer for excessive time to secure financing. This is a reality for many first-time home buyers or even veteran buyers whose credit is spread thin. If youâ€™re not comfortable with the extended time frame, you can request that the buyer provide you with proof of loan application and/or a letter of loan qualification by a certain date. A well-priced offer can also seem less appealing if the seller offers a low earnest money deposit or asks you to pay the closing costs. Feel free to counter any elements of the offer that donâ€™t sit well with you.
And, donâ€™t forget to take note of your requirements in the offer. Some buyers will include a clause that penalizes sellers who donâ€™t move from the property by a specific date. Be confident that you can vacate your home by the date requested before accepting the offer. On the other hand, you may want the closing process to move swiftly. Even if the offered price is less than you wanted, a buyer who can close and take possession quickly can counterbalance the lower price.
It is generally accepted that all attached fixtures and appliances will be sold with your home, but the buyer must list these carefully in the offer to purchase. Such appliances and fixtures can include ovens and dishwashers, window treatments, light fixtures, fireplace mantels and even landscaping features like trees and flowers. Additionally, buyers can request the inclusion of certain furnishings and personal property. If you have items that you do not wish to include when selling your homeâ€”whether the washer/dryer, an heirloom rosebush, or all your furnitureâ€”itâ€™s a good idea to let your real estate agent know from the get-go, so he or she can help mitigate the expectations of buyers.
The bottom line? It pays to spend 20 minutes reviewing a blank real estate purchase contract as soon as you put your house on the market. That way, when you receive an offer, youâ€™ll be ready to break it down into its specifics, and respond confidently.
The Best Remodeling Projects to Raise the Value of Your Home
If you are like most homeowners, you probably view your home as your most important investment. Diligent homeowners often treat their homes like stock portfolios or savings accounts and always try to add value to their properties. While there are many ways to increase the value of a home, one of the most utilized methods for homeowners is the remodeling project. However, despite the remodeling successes of many homeowners, remodeling a home is not always a guarantee of added value or increased interest from potential buyers. Hence, homeowners may want to take care in how they renovate their homes, especially when there is volatility in their local housing markets. With that in mind, there are few remodeling projects that are more likely to add value to a home and allow the homeowner to recoup the costs when selling.
Based on numerous studies of the real estate market, here are the best remodeling projects to increase the value of your home and generate the most interest from prospective buyers:
- Kitchen â€“ As one of the most used rooms in any home, upgrades made to the kitchen are always appealing to prospective buyers. Studies show, however, that the homeowners earn the most value when performing modest upgrades including new cabinets, countertops, floors and well-priced appliances. Hence, homeowners often donâ€™t need to worry about including luxury products when remodeling the kitchen.
- Bathroom â€“ In many cases, remodeling an existing bathroom can raise the value of the home as much as any other project. As bathrooms can typically be remodeled very affordably, this has long been a favorite project of homeowners looking to increase the value of their homes. Though the eventual recouped value seems to be contingent on region, most homeowners who remodeled existing bathrooms experienced better return on their investment than those that added new bathrooms to their homes.
- Windows â€“ Though not as visible as remodeled kitchens or bathrooms, there are few remodeling projects that improve the overall quality of a home better than new windows. For instance, smart home buyers will recognize that new windows will not only make the home more comfortable and attractive, but will also save on heating and cooling costs.
- Siding â€“ Though new siding and other exterior improvements may not be possible or necessary for some homeowners, no other remodeling project generates a better response from prospective buyers. Nationwide, the value recouped by homeowners that installed new siding is matched only by successful kitchen remodeling projects.
On the other hand, there are also some remodeling projects that may not provide the best value for homeowners. Real estate experts typically point to expensive additions â€“ such as home theatres, swimming pools and wine cellars â€“ as the riskiest remodeling projects. The key to determining if such luxurious projects will add sufficient value to the home and allow the homeowner to recoup the value lies in assessing what is right for the neighborhood. For instance, a home with two bathrooms could gain significant value when a new bathroom is added if all the surrounding properties have three or more bathrooms. Likewise, if you reside in a region where swimming pools are an expected luxury â€“ such as the desert southwest â€“ prospective homebuyers probably wonâ€™t see your addition as an unnecessary liability.
Most importantly, keep in mind that renovations and remodeling projects may not be as simple as they seem. It is wise to weigh the risks and to consider what is best for the local market before starting any project. If you are unsure what types of remodeling projects would add value in your neighborhood, you may want to consult a real estate agent to get a better understanding of what local buyers are looking for.
Selling a House with Pets
You love you pets and so does the rest of the neighborhood. However, when it comes time to sell your home, you shouldnâ€™t expect the same of those interested in your property. While it is difficult for some homeowners to understand the negative perceptions about pets held by some prospective buyers, you should try to make your home as appealing as possible to everyone who walks through the door. Before showing your home, consider some of these steps to minimize the impact of pets and potentially maximize interest from prospective buyers.
Before showing your home to buyers, you should try to remove all signs of your pets. Start by putting away any food and water bowls, pet toys and litter boxes. If your dogs use a doggie door to get in and out of your home, consider replacing or sealing up the door. If you keep photos of you and your pets on display, pack the images away when prospective buyers are in your home. Lastly, if you have any items that are too big to hide â€“ like cages or dog carriers â€“ find a discreet storage location in the garage or outside the home.
To ensure that you donâ€™t offend the eyes (or noses) of prospective buyers, you may want to devote extra time to cleaning your home. If you have cats or dogs that roam freely in the home, start by vacuuming the entire house. Next, as most pet-loving homes have a carpet stain or two, consider hiring a professional cleaner to get rid of the offending spots. If you find any stains that cannot be removed, you may want to replace the carpet or flooring before showing your home. To remove the last whiffs of pet smell from your home, avoid air fresheners (some of your guests may have allergies) and try using a heavy-duty enzyme cleaner. When you are confident in your cleaning, ask a friend or extended family member to inspect for stains and smells before showing the home.
Ideally, homeowners may want to try relocating their pets while their home is on the market. Rather than keeping your four-legged loved ones locked up in the garage, consider asking your friends and family to help out. If you canâ€™t find anyone with the ability to watch your pets, you may need to consider using a nearby kennel. While this might be incredibly difficult to do â€“ for pet and pet owner alike â€“ this step could go a long way towards helping prospective buyers feel comfortable in your home. By keeping your pets out of your home while it is on the market you will be able to minimize the impact theyâ€™ve had on the property and avoid any mishaps with prospective buyers. However, if you canâ€™t bear to part with your pets while your home is on the market, you should still try to remove your furry friends during open houses and tours.
While there may be plenty of pet-friendly homebuyers that visit your open house, it is important not to offend anyone who looks at your home. In fact, even some pet owners might be turned off by the presence of your pets. After all, plenty of pet owners believe their own animals to be cleaner and better behaved than anyone elseâ€™s. Hence, when it comes time to show your home to prospective homebuyers, you should try your best to minimize your petsâ€™ impact.
Protecting Your Privacy While Your Home is on The Market
If your home is on the market, you have probably already taken great care in cleaning the interior and making necessary renovations that could help attract prospective buyers. However, before your home is shown to any buyers or agents, you should consider performing a few tasks to help protect your privacy. Not only should you try to remove personal items from tabletops or counters, but it is also wise to remember that potential buyers will open closets, cabinets and built-in drawers as they assess the property. To protect your privacy and prevent prospective buyers from forming any biases against you, you may want to follow these four simple steps before showing your home.
1. Hide your mail When dealing with your mail, you should either remove it from your home or place it where it cannot be found. If prospective homebuyers spot collection notices or excessive credit card bills in plain sight, they might immediately assume that you are in debt and need to sell your home quickly. Furthermore, as no one wants strangers to read any of their personal materials, you should try to conceal all of your mail â€“ down to the last furniture catalog.
2. Take down photos and diplomas While some home sellers feel that such personal documents could add an atmosphere of coziness to their property, you may want to consider clearing the walls. Following this simple step could help prevent any type of bias from prospective homebuyers. For instance, home sellers with recent diplomas might be perceived as deep in debt and willing to sell at any price. Likewise, wedding photos can reveal the homeownerâ€™s religion, which could influence certain buyers.
3. Clean the closets and drawers If you have ever been to an open house or toured a home for sale, you can probably understand the desire to dig around. In most cases, prospective homebuyers simply open closets and cabinets to inspect the space or make judgments about the construction of the home. While most people who view your home will not try to snoop in your personal belongings, try to pack away anything that could tell an unwanted story about your life.
You may want to clear out all drawers and closets entirely before the home is shown to buyers. After your personal belongings have been removed from the home or carefully packed away, work with your agent to stage closets and large cabinets. By replacing your own belongings with examples of how the home can be utilized, you will take the focus off yourself and help prospective buyers visualize themselves in your home.
4. Turn down the answering machine This final step is probably the most overlooked by home sellers. Just as you can not anticipate what arrives in the mail each day, you cannot predict when you might receive an unwanted phone call. If you are engaged in an open house or private viewing, you certainly donâ€™t want a prospective buyer to overhear a message from a collection agency or credit card company. Furthermore, as you are in the process of selling a home (and possibly buying another), you donâ€™t want buyers to know anything about your personal business. Hence, before any prospective buyers enter your home, you may want to mute your answering machine to prevent any uncomfortable exchanges.
In conclusion, when you are ready to show your home to prospective buyers, try to remove anything that might drive a buyer away or create an unwanted bias. Whether itâ€™s as simple as removing your personal mail or staging the closets of your homeâ€™s bedrooms, a bit of work can not only protect your privacy but can potentially help sell your home.
What is Home Staging and How Might it Help Sell My House?
In the last few years, home staging has become an increasingly popular method of preparing a home for sale. However, home staging involves far more than the cleaning and minor repairs required to put your home on the market. The process of staging a home is actually an in depth dressing of a home to make the property seem as appealing as possible to prospective buyers. Home staging professionals use a variety of methods to help homeowners sell their properties, incorporating both amenities already inside the home and a number of special products. When preparing to sell your home, you may want to think about some of the home staging methods outlined here to help you find the right buyer.
At its most simple, home staging is about setting the right mood for prospective buyers. By decorating and arranging a homeâ€™s interior to present an ideal way of life, buyers are assisted in visualizing themselves in your home. Whether you undertake the process of staging your own home or decide to consult a professional, there are a number of different â€œpropsâ€ that may be used around the home. For example, to add a vibrant sense of life to the home, many home staging professionals recommend using different types of potted plants and arrangements of flowers and fruit. Throughout the home, they tend to utilize soft, luxurious fabrics â€“ such as satin, lambâ€™s wool and silk â€“ to create an atmosphere of comfort. This process can also extend to the exterior of the property, where patio furniture can be added in the backyard and colorful flowers or unique accessories outside the front door.
Many home staging professionals come from interior design or art-related backgrounds. Hence, when working on staging a home for sale, these professionals utilize a number of visual tricks to capture the attention of potential buyers. For instance, furniture is always arranged very carefully to simulate the ideal living space. In living rooms, home staging professionals often use loveseats and ottomans in lieu of large couches to create the illusion of added space. Likewise, mirrors are often placed throughout a staged home to make the living area seem larger to potential buyers. In areas where you hope to focus a buyerâ€™s attention â€“ like a hand built stone fireplace or a remodeled kitchen â€“ staging professionals can place unique artwork or accessories to catch the eye.
One of the most important steps in home staging is the exchange of your personal decorations with more neutral furnishings. Beyond replacing family pictures with more design-friendly items, a successful home staging will attempt to eliminate any idiosyncratic tastes and represent a living space that has broad appeal. Though this process may feel like a slight on your familyâ€™s home, you should hardly take offense. This commonly used tactic simply helps potential buyers view the property not as someone elseâ€™s home, but as something they can call their own.
Most real estate experts claim that home staging is especially important when the home is empty. Without any furniture or amenities, even a home for sale in the most attractive area can make potential buyers feel uncomfortable. If you are trying to sell your home and have already moved out, you may want to consider working with your agent to stage the homeâ€™s interior. With the assistance of your agent and a home staging professional, you could quickly transform a lifeless house into dream home.
In the end, home staging is about making the most of your homeâ€™s potential. If the staging of your home is completed effectively, it is also possible that your home may receive better offers from potential buyers and spend less time on the market. By minimizing the flaws of your home and making the living area seem larger, brighter and more appealing, home staging may be one of the most important steps in selling your home quickly and at the right price.
Making the Most of Curb Appeal
As more homebuyers and real estate agents use the internet to research properties, first impressions are more important than ever. Before scheduling appointments or visiting open houses, homebuyers and their agents will often drive by homes for sale and make assessments based on the exterior. More often than not, if a homebuyer doesnâ€™t like the outside of a home, they wonâ€™t care to see the inside. Yet, it is possible to dramatically alter the appearance of your home with a few simple tasks. As you prepare to list your home, consider implementing some of the tips mentioned here to maximize your propertyâ€™s curb appeal.
Before you begin making repairs to the exterior of your home, you may want to analyze your home from a distance. Look at your home from across the street and try to pinpoint the best and worst qualities of the property. As you walk towards your home, try to make note of both your first impressions and any elements that stand out. When looking at your home from the exterior, you may also want to compare its appearance to other homes in the neighborhood. While you may feel as if you know the details of your home intimately, this step can help you think like a potential buyer and assist you in maximizing the curb appeal.
When it is time to get to work, you should approach the exterior of your home in the same way you would a bedroom or kitchen. Just as you wouldnâ€™t want a prospective home buyer to see dirty dishes in your sink, you want to make sure the front of your home is as attractive as possible. While the chores associated with maximizing curb appeal will differ from home to home, the following are the most common and effective methods of enticing potential buyers indoors for a closer look:
- Paint â€“ Perhaps the most effective of all pre-sale repairs, a simple coat of paint to the exterior, doors and shutters can make your home appear well cared for and in good condition. When painting the exterior of the home, you may also want to consider if new door knobs and other hardware could boost the appearance of your home. If you donâ€™t replace any of the metal on the exterior of your home, polishing brass hardware and cleaning or painting iron fences can also give your home a fresh look.
- Lawn â€“ There are a number of landscaping tricks that may improve the curb appeal of your home. First, the lawn should be mowed, raked and edged. Next, try to thoroughly weed all planter boxes, trim larger plants and include some extra flowers near the front of the house. If any large trees hang over your home or obscure the view from the street, you may want to cut away some large branches. You may also want to consider investing some extra money into landscaping by hiring professionals to make your front yard as attractive as possible.
- Windows and Gutters â€“ Much like the fresh paint applied to the exterior, taking time to clean the windows can certainly change the appearance of your home. Likewise, try to keep your rain gutters free of leaves and debris as you never know where a potential homebuyer might look.
- Driveway â€“ If you have an old, cracked driveway, hiring a professional to reseal the surface can add to your homeâ€™s curb appeal. If the driveway rests in direct sight in front of the home, this step can become even more important.
- Lighting â€“ As potential homebuyers could drive by your property at any time, you want to make sure your home is inviting at night. By installing a street lamp and a front porch light â€“ both of which should match the style of your home â€“ you will dramatically boost your homeâ€™s 24/7 curb appeal. If you anticipate potential homebuyers coming onto the property after dark, calm lighting that lines the driveway and path to the front door can put your visitors at ease.
- Pressure Clean â€“ This process can be applied to both the exterior of the home and the driveway. Just one treatment can eliminate years of dirt, mold and mildew from your property.
If you need to improve the curb appeal of your home before putting it up for sale, the best tool could be your ability to think like a buyer. By repairing or minimizing your propertyâ€™s flaws and drawing attention to key selling points, you may be surprised by the responses you receive from potential homebuyers.
Tips for Passing Home Inspection
If you are thinking about selling your home, you may want to start thinking about home inspections. As most inspections thoroughly check the homeâ€™s infrastructure, foundation and roof, most real estate experts recommend that you look for problems before putting your home on the market. Though older homes might have more concerns, homes of all ages and types should be given a checkup by homeowners prior to entering the market. This article describes the most common problems found by home inspectors and offers some tips on how your home can pass its eventual inspection.
If you know that you will be selling your home, you should try to repair all plumbing leaks as soon as possible. Besides checking for leaks throughout the homeâ€™s plumbing system, a home inspector will also check the water pressure by running multiple faucets and flushing toilets. In some cases, an inspection may also include a check of the septic system. If you have experienced drainage problems in your home, you may want to consider contacting a professional to check the septic system prior to the home inspection.
Heating and Cooling Systems
As there are many types of heating and cooling systems, there is no standard test for home inspectors. However, regardless of what type of heating and cooling systems your home utilizes, you should try to ensure that everything is working properly prior to the home inspection. You may also want to consider having your heating and cooling units serviced prior to selling your home.
A typical home inspection will check the electrical panel and circuit breakers that power your property for problems and test outlets throughout the home. The inspector will also check for ground fault interrupt outlets (GFIs) in the kitchen and bathrooms. Designed to automatically shut off power during a short circuit, these special outlets are an important safety feature for every home. If you live in an older home, you may want to have GFIs installed and have your electrical system checked before an inspection.
Roof and Chimney
A home inspection will check for weak or missing shingles and make an assessment regarding the quality of the roof. If any poor shingles are spotted, an inspector might check underneath to see if the building materials are damaged or rotten. To prevent a poor report, you should consider replacing bad shingles and having an expert check the overall quality of the roof.
The inspector will also check the chimney to ensure that the base of the chimney is watertight and that all bricks and mortar are in good condition. Prior to the inspection, you may also want to check to make sure the chimney is clear and that the fireplace is working properly.
Prior to the inspection, try to make sure your gutters are clean and rainwater is able to flow without spilling over the sides. Also, downspouts should be pointed away from the house, as poor drainage is often the cause of mold and mildew problems.
Mold and Mildew
If you have seen mold or mildew anywhere in your home, you should consider contacting a cleanup professional prior to the inspection. Regardless of where mold and mildew are found in the home, it is important to both kill the fungus and fix the cause of the problem. As homebuyers are becoming increasingly aware of the effects mold and mildew can have on a home, you might experience difficulty selling your home if you donâ€™t take care of the issue. If you have a basement, take some extra time to check the walls and floors for signs of water damage.
After the initial inspection, try not to be discouraged if the inspector finds a few flaws; very few homes are perfect and inspectors are trained to take note of every possible concern.Â Home inspections are designed to assess the working order of the homeâ€™s infrastructure and assure the buyer that homeâ€™s condition matches the details of the contract. In short, if you take care of the most important repair concerns before you try to sell, you will grant yourself a better chance of passing your home inspection.
Put the â€œShortâ€ Back in Short Sale
By Linda Yates, Director of Education, Foreclosure.com
Protracted, complicated and costly.
The list of adjectives that real estate agents use to describe the short sale process is long and lengthy, but certainly not distinguished. In fact, it is almost always described as anything but â€œshort.â€
The short sale is a real estate technique that has been around for years; however, today it is rarely successful because of the headaches that it creates, dragging transactions on for months on end and delivering reduced commissions when closing time finally rolls around.
Why does a short sale seemingly take so long?
For starters, the process requires significant coordination and cooperation from several parties, including the buyer, seller, listing agent(s) and lender. Anytime there are so many moving parts things can get a little tricky â€¦ and lengthy.
In addition, a lender is essentially deciding whether or not to sell the property for less than (or "short" of) the amount it loaned the original borrower. It therefore needs time to crunch the numbers to ensure the deal is right for them in the long-term, which could be complicated if, for example, there is more than one "owner" of the financial instrument.
And letâ€™s not forget that lenders today are being inundated with multiple offers on thousands of different properties, which can create a logjam of paperwork as they try and sort through it all.
So does it really benefit you to pursue a short sale?
The short answer is a resounding â€œYesâ€ because times are changing -- there are numerous ways in which you can vault your offers to the top of the stacks and do quite well with short sales. All it takes is the knowledge to know how to coordinate these deals properly and be aware of the ways in which to get them done fast.
Consider the following two tips that will make your short sale experience a better (and hopefully more lucrative) one:
First, the obvious: Your short sale packages must be pristine.
Everything must be in order and complete from the moment you submit them to the lenders on behalf of your buyers and sellers. Keep in mind that all lenders are different and, consequently, often have different submission requirements. No two short sales are alike. So know, learn and follow the various submission requirements to a tee the first time (and every time) to ensure optimum results.
Second and not so obvious: Your short sale efforts should always include a forensic document audit.
This is the real key to success with short sales because it can get your packages moved to the front of the line virtually overnight. This process starts with enlisting the help of a legal professional to complete a review of the sellersâ€™ mortgage documents for potential fraud, including possible TILA, RESPA and other consumer rights violations.
It's a huge difference maker.
Recent studies from the Credit Law Group indicate that more than 80 percent of mortgages that were originated since 1999 have some type of consumer rights violations in them. Identifying these violations can create leverage in negotiations, alerting lender legal departments to expedite your files.
- In other words, the audit can be used to threaten the possibility of your client pursuing legal action, which most lenders would prefer to avoid at all costs -- they already have enough on their plates. The prospect of litigation is simply not a viable option if violations are detected because the lender knows it will likely be cost prohibitive.
- And if it does go to court, monetary damages could be awarded based on the severity of the violations, which can be applied to the short sale package to drive down the principal amount of the mortgage.
- Last but not least, no deficiency judgment will likely be filed in a case that undergoes an audit because these can be negotiated away. The reality is that the likelihood of a bank collecting on these is slim to none, meaning that the seller(s) are assured of the best possible outcome.
It's a win-win all around for you and your client.
Clearly, negotiating the murky waters of a short sale requires current knowledge and the support of a team of professionals who all possess the skill sets and goals to get the sale through efficiently and effectively.
It is important to first educate yourself about lenders, including their short sale processes and package requirements. Next, team up with a legal eagle who can help you audit mortgages to strengthen your negotiation position. Do this and it will make the process short, easy and profitable â€¦ as its name suggests.