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Buy a Home | 2 Posts
Sell a Home | 1 Posts

Closing Costs That Might Surprise You

Selling your home soon? As you look at your finances and list your home, it's probably tempting to focus on your potential earnings. However, every real estate transaction comes with closing costs for the buyer and the seller.

You probably already know you're responsible for the agents' commissions, but what about the rest of your closing costs?

Before selling your home, make sure you understand all the closing costs you'll be expected to cover. Here are some common costs that may surprise you:  

  1. Pro-Rated Property Taxes
    You're responsible for all property taxes up to the date of the sale. That means if you're selling in July, you need to pay your property tax for the first seven months of the year — not wait until next year to file. Make sure you're aware of the final number because you must provide this to the buyers. This is required because buyers will get a bill next year for the whole year, including the months you still owned the home.

  2. Transfer Taxes and Fees
    Real estate transactions are essentially title transfers from one owner to another. Before your sale is complete, you must pay state and county or city fees in order to process this transfer. You may also need to pay transfer taxes. While most sellers are aware that it costs money to transfer a title, many are surprised by the final percentage, which can fluctuate wildly depending on your location. Make sure you're aware of the local requirement beforehand.

  3. Title Insurance
    If you think buyers are always responsible for buying a title insurance policy, think again. Many states now require sellers to cover the new homeowner's title insurance policy. This coverage is designed to protect the mortgage lender from any future claims, and they won't approve the transaction without it. Find out now if you will be responsible for the buyer's title insurance coverage.

  4. Home Preparations
    Staging a home for market success is about more than just cleaning thoroughly and rearranging the furniture. Your real estate agent will know which services are the most valuable, especially to sellers who want to ask for more money or sell more quickly. For example, renting a storage unit will make it much easier to clear out a third of your clutter and personal possessions, leaving a more neutral and walkable space for potential buyers. Carpet cleaning, painting, lawn care, and professional photography services are also important investments for serious sellers.

Of course, your final closing costs before selling your home will depend on a lot of different factors. From zip code and loan terms to the buyers' willingness to negotiate, these factors will help you figure out just how much to set aside for closing. Understand your responsibilities and prepare yourself for every possible expense.


5 Ways Sellers Sabotage Their Own Sale

Are you selling a home? If so, you need to know that you could be your worst enemy.

Many home sellers are surprised to learn that they are the ones sabotaging their ability to sell their homes quickly and for a good price. When you're selling your home, make sure you avoid these mistakes that could hinder your home's sale and push buyers away. 

  1. Having Too High of an Opinion About Your Home
    Your home is naturally something you should be proud of. You've probably spent a good amount of time and money getting it exactly how you want it, and in your eyes, it shines. However, if you think your home is worth more because it's so special, you are mistaken. Sometimes those personal touches that make the home special to you are not impressive to the buyer. Make sure you talk to your real estate agent about what your home is really worth and what "special touches" are actually deterrents to a potential sale.

  2. Trying to Hide Issues from Buyers
    If you had a roof leak that left water damage in the attic, it's going to come out on the inspection. Don't try to hide it. When the inspector finds these things, buyers will wonder what else you are hiding. This can cause a buyer, even one that loves the house, to feel like walking away from the home. Disclose everything you can.

  3. Assuming You'll Get a Second Chance
    When you have a call to do a showing on your home, have the showing, no matter how busy you are. You have no guarantee that you'll get a second chance with that buyer. It doesn't matter how bad your day is, if someone wants to look at your home, make every possible effort to let them do so. If you don't, they'll look at a different home, and you will miss the opportunity to have a perspective buyer touring your property with the hopes of having a successful sale.

  4. Not Cleaning Well
    Cobwebs, pet hair, ring-around-the-tub — all of these can sabotage a sale. If you want to sell your home quickly and for a good price, it needs to shine. Make sure you are cleaning it well. Consider renting a storage facility to place some items in while your home is on the market so you don't have as much clutter in your home. The cleaner and more open your home feel, the better it will show. The better your home shows, the faster it will sell.

  5. Ignoring the Yard
    Finally, don't ignore your home's exterior when preparing it to sell. The yard, both front and back, is going to be an important selling point for your property. Give it a little TLC. There's no need to go overboard with landscaping, but make sure the landscaping and plants you do have look nice and add some interest to the front yard with color and flower pots.

Selling your home can be a stressful time, and this is definitely a process you want to see come to a fast conclusion. By avoiding these five common problems, you will have much greater success selling your home quickly because you won't be standing in your own way!


Retiring Soon? How To Decide If You Should Sell Your Home

Selling your home upon retirement is a question millions of people grapple with. While it might seem logical to scale down when you retire, is it really the best option? 

There's no "one size fits all" solution for selling your home. Most people will find there are pros and cons to the choice they have to weigh before making a decision.

  • Pro: Selling Can Give You Retirement Income
    If you've worked hard to build equity in your house, selling it could be exactly the step you need to take to ensure a comfortable retirement. Plus, if you've been living in the home consistently in recent years, you may be eligible to shield much of the sale's proceeds from taxation. This can be the solution for retirees who find themselves without enough savings.

  • Pros: Selling Means Fewer Recurring Costs
    No matter how well-maintained your home is, there'll always be costs involved in keeping it running. Your HVAC system, plumbing, electrical wiring, and much more can all fail without much warning. By selling, you avoid all these inevitable challenges of home ownership. Plus, you may find that you can reduce the overall costs of your utilities.

  • Pros: Selling May Mean More Accessible Accommodations
    With age, many people face security and safety concerns they did not have in their youth. One of the most serious ones is the risk of a serious slip and fall, particularly when your home has many stairs. The cost of remodeling a home to make it more comfortable in retirement may be greater than what you are willing to invest in your retirement income.

  • Pros: Selling May Mean More Flexibility in Retirement
    Your desires in retirement might be very different from what you wanted from your home years or decades ago. You might want to move closer to relatives, for example, get into a community more in keeping with your needs, or even move to another country. In all these situations and more, maintaining your home can make it harder for you to focus on the present.

  • Cons: Renting May Not Be Worth It
    One of the biggest questions about selling is whether it makes financial sense. While your home might be appreciating in value, the cost of rent in your community is probably rising as well. If you know where you want to live after selling, take a close look at the nearby housing and the financial resources it will take for you to live comfortably there.

  • Cons: Sentimental Value Matters
    By the time they reach retirement, many people have spent decades in one home. There's simply no way to put a price on the sentimental value such a property can offer. It may make more sense to keep the home in the family if you consider it an important part of your legacy. This may be a matter to bring up with adult children or others with a close connection to the place.

  • Cons: It May Not Be the Right Time for Selling Your Home
    If your home is appreciating in value — or a minor improvement could substantially raise its sale price — it may be worth it to wait a little longer before making your move. In a "seller's market," a delay of just three months can make a big difference in what you can expect from your sale. If conditions are ideal, it may make sense to wait six months or even another year.

Ultimately, selling your home is a deeply personal decision. It's best made with input from a real estate agent you can rely on.


How To Sell Your Home Despite Those Problem Neighbors

You've scrubbed every surface, trimmed the hedges to perfection, and baked some cookies to make your home smell warm and inviting, but there's a problem.

Every time someone comes to view the house you're trying to sell, the first thing they notice is the unkempt mess next door. 

If you're selling your home, you have enough to worry about without adding troublesome neighbors to the mix, but sometimes life just isn't fair. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can smooth things out with your neighbors and get back to more important things — like selling your home.

  • Be Nice, But Firm
    When bringing a complaint to your neighbor's attention, it's always best to start out by being calm and friendly but also firm. Approach your neighbors as if they have no idea that they're causing a problem, and work from there to find a solution.

    Taking legal action should never be anything but a last resort, partly because it can make your relationship with your neighbors even tenser, but also because courts seldom provide a timely solution. You don't want to be tied up in legal wranglings for months while your house sits on the market.

  • Noise Problems
    Noise complaints are the most common problems that cause tension between neighbors. Again, set out with a friendly demeanor, and assume that your neighbors haven't realized how much of a headache they've been causing. Stop by and have a chat about the issue, and offer to work together to reach a solution.

    Visit again if the noise continues to be a problem. If the noise persists, follow up with a written warning (in as friendly a manner as possible). You might also want to enclose a copy of the local noise ordinance. Threaten legal action only as a last resort if the written warning doesn't work.

  • Upkeep Issues
    When your neighbors don't take care of their property, it doesn't show your house in the best light. In this case, you do have another option if a friendly request to make improvements doesn't generate any results.

    This problem can often be alleviated by offering your own services to clean up the neighbor's property. If you don't have the time to tackle it yourself, offer to have a professional come by to cut the grass, pack up any trash, and generally make your neighbors' property a little easier on the eyes.

  • Full Disclosure
    If there's a problem with your neighbor, you may be wondering what your responsibility is when it comes to disclosing the issue to potential buyers. Obviously, you don't want to scare buyers away, but you most likely have a legal obligation to tell prospective buyers about ongoing disputes with neighbors. When in doubt, always disclose.

Selling your home is hard work, so don't let pesky neighbors hold you back. From noise problems to unruly lawns, patching things up with the folks next door will make the process of selling your home infinitely easier.


6 Easy DIY Projects To Boost Your Home's Value

Home improvement is the key to enhancing your home's value and increasing its ever-elusive curb appeal.

Of course, you probably already know that, but what you might not know is that upgrading your property doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. The right DIY home improvement projects improve your home, add value, and bring buyers to your door.

  1. Improve Your Landscaping
    Why hire a professional landscaper? You can save money by trimming, mulching, planting, and decorating your own home into a garden showplace. With one trip to your local garden shop or hardware store, you can get everything you need to give your landscape the wow factor home buyers love.

    • Design your dream landscape, and then bring it to life.
    • Seed your lawn. Cut back overgrown bushes so buyers can see your home.
    • Add seasonal color with potted and hanging flowers.
    • Enhance your landscape with solar lights and pavers that save energy.

  2. Beautify Your Bathroom
    You spend an awful lot of time in the bathroom. It should be a beautiful sanctuary that increases your home's value, not a shabby refuge. Change your perceptions and add value with these DIY home improvement projects.

    • Install trendy light fixtures.
    • Replace your sink with a designer vanity and a marble bowl.
    • Install a copper or chrome faucet and metal-coordinated accessories.
    • Eliminate unfortunate color choices with white wall paint.

  3. Welcome Light into Your Home
    If you have large windows that allow natural light into your home, lucky you. If you don't have large windows, try these light-enhancing projects.

    • Install brighter light fixtures.
    • Paint your walls white and replace your drapes with neutral-colored blinds.
    • Remove some furniture to open up your space.

  4. Up Your Energy Efficiency
    Green technologies save money, increase home values, and reduce your carbon footprint. When a potential buyer queries your utility company about your average energy bill, they'll like what they hear. You can perform several green upgrades yourself.

    • Replace light bulbs with energy-efficient versions.
    • Replace your stove, refrigerator, and small kitchen appliances with models rated high for energy savings.
    • Install solar-powered exterior lights.
    • Repair window seals to minimize hot/cold air exchange.

  5. Modernize Your Kitchen
    Home buyers love grand spacious kitchens. Even if your kitchen isn't as big as a buyer desires, you can complete these DIY projects to make it irresistibly grand.

    • Redo your kitchen floor with trendy wood-look, gray, wide-plank, or natural wood tiles.
    • Upgrade your stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher with popular stainless steel or black steel models.
    • Install a farmhouse sink and faucet for a country modern workspace.
    • Replace your countertops with granite. You'll need someone to measure and cut the openings and a buddy to help you lift them into place.|

  6. Make Your Home Intelligent
    Guys like gadgets. Okay, ladies like gadgets too. With a little time and effort, you can make your home gadget central. Internet-connected and digitally enhanced appliances and devices give your home an intriguing, high-tech feel.

    • Install a Wi-Fi-connected refrigerator.
    • Replace your stove with an intelligent version that lets you control cooking remotely.
    • Upgrade your home security system with cameras that let you watch your home and interact with visitors wherever you are.
    • Connect your coffeemaker to your alarm clock to brew your coffee when you wake up.

With these fixes, buyers will be flocking to your property and making top offers. And remember, it's not always the costly changes that give the best ROI, so consult your real estate agent about which home improvement changes will be better suited for your home.


5 Golden Rules For Staging Your Home

Selling your home can be an exciting adventure full of surprises and pitfalls. Taking the time to properly stage it can make selling your home less of a chore and allow you to get the best price possible. Follow these five tips from the pros to help you prepare your home and set the stage for a successful sale.

  1. Start Outside
    The first impression a buyer has of your home can make or break a sale. To make the buyer eager to step inside your home and see more, make sure the outside of your home looks fabulous. It doesn't cost a lot to cut the grass, pull weeds, prune the hedges and plant some flowers. Put away all bikes, toys, and trash cans. If you can, pull your cars out of the driveway, so there's a clear view of your home and property. A freshly painted door and prominent house number can also make your home more appealing.

  2. Clean and Get Rid of Clutter
    The most important thing you can do when getting ready to sell your home is to get rid of clutter. Removing your stuff and making your home less personal makes it easier for buyers to imagine themselves living in your space.

    Take a good look at each room and ask yourself what you really need to keep. Remove personal items like family photos, knickknacks, awards, and collectibles from tables, windowsills, shelves, and other surfaces. In the kitchen, put away towels, refrigerator magnets, sponges, paper towels, and dish soap, and remove small appliances from counters. It's also a good idea to remove pet beds, toys, and bowls.

    In the bathroom, remove all toiletries, hairdryers, and trash cans, open the shower curtain, and close the toilet lid. Keep closets and cabinets tidy throughout the house. Messy, packed-full closets are unappealing and will make the buyer think they are smaller than they are.

    Too much furniture can also contribute to a cluttered look. Professional stagers often remove half the owner's furnishings and put them in storage. Consider boxing up things like books and pictures and putting them in storage as well.

    Once you have removed the clutter, give your home a deep cleaning. Hiring a cleaning crew to come once every two weeks while selling your home will keep it looking fresh and cut down on stress. If you're doing the cleaning, don't forget windows, behind the toilet, grout, and under sinks. Move furniture and vacuum behind and under it.

  3. Make Repairs
    Repair squeaky doors, hinges, broken fixtures, and fittings. Replacing light fixtures, light switches, outlets, and door & cabinet hardware is an affordable way to give your home a more modern look. If you don't have time to refinish, inexpensive area rugs can also disguise the look of old hardwood floors.

  4. Keep it Neutral
    Use a fresh, neutral paint color like beige or taupe for living spaces and neutral green or blue hues for bathrooms. Stay away from bold wall colors, which are often a turnoff to buyers. If you want to make a room pop, add colorful accents with pillows and simple vases of flowers. Keep wall art and paintings neutral and simple.

  5. Accentuate Architecture
    Arrange furnishings to highlight ceilings, windows, views, fireplaces, and other architectural features. Put tall objects such as large bookshelves against walls, and hang art a bit lower to make ceilings look higher. Experiment with different ways to arrange your furniture; create cozy seating areas instead of lining couches and chairs along the walls. Open up blinds and draperies to make sure there's sufficient natural light throughout your home.

Staging doesn't have to be scary. After these fixes, you'll be excited to show people how great your property really is.


Declutter To Sell Your House Faster

Everyone has a little "clutter" lying around the house — and some of us may have more than others. When you're selling your home, managing your home's look and feel is one of the best ways to maximize your chances of selling quickly and for the most amount of money.

Real estate pros know decluttering allows potential buyers to see your home as "their home" and makes it appear bigger with more storage space. Use these steps to get started:

  • Set a schedule. Sit down and look at your time. Don't worry about how much you have, just find some — twenty minutes a day, an hour, and five— whatever you can put in. Add it to your schedule, and set aside time specifically for decluttering. Determine deadlines as well. For example, plan on finishing the kitchen in a week and the bedrooms in two. Or have an overall deadline for the whole house. Decide what works best for you. Once you have your schedule, stick to it.

  • Move room by room. Looking at the whole house can feel overwhelming, so take it room by room, area by area. There are always trouble spots, like closets, desks, or cabinets. Tackle those first. Move steadily through each room until you're done.

  • Make three piles. As you go through things, make three piles: a keep, get rid of, and maybe pile. Once you've finished each area, put back the things you're keeping in an organized manner. Implement any organization systems as you go. The maybes should be put in a box and stowed for a few weeks. Revisit them and decide whether you really need them or not. Address the get rid of right away.

  • Get it out quickly. The key is to remove things as they come up. Have a plan — donate, garbage, or sell. Set aside time each week to do those things. List items on Craigslist, take a trip to the dump or run by the thrift store to drop items off. If you keep it around, clutter has a habit of working its way back into your home.

  • Learn to let go. One of the hardest things can be to let go of stuff. It may be sentimental; you may be saving it for when you really need it. Research on the web, or read a book about decluttering. Many resources have a series of questions to ask yourself to see if something is really worth holding onto. You can also ask if it is something you'll actually use and find time limits as to how long to hold onto certain things (like paperwork and clothes).

Decluttering Before You Sell Your Home

Not only can decluttering help you prepare for a move, but it also gives you a boost mentally. You'll be one step closer to staging, and you reduce the amount that you'll need to transport to the new house. In a way, it prepares you mentally to make a change. Decluttering gets you in the mindset to embrace a new setting, and you can make that new setting a new home.

It's true-decluttering is hard, but the rewards you'll reap are more than worth it.


Is It Time To Break Up With Your Home?

Remember the first time you laid eyes on your home? Your jaw dropped at the beautiful front yard. You were amazed at how all those windows sparkled as you walked up to the door. After you moved in, you thanked your lucky stars for sending you your dream home. You loved your house when you first bought it and knew you would live there forever. Wait a minute... Forever? That's an awfully long time to live at the same address. Here's what to do when you think you've fallen out of love with your home. 

There are different reasons people fall out of love with their dream homes. The good news is more often than not, it's possible to identify the issue and fall back in love with your home all over again.

Before selling your home, you need to answer a few questions:

  • Have you really given your house a chance?
  • Would you fall back in love with your house if you invested a little into some home improvement projects?
  • Is the house the problem, or are you secretly dissatisfied with your life and laying the blame on your home?

If you've only been in your house for a few months, it's likely that you haven't actually fallen out of love with the place but are simply suffering from either a case of buyer's remorse or feelings of being unsettled. In this situation, the best thing to do is give things some more time. The chances are good that you'll relax and fall in love with your home all over again. If you discover that your emotional detachment from your house stems from it needing work or remodeling, you need to come to a few decisions. You can choose to invest the time and money into making the improvements your happiness relies on, or speak to a real estate agent about selling your home. It's important to note that sometimes finding your dream home means making improvements.

If you decide that it's not your house but rather something else triggering your sense of dissatisfaction, look around the community. You may find that it holds the secret to helping you feel fulfilled. The odds are that there are volunteering opportunities and clubs near your home to help you fill up your life and feel happier.

If you absolutely can't stand the idea of spending any more time in your house, then it's time to talk to a real estate agent about selling your house. When shopping for a new house, remember the issues that caused you to fall out of love with your house and avoid those pitfalls with your next purchase.

When you decide that selling your home is the best solution, always make sure you deal with a real estate agent you trust to get you the best price for the home.


Get An Inspection Before Selling Your Home

Selling your home? A recent survey showed more than 85 percent of buyers who applied for financing asked for an inspection of the home they intended to buy. Today's savvy home buyers rarely leave things up to chance — they want to be assured they are getting great value.

Despite this growing trend, many sellers still wait for buyers to take the initiative on inspections.

A seller might save a few hundred dollars by waiting until the buyer makes the first move, but this is rarely worthwhile. In fact, there are many benefits to taking the plunge and getting an inspection as soon as you decide you are serious about putting your property on the market.

Let's look at six benefits of pre-listing home inspections:

  1. Attract More Buyers
    Savvy buyers who have purchased a property before will know about the necessity of a home inspection and will appreciate this is one less step (and expense) they need to worry about. New buyers seeking their first home may not be as savvy at first, but they will soon figure it out. All in all, an inspection will reassure and attract more would-be buyers.

  2. Accelerate the Sales Process
    Sooner or later, an inspection will happen — and when it does, it's bound to turn up something. Relatively minor issues might throw a wrench into your hopes of selling your home. When you get proactive, you have the chance to resolve problems that might otherwise add months to the sales process. Plus, in many cases, you can turn those fixes into part of your sales pitch.

  3. Provide a Stronger Negotiating Position
    Most home sales involve some "give and take" over the final price. Buyers will look for anything they can find as a reason to maneuver excess costs onto the seller. With a recent inspection report in hand, you can counter these moves without any sour grapes — you've gone the extra mile to ensure that everything in the home is on the up and up, after all!

  4. Reduce Recurring Repair Bills
    It isn't always easy to determine the true source of a recurring problem in a home, even a newer one. For example, if your toilet drains slowly, you might simply need to snake it... or you may have a major issue with your septic system. Whatever the case, an inspection helps you get to the real root of the problem. It saves money if you don't sell and improves your price if you do.

  5. Take Control of the Process
    Unless you find out something truly appalling, you don't necessarily have to take time to repair whatever an inspection turns up. Instead, you have the option of lowering your price or going "as-is." All in all, an inspection gives you the opportunity to take the steps that are right for you instead of running to catch up to a buyer whose inspection uncovers unwelcome surprises.

  6. If You're Selling Your Home, Start With an Inspection
    In today's real estate market, a seller's pre-inspection of a home is a mark of quality that buyers increasingly expect. If you put your home on the market and don't find interested buyers in a relatively short time, an inspection is one precaution you'll end up taking.

With all that in mind, selling your home should almost always start with an inspection. It's an essential step, just like making basic repairs, listing your home in the right places, staging it for potential buyers, and partnering with a real estate agent you can trust.


6 Signs It's Time To Sell Your Home

Your home has been your safe haven over the years. As much as your home means to you, it's starting to feel like it is time to make a move. So what should you consider when making the decision to sell your home? Here are six signs that it's time to sell.

  1. Nothing Fits
    Are your cupboards so crammed that when you put the dishes away, Tupperware showers down on your head? What about the closet? When was the last time you actually saw the back of that thing? And then there is the issue of walkways. How many times can one adult trip on the way to the bathroom, really? If you've filled every nook and cranny, it's a likely sign you need more space, and you should consider selling your house.

  2. Growing Children
    Babies sure have a lot of stuff, but even those infants with an excess of gear can still comfortably live in a tiny space. As children grow, they need an environment that can expand with them. If you have multiple children sharing the same bedroom or lack the room to run outside, selling your home and upgrading to a larger property may be the right choice for you.

  3. Changing Neighborhood
    Does your neighborhood feel different than it used to? Are there a lot of new neighbors or an excess of empty homes? Changing neighborhoods can be a good indicator that it is time to move. If you find crime increasing and empty homes increasing, this can indicate your property value will continue to drop. It may be a good idea to sell now before your investment drops even lower. In opposite indications, an increase in sales and area improvements can greatly increase your home value. Selling your house in an upswing market can yield a great profit on your loan and allow you to invest in something further up the scale.

  4. City Real Estate Market
    How hot is the market in your city? If you answered like "Seattle or San Francisco," you can likely guarantee a quick and lucrative sale. Other areas may not be moving so fast. When selling your home, it's important to consult the real estate stats in your area. You can check online or ask your local real estate agent.

  5. Interest Rates
    Low-interest rates indicate a good time for selling your home. Low-interest rates will allow you a great rate on obtaining a new mortgage as well as entice buyers to your property at an affordable value. Low interest may not be a lasting option, so it's important to consult market experts online and in person to see your area market forecast.

  6. It's Your Choice
    All the data in the world can't make the final decision for you. Selling your house will always depend on your timeline. Don't let someone else rush you if you don't feel ready. If you're unsure, however, the best idea is to consult a local real estate agent to find out your home's current value.

Understanding your market, pricing, and new homeowner options will simplify your decision and help ensure you live in a home you will enjoy for years to come.


What Every First-Time Seller Should Know

You might think selling a home is similar to buying one, but they actually have little in common. Buying a house for the first time is something that many of us look forward to throughout our lives. No matter how much you love your first home, there will likely come a day when you're ready to move on to something new.

Selling your home is a totally different experience from buying a home. Buying a home involves feelings and sentiments, while selling one centers on dollars and cents. However cut and dry the selling experience might seem, there is still a period of confusion involved in the selling process. Many first-time home sellers have no idea where to start. Here are some of the most important tips for first-time home sellers to help you get started.

Just as with buying a home for the first time, you can remove a lot of the mystery from the equation by taking the time to read, study and learn. There's a lot to learn from your real estate agent and other experienced home sellers. Since you're here, it's safe to say you're already taking steps in that direction.

  1. Set a Reasonable Price
    The value of a home is not set in a vacuum, and market factors play an important role in setting the right price. Ask your real estate agent for a comparative market analysis (CMA). A CMA breaks down the value of your home in great detail, along with the market history of homes in your area. Understanding the realities of the local real estate market is crucial in setting a price that is as attractive for buyers as it is for your budget.

  2. Work with a Trusted Real Estate Agent
    Working with a real estate agent you can trust will make life much easier when it's time to sell your home. A skilled agent will help you set the right price, attract the right buyers, and find a deal that works for everyone involved. If you enjoyed working with the agent who helped you purchase the home, now is a great time to rekindle that relationship.

  3. Major Marketing
    Identifying the right buyer is much easier when you do what's necessary to help the right buyer find you. Work with an agent who understands how social media, email marketing, and search engine marketing fit into the modern real estate purchasing process. A bit of targeted marketing is key to reaching the right audience.

  4. Consider Curb Appeal – No matter how great the interior of your home looks, it's the exterior that makes the first impression. Add curb appeal by updating your landscaping, keeping your yard as clean as possible, and putting a fresh coat of paint on areas that need it. You want them to be impressed from the moment they arrive. Be sure to tidy up and declutter inside too.

  5. Prepare to Compromise – If you're holding out for the deal that checks every single item on your priority list, you may be in for a long wait. The selling process has the same give-and-take as the buying process, so you may need to compromise in some areas to get what you want in others. Consider the areas where you're willing to compromise as you get started with the process, and you'll be better prepared to make a deal.

One advantage of selling your home for the first time is that you'll likely have experience sitting on the other side of the table as a buyer, so you'll already have some idea of what to expect. With a willingness to keep learning and the help of an experienced real estate agent, you'll be ready to tackle the process of selling your home for the first time.


Adding Closets Can Give Your Home Value A Boost

If you're looking for a way to increase the value of your home, consider looking not in the kitchen, but rather in the closets. Updated, custom closets help add additional storage to your space, making it more usable for you, and more appealing to future buyers. Here are some reasons why closets can make a home more valuable to potential buyers.

Closets Make a Home Move-In Ready

Unless they're specifically shopping for a "fixer-upper," today's buyers want to purchase a home that is move-in ready. The little features that show the homeowner has given the home plenty of TLC and attention are invaluable in this. When a buyer opens a closet and sees a professional organizing system, they know that the home has been well maintained. This makes it seem more valuable in their minds. 

Custom Closets Have a High Return on Investment

If you invest in a custom closet, you'll have almost all of that investment when selling your home. Custom closets sell homes, and they can mean the difference between a home that sits on the market and one that sells quickly for a good price. You will be able to enjoy the use of the closets while you live in the home, and then enjoy the financial benefit when you're ready to sell.

Adding Closets Improve the Home's Function and Value

If your home doesn't have enough storage space, adding a closet can add value significantly. Consider a den in your home that doesn't have a closet. When you add one, you instantly add a bedroom. Adding linen closets in the hallway or the bathroom or a storage closet under the stairs adds additional storage space that buyers will want.

Following Current Trends Improves the Home's Appeal

When thinking about closets, consider the current closet trends. Purposeful organization is essential to making a close appealing. Built-in shelving, pull-out drawers and bins, ironing boards, and built-in shoe racks all have a reason for being in a closet and a benefit to the home's owner. A dresser in the closet is another current trend, keeping all clothing storage in one convenient location.

If you have the space to do some remodeling, consider adding a second closet to the primary bedroom. Individual closets go hand in hand with dual vanities to make a master suite more practical and comfortable, and modern homeowners, particularly in larger homes, are look gin for these kinds of features.

Use Custom Closet Space in Small Closets

Many homeowners with smaller homes make the mistake of assuming that custom closet space isn't for them. This couldn't be farther from the truth. When selling your home, you need to remember that your buyer is looking for a home like yours, even if it's become too small for your needs now. So, consider using a custom closet organizing system in your small closet. It will maximize your storage space and give your home a polished look that makes it sell well.

If you're thinking of selling your home in the near future, consider those improvements that make your home shine in the eyes of potential buyers. Closets are one of these, so give your closets a makeover and see how much more quickly the home will sell.


Insider Tips For A Successful Open House

Selling your home? A successful open house is essential to attracting the right buyer. A truly great open house takes time, and it goes beyond popular ideas about "staging." Use these proven techniques to make an impression:

  1. Start Planning Early
    When selling your home, it's never too early to get started. Your first open house should take place no later than the second weekend your home is on the market. It'll take some time for prospective buyers to find your listing one way or the other.

    When it comes to an open house, no detail is too small. Consider things like lawn care, whether you want to offer cookies or a catered lunch, and how to keep kids and pets calm. The more thoughtful your presentation, the better.

  2. Hire a Cleaning Service
    Even if you keep your home immaculate, it's tough to get out all the spots and stains from years of living. When selling your home, making sure it looks its best is crucial — would-be buyers need to be able to imagine their happy futures there!

    There are two areas you should be especially careful about: the carpets and the exterior. Carpets can hold pollen and pet dander that might disturb some buyers. And, of course, a freshly pressure-cleaned exterior maximizes the home's curb appeal.

  3. Get the Word Out
    Gone are the days when it was necessary to take out full-page newspaper ads to get your open house noticed. Now, it's simply a matter of making sure your real estate agent is posting them on all the top sites serious buyers look at regularly to find properties.

    Still, you should take the time to advertise within your neighborhood — beginning a full week before your event. Starting from a radius of several blocks, put up signs that clearly direct visitors to the home. Tie off each sign with colorful balloons to get them noticed.

  4. Pick the Right Times and Days
    These days, most open houses take place on Sunday. To get even more visitors, however, consider having two days of back-to-back showings. This will give people multiple weekend options. It can even motivate visitors to return on the second day with new ideas or questions.

    Open houses traditionally start around 1 PM. . . but they don't have to. By starting later, you may make a stronger impact. That's because buyers are likely to look at several houses in a day and will more clearly remember the one they visited last.

  5. Have Something to Give Away
    When executives look for a job, they bring something that makes an impression, like a portfolio of their top press clippings and achievements. By leaving it with the interviewer, they provide a memory boost that makes them look more attractive — you can do the same for your house.

    Don't stop with the traditional baked cookies — have photos of the house from different times of the year, appraisals, and other valuable documents buyers can take away with them. They're much more likely to follow up since they'll have a concrete reminder of your property.

  6. Get Out of the Way
    While there are many ways to get prospective buyers to linger and talk to your real estate agent, you don't necessarily need to be there. Some brokers actually prefer that the owner be away from the house to more effectively stay "on message." Coordinate with your broker — and if you go, be sure to take Fido or Fluffy along for the day.

Ask your real estate agent for more tips on how your open house with wow buyers. That way, you'll know you're on the right track.


Sellers: How You Can Downsize Efficiently

Once you've decided to sell your home, there is one question that looms large, hanging over your head like a heavy weight. What am I going to do with all this stuff? The question is especially relevant if you will be downsizing into a smaller house.

If you have lived in your current home for an extended period of time, the problem may be just that much worse. The accumulation of life's stuff is easy to put out of sight and out of mind during the day-to-day bustle. But when it is time to start packing and getting a home ready to sell, it can be like an avalanche bursting forth from every corner.

What's the best way to start downsizing your life and do it efficiently? It may sound easy — keep the stuff you need and purge the stuff you don't — but if you aren't careful how you do it, you can create more problems for yourself than just having too much junk.

Have a Plan to Ease the Pain

  • Start with the big stuff. If you are selling your three-bedroom home to move into a two-bedroom home, there's no need to move that extra bedroom furniture. It's just not needed. Take that approach with the rest of your home as well. Consider the space you are moving into and what you will need to fill it.

  • Be cautious. It can be easy to get on a "get rid of it" kick when it comes to smaller items, but be careful. Some things you know you will never need again, sell or donate. For other things that you are on the fence about, separate boxes into "must keep" and "maybe keep" boxes. That way, you can adjust as needed if your new home has the space to accommodate more of your things.

    It also helps to think about your belongings like this: If they were all wiped away by a fire, what would I replace and in what order would I replace them. It can be counter-productive to aggressively downsize, only to find that you need to re-buy things when you get in to your new home.

  • Go through those boxes again. Do you have boxes of keepsakes or mementos that you just couldn't live without but have never been unpacked from your previous home? Go through those boxes again, separating what's truly needed from what will never be missed.

  • Some space hogs can be effectively downsized without disappearing from your life. Take this opportunity to digitize old photos, CDs, DVDs or even VHS tapes. Uploading them to the cloud keeps them accessible while reducing the amount of stuff you have to move.

  • One year rule. When selling your home and downsizing, it helps to follow one simple rule: If you haven't used it in the last year, get rid of it.

Take your new uncluttered attitude with you into your new home. Recognize clutter culprits in your old home and take pains to reduce what can build up in your new one. The easiest stuff to get rid of is the stuff you never accumulate.


Make Buyers Fall In Love With Your Home With These 5 Tips

When you're selling your home, first impressions are everything. Typically, each home buyer is looking for something different in the house they buy. However, there are common problems that will make them walk — and, maybe, even run — out of your home if they see them. The good news is there are several things you can do to make buyers fall in love with your home.

  1. Boost Your Curb Appeal
    Start with your yard. You won't believe the difference mowing your lawn, trimming hedges, picking up toys, adding fresh mulch, and raking leaves make. Best of all, improving the visual appearance of your yard doesn't cost you much. Just remember, once you're committed to selling your home, you'll need to stay on top of lawn work until the property has sold and is no longer your responsibility.

    If you have a plain yard, you should consider adding one or two flower beds or planting an ornamental tree to spruce things up.

  2. Tweak the Interior
    Take a look at the interior of your home. Is the paint chipped, streaked, or just tired looking? Do the fixtures and door handles match? Are the outlet covers and light switches working properly?

    The odds are good that when you look at the interior of your home through the eyes of a prospective buyer, you'll realize that things are a bit dated. Now that you're selling your home, it's time to change that. A quick run to the hardware store for updated door fixtures, outlet covers, and paint won't cost too much. With a weekend's worth of work, you'll have given the inside of your home a facelift and made it more appealing to buyers.

    When choosing fixtures and, more importantly, paint, stick to neutral options.

  3. Upgrade the Kitchen
    Buyers have said that the kitchen was what made them decide to place an offer on a home.

    If you're on a shoestring budget, you'll want to devote your funds to:

    - Ensuring the plumbing works perfectly,
    - Repairing and/or replacing damaged cabinet doors,
    - Making sure the kitchen is well lit,
    - Repainting,
    - Relining the shelves/drawers,
    - Refinishing hardwood floors,
    - Cleaning grout and re-grouting any damaged/crumbling grout.

    If you have more money to devote to upgrading the kitchen, consider:

    - Replacing older countertops with new granite countertops,
    - Upgrading to energy-efficient appliances.

  4. Ceilings
    If your home was built prior to the 1980s and has a popcorn-finished ceiling will want to have it tested for asbestos. If the test is positive, you'll want to replace the ceiling before speaking to a real estate agent. Now that buyers understand the potential health risks connected to asbestos, they won't consider a home with the material.

    Even if the test comes back negative, you should still consider having the ceilings replaced. Not only does the popcorn finish give the house a dated feel, but it's also extremely difficult to keep clean or paint, which serves as a turn-off for any prospective buyers.

  5. Remove the Clutter
    It's difficult for prospective buyers to fully appreciate the full potential of your home if it's full of clutter, so after deciding to sell your home, put any items you can temporarily live without into storage.

With these tactics and fixes, there's no doubt buyers will fall in love with your home. Ask your real estate agent for more tips on how to get the most out of your sale.


Staging Tactics That Are Proven To Wow Buyers

If you're planning to sell your home, consider staging it. From decluttering and cleaning to rearranging and styling, successful home staging can make you money. In fact, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, most sellers' agents agree a well-staged home increases the dollar amount home buyers offer.

If you are an HGTV fan, you know home staging is when the "pros" go through a home clearing out the clutter, highlighting its strengths, and presenting each room in the best light that will attract the largest group of potential home buyers.  

But, do you need to hire a professional stager? Maybe not. Use these six tips to manage the styling and upgrading of your home to fetch a higher sales price.

  1. Ban the Clutter
    Nothing turns away prospective buyers quite as quickly as clutter. For some buyers, clutter makes it impossible for them to see the home because all they can see is the mess. For others, clutter makes them feel as if the home does not have enough space for their own needs because it does not have enough room for yours. Clear away the clutter, so the home's spacious design shows through.

  2. Spruce up the Front Door
    When selling your home, the front door of your home is the first thing most people notice, so make sure it really shines. Give it a fresh coat of paint, add some outside, potted plants, and a new rug. If the front door is inviting and welcoming, the home will sell faster and for a better price.

  3. Place Furniture Strategically
    The placement of your furniture can add to or detract from your home. In the main living areas, put the furniture into conversation groupings rather than pushing it up against the wall. Then, in other rooms, make sure the furniture accentuates the home's positive features while drawing the eye away from negative ones. Remove some furniture, if needed, to help the room look as large as possible.

  4. Spruce up a Neglected Bedroom
    Do you have a guestroom or a master bedroom that you've neglected over the years? Take some time to spruce it up. Transform the guest room into a kid's bedroom (even if you don't have kids) to make the home appealing to families who do. Make sure the bed is the focal point of your master bedroom space. Aim for symmetry where clutter rules. With these tips, your home will be much more appealing.

  5. Add Lighting
    Most homes do not have the right amount of lighting for proper home staging techniques. Even if your home has plenty of natural light, you want to ensure that you have 100 watts of lighting for every 50 square feet of living space. Adding lighting on multiple levels of the room, including overhead lights and table lamps, will make the space feel warmer and inviting.

  6. Clean and Organize the Kitchen, Inside and Out
    The kitchen will make or break your home's ability to shine, so spend a significant amount of time here as you stage the property. Make sure you clean it well and pack away all clutter so the countertops can be clear. Then, clean out each cupboard and pantry to make it look like it has plenty of storage space. Remember, potential buyers will be looking inside these spaces. Finally, update any outdated appliances and cover any ugly cabinets with a fresh coat of paint. Don't forget to invest in a new sink faucet if an upgrade is needed.

In a competitive market or in a situation where you need to sell your home quickly, staging is the key. Keep these tips in mind, and don't be afraid to talk to a professional stager. Often, the cost of professional staging is made back with a higher sales price and less time on the market!


Sellers: How To Have A Stress-Free Move

If you've ever moved and had a stressful experience, or you've heard horror stories from your friends or family when they sold and moved houses, you may wonder if a stress-free move is even possible. The answer is: "You Bet!"

Buying a house is a huge deal. If you've just started house hunting or are already under contract, moving is the next giant step in this process. Moving can be stressful and chaotic. The good news is packing and moving can be relatively effortless with some planning and organization. Use these simple steps to get started:

  • Get Organized
    Having a plan is critical if you are going to make your move stress-free. Begin by making a list of everything you need to do and divide it into weeks. Allow yourself enough time to complete all the tasks.

  • Start Packing Well in Advance
    Time is not always our friend. If you can, start packing at least eight weeks ahead of time. (If you have more time — even better.)

  • Don't Move it All
    Instead of trying to figure out how you are going to do it all, first determine if you really even need it. Inventory all of your belongings and decide what to donate, sell or toss and what will actually be moved. Decluttering and simplifying your life can actually help lessen the load, and moving into a new home is a great time to do it.

  • Label Your Boxes
    While tossing everything into boxes and sorting it once you move seems like a great idea, organized packing will pay off in the long run. Label each box with detailed descriptions. Color-coding boxes by room make it easier when it comes time to unpack.

  • Make a Survival Kit
    Just like anyone going on a great journey, it's important to pack a survival kit. In it should be the basic necessities that you and your family will need at some point during the day, the things you just can't make it through a day without. In your kit should be things like:
    • Toiletries
    • Water
    • Snacks
    • Phone chargers

  • Get Familiar with Your New Digs
    Familiarize yourself with your new home and community before moving day. Spend some time driving around, determining where grocery stores, shopping areas, and restaurants are located. When moving day comes, you won't waste time searching for hardware stores or places to eat. Spending time in your new home can also help you better envision where your belongings should be placed.

  • Hire a Professional Mover
    Perhaps the most stressful part of packing and moving is the actual process. It's true that doing all the heavy lifting will save on your bottom line, but it's going to cost you in terms of a sore back and added stress. Letting a professional mover handle everything takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process for you and ensures that moving day will go as smoothly as possible.

No matter how you decide to de-stress your moving day, it's important you keep everything in perspective. Don't decide that all your boxes need to be unpacked in one day. Make sure you take time for yourself on moving day to relax and reflect on what you've accomplished.


Here's How To Sell A Home When You Have Pets

You love your dog or cat; however, when listing your home for sale, many potential buyers will not be as enamored as you are. In fact, your pet might be the reason some buyers bypass your home entirely and move to another pet-free option.

Here's How To Sell A Home When You Have Pets

The Problem Prospective Buyers Have with Pets

Many buyers will say there are two reasons that prevent them from touring homes with pets:

  1. They are not comfortable around pets--especially dogs — and won't enter a home that currently has one.
  2. Your pet changes the way your home smells. Some buyers won't buy a house they feel has a pet odor.

The good news is that there are things you can do to ensure that your pet and prospective buyers are comfortable.

Relocate Your Pet

You might not like the idea of living without your dog, but it's an option you may have to consider to sell your home.

If you have a friend or relative that is willing to provide a temporary home for your dog, consider their offer. In fact, it will be good for both your dog and prospective buyers. Your dog won't have the stress of strange people coming and going, and prospective buyers will be comfortable while in your house.

Create a Safe Place for Your Pet

If providing your pup with a home away from home isn't an option, provide them with a secure place while prospective buyers tour your property. This can be a neighbor's house, an outdoor kennel, or even an indoor crate. It's important that your pet is comfortable in this area before prospective buyers start walking through your home.

Clean up After Your Pets

First impressions are important during the home selling process. Before prospective buyers arrive, clean your home thoroughly. This includes:

  • Putting toys away
  • Cleaning litter boxes
  • Vacuuming pet hair
  • Laundering pet beds

Make sure your pet looks groomed and well-cared for.

Repair Pet Damage

Go over your entire property and repair any damage your family pet has done. This includes:

  • Filling in holes they've dug in the yard
  • Replacing stained carpets
  • Repairing or removing damaged furniture
  • Repairing or replacing torn or chewed drapes/curtains/blinds

Consult Your Veterinarian

Selling your home is stressful for you and your pets. It can take a toll on their health, particularly if they're a senior pet or one that already struggles with health issues. Talk to your veterinarian about what you can do to make the process easier for your pet.

Throughout the entire process, make sure your pet knows that they're still an important member of your family.


Need To Sell Fast? These Tricks Will Help

Before you sink the "for sale" sign in your front yard, make sure your house looks its best with these simple and inexpensive home improvement projects that will help make your home sell faster.

  1. Consider Curb Appeal
    You only get one chance to make a great first impression. Your lawn, landscaping, and entrance to your home are the first things buyers see. Make that first impression memorable by cutting the grass, weeding, trimming hedges, and raking leaves. Polishing (or adding new) front-door hardware and a new mailbox can give a visual boost. Some colorful plants and a few bags of mulch can spruce up the outside appearance of your home without breaking the bank.

  2. Step Up Your Storage
    Clutter is the enemy when you're selling a house. If your closets and storage areas are cramped, lighten the load (beyond decluttering) by adding do-it-yourself closet storage systems. Top candidates for storage units are entry closets, kitchen pantries, linen closets, and bedrooms. When all is said and done, your closets will be more organized and functional while you're still living in the home and will attract potential buyers when you're ready to sell.

  3. Give Your Kitchen a Facelift
    The kitchen is the heart of your home. If it looks as if it's seen better days, give your oven, microwave, countertops, and sink some extra "TLC" with a deep cleaning. Buyers typically focus on a home's kitchen; consequently, it should sparkle the minute it hits the market.

    If your kitchen needs more than just a little elbow grease, a few inexpensive cosmetic changes can go a long way. Give it a makeover with a fresh coat of neutral paint, new hardware for drawers and cabinets, and up-to-date lighting and plumbing fixtures.

  4. Spiff Up Your Bathroom
    The bathroom — just like the kitchen — is a high priority for home buyers. Buyers love the idea of experiencing a five-star luxury experience in the comfort of their new homes. Since a complete bathroom renovation may not be in your plans, add the wow factor buyers are looking for by upgrading your sink, tub, shower, and lighting fixtures. A fresh coat of paint and new towels will give your bathroom a new look. A good, deep cleaning can make a drab shower and dingy floors shine again.

  5. Lighting Makes a Difference
    When you're selling a house, poor lighting can detract from your home's best features. Installing new light fixtures can give your house an updated look and highlight the best features of your house for home buyers. Replace old light bulbs with new ones with a higher wattage. You want buyers to see your home's best-selling points as they walk through it.

Buyers typically don't want to think about all the work they need to do in their new home. These fixes can help make your home a showstopper and will help move your property faster.


5 Ways Sellers Can Sabotage Their Own Sales

Is the yard a mess? Do the shutters need painting?  Have you just cost yourself a contract by making a few simple mistakes. Here is a list of five home-selling mistakes to avoid with tips on how to correct them.

  1. Dirty Kitchen, Dirty Bathrooms
    For most people, the kitchen is one of the marquee attractions when looking at a potential home. Bathrooms are less an attraction than a necessity in most cases, but they're just as important. Clean both rooms thoroughly, including grout, tiles, and those annoying, hard-to-reach areas around appliances.

  2. A Messy Yard
    When acting on tips for how to sell your house, it's easy to get so caught up in preparing the inside of your home that you forget about the outside. It's also a big mistake. Your front lawn is an advertisement, even to people who are just passing by. Keep your lawn healthy, your hedges trimmed, and your yard free of clutter.

  3. Old Appliances
    While it may seem counter-intuitive to purchase new appliances for a home you're about to leave, doing so can make it easier to sell your home. You don't need the most advanced, high-end appliances unless you're appealing to the luxury market. The important thing is that the buyer knows your appliances have modern features, work well, and won't have to be replaced anytime soon.

  4. Old Carpets, Odd Colors
    While that extra-shaggy carpet or lime-green sitting room may have seemed a good idea at the time, it might not go over so well with potential buyers. Opt for hardwood floors or new carpet instead, and paint those extra-vibrant rooms with more conventional colors. You can always get creative again when decorating your next home!

  5. Hovering Sellers
    When showing your home, there's nothing wrong with a warm welcome and friendly rapport. Just make sure you give the potential buyer room to breathe. Allow them to look around on their own, and let them know you're available to answer any questions. They'll appreciate that much more than a guided tour.

Avoid these common mistakes and you can be sure buyers will want to bite! And don't forget to talk to your real estate agent for even more advice on selling your home.


The Home Seller's Survival Guide

There's no doubt that you're going to be busy while you work to sell your home, but focusing your energy in the right places will make your life much easier. Better yet, a bit of focused prep can make your home more appealing to potential buyers and ultimately makes it easier to find the right match as quickly as possible. Use this "survival guide" for selling your home to get started.

  1. Your Real Estate Agent – Working with a real estate agent that you trust really does make a huge difference when selling a house. Ask for referrals, potential interview choices, and choose the agent that best matches your needs.

  2. Consider Cost – Choosing the right price is one area where your real estate agent can be a big help because they have done the market research to understand trends in local real estate prices. Setting a fair price goes a long way toward enticing curious shoppers to take that first look and enticing interested buyers to make a real offer.

  3. Keep It Clean – Showings (and open houses) are simply part of the home-selling process, and you'll need to keep a clean, neat home if you want to make a positive impression. Make sure that floors, walls, corners, kitchen surfaces, appliances, and everything else look its absolute best. It also helps to put together a cleaning prep checklist for days when you'll be showing your home.

  4. Clutter-Free – This is huge, and it's an easy step to miss if you'll be living in the home until you sell it. The less clutter – furniture included – the better. You want shoppers to be able to envision their own lives in your home. Consider renting a storage unit to safely store non-essential items until you are ready to move into your next home.

  5. Maintenance and Repairs – DIY repairs are a great way to save some money if you have the experience necessary to do the job. For bigger maintenance tasks, it simply makes more sense to hire a contractor. Putting off repairs now just means more headaches and costs later when it's time for inspection.

  6. Landscaping – The outside of your house is where shoppers form their first impression, so be sure that your landscaping is looking its best. Keep up with outdoor maintenance, including cutting the lawn, for as long as you'll be showing your home. You might even consider adding some new landscaping features for increased curb appeal.

  7. A Welcoming Gesture – On days when you'll be showing, it's a good idea to make or buy some light refreshments for your visitors. Some fresh cookies, fruit, and coffee/tea will make shoppers feel right at home. Your real estate agent will help get the word out about your open house and can walk you through the process so you'll be ready to go.

Your real estate agent will help make sure that people show up, so the most important thing you can do when selling a house is to make sure that your home is always ready to show. That part becomes significantly easier to maintain after you get the initial work out of the way, as long as you keep up with it consistently. With a little teamwork, you'll find the right buyer in no time.


Downsizing Isn't So Bad: Why Less Can Be More

Downsizing frees you from the time, energy, and effort required from living in a larger home.

People have become obsessed with the idea that bigger is better. You see it everywhere: bigger burgers, bigger cars, and bigger houses. It's time to set the record straight — selling your house and downsizing your home might actually be a better lifestyle choice for you.  

Choosing to buy a smaller home often has to do with the desire to live a more simple life. If you're trying to decide whether downsizing is the right move for you, here are some benefits to consider before taking the plunge. 

  1. Increased Cash Flow.
    Smaller homes are less expensive to buy and less expensive to maintain. If your monthly mortgage and utility payments are lower, chances are you'll have more money every month to invest, travel or pay down your mortgage sooner than expected.

  2. More Time.
    The larger the home, the more you have to maintain. A smaller home reduces the time spent on household tasks giving you more hours in the day to do something else more enjoyable.

  3. Reduced Consumption.
    Buying smaller forces you to pare down your belongings and regularly keep what's important and used. If there is no room for it, you probably won't buy it.

  4. Reduced Carbon Footprint.
    A smaller home requires fewer resources because it uses less electricity, heating, and cooling. Building a smaller home also requires the use of less lumber and other wood products.

  5. Less Stress.
    Downsizing definitely has its perks. Less work, more money, and greater flexibility — all these add up to reduced stress. Homeowners who have downsized their homes seem happier when they're no longer overwhelmed by the demands of a larger home.

Downsizing your home is about doing more with less. Rather than spending your time and energy maintaining a larger home, you may enjoy your life more by living in a smaller one.


Your Guide To Selling A Home In Spring

Spring is typically the busiest season in real estate. If you're thinking about selling your house, then this is truly a can't-miss opportunity. Buyers are hitting the market in force after a winter of hibernation, curb appeal is springing back, and warmer weather makes it easier to finish chores around the home. Now all you need is to get your home — and yourself — ready for the busy season ahead.

  1. Create a To-Do List
    This step is easy to miss while you're busy buzzing around from one project to the next, but it's really worth taking the time to create a to-do list. Order tasks by priority, and be sure to update your list as you add new projects or complete existing ones. Once you have your list, post it in a place where you'll see it often.

  2. Prune Your Shrubbery and Trees
    While you're pruning, consider whether you'd like to add any new landscaping features or outdoor lighting to boost curb appeal.

  3. Declutter Your Home
    Buyers want to be able to picture what their life would be like in your home, so it's a good idea to remove clutter and personal possessions as you prepare for selling your home. A clutter-free home is also much easier to keep clean between showings.

  4. Property Inspection
    Having your home inspected will help you develop a game plan and reveal potential issues which could halt a sale if they go unnoticed. Ask around for referrals, and look for an inspector with a thorough track record.

  5. Meet with Your Agent
    The real estate market never truly sleeps, and your real estate agent is always hard at work. Schedule a time to talk strategy and get answers to your questions before the busy season begins.

  6. Home Improvements
    This is a great time to tackle minor home improvement projects like painting, power-washing outdoor surfaces, or refreshing your flooring. Every little improvement makes a difference, but you'll probably want to save the big remodeling projects for your next home.

  7. Prepare Yourself
    Selling your home takes a lot of time and energy, so it's a good idea to get yourself ready for the selling season. Develop a plan, coordinate with other household members, and maybe even set aside a bit of time for relaxation before showings and open houses begin.

With the right preparations in place, you'll be ready to hit the ground running during the busiest months of the real estate calendar. Selling your house is much easier when you take the time to plan, prepare and put your strategy into action. The right real estate agent and willingness to research on your own are the key ingredients to simplify selling your house this spring.


Impress Buyers With These Staging Shortcuts

Home staging highlights the best features of your house and makes it more marketable by giving it a clean, organized, and neutral appearance. It also makes your home more appealing to the greatest pool of prospective buyers.

Hiring a professional stager is a good investment because they have the design expertise and time to get the job done right. If you don't have the budget to hire a professional, follow these six home staging tips to get you on your way.

  1. Conquer the Clutter
    The most important thing you can do to prepare your home for sale is to declutter. Decluttering helps buyers imagine themselves living in your home. Take a good hard look at what you have and decide for yourself what you can live without. Pack, donate or store those things you can live without for the time being — this includes furniture. When professional stagers prep your home for sale, they often remove a good deal of furniture to make your rooms look bigger.

  2. Make Your Home Sparkling Clean
    A sparkling clean home gives prospective buyers the impression that it has been well-cared-for. Mop and vacuum your floors, dust, and wash windows and baseboards. Don't forget about organizing your cupboards, under your sinks, and in your closets. Assume home buyers will inspect every corner of your home.

  3. Slap on a Fresh Coat of Paint
    Repainting your interior is one of the most cost-effective and easiest ways to spruce up your home. Choose beige or taupe for living areas and neutral green or blue for bathrooms.

  4. Make Repairs
    Repair squeaky doors, leaking faucets, bathtub caulking with mold, or missing light bulbs. Now is the time to break out the toolbox and repair things you've neglected.

  5. Accessorize
    Decluttering is an important step in staging; however, once your home looks streamlined, add back a few accessories to convey the style of the home you want to project. A few lamps and pictures can create the right vibe.

  6. Boost Curb Appeal
    The way your home looks from the street can put dollars in your pocket and cut the time your home takes to sell. Prospective buyers thinking of touring your home will do a drive-by first to decide whether or not to schedule a showing. Lure in more buyers with some good old-fashioned spit shine and polish along with a splash of color. Power wash siding and walkways, wash windows, plant blooming flowers and greenery, repaint and stain as needed.

Making your home shine is a critical component of a successful sale. If you need more tips, your real estate agent will know how to transform your home so buyers will bite.


The Best-Kept Secrets To Selling Your Home

Many sellers rush to put their homes on the market without giving too much thought to what it takes to grab a home buyer's attention. As you consider listing your home, there are a number of "secrets" you can use to take your house from ordinary to extraordinary in the eyes of homebuyers.

Make your home stand out from the competition by following these selling steps.

  1. The Price is Right.
    Your real estate agent will help you determine what similar homes in your community are currently listed for and what similar homes have sold for in the past. Evaluate the features these homes may have over yours and vice versa. Your goal is to get the best price for your home. This means pricing your home right, so it will remain competitive within the local real estate market.

  2. Preparation Is Important.
    Before your house even enters the market, there are a few things you might want to do. While there are a few buyers out there that are looking for a fixer-upper, most buyers would like to purchase a home, move straight in and live comfortably. This means that updating a few things will go a long way in getting buyers to put your home on their shortlist. Make sure your home is in good repair. Replace things that aren't working or need to be updated. A new splash of paint inside and outside will make a house feel, smell, and look clean and new. You want the buyer to leave your home with the best impression they could possibly have.

  3. Curb Appeal.
    To get your home on a buyer's radar, getting them inside your home is your first task. This means making the outside of your home look appealing. The first thing a buyer sees — other than pictures on the internet — is the outside of your home. If the paint is peeling, plants are dead, and the grass is knee-high, it is likely that buyers will keep driving and never see the potential that is inside of your home.

    It doesn't take much effort to make the outside of your home inviting. Stand on your front lawn and think as if you were buying the home. Does the front door need a new coat of paint? Could the landscaping be spruced up with a new layer of mulch? A few little changes and you can make the outside of your home stand out.

  4. Staging.
    Staging your home is one of the important home selling tips. Staging your home is all about bringing the best of your home out and downplaying the parts that may not be so good. The first thing to do when staging is to clear the clutter. If you have big furniture, store it. You want your home to appear as if it is spacious. Buyers want to be able to picture themselves in a home, so remove all personal items and trinkets. A buyer may look at two houses that are the exact same size; however, if yours feels more spacious, then yours is the one they will likely choose. Other things to consider are, updating hardware, lighting, kitchen cabinets, and using a neutral color scheme throughout.

A little effort on your part will go a long way to increasing the chances of your home selling quickly. Following these steps can make your home selling process fun and pain-free.


Questions Sellers Are Afraid To Ask Agents

Selling a home is filled with complexities that can be difficult to navigate, especially when going through the process for the first time. As a seller, you should always remember no question is stupid. Asking as many questions as possible can help you avoid costly mistakes, and your real estate agent is there to help educate you about the process.

To help put clients at ease, here is a quick list of common real estate questions sellers are often too afraid to ask:

  • How Are Real Estate Agents Paid?
    Your real estate agent will do a lot of work upfront to help you sell your home and maximize your sale price. However, real estate agents are not paid upfront or hourly. They also do not receive a salary. A real estate agent is only paid when your home sells, and they receive a percentage of the home sale as a commission.

    Typically, the buyer's agent and the seller's agent both receive 3% of the sale price, and that commission is usually paid by the seller. Many times, real estate agents then split a portion of their commission with their broker as well.

  • Do I Have To Relocate My Pets While My Home Is On The Market?
    Pets come with so much joy, but they can occasionally make the selling process a bit inconvenient. While many people love cats and dogs, some people do not. While relocating your pets may not be feasible, you should make every attempt to eliminate pet odors and put away toys or accessories. You don't want visitors tripping over dog bowls when touring your listing!

  • Do I Need Listing Photos?
    Staging your home and taking listing photos can be a bit inconvenient at times for sellers. It can be difficult to live in a staged home, and keeping things pristine at all times can be a lot of work. However, listing photos are essential for attracting buyers to your property. Most home shoppers browse listings online, so listing photos have never been more important. The manner in which you stage your home combined with your listing photos can have a major impact on your sale price.

  • Can I Leave Something Out Of The Sale?
    While buyers typically don't expect sellers to leave furniture, they do expect them to leave most appliances. As a seller, it's your right to exclude anything you'd like from the home sale, but you must disclose what's not included upfront. Your real estate agent will usually add notes to the MLS listing. Just keep in mind excluding major appliances, lighting fixtures, or anything else can negatively impact your listing and sale price.

  • Can I Decorate For The Holidays?
    While agents usually advise clients to keep decorations to a minimum, decorating for the holidays is perfectly acceptable. Just do so tastefully and don't go overboard. Too many lights or decorations can be distracting.

Selling your home can be a fast-paced, complicated process, and you're sure to have tons of questions along the way. Even if something might seem obvious, don't hesitate to double-check with your agent. Your agent's job is to make your home sale as smooth as possible.


When Do You Get Paid For Your Home Sale?

Selling your home is akin to cashing in on your largest investment. If you've paid off your mortgage or built-up a significant amount of home equity, you might be eagerly awaiting that large deposit into your bank account. However, you may want to temper your expectations until after the closing date. Real estate transactions are fairly complicated, and there are many moving parts. Therefore, you most likely won't receive any funds until after loan documents are executed, which typically takes place on or shortly after the closing date. Here is what to expect:

You May Receive An Earnest Deposit
Most offers include an earnest money deposit, which is money provided by the buyer as a sign of good faith and a signal they're committed to following through on the home sale if all contingencies are satisfied. However, the earnest deposit is typically not made available to you until after the closing date, so you won't be able to spend it or deposit it into your account. Rather, it's held in an escrow account and may be returned to the buyer under certain conditions.

The earnest deposit varies depending on the offer but is usually 1% to 5% of the sale price. Once you accept the offer and receive earnest money, you are expected to take the property off of the market and the closing process will begin.

You Can Expect To Receive Payment Around The Closing Date
Real estate transactions typically take 50 to 60 days to finalize, so you'll likely have a waiting period before you receive your funds. The exact date you receive your money actually can vary depending on where you live. Laws and regulations that apply to mortgage closings can vary by state. There are generally two different types of closings:

  • Dry Funding Closings: All paperwork is completed and executed on the closing date, but the documents required to close the loan don't have to be completed at this time. Consequently, mortgage funds aren't immediately disbursed until a few days later. A dry closing purposely slows down the closing process to help eliminate funding issues. Dry funding closings are only available in certain states.
  • Wet Funding Closings: Unlike dry closings, wet funding closings require loan documents are executed on the closing date. Therefore, funds are disbursed to the seller with 1-2 days after the closing date. Most states require wet funding closings.

In either scenario, payment is usually made through a wire transfer into a bank account (usually the faster option) or as a cashier's check.

Selling your home can be an emotional process, and many of us are eager to see the cash return. Just be patient and work with your agent throughout the closing process, and you'll be paid before you know it.


5 Signs It's The Right Time To Sell Your Home

Determining the perfect time to sell your home is never easy, but when the universe aligns, selling at just the right time can ultimately influence the speed of your home sale as well as the sale price. However, defining the right time ultimately comes down to numerous economic and personal factors. The housing market fluctuates over time, and our personal needs evolve throughout our lifetimes. Both are common reasons why the average person stays in a single home for seven to ten years.

If you're wondering if it's the right time to sell your home, here are five signs that could help make your decision:

  • The Market Is Hot
    The state of the housing market often influences a homeowner's decision to sell. For the last couple of years, we've seen the hottest seller's market in decades. Housing inventory has been at an all-time low, which means far more interested buyers than sellers. Your home is worth what somebody will pay for it, and with so many home shoppers on the market, you might be able to earn top dollar. While the state of the market shouldn't be your only deciding factor, it can definitely influence your decision to sell.

  • Your Finances Are Changing
    If you've built up a decent amount of home equity, your home may be your most valuable asset. If your finances change, for example from a career change, then selling your home can provide you with the capital to make life changes more easily.

  • You're Struggling To Keep Up With Maintenance
    Taking care of a home is a big-time commitment. Lawn care, repairs, and ongoing maintenance require a lot of time and energy. As we grow older, housework can become less appealing. If this sounds like your situation, it might be time to sell your home and think about downsizing.

  • Your Home Wouldn't Benefit From Any Major Renovations
    If you've invested significant funding in home renovations, such as a finished basement, a new roof, new flooring, or updated appliances — you might be ready to realize a return and cash in on your investment. If you've maxed out all major updates and renovations and the market is right, you could stand to make a nice profit.

  • You Need More Space
    If your family is outgrowing your current home, it could be a good indication that it's time to sell. Perhaps you have a new baby on the way or will be having a relative move in. A need for additional living and storage is one of the most common reasons homeowners decide to list their property.

Your home is your biggest investment, so it's important to make sure the time to sell is right. The decision to sell ultimately requires one to weigh economic factors with person situations.


Sellers: Prioritize These Kitchen Improvements

A bigger and brighter kitchen is always on the list of top home features buyers are willing to move for. For those who love to cook and entertain guests, a nice kitchen is a must-have. As a seller, this means investing a little time and effort into sprucing up your kitchen can be well worth the time and energy.

Because the kitchen is such an important selling feature, we often recommend our clients invest in some upgrades and repairs before listing. While a full remodel may not make sense financially, here are some upgrades you might want to consider this year:

  • Enhance Your Lighting
    Everybody wants a bright kitchen, so if you're lighting fixtures aren't getting the job done, it might be time for an upgrade. Consider adding new fixtures over your kitchen table, island, or sink. We also love the look of dimmable under cabinet lighting. You can also line your backsplash with string lights to create a nice look.

  • Update Your Countertops
    If your countertops are in poor condition or have an unflattering color, upgrading them can be well worth the investment. While traditional granite countertops have been popular for decades, buyers prefer quartz these days. Not only are quartz countertops nice and sturdy, but they come in a wide range of colors and designs.

  • Upgrade Your Appliances
    New appliances can be a big investment, but you can see a nice ROI. Buyers are immediately drawn to brand new stainless steel appliances. If your refrigerator or dishwasher are dated or in bad shape, an upgrade can do you good and wow your buyers at the same time.

  • Add Or Replace Your Backsplash
    It doesn't take long for kitchen backsplashes to become dirty and dated, and don't underestimate the power of a makeover. The great thing about backsplashes is you can install a wide range of colors or patterns. Of course, classic white subway tile always works well too.

  • Refresh Your Cabinets
    Brand new cabinets can come with a hefty price tag, so if you're not feeling this upgrade, there are easier and less expensive ways to refresh your cabinets. Adding a new coat of paint is the easiest and fastest way to give them a fresh look. You can also replace any doorknobs or drawer pulls.

  • Stage The Room
    Once you've completed your kitchen upgrades, take some time to stage the room. You can really make your kitchen appear larger by putting away countertop appliances and getting rid of clutter. Open up your blinds or window treatments to maximize natural light and remove any personal items (including photos and magnets from the refrigerator). Sometimes keeping things simple is the best way to stage a room.

The kitchen is often considered one of the most important rooms of the house when it comes to selling a home. It serves as a gathering place where food is prepared and guests are entertained. Looking at your kitchen through the eyes of a potential buyer will definitely help your home sale.


Selling Your Home? Here Are Questions You Should Ask Your Agent

If you're planning to sell your home, the quality and experience of your real estate agent can have a big impact on your return. Real estate agents can vary in terms of experience, responsiveness, and negotiation skills. Finding one that can work for you can require a bit of research on the front end, but it's well worth the effort.

If you're trying to determine if an agent is a good fit, an initial interview or introductory conversation can go a long way. Not sure what to ask? Here are some important questions that you'll want to cover:

  • How Do You Calculate Listing Prices?
    Your agent is incentivized to get you the best possible return on your home sale. While you don't want to leave money on the table, there can also be consequences to pricing too high. An overpriced home can turn off buyers and allow your home to sit on the market for too long, which can also make buyers nervous. Therefore, you want to be sure your real estate agent knows how to calculate a sale price accurately.

    Your real estate agent should look at comps (comparable local home sales in the past year) to gauge what other similar size homes have sold for in your community. Historical data is the best way to gauge the market and find the right price.

  • How Will We Communicate?
    Responsiveness is such an important characteristic of a good agent. When selling your most valuable investment, you want an agent who keeps you in the loop. It's always a good idea to ask about his or her preferred method of communication (phone, text, email) and set expectations around the frequency in which you'd like to receive updates.

  • What Are The Best Features Of My Home?
    As a homeowner, you're likely aware of the attractive and unattractive features of your property. Your real estate agent's job is to tell you how the market will perceive those features. Ask your agent's opinion on your home's top selling points and how he or she plans to promote or market those features on the listing.

  • How Do I Prepare My Home For The Market?
    The answer to this question will tell you a lot about a potential real estate agent. Properly staging a home takes a lot of practice, but it's one of the most important aspects of selling a home. First, a good agent will likely recommend a thorough deep clean and decluttering process. During the staging process, your agent may recommend inexpensive repairs or upgrades that help boost your sale price. Then your agent should do an extensive walk-through and make recommendations on positioning certain decor and maximizing light exposure.

It's always worth taking the time to gauge an agent's experience and professionalism. Finding a good one could ultimately result in more money in your pocket.


Sellers: Why You Shouldn't Ignore Your Basement

If you have a dark, unfinished basement that is primarily used for storage or laundry, you might be wondering if it's worth the time and investment to enhance the space prior to selling. After all, basements are versatile and can serve many different functions, all of which make them an attractive feature for buyers.

While finishing your basement prior to selling can serve as a significant value-add, recovering your entire investment can be challenging. Therefore, it's often not recommended to invest heavily in a new basement, unless you plan on using it yourself for a few years before selling. However, there are many affordable upgrades and enhancements you can do to make the space more appealing:

  • Enhance Your Lighting
    You'd be surprised how much of a difference good lighting can make in a basement. Basements are often thought of as dark and gloomy, but good lighting can really help reshape a buyer's perception. Switch to brighter LED lights. If you don't have enough lighting fixtures, invest in some standing lamps or table lamps. If your basement does receive any natural light, make sure nothing is blocking the window.

  • Add A Home Office
    If your basement is already finished, staging a home office can make a significant difference. With so many people working from home, a home office is a necessity these days. You can easily find an inexpensive desk and chair and add in a bookshelf or some filing cabinets. A home office is a great way to demonstrate the versatility of the space.

  • Partition The Room
    It can be hard to make the basement appealing when it's home to a water heater, washer, dryer, furnace, and other household appliances. If this is the case, you can attempt to divide the appliances from the remaining space with standing partitions or screens. Room dividers are very affordable and can make a big difference.

  • Add Vinyl Flooring
    If you're looking for an easy and affordable way to cover up the concrete, consider adding some vinyl flooring. Vinyl is becoming a popular option for basement flooring — it not only looks great, but it's also easy to install.

  • Keep It Dry
    The single most important thing a seller can do is keep the basement dry. Signs of water or dampness can be a major red flag for buyers, as it can signal more serious issues with the foundation. It might be worth investing in a professional to ensure the space is waterproof.

Sellers shouldn't feel like a full basement makeover is necessary, but keep in mind a little work can go a long way. At the end of the day, you don't want people to dread going down into the basement. Instead, make it a place that is inviting and accessible.


Which Season Is The Best For Selling?

It's a well-known fact that the real estate market cools off in the fall and winter and picks up in the spring, but what is really the best season to sell your property? The answer ultimately depends on your situation and location. The reality is each season comes with its own unique advantages and challenges. To help you determine the best season for selling, we'll break down the top advantage and challenge of each season below:

Selling In The Spring

Many people believe spring is the best time to sell your home, but that really depends on where you live. While spring is often the most popular time to shop, some southern states experience intense weather in late spring. Competition is also at its peak. Here are some of the benefits

  • Advantages: Warmer weather in most areas and tax refund checks mean more buyers are hitting the market.
  • Disadvantages: More buyers also means more sellers, so the competition begins to really pick up. Kids are also still in school, so moving is more difficult.

Selling In The Summer

Statistics show that late June has the highest number of closings, indicating summer is an ideal time to sell. It's also the most popular time to move, especially because school is out. However, extreme heat in some areas of the country coupled with vacation times can drag out the closing process.

  • Advantages: Longer days and warm weather means more buyers are hunting. Many buyers are also motivated to find a home before school starts.
  • Disadvantages: Weather, vacations, and busy schedules may delay closings. Plus, competition is likely still very high.

Selling In The Fall

Once school starts, there is a noticeable decline in real estate activity, but that doesn't mean fall is a bad time to sell. There are still many buyers on the market that couldn't secure a home in the spring or summer. Selling in late September / or early October has both pros and cons:

  • Advantages: Fewer listings mean less competition, and many buyers are extra motivated to close before winter. It's also easier to find home repair professionals.
  • Disadvantages: Cooler weather might keep buyers away. Those who are shopping may be more demanding due to less competition. Curb appeal also generally declines in the fall as landscaping begins to deteriorate. 

Selling In The Winter

December is often considered to be the slowest month for real estate closings. Cold weather means fewer shoppers in most of the country, but competition is probably at its lowest point of the year. If you live in Florida, Arizona, or Southern California, winter is likely a great time to sell.

  • Advantages: There is less competition, and buyers are likely highly motivated. 
  • Disadvantage: There are fewer shoppers, especially around the holidays. Depending on location, it can be a difficult time to make renovations. Many buyers are looking for a deal.

It's certainly possible to sell your home any time of the year, and so often the right season depends on your property, location, and situation. Your real estate agent is a great resource to help you assess the market and determine the best time to list your home.


Getting An Appraisal Before Listing: What You Should Know

Understanding the true value of a home is critical for both buyers and sellers. A home appraisal is an important piece of a buyer's mortgage application process and is always required by lenders. However, sometimes sellers are interested in conducting their own home appraisal to determine what a home is actually worth before setting an asking price.

While there are some instances where a seller appraisal is useful (and even necessary), they're not always advantageous. Here are some things to know before seeking a seller appraisal.

Examples of When Sellers Should Consider An Appraisal
A buyer's lender will require an appraisal, so paying for your own can be a waste of time and money in many circumstances. Instead, your agent can use comps (comparable nearby home sales) to help set your sale price. However, there are a few uncommon circumstances when a seller appraisal should be considered:

  • Your home has unique features - Comps are often used as a comparison point when setting an asking price. However, if your home has totally uncommon features, such as a tennis court, solar roof panels, or an indoor pool — an appraisal prior to listing can be helpful.
  • You don't have many neighbors - Since comps are used to determine your sale price, a lack of neighbors can make things challenging. If you live in a remote area, you might want to consider your own appraisal.
  • You're selling a lot of land - If your property is more than a couple of acres, an appraisal might be necessary to determine if the land can support development or can be sold separate from the home.

Why A Seller Appraisal Might Be A Waste Of Time
Unless your home possesses extraordinary or unique features, a seller appraisal might be a waste of time for two reasons:

  • Your buyer's lender won't accept it - If you think a seller's appraisal will speed up the closing process, think again. Lenders generally do not accept seller-sponsored appraisals, so they'll likely do their own anyway.
  • Buyers might not trust it - When a seller appraisal is used to set an asking price, buyers may be less likely to trust it. Buyers may assume the. This could lead to less interest or lowball offers.
  • You might sell too low - What your home is worth and what someone is willing to pay for it are often two separate things. An appraisal only takes into account what your home is worth. On the other hand, comps are a more accurate reflection of what the market is willing to pay. By setting your asking price based on appraisal value alone, you run the risk of undervaluing your home.

Seller appraisals do have a purpose, but for the vast majority of consumers, they're not necessary. Instead, work with your agent to study local comps and determine the best market price for your property.


Little Things That Can Have A Big Impact On Your Sale

Preparing your home for a listing can be a lot of work — from cleaning to staging, you always want to position your home in a way that impresses potential buyers. However, when it comes to home sales, it's the little things that tend to often have the biggest impact. A lot of minor issues that may not give you a second thought may cause a buyer to hesitate before moving forward.

If you're getting ready to list your home, don't sweat major renovations. Instead, your time may be better spent focusing on the little things that can make a big difference. Here are some examples:

  • Clutter 
    Too many personal items, overflowing closets, and junk lying around can all be off-putting to a buyer. Clutter can ruin a buyer's perception in two ways: it can make your home appear small, stuffy, and cramped, which can give off the impression that the home is too small. When a buyer is surrounded by someone else's clutter can also make it difficult for them to picture themselves living in the home. Decluttering is one of the most important things you can do before listing your home.

  • A Shaky Railing
    You don't want to surprise your buyers with a shaky banister when they grab hold of your railing on their way up
    the stairs. This not only may be a surprise, but it also could be dangerous. Make sure your railing or banister is sturdy and all screws are secure before opening up the home for tours.

  • Bold Paint Colors
    Loud, bright colors may be your style, but it can be a turn-off to many buyers who don't share your same taste in color. If your paint colors consist of bold tones, you may want to consider painting over them with some nice neutral shade. Give your buyers a blank slate to work with.

  • Odd Odors
    Many sellers become nose blind to certain smells and weird odors over time, but buyers will be quick to pick up on the scent of pets, mold, clothes. Even if your home has a bit of a musty smell, you can bet the buyers will notice. Make an effort to eliminate any source of foul odors before listing your home. If you're going to use any candles or scents, be sure they're not too strong.

  • Poor Patching And Touch-Ups
    If patching holes and paint touch-ups are not your specialties, it might be best to leave these to a professional. A poor attempt at filling holes in the wall or touching-up paint can create quite an eyesore. Instead, call a professional painter or carpenter to come in and freshen up the space.

  • Bad Flooring
    Cracked tiles or loose and squeaky floorboards can give buyers the impression that your home is in disrepair. It's also one of the very first things buyers will notice when touring the home. Spend a bit of time fixing-up flooring before listing your home on the market.

  • Dead Light Bulbs
    Don't leave your buyers in the dark. Flipping a non-functioning light switch when touring a home can leave a bad impression. Make sure all bulbs are working and your light switches are functioning, so buyers can truly get a sense of each room.

Major upgrades and renovations may not be necessary before listing your home. Instead, focus on the small, inexpensive repairs that can have a major impact on the outcome of your home sale.


Don't Let Clutter Ruin A Sale: Here's How You Can Clean Up Fast

Living in a home while it's on the market can be inconvenient, to say the least. Clutter around the house can not only make your listing appear smaller and less attractive, but it can also make it more difficult for buyers to envision themselves living in the home. Consequently, decluttering is an essential part of any home staging process.

Sellers living in the home that's on the market must be prepared for shoppers to drop by at a moment's notice. Keeping your home clutter-free 24/7 may seem like an impossible feat, especially if you have children. However, with some planning and practice, anyone can learn to declutter quickly and efficiently. Here are some tips to help:

  • Sort Items Into Categories
    It's always helpful to categorize your items into piles or groups when decluttering. Start by creating a pile for things you'll keep or relocate, a pile for items you will donate, and a pile for items you will pitch. This will make it easier to declutter as you move from room to room.

  • Up Your Storage Game
    Managing clutter is just as important as getting rid of it, so you may need to take your storage game to another level. If your closets are at maximum capacity, then it's time to get creative. Do you have space under the bed or under the stairs? How about in the corner of the basement?

    Vertical storage in the closets, bedrooms, basement, and garage can help too. Use stackable drawers and shelves where you can. In the kitchen, you can really maximize cupboard or pantry space by storing food items in baskets. Also, get in the habit of keeping your toiletries in a caddy that can be easily stashed away in the closet or under the sink prior to a showing.

  • Part With Old Clothes and Shoes
    Storage space is an important selling point, and you can actually make your closets look larger by keeping them at a little less than half capacity. When getting rid of clutter, make sure clothes and shoes are on the top of your list. Perhaps you have clothes or shoes that are old, no longer fit, or no longer in style. Now is the time to throw them away or pack them up and take them to your local thrift store.

  • Get The Whole Family Involved
    Cleaning up before a showing is a lot easier when the whole family contributes, which allows you to declutter in a fraction of the time. Create a plan ahead of time and distribute tasks or rooms to various family members. Get the kids involved, and use it as an opportunity to help them build good habits around chores.

  • Consider A Storage Unit
    Temporarily renting a storage unit while listing your home can make the decluttering process significantly easier. A storage unit gives you a second space to relocate. This is particularly useful if you're having a hard time parting with items or if you have furniture you'd prefer not to have on display when staging your home.

It's not fun living in a staged home, but by keeping things as clean and presentable as possible, you'll find a buyer in no time. Then, you'll be well on your way to a brand new home of your own.


Outdated Staging Trends You Can Drop Now

Staging your home can make a world of difference in the outcome of your home sale. Staging is a proven technique that can home your home sell fast and may even help you net a higher sale price. However, staging isn't always an easy process, especially if you're not experienced. A bad staging job can actually make your home appear less appealing to buyers.

To further complicate things, some of the home staging trends that worked ten or twenty years ago no longer resonate in today's market. In fact, one of the most common mistakes we see is sellers using outdated staging trends. Successfully staging your home often requires sellers to be in-tune with the latest design trends, which is why we always recommend working closely with your real estate agent.

Below are some outdated staging trends you should be sure to avoid when listing your home this year:

  • Get Rid Of The Fake Plants
    Fake plastic plants have been used as a decorative element for decades; however, today they may do more harm than good. Fake greenery, flowers, or fruit can give your home a dated look. Use living greenery, fresh flowers, and real fruit instead. It will not only freshen up the space, but it will also add an authentic, natural appearance to your home.

  • Peel Off The Wallpaper
    Wallpaper has been out of style for a while. Wallpaper patterns can reflect personal tastes and contain very distracting patterns, both of which can be potential turn offers for buyers. We recommend removing wallpaper prior to listing your home and adding a fresh coat of a neutral-colored paint. Remember, buyers don't want to imagine themselves peeling off the wallpaper after they move in.

  • Depersonalize The Home
    While your family photos and knick-knacks may serve as some nice decor in your home, you should put them away during the staging process. In today's market, the goal is to make it as easy as possible for buyers to see themselves living in the space and your personal items can be distracting. Keep things as neutral as possible.

  • Avoid The All White Kitchen
    An all-white kitchen, which consists of white walls, cabinets, and appliances, was once a stylish interior trend. However, this look is a bit outdated. Buyers today like to see a warm kitchen with the right balance of light and dark tones. Try to mix up your color scheme a bit to create a compelling look.

  • Lose The Formal Living Room
    Many people still draw a distinction between the den or family room and the actual "living room," the latter which is generally kept stuffy, well-kept, and less functional. This is often where the decorative, less comfortable furniture is stored. In today's market, you don't need to stage a pristine living room. If you have multiple living room spaces on the first floor, try to make them both functional or turn one into an office.

Staging is a technique that ultimately helps the buyer visualize the space. Outdated staging trends, personal items, or loud decor can ultimately complicate that mission. If you're struggling to stage your home, don't forget to check out some other local listings for inspiration.


Hook Buyers With A Home Office Space

With so many people working from home these days, it's no surprise that a home office has become a popular selling point. In fact, it's now a "must-have" feature for many buyers. By advertising a home office in your listing, you stand to increase your sale price by as much as 4%. The good news is it's fairly easy to add an office to your home. However, it's important to stage it the right way. By following these tips, you can generate buyer attention with the perfect office setup:

  • Choose The Right Spot
    An extra room is usually the best place to stage a home office, but if your home doesn't have an extra room, don't fret! Consider any unused space in the home. You'd be surprised at how many areas can serve as a home office, but you might need to get creative. Do you have space under the stairway? Is there an unused section of your basement or game room? Does your living room have an extra nook sectioned off from the rest of the room? If you don't have a dedicated room, search for opportunities throughout the rest of the home.

  • Stage Your Furniture
    A home office setup is actually fairly simple because, at a minimum, you only need a nice desk and a chair. However, if you have some space to work, you should attempt to maximize it. Consider adding a nice lamp as a desk piece. Visitor seating is always a good idea, or you could create a reading nook in the corner of the room by adding a comfortable chair and a floor lamp. A small filing cabinet that easily fits underneath the desk is also a great accessory.

  • Emphasize The Light
    Lighting is an important feature of a home office. If the room receives lots of natural light, be sure to open the blinds or remove the window treatments for staging photos and home tours. If the room is lacking natural light, try to create a well-balanced source or ambient light by adding some floor lamps.

  • Avoid Any Personalization
    While no home office is complete without family photos, bobbleheads, and knick-knacks, you should strive to avoid personalizing the office space. Remember, your goal isn't to show off your own office, it's to create a space where buyers can envision themselves working. Your own personal decor can be distracting or a turnoff to a buyer.

  • Eliminate Clutter
    If you're actively using your office space, it's important to keep it clean and clutter-free. Keep all office supplies stored away inside a drawer or cabinet. Make sure the surface of the desk is completely clear. If you're struggling to declutter, consider using some office organizers to neatly group and store items on your shelf space or in a nearby closet.

Home offices have never been more important. By not having one, you run the risk of excluding many potential buyers who work from home. Your listing agent can help you find the best way to add and show off a new home office space to hook buyers today.


When The First Offer Is The Best One

Should you accept the first offer on your home? This is a common question we hear from sellers. On the one hand, you might think it's worth holding out for a better offer, especially in a hot market. On the other hand, rejecting the first offer could be risky.

The truth is there are many instances when the first offer will be your best offer. Below, we'll discuss those reasons as well as give you some tips to consider when making your decision.

Should You Accept The First Offer?
Receiving the first offer is exciting. It serves as confirmation there is interest in the home, and it serves as a reasonable indicator that your home sale may be finalized in the not too distant future. So should you accept the offer or wait for another one to come along?

Unless the offer is significantly below your asking price, you should likely accept it. Here is why:

  • The Offer Was Likely Carefully Calculated
    The buyer most likely consulted with their real estate agent, evaluated market data, and looked at comps (recent similar size home sales within a few miles of your home) when deciding on an offer. As a result, the offer is probably fair in most cases and based on research.
  • You Can Always Negotiate 
    If the offer is within the ballpark of your asking price, you can always negotiate. Work with a real estate agent to respond with a counteroffer that has a higher price or eliminates some of the requested contingencies.
  • Turning It Down Could Be Risky
    Sure, a better offer might come along. But what if one doesn't? You run the risk of your home sitting on the market for a long period of time, which might make buyers wonder if it has a problem.

Tips To Consider When Evaluating Your First Offer
Whether or not to accept the first offer isn't always a clear-cut decision. There are several factors you'll likely want to consider:

  • The State Of The Market
    If the market is slow, it can be risky to wait for another offer to come along. However, if the market is hot in your area, it may be in your best interest to wait an extra day or two before responding to see how many additional offers come in.
  • The Offer Price
    If an offer is within 5 percent of your asking price, then you know you're likely close enough to consider negotiating with the buyer.
  • Contingencies
    If the buyer has undesirable contingencies that are non-negotiable, such as a home sale contingency, it might make sense to wait for another offer.
  • Timing
    If the offer comes quickly, as in the first day or so the home is on the market, then you might have the luxury of waiting especially if you don't need to sell fast.
  • The Transaction
    Is the buyer offering all cash, or are they financing the purchase through a mortgage? Cash offers close much faster. Consider how important your timeline is.

In many cases, the first offer is the best offer, and there can be downsides to waiting for better ones to come along. However, if the market is hot, the offer is low, or the buyer has unrealistic expectations, waiting a few days might be worthwhile.


What Sellers Can't Control — And What You Can Do About It

If you're getting ready to list your home, you undoubtedly want to do everything in your power to achieve the highest possible sale price. But selling a home is a complicated process, and there are many variables that influence the outcome of a real estate transaction. The hard part is many of these variables are beyond the seller's control.

This doesn't mean your ability to cash in on your biggest investment comes down to luck alone, but acknowledging what you can't control will better position you to spend your time and energy on the things you can control.

Here are some items that sellers can't control during the home selling process and what you can do instead:

  1. Market Conditions
    The real estate market fluctuates over time, and while it may be a seller's market today, it's hard to say what the future will bring 5 or 10 years down the road. Economic conditions are ultimately beyond your control.

    What You Can Do: Keep an eye on the market. The next time the market is hot or inventory is low, be ready to quickly evaluate whether it's the right time to sell your home. A real estate agent can help.

  2. Your Neighborhood
    Sellers can't have complete control over the decisions of their neighbors or the long-term condition of a neighborhood. To further complicate things, your neighbor's home sales will often influence your sale price. At the end of the day, a buyer's perception of your neighborhood is beyond your control.

    What You Can Do: Join your local neighborhood association (or form one) and advocate for action that helps boost property values. It'll take some time, but pulling your neighbors together for the greater good can have promising results.

  3. The Age Of Your Home
    It might seem obvious, but your home isn't going to get any younger. Some buyers are in the market for a newer home, while others may like the charm and character of an older property.

    What You Can Do: If your home is showing its age, then it might be worth investing in some upgrades before listing your home. Certain upgrades, like a renovated bathroom or new appliances, can actually generate a return when you go to sell.

  4. Buyer Negotiations
    Negotiations with a buyer can sometimes last several rounds and still fall apart at the end. You can't control or predict what a buyer will offer or ask for. No matter how hard you try, you also can't control how buyers will perceive your property.

    What You Can Do: Make sure you have an experienced real estate agent in your corner. A real estate agent is an expert negotiator and will ultimately be the liaison, so you don't have to deal with a buyer directly. A good agent is the best way to land a deal that works for both sides.

When it comes time to sell your largest investment, some things are simply out of your control.  Instead of getting hung up on these details, try to focus on what you can control.


Want To Sell In Winter? Here Are Some Shortcuts

While the real estate market usually slows down in the fall and winter, there is a common misconception that winter is a bad time to sell your home. Sellers should know that this is simply a myth. While the market might look a bit different in colder weather months, selling in the winter isn't necessarily difficult. In fact, there are many benefits to listing your between December and February. Competition is often lower, and buyers tend to be a bit more serious when house hunting.

If you're planning to list your home this winter, below are some shortcuts to help you expedite the selling process:

  • Create A Cozy Atmosphere
    Selling in the winter gives you an opportunity to wow buyers by creating a warm, cozy atmosphere. Make sure to turn up the heat before each showing, as a cold home can be a major turnoff. A good temperature is 70 to 72 degrees (don't make it too hot either). Also, make your rooms as bright as possible by opening blinds and turning on every light. If you have a fireplace — show it off! A fire is a great way to create a cozy atmosphere.

  • Keep Your Driveway And Sidewalks Clear
    When selling in the winter, you'll need to make sure your home is ready to show at a moment's notice. This means keeping the driveway and sidewalks clear of snow, ice, and debris. Be sure to break out the shovel and salt immediately following each snowstorm.

  • Keep Your Outdoor Features Visible
    Potential buyers are less likely to walk out onto the deck or around the backyard in the wintertime, so try to give them a good view of your outdoor amenities from the inside. Remove snow from any outdoor patio areas and make sure your blinds are open, so visitors can get a good view of the whole property.

  • Do Some Extra Cleaning
    Deep cleaning is important when selling, regardless of the time of year. However, many of us tend to spend more time indoors in the winter, which can lead to a bit more dirt and clutter. You may want to spend a bit of extra time cleaning if possible. Pay special attention to any entryways, which tend to accumulate quite a bit of mud and slush from people tracking snow indoors.

  • Don't Forget About Your Curb Appeal
    Curb appeal can take a hit in the winter when gardens and plants aren't in full bloom and seasonal furniture is in storage. However, you can still brighten things up by adding some nice LED lighting to your pathways and entrance. Make sure to also keep the yard free of dead leaves and debris.

Selling in the winter may present a different set of challenges, but sellers shouldn't be discouraged. It's not impossible, but you may need to adjust your strategy just a bit.


Why You Should Talk With Your Agent Before Renovating

Putting work into a home you're about to sell may seem counterintuitive, but in some cases, it can land you a higher sale price. However, in other cases, major upgrades can be a sunk cost. So how do you know if a certain renovation is worth your time?

The truth is it can be difficult to know whether renovations will lead to a higher sale price, but this is where your real estate agent's expertise can be a big help. If you're planning to sell soon, here are a few reasons why it's essential to consult with your agent before making any major upgrades or renovations:

  • Your Agent Can Help You Avoid Costly Pitfalls
    The truth is most renovations don't result in a return. However, there are definitely a few exceptions. For example, you stand a good chance to generate a profit or at least break even on new kitchen appliances or an additional bathroom. However, you might be rolling the dice with other upgrades, such as a new roof — especially if your home can get by without it.

    Before beginning any upgrades, speak with an experienced real estate agent. They will be able to tell you where to focus your time and energy and give insight into what types of upgrades will help you boost your listing price.

  • Your Home Might Not Need Any Upgrades
    After taking a look at the property, a real estate agent might think your home is ready to sell as-is. Your agent is a wealth of information when it comes to what buyers look for, and this can help you avoid investing in unnecessary upgrades that won't generate a higher return. If you're selling in a low-inventory market, you might not have to stress about the small stuff in order to attract buyers.

  • Your Agent Has Connections
    If you're planning to renovate, finding good contractors at a good price can be a challenge, but remember, your real estate agent is likely well connected in the community. Most agents have a wide network of connections to local service providers. If you're in need of a plumber, carpenter, roofer, or electrician, ask your real estate agent ahead of time.

  • Your Agent Can Show You Examples
    Nobody knows the market quite like your real estate agent, so they can easily show you other examples of renovations made by local sellers. You can also see how those renovations influenced the sale price. This not only gives you a blueprint to follow when making your own upgrades but makes it easier to estimate your potential return.

While many sellers believe the right time to start working with an agent is when you're ready to list your home, the truth is you can start working with an agent any time. Consulting with one before beginning major upgrades can save you a lot in the long run.


What Happens If You Make A Profit On Your Home Sale?

With most home financing based on a 30-year term, selling before paying off a mortgage is a very common practice. So what happens if you sell your home for more than your mortgage balance? Making a profit on a home sale is possible even if you haven't paid off your mortgage. When making a profit, you can use the funds for a down payment on a new home or anything you'd like, really. However, your ability to turn a profit comes down to your sale price and the amount of equity you've built in your home.

What Is Home Equity?
Home equity is a figure that represents the total value of your property ownership. To calculate your home equity, simply take the home's market value and subtract the outstanding mortgage balance and any other liens on the property. The remaining figure is your home equity. There are two different types of home equity:

  • Investment Equity - Includes your initial down payment, mortgage payments against your loan's principal balance, and the cost of upgrades or renovations you've made while owning the property.
  • Earned Equity - Additional equity accumulated due to rising home values.

Determining Your Payoff Amount
In order to estimate your potential profit from a home sale, you need to determine your mortgage payoff amount. Keep in mind, your payoff amount isn't the same as your remaining loan balance. The payoff amount includes any accrued interest since the closing date. You'll most likely need to contact your lender to determine the exact payout amount.

What Happens To Your Remaining Mortgage Balance If You Sell Your Home?
If you sell your home prior to paying off your mortgage, the buyer's funds will first be applied to your remaining mortgage balance and any additional loans against the property. After the mortgage balance has been paid off, the remaining funds will be applied to closing costs, which include agent commission, escrow fees, and taxes. Finally, any remaining funds leftover at this point become your profit.

What you do with your profit is up to you. Most people take their profit and reinvest it in a new home. However, if you're planning to downsize or move into a rental property, you may want to consider saving the money for retirement or investing it. Or, take a vacation — it's ultimately your money.

It's possible to turn a profit on your home sale even if your mortgage isn't paid off. However, your sale price, current home equity, and the amount of time you've owned the property are two factors that will directly influence your profit.


How To Stage A Home You Still Live In

Selling a home while you're still living in it can be inconvenient, to say the least. From last-minute showings to constant cleaning — there is a lot of work involved. However, professionally staging your home while you're still living in it can be a whole new level of difficulty, especially if you're not prepared.

While it might be inconvenient, home staging is a vital selling technique that is proven to lead to a higher sale price. By taking the right steps, you can manage to pull off home staging even if you're still living in your home. The good news is home staging can also help you sell fast, which means you hopefully won't be in the situation for too long. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Start By Preparing Yourself Mentally
    Once you've decided to list your home on the market, try to get used to the thought that the home is no longer yours. In order to stage the property, you're going to need to remove any personalized decor and create a neutral setting. Try to practice imagining the home and space belonging to someone else. It won't be long before you're in your new home anyway.

  • Relocate About One-Third Of Your Things 
    Decluttering is important. While you may still be living in the house, you might need to start moving some things out in order to properly stage the home. Aim to remove about one-third of your belongings prior to listing your home. Focus on relocating things you don't use very often — boxes, holiday decor, and clothing you don't wear very often.

  • Rent A Storage Unit
    Temporarily renting a storage unit for a couple of months can really help the staging process. You'll not only have an easy way to relocate your belongings, but you can also temporarily relocate furniture that doesn't fit your staging plans. Storage units are usually a couple hundred per month and the convenience they provide during the moving process is well worth the cost.

  • Spend More Time Outside Of The House
    The more time you spend in the house, the more difficult it will be to keep it staged and clean. Consider taking a vacation or plan activities that keep you and your family out of the house as much as possible. The less time spent in the house, the easier it will be to maintain.

  • Seek Help From A Professional
    Staging your home can be tricky, so it might help to seek out some professional help. Your real estate agent is a good starting point — they likely have significant experience. If you really want to create a popping scene, consider hiring a professional home stager. This investment will lead to some fantastic listing photos and will really impress buyers when they tour your listing.

Staging your home while you're still living in it can be a bit uncomfortable, especially if you have kids or pets. Just remember, the pain is worth the gain. Staging can help net you a higher price and sell your home quickly. Then, you'll be well on your way to moving into a brand new home of your own.


Need To Sell Fast? Here's How You Can Expedite Your Sale

Selling your home can be a stressful process, but when you're up against a deadline and need to sell fast, things can get a bit hectic. However, selling your home quickly is definitely achievable — you just might have to put in a little extra leg work up front. If you're up against circumstances that require a quick home sale, your real estate agent can help. Here is a quick list of five things you can do to reduce the amount of time your home sits on the market:

  1. Make Basic Repairs And Upgrades
    Buyers will be quick to notice broken doorknobs, chipped paint, or non-functioning light bulbs. A lack of home maintenance can give your home a worn, lived-in appearance which can be dissuasive to shoppers. Prior to listing your home on the market, be sure to take care of the basic home maintenance tasks.

  2. Focus On Home Staging
    Putting in some extra effort when staging your home can really help reduce the amount of time your home sits on the market. Preparing for staging includes decluttering, decorating, arranging furniture, and maximizing light exposure all in an attempt to create an environment that enables buyers to imagine themselves living in the space. Going above and beyond can really help capture buyers' attention. Hire a professional or work with an experienced real estate agent to maximize the effectiveness of your home staging.

  3. Seek Professional Listing Photos
    Most buyers begin the home shopping experience online. In order to draw clicks to your listing, you need eye-catching listing photos. Your real estate agent will be able to help capture stunning photos of your interior or facade, which may involve hiring a professional photographer.

  4. Accurately Price Your Home
    If you're looking for a quick sale, an accurate sale price is important. Use comps (recent sales of similarly sized homes within a one-mile radius) to determine what the market is willing to pay for your property. If you price too high, you'll reduce your eligible market and most buyers won't even consider a house that is priced significantly higher than the appraised value. Bottom line — your home price needs to be competitive with the market.

  5. Schedule An Open House
    Open houses don't always lead to immediate home sales, but they're a good way to generate a lot of foot traffic and visibility in a short period of time. After your home hits the market, consider holding an open house. You never know if it might lead to a quick home sale. Just make sure to work with an experienced agent who can promote the event effectively.

People need to sell quickly for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you've found the home of your dreams or maybe you need to move for your career. Regardless, be sure to work with your agent on the best approach to selling your home quickly.


Selling A Home Comes With Its Own Maintenance

If you're planning to sell your home in the near future, it might be tempting to leave repairs and upgrades for the next owner. But neglecting maintenance in the weeks and months leading up to your sale could have some major consequences.

Minor issues, such as broken doorknobs or chipped paint, can leave a bad impression on buyers. Even worse, minor issues can turn into big problems if they're not taken care of. If a major repair is needed at the wrong time, it could derail your closing or drastically impact your sale price.

If you want to sell soon, here is a quick list of home maintenance tasks to perform ahead of time:

Service Your Heating System
If you're selling soon, we recommend a thorough cleaning and servicing of your heating system from top to bottom. Have your furnace, ductwork, and chimney inspected and serviced. Replace filters and clean out all your vents. Major issues with your heating system will have buyers quickly running in the opposite direction.

Schedule A Roof Inspection
Your roof should be inspected at least once a year, but definitely before listing your home. Minor roofing problems are notorious for compounding into larger issues when left untreated. If you're experiencing any leaks or notice any warped or cracked shingles, you'll want to make the necessary repairs as soon as possible. If you need a replacement, keep in mind that a new roof is a big selling point, and you'll be able to recover costs in your sale price.

Maintain Your Landscaping
Your landscaping has a major impact on your curb appeal, which is a term used to describe how your home appears from street view. Curb appeal is important because it attracts buyer attention in your listing photos and is also the first thing shoppers see when pulling up to your home. Make sure your lawn is treated and trim all shrubs and trees. Also, make sure your driveway and walkways are well maintained.

Wash Your Windows
Light exposure is an important part of the home staging process, so you should expect your windows to be visible when buyers are touring your home. Be sure to thoroughly clean them and remove any dirt, grime, or muck prior to listing your property.

Resolve Any Plumbing Issues
Plumbing issues can range from leaky faucets to major pipe cracks in the basement. Either way, they're likely driving up your water bill and potentially causing mold growth. Buyers will be quick to notice any extra water in the basement, which is often a major warning sign. If notice any signs of leaks, be sure to have a plumber come take a look.

Cosmetic Upgrades
To sell your home fast, you'll want it to shine inside and out. If your home has worn carpet, chipped tiles, peeling paint, fixing these items can go a long way. A home with a "lived-in" look can be very unappealing, so you'll want to really pay attention to minor cosmetic details.

Investing in a home that you want to sell might seem counterintuitive, but major problems can lead buyers to pull out at the last minute. By taking care of some basic home maintenance tasks ahead of time, you can help ensure a smooth and successful closing.


Rent-Back Agreements Explained

Buying and selling a home at the same time can be an intimidating experience. Lining up a buyer and a new home within a short timeframe requires tons of planning and a bit of luck. However, selling your home before closing on a new one doesn't mean you have to be left without a place to live. Sellers usually have a few different options to explore, including a rent-back agreement.

A rent-back agreement is a good way to buy yourself some extra time after a home sale. However, like most real estate negotiations, they come with benefits and risks. Below we'll explain everything you need to know about how these agreements work and why you might consider one:

What Is A Rent-Back Agreement?

A rent-back agreement is an arrangement that allows the seller to continue to live at a property as a tenant after the closing date. During this period, the buyer assumes the responsibility of a landlord. The purpose of a rent-back agreement is to give the seller extra time to find a place to live following the home sale.

The details of a rent-back agreement can be negotiated during the closing process. You'll need to work with the buyer to determine monthly payment, security deposit, agreement length, and utility responsibilities. The buyer's home insurance should cover the rent-back period. It's important to always consult with your real estate agent, lender, and attorney when negotiating the terms.

Rent-Back Agreements Can Have Many Benefits

Depending on the terms and situation, sellers can benefit from a rent-back agreement in a number of ways. For one, it can give you the flexibility to accept a strong offer before having a new home lined up. It can also give you more time to find your dream home as opposed to simply settling for a property out of necessity. 

Rent-back agreements can also be helpful if you have kids in school and would like them to finish out the school year before moving or changing districts. 

Rent-back agreements have obvious benefits for buyers too — as they can provide supplemental income that can help offset a small bit of the cost of the new home.

Disadvantages Of Rent-Back Agreements

Rent-back agreements are generally short, as most lenders only allow a rent-back period of 60 days. While the added time can be a huge benefit, it's not a long-term solution. During the rent-back period, sellers will need to abide by the lease terms set forth by the buyer.

The buyer will also need to assume the responsibility of the landlord. The arrangement may also be less appealing to buyers who are eager to move in quickly after closing.

The major risk of a rent-back agreement comes in the form of determining liability. Determining who has liability for damage or unforeseen circumstances is often part of the negotiation. Usually, the buyer's homeowners policy should cover the rent-back period; however, the seller may want to explore a short-term rental insurance policy to cover personal property.

Rent-back agreements are a common way for sellers to buy more time, but the true benefits will ultimately depend on your unique situation. Not all buyers will offer them, but sellers often have the leverage to ask for them in a hot market.


How Do You Sell To Millennials?

While it's common for millennials to delay the home buying process in favor of renting, it won't be long before they represent the majority of the buyer market. As home-buying habits shift across generations, millennials naturally have different requirements and expectations when it comes to choosing a home. Learning how to market your property to a younger generation is an important selling technique, especially if you're looking to maximize your overall return.

To ensure you're casting the widest net possible and attracting millennials to your listing, be sure to keep these tips in mind when promoting your listing:

  1. Focus On Green Living
    Energy efficiency doesn't just lead to lower utility bills, but it also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Both are important factors to millennials when buying a house. Make sure to highlight any double pane windows, high-quality insulation, new HVAC systems, recent roof replacements, or other energy-efficient features in your listing. Sustainability is a great way to attract millennial buyers.

  2. Promote The Neighborhood
    Efficiency and convenience are big selling points — so if you live in a neighborhood with lots of amenities, you'll definitely want to promote it. Call out your home's proximity to any major highways, public transportation, schools, or shopping districts. Walkable neighborhoods are a huge selling point for younger populations.

  3. Keep Your Staging Neutral, Yet Modern
    When it comes to staging, the general rule of thumb is to keep things as neutral as possible. However, adding a simple and modern touch to your neutral staging can help make your listing more appealing to a millennial population. To achieve a simple, minimalistic interior, you'll want to spend a good bit of time decluttering ahead of time.

  4. Brand New Fixtures
    Most first-time homebuyers are concerned with saving for the down payment, and as a result, don't want to spring for costly upgrades shortly after moving in. If you've recently upgraded or renovated a kitchen or bathroom, be sure to make it the spotlight of your listing.

  5. Ask Your Agent About Digital Avenues
    Creating a digital presence for your listing can be a great way to reach a younger population. Your agent can help make sure there are spectacular pictures of your facade and interior to capture the attention of online shoppers. Many agents also utilize social media to expand their reach and appeal to younger homebuyers.

With millennials making up an increasingly large percentage of the buyer market, learning to market your property to this generation will become more and more important. Keep these tips in mind when working with your real estate agent to create your listing.


How To Boost The Return On Your Home Sale

Many sellers assume the state of the market and rate environment will ultimately dictate the sale price of the home. While these two items do play a major factor, there are still many things the seller can do to generate a nice return.

However, boosting your sale price isn't always easy — and it often requires a significant investment in time and maybe even money. However, with the right upgrades, you can go a long way towards maximizing your sale price. Below are just a few of the ways sellers can independently boost the return on their home sale:

  • Start With Your Curb Appeal
    Your curb appeal speaks to how the facade of your home is perceived from the street. It encompasses everything from your front door, windows, siding, porch, mailbox, lawn, and landscaping — in other words, all of the first things a potential buyer sees when pulling up to your home or checking out your listing online.

    In order to make a good first impression, improve your facade. Paint your front door and clean your siding. Make sure your landscaping is well maintained, and add a new mailbox. When it comes to improving curb appeal, the little things can really add up.

  • Maximize Space
    While you can't increase the square footage of your home without major renovations, there are many easy upgrades that can either increase your space or even create the illusion that your home is more spacious.

    The first step is to declutter. Go through your home and remove junk and any unwanted items. If you're not ready to part with your things, renting a storage unit is a great way to declutter temporarily.

    Maximizing light exposure is also a big one. Bright rooms appear larger. Make sure to open all windows and window treatments and add artificial lighting to dimly lit rooms. Mirrors also reflect light, which can make the room appear larger as well.

  • Stay Neutral
    When selling your home, you ultimately want to create an environment that enables the buyer to envision living in the space. If you really want to increase your sale price, make sure to stick to neutral colors and decor. Off-white or light gray paint and furniture are a great way to go. Also, be sure to store away any personal items, photos, awards, pets, or pet supplies, as these items will make the home appear unfamiliar.

  • Make Upgrades
    Minor repairs and small upgrades are a no-brainer — doorknobs, new paint, and landscaping are all easy upgrades to help boost value. Depending on the condition of your home and appliances, it might be worth springing for some larger upgrades as well. When upgrading old appliances, adding attic insulation, or replacing flooring, you stand to boost your sale price to the point where you can realize a nice return on your investment.

The process of selling your home often begins weeks or months before your home hits the market. However, investing time and money up front can go a long way towards boosting your sale price regardless of the market conditions.


Seller Regrets: Are You Making These Mistakes?

Hindsight is 20/20, especially when it comes to selling your home. There is a lot of pressure involved in a home sale, and it's very common for sellers to look back and wish they did things a bit differently. Every stage of the selling process plays a large role in determining your final sale price, and simple mistakes can ultimately cost you thousands in the end. 

The good news is most real estate agents have extensive experience working through the challenges of a home sale and can help you avoid costly errors. If you're planning to sell your home this year and want to get the best return, be careful to avoid these mistakes:

  • Not Preparing The Property
    In the months and weeks leading up to listing your home, taking the time to prepare your property for the upcoming sale makes all the difference. Small repairs, painting, and decluttering are all important pieces. You'll also need to work closely with your real estate agent in order to effectively stage the property. Remember, the most you can make buyers fall in love with your property, the more likely you are to achieve a good sale price.

  • Pricing Too High
    In a hot market, it can be especially tempting to set the bar high as a starting point. However, even if sellers are desperate many will be reluctant to pay far more than the appraised value. Starting out at a high selling point may ultimately put you in a position where you need to lower your asking price, which may lead buyers to wonder if there is a problem with the property.

  • Making Things Perfect
    Small repairs, painting, and cleaning are all important, but it's important not to spend all of your energy making things absolutely perfect. Things just need to be good enough to impress the buyer. While investing in upgrades and new appliances can help boost your sale price, it is possible to reach a point of diminishing returns. Your real estate agent should be able to guide you through the appropriate improvements.

  • Taking Poor Listing Photos
    Your property's online listing is the key to garnering buyer attention. Almost every buyer starts the shopping process online, so your listing photos are your best shot at making a good first impression. Work with your agent to take attractive listing photos after your home has been properly staged. The better your photos, the more foot traffic your listing is likely to see.

  • Not Using An Agent
    Most seller's agents make around 3% of the overall sale price in commission, so some sellers think they can save a great deal by selling their homes independently. While it is possible to do, it's not recommended unless you have a great deal of experience. Real estate agents perform numerous tasks that help to attract buyers and to generate the highest possible sale price. While you may save on commission, there's a good chance you won't maximize your sale price without an agent's help.

It's easy to make mistakes when selling a house, but by doing your homework ahead of time, you can avoid these common pitfalls.


Sellers: Prioritize These Living Room Upgrades

Renovations, upgrades, and staging make a world of difference when it comes to listing your home on the market. While the kitchen and bathrooms are often top selling points for many buyers, you don't want to forget about the living room.

The quality of the living room is an important selling point, and as a seller, you'll want to create an environment that enables buyers to envision themselves relaxing and spending time with family in the room.  To help you achieve this, below are some important living room upgrades that you may want to prioritize before listing your home:

  1. Add A Fresh Coat Of Neutral Paint
    A fresh coat of paint can make an outdated living room shine. It quite literally will help to reflect light, which in turn will make the room appear bigger, brighter, and more welcoming. A fresh coat of paint is a great way to impress buyers. When choosing a color, just be sure to stick to a neutral tone: off-white or light gray shades are probably your best bet.

  2. Create An Open Space
    A cramped living room can appear stuffy and uncomfortable, so you'll really want to open things up if you can. Make sure there are clear, accessible paths so it's easy to walk around the room. Also, avoid any overly large furniture, as this will also make the room appear small than it actually is. If you have the ability to remove walls, an open floor living room is an increasingly popular feature for many buyers.

  3. Update Your Floors
    If your living room has old carpet or dated wood or tile flooring, you'll want to address it before listing your home. Old carpet or tiles can give the room a "lived-in" look, which can be a major turn-off for buyers. After you remove your carpet, consider replacing it with some less-expensive wood-like vinyl flooring.

  4. Try A New Coffee Table
    Coffee tables receive a lot of wear and tear over the years, so if yours is dented, scuffed, fading, or covered in watermarks, an upgrade may be in order. When choosing a new coffee table, be sure it matches the rest of the decor and comfortably fits in the space. Try to avoid any wild or overly trendy or artistic designs — aim for nice and neutral.

  5. Add Some Extra Storage
    Storage is always a major selling point, so adding some additional shelving or drawers is almost always a good idea. Shelves and drawers in the living room make it easy to display family photos or pack away blankets and electronics. The best part is shelves and extra storage are fairly inexpensive.

  6. Let There Be Light
    Maximizing light is so important when staging a home. Buyers are attracted to big bright rooms, and natural light really helps living rooms appear larger. If your living room could use some extra light, consider adding some new decorative fixtures to keep things bright.

The living room is often one of the first rooms buyers encounter, so it often sets the tone for the rest of the home. Making the proper upgrades are essential for creating an attractive listing and maximizing your sale price.


The Biggest Myths Of Selling A Home

Selling a home is a relatively rare life event for most people, so it's normal not to know what to expect. When seeking advice from neighbors, friends, or family, it might seem like everyone thinks they're an expert on real estate transactions. It's also common to hear myths and tall tales about the market or the selling process. 

As a first-time seller, don't believe everything you hear. Getting caught up in real estate myths can lead to bad decisions that ultimately cost you money in the long run. If you're planning on selling your home soon, be cognizant of these five myths of selling a home:

  • Renovations And Staging Aren't Important
    One of the biggest myths we hear in a hot seller's market is that staging and renovations aren't necessary because buyers are so eager to make an offer. This is simply untrue. Even though the market is incredibly competitive, a home in bad shape is still going to be unattractive to buyers.  Making renovations and staging your home is still your best bet for generating the best return. Just because the market isn't hot doesn't mean sellers should be lazy or skip the important parts.

  • You Can Save Money By Selling Your Home Yourself
    While it's certainly possible to sell a home on your own, you'll likely need to have experience, skills, and a lot of time on your hands in order to pull it off. While it may save you from paying an agent commission, there is also a good chance you'll leave money on the table.

    Real estate agents perform a number of tasks that provide tremendous value by helping you achieve a higher sale price. Staging, marketing, and negotiating are all important pieces. Without an expert in your corner, you might not get the best return.

  • Setting A High Price Leaves Room For Negotiation
    Many sellers think setting the bar high will leave more room for negotiation, but the truth is, many buyers won't even consider a home priced well above its value. By setting a high asking price, you're ultimately putting yourself in a position where you'll likely have to reduce the price after a few weeks, which may lead to buyer suspicions about potential problems.

  • Open Houses Don't Sell Homes
    Open houses have been a home selling tactic for decades, and they didn't disappear during the pandemic. While many people assume real estate agents hold open houses to drum up new business, they can actually be a very effective sales tactic. Open houses are likely to generate quick exposure to the market and can attract a higher number of interested buyers in a short period of time.

  • The Market Will Continue To Rise
    With the exception of two recent economic downturns, home values have consistently been on the rise for many years.  However, these recent recessions have proven that real estate is not a risk-free investment. The myth that home values will continue to rise year after year may influence a seller's decision to list their home. However, the truth is home values can and do fall, and they will fall again.

Selling a home isn't always easy, so arming yourself with the most accurate information is the best way to make decisions that lead to a good return. Of course, experienced real estate agents are often the best source of reliable information about the market.


How To Prepare For Your Open House

An open house is one of the most effective ways to generate significant buyer interest in a short period of time. It's a scheduled time slot when your home is open to any potential buyers who would like to see it.

Open houses have been an effective home selling technique for decades because they not only generate more traffic and attention to your listing, but they also allow buyers to tour the home in an easier, more relaxing environment. For an open house to be successful, planning and preparation are essential. Here are five things you can do to prepare:

  1. Fix The Red Flags
    If your home has a major red flag, like a plumbing problem or mold, it's so critical to get it taken care of before holding an open house. While an open house is a great way to generate interest, it can also be unsuccessful or even a waste of time if your home has a major defect that buyers are unwilling to overlook. As a result, it's best to take care of the large problems well ahead of time.

  2. Declutter
    The more of your belongings that are on display, the less buyers can see themselves living in the space. As a result, it's a good idea to declutter well ahead of time. Take any unwanted decor, ill-fitting furniture, book collections, and unnecessary belongings and relocate them to the basement or a self-storage unit. Also, temporarily put away any family photos or personalized items. A good, uncluttered home is the best way to make a good impression.

  3. Deep Clean Everything
    You want to make sure your home is spotless prior to the open house. Be sure to clean every room, including the basement. Make sure to get baseboards, surfaces, and floors. Be sure to give the kitchen and the bathrooms some extra attention. Hiring a professional to do a deep clean is often a great way to ensure your home is spotless.

  4. Stage Your Home
    Staging your home means arranging furniture and decor in a flattering, but neutral manner. It may also involve repainting, defining rooms, and maximizing light exposure. Staging is a home sales tactic that can not only help your home sell faster, but also help you attract buyers who will pay the highest sale price. If you've never staged a home before, your real estate agent should be able to provide you with home staging tips.

  5. Relocate For The Day
    Many buyers aren't interested in meeting the seller during the first tour of a home, so it's usually a good idea to stay away for the day. Plan a day's worth of activities or go visit a friend or family. You should also plan to relocate any pets, as they can also be a detractor for many buyers.

Open houses are an important strategy for garnering interest in your listing, but it's important to make sure they're done the right way. This is just another reason why working with an experienced real estate agent can make all the difference.


Here Are The Most Annoying Parts Of Selling

When you're selling your home, you'll inevitably have to deal with at least a few minor annoyances. However, it might make you feel better to hear that it happens to everyone! Being prepared and knowing what to expect will help you keep your cool as you go through the process. Here's a look at some of the most annoying parts of selling your home.

1. Last-Minute Showings

Getting ready for a showing takes a lot of time and effort, so when a potential buyer wants to see your home at the last minute, it's bound to cause some irritation. It's common to get a call saying a buyer is "10 minutes away," or even worse, is already sitting in your driveway.

Just remember that if it results in a home sale, it will all be worth it. While you won't be able to get everything perfect, just do your best. When you get the call, pick up as much as you can, toss it all in a Rubbermaid container, and put it neatly in your closet. This is the best way to tidy up on short notice. Hopefully, the buyer will understand that they didn't give you much time to prepare and will take that into consideration.

2. Buyers Making Themselves at Home

Sometimes, sellers return to find that the buyers have made themselves at home during a showing. Thankfully, this doesn't happen often, but when it does, it certainly is annoying.

While it's totally acceptable to look inside cabinets and closet doors, when buyers crank the heat, track mud all over, or let their kids run amuck, that's too much. Fortunately, most buyers are respectful of sellers' property. If they're not, ideally, the seller's agent will be able to reign them in.

3. Appointment No-Shows

A no-show is even worse than a last-minute appointment. When you've taken the time to vacuum, dust, light a candle, or even bake cookies, it's super annoying if the buyer doesn't come when they're supposed to.

While it's very inconvenient, it does happen. Sometimes, it's due to an emergency, and other times buyers simply forget or have a scheduling conflict. Unfortunately, this is an issue you may not be able to avoid.

4. Picking At The Little Stuff

Some buyers will be very vocal about things they don't love in your home. While everyone has different tastes, a buyer who loudly talks about how ugly the paint is or nitpicks about small issues may not realize just how rude they're being.

Try to keep a thick skin and remember that this is sometimes tactic buyers use to try to bring the price down. As long as you're confident your home is priced correctly, take their criticisms with a grain of salt.

5. Finding Your Home Lit Up and Open

There's nothing worse than coming home after a showing to find that all the lights are on and the door has been left unlocked. The buyer's agent should take care of everything before they leave. If they don't they're being both rude and irresponsible.

You can help keep this from happening by leaving showing instructions for the buyer's agents. Posting reminder signs that say "turn off all lights and lock all doors" can help prevent you from coming home to this unpleasant surprise.

Even the best real estate agents can't keep all of these things from happening. Unfortunately, it's totally normal to have to deal with at least some minor annoyances while you're selling your home. If any of these things happen to you, just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it will all be over soon!


Make Buyers Fall In Love With Your Home

Many buyers decide if they love a home during the first few minutes of a tour, which is why it's so crucial to make a good first impression. Buying a home is very emotional, and the secret to a quick sale and good return is making the buyer fall in love with the property.

As a seller, there are so many easy ways to attract buyers and make your listing stand out from the competition. The best part is, many of them are inexpensive. Below are some simple tricks to delight buyers when they tour your home:

  • Start With Your Curb Appeal
    Your home's curb appeal is the first thing buyers notice, so take some time to spruce things up. Painting your front door, power washing your facade, and trimming your landscaping can really make your home shine. Even simple things like new address numbers or a new mailbox can create a welcoming look.

  • Spruce Up The Bathroom
    Want to know what room buyers often love the most? The master bathroom. If your home has a decent-sized master bath showing it off should be a top priority. Upgrade to nice plush white bath towels, add a stylish shower curtain and a beautiful bathroom mat. Repair any damaged countertops or floor tiles, and add some nice flowers or bathroom decor to the sink. The goal is to create a nice, spacious, and relaxing vibe.

  • Let There Be Light
    Big, bright, open rooms are always attractive because light makes rooms appear larger and more welcoming. Do everything you can to maximize light exposure in every room of the house. Pull up your blinds and open curtains. Trim any outdoor trees or shrubs that may be blocking windows. If your rooms still don't receive enough light, consider investing in some decorative lamps. Adding mirrors or reflective surfaces is also a good way to increase light.

  • Show Off Your Storage Space
    The trick to showing off your storage space is to actually clear out about 30% of your belongings. When your closets are overflowing it can look like your home doesn't have enough space, but by only partially filling your closets (a little more than halfway full), your storage space can actually appear a lot larger.

  • Freshen Up Your Paint
    If it's been a while since you last painted, it's a good idea to do so before listing your home. A new paint job can really make your interior pop. We recommend going with a neutral color (avoid anything bold). Nice off-white colors can brighten up the room.

  • Evaluate Your Appliances
    Figuring out what to do with outdated appliances can be tricky. On the one hand, investing in brand new stainless steel appliances just before you leave your home may seem counterintuitive. On the other hand, kitchen appliances are so often at the center of a buyer's attention, so if yours are old and broken, they can be unattractive. Keep in mind, if you do invest in beautiful new stainless steel appliances, you could very well recover those costs in the sale price. If your appliances are dented, missing knobs, or making noises, you should invest in repairs at the very least.

  • Clean From Top To Bottom
    Buyers are far more likely to fall in love with a spotless home, so deep cleaning is critical. Before you list your home, you'll need to do an extensive, thorough cleaning of every room of the house. Every nook, cranny, baseboard, and ceiling fan needs attention. If you're not up to the task, you might want to consider hiring a cleaning company. 

A little work can go a long way. By taking simple steps to make your home more attractive, you can make buyers fall in love at first sight.


Is It The Right Time To Sell?

When the real estate market starts to heat up, it can be common for many sellers to have a fear of missing out — especially if you're seeing your neighbors sell their homes for well above asking price. However, determining the right time to sell your home isn't always easy. It's a major process and a significant commitment, so there are numerous factors one must consider before deciding on the right time to list a home.

If you're on the fence about whether it's the right time to sell, below are some important points to consider when making your decision:

  • Your Home Equity
    The amount of home equity, or the appraised value of your home minus your outstanding mortgage balance, is an important factor when determining the right time to sell. If you owe more than your home is worth, or if you're at about the break-even point, then you'll likely want to hold off on selling.

    Once your home value exceeds your mortgage balance, then you can realize a profit or return on your investment and will be in a better position to sell. Ideally, we recommend building enough home equity to cover your remaining mortgage balance and at least a 20% down payment on your next home.

  • Your Future Living Situation
    If you're thinking about selling, make sure you've taken some time to consider your next steps. If you're planning to buy another house, take the time to ensure our finances are in order and your debt is paid down. If you're planning to downsize or move to an apartment, make sure you have a rough idea of what your ideal unit costs in your target location.

  • The Time Of Year
    The real estate market changes throughout the year, so consider the season when making your decision to sell. Spring is often considered the best time to tell — the market really starts to heat up in April, so your home is likely to sell faster and for a higher price. However, you're also up against a lot of competition. The market tends to slow a bit in late summer just before school starts. The market tends to slow down quite a bit in fall and summer. While you have less competition, buyers also tend to be more demanding.

  • Your Emotions
    Even if selling your home makes sense from a financial standpoint, make sure you're emotionally ready as well. Ask if yourself if you're ready to commit to the work and the process. You may have to deal with potential buyers coming in and out of your home, and you'll need to be prepared for some potentially tough negotiations and decisions. Finally, you'll want to make sure you're emotionally prepared to part with your home and its memories.

  • Your Real Estate Agent
    Once you have decided you're ready to sell your home, finding an experienced real estate agent is key. A good agent can help you evaluate the market, establish the right listing price, stage your home, and find good contractors. The quality and experience of your agent can have a big impact on the time it takes to sell your home and your final sale price. Reading online reviews, asking for recommendations, or contacting a local broker are great ways to find a good agent.

While the state of the market and time of year may factor into your decision to sell, the best time ultimately comes down to your unique situation.


Don't Flush Away Offers With These Bathroom Trends

Trends come and go. What used to be all the rage can now be yet another project for the potential homebuyer. This is just as true for the bathroom as anywhere else in the home. But the bathroom deserves special attention compared to other rooms for several reasons: any fixes might involve serious plumbing work, and the bathroom is one of the most functional spaces in the home, so it's hard to get away with design simply for design's sake. If you want to wow buyers instead of turning them away, consider updating your bathrooms if they retain these trends.

Unusual Colors

There may have been a time when mustard was a nice color for the bathroom (and you can still use splashes of the color under the right circumstances!), but if buyers walk into a big yellow bathroom, they'll probably turn right back around. Changing up the colors in your bathroom will be more or less work depending on what's on the walls — if it's paint, you can simply roll on a new coat, but if it's tile you have more work cut out for you. Just make sure you spend time choosing the right color scheme, and work with an expert if you're unsure.

Medicine Cabinets

Buyers appreciate more storage, but that doesn't mean storage belongs anywhere. A medicine cabinet limits the size of mirror you can have in the bathroom and it also can be an eyesore when viewed from certain angles. Besides, there's plenty of ways you can store your bathroom essentials. Medicine and other small items can go in containers with matching lids, and towels can be neatly stacked on a tray, which is nice to look at but is also functional.

Color Toilets and Sinks

A color toilet may be fine for you, but when you're selling your home, you need to please as many people as possible. No one will think much of the standard white toilet, but they might be turned off by a colored one, especially if they have decor ideas of their own that would clash with the toilet color. The same applies to the sink too. Make choices that buyers won't need to replace.

Intricate Tiling

It may look stunning, but intricate tiling is a hassle for home maintenance. Smaller tiles means a more difficult time cleaning and grouting, and more of it. Homeowners already have a lot to do around the house as it is, so it's not a great idea to ask potential buyers to sacrifice their time and energy maintaining a detail of the bathroom that really isn't necessary.

You don't need to completely transform your bathroom to make a significant improvement. Likewise, a bathroom usually won't sabotage a deal. But if your bathroom is a blemish compared to the rest of the home, that will definitely affect a buyer's enthusiasm towards the home. Just be strategic and make sure your changes will appeal to the most buyers possible.


Staging? Don't Forget The Basement

If you're planning to sell your house, home staging techniques can help to move your home to the front of the line for interested buyers. With a few staging ideas from the pros, buyers will notice your home's potential, even in overlooked spaces like the basement that often gets overlooked.

Although your basement may seem like an unimportant space, buyers will definitely check it out when viewing your home. Even if it appears to be a cold, dark space, buyers will investigate it for structural problems, mold and mildew, and potential uses for extra space. Why not give them a pleasant surprise with home staging ideas that can create a functional, inviting basement and enhance your home's potential.

Get Rid of Trash and Clutter
Basements are often unused spaces that collect unwanted household items, old books and magazines, outdated clothes, children's toys, and various yard tools. To potential buyers, these items will likely look like clutter that should be thrown out with the trash. By getting rid of trash and clutter in your basement, buyers can focus on a clean open space that has many potential uses for family needs.

Eliminate Musty Smells and Bad Odors
If your basement has musty smells and bad odors, you can count on scaring buyers away. Since basements are often below ground level, they can easily develop lingering, unpleasant smells from water leaks, excessive moisture, and mold and mildew, especially if they have no windows for airflow. Before showing your home to buyers, take time to freshen up your basement with pleasant, welcoming smells.

Create a Neat Storage Area
Basements with concrete floors and high ceilings can be excellent storage areas. If you have a finished basement, consider adding some free-standing shelving units or bookcases for storage. You can purchase a variety of storage bins, decorative boxes, or colorful containers for an organized, neat appearance. Buyers will be impressed with the organization and extra storage space in the basement.

Make Cosmetic Improvements
Making a few cosmetic improvements in your basement will go a long way towards attracting buyers. For minimal costs, you can patch wall cracks; repair loose stair railings; give walls a fresh coat of paint; install updated lighting fixtures, and throw down a colorful area rug. These simple cosmetic improvements will quickly take your basement from dark and gloomy to cozy and comfortable.

Build a Home Gym or Fitness Center
A basement can be a great space for a home gym or family physical fitness area. It's a space that provides quiet privacy away from busy areas in the house like the kitchen and family room where everyone tends to gather. Consider a basement fitness center that's equipped with a flat-screen TV, surround sound speakers, a small refrigerator or juice bar, and a comfortable recliner or two for relaxing after a workout.

Design a Multipurpose Family Room
If you have a finished basement, you have a variety of possibilities for a multipurpose room. You can turn your basement into a family room, a children's playroom, a home office, a library, or a music room. With a large basement, it's easy to incorporate several functional areas into one space, so the entire family can enjoy various activities while spending time together.

When creating a usable basement space, focus on function, style, and storage. Your basement should not be a catch-all space for all kinds of unused items. If you're planning to sell your home, consider some home staging ideas that will turn your basement into a comfortable space with functional, show-stopping appeal that buyers will love.


Your Guide To Appraisals

You've listed your home on the market, and the seller has made an offer. Congratulations! Now, it's time for your appraisal.

This is the part of the home selling process where an independent third party determines the value of your home. The results of your appraisal can impact your final selling price, so it's normal to feel a bit nervous going into it. Are you wondering how an appraisal works and what you can do to prepare? Take a look at these tips.

1. Know What to Expect 

Understanding what happens during an appraisal can help calm your nerves and will also help you prepare. Most appraisals take between one to three hours and involve a professional appraiser thoroughly inspecting your property both inside and out. The purpose is to determine the current market value of your property.

Some of the things your appraiser will consider include the age of your home, its location, the size, and what the structure of made of. They'll also consider the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the layout of your home, and the overall condition of the roof, siding, and interior. Finally, the appraiser will compare your home to the value of comparable homes located nearby.

2. Prepare Your Home for Inspection

Even though an appraiser doesn't value your home based on its cleanliness, it's always a good idea to clean and declutter before they arrive. Sometimes, an appraiser might subconsciously value a home a little lower if it looks like a mess, so it makes sense to take the time to present your home in the best possible light.

3. Gather the Necessary Paperwork

Appraisers will typically ask for information about the home before they arrive. You'll make their job easier and ensure a more accurate appraisal if you give them a list of any major improvements you've made and provide detailed information about the age of your major appliances, HVAC system, and the roof. Whenever possible, also provide copies of the original paperwork.

If your appraiser arrives and finds out there's an addition or something else they didn't know about, all the information they've gathered about comparable homes will be off. This means they'll have to start over — which will delay your results and the closing of your sale. Avoid this by giving full disclosure and providing all of the information upfront.

4. Be Honest in Your Listing

Before your appraisal, it pays to make an honest assessment of what your home really offers. Unfortunately, sellers and their agents are sometimes guilty of listing "puffery." Fudging the numbers, adding square footage, or hoping no one will notice your roof isn't new isn't going to get you anywhere.

While it's sometimes tempting to add a little bit here and there, starting with an honest estimate will make the appraisal process much smoother.

5. Understand the Outcomes 

When you get your appraisal back, there are three possible outcomes: it will be higher or lower than the agreed-upon purchase price, or it will be spot-on. If your appraisal matches the agreed-upon price, you're ready to move forward with the closing, and no additional negotiations are needed.

However, if the appraisal comes in lower, you could have a problem. In this case, you may want to request an appraisal review. During this process, another licensed appraiser will prepare an independent report. This will help confirm the accuracy and completeness of the initial report. If the appraisal is still lower, you may need to re-negotiate with the buyer, and there's a chance they may walk away from the deal.

If your appraisal comes in higher than the agreed-upon price, you can move forward with the closing. However, you also won't have the opportunity to ask for more money. While the buyer will be happy knowing they already have some equity in their new home, knowing you've underpriced yourself may leave you feeling bitter.

This is why it's so important to price your home appropriately from the start. Working with a knowledgeable real estate agent will help you evaluate the value of your home and price it correctly for the current market conditions. This will help prevent you from having unpleasant surprises when your appraisal is done.


Sellers: How To Make The Right First Impression

You don't have a second chance to make a good first impression, and this couldn't be more true when it comes to selling your home. People often form first impressions within seven seconds of an interaction or experience. First impressions are key to attracting buyers; in fact, many buyers will know within a couple of minutes whether they're going to make an offer or not. As a result, creating a compelling first impression is an essential part of the selling process.

So how exactly do you create a good first impression when selling your home? These tips can help:

  • Start With Your Curb Appeal
    The front of your home is your first chance to make a good impression, as it's the first thing the buyer sees when touring your home. By improving your curb appeal, you can wow buyers as soon as they pull up to your home or enter the driveway. Your facade and landscaping need to be in top condition. Some simple ways to improve your curb appeal include:
    • Painting your front door
    • Power washing your facade
    • Freshen your mulch
    • Plant flowers or shrubs
    • Remove tree branches, leaves, and debris
    • Invest in a new doormat, mailbox, or address numbers
  • Hide Your Pets
    While you may think your cute dog or cat can double as a cute home accessory, some buyers just aren't pet people. Make sure to relocate your pets during house tours and put away any toys or bowls. Also, remove any pet fur or hair from your furniture and be sure to eliminate any pet odors.
  • Depersonalize Your Space
    When touring a home, buyers try to envision their family, pets, furniture, and belongings existing in the space. When your home is filled with too many family photos, knickknacks, or personal color preferences, it becomes harder for the buyer to imagine the space as their own. Put away any personal items and try to keep colors and decor neutral.
  • Clean From Top To Bottom
    When it comes to cleaning, your home should be impeccable. Clean your carpet, scrub your floors, and dust everything you can. You want your home to be as spotless as possible before listing it on the market. If you're not up to the task, you can always consider hiring a cleaning company to do the work for you.
  • Make Repairs
    If your home is showing obvious visual signs that repairs are needed, it's best to take care of them before showing your home. Replace broken doorknobs, check for leaks throughout the house, add caulk to tubs and sinks, and replace light bulbs. Buyers can be very detail orientated, and if something is broken or out of order, it can create a very unappealing first impression.
  • Freshen Up The Space
    Adding simple accessories, such as fresh flowers or a bowl of fruit can go a long way towards freshening up the space. You want buyers to feel welcome when touring the house. If you're holding an open house, you may even want to consider providing light refreshments.
  • Maximize Light
    An important part of making a good first impression is to maximize your home's light exposure. Not only will this make your home appear bright and welcoming, but light also helps spaces look larger. Make sure your blinds and curtains are open, and if any rooms don't receive enough light, try supplementing them with additional lamps or lighting.

When listing your home on the market, be sure to set yourself up for success. It takes many buyers less than 10 or 15 minutes to tour a home, so you only have a short period of time to make a good impression.


Should You Take Your Home Off The Market?

Wondering if it's time to reconsider your home listing?

As the seller, you have the power to take your property off the market anytime. You'll be able to start over again whenever the timing is right for you.

In general, you should aim to sell your home within 30 days of listing. Your real estate agent will work around the clock to promote your home to the right buyers. But for whatever reason, you might find your home hasn't attracted enough attention in 60 or even 90 days. This is the most common scenario when buyers choose to start over at a later date.

The longer a home is listed, the more likely buyers will think something is wrong with it! That said, there are other reasons you might withdraw your listing. Pulling a listing now doesn't mean you'll have a more difficult time selling later. In fact, giving yourself a few months to reassess can help you sell at a higher price.

If any of these apply to you, it might be wise to take your home off the market:

  • Your Financial Circumstances Change
    As the seller, you usually don't end up paying closing costs. Still, moving can be disruptive, and there are always some out-of-pocket expenses. If you were laid off or have reduced hours, you might want to rethink your listing, especially if financing for your next home isn't locked in. Emergency expenses, like fixing your car, should often take priority over moving if your plans are flexible.

  • You're Getting Disappointing Offers
    One of the most important services a real estate agent offers is the ability to price your home to sell. Pricing a home is a scientific process that involves crunching numbers from recent local sales. While this goes a long way to selling, market conditions always factor in. Especially in a hot "seller's market," you might decide you don't want to settle for less than what your home is really worth.

  • Home Inspection Turns Up a Problem
    Most buyers are turned off by "as-is" listings, which make them suspicious. Likewise, the majority of buyers will insist on a complete home inspection. Standard mortgage loans now require a recent inspection report on file. Electrical and plumbing problems are the issues most likely to chase buyers away. If you discover these or other woes, you can save time by de-listing and focusing on fixes.

  • Your Home Isn't on Trend
    Remember, buyers also use real estate agents. To represent a buyer's interests, their agent will usually show them several similar homes that meet their needs. If yours is the only one without a brand new kitchen, for example, you'll be at a disadvantage compared to the rest. By pulling your listing, you have more time to decide what upgrades fit into your budget and are most likely to provide a return on investment.

  • You Simply Decide Not to Sell
    Selling your home is a big decision. The changes ripple through every aspect of your life. Sometimes, you may not know how you really feel about selling until the process has already kicked off. Odds are good that you have a few weeks to mull it over — but you have to jump in before you contract with a buyer. When it simply doesn't feel right, many sellers ultimately go with their gut.

Whatever your situation, you can get the best advice from a trusted real estate agent. Your agent is an ally who'll listen to your concerns and help you chart the right path, whether that's a big sale now or a re-list later.


What Counts As A Bedroom?

The total number of bedrooms is an important selling feature of any home, so it's no wonder many homeowners are eager to transform extra rooms into bedrooms. But did you know there are actually legal definitions and coding requirements for bedrooms?

The number of bedrooms in your home can have a major impact on your home value and even your property taxes, so it's important to learn the rules on what rooms actually qualify. Remember, legal definitions can vary across states and municipalities, so always be sure to check on the requirements in your specific area. Below are several common requirements used to determine if a room qualifies as a bedroom:

  • Size Requirements
    The actual size requirements of a bedroom vary by location, but in many cases, the minimum requirement is between 70 and 80 square feet. If a room in your house is smaller than the minimum size requirement, you'll likely need to advertise it as a small office or closet. In addition to total square feet, your bedroom must also measure at least 7 feet horizontally.

    The height of the ceiling also matters — at least half of the ceiling must be higher than 7 feet. In other words, if your ceiling is slanted, which is common in lofts or attic spaces, make sure at least half of its area meets the minimum height requirement.

  • Exit Points
    Requirements in many locations specify that a bedroom should have two points of exit. While two doors may qualify in some cases, many places require at least one exit point be a window or skylight. To qualify as a bedroom, there must be two ways in which a person can exit the room to ensure safety in the event of a fire.

  • Window Size
    Many places have minimum size requirements for windows. A common rule is that the total glass area of the window be at least 8% of the floor. Windows also shouldn't be higher than 44 inches above the floor, and they must be at least 5.7 square feet to qualify.

  • Heating And Cooling
    Common in areas that experience hot summers or cold winters are heating and cooling requirements. To qualify in certain areas, bedrooms must be temperature controlled. This is especially common for master bedrooms. In most cases, the heat source needs to come from an HVACV system or furnace (space heaters and fireplaces don't qualify).

Remember, buyers love to imagine what they can do with extra space, so if you have a room that doesn't qualify as a bedroom, you can always get away with advertising it as an office or nursery. Even if it's not technically a bedroom, extra rooms are always a good selling point.

Turning extra rooms into bedrooms can be beneficial for numerous reasons, but always be sure to make sure your space meets the legal requirements in your area before labeling it a bedroom.


A Pre-Listing Home Inspection Can Save Time And Money

It might be a "seller's market" right now, but it's still a good idea to do everything you can to make sure your home sells for the right price. Getting a pre-listing home inspection is a simple step that can make a major difference. This inspection is paid for by the seller and is typically done before the home is placed on the market. While you might think this is unnecessary, there are several important benefits you'll enjoy. Here are a few of the most important.

You'll Be Able to Make Repairs Before Listing Your Home

Nobody wants to be blindsided when they're trying to sell their home. Getting a pre-listing inspection will allow you to learn about any problems and take care of them before putting your house on the market. 

Making simple repairs can help your home show better. You may also save money by giving yourself the time to shop around for contractor options, buy materials when they're on sale, and allow for a longer timeline.

Even if you decide not to make the repairs, you'll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you won't run into any unpleasant surprises when the buyer's inspection comes in.

It Allows You to More Accurately Price Your Home

If there are problems with your home and you don't want to fix them, you can factor the cost of the repairs into your asking price. Since buyers often overestimate the costs of repairs during negotiations, taking care of issues ahead of time could save you a significant amount of money.

On the other hand, if you have a home inspection that shows your property is free of issues, you may also be able to ask for a higher price.

You'll Enjoy a Smoother and More Efficient Transaction

The last thing you want to do is get into a long negotiation with the buyer after your inspection. When you don't have to deal with haggling over recently-discovered repair needs, you'll go under contract and get to closing far faster.

An inspection that shows a major problem is one of the main reasons buyers walk away from a deal. Since the buyer will receive full disclosure ahead of time, there's also less chance that they'll be surprised by something and change their mind or demand a far lower price.

You'll Gain the Buyer's Trust 

Since buying a home is a huge financial commitment, it makes sense that buyers are sometimes wary. By providing your pre-listing inspection ahead of time, you're showing that you're trustworthy and aren't trying to hide anything. This will make the buyer feel more confident and may increase the chances of getting a fair offer much faster.

It Will Make Your Listing More Competitive

While getting a pre-listing inspection is becoming more popular, it's still not done by all sellers. If your home is the only one on the market that has one, your listing will be more competitive. This makes it more likely that you'll receive an offer quickly and at the price you're looking for.

A pre-listing home inspection shows potential buyers that your home is safe and secure. It's easy and inexpensive to obtain one, making it well worth the effort.


Landscaping Changes You Should Make Before Selling

When you're ready to sell your house, you know it's important to make repairs and spruce up your home's interior so that you can come closer to getting your asking price. But it's not just the interior that counts. You should also take a good hard look at the landscape and make a list of things that could be improved. A neat, well-maintained landscape that shows loving care will make an impression. There's just nothing like a well-tended expanse of green lawn, along with some eye-catching color in flower beds to lure the drive-bys into stopping and taking a closer look.

So what makes sense to repair, upgrade, or renovate in your landscaping?

  1. The lawn
    A well-maintained lawn is one of the best ways to boost your property's curb appeal. A rich expanse of cool green will communicate that your property has been well and lovingly cared for. It takes more than one season to create a nice lawn, so start in the spring, using pre-emergent to get rid of weeds. Follow up by planting sparse areas with sod or grass seed. Be sure to monitor for weeds, using spot herbicides as needed. Likewise, look for pest damage from grubs, chinch bugs, and other common pests. Make sure your lawn is well watered (about an inch of water a week); pay particular attention to watering new sod. Installing an irrigation system to keep the grass watered will be an attractive upgrade.

  2. Flower beds
    Creating flower beds, whether perennials or annuals, can help sell your home. Flower beds can go along the front of the house, around trees, or in front of shrub plantings, or as a berm in the middle of the yard, with a border of pavers or flashing to delineate the bed. Flower beds are a way to add color all during the growing season. Planting annuals, which you can change as the season progresses, are a quick way to get some color in your landscape. After planting, add mulch, both to retain moisture and suppress weeds, as well as to give the flower beds a finished look. Keep flower beds weed-free during the time you're trying to sell your home.

  3. Trees and shrubs 
    Tidy up your trees and shrubs. You don't have to be a topiary artist, but do aim for trimming hedges into even, neat shapes. If trees are looking shaggy and limbs are sagging, hire a pro to trim them neatly. Make sure limbs are cut away from the roofline.

  4. Special features
    Ponds, waterfalls, and fancy planters can be beautiful but may not be that attractive to a prospective buyer. These features sometimes require considerable maintenance to keep in good repair, so prospective buyers may not find them appealing. Consider taking out any of these features that might detract from the overall picture of your home as a desirable place to live.

  5. Decks and patios
    While some outdoor features are not that appealing, a patio or deck can be very attractive to potential buyers. But make sure these features are in good shape. Start by cleaning them, and in the case of the deck, repainting if need be. The deck should also be of sound construction so that it feels steady. If it wobbles and obviously needs some repairs, bite the bullet and have it repaired. Clean patio slabs. There is a patio cleaning product specifically for this purpose.

Above all, make sure the exterior of your property is clean, weed free, and that plants, including the lawn, are neatly trimmed.


The Best Lighting For Staging a Home

Whether you're staging your home yourself or hiring professionals to do it, you should know a bit about lighting. Most staging advice has to do with these three areas:

  • using furniture or furnishings to show off the house to good advantage; 
  • fixing up all the dings and cracks and dents and scuffs so your home will look bright, shiny, and in good repair;
  • arranging things so the home looks big, roomy, and inviting

But what about using lighting to enhance the overall appearance of your home?

Lighting matters because potential buyers are turned off by a dark house. What's more, as real estate experts will tell you, you'll get better offers for your home when it's well lit.

How Lighting Can Enhances Staging

The right kind of lighting will help your home look better in subtle ways. For instance, a tall room will look smaller if the lighting is placed low and doesn't reach the ceiling. Lighting used the right way will make a too-small room look bigger: you can push a wall open by focusing light on it. If a room seems too narrow, you can illuminate the wide sides; conversely, you can train the light on the narrow ends for a wide room.

Lightbulbs: Which Type?

With the right bulb, you can do the following:

  • make a room look more spacious
  • focus on architectural details or points of interest
  • brighten up a space while minimizing dark areas

A few decades ago, there was only one kind of lightbulb, the incandescent, which might be 40 watt, 60 watt, or 100 watt, and clear or frosted. These days, the choice in lightbulbs can be confusing: in addition to the incandescent, there's the CFL fluorescent or the standard fluorescent (these have mercury so must be disposed of as hazardous waste); halogen (these burn very hot); and LED bulbs — the best choice, as they last a long time and are inexpensive.

Lightbulbs are sold by "colors," which are based on number of Kelvin units: lower Kelvins means more of the yellow light we associate with a cozy and warm ambience, while higher Kelvins create whiter or bluer light. You can choose from Soft White, Warm White, Bright White, and Daylight. Your choice will depend on what you want to accentuate and how.

Here's how the types of lights are most frequently used:

  • Incandescents, which are being phased out of the market due to their inefficiency, have a warm glow and are fine for living areas and bedrooms. 
  • CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) may be used in living areas and bedrooms. Because they contain mercury and require special cleaning in a break, keep them in set fixtures instead of lamps. CFLs are not particularly popular with consumers and may disappear from the marketplace.
  • Standard fluorescents give off a cold, flat, bluish light, which can be harsh. They are often used in basements or attics to provide strong lighting.
  • LEDs are another good choice for general lighting but are much more energy-efficient than incandescent. They are often used to showcase art because they don't emit much heat, nor do they produce ultraviolet or infrared light.
  • Halogen, which is close to daylight, makes colors appear sharper. They are often used for recessed cans, under-cabinet lighting, or in pendant lights to make a space look brighter.

Mastering the fundamentals of staging with lighting is a relatively easy way to increase your chances of getting the price you want for your home. It's worthwhile to make a small investment in lightbulbs and practice your lighting staging skills.


Sellers: Why You Should Upgrade Your Outdoor Space

Whether you're thinking of selling soon or you plan to stay in your home for the long haul, your outdoor space is more important now than ever before. With the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic still fresh in our minds, most homeowners are re-evaluating their space and re-prioritizing what's important to them.

Today, many buyers are focused on making the best use of all available space. This has created a strong trend towards all types of outdoor upgrades. It's now one of the most sought-after features among home buyers, and we don't see this trend going away any time soon. Still not convinced? Here are three reasons to consider spending some of your time this summer upgrading our outdoor space.

1. Increased Home Value

Many outdoor upgrades increase the amount of usable living space on your property. According to a January 2021 survey conducted for the International Casual Furnishings Association, people spend more time outdoors doing things like grilling, dining, gardening, and spending time with their children and pets.

People want outdoor spaces that complement both their homes and their lifestyles. They want privacy, relaxation, and comfort when they're spending time outdoors. Since this is so desirable right now, you can expect upgrades that support these goals to earn you a solid return on your investment.

2. Improved Curb Appeal

Upgrades to your driveway, front entrance area, and landscaping will all improve your curb appeal. This will make your home more attractive and inviting. It will also go a long way towards making it more desirable when you decide to sell.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so don't miss out. You'll be surprised by how much even small upgrades like replacing your mailbox or house numbers can improve your home's curb appeal.

3. Long-Term Enjoyment

Even if you don't plan to sell your home any time soon, it's worth considering moving forward on the outdoor upgrade you've been dreaming of. Countless studies tout the benefits of spending time outdoors.

Creating a space where you can relax and enjoy your time off without ever leaving the comfort of your home will do wonders for your physical and mental health. You'll also have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you're making smart moves and keeping your home on-trend.

2021's Top Outdoor Upgrades

Outdoor kitchens top the list of desirable outdoor upgrades. This can range from a covered grill with some cabinet space to a full gourmet kitchen complete with pizza ovens, dishwashers, and more. Other desirable features include outdoor heating (ex. fire pits), outdoor bars, and comfortable outdoor seating areas. In some locations, inground pools are also making a comeback. Decks, patios, and outdoor gazebos are also growing in popularity.

It's important to note that you don't have to break the bank to follow this trend. Even a simple landscaping update can make a major difference in the value of your home. Other simple upgrades to consider include replacing your garage door, installing a sprinkler system, updating your front door, and adding landscape lighting.


What You Should Know About Agent Commission

If you're planning to list your home for sale, chances are you'll be relying on an experienced real estate agent to help you seal the deal. Both your agent and your future buyer's agent will play an important role in creating a smooth transaction process. In return, agents are usually compensated with a commission based on the home's final sale price. Because agents are only paid after a successful closing, they're motivated to help you sell quickly and efficiently while achieving the best possible sale price.

Agent commission structures can be confusing, and when it comes time for a closing, many clients are unsure how their agents are paid or how to calculate the fees. To help clear up any uncertainty, below are some common questions and answers related to agent commissions. 

  • What Is An Agent Commission?
    The majority of agents charge a commission based on a percentage of the home's sale price as payment for their services. The total commission for a home sale is generally between 5% and 6%. However, this commission is usually split between the buyer's agent and the seller's agent. Then, both agents usually have to split their take with their broker. The exact percentages may vary depending on the agent, location, and the unique transaction details. Because agents are only paid when you're paid, they're motivated to help you achieve the best possible outcome during the home selling process.

  • What Does The Agent Commission Cover?
    Real estate agents provide a number of essential services to help you achieve the best possible return on your home. Helping you determine a sale price, market your listing, and guide you through the closing process are just a few of the many ways agents help their clients. Additionally, agents are experienced negotiators and they know how to handle buyers and buyer's agents. A commission based on the sale price is usually the only compensation an agent receives for their services.

  • Who Is Responsible For Paying The Commission?
    It depends on how you look at it. Agent commission is not included in the closing costs, which are additional fees that support activities required to facilitate the transaction. Closing costs are usually covered by the buyer. Instead, agent commission is usually baked into the sale price of the home. As a result, some may consider agent commissions to be seller-funded, but unlike closing costs, agent commissions are not additional fees paid on top of the sale price.

  • Are Agent Commissions Negotiable?
    In some cases, agents may be willing to negotiate lower commission rates. This most frequently occurs when a single agent is serving as both the buyer's and the seller's agent. However, because most agents are required to split their commissions with a broker, negotiating a lower commission rate isn't always feasible. Also, many agents self-fund marketing initiatives and reimburse themselves after the closing.

  • Do You Have To Pay A Commission If Your Home Doesn't Sell?
    Sellers are not usually required to pay an agent if the home doesn't sell; however, there may be exceptions. Agent commission is usually triggered when the seller accepts a buyer's offer. If an agent finds a buyer while under contract, and the sale closes after the agent's contract expires, the seller may still owe the agent a commission. Another example may be backing out of the deal after you've accepted an offer. In this case, you'll likely still be liable for both seller and buyer commissions. It's always a good idea to read your contracts carefully and be sure you're clear on the terms.

Agent commissions can certainly be confusing, especially if you're selling your first home. While they may seem like extra fees, it's important to remember that you'll likely recover your costs and more if you're working with an experienced agent.


The Cost of Selling a Home

Perhaps you've seen the signs in front of some homes: "For Sale by Owner." The assumption for most of us is that this seller has decided to avoid paying agent fees and is hoping to pocket those fees. Is this a good idea though?

Agents' fees are just one of the many costs of selling a home. Let's take a look at these and other costs you're likely to encounter when you sell your home.

  1. Real estate agent's fees.
    Real estate agents usually charge 5-6 percent of the home purchase price. (Be sure to ask potential agents about the commission fee. Agree on terms in writing.)  Seller's agents are likely to split commissions with buyer's agents, who usually don't charge clients.

    If you're thinking about trying to sell your home yourself, be mindful of all the things you'll have to do and all the costs involved: marketing and signs, photography, hosting an open house, and legal representation for paperwork. There's also the real estate agent's extensive knowledge that helps them negotiate the best price. Are you up for all that? Having a real estate agent also opens you up to a wider pool of potential buyers by listing your home on the MLS (multiple listing services). 

  2. Property taxes.
    Sellers owe a prorated share of property taxes. That figure could run from zero to several thousand dollars, depending on the due date of the taxes. You might also face a capital gains tax, depending on how much profit you make for your home. 

  3. Mortgage payoff.
    You'll have to pay off your mortgage, but count on the payoff amount being different from the balance due listed on the last mortgage statement because of interest charges. 

  4. Title policy for a new homeowner.
    The seller sometimes pays for a new homeowner's title policy at an average cost of $1000. Also, if a title search reveals a lien on a home, that lien should be settled before you can sell the home. 

  5. Home repairs.
    You may have to shoulder the costs of major home repairs to make the sale go through. Otherwise, you might have to discount the sale price. Another option for an older home is a home warranty, priced from $300-600 for a one-year warranty. This would cover most of the repair costs if something major breaks down after the sale.

  6. Moving costs.
    Even if you pack up your home yourself, there are still costs for materials and movers. The cost of moving will vary, but count to pay on average $1250 for a local move and $4890 for a long-distance move.

  7. Home staging.
    Let's say your home doesn't sell as quickly as you'd hoped. You may want to enlist the services of a professional home stager. These pros will come into your home, assess its best selling points, and advise you or else do the work themselves to present your home to its best advantage. The home stagers will not only rearrange furniture and change the interior but may rent furniture. Costs could be from $500 to $2000.

  8. Miscellaneous buyers' costs.
    While buyers customarily pay for mortgage fees, appraisal expenses, and home inspections, the seller sometimes offers to pay some of these closing costs to seal the deal. This could add up to about 2-5 percent of the selling price.

It's helpful when selling your home to make a list or a spreadsheet of all possible costs you're likely to incur to avoid surprises during the selling process. A good real estate agent will also make the selling process a lot smoother.


How To Pack For A Move When You're Selling

Packing for a move while you're trying to sell your home can be tricky. As your real estate agent will tell you, you want your home to look a certain way when potential buyers visit. Everything ideally should be neat and tidy, and yet the very act of moving ordains that there will be a certain amount of chaos as you stage your move into another home. What to do?

Here are some tips that can help.

Empty or staged: Which is best?
An empty house isn't necessarily a bad thing when it comes to selling your home. Certainly, potential buyers won't have any trouble imagining their lives against the backdrop of your empty home. 

On the other hand, you may think making your home look a little bit lived in would help it sell. Perhaps you want to leave window treatments in place, as well as some rugs, a coffee table, other objects that liven up a space.

If you're going to host potential buyers while you're moving, do try to keep the home spotlessly clean, and even if you're still packing, keep clutter at a minimum, making use of closets and a storage room to stow your packing while showing the home.

Clear out the clutter. 
The first step in any move is to clear out everything you can say goodbye to. Be strong: if you haven't used it over the last year, get rid of it, whether that means recycling, donating, selling, or pitching. This goes for clothes, furniture, decorative items, appliances, dishes, and cookware.

Be organized about packing.
Acquire your boxes, bubble wrap, and packing tape early and in plentiful supply, so you don't run out. If you know someone who can give you boxes in good shape, that's great, but make sure they are not so old they're going to collapse once full.

Pack according to rooms, using color-coded tape: green for the bedroom, red for the kitchen, etc. Do not fill boxes, so they are too heavy to lift. For breakable items, be sure to wrap them and fill up the box with newspaper or other filler, so they don't shift around in transit. You can also wrap breakables with towels and washcloths, so you maximize space.

For bedroom drawers, try wrapping them with plastic wrap and taping them so you can leave the contents inside. Bundle clothes on hangers into a large plastic bag and tape up the ends, so you don't have to fold all those clothes.

Make sure everything's shipshape in the new home.
Before you start moving in, check that everything's running right in the new home: electricity, phone lines, internet, toilets and other plumbing, and all appliances. As your family gets ready to move in, direct everyone to pack a small bag with necessities such as a change of clothes, toothbrush and toothpaste, and other toiletries, so they don't have to search through boxes.

There's a lot to think about when you're selling a home and getting ready for a move. But the more organized you are, the easier both processes will go. Be sure to utilize the services of your real estate agent for the best results.


Sellers: Discount or Fix Up?

Whether you're buying or selling a home, the sales price is always at the top of the agenda. For sellers, the final sales price affects bottom-line profit and future plans. For buyers, it impacts future expenses for bills, home repairs, and renovations. Before selling your home, it's essential to consider repairs and upgrades that impact your profit and decide whether making them is your best option.

Many homeowners are faced with the dilemma of selling their home in "as is condition" or sinking money into needed repairs and upgrades. To answer that question, you need to evaluate necessary repairs, examine your financial situation, and research local real estate markets to determine the return on your investment.

Evaluate Necessary Repairs

All homes need repairs, but some are more urgent than others. If you live in an old home that hasn't had a lot of upgrades, you may have more costly repairs. Start by walking through the house and making a list of repairs and upgrades that may impact your sale. Any repairs to the foundation, roof, plumbing, and HVAC systems (heating and air conditioning) should be at the top of your list because they bring the highest return on your investment.

Other repairs and upgrades that add value include:

  • A fresh coat of paint
  • New flooring (carpets, wood, tile)
  • New sinks and bathtubs
  • New appliances
  • Updated light fixtures
  • New gutters
  • Installing sprinkler systems
  • Installing alarm systems

Examine Your Finances

Selling your home means moving to a new location. Whether you're buying your dream home across town, relocating out-of-state, or downsizing in retirement, you must consider moving expenses, as well as other move-in costs such as monthly bills, home repairs and upgrades, property improvements, property taxes, and mortgage payments, unless you pay cash. If you discount the sale of your home to allow the buyer to make necessary repairs, how does that impact your future finances?

Some buyers look for fixer-uppers, but generally that means minor repairs like new carpeting, new paint, and new light fixtures. Major repairs like a new roof, new windows, new plumbing, and a new electrical system are too costly. When major repairs are necessary, a buyer will usually offer a significantly lower price, ask the seller to pay for repairs, or walk away from the sale. Most buyers want a home that's in move-in condition, but you have to make sure necessary repairs won't impact your financial situation.

Research the Local Real Estate Market

Researching homes for sale in your area can help with decisions on making repairs. In most cases, fixer-uppers reflect a lower sales price than homes with numerous upgrades and renovations. You can view homes online or talk to your real estate agent about important repairs and upgrades that boost sales and provide the best return on investment.

Smart sellers weigh the cost of making improvements against the home's market value after improvements are completed. If you notice that most higher-priced homes for sale have upgraded kitchens, that's probably because the return on investment is high. This doesn't mean you have to tear out the cabinets and install top-of-the-line designer appliances. In some cases, painting old cabinets, installing new hardware, and hanging new light fixtures are enough to give your kitchen an updated look.

When you're selling a home "as is," this means you will not make any repairs or offer the buyer any discount to cover the cost of repairs. Based on your real estate needs and your timeline to move, your real estate agent can help you decide whether an "as is" sale or a discounted price is your best option.


Best ROI Home Improvement Projects

Making home improvements either for your family to enjoy or for the purpose of selling your home is a great idea. But some improvements are a better use of your money than others, so how do you know you're spending your home improvement dollars wisely?

This is an important question if you plan to sell in the near future. You'll want to undertake projects that have a higher return on investment (ROI), ones that will help sell your home at a better price, allowing you to recoup most of if not more than what you put in. In general, focus on projects that leave a big impression on buyers. Here's where you can focus your efforts.

Home maintenance

Buyers expect and assume the basic systems of a house are functioning as intended. They don't want to think about maintenance, at least initially. They know these types of repairs can potentially be costly, and it will impact the selling price.

  • New roof or siding. Buyers realize the importance of these parts of the home and even though it's a more expensive project, they have a high ROI.
  • Windows. Replacing the windows can help curb appeal too. It can also improve the energy efficiency and possibly the security of the home.
  • Paint. It's relatively inexpensive and can be a DIY project. It gives the area a whole new look. You could also paint something like the front door or kitchen cabinets for a high-impact project.   

Curb appeal

When you're selling, the first impression is so important. Improving your curb appeal gets your home noticed and buyers in the door.

  • Landscaping. This can easily be a high ROI project, especially if you plan on doing it yourself. The best landscape designs are simple with clean lines. You don't want buyers to think they would have to do a lot of work to maintain it. Keep everything mowed, trimmed, and edged. Paint the fence, and add mulch. Plants should provide some color.
  • Replace the front door. It can change the look of the entry area and improve energy efficiency.

More useable space

Projects that create additional living space or improve the efficiency and function of an existing space almost always make a big impact.

  • Minor kitchen and bathroom remodels. You recoup more of your investment on a smaller remodel project, so if you can avoid gutting these spaces entirely, do it. Skip the bells and whistles and high-end finishes that can drive the cost up. Painting cabinets and changing out the hardware are a good place to start.
  • Convert an attic to an extra bedroom. An extra bedroom is always a win with buyers. It can increase your selling price quite a bit in most areas.
  • Add a second bathroom. If you can add an extra bathroom to an older home, even a half bath, it's worth the effort. In hot markets, you may even recoup more than 100% of the cost.
  • Create an outdoor living space. Any kind of outdoor living space is in high demand right now. If you don't have one, adding it will definitely pay off. The most basic way to go is a patio, but you could opt for a deck or porch if you want to spend more money.
  • Finish the basement. It doesn't necessarily have to be fully finished and furnished, but enough that buyers can imagine how they might use the space.

Making the most of your home improvement dollars with a high ROI project will really pay off when it's time to sell. You'll make a better impression with buyers and that translates to a better selling price.


Tax Deductions You Can Take From Selling Your Home

Tax season is upon us, and if you sold your house in 2020 (or are planning to sell it in the future), you're in luck! Thanks to the 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, there are some tax deductions you can take that may result in serious savings! Here are a few of the most important.

  1. Capital Improvements
    If you've made certain upgrades to your home before selling, the IRS allows you to add the costs of these "capital improvements" to your home's cost basis. This can reduce the amount of capital gains tax you may owe after you sell your home.

    It's important to note that not all repairs and upgrades meet the government's definition of a capital improvement. Some of the things that meet the guidelines include upgrading your HVAC system, adding a lawn sprinkler system, adding an additional bedroom, bathroom, deck, garage, porch, or patio, updating your water heater, adding built-in appliances, and more. If you make any improvements or upgrades to your home, be sure to hold onto all your receipts. When it's time for you and your tax preparer to complete your return, they can review your expenses and determine what may qualify.
  1. Selling Costs
    Costs tied directly to the sale of your home are deductible as long as the home is your primary residence and you lived there at least two of the five years prior to the sale. As long as you meet these requirements, you can write off expenses, including real estate commissions, legal fees, escrow fees, advertising costs, and even home staging fees.

    Note that this isn't a direct deduction. Instead, it's subtracted from the sales price of your home, which positively impacts the amount of capital gains tax you might owe.
  1. Mortgage Interest
    Current tax rules allow you to deduct the interest you pay on your home mortgage debt of up to $750,000. Just remember that mortgage interest and property taxes are itemized deductions, and it only makes sense to itemize if the total is higher than your standard deduction.
  1. Property Taxes
    The new 2018 rules capped the amount of property taxes you can write off, but they still allow you to take a deduction of up to $10,000. Make sure you include the amount of any property taxes you paid on your tax return.
  1. Discount Points
    When you pay points in cash to buy down the interest rate on your mortgage or refinance, the IRS allows you to deduct a portion of the points each year until your mortgage is paid in full. When you sell your house and pay off your mortgage loan, you're able to deduct the remaining amount all at once. This is one of the most forgotten-about home selling tax deductions, but it can be significant in some cases.
  1. Moving Expenses
    Unfortunately, not everyone can deduct their moving expenses. However, if you're active-duty military personnel, you'll want to take advantage of this deduction.
  1. BONUS: Capital Gains Taxes
    The capital gains tax rule isn't really a deduction, it's an exclusion. However, it's so important that we decided to add it to this list. Capital gains are the profit you make from selling your home. It's the cash left over after you've paid off your mortgage and other expenses. As long as you have lived in the home at least two of the last five years, single filers can exclude up to $250,000 of capital gains, and married filers can exclude up to $500,000.

While the information above is an excellent starting point, remember that each person's finances are different. It's always a good idea to speak to a tax professional before filing your taxes, particularly in years when you have a major life change, like a home sale.


Sell Faster by Sprucing Up Your Curb Appeal

When you're selling a home, curb appeal is a big factor. For most buyers, the curb appeal of a property can make or break the sale within a matter of minutes! While a well-kept property will entice buyers to take a closer look, a property that looks neglected will quickly send buy in the other direction.

What is Curb Appeal?

Curb appeal refers to how a property looks from the street. It's a combination of visual appeal, attention to detail, and good maintenance. When a house looks neat and well-maintained from the outside, buyers usually assume that the inside of the house looks the same. Since 90% of buyers start their search online, photos showing eye-catching curb appeal definitely attract attention.

Great curb appeal not only maximizes the sale price of your property, but it also motivates buyers to view the home. On average, a home with fresh paint, well-kept features, and manicured lawns sell for about 10% more than similar homes with less curb appeal. Think of your home's curb appeal as the first impression for buyers.

Boosting Your Home's Curb Appeal

If you're selling your home, you can boost curb appeal by taking steps to attract buyers. Depending on your budget, there are numerous things you can do to put your home in the spotlight.

Focus on Landscaping

Whether buyers are driving by or searching online, the front yard is the first thing they see. This includes trees, shrubs, garden areas, walkways, and driveways. Lush green grass, manicured trees and shrubs, and well-maintained walkways and driveways are a big plus. To boost your home's curb appeal, get rid of weeds and debris, trim the trees and shrubs, plant colorful flowers, spread a layer of fresh mulch, and repair cracks in walkways and driveways.

Increase Nighttime Appeal

Prospective buyers might drive by after dark to check out the neighborhood. Exterior lighting is an easy, affordable way to add show-stopping curb appeal after dark. Landscape lighting creates a warm, inviting glow and visibility along walkways and driveways, while porch lights, spots, and downlights showcase important landscape and house features. If your garage is attached to the house, don't forget to light it up as part of the exterior.

Freshen Up Outdoor Features

Take a good look at your home's exterior to check for needed upgrades and repairs. Focus on the main features buyers will consider a big expense if they have to make repairs.

  • Roof — Replace any damaged or missing roof shingles.
  • Siding and Trim — Put a fresh coat of paint on siding and trim and sand and repaint peeling or damaged areas.
  • Gutters — Clean gutters and remove moss, mold, or leaves.
  • Windows — Make windows clean and crystal clear without dust or dirt.
  • Walkways, Driveways, Decks — Clean with a power washer and repair any damage.

Welcome Your Guests

Once buyers get past the front yard, they are focused on the house. By creating a welcoming entryway, buyers will be eager to get inside. You can start by making sure the front porch is clean and well-lit to create an inviting atmosphere. If things look a little dingy, give your porch a fresh coat of paint or stain, paint your front door a bright color, add a charming porch swing, and fill outdoor pots with fresh greenery or colorful flowers.

When selling your home, first impressions can make or break a sale. By sprucing up your curb appeal, you can attract more buyers, sell your home faster, and pocket more profit for your next move.


The Truth About Selling a Home As Is

Selling a home "as is" is often viewed as a convenient option for homeowners who are looking to move on from a particular property. In some cases, the seller wants to transact quickly or may not have the financial resources available to make the repairs. 

Selling a home as is means the property will be sold in its current state — no matter how good or bad the condition may be. In other words, the transaction takes place with the understanding that the seller won't be on the hook for any repairs. 

Many believe selling a home "as is" is the easiest way to move on from a property, but that's usually not the case. 

Common Misconceptions About Selling A Property "As Is"

Selling a property as is does not mean the homeowner is excused from having to reveal facts about the property, disclose potential problems, or honestly answer a buyer's questions. States have different rules about which details relating to a home's condition a seller must disclose to a buyer; however, in most cases, it's important to disclose what you know.

Additionally, real estate agents are often required to disclose known details about a home's condition including:

  • Known structural defects 
  • The presence of mold
  • Significant roofing issues
  • The radon levels in the home are higher than the acceptable EPA limit
  • Electric or plumbing problems
  • Termite damage

Many buyers may also be under the impression that they'll have the opportunity to negotiate repairs following the home inspection. However, if you don't plan on committing to any home maintenance, it's important to let the buyer know upfront.

Selling A Home As Is May Impact Buyer's Perception

An "as is" home sale is almost always perceived negatively by potential buyers, so you may be limiting your market size to investors and home flippers. Additionally, it can signal to buyers that you are desperate to sell the home, which means you'll likely lose negotiating leverage. Buyers that are interested are more likely to try to lowball your sale price. As a result, listing a home as is can prove challenging for both sellers and real estate agents.

Reasons Why You Might Want to Sell A Home As Is

While many would recommend avoiding an "as is" home sale if possible,  there are some valid reasons why sellers may want to consider it:

  • A seller can't afford to make the repair costs.
  • A seller is experiencing financial difficulties and needs to close quickly.
  • A seller is ill or does not want to go through the stress of selling a home.

Listing a home can require work and dedication on behalf of a determined seller, but if you are experiencing a situation where you need to list your home "as is", it's a good idea to weigh the pros and cons.

Every home sale is unique and presents its own set of challenges. Working with an experienced real estate agent is usually the best way to determine the right strategy for your property.


Navigating a Bidding War

As a seller, finding yourself in the midst of a bidding war might sound like a dream come true. Two or more parties trying to outbid one another as the price of your home climbs higher and higher—what could possibly go wrong?

But a bidding war can backfire on you if you're not careful, leaving you with nothing but wasted time and effort. Here's your seller's guide to navigating a bidding war so you come out on top.

What Is a Bidding War?

It's important to understand what a bidding war is and also what a bidding war isn't. A bidding war is when two prospective buyers are bidding higher and higher to purchase a property. This drives up the price of the property, which can be great for the seller. 

A situation in which two prospective buyers send in differing offers, one higher than the other, is not a bidding war. It simply means that you have multiple offers. The characteristic that defines a bidding war is active competition between the interested parties.

How Do You Handle a Bidding War?

The primary goal when you're selling your home is generally to get the highest possible price. A bidding war may be a great opportunity to accomplish this goal, but it's also important to be honest with your potential buyers and to remember that the highest offer isn't always the best offer. 

  • Look Beyond the Numbers. There are times when it actually makes more sense to accept an offer other than the highest bid. Be sure to take other factors into account, such as the buyer's financial standing, credit score, and whether they have pre-approval for a mortgage.

  • Consider Closing Dates. For most sellers, moving their home quickly is the second most important consideration after price. It may be worthwhile to accept a slightly lower offer if it means closing sooner. 

  • Keep a Level Head. Seeing the offers go up and up can be exciting, but it's important not to let emotions get the better of you when you're navigating a bidding war. Staying level-headed is crucial to not blowing the deal. 

Should You Encourage a Bidding War?

It is possible to encourage a bidding war over your property, and there can be real advantages to doing so. While maintaining a good, transparent relationship with your buyers is a top priority, you can stack the deck in your favor to make a bidding war more likely.

  • Set the Right Asking Price. Creating a situation in which a bidding war is possible starts with deciding on the perfect listing price. Generally speaking, a bidding war is most likely if your home is listed ever-so-slightly below market value. Just be careful not to list it too low, or you could be underselling yourself.

  • Market Like a Pro. Great marketing will get the offers rolling in, which is the best way to encourage a potential bidding war. Create an irresistible listing with professional photographs and a virtual walk-through, and don't neglect social media.

  • Never Fake a Bidding War. It's unethical to tell a buyer that you're entertaining other offers if that isn't really the case. Not only does this unfairly mislead the buyer, but it can also backfire if they become aware of the deception.

By playing your cards right, a bidding war can drive up the price of your home and increase your profit. Of course, to create the prime conditions that might lead to a bidding war, it helps to have a great team of real estate professionals working for you.


What are the Closing Costs of Selling a Home?

Selling a home requires more time and effort than many people realize. When closing day rolls around, it's time to pay the people who helped along the way. From attorneys and contractors to Uncle Sam, there are plenty of people who will be lining up to take their cut before the deal is done. 

When you're estimating the profit you'll see from your home sale, it's important not to forget about the closing costs you'll pay. While the final costs vary based on several factors, including where your home is located, most sellers can expect to allocate between 6% and 10% of the home's sale price to closing costs. Here's an overview of what you can expect. 

  • Loan Payoff Expenses
    When you sell your home, you'll have to repay your mortgage lender at closing. You may notice that your final payoff balance is higher than the remaining balance shown on your mortgage statement. The difference is the pro-rated interest you owe your lender. Some lenders also charge an early-payment penalty. If you have an outstanding balance on your home equity loan or line of credit, you'll have to pay that in full as well.

It's always a good idea to contact your lender and get an estimate of what you'll owe so you can properly prepare.

  • Transfer Taxes/Recording Fees
    In some locations, sellers are required to pay a transfer tax or recording fee, which is calculated based on your property value. This tax or fee may be levied by your state, county, or city. It covers the cost of transferring your deed to the new owners.

  • Title Insurance Fees
    Title insurance protects the buyers and their lender from any problems that could arise with the property's title. The sellers often pay the buyer's title insurance premium as part of the closing costs. Make sure to talk to your real estate agent about common practices in your area.

  • Escrow Fees
    The escrow company is the party responsible for handling the transfer of documents and funds during a real estate transaction. If there are third-party escrow fees to pay, the buyer and the seller will often split them. Your portion will be added to your closing costs.

  • Attorney's Fees
    If you've hired a real estate attorney, their fees will also be included in the closing costs. In some states, attorneys are required to oversee real estate transactions, while in others, they're optional.

  • Property Taxes
    There's a chance you'll also have to pay all or a portion of the previous year's property taxes. This will depend on the time of year you sell your home and where you're located.

  • Real Estate Agent Commission
    Your real estate agent works hard to help you sell your home, and now is the time to pay them as well. The amount you'll owe your agent will be based on your home's selling price. You can find the percentage you've agreed to in your listing agreement.

  • Additional Closing Costs
    There's also a possibility you may run into additional closing costs. This may include any outstanding homeowner's association (HOA) fees, a home warranty premium that you pay for the buyer, credits to buyers for repairs found during the inspection, and more.

You should be able to receive a full estimate and breakdown of your closing costs before your scheduled closing day. Make sure you review it closely. This will allow you to ask questions so you understand everything you're expected to pay. Taking the time to do this will ensure you're prepared and help prevent any unpleasant last-minute surprises. 


7 Tips for Attracting Millennial Buyers

Millennials — usually defined as being in their early 20s and approaching 40 — now represent more than a quarter of the U.S. population, and many of them are buying homes. In fact, they make up the largest share of home buyers at 38%.

If you're selling your home, you'll want to appeal to this large segment of home buyers. And it pays to keep in mind they can have different priorities compared to other homebuyer age groups.

Follow these 7 tips to help attract millennial homebuyers:

  1. Create a dedicated home office space.
    Since the pandemic began, working at home has dramatically increased, particularly for millennials. In fact, nearly half of this age group works from home. If you have a bonus room, appeal to millennials by staging a home office. Add some shelving, a desk, and ample lighting, and you'll have a workspace that will attract buyers in this demographic.
  2. Upgrade your yard and deck.
    Millennials want to personalize their homes with items like fire pits and decks that extend their living space. Spruce up your yard and build or expand a deck if needed, adding planters, seating, and other appealing amenities. Just make sure everything is low maintenance since millennial buyers don't want to spend a lot of time and effort where they could be spending that time enjoying the space instead.
  3. Appeal to their tech-heavy lifestyles.
    Technically is a major part of all our lives, and millennials especially want their home to reflect and enable that. Start by integrating practical technology like a smart doorbell and a programmable thermostat that can be linked to a smartphone. You'll also want to swap out some standard outlets in bedrooms, living rooms, and the kitchen with USBs for charging.
  4. Have your home in excellent condition.
    By the time they start looking for a home to buy, millennials have seen years of picture-perfect homes online and on TV. Although some buyers are willing to accept a less-than-shipshape home in exchange for a reduction in price, this is less true of millennials than it is of older buyers. It's unlikely that many millennials have the time to take on a fixer-upper, so the more move-in ready your home is, the better.
  5. Use neutral colors.
    Millennials tend to favor soft, light, neutral colors, so if you're painting your home, resist the temptation to go bold and choose these shades instead. Grays in particular have become popular, in addition to whitewashed variations of gray and creams.
  6. Aim for an open floor concept.
    Today's buyers are usually looking for an open floor plan in which the kitchen, dining, and living areas all flow together. If you're planning to renovate your home, consider hiring a contractor to break down walls and make other changes to make this happen. If this is beyond the scope of your time and budget, use the same type and color of flooring throughout these areas to create a cohesive look and make one room look as though it flows into the next.
  7. Use minimalist furnishings and decor.
    A highly personalized home stuffed with furniture and other belongings won't wow millennials. Instead, declutter and depersonalize your space and use minimalist furnishings. If you make any decor updates, look for clean lines and simple geometric designs for a modern look.

Millennials make up a large percentage of home buyers, so attracting them can help your home sell more quickly and for the best possible price. The key is knowing what they're looking for and making sure your home meets their needs and preferences.


Selling a Home in the Winter

Traditionally, spring is the most popular time to sell your home. In the winter, temperatures start to drop, people begin hunkering down, and home sellers see fewer buyers and lower offers. 

However, like most things last year, the real estate market continues to be different in 2021. In fact, cold temperatures are unlikely to put a damper on this hot seller's market! Low inventory, low-interest rates, and a rash of serious buyers who want to upgrade their homes as soon as possible have created the perfect situation for would-be sellers. 

While the odds are certainly in your favor right now, there are a few things you can do to help you get the most out of your winter home sale. Start with these six tips. 

  1. Get Your Pricing Right
    You might think the current economy would require you to price your home on the lower end, but that's not the case at all! In fact, listing prices have skyrocketed. Pent-up demand and a low inventory of homes for sale have combined to push home prices up. This means you're more likely to get offers at or above your asking price. It's always a good idea to work with a qualified real estate agent who can help you choose the perfect price point for your home before you list it. 
  1. Make Sure Your Home is Ready
    Most of today's buyers are looking for a move-in ready home. Few people are going to be excited about having to start a renovation or remodel in the middle of winter, so if you're looking to sell now, make sure your home is turn-key. If you can make some small repairs and upgrades before you list, it will improve your home value and justify a higher price. 
  1. Highlight In-Demand Features
    Buyers' needs have changed since life has shifted towards spending more time at home. Now, more than ever, people are looking for homes that have plenty of space, privacy, and flexibility. If your home has a great backyard or a room that can convert to a home office or classroom, make sure your real estate agent highlights these features both in the listing and during showings. 
  1. Provide Virtual Tours
    Many potential buyers are hesitant to visit a home in person unless they're already sure they love it. This means the virtual tour is now one of the most important tools for marketing your home. Finding an agent who is an expert at creating an online presence will help you attract more potential buyers and get better offers.
  1. Take Your Time
    The current market conditions make it likely that you'll receive multiple offers on your home, possibly even at the same time. For this reason, it's smart to take your time before accepting an offer. Usually, you'll have 24 to 48 hours before you have to reply. Jumping the gun too soon could result in you leaving a nice chunk of change on the table. 
  1. Plan on a Remote Closing
    It's in your best interest to keep everything as remote as possible, including the closing. Not only does a remote closing help you reduce contact, but it's also far faster and more convenient. Remote closings and the use of electronic signatures have become an accepted practice in almost every state now, so plan on taking advantage of this if you can. 

If you've been thinking about listing your home, now is the perfect time to do it. Follow these tips, and there's a good chance you'll have your home sold for a price you love before the spring flowers start to bloom.


5 Fixes to Sell Your Home Fast

When it comes to selling your home, remember there are more savvy buyers out there than ever before. Many insist on a home inspection, and most mortgage lenders won't go forward with a financing package until there's an inspector's report on file. No house is perfect, but the right repairs today can make tomorrow's home maintenance look a lot more manageable. That helps you sell much faster.

Usually, the winning strategy is to go after the biggest problems before selling your home. Those include roof repair, heating and cooling system performance, wiring issues, and sewage or septic system problems. But what if those things are in great shape? If you have any leftover home repair budget, you can invest it in targeted projects. These won't take long, but they can impress prospective buyers and give you negotiating power for the asking price you really want.

Let's review five of the best fast fixes before selling your home:

  1. Lay New Flooring
    Flooring can transform a room's appearance, with lighter flooring tending to make a space look bigger – especially when paired with plenty of natural light. If any of your floors are looking tired, consider laying new laminate flooring. Laminate comes in various colors and styles, is cost-effective per square foot, and is easy to lay yourself. This weekend DIY project can make a big difference in how new your interiors seem.
  2. Update (and Simplify) Your Landscaping
    In spring and summer, mulch serves as a powerful secret weapon to make your yard more appealing. Heaped around your trees and shrubs and in your planting beds, it encourages healthy growth while allowing you to water a little less. This is a good opportunity to simplify, too: Buyers don't want to be dazzled by all the hard work they'll need to do, so consider taking down water features and any time-intensive touches.
  3. Give Your Kitchen Cabinets a Makeover
    No time or funds for a huge kitchen renovation? You don't need to upgrade your entire kitchen when selling your home. Updated kitchen cabinets are a wonderful way to grab attention without spending too much. Instead of buying all new cabinets, consider removing the hardware and doors and cleaning everything thoroughly. 
  4. Replace Your Bathroom Fixtures
    It may only cost a few hundred dollars to replace bathroom fixtures and hardware, such as your sink's faucet and handles, but the impact it has when walking into a room is worth it. Be thorough: Don't forget about the handles on your bathroom cabinets, tub fixtures, and your showerhead. 
  5. Put Up a Fresh Coat of Exterior Paint
    Other than your roof, exterior paint makes the biggest splash in curb appeal. Now is the ideal time to align your exterior with the most popular colors in your neighborhood, so your home looks fresh and tidy. For an added touch of class, paint your door in a complementary color – or replace it with a sturdier one.

As you get ready for selling your home, it's important to balance your investment with expected returns in the form of a higher asking price and a faster time to closing. An experienced local real estate agent can help you take advantage of the most valuable trends.


Home Selling Tips for Pet Owners

Dog, cat, bird, fish, and beyond – whatever species your companion is, you know a pet isn't just an animal. They're family! In fact, studies have shown a big yard for Fido to play in is a factor in many buyers' decisions about which homes to bid on. But what happens when you're on the other side of the equation: Selling your home?

Selling your home can take lots of time and energy. Many small details add up to success. From smells to sounds to stains, the signs that an animal lives in the home can turn off certain buyers. It may not be fair to your furry or feathered friend, but they can sour the crucial first impression.

Here's how to get set for successfully selling your home when you have pets:

  • Start With a Deep Cleaning
    You never know who might be allergic to fur or pet dander. If an allergic buyer walks into your home, he or she may be too busy fighting symptoms to fall in love with your property! With that in mind, it's always a wise first move to invest in deep cleaning. Get your interior walls, floors, and upholstery clean from top to bottom. 
  • Plan Ahead for Rover's Day Out
    Cats often know exactly who doesn't like them – and they go right up. Dogs, too, can draw plenty of attention if they bark at the strange "intruders" checking out your home. Don't assume pets will be on their best behavior: Leave them with a friend or family member on showing day. If this isn't possible, consider crating your pet with a favorite toy and a bowl of water, either in the basement or somewhere else with low traffic.
  • Try a Little Landscaping
    If your pet goes out into the yard to do their business, it's a good idea to perform a thorough pick-up a few days before your first showing. Especially in the spring and summer, pet waste can attract flies and other vermin that may later make their way into the house. If you notice any bare patches of grass, consider aerating and seeding them. 
  • Repair Any Pet Damage
    Accidents happen! From stained carpet to clawed-up couches, pets are often more than happy to leave lasting marks on their territory. Even items that aren't part of the sale (for example, that couch) should be fixed or covered up before a buyer visits. If buyers see damage in one area, they'll naturally wonder what else they might discover in the future, so appearances make a big difference.
  • Do a Last-Minute Walkthrough
    As the big day draws near, it's important to do a check for signs of your pet that are easy to overlook. That includes all the little things you're used to, like the food and water dishes, favorite toys, and any photos of pets that might be around. Move cages, carriers, cat trees, and the rest to the closets and cover them with a sheet or find them a spot in the basement.

Your pets may not understand that you're selling your home, but you know they'd want you to succeed. With these tips, you'll minimize the chance that they'll have any unintended effects on your plans.


How Home Equity Fuels Your Next Move

Selling your home is as much of a lifestyle decision as it is a financial decision. Like any other investment, you want to make sure that you're making financially responsible decisions every step of the way. One option that you have when selling your home is to use your current equity to finance your next move. Research shows that more and more homeowners are gaining equity in their homes regardless of state. By paying the equity in your current home towards purchasing a new home, you can achieve your real estate goals sooner than later.

What is Home Equity?

The equity in your home is its current value minus the remaining mortgage debt. As you pay your monthly mortgage, you grow the equity in your home. For instance, If you purchased your home for $200,000 using a mortgage loan and only have $50,000 remaining on the loan, your home equity is $150,000.

How Can I Use My Existing Equity?

As you consider selling your home, you likely already have another real estate goal in mind. Whether you're downsizing or purchasing a home for your growing lifestyle needs, you'll need to create a plan for how you're going to buy a new house. Instead of using your savings for another down payment, you can leverage the existing equity in your home to fund the purchase of your next home. There are a few ways that you can use your existing equity when selling your home:

  • You could use the existing equity as collateral for your next home.

As you search for a lender to secure a mortgage for a new home, they may allow you to use the existing equity in your current home as collateral. One advantage of this option is that many lenders will match the rate of your original mortgage.

  • You could use a cash-out refinance.

The option allows you to pocket the equity as cash to put towards the new home. Prior to selling your home, you may have refinanced your mortgage. This option works similarly, allowing you to use as much as 85 percent of the home's appraised value in equity.

  • You could take out a HELOC.

A HELOC, or a Home Equity Line of Credit, gives you a set balance that you can use as much as necessary. For instance, if your HELOC is for $20,000, you can choose to only use $10,000 of it. This is beneficial because you'll only pay interest on what you use, not the full amount.

  • You could finance all of your new home's purchase price with your equity.

A mortgage lender may allow you to accept a loan for 80 percent of the purchase price and then take out a home equity line of credit for the remaining 20 percent. After selling your home, you'll then use the profits to pay off that home equity line of credit.

Is using your equity to fund a new house purchase the right decision when selling your home? That depends on how much equity you have and how much you need to finance for a new home. Speak with your real estate agent to determine if leveraging your equity when selling your home is right for you.


Closing Costs That Cut Into Your Budget

When it comes to selling your home, it's natural to focus on the sale's potential profits rather than the potential costs associated with the process. While selling your home can be a profitable experience, there are many expenditures throughout the process that can cut into your budget. 

Closing costs are an essential aspect of selling your home that can be costly if you're not anticipating them. Let's take a look at some common closing costs that sellers typically take care of, as well as some closing costs that buyers may ask you to cover while selling your home. 

Seller's Closing Costs

When selling your home, there are certain closing costs that most homeowners will be required to pay. These costs can often cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, which is why you should always budget for them when selling your home. This typically includes the cost of:

  • Agent Commissions: The fees owed to the agents representing the seller and buyer, which generally are a small percentage of the total home sale price.
  • Transfer Taxes/Recording Fees: These fees pay the sale taxes owed to the government and cover the cost associated with filing the property's deed into county record under the new owner's name.
  • Loan Payoff Costs: These fees may include the loan application, interest, and origination fees. 
  • Title Insurance Fees: These fees cover an insurance policy protecting the buyer and seller if issues with the title arise after the home sale has concluded. 
  • Attorney Fees: These fees pay for a licensed attorney to ensure that the home sale documents meet all legal standards when selling you home. 

Buyer's Closing Costs

Not all closing costs are your responsibility when selling your home. Typically, the buyer will cover certain closing costs, which may range from less than one hundred dollars in costs to one thousand dollars or more in fees, including:

  • Home Inspection Fee: Costs associated with hiring a licensed home inspector to assess the property's condition, including the state of its structure, electrical systems, plumbing, and foundation.
  • Appraisal Fee: Costs associated with a report verifying the property's value based on factors like the property's condition and size. 
  • Title Search Fee: Costs related to confirming that the seller is the property's legal owner and that no claims or judgments are pending on the property.
  • Credit Report Fee: Costs associated with running credit reports through credit bureaus. 

Often the buyer will negotiate for the seller to cover some or all of the closing costs. For example, the buyer may accept a counter-offer from the seller if the seller agrees to cover closing costs. In other instances, the buyer may ask the seller to cover specific costs like home inspection fees or appraisal fees, especially if these inspections reveal repairs or other investments will need to be made on the home after the buyer purchases it. 

Closing costs associated with selling your home may range from one percent to even seven percent of the sales price. Before selling your home, consider speaking with an agent to learn about which closing costs you should include in your budget.


Can Moving Be Painless When You Have Kids?

Moving is quite an overwhelming experience, even for those who have relocated before. The physical effort, the logistical considerations, and the mental fatigue are enough to drain any adult. However, the stress is multiplied when you have children. Although the task may seem impossible, there are many ways that you can complete the moving process without having to pack on extra pressure.

Can moving with kids be painless? Of course! Whether you have a toddler or a teenager, use these tips to help make moving with children an effortless experience.

  1. Talk to Your Kids Before, During, and After the Move 
    Moving is a major milestone in the life of every individual. Kids of all ages will react to the thought of moving in drastically different ways. Some may be excited about having their own room, while others will be sad to leave their friends behind. Parents must take the time to communicate with their children throughout the moving process. From the family announcement about plans to move to the first few weeks in the new space, stay engaged with your children, and allow them to talk about their feelings. Supporting them and making the process as positive as possible will help them through this transition.
  2. Make Moving an Engaging and Fun Experience 
    The feeling of a lack of control is often one of the most challenging things children struggle with when they're moving. By inviting them to be part of the process, you can give them a control level over the move. Let them pack up their belongings and even allow friends to help, so they don't feel alone. You can also let your children make decisions for your new home, such as how they want to decorate their rooms or what type of paint colors should be used in other living spaces.
  3. Ask for Help 
    Being a parent is a full-time job in itself, and with so many other responsibilities on your plate, you should feel comfortable asking for help during your move. If your children are old enough to lend a hand without being supervised, encourage them to help pack and move boxes. If your children are young and need attention, consider asking a family member or friend to babysit. Some moving companies also offer special kid-friendly packages that may include child care or fun activities for young ones to do while you move, such as coloring or building box forts.
  4. Pack with Children in Mind 
    As you move from one home to the other, your children will need access to their favorite toys and daily necessities. It's always suggested that you pack a "moving-day bag" for each member of your family. These bags include essential items like toothbrushes, school supplies, favorite books, toys, or games. We also encourage you to pack the rest of your children's belongings in an organized fashion, using color-coded tape or markers to identify what's in each box. When you arrive in your new home, you'll be able to instantly unpack any possession your child desires without having to rifle through countless boxes. 
  5. Restore a New Normal as Quickly as Possible 
    Change can be a difficult transition for children, which is why it's crucial to establish a new normal as quickly as possible after your move. Minimize as much change as possible by setting up some rooms in similar arrangements as before and by preserving family traditions such as nightly dinners together, weekday movie nights, or weekend outings. The more familiar the experience, the easier time your children will have adapting to the transition.

Moving with children can be difficult, but it doesn't need to be a headache. By keeping your child informed, engaged, and cared for, you can make moving with your family painless.


Should You Accept or Reject Their Offer?

Receiving your first offer is an exciting moment when selling your home, but how do you know when to accept an offer? The details differ with every transaction and seller, but plenty of common factors can help guide your decision. The more information you have, the easier it becomes to decide whether an offer is the right one for you.

  • What Is Your Timeline?
    If you're moving for work or need to close the deal quickly, you may be willing to accept an offer for less than you might receive if you had more time to wait. However, that doesn't mean you have to take the first low-ball offer to come across the table! If a buyer makes a reasonable offer and has the funds ready to close the deal quickly, it may be worth seriously considering the offer.
  • How Does the Offer Fit within the Current Real Estate Market?
    No matter the circumstances that lead to selling your home, your local real estate market's condition will play a significant role in the offers you can expect to receive – and in which offer is worth accepting. In a seller's market, you may be able to hold out for the best possible offers. It may make more sense to take an offer in a buyer's market if it's close to your asking price.
  • How Many Offers Have You Received, and of What Quality?
    Ideally, you will receive multiple offers when selling your home and be able to choose the one that best fits your needs. If you receive multiple offers, it's wise to consider more than the overall price they're offering. 
  • Is the Buyer Willing to Cover Closing Costs or Offering an All-Cash Purchase?
    If two offers meet or come close to your asking price, which should you accept? That depends on what else the buyers are offering. For example, a buyer may be willing to cover all closing costs, waive certain contingencies, or offer a straight cash purchase. Factors like these can make up for an offer that comes in at a below-asking price.
  • Are You Willing to Assume the Added Costs of Keeping the Home on the Market?
    No matter what other factors influence whether you accept an offer, remember that keeping your home on the market comes with costs as well. While that shouldn't be enough to make you accept a truly substandard offer when selling your home, it's a good reason to be open-minded when a buyer makes an offer close to your asking price.

Ultimately, the decision on whether to accept or reject an offer when selling your home is a little different for every seller because it depends on your unique circumstances. Selling your home is much easier with the help of an experienced real estate agent who can help you make informed decisions based on all of the data available.


Sold Your Home? Use This Checklist to Make Your Move Easier

There's so much to think about when you're selling your house that it's easy to let something important fall through the cracks.

Following an organized checklist will help keep you on track and ensure that the entire process goes smoothly. Don't forget to add the following items to your list. 

Get Organized
As soon as you've confirmed that you're selling your house, you'll want to start getting your head wrapped around all the organizational tasks you'll need to tackle. This includes things like: 

  • Updating your address - have your mail forwarded and provide the new address to all of your important contacts
  • Returning borrowed items - including library books and things you've borrowed from friends and neighbors
  • Transferring your utilities - you can usually arrange for this to happen seamlessly on your moving day

When you decide on selling your house, you'll want to immediately start researching schools, vets, and medical providers in your new location. Once you've made your decisions, arrange to transfer your family's medical records, school records, and your pets' vet records to your new providers. 

Schedule the Movers
If you're going to use professional movers, start gathering quotes early-on so you can make the best decision. It's often best to begin this process as soon as you've started thinking about selling your house.

Make sure you read reviews and ask plenty of questions. Also, explore whether there are any ways for you to cut back the cost, such as packing your own items and getting rid of things you don't really need. Prior to selling your house, it's a good idea to set a moving budget, so you're not stuck with any unpleasant surprises.

If you're moving yourself, arrange for some friends to help you and reserve the moving truck. Also, consider whether you have enough people to drive all of the family's vehicles to the new home. If not, you'll want to book a vehicle mover as well. 

Start Packing 
As soon as you've committed to selling your house, you'll also want to start gathering up your moving materials. This will give you time to get as many free boxes as possible, which will cut down on your costs. 

Start packing non-essential items as soon as possible and consider renting a storage unit to store them. This will help with the decluttering and depersonalizing that's necessary when selling your house. When you start packing, don't be afraid to be ruthless about what you decide to keep. Giving things away or selling them will save you time, effort, and money.

When you get closer to your move date, designate one box for essentials and put everything you'll need for your first few days in this box. This way, you won't have to search for important things as soon as you arrive.

Make Your Move 
It's easier said than done, but try to get a good night's sleep before moving day. Make sure you wake up early, wear comfortable clothes, and don't forget to breathe! Keep your pets somewhere safe while the movers or your friends and family load up the trucks. 

When everything is packed, give your house a final cleaning and make sure you've done everything that was required as part of your contract when selling your house. Check to make sure everything is locked up, and start your journey.

Settle In 
It may take a while to finish unpacking, but the process of settling in starts right away. First, you'll want to make sure the utilities are working. Then, unpack your essentials box and help your kids and pets get comfortable in their new environment. If you have younger children, make sure you childproof the home right away. 

Selling your house is naturally stressful, but it doesn't have to be! Follow this checklist, and you'll be able to ensure you don't miss anything important. Who knows, you might even make it so stress-free that you enjoy the process! 


How to Sell Your Home During the Coronavirus

Selling your home isn't easy–especially during a global pandemic. Although our daily lives have changed drastically, that doesn't mean that now is the time to abandon your home-selling goals. The real estate industry has adapted and evolved to the coronavirus's challenges to ensure that buyers, sellers, and agents can continue to conduct real estate transactions safely and securely.

If you thought selling your home during the coronavirus was impossible, think again! Markets across the country report positive monthly trends, including an increase in inventory, a decrease in time spent on the market, and an increase in property value. Here are seven tips for selling your home during the pandemic.

  1. Don't Panic. Whether you were planning to sell your home before the pandemic or if you're now selling your home due to its impact, don't panic. Selling your home is perhaps the largest financial transactions you'll make; measured, rational, and responsible decisions will help you make your sale successful.
  2. Use the Internet to Your Advantage. Many prospective buyers are conducting their search online before seeing a home in person. Invest in high-quality photography and videography to show your home online. 
  3. Use Virtual Services When Possible. Not only should you swap an in-person open house for a virtual open house, but you should also take advantage of other services offered contact-free. Professional stagers, organizers, landscapers, and other services offer advice through video chats. This keeps everyone safer yet still allows you to create a presentable home to show potential buyers.
  4. Maximize Transitional Space. The coronavirus has turned our homes into schools, offices, and entertainment centers, identifying the need for many homeowners to have extra space that they can dedicate to their evolving needs. Highlight how well your home can accommodate these new requirements by transforming unused space into home offices, study centers for students, gyms, or private relaxation spaces.
  5. Opt for Virtual Transactions When Possible. Thankfully, technology has made it easier than ever for real estate agents to tackle coronavirus challenges swiftly. Virtual calling, email, and e-signing have made it convenient for buyers and sellers to conduct the majority of their transactions contact-free. I can prioritize a contact-free transaction whenever possible to help keep everyone healthy.
  6. Anticipate Hiccups. Delays during a real estate transaction are common, and the pandemic's challenges have made these instances arise with more frequency. From inspections and appraisals to postponed transactions due to unforeseen issues, you should be prepared for a delay at any point in the process. Let's discuss what options are available to conduct a fast closing.
  7. Trust Your Agent. Although we've all never lived through a pandemic before, my career has given me the knowledge and experience to read the market with a close eye and work hard to get you a successful sale that accomplishes your real estate goals.

Selling your home right now may seem like a bold move, but fear not! With a few changes to the process and my help, we will make selling your home as smooth as possible.


Five Things You Should Put In Storage While Selling Your Home

Selling your home requires a lot of preparation. You'll need to take care of necessary repairs, update your curb appeal, and prepare for staging. When you start to pack and declutter, a storage unit can be your best friend. Storing some of your items off-site will make it easier to give your home the neat and organized look and feel that appeals to potential buyers. 

Here five things that you'll want to put into storage while you're selling your home.

  1. Personal Items and Knick-Knacks
    When a potential buyer enters your home, it's important that they can envision themselves living there. To make sure this happens, you'll want to remove personal items like family photos and unique artwork.

    This also includes knick-knacks and small decor items like figurines, vases, and books. Packing these things away will remove your personal touch from your home. It will also make it look clean and clutter-free, which is critical when selling your home.
  2. Exercise Equipment
    It's common for a guest bedroom to double as an exercise space, but this won't do you any favors when you're selling your home. Take that treadmill or elliptical machine out of the house and pack it away in your storage unit! If the room wasn't already set up as a bedroom, consider staging it with a bed and a dresser to finish the look.
  3. Children's Toys
    When selling your home, it helps to get the whole family on board. Have your children pick out a few toys that they want to keep and put the rest in storage. While it's fine to have some toys placed neatly in a child's bedroom, you don't want them all over the living room, dining room, and scattered throughout the house. 
  4. Large Furniture
    A few furniture items are great for staging. However, many professional stagers recommend scaling back a home's furniture by at least one-third. Before you list your home, take a look at each room with a sharp eye and store away any items that don't fit into the room's decor or wouldn't be useful to a buyer.

    When you're selling your home, you want each room to appear large, clean, and open. Removing extra furniture can make a major statement!

    Often, it's a good idea to have your real estate agent or professional stager evaluate your space as soon as you start thinking about selling your home. They're experts at preparing houses for sale and can help you decide what to leave and what to pack away.
  5. Small Appliances
    The kitchen is another room that should be as clean and decluttered as possible. You can store small appliances that you use often -- like a coffee pot or toaster -- in a cabinet when you're not using them. However, you certainly don't want a ton of items all over the counter when you're selling your home.

    Pack away those extra blenders, mixers, and toaster ovens. This will give you an organized and minimalist look which appeals to many buyers. 

These are five of the most important things to remove when you're selling your home, but it's not an exhaustive list. As a general rule of thumb, unless you need it on a daily basis, it's a great idea to get it out of the house. This will also make clean-up easier when you have an open house scheduled or a buyer wants to come by on short notice to take a look.


These Tips Might Sell Your Home Over Asking Price

Selling your home over asking price is naturally the goal for every seller; however, buyers see things differently. They want to get the best deal possible on the home, which means that they won't be making an above market offer unless they think that's what it will take to close the deal. With advice from your real estate agent, it's your job to present your property in a way that inspires buyers to maximize their offers.

  • A Slightly Below Market Asking Price Can Lead to an Above Market Sale
    Yes, it sounds like cheating to say that starting with a low asking price is the easiest method for selling your home over asking price but hear us out. In this case, we're talking about an asking price that's about five to 10 percent below the actual amount you hope to receive for the home, chosen with help from your real estate agent. By setting a price slightly below market, you encourage more bidders to enter the picture. The more people who bid, the more the price goes up.
  • Make Sure Your Home Is in Great Shape
    When buyers look at a home that's considered a "fixer-upper," what they're looking for is a home that they can buy for well below market value. Before selling your home, invest some time and money in fixing any maintenance issues around the property. You can save money by tackling DIY projects like painting while bringing in the pros for bigger jobs. A well-maintained, move-in ready home is much more likely to generate an above market offer.
  • Keep It Clean to Create a Positive Impression
    First impressions are essential when selling your home, so cleaning your home until it sparkles is likely to leave buyers feeling warm and fuzzy. Before your home hits the market, clean it from top to bottom, including the out of the way places buyers will look at to see how well you've taken care of the home. Once you complete the initial cleaning, keep your home clean so that it's always ready to show.
  • Consider Curb Appeal to Attract Interest
    While the first impression after a buyer enters the home is essential, you don't want to forget about curb appeal when selling your home. A property that looks great from the curb is much more likely to draw buyers in, attract interest from passers-by, and make a great impression when buyers arrive for a showing. Make sure that your lawn is well-maintained, your landscaping draws attention for the right reasons, your yard is clean, and the exterior of your home is looking great.
  • Be Patient and Encourage Competition
    After all of the work that you've put into preparing your home and choosing a price that encourages multiple bids, the last thing you want to do is accept the first so-so offer to come across the table. Be patient, follow the advice of your agent, and let the market develop. Attracting multiple bids is the key to selling your home above asking price, and your patience can pay off with a great final sale price for your home.

Selling your home above asking price requires market savvy, along with a willingness to roll up your sleeves and do the work to make sure your home looks its absolute best. The help of an experienced real estate agent will be invaluable throughout the process, from choosing the right price to closing the deal.


Closing Checklist for Home Sellers

There are many steps involved in selling your home, and the final one––closing––is one of the most important. This is the moment when you legally transfer ownership of your home to the buyer. 

Since the entire process of selling your home can sometimes feel overwhelming, we recommend creating and using checklists for each step along the way. This will help you get organized and ensure you don't forget anything.

Here are a few of the most important things you'll want to add to your closing checklist. 

Prepare Your Home

As you prepare for selling your home, it's a good idea to begin gathering the items the new homeowner will need. This includes owners' manuals for appliances, warranty information, garage door openers, and extra keys. Before you head out to your closing, leave these items on the counter where the new owners will easily see them. 

Give your home one last cleaning and take some time to check all the drawers, closet shelves, and so on. Since closing is the final step to selling your home, once you leave the meeting, it's no longer yours, and you can't go back. This is why it's so critical to ensure that you've removed everything you intend to keep.

Shut off the water valves that to go sinks, toilets, the water heater, and the appliances. This will help prevent accidental flooding. Make sure you let the buyer know so they don't think there's a problem and call a plumber. On your way out, don't forget to lock up everything securely. 

Gather Your Documents

To make the process of selling your home go smoothly, it's important to stay organized. As you prepare for closing, make sure you have all of the necessary documents, including:

  • A photo ID for all sellers
  • One set of keys to the home
  • Security codes (if applicable)
  • Documentation of any contractually-required repairs
  • The deed to your house (if you own it outright)

If you owe money, you'll have to bring a cashier's check to the closing or wire the amount owed to the escrow account. If money is owed to you, you can expect to either receive a check or have it wired into your account before you leave. 

Understand Your Agreement

During the closing process, you'll review the contract and go through and all of the other paperwork and agreements that apply to selling your home. You'll have a final chance to review things like:

  • Your remaining mortgage balance
  • The realtor commissions
  • Any outstanding bills (property taxes, utilities, HOA fees, homeowners insurance, etc.)
  • Escrow and/or attorney fees
  • Title fees

Pay close attention to these details, and don't be afraid to ask questions if anything doesn't sound right. 

Cancel Your Insurance and Utilities

When you leave the closing, the process of selling your home is done! However, there are a few more important things to do. If you haven't already made arrangements, you'll want to immediately reach out to your utility company and your homeowner's insurance provider to cancel these services. 

You don't want to pay for these things any longer than you have to, but it's also important to wait until you've finalized selling your home before canceling. This way, the home is protected up until the moment that it's no longer yours. 

File Your Paperwork 

The last step of selling your home is to file all of the closing documents somewhere safe. You may want to scan a digital copy to store in the cloud and also keep the original paperwork in a filing cabinet or safe. 

Selling your house is an exciting time, and there's no reason to stress over your closing. Just follow this checklist, and you'll be fine! 


10 Ways to Prep Your Home for Sale

When selling your home, first impressions can make or break your sale. Even if you don't live in a market with a high inventory of homes for sale, many homebuyers will still walk away without making an offer if they find real or perceived issues with your home. We believe these ten tips will help you prep your home for a successful sale.

  1. Prioritize Curb Appeal
    The first impression your buyers develop will be based on your home's curb appeal which means it needs to be the first priority on your list. Tend to the landscape, pressure wash the walkways, repaint, or wash the exterior, and make sure all outdoor lighting is bright. If you have a porch or space around the doorway, consider staging it with inviting plants, wreaths, or doormats.
  2. Complete Renovations
    If you're considering renovations before selling your home, you must complete them before you list the home. If you don't believe you'll be able to finish the project by that time, do not start. Buyers who see a work-in-progress may think that other areas of the home are unfinished or need remodeling.
  3. Make Necessary Repairs
    Any smaller repairs around the house should also be fixed before the listing is active. This includes the types of items you may find on a typical "honey-do" list: recaulking windows, fixing leaks, and replacing cracked tiles.
  4. Focus on Sight & Smell
    While buyers tour your home, they'll have a sharp eye and a keen nose. Any lingering odors or areas of neglect will be caught the minute they walk into the room. Make sure every corner from the ceiling to the floor is cleaned and that any smells are aired out before each showing.
  5. Declutter & Depersonalize
    Cleaning your home means more than simply removing dirt and odor. You must also make your home appear organized. Declutter spaces by finding homes for all objects instead of letting them pile up in closets or drawers. Before selling your home, remove all family photographs and other personal belongings that make the buyer feel like they're in "someone else's" home.
  6. Paint Walls Neutral Colors
    One way to make your space feel like a blank canvas for the buyer is to paint your walls neutral colors. Use whites, beiges, and grays to create a clean slate throughout.
  7. Stage the Home
    Although you may love your furniture, your buyers might not. Professional staging companies will gladly come into your home and highlight the best features of your home. Their choice of furniture and décor will also appeal to a wider audience, allowing buyers to envision themselves living in the home.
  8. Leave All Relevant Paperwork Out
    Help buyers build confidence in the property by leaving out all relevant paperwork regarding the home. This includes all warranties for appliances, all repair or renovation paperwork, any liens that were on the home, and all other information that a buyer should have transparent access to.
  9. Ask Your Neighbors for Help
    Unfortunately, buyers may weigh your neighbor's properties in their opinion of your home. Before your showings, offer to mow your neighbor's lawn if they're unable to or ask if they can leave parking space available on the curb.
  10. Create an Inviting Space (Digitally Too)
    When you welcome buyers into your house, you want them to feel at home. For open houses, you can leave out small snacks and beverages. Be sure to open all blinds and close all toilet lids. Invest in high-quality photography so your home looks inviting in the digital listing as well. 

Selling your home is an endeavor that requires patience, dedication, and hard work if you want to maximize your offer potential. Use these tips to prep your home for a successful sale before you list it. 


6 Ways to Attract Millennial Home Buyers

Millennial buyers make up a larger portion of the housing market and are an important demographic to consider when selling your home. While some of their priorities in shopping for a home are different from previous generations, there's no doubt that most millennials are very interested in owning a home. It just has to be the right home for their needs and budget. By marketing your home through modern channels and offering the home features they love, you can attract this all-important demographic when selling your home.

  1. Many Millenials Are Searching for Starter Homes
    Millennials came of age in a time of great turmoil in the real estate market, often watching their parents or grandparents lose significant equity in their homes. So even if they can afford it, they're not necessarily looking for a large, fully upgraded home to start out. Instead, they're interested in properties that allow them to build equity over time, by improving the home, paying down their mortgage, and letting the market evolve. It can be helpful to position your property as a great starter option when selling your home.
  2. The Price Has to Be Right
    Whether they're shopping at the top of the market or looking for a small, simple starter home, most millennials have a strong understanding of how to research prices online. If they find a home that they love but it's listed well above normal market value, they're likely to simply move on to another option. Work with your real estate agent to make sure you're selling your home at a price that fits within your local real estate market.
  3. Get Social When Marketing Your Home
    Millennial buyers are well-versed in social media, so marketing your home on Instagram, Facebook, and other popular social sites is one of the best ways to catch their eye. When you promote your property on social, be sure to use high-quality photos and direct your audience to your virtual tour. The more you can show them about the property on social when selling your home, the more interested they'll be.
  4. Attractive, Relaxing Outdoor Spaces Excite Millenial Buyers
    Like many buyers, millennials love a comfortable, attractive outdoor space where they can relax on their own, play with their kids, or entertain guests. An outdoor patio, well-maintained yard, or backyard cooking space are major attractions, so make them points of emphasis when selling your home. Remember that many millennials are also parents of young children, so safe outdoor spaces are key.
  5. Sell Your Neighborhood, Too
    Millennials aren't content to simply stay at home, so they love living in a neighborhood with ample restaurants to visit, attractions to explore, and services to take care of their day-to-day needs. So you're really selling your neighborhood, in addition to selling your home. When promoting your property, be sure to note all of the attractive features of the neighborhood as well.
  6. Millennials Love Green Homes and Smart Home Features
    If you're looking to make upgrades to attract millennial buyers when selling your home, going green and adding smart home features are perfect places to start. Make sure that the home is efficient as possible, and consider low-cost smart home upgrades to add value for Millenials.

While millennials do have some preferences that skew toward the modern, they're looking for many of the same things from a home as any other buyer. Selling your home to this key demographic will be easier if you market it in the right places, choose a competitive price, and help them fall in love with your neighborhood.


Downsizing Isn't Just for Retirees Anymore

If you're thinking about selling your home and moving into something smaller, you're not alone! While downsizing was once a trend that was most popular among retirees, people of all ages are now making this smart move. 

There are many reasons why downsizing is a good idea. Here are a few of the most important benefits. 

  1. It's a Simpler Lifestyle
    Selling your home and moving into something smaller requires you to re-evaluate all of the "stuff" you've collected. Many people find that decluttering and adopting a simpler lifestyle is therapeutic and very freeing.
  2. You'll Save Money
    There are multiple ways that downsizing will save you money. The most obvious is freeing up the equity that you've built up in your current home. In almost all cases, selling your home and buying a less expensive one means that you can enjoy a smaller (or no!) mortgage payment, lower homeowner's insurance premiums, and lower maintenance costs.

    You can grow this money exponentially by using what you've saved to pay off debt or bulk up your retirement savings.
  3. You'll Have More Time
    Selling your home and downsizing can also give you the gift of time. When you have a smaller home, you'll spend less time cleaning and tidying up, doing regular maintenance, taking care of the lawn, and more.

    If you want to get excited about selling your home, just think about all the great things you could do with that extra time! 
  1. You Can Live More Luxuriously
    The word "downsizing" is somewhat misleading. Selling your home to buy a smaller one also doesn't have to feel like a downgrade! Have you always dreamed of luxury upgrades like marble countertops, hardwood floors, or a home full of smart technology?

    When you have a smaller home and a lower mortgage payment, you'll be able to spend some of that extra money on making it exactly the way you want it. With fewer rooms to deal with and a larger budget to spend on decor, you'll have far more flexibility than you did before. 
  1. You May Have More Choices
    When you're open to selling your home and buying something smaller, you'll find that you have many more location options. Moving away from the suburbs and into a more centrally located home gives you exciting new opportunities. For example, many homeowners find that they really enjoy being able to walk to the neighborhood grocery store or run other errands.

    Being willing to move into a smaller home may also give you the opportunity to move to neighborhoods that were previously out of your price range. 
  2. You Can Focus on Family 
    When you live in a big home where everyone is spread out, you can start to feel a bit disconnected from the other people who live there. In a smaller home, you can focus on making your kitchen and living room more of a social space where everyone can come together and enjoy each other's company. 

If you're someone who loves to entertain and have parties, then selling your home to buy one with fewer rooms might not be the best idea. However, if you only have gatherings on certain holidays or not at all, then this is definitely something to consider!

Many people are finding that their dream home is actually much smaller than they thought! If you're open to downsizing, there's no time like the present to start thinking about selling your home and exploring new options. 


Advice For Buying a Luxury Home

Owning a luxury home is an amazing feeling, but before the keys are in your hand, you must first navigate a quite different process than normal real estate transactions. When entering into the luxury real estate market, it's wise to heed the advice of agents and buyers who are familiar with these endeavors. Here are a few tips to consider as you shop for a luxury home.

  • Create a Wish List
    Buyers of any home can get easily overwhelmed with their options if they don't have a checklist to keep them grounded. Create a list that details the elements or amenities within the home that you absolutely need, that you would like, and that you don't necessarily want. This will keep you focused on finding the home that accurately meets your lifestyle needs.
  • Explore the Area
    Although being satisfied with the home itself is important, you must also consider the pros and cons of the community or location of the house as well. Consider creating a separate list of amenities or features that you desire from your ideal community or neighborhood.
  • Don't Rely on the Listing Alone
    To see the house in every light, literally and figuratively, be sure to visit your prospective properties multiple times, ideally at different times of the day and night. Tour the house frequently so that you can look beyond superficial elements and objectively assess the advantages and drawbacks of the entire property.
  • Pay Attention to Resale Value
    Although the real estate market is uncontrollable, you should always weigh the resale value of any home you're considering for purchase. Real estate is an investment, and when it comes to luxury homes, you want to protect this investment from the get-go.
  • Get Loan Preapproval Prior to the Offer
    When you get preapproval for a luxury home mortgage loan, it confirms that you can afford this purchase. It also gives the seller confidence that your offer will not fall through due to financial limitations.
  • Don't Skimp on a Luxury Agent
    To purchase a luxury home, you require a luxury estate agent. A real estate agent is your greatest resource and advocate. Hiring a knowledgeable agent experienced in buying luxury properties will save you time, hassle, and money long after the transaction is finalized.

Purchasing a luxury home is an exciting prospect. As one of the most significant financial decisions of your lifetime, you must proceed with this endeavor as knowledgeably and responsibly as possible. Use these tips to help you make your luxury homebuying goals a spectacular reality.


Selling Your Home from Out of State

Selling your house while you're still living in it can be a rough road, but selling your house from out of state has its own set of curves and speed bumps to navigate. "Out of sight, out of mind" definitely doesn't apply when you're selling real estate from a distance.

With careful planning, you'll be cruising smoothly down the real estate highway. Use this helpful checklist of tips for selling your house from out of state.

  1. Have the Home Move-In Ready
    When you're selling your house and not living in it, buyers can take immediate occupancy, which is a big advantage. Make sure all your possessions are removed, and the house is spotless. You should also have the home inspected and take care of any repairs that might hold up the process.
  2. Use Appropriate Staging
    "Move-in ready" doesn't mean the home should be completely bare. A totally empty house creates an air of abandonment, leading buyers to wonder if there's a serious problem. Your best bet is hiring a professional stager who has experience maximizing visual appeal. If that's not possible, leave a few pieces of furniture to provide some perspective.
  3. Find a Reliable Real Estate Agent
    A real estate agent represents the best interests of their clients, which becomes even more crucial when selling your house from out of state. In addition, a good real estate agent will have their finger on the pulse of your home's market and keep you up-to-date with all developments.
  4. Fine-Tune Your Pricing Strategy
    Are you comfortable with the possibility of your home sitting on the market for a while? Then you can afford to start off with a price on the higher end. If your goal is to sell your house as quickly as possible, set the price accordingly without sacrificing fair value.
  5. Leverage Marketing Tools
    Online listings, flyers, and other marketing materials become even more significant when you're selling your house from afar. Craft a comprehensive, well-rounded marketing campaign utilizing all the tools at your disposal. Review each element thoroughly to ensure they effectively communicate your message.
  6. Determine Your Target Audience
    Part of a successful marketing strategy is knowing just which market you want to reach. Is the house in an area with a good school district and other family-friendly features? Maybe it's in a neighborhood geared toward baby boomers or retirees. The greater focus you have, the more efficient your marketing will be.
  7. Work Out the Logistics
    Traditionally, a seller needs to be present when the closing takes place. Depending on how far out of state you are, that requirement might be difficult to coordinate. Look for closing companies that may offer a bit more flexibility, with options such as signing documents in your current city with a local notary as witness.
  8. Consult a Tax Professional
    Each state has its own rules and regulations governing tax ramifications of selling your house. Talk to a tax attorney or CPA who can explain the different scenarios and help you reduce potential liabilities.
  9. Maintain Regular Communication
    In your absence, your real estate agent and other members of your team serve as your local eyes and ears. Stay in touch on a consistent basis, so you know what's going on, and your team stays apprised of your wishes.

You don't have to travel blind when selling your house from out of state. Keep your eye on the final destination, and you won't go wrong. 


Selling Your Home in a Virtual World

Like the rest of the world, the real estate industry has had to make significant adjustments due to COVID-19, to keep sales associates, buyers, and sellers safe. The process for selling your home may look different these days, but buyers and sellers are still motivated to close the deal virtually while navigating the new normal. Learn how to navigate this new market with our guide to selling your home in a virtual world.

  • Why Your Online Listing Is More Important Than Ever
    Online listings have been a vital element of the real estate marketing mix for years. In the past, buyers would rely on online listings to form first impressions and decide which homes to visit in person. Your online listing plays an even more critical role in selling your home today because buyers in many markets don't have the opportunity to see homes in person.

    Now, they need to be able to learn as much as possible about the home--and hopefully fall in love with the property--without visiting it first-hand. Professional-quality photography for your listing is the perfect place to start when selling your home. You'll also want to describe the property in as much detail as possible so that buyers searching for properties like yours can find it easily. Once your listing generates interest from buyers, you can use the other marketing tools on our list to close the deal.
  • Virtual Tours Help Buyers Visit Homes from Anywhere
    While professional photography is a great start, buyers will often require a more immersive experience to fall in love with your home from a distance. That's where virtual tours come in, and it's no surprise that the popularity of virtual tours has increased dramatically due to COVID-19 precautions. Virtual tours allow buyers to travel through the home as if they were there, examining features, dreaming of what they would do with each room, and deciding whether the property fits their needs. A virtual tour makes selling your home easier because buyers can tour the home no matter where they're located, at any time that's convenient for them.
  • How a Virtual Open House Can Help Sell Your Home
    A virtual open house led by your sales associate takes the idea of a virtual tour to the next level, allowing them to provide crucial context, answer questions, and highlight features of the home. You can even use virtual staging to help buyers imagine what their lives would be like in the home!

    For a buyer who has already done extensive research on the home, a virtual open house provides a chance to solidify their impressions and convince them to prepare an offer. For someone who is seeing the home for the first time, a virtual open house may be your first and best opportunity to help them fall in love with the home.
  • Find a Sales Associate Who Knows Digital Marketing
    Finding the right sales associate is always a key factor in selling your home, and it's even more important today. When you're scouting sales associates, make sure that whoever you choose has an understanding of modern marketing tactics and all of the digital tools required for selling your home in this most unusual market.

Unusual challenges often require unusual solutions, and selling your home in today's market means embracing change. The good news is that a blueprint for success is already in place, with virtual sales tools and outside-the-box marketing ideas leading the way.


6 Home Updates That Really Pay Off

Selling your home is an opportunity to recoup your investment and finance your future goals--naturally, any homeowner wants to get top-dollar for their property. Unfortunately, some homeowners receive offers that are less than what they believe their home is worth. One way to prevent low offers from entering the picture is to invest in certain home improvements that may increase the value of your property. We recommend these six updates that can really pay off when selling your home.

  1. Remodel the Kitchen/Bathrooms
    The kitchen and bathrooms of a home are often regarded as two of the most important areas of any residential property. Both areas need to be accommodating and comfortable for all members of the household and their guests which means a remodel can immediately impress prospective buyers. While you may complete full remodels including flooring and cabinetry updates, upgrading appliances or fixtures and adding a fresh coat of paint is also an effective way to refresh these spaces.
  2. Replace Your Garage Door
    Believe it or not, a garage door is one of the areas sellers may overlook — and one that buyers may notice the most! Swapping out a dilapidated garage door for a new model does more than improve its functioning. It also enhances the safety and security of the home while adding to the aesthetic of your curb appeal. Although this is a pricey investment, many homeowners around the country report recouping nearly 100 percent of the investment.
  3. Finish the Basement/Attic
    Maximizing the space in any home is important, especially in houses that may have limited square-footage. While you may not be able to add an addition, you can revamp the existing spaces by turning your attic or basement into a finished room. Putting down flooring, adding insulation, and incorporating new furniture pieces can create a family room, lounge area, or even a guest bedroom. If you also install shelving or cabinetry, you can maximize storage space too.
  4. Integrate Smart Tech
    Smart technology is integrating itself into homes around the country. As these devices and software continue to evolve, they're enabling homeowners to interact with their home in innovative ways. Although not all smart devices are practical for buyers, investing in technology that provides convenience and potentially lowers energy bills can increase your home's value. Programmable thermostats, smart security systems, and smart home systems that unite multiple devices may be the amenities new generations of first-time homebuyers are looking for.
  5. Add a Deck/Patio
    Just as you want to maximize indoor space, you also want to offer ample outdoor space as well. Investing in landscaping is a great way to enhance your aesthetic but you must also keep in mind that buyers may want versatile outdoor living space. Installing a deck or patio with comfortable furniture and a focal point like an outdoor kitchen, firepit, or swimming pool may increase the home's value by offering additional perks that comparable houses don't possess.
  6. Replace Windows/Doors/Roof
    Not all updates are going to be as glitzy as a new bathroom or as entertaining as a finished basement. However, practical enhancements can go a long way in the eyes of the buyer. Replacing windows, doors, or roof systems in older homes can improve the aesthetic, decrease energy costs, and enhance security. It also takes care of any issues that may arise during the inspection before selling your home. 

While every homeowner should stick to a strict budget when making home improvements before listing their property, there are some investments that may increase the value of the home. Consult your real estate agent to discover which updates may pay off the most at closing.


How to Tell If a Buyer is Serious

Selling your home involves a lot of time, effort, and often a financial investment. With so much put into this transaction from long before the listing until the final closing paperwork is signed, the last thing you want to do as a seller is waste your time trying to respectfully work with buyers who are not serious about purchasing your home. There's a perfect buyer out there for every home and many more who are willing to negotiate to your advantage, which means it's important to learn how to identify the qualified, motivated buyers from those who are simply telling you what you want to hear. 

  1. They are already pre-approved for a mortgage.
    Mortgage pre-approval is a sign that a buyer is serious. Pre-approval signifies that they have their finances in order and will be able to afford your home.
  2. They're asking serious, specific questions about the home.
    While all prospective buyers will ask at least a handful of questions, keep an ear out for questions that are highly specific. Inquires about yearly property taxes, monthly utility bill averages, and other detailed questions show that they're serious about finding the home that fits their needs.
  3. They are well into their search and can clearly define what they're looking for.
    When a buyer can instantly and directly tell you what they're looking for in a home (and what they're not), it demonstrates their seriousness.
  4. Their own home is already up for sale, and they're operating on a timeline.
    Some buyers are working against the clock and are highly motivated to close on a new property, especially if their own home is also listed for sale. Selling your home to another seller may also make negotiations run more fluidly.
  5. They're making frequent trips to visit your home.
    Once your home makes the shortlist for a buyer, they'll try to schedule as many showings as possible. As their visits become more frequent in short intervals, it means they're getting ready to make an offer on one of their shortlisted homes.
  6. Their real estate agent is constantly keeping in touch with yours.
    Follow-ups from open houses are expected, but if a buyer's agent continues to reach out to yours with questions or comments, the buyer is exhibiting a strong interest.
  7. They're already using possessive language.
    Listen closely, and you may hear prospective buyers already referring to the home as "theirs." This shows that they already mentally believe that this will be their home soon.
  8. They've made a strong, reasonable offer.
    The highest offer isn't always the best offer, especially if it seems too good to be true. A motivated (and frankly, wise) buyer will submit a reasonable offer that they believe is fair to both parties.
  9. They're willing to negotiate on some terms.
    While a reasonable offer is a solid indication of their seriousness, including a willingness to negotiate, if necessary, is the cherry on top. A buyer who is already expressing professionalism will likely continue to conduct the transaction with the same demeanor.

Selling your home is a lot smoother of a process when you're only dealing with motivated, qualified buyers. While it's important to be courteous and respectful to every individual who tours your home, it's equally important to expect professionalism and only seriously consider those who are in a position to commit to an offer.


How to Stop Your Home Sale in Its Tracks

Selling your home is an exciting process, especially when you're oh-so-close to finalizing the sale. Although there may be a hundred and one reasons why a buyer will love your house, there are unfortunately just as many ways that a seller can self-sabotage opportunities to seal the deal — or even receive an initial offer. How can you accidentally stop a home sale in its tracks? Here are a few of the common ways that sellers can upend their own home sale.

  • Pricing the Property Incorrectly
    Every seller believes that their home is worth every penny of the listing price. Sadly, this doesn't always equate to what the appraisal value says or what the buyer is willing to offer. Underpricing can detract just as many buyers as overpricing. Overpriced homes may sit on the market while underpriced homes could make buyers wonder what problems are driving the price down.
  • Creating a Poor Listing
    The price isn't the only consideration buyers weigh when looking at your home online. The listing itself needs to be up to par if you want to draw in qualified and motivated buyers. One of the biggest mistakes sellers make is not using high-quality photographs to showcase the home. Outdated, poor photography coupled with a less than compelling description could make a potential buyer look elsewhere.
  • Neglecting the Exterior
    The importance of curb appeal cannot be understated. The front of the home is the first and last thing buyers will view when touring the property which means it's imperative that you make a fantastic impression. Investing in landscaping as well as enhancing spaces like the front porch, cleaning up the curbside, and maximizing the rear entertaining area will leave a lasting impression. For assistance with the green spaces, consider hiring a landscaping crew to trim and tidy the area up each week.
  • Forgetting to Declutter
    Even if you're selling your home under a tight timeline, you need to put extra effort into preparing for the showing. Too much clutter or lack of organization can make the home seem cramped. Leaving out personal items such as family photographs, awards, or holiday décor may lend too much personality to the home. Remember, buyers need to see themselves in the home, not envision who currently lives there.
  • Choosing Not to Stage
    While there are many instances in which showing a vacant home is an excellent and effective idea, many real estate agents recommend having a professional staging company prepare your home for showings. Their experience is invaluable, as they'll identify the best ways to showcase your home to a diverse audience of buyers.
  • Overlooking Little Problems
    Selling a home is quite a feat and there are many responsibilities to juggle. Unfortunately, forgetting to address the smaller issues of a home can actually create larger problems. Burned-out light bulbs, missing electrical covers, broken blinds, distracting smells, and dirty surfaces can immediately make your home lose its charm. Be thorough in your preparations by having your agent complete a walkthrough with a checklist and consider hiring a cleaning company to give the space a quick clean each week.
  • Hiding Major Problems
    What's worse than forgetting to fix small issues? Trying to hide major issues. You should always be honest when it comes to major problems in the house, especially those that impact the health and safety of the new owners. Not only will these issues likely be uncovered in the inspection, but failing to disclose them could land you in serious trouble.
  • Being Stubborn During Negotiations
    Obviously, every seller wants their asking price and every buyer wants to secure a great deal. While there are many requests from each side that are unreasonable, a seller must be willing to make concessions to successfully close the sale. From replacing an old roof to paying for some closing costs, be willing to negotiate when selling your home.

Selling your home doesn't need to be a frustrating or drawn-out process. By acknowledging the pitfalls that trap other sellers, you can avoid stopping your home sale in its tracks.


Tips to Avoid Overpricing Your Home

Selling your home can be difficult, especially on an emotional level. Every day spent within these walls has left a mark on your memory. As family and friends gathered to share life's joys with you, this house has become a part of you. When the time comes to sell, it's not uncommon for sellers to recall these memories and allow their emotions to drive up the price. Unfortunately, overpricing your home is one of the worst mistakes a seller can make.

You believe our home is worth every penny of its listing price, and you're not wrong. It's natural for sellers to think that the time, effort, and home improvement investments they invested should be accounted for in the price. However, perceived value and actual value are seldom ever similar when it comes to selling your home.

Two common mistakes sellers make are pricing the home high in hopes to negotiate and purposely pricing the home higher than the comparative market analysis suggests. How can these decisions negatively impact the success of selling your home?

  • Buyers may not feel comfortable offering a lower price. While buyers may offer a price that they believe is reasonable, they also may withhold their offer so that they don't offend the seller.
  • The market can change over time. Today's housing market and tomorrow's housing market may be dramatically different. If your overpriced home sits on the market for too long, there's a chance that interest rates, inventory levels, and economic health may change for the worse.
  • Price reductions may show desperation. If a buyer is interested enough in your home, chances are that they'll monitor the listing for price reductions. When they see that the price has been reduced after the house has been listed for days without success, they make take advantage of your willingness to sell and place an offer that's lower than asking price.
  • Showing quality may suffer. If you're selling your home using tried-and-true tricks like enlisting weekly cleaning services and lawn care maintenance, these costs will quickly add up. Unless you keep investing in your home's presentation, you risk letting the home's visual appeal suffer, which may turn away buyers.
  • High priced homes help other sellers. Even if your home is listed for a few thousand more than another comparable property in your area, you're still viewed as the most expensive. Other sellers may be willing to sweeten their listing by opening themselves up to negotiations from buyers or offering them small incentives that make their property more enticing than yours.

How Can You Avoid Overpricing Your Home?

First, your real estate agent should conduct a competitive market analysis. Then, have your home appraised before listing it so you'll know a reasonable price range. Finally, you should try not to let your emotions influence your perception of the home's value.

Ultimately, your agent's goal is to help you successfully sell your home. An experienced agent or broker who is professional and knowledgeable will price your home for an amount that maximizes your financial benefit while staying within a price range that buyers find reasonable and appealing.

Selling your home can be a positive experience, especially when it's priced to sell. Trust in your agent and the hard data to avoid overpricing your property.  


10 Things to Leave Behind When You're Selling

If you're thinking about selling your home, there will come a time when you'll have to start sorting through your belongings so you can pack up and move out. Not only will you likely feel surprised by the sheer number of things you've accumulated, but you may also start to wonder whether you should leave some of them behind. The answer, of course, is yes! 

Some things are considered part of the buyer's contract and must be left in the home. Leaving certain other items will make life easier for the new buyer while also limiting the amount of stuff you need to deal with. 

Before you do any more packing, take a look at this list of ten items you'll definitely want to leave behind when selling your home.

  1. Window Treatments & Hardware
    Window treatments, like curtains and blinds, aren't likely to do you much good in your new home. They probably won't fit right or go with your new decor. Plus, the new buyers will appreciate the added privacy. 
  2. Light Fixtures
    Anything that's attached to your home is typically assumed to be included in the sale. If you have a certain light fixture that you just can't bear to part with, make sure the contract explicitly states that it's not included. You'll also need to replace it with another fixture. Make sure to leave the lightbulbs too. Not only is it rude to leave the new buyers in the dark, but it's hard to move them without worrying about breakage. 
  3. Certain Appliances
    While it's fine to take freestanding appliances with you, anything that's hard-wired or attached to the home's plumbing should be left behind. This includes built-in dishwashers, range hoods, cooktops, and ovens. 
  4. Owner's Manuals & Warranties
    If you have the owner's manuals and warranties for any of the appliances or home accessories you're leaving behind, make sure to leave those for the new owners as well. This will make it easier for them to order parts and get service when they need it. 
  5. Leftover Paint
    You'll have no use for leftover cans of paint, and disposing of them can be a pain. Luckily, the new owners will probably want them. This will be a lifesaver when they need a small touchup. 
  6. In-Ground Features
    Items that are attached to the ground are considered part of the real estate property rather than your personal property. This means you need to leave behind things like your mailbox, firepits, and in-ground landscape lighting. 
  7. Outdoor Plants
    You should also leave your landscaping alone. Not only will the new buyer expect all of the trees, bushes, and flowers to be there when they move in, but it's unlikely that they'll survive being transplanted anyway. 
  8. Extra Keys
    Most new homeowners change the locks right away, but it's still a good idea to leave any extra keys. This will give them extra peace of mind and you'll have no need for them anyway. 
  9. Garage Door Opener
    If you forget to leave the garage door openers, the new homeowner will have to deal with the hassle of replacing them. Although they may decide to do this anyway, leaving them is just the right thing to do. 
  10. Hardwired Systems
    If you have a portable security system and cameras that aren't permanently attached to the home then it's fine to take them with you. However, anything that's hard-wired should be left behind. 

If you're in doubt about whether a certain item should come with you or stay behind, don't hesitate to ask your real estate agent. This is just one of the many ways that a great agent can make selling your home a breeze! 


Here's How to Sell Your Home for Top Dollar

Selling your home for top dollar is a priority--but is it a realistic possibility? For many sellers, this type of real estate transaction is new and can seem quite confusing. Thankfully, many real estate agents have happily shared tips on how to successfully increase the chances of selling a home for an outstanding price. Before you list your property, consider these ten pieces of advice.

  1. Acknowledge Your Emotional Attachment
    Whether you've lived in the home for a year or your entire life, your emotional attachment to the property can cloud your professional judgment. Understand that you must approach price setting and negotiations reasonably to secure a great selling price.
  2. Choose Your Agent Wisely
    The difference between an experienced and knowledgeable agent and an agent who is subpar can mean the difference of tens of thousands of dollars. Dynamic agents will strive for a lucrative, yet reasonable sale while poor agents may leave money on the table.
  3. Complete Repairs/Renovations Early
    Selling your home can be much easier if you've already repaired or remodeled areas that need work. By completing these projects before the showings begin, you present a proud property without glaring issues that could drive down the home's price.
  4. List Appropriately
    Some agents will suggest pricing aggressively while other brokers will suggest pricing undervalue. The truth is that each home's listing price is determined by a variety of factors, many of which change from year to year. Consult your agent and examine comp houses to find the appropriate price.
  5. Use Hi-Res Photography and Videography
    The first place your buyers will likely view your home is online. By investing in high-quality photography and enabling a video tour of the home, you can convince buyers to schedule a home showing immediately.
  6. Offer Incentives
    If you want to get top dollar for your home, then be ready to help the buyer receive a great deal for the property. Incentives such as paying for closing costs, inspections, or upgrades can sweeten the deal for the buyer and make them believe that they are getting their money's worth.
  7. Remember the Value of Curb Appeal
    Curb appeal can make or break a home sale which is why you must make it a top priority. Invest in landscaping, new garage doors, fresh paint, and repair outdoor features to leave a good impression with anyone who drives by.
  8. Stage Appropriately
    Staging is another element of selling your home that can be tricky. In some cases, hiring professional stagers can transform the space. In other instances, leaving the home empty and clean will allow each individual buyer to envision the home to their preferred arrangement. Consult your agent for assistance with staging.
  9. Be Transparent With Buyers
    The best way to increase buyer confidence when selling your home is to be as transparent as possible. While you don't have to point out every squeaky floorboard, you should present them with as much legitimate information pertaining to the house as possible. This includes receipts and warranties on remodels or appliances, any significant damage to the home that was repaired, and any new features added.
  10. Consider Pre-Appraisals and Pre-Inspections
    A pre-appraisal will help you establish a firm and reasonable listing price while a pre-inspection will shed light on any problems that could detract the buyer. By conducting these before showing your home, you are able to confidently present the buyer with a listing price that leaves little room for doubt.

Selling your home is quite an undertaking, but a little patience, understanding, and hard work can go a long way. Consider these tips before you list your home and speak with your real estate agent about other ways you may be able to secure a higher asking price.


Juggling a Home Sale and Purchase at the Same Time

Selling your home and buying a home are two significant real estate transactions that require your patience, commitment, and focus. Each of these processes involves many steps, significant attention to detail, and hours of effort to ensure that the completed sale meets all of your expectations. Alone, selling your home or buying a home is quite a feat — attempting to do both simultaneously is another endeavor altogether. If you're planning on juggling a home sale and purchase at the same time, here are a few tips to make these dual transactions as smooth as possible.

Although it's typically easier to buy and sell a home separately, there are quite a few scenarios in which a homeowner would benefit from conducting both transactions at the same time. The biggest dilemma most homeowners face is determining which transaction they should attempt to finalize first. Each homeowner's situation is unique and specific factors will influence their decision. For example, someone who needs to relocate quickly should attempt to sell first while someone who has the finances on-hand to make an offer on their dream home should try to buy first.

Some benefits to selling first may include avoiding two simultaneous mortgage payments and having cash-on-hand to make a down payment on a new home. However, selling your home initially may make you feel pressured to buy quickly and force you to pay additional costs for temporary housing and storage. If you choose to buy before you sell, you'll have a place to move your belongings and you may feel less stressed during the home sale process but you also run the risk of not qualifying for a new mortgage or having your funds tied up in your older property.

3 Tips for Selling Your Home Before You Buy Another

  1. Request a rent back contingency. Before accepting an offer, request a rent-back contingency from the buyer. This contingency will allow you to rent the home from the buyer temporarily until you close on your next property.

  2. Have a backup plan. In the event that you must vacate the property before purchasing a new one, you'll need a backup plan. Research short-term rentals in the area and price out storage units nearby.

  3. Prepare your savings account. Without access to the equity in your original home, you need to be prepared to pay for closing costs in addition to your down payment. Make sure your savings are large enough to cover any sudden expenses until you receive the income from your home sale.

3 Tips for Buying a Property Before Selling Your Home

  1. Include a home sale contingency with your offer. A sale and settlement contingency enables you to buy the new home only if you successfully sell your old home. Although this allows the seller to still entertain offers from other buyers, it provides you with a safety net should the sale of your home fall apart during negotiations.

  2. Make sure your old home is ready to sell before you make an offer. Shopping for a new home is exciting, but you must first make sure your old home is ready to sell. Complete all repairs, remodels, or renovations to the entire home so it is presentable when you're ready to list.

  3. Budget accordingly and anticipate a low offer. After you've closed on your new home, you need to keep your finances balanced. Even if you've slightly exceeded your budget during the buying process, you should still be prepared to accept an offer lower than the asking price on your former home. Conceding a few thousand dollars is better in the long run than attempting to afford two mortgages for months at a time.

Selling your home while buying a house is quite a feat but success in both endeavors is possible. Consult your real estate professional for advice before deciding which transaction to tackle first.


Can Staging Increase Your Final Sales Price?

If you've been thinking about selling your home, you've probably considered the question of whether you really need staging. After all, it's an extra expense and it requires some effort -- so is it really worth it? 

The answer is... maybe. Here are a few things to consider. 

What is Staging, Anyway? 

In case you're not familiar, staging involves setting up a home so that it looks as appealing as possible to potential buyers. In many cases, this involves bringing in the right kind of furniture, artwork, home decor, and more. 

Buying a home is a very emotional decision. In many cases, great staging can help a potential buyer envision what it would be like to live in the home. Once they make this emotional connection, they're more likely to put in an offer. 

Since 95% of homebuyers spend at least part of their time searching for homes online, the way your home photographs can also have a huge impact on how quickly it sells. A professional stager will know exactly how to ensure your home is presented in the best possible light both in photographs and in person. 

The Link Between Staging and Selling Price 

Staging prior to selling your home may help you get a better offer. According to the National Association of Realtors, 25% of agents representing buyers said that home staging increased the home's selling price by up to 5%. Another 12% said staging gave their offers up to a 10% boost. 

When talking to agents representing sellers, these numbers were even higher. Twenty-two percent of them attributed staging to a price bump of up to 5%, 17% said that staging brought the price up by up to 10% and another 2% attributed it to a whopping 20% price increase! 

How Staging Affects Time on the Market

According to the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA), a home that has not been staged spends an average of 143 days on the market. In contrast, homes that were staged before they were listed stayed on the market for a mere 23 days. If selling your home fast is a priority, it's clear that staging is something you'll definitely want to consider.

Even if you've already listed your home, staging may be worth it. According to the same study, homes that were staged after they were listed sold within 40 days from the time the staging occurred. While these statistics will vary from location to location and home to home, it's still likely that staging will set you up to sell faster. 

Should You Stage Your Home? 

Despite the statistics above, it should be noted that your particular home may not necessarily need staging. While approximately 28% of real estate agents say that they stage all homes they sell, the rest tend to take it on a case-by-case basis. 

Approximately 13% of agents only recommend staging for difficult-to-sell homes while another 7% say that they only recommend staging for luxury homes in high tax brackets.

When selling your home, it's always a good idea to consult with an agent you can trust. This person will help you weigh the pros and cons of staging so you can determine whether it's a good idea for your specific home. 


Your Post-Sale To-Do List

Selling your home is a wonderful feeling, but there's plenty still left to do after you've accepted an offer on your former property. Regardless if you're purchasing a new home or if you're moving into a rental property, all sellers need to consider these ten things after selling their homes.

  1. Stay Organized
    All of the documents you've received during this transaction will continue to be relevant long after you've completed the sale. Store these documents in a secure space and make backup copies available on a digital storage device.
  2. Clear Out Your Belongings & Trash
    During your final walkthrough, make sure all of your possessions not included in the sale are removed. Be sure to check all spaces for items or trash, including cabinets, closets, pantries, garages, attics, and crawl spaces.
  3. Have a Plan for Long-term Storage
    If you're not immediately moving into a space large enough for all of your possessions, you'll need to budget for a long-term storage plan. Find temporary housing for your items and research other options that will work best with your lifestyle needs and budget.
  4. Leave All Essential Paperwork
    As you leave your former home for the last time, be sure to leave behind all essential paperwork that the new owner may need. This requires all permitting, insurance, warranties, service receipts, and other paperwork concerning the home's structural and legal standing.
  5. Cancel Old Services
    Contact utility and other service providers so that you can cancel all services to the home and switch them over to your new property.
  6. Change Your Address
    Contact the post office to officially change your address and make sure you contact subscription providers to update your information.
  7. Research Tax Breaks
    In many situations, sellers are eligible for certain tax breaks associated with their home sale. Consult your agent or a CPA for more information about the current tax laws.
  8. Allocate Your Sale Sum Wisely
    Unless you are immediately investing the funds received from the sale of your home into a new property, it's wise to consult a financial advisor about the best ways to save or spend this large sum.
  9. Consider Your Next Steps
    Now that you've finished selling your home, you may be wondering what steps you should take next. No matter where you believe your path is headed, we suggest that all sellers approach their next decisions with patience.
  10. Celebrate Your Success
    Selling your home is quite the triumph and you deserve to celebrate your accomplishment. The next steps will unfold in time. Until then, take a moment to reflect on this success with pride.

Before you toast to new beginnings, make sure you tend to these ten tips to ensure that your hard work continues to pay off. Through planning, patience, and practical decision-making, you can set yourself up nicely for the next chapter of your life!


Is Your Pooch Putting Your Resale Value in the Dog House?

Are you a pet owner that's hoping to sell your home? As much as you love your four-legged friend or cuddly critter, all homeowners should be aware that the presence of a pet can negatively impact the resale value of your home. While most pet owners are prepared for the cleaning, repair and insurance costs that some pets create, there are many animal lovers that don't realize the specific ways in which these family members can turn away those buying a house.

  • Wear & Tear
    Perhaps the most prominent sign of pet residence is the wear and tear they contribute to the home. Stained carpets, scratched flooring, chewed furniture and scraped walls are easy to spot and can lessen the perceived value of the home. After seeing these markings, many homebuyers will wonder what other damages are hidden throughout the house.
  • Odors
    Smells are hard to get rid of, especially those from cat or dog secretions. Even if we cannot smell them, animals may still be able to. It's not uncommon for dogs or cats to try and make their territory by covering these odors with their own scents. If a buyer can sense these smells, or is aware that a pet has lived in the home, it may deter them from buying.
  • Exterior Issues
    Don't forget that your pet might damage your exterior as well. Dogs will dig holes throughout the yard, potentially damaging the lawn and making it less attractive. Fences, outdoor furniture, and other features may be scratched, bitten or peed on. With curb appeal and rear yard space a top priority for buyers, some may not desire a home that has an outdoor area that looks abused.
  • Pet-Friendly Living
    When a pet is part of the family, prospective buyers try to find a home that caters to these creatures. A large backyard, local dog park or spaces that can be used as the animal's playroom are great features for pets. However, not all homebuyers desire these features. A large backyard may be too much work for older adults trying to downsize. Those with a fear of or allergy to animals may not want to live in a community that caters to pet-lovers.
  • Pet-Unfriendly Living
    On the flip side, your home may not be suitable for certain pets. Smaller rodents, cats or dogs can easily live in a modest space but larger animals cannot. Families buying a house with medium to large-sized dogs may pass on your property if it doesn't meet their animal's needs.

Don't worry! If you do have a pet, you can still successfully sell your home for a great price. Here are a few tips to follow when listing and showing the space to those buying a house:

  • Consider having your space professionally staged with furniture that doesn't show wear and tear from animals.
  • Remove all signs of pets like cages, food bowls, and toys — in and out of the home — when taking photographs for the listing and viewings.
  • Don't forget to remove décor like photographs of you and pets too.
  • Ask a neighbor without pets to visit your home to discover if they can smell any pet odors.
  • Hire a professional cleaning service that specializes in pets to make your space look and smell amazing.
  • It's best to take your animals with you when you leave the house for buyers to view.
  • Be prepared to negotiate if the buyer considers pet damage to be a loss of value in the home.

Even though your dog or other animals may lower your resale value, you can still successfully sell your home for a great price. Follow these steps to ensure you're being considerate of the buyer's feelings towards pets and show them that this can be the home of their dreams with or without a furry family member.


6 Things That Can Go Wrong When Selling Your Home

The average home spends anywhere from 30 days to 90 days on the market before attracting the right buyer. Buyers may jockey for position for several weeks before one pulls ahead of the pack and gives you a clear path to selling your home.

Even when things are looking up, don't drop your guard. Selling your home isn't a done deal until the closing day is over – when the papers are signed, the keys have been handed off, and you are ready to move forward on your future.

With help from an experienced real estate agent, you can avoid situations that might otherwise end your sale at the last moment. Still, it's a good idea to get prepared in advance. The more you know, the easier it is to avoid a worst-case scenario.

Let's look at some things that can cause headaches late in selling your home:

  1. Last-Minute Financing Woes
    Nearly a third of all settlement delays are related to buyer financing issues. The best way to avoid them is to be sure you're dealing exclusively with qualified buyers. Sellers are protected most when a reputable lender has preapproved buyers. Preapproval means they can move forward and get a loan package issued within days after selecting a home.
  2. Title Delays and Defects
    The title is the legal document that proves your ownership of the house and its associated land. A title company must review years of records to ensure you have the legal right to sell. Relatively small issues, such as a minor fine or tax obligation, can cause problems. Review and follow up on any debts that may have resulted in a lien against your property.
  3. Problems With Final Walkthrough
    Early in the selling process, a home must be inspected from top to bottom. A trained inspector compiles all issues in need of repair. If there are any problems, the inspection report usually forms the basis of an agreement between the buyer and seller about what will get done. The final walkthrough is the buyer's chance to determine if all repairs are completed as agreed.
  4. Missing Closing Disclosure (CD) Form
    Closing Disclosure is one of the most vital pieces of paperwork when you're selling your home. It outlines the buyer's loan terms and all the closing costs related to the sale. The title company or mortgage lender is responsible for getting the CD to the buyer at least three full days before closing. Agents from both parties can touch base to ensure it is sent on time.
  5. Closing Document Mistakes
    Not all closing day document errors will stop you in your tracks, but some will. One common issue is misspelled middle names. The most serious problems crop up when unexpected fees are outlined in closing documents. To avoid these surprises, remember you can request to read all the documents in advance. That includes the Closing Statement of all closing-related charges.
  6. Last-Minute Buyer Decisions
    Sadly for sellers, it's not within their control if buyers have a last-minute change of heart. It can and does happen, often literally on closing day. Luckily, you won't come out of it empty-handed. When buyers don't move forward, the earnest money deposit is forfeited to the seller. A larger deposit (and a down payment) tends to show seriousness about the agreement.

Early preparation lays the groundwork for you to avoid these six show-stopping issues as you sell your home. Connect with the right real estate agent early on, and you'll be much more likely to find a like-minded buyer, too.


5 Ways an Agent Can Help You Sell Your Home

So you're selling your home, and you've decided to save money by taking the DIY route. In reality, studies show for sale by owner (FSBO) homes sell for approximately 30 percent less than homes represented by a real estate agent. Can you afford to pass that up?

Here are five significant reasons why working with a real estate agent is the best advantage you can have when selling your home.

  1. Higher Visibility
    What type of marketing plan would you come up with to sell your home quickly and profitably? There's the traditional sign on the front lawn. You can place ads on Craigslist and other online sites since almost no one reads newspapers anymore. That's about where it ends. A real estate agent has access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database, where pictures and information about your home are readily available to other agents, including those in different geographic areas. Experienced agents also have an extensive professional network that can yield numerous word-of-mouth referrals.

  2. Greater Negotiating Power
    While you may pride yourself on the ability to drive a hard bargain at art fairs and festival marketplaces, negotiating the sale price of a home is an entirely different arena. Even minor issues can mean a difference of thousands of dollars. With extensive experience in negotiations, a real estate agent can advise you when to make concessions, when to stand pat, and how to make a strategic counteroffer. 

  3. Knowledge of Legal Terminology and Requirements
    Escrow. Title insurance. Balloon payment. FHA mortgage. These terms might make your eyes glaze over, but a real estate agent has a working knowledge of all terminology involved in real estate transactions. The agent can then explain the terms to you in language you can understand. Also, real estate agents stay informed on the current state and local regulations so they can make sure you comply with every step of selling your home.

  4. Accurate Pricing Skills
    Your home may be priceless in your eyes, but a buyer isn't going to care about family holidays and other sentimental memories. A real estate agent has access to a wealth of information such as comparable home sales, or comps, to guide you in setting an optimized but fair selling price. More importantly, an agent doesn't have an emotional investment in your home, so they can provide an objective assessment.

  5. Dedicated Service
    How do you fit in the numerous activities involved in selling your home around the demands of your job? For a real estate agent, selling your home IS their job. The words "too busy" aren't in an agent's vocabulary. They're ready and able to field calls from buyers and other agents, handle marketing tasks and host open houses. Real estate agents have a fiduciary responsibility to you as a client, meaning they're bound by law to look out for your best interests.

Don't stumble your way through what is probably the most significant financial transaction of your life. Selling your home with the help of a real estate agent pays off financially, physically, and emotionally.


How to Sell a Home with a Reverse Mortgage

A reverse mortgage is a type of mortgage loan that enables homeowners, particularly seniors, to access the accumulated equity value of their home without selling it.

Reverse mortgages first arrived in the 1960s but have become popular in recent years. More homeowners are using them for the funds required to comfortably age in place.

Sometimes, however, plans change. Some homeowners discover they want to move after all, perhaps to be close to family. Others move into an assisted living environment to help them with the demands of aging. What happens to the reverse mortgage then?

Good news: You can still sell a home with a reverse mortgage – if you know how.

Selling Your Home With a Reverse Mortgage

The majority of homes on the market have an outstanding mortgage. A reverse mortgage is very similar. Although it might seem intimidating, it merely means you'll need to do things in the right order.

Here's the best approach to selling your home with a reverse mortgage:

  1. Consider Prepaying Your Mortgage
    One of the most important things to remember about a reverse mortgage is that you can pay it any time you are able. Some other loans include penalties that cost you more money if you pay early – a reverse mortgage is required to be penalty-free. Look at your budget, goals, and resources to determine whether paying early ("prepayment") is a possibility.
  2. Discuss Things With Your Lender
    To move forward on paying any part of your loan, you'll need a formal payoff quote from your lender. A payoff quote is more accurate than the account summary you may be able to obtain on the lender website, but it is only valid for a short period of time. Your lender may also be able to suggest payment options to help facilitate your moving goals.
  3. Contact a Real Estate Agent
    When your home is sold, the proceeds are used to pay off the remaining balance of your reverse mortgage. With that in mind, it's vital to connect with the right real estate agent. He or she can ensure your home is priced to sell while still meeting all your financial goals. Attracting reliable, motivated buyers within 90 days is the hallmark of a successful sale.
  4. List Your Home for Sale
    Once your real estate agent is up to date on your needs, he or she can take the reins on the selling process. Still, it's wise to be ready to provide a unique perspective only you can offer. For example, the seller is often a crucial part of a successful open house. Your agent will advise you on the attention your property is getting, and layout offers for you to consider.
  5. Optionally, Talk to a Real Estate Attorney
    It isn't usually crucial, but a real estate attorney can do some extra footwork to be sure your reverse mortgage is fully paid off. This extra layer of verification will protect you from any chance the funds you get from the home sale aren't used the way you want.
  6. Get Evidence of Your Loan Payment
    Last, but not least, follow up with your reverse mortgage lender one last time. They should issue a final statement that shows your balance is paid off in full. This can be sent to you in the form of registered mail you have to sign for, so the receipt is confirmed on all sides.

Selling your home with a reverse mortgage doesn't have to be a headache. Reach out to a real estate agent you can trust, and they'll make the process easier.


10 Gifts to Leave for Your Home's New Owner

Moving into or out of a home is an event that is filled with lots of emotions for everyone. Those can range from happiness to sadness to excitement, or even a little fear. Leaving a small but thoughtful gift for the new owners of your home can help you close that period of your life a little easier. It's also a nice gesture to welcome the new owners and let them know you wish them well. Try one of these suggestions. 

  1. Gift card for a nearby restaurant.
    Look for something that serves variety and just about anyone would like. If you can find one that delivers too, that can be a big help on moving day.
  2. Neighborhood guide.
    Include information for nearby restaurants and grocery stores, favorite boutiques, the nearest gym or any place nearby they might need right away,
  3. Personalized keyring.
    A good keyring is a necessity for the new keys. You can get a monogrammed one or something engraved for a special touch.
  4. New doormat.
    A doormat automatically makes the entrance look welcoming. And it's something that is often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of moving. You can go for something personalized with a monogram or family's last name or just something that fits with the style of the house. 
  5. Specialty coffee and/or tea.
    Few people want to tackle their first morning in a new house without a cup of coffee first. If you have a coffee shop in the neighborhood that roasts their own or sells locally roasted it's a nice way to offer a connection to the new neighborhood. 
  6. A vase.
    Fresh flowers can make a home look more inviting and the new owners can pick their own from the yard or buy some. You don't have to know their decor style since vases are very versatile. 
  7. A plant.
    Again, it gives a nice homey touch and many plants are low maintenance but still look nice. 
  8. A small package of toilet paper in each bathroom.
    It's not so much a gift and requires no explanation, but it is a nice gesture and much appreciated. Let's face it, it's the one thing you don't want to be digging through moving boxes for when you need it. 
  9. Gift card for a local store.
    A gift card to a local store or even nearby department store to help add a personal touch to their new home is often a much-appreciated gift. 
  10. A locally unique item.
    You should probably stay away from food because of allergies and storage issues, but there are other options. A framed map of the neighborhood, something with a connection to local history, fridge magnets that celebrate something unique about the city or state, or a cutting board in the shape of your state are just a few examples. The internet and local boutiques and markets are good places to find these items. Going with something that uses local materials or was created by a local artisan can make it a nice way to connect with the new neighborhood.

Moving into a new home can be quite an experience and leaving a little gift for the new owners with a note to wish them well is a nice gesture that will be appreciated.


Does a Finished Garage Add Value to My Home?

Whether you're selling your home soon or you're looking to add value long-term, the garage may not be the first room you think of when upgrading your home. For many homeowners, the garage is a place to store things and work on projects, so aesthetics take a back seat. If you're looking for a unique way to wow potential buyers, however, a finished garage is one potential tool in your arsenal. But does a finished garage truly add value when selling your home? The answer depends on what you're trying to accomplish, and what sort of buyer you intend to attract.

  • What Is a Finished Garage?
    In many homes, the garage simply doesn't get the same attention as other rooms. An unfinished garage is basically your average garage--stuff stored all around, unfinished walls and ceilings, and very few creature comforts. A finished garage looks more like any other room in the home, with a clean, put-together look and plenty of open space. Finishing the garage creates a new usable space in the home, especially for homeowners who love working on cars or home improvement projects.
  • How a Finished Garage Impacts Appraisal Value
    If your only goal is to increase the appraisal value of the home, then a finished garage may not offer the best bang for your buck compared to other renovations. While that may sound ominous, it only tells part of the story. A finished garage may not add much to the appraisal value outright, but it can still be an important factor in convincing a buyer that your home is the right choice for their needs.
  • The "Wow Factor" of a Finished Garage
    While a finished garage may not add to the home's appraisal value, it can certainly be a factor in convincing a buyer that the home is right for them. It can make your home stand out from the pack and holds major appeal for potential buyers who love home improvement projects. This is ultimately where the value comes in finishing your garage, but since it's subjective it only adds value for the right buyer.
  • Considering the Cost of a Finished Garage
    Finishing the garage definitely isn't cheap, but it won't set you back as much as renovation projects in some other rooms. The typical cost for finishing a garage checks in around $10,000, so the upfront cost is significant. Whether the investment is worth it is in the eye of the beholder – and the buyer.
  • Why Finishing Is Better Than Converting
    If you do plan to update your garage, it's better to finish it than to convert it completely by removing the garage door. A converted garage is ultimately just another room, while a finished garage still retains the character and utility of the typical garage.
  • A Middle Ground for Your Garage
    If you want to make your garage more impressive without finishing it completely when selling your home, there's a middle ground. By cleaning your garage thoroughly, organizing it neatly, and fixing any glaring maintenance issues, you can give your garage a fresh, appealing look without the investment that would be required to fully finish the room.

While finishing your garage may not add resale value in a concrete way, it can be an important subjective factor in attracting the right buyer. Not every buyer will be interested in a finished garage, but the right buyer may love it. Your real estate agent can help you decide whether to finish the garage, or whether you're better off investing those funds in another room.


Move or Improve? You Decide

Your house doesn't meet your needs anymore. Perhaps you've run out of space. Maybe your house's appliances or style are out of date. Whatever your reasons, you've decided you need a change. But do you renovate the home you've got to better suit you and your family? Or do you look for a new one that already does? The answer depends on your needs, your financial situation, and your tolerance for the stresses involved in moving and renovation.

Your Needs

One of the benefits of renovation is that you can all but guarantee you'll get what you need—within reason. Does your kitchen need updating? Do you need an extra bathroom or bedroom? Those types of renovations might be easier than buying a house in your neighborhood, at your price point, that has everything you need.

Getting what you want with a new home depends on what's available in the market. You might have to make compromises in price, features, or area. At the same time, the market can provide many more options with a new home than could ever be available with a simple renovation.

Ultimately, the choice of what, when, and where to buy is always yours. The decision on what to renovate, however, is generally static. You'll still be limited by your finances, equity, and your home.


In most cases, paying for a renovation will be easier than buying a house. While renovations aren't cheap, they're still less than buying a new home, and they're easier to pay for. If you've lived in your home for a while, chances are it has accrued equity. Equity is the difference between the current value of the house and the balance left on your mortgage. Typically, homeowners use home equity loans to pay for renovations because they're easy to secure; Your home is the collateral securing the loan.

If your current house has little to no equity, it probably makes more financial sense to buy a new home than renovate. Without equity, you'd likely have to take out a personal loan which could be harder to secure and more expensive to payback. Also, you might be better off buying a house if the cost of your current mortgage plus a home equity loan would exceed or match a new mortgage.


Neither renovation nor buying a house are stress-free. The renovation will likely require you to live, at least part-time, in a construction zone for weeks or more. It'll be loud, there will be strange people in your home, and it'll be messy. You might also have to endure interruptions in power, plumbing, and the internet. 

Moving has its stresses, too. Of course, there's the actual process of packing and moving. There's also the emotional toll of leaving a home, a neighborhood, and possibly friends and family. There's also the stress of selling the old house, which could persist well past the time you've moved into the new one.

Deciding to renovate your current home or to buy a new one isn't easy. However, if you understand what your current and future needs are, you can make a decision that will make you happy.


The Ups & Downs of Selling Your Home for All Cash

With the home market heating up, many buyers believe that making a cash offer will give them an advantage over other buyers. But, as a seller, is it in your best interest to take a cash offer? Or are you better off sticking to your price and holding out for a lender-financed buyer? 

The answer is--it depends.

There certainly are some advantages to selling your home to a cash buyer. This is particularly true if you're in a hurry to sell because you're moving or you need money quickly. However, as with most things, there are some potential drawbacks. Let's take a deeper dive into the pros and cons of a cash sale.

  1. Fast Closing
    One of the best things about a cash deal is the ability to go to closing quickly. When a buyer purchases a home with traditional financing, it often takes 30 to 60 days from the time the contract is signed until the closing date. Since a cash buyer doesn't have to undergo the loan underwriting process, you may be able to close in a few weeks or, in some cases, even a few days. 
  2. No Need for Repairs 
    Before a lender approves financing for a home, they'll require an inspection. If your home needs major repairs and you're not in a position to make them, then an "as-is" cash sale is likely your best option. While you're required to disclose any problems with the home, it's up to the buyer to deal with them after the purchase is complete. 
  3. Less Uncertainty
    Almost all lender-financed contracts have contingencies written into them. If the home appraisal isn't high enough or the buyer isn't able to obtain financing, the contract will likely fall through. While some cash deals do have contingencies written into them, they're less common. Generally, accepting a cash offer gives you more certainty that the deal will close. 
  4. Lower Selling Price
    Despite the benefits of a cash sale, there are some trade-offs. The biggest is usually the selling price. Cash offers are almost always lower than what you could get if you waited for a traditional buyer, sometimes significantly so. However, once you factor in the cost of repairs, the stress of the uncertainty, and the money you'll spend while you're waiting to sell your home (for example, if you're carrying two mortgages), you may decide that the trade-off is worth it. 
  5. Transaction Risks
    ​​​​​​​When you're selling your home for cash, it's essential to watch out for scams! You'll want to make sure the buyer has the money on hand to pay for the home. Ask to see a bank statement, or, even better, a "proof of funds" letter from the bank before accepting the offer. 

For your protection, never accept a personal check from a buyer to pay for your home. Instead, insist on a bank check or a check from the attorney's escrow account. Also, beware of a buyer who tries to purchase the home with actual cash. The cash could be part of a money-laundering ring or drug money. If that's found to be the case and you failed to report it, you could lose your home.

The Bottom Line

For sellers who are in a hurry to sell their home, a cash offer can be the perfect answer. However, if you have the time to wait and can deal with a minimal amount of uncertainty, you'll almost always get a better deal from a lender-financed buyer. Your circumstances will determine which is the best choice for you. 

If you're thinking about selling your home, give us a call. Working with a qualified agent can help minimize stress and give you the peace of mind that you're making good decisions. We'll help you determine your property's fair market value and find the perfect buyer, so you can sell your home without the hassle. 


The Cost to Sell Your Home May Shock You

There are many reasons you might be interested in selling your home. No matter what your main motivation is, however, most people come into the process with some financial hopes.

The majority of sellers wait for favorable market conditions before they sell. Most invest at least a few dollars on refreshing the appearance of the home and raising curb appeal. Plus, it's crucial to ensure you make enough on your sale to meet any outstanding obligations.

With that in mind, a difference of a few thousand dollars can have a major impact on your timing when going to market. Unfortunately, it's easy to underestimate the costs of selling your home.

The cost of selling can be much higher than planned thanks to several factors:

  1. Repairs and Refurbishing
    Sellers need to take time to triage any issues in the home and repair the ones they deem likely to affect the sale. It's also essential to peruse recent real estate trends and determine how you can maximize your sales price through practical, targeted renovations.
  2. Pre-Sale Home Inspection
    These days, virtually all serious buyers will require a pre-sale inspection. A qualified inspector will examine every aspect of the home and disclose all issues. This is typically handled at the seller's expense and costs a few hundred dollars to complete.
  3. Real Estate Agent Commission
    The average agent's commission is around 5% or 6% of the total selling price. A healthy commission in line with industry norms is a good sign that you're dealing with a reputable agent. You should scrutinize any agencies that offer very low (or very high!) rates.
  4. Mortgage Payoff
    The proceeds of your home sale must be sufficient to pay off your existing mortgage. Unfortunately, the "pay off amount" on your statement or borrower website is often inaccurate. Prorated interest for the most recent billing period and prepayment penalties (if any) can add to your charges.
  5. Closing Costs
    Closing costs are a common point of contention between home buyers and sellers. It may be possible to negotiate lower total closing costs or to get buyers to pay a bigger share, but you should be prepared to pay the entire amount if necessary – and that usually tallies up to 2%-4% of the total sale price.
  6. Utilities
    If you are planning to move out of your current home long before you sell it, it may benefit you to keep the lights on. It can be more difficult to show a home without electricity and water – and homes that have clearly been vacated are also more likely to be targeted by crooks.
  7. Capital Gains Taxes
    Taxes are a major issue for sellers. Selling a home for more than you paid for it may require you to report capital gains on your coming taxes. Luckily, most homeowners will find that they can exclude anywhere from $250,000 to $500,000 in real estate profit from this type of taxation.
  8. Property Taxes
    You will be responsible for property taxes at your current address until closing day. These taxes are usually paid on a prorated basis using money held in escrow. If you've paid your property taxes in advance for the year, however, you could actually receive a rebate at closing.

    Getting an accurate estimate of the total cost of selling your home can be difficult. The potential costs vary widely based on your situation. That's one more reason it's essential to connect with a trustworthy real estate agent who can help you make informed decisions.

How to Price Your Home Like a Pro

When you're selling your home, setting an asking price is a bit like playing a round of The Price Is Right, where contestants use their shopping knowledge to zero in on an item's price without going over. Make sure your price is right with these expert tips on pricing your home to sell.

  1. Don't Overprice
    Yes, it's tempting to maximize profit with a high asking price, but it's not that simple. Savvy buyers set a budget and do their homework. If your asking price bears no relation to the current market, they'll automatically remove your house from consideration without even seeing it.
  2. Leave Emotion out of the Equation
    Most people develop an emotional attachment to their home, but buyers aren't going to pay for your memories. Keep sentiment in check and set an asking price based on your home's objective value.
  3. Review Comparable Sales
    Comparable sales, usually referred to as "comps," will tell you the actual sale price of homes similar to yours with regard to square footage, age, floor plan, and other specific features. Stick to sales within the last three months for an accurate reading of the current market.
  4. Study Expired Listings
    You can also gain valuable insight from homes that haven't sold. See if you spot any patterns in pricing vs. value that may have turned buyers away. 
  5. Scout the Competition
    Take time to step into a buyer's shoes and view other comparable homes for sale. See how the asking prices match up with the features and benefits of the corresponding homes. 
  6. Don't Look for Dollar-to-Dollar Returns
    Studies of the most common professional remodeling projects show that they bring just slightly more than 50 percent return on investment. Even if you make renovations for the express purpose of selling your home, don't expect to automatically layer the amount spent on top of the asking price.
  7. Leverage Price Banding
    Price banding is a technique often used in real estate in which a buyer has an upper and lower limit, creating a range of prices they will consider. If asking prices for other homes are bunched up around certain bands, take advantage of the band with less competition.
  8. Reduce the Price if Needed
    Sometimes, despite your best efforts to price fairly, you won't get a nibble. Reducing the price may smack of desperation, but approximately 60 percent of sellers drop their asking price at least once so it can actually be a savvy move.
  9. But Only Once
    If you do reduce the price, don't assume you can nibble away at it until you find the sweet spot. Interest in listed homes on the market for 21 days or more drops sharply. Consult your real estate agent, determine an appropriate amount and cut once.
  10. Be Flexible
    "A good negotiation happens when both parties walk away equally unhappy." That may be overstating the case, but when selling your home, it's not realistic to assume you'll get everything you're asking for. If you make a counteroffer to a buyer, your real estate agent can help you come up with creative alternatives to lowering your price. Consider paying part of the closing costs, buying down the loan or even unrelated perks such as season tickets to a local sports team.

Selling your home doesn't have to be a long, drawn-out process. When The Price Is Right, you'll be amazed at how quickly the offers come.


Home Inspection Help for Sellers

There is any number of reasons why a real estate deal can go south, but the home inspection is one of the most notorious deal killers of all. Issues turned up during the inspection can throw a serious wrench into your home sale, so it's important to be prepared to avoid this potential pitfall. Here's what you need to know about avoiding inspection woes... and how to proceed if a problem arises. 

How Inspections Work
These days, just about every purchase contract for a home includes a contingency that allows the buyer to hire a professional home inspector. Most Realtors will recommend that their client have a home inspection carried out, and roughly 85 percent of buyers will heed that advice. That means that, before your home is sold, it will almost certainly be inspected by a professional.

Whether that inspection will reveal any issues is another matter. If your home is in great shape, you probably don't have a lot to worry about. Still, there is always a chance that the inspection will reveal flaws that even the homeowner doesn't know about. 

Inspections cover the house from top to bottom. Each inspector has his or her own particular method, but the areas that inspectors check is largely standardized at this point. Inspections typically include the plumbing, heating, cooling, and electrical systems, as well as structural elements including the roof and foundation. Inspectors also check all major appliances and look for signs of mold, mildew, and pests. 

Getting Ready
It's crucial that you know as much about your house as possible. That way, you can fix any issues that need fixing, and disclose any defects that you either can't or don't want to fix. At the very least, if the inspection report turns up a problem, you won't be surprised. 

Although it may not be necessary in every case, it can sometimes be helpful to hire your own professional inspector to carry out an inspection before putting your home on the market. With an inspection report of your own, you can get out ahead of any issues that may exist. That's a major advantage in a competitive market.

A home inspection typically costs $300 to $500 for an average-sized home. It's a significant investment, but it often pays off when you consider the overall benefits. For one thing, having fixed any issues will allow you to get top dollar for your house. Plus, you get to fix them on your own terms, and not the buyer's terms.

What Next?
Do everything you can to ensure that your home is in tip-top shape before your home is inspected. While it is possible that an inspection can reveal serious issues, you can take some simple steps to make the process go more smoothly, and make sure that simple repairs are not mistaken for something more serious: 

  • Replace any light bulbs that are burned out. 
  • Make sure all windows and doors open and close smoothly, and have working locks.
  • Test and put new batteries in all smoke detectors. 
  • Make sure all lights, fans, and outlets are in good working condition. 
  • Clean out your gutters and downspouts, and make sure downspouts are pointed away from the home. 
  • Check for plumbing leaks in all faucets, showers, and under sinks. 
  • Find and clean up any mold or mildew, especially in kitchens and bathrooms. 
  • Identify and eliminate any pest problems.  

7 Tips for Selling in a Crowded Market

Getting ready to sell your home? Sometimes it seems like all your neighbors had to do was stake down a 'for sale' sign and watch the offers roll in. But for most us, selling a house isn't nearly that easy. That's especially true in an increasingly crowded market.

Many of today's sellers find themselves facing much more competition than just a few years ago. Chances are, your house isn't the only one for sale in your neighborhood, or even on your block. Luckily, there are several great strategies that can help you get ahead when you're selling your home in a crowded market. 

  1. Price it right.
    When you're competing with a lot of other homes for sale in your general area, price becomes crucial. Although you surely want to get top dollar for your house, there's a major advantage to pricing your home slightly lower – roughly 2 percent lower – than similar homes in your neighborhood. Even a slightly lower price point can make a big difference.
  2. Always be show-ready.
    When competition is fierce, it pays to be prepared to show your home at any time. Before listing your house for sale, give it a thorough cleaning and de-cluttering; then keep it tidy in case you need to show it off at the drop of a hat.
  3. Look through the buyer's eyes.
    It's easy to become blind to how your home really looks after you've lived there for years. So it's important to try to detach from your preconceptions about your house. See it instead from a buyer's point of view. What might a buyer object to? Those are things you should fix. What might a buyer be excited about? Those are things to put extra emphasis on.
  4. Take professional photographs.
    Two identical homes can look very different depending on how they are presented. Pictures matter, especially since most home searches are carried out online these days. Hire a professional photographer to stage and photograph our home to give you an edge over competing houses for sale in your neighborhood.
  5. Team up with your neighbors.
    If you live in a neighborhood where there are a lot of homes for sale, it's easy to see them as competition. In a way, they are – but it can be more beneficial to work with your neighbors than against them. Plan a joint open house together, and work toward selling your overall neighborhood as a great place to live. If a neighbor sells before you do, don't sweat it. Celebrate with them, and remember that just means that now there's one less house you have to compete with.
  6. Show off your best assets.
    If you've made significant upgrades to your home, or have features that make it uniquely desirable then show them off. Make sure that remodeled bathroom, beautiful modern kitchen, ample back yard or extended patio are prominently featured in your listing.
  7. Work with a great agent.
    Having the right real estate agent in your corner gives you a major leg up on the competition. Look for an experienced seller's agent who has a lot of inside knowledge about your specific neighborhood, and who can help you look at real estate trends in your area and determine how best to sell your property. 

Sell Your Home Before They Walk in the Door

Did you know that most buyers form a strong opinion of your home before they walk through the door? First impressions matter big-time when selling your home, so you want buyers to be impressed from the moment they arrive at the curb. By maximizing the curb appeal of your property, you can go a long way toward selling your home.  Let's take a quick look at some of the aspects to consider when it comes to the outside of your home.

  • Clean and De-clutter
    Just like with the inside of the home, you want buyers to see a clean, clutter-free space when they look outdoors. The first step to boosting curb appeal is clearing clutter, removing dried leaves, and making sure there's nothing to draw attention away from the beautiful outdoor space around your home.
  • Trim Trees and Shrubs
    Shrubs, bushes, trees, and plants can provide a great accent to your home, but you never want the property to look overgrown or poorly maintained. Invest some time to trim trees and shrubs to an attractive length. If there are dead or damaged trees, consider calling a professional to have them removed.
  • Keep Your Lawn Manicured
    A healthy, well-maintained lawn is a sign to buyers that you care about the property, and have invested the time necessary to keep it in great shape. Make sure that your lawn is mowed, edged, and trimmed, especially when you know that buyers will be visiting.
  • Add Color to Your Landscaping
    Planting some fresh flowers and plants to your landscaping can be a great way to catch the eye of buyers, and add vibrant color to your curb appeal. If you'd rather skip the gardening, landscaping, and lawn maintenance, a professional landscaping team can take care of all your outdoor maintenance needs.
  • Fresh Paint and Fixtures
    Painting the entire home is a significant step to take for curb appeal, and it won't always be necessary unless the paint on the home has seen better days. Even if the rest of the home doesn't need a fresh coat, painting the front door and adding new fixtures can be a great way to add curb appeal. The cost is minimal compared to a completely new paint job, and a fresh look for your home's entrance can really make a difference.
  • Inviting Outdoor Spaces
    Do you have any outdoor patios, gardens, or gathering spaces that buyers will see when they arrive? Make sure that those areas are at their best, with attractive landscaping, quality furnishings, and well-maintained patios.
  • Clean Driveway and Walkways
    Renting a pressure washer for a day and getting to work can truly transform the look of the hard surfaces around your home. Driveways and walkways accumulate years worth of dirt, stains, and discoloration that is hard to remove without a pressure washer, so the benefits are substantial.

Once you have your home looking great from the curb, it's important to keep it that way. Selling your home is so much easier when buyers have something to be excited about from the moment they arrive for a showing or open house, and curb appeal can even encourage buyers to stop for a look when they happen to pass by the home during their daily travels. The time, money, and elbow grease you invest in curb appeal is a small cost for the potential benefits.


7 Factors to Consider When You're Selling Your Home

When you've made the decision on selling your home, the fun really starts!

Selling your home involves a lot of different moving parts. When you take things one step at a time, however, it all gets easier. Going into the selling process with a clear idea of what you need to do will reduce your stress and prevent you from overlooking key details.

Here are seven things you need to consider while selling your home:

  1. You Need a Real Estate Agent
    First and foremost, you'll need a terrific real estate agent to help make your goals a reality. A local real estate expert will help you manage and accelerate the process: Pricing the home right, finding motivated buyers, and getting you to closing without a hitch. By contrast, sellers who try to go it alone often spend many extra months on a sale and get a much lower final price.
  2. Gather Your Paperwork Early
    You'll need a ton of paperwork to make sure your sale goes forward on schedule. That includes lots of things you may not think much about: Warranty paperwork for your roof and major home systems, instruction manuals, details of home improvement projects, permits and certificates of compliance, mortgage information, and more. Get started early to get it all together.
  3. Get a Professional Inspection
    A pre-sale inspection will save you time in the long run and put you in a superior negotiating position. An inspection is intended to help you uncover problems with the home. Things like the roof, septic, and electrical issues can make potential buyers wary. Having the information in front of you, however, allows you to work on repairs or adjust your approach to selling.
  4. You'll Need to Prepare the Home
    When you're finally ready to sell a home, you can't simply open the doors. Cleaning it from top to bottom is imperative. That should include steam cleaning carpets and drapes and remove about half of the items from closets. Sometimes, it's also a good idea to remove certain furnishings and to make lighting a bit brighter. This can make the space seem larger and more inviting.
  5. "Price it Right" from the Very Start
    Pricing a home correctly is one of the most challenging things for a homeowner to do. When you try to price a property after living there, your own feelings inevitably play a role. A real estate pro will produce a research-based price after looking at recent sales in the area and other factors. This is the best way to ensure you reach your goals on the timeline you want.
  6. Perform Staging Before Showings
    Staging isn't the only aspect of selling a home, but it is very important. Your real estate agent should be versed in staging techniques or use an expert stager at no additional cost to you. The purpose of staging is to make your home show better, and there are hundreds of little ways to do this: From simple things like opening the blinds to more complex tactics like baking cookies.
  7. Yes – Hold Weekly Open Houses
    Forget about any "controversy" you might've heard: Holding open houses is the most effective way to meet motivated buyers fast. Yes, your real estate agent should still be marketing your home proactively online, and yes, a vacant home is more challenging to show than one that's still occupied. Even so, the time and effort of weekly open houses are almost always well spent.

Selling your home starts with a firm decision. Once you've made that choice, give yourself every advantage you can by reaching out to a local real estate agent you can trust.


Home Inspections What to Do When Your Home is the Hot Seat

There's no avoiding a home inspection when selling your home, and that's a scary thought for many sellers. Even if the home is in great shape, there's no escaping a little worry about what the inspection might discover. Fortunately, while a home inspection may turn up unexpected issues, it's still fairly rare for an inspection to cause a deal to completely fall apart. Preparing for the process will make your life much easier. Get started with this list of what to do when your home is the hot seat.

  1. Lean on Your Real Estate Agent
    Just like with many other aspects of selling your home, your real estate agent likely has much more experience with home inspections than you do. So don't be afraid to lean on them for advice! Your agent can provide general tips, and also specific advice about what to look for with your unique home.
  2. Do Your Own Walkthrough
    Before inspection time, do your own walkthrough of the home to spot any issues that need to be addressed. Look for signs of leaks, strange smells, loud, poorly running appliances, and anything else that may catch the eye of the inspector.
  3. Provide Easy Access to the Home
    Making the inspector's job easier will ultimately make the process run more smoothly for everyone involved. Make sure the home is clean, de-cluttered, and that all utilities are turned on when the inspector arrives.
  4. Compile the Necessary Paperwork
    Make life easier by gathering the necessary paperwork long before the inspector arrives. Important paperwork includes receipts for any work/routine maintenance on the home and proof of age for major appliances.
  5. Look for Leaks, Mold, and Mildew
    Buyers and inspectors alike will be keeping a sharp eye out for mold, mildew, and potential leaks. Clean the home from top to bottom, eliminate mold and mildew, and call a contractor if you see any signs of a leak.
  6. Check HVAC Filters
    The HVAC system is sure to be looked over by the home inspector, so make sure your system is in the best shape possible. Replacing HVAC filters is cheap, easy, and leaves one less thing to worry about when inspection time arrives.
  7. Check Major Appliances
    Run all of your major appliances, including the dishwasher, washer, and dryer, through a full cycle in order to make sure they're working properly. If there are any serious issues, consider having the appliance repaired or replaced.
  8. Fix Issues, but Don't Try to Conceal Them
    While fixing maintenance issues is a great idea before inspection time, trying to conceal known issues is not. Inspectors are thorough and know how to see past attempts to conceal known issues with the home. Fix it or leave it how it is, but don't try to hide it.
  9. Consider a Pre-inspection
    If you're concerned about the home inspection process, a pre-inspection can provide some peace of mind – along with a to-do list. During a pre-inspection, an inspector will look over the home, and note any issues that you'll want to take care of before the real inspection arrives.

While there's no way to guarantee that an inspection won't turn up any issues when selling your home, taking the time to prepare puts you in a much better position. If you have specific questions about your home prior to inspection, your real estate agent should be an excellent source of advice.


7 Ways to Keep Your Emotions in Check When Selling

How stressful is selling your home? Respondents in one survey ranked it higher than divorce, losing a job and becoming a first-time parent. Emotions can cause you to make bad decisions at a time when it's important to keep a clear head. Here are some expert tips to keep your emotions in check when selling your home. 

  1. Understand Why You're Selling
    Have you accepted a great new job offer? Maybe you need more room for your growing family. Understanding why you're selling your home lets you focus on the ultimate goal and keep from being distracted by bumps and curves along the way.
  2. Declutter and Depersonalize
    As you prepare to sell your home and move to a new one, reminders of memories made in your current house will assume even more important to you. Make a point to clear any clutter and pack up photos, souvenirs, and other personal memorabilia. In addition to minimizing your attachment, this activity will make your home more attractive to potential buyers.
  3. Avoid Expectations
    Unfulfilled expectations lead to disappointment, which in turn leads to emotional thinking. For instance, if you set your mind on selling your home within a specific time period and it doesn't happen, you may start to panic and make poor decisions. Deal with the factors you can control and stay flexible with the rest.
  4. Stay Out of Showings and Open Houses
    As a home seller, it's only natural to be curious about the reactions of potential buyers, but the homeowner side of you makes it hard to remain neutral in the face of negative comments or disinterest. Make it easier on yourself and buyers by finding somewhere else to be during showings and open houses. 
  5. Set an Accurate Sell Price
    Your home may be priceless in your eyes, but buyers aren't paying for sentimental value. Don't let emotion cloud objectivity and cause you to scare buyers off with an inflated price. Study the current housing market, particularly in your neighborhood, and price your home accordingly.
  6. Follow a Positive Lifestyle
    When stress causes you to lose sleep or eat poorly, it affects you emotionally as well as physically. Ultimately you end up in a vicious circle where bad health and negative emotions feed off each other. Don't let the process of selling your home consume your days. Take care of yourself and make time for enjoyable activities to maintain balance.
  7. Hire a Real Estate Agent
    ​​​​​​​The real estate industry is constantly changing, so no matter how many homes you've sold, it's difficult to stay up-to-date on trends, regulations and market conditions. An experienced real estate agent can skillfully guide you through the process and be an objective third party to keep you on track.

Selling your home is a potent emotional experience.  Acknowledge your feelings, but don't let them take over. Approach the sale as the business transaction it is and pour your emotions into making your new house a home.


6 Low-Cost Tips to Sell Your Home

Getting your home ready to sell does take a little work, but that doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money. Many of the projects you'll need to complete are low or no cost, and they all go a long way toward making the best possible impression on buyers.

  1. Deep clean. Really, really, deep. Make sure to get the places no one sees, like hard to reach areas, corners, and under furniture. The fronts, tops and all visible sides of appliances, especially the top of the refrigerator. The garage and closets should be cleaned out to show off storage space. Windows should be sparkling to let in as much natural light as possible.
  2. Paint. For the money, paint makes the biggest impact. It's inexpensive, especially if you can do it yourself--and most people can. Make sure to fill and sand any nail holes before you paint. Stick with a neutral color so you don't get any strong negative reactions from buyers.
  3. Make little repairs. Many will cost you nothing but time. And we all have those minor repairs we've put off and just gotten used to. Buyers haven't seen your house before, so they will notice. Tighten the handle on the cabinet, fix the broken hinge, lubricate the squeaky door, replace that screw on the heating vent you duct taped. Make anything that's a safety or security issue top priority. Some examples are loose railings, windows or doors with broken locks, or an uneven walkway.
  4. Stage your home. It's true it can cost a lot of money to have a professional stager come in and do the job, but there are some things you can do yourself. Get rid of extra or oversized furniture, and any that's just plain awkward. It makes the space seem smaller, which is something buyers definitely don't want. Rearrange what's left to look inviting and allow for free movement between rooms. Clear countertops, switch outdated light fixtures and make the most of natural light to make rooms stand out.
  5. Improve your curb appeal. Buyers start forming opinions about your home the second they pull up in the car. Luckily, basic yard work is something most people can do and doesn't cost much. Mow, edge, mulch, plant some colorful flowers, make sure the sidewalks are clean and trim shrubs and trees. If you have a front porch, you can stage the area with some seating and a potted plant. Clean and paint your front door if necessary.
  6. Go neutral. This advice applies to more than paint colors. When you sell, you want your home to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible. Personal touches you've added to your home with décor, custom artwork, souvenirs, and personal belongings should be removed. Removing personal items and opting for colors with wide appeal helps buyers imagine what their lives will be like living in the house and avoids any strong negative reactions. And that makes them more likely to buy.

There are a lot of things you can do to get your home in top shape to sell. A little time and effort on your part can make buyers feel welcome and have them making offers in no time!


8 Habits of Successful Home Sellers

Selling a home is complex, whether you're doing it for the first time or have some experience with a prior sale. As with any complex process, it really helps to look at the habits of people who have navigated the process successfully in the past. While every home and market is unique, the basics – from prepping your home to keeping it ready to show – remain the same. Start your next home sale on the right foot with our guide to eight habits of successful home sellers.  

  1. Clean Your Home from Top to Bottom
    A clean home is an absolute must if you want to catch the attention of serious buyers, so start by doing a deep cleaning of the home from top to bottom. That includes the hidden corners, areas behind furniture, and lesser-used rooms of the home. Think spring cleaning on overdrive, for every inch of your home.
  2. De-cluttered Closets Make Buyers Swoon
    Storage space is a big priority for most buyers, no matter the size of the home. That means they want to see spacious, organized closets and storage areas. Donate unneeded items, rent a storage unit if needed, and consider a garage sale to clear clutter while raising some cash for your move.
  3. Keep Up with Curb Appeal
    Buyers begin evaluating a home as soon as they arrive at the curb, so you want the outdoor areas of your home to be clean, attractive, and well-maintained. Stay on top of landscaping maintenance, keep your yard clutter-free, and make sure your home's entrance is looking its best.
  4. Make Maintenance a Priority
    You don't want buyers to perceive the home as a "fixer-upper," so maintenance is a must. A pre-listing inspection can help identify any maintenance issues, and allow you to address them before buyers arrive.
  5. Tidy Up Daily to Stay Show-Ready
    All of the work that you have invested in cleaning, de-cluttering, and boosting curb appeal needs to be maintained over time so that the home is always ready to be shown to potential buyers. Make sure to tidy up daily, clean floors often, keep clutter at bay, clean up after pets, and freshen fabrics as needed.
  6. Spread the Word Every Week
    The right real estate agent will help you promote your home online to the wider community of buyers, but you can also do plenty within your own personal network. Be sure to mention regularly on social media that the home is for sale, and mention it in-person to friends who may help spread the word.
  7. Respond to Offers Promptly
    With all of the effort put into preparing and promoting the home, it's likely that offers will follow. Buyers don't like to wait too long for a response, so be sure to respond promptly to serious offers.
  8. Sit Down with Your Real Estate Agent
    No matter where you are in the process, your real estate agent should be your most valuable source of guidance and insight. Make it a priority to meet with or talk to your agent regularly, to discuss strategy, find answers to key questions, and learn everything you can about the current real estate market.

Successful home sellers are willing to work at the process every day and look for every opportunity to present their home in the best possible light. Behind most successful home sellers, you'll also find a successful real estate agent, who provides marketing, guidance, and market analysis for the seller.


Home Sellers: 5 Exterior Features Buyers Want

If you're thinking about selling your home, now is the time to start making any necessary renovations and updates. While you might think you know exactly what needs to be done, it's smart to talk to a real estate agent before you get started. He or she will be able to tell you exactly which features are most popular with homebuyers so you can focus your time and money on the projects most likely to improve your bottom line. 

While buyers often have varying priorities when it comes to a home's interior, most may want the same features on the outside. Investing in the following five projects will help increase the chances of selling your home for top dollar. 

  1. Exterior Lighting
    Illuminating the outside of your house with landscape lighting and spotlights can transform it from a beautiful home to one that's absolutely breathtaking. Not only will it bring attention to the home's architectural features and perfectly manicured lawn, but it also adds an element of safety that's highly desirable. Add solar-powered lights, motion-sensors, and smart lights to make an even greater impact. 
  2. Outdoor Patio
    If you have a large backyard, potential buyers will love imagining themselves relaxing outdoors with a cool drink in their hand. An outdoor patio and seating area expand your home's livable space, making it more attractive to potential buyers.

    Adding a well-designed concrete patio is one of the best ways to make your home appear larger without undertaking a major renovation. If you already have a patio, put the effort into repairing it and making it look as new as possible. This small project can bring a huge return on investment. 
  3. Firepit
    Homes with outdoor fire pits allow owners to enjoy spending time in the backyard almost all year long. A nice-looking firepit will entice homebuyers, especially if it runs on natural gas. Build a beautiful structure, and you're likely to recoup almost all of your investment in the form of a higher sale price.

    Before jumping into this project, make sure you're following all of the local ordinances and necessary safety precautions. The last thing you want to do is add something to your home that will cause you problems down the line. 
  4. Landscaping/Garden
    Even if you don't make any major changes to the outside of your home, paying attention to your landscaping and garden will have a major impact on its curb appeal. Fertilize your lawn, touch up the mulch, and trim your bushes and overgrown trees.

    Maintain your perennial flower beds and add some annuals for instant color. If you have unique plants around your home, consider labeling them as they might help attract the right kind of buyer. Finish your project off by adding a water feature to make your yard feel like a relaxing oasis. 
  5. Outdoor Kitchen
    Outdoor living is hugely popular right now, making a great outdoor kitchen one of the most coveted features for home buyers. Depending on the scope of the project and the size and location of the home, sellers adding an outdoor kitchen can typically expect to break even or make as much as 20 percent back on their investment.

    When building an outdoor kitchen, you'll want to focus it around the grill and make sure you have plenty of counter space. Keep it simple and avoid adding extras like a pizza oven, as the new homebuyer might not want these features, causing them to be undervalued. 

7 Must-Dos on an Open House Day

Besides the work you do before the open house, it's a good idea to make a quick trip through just before your real estate agent arrives. When you're selling your home, its appearance makes a measurable difference in how people view it, whether it's online or in person. The neater and cleaner it is, the better the home comes across to buyers.  

Just before the open house, make a pass through your home to check its condition by area. 

  1. Kitchen
    Make sure the dishwasher is empty and the refrigerator and freezer clean and organized. The real estate agent may want to chill bottled water for people attending. Home shoppers will also open its doors, assuming you include the appliance with the house. If you're taking it with, you might put a sign on its door saying so. 

    Make sure all the counters are free from clutter and crumbs. It's especially important to remove personal items from the counters in a small kitchen. Put them in your trunk or a cardboard box in the garage if there's no room elsewhere to keep them. Check the microwave and clean any spills. 
  2. Bathroom
    Even though home shoppers shouldn't use your bathrooms, treat them as if someone will. Before the agent who is selling your home arrives, be sure you hang new towels and a new roll of tissue, dump the trash can and set out a neutral air freshener. 
  3. Living Areas
    Touch up the carpet by running the vacuum cleaner over it quickly or dust the floor if it's a hard surface. Most people prefer light rooms so open the window coverings to let in the sunshine. Even though it's preferable to use daylight for room illumination when selling your home, turn on lamps to use as accents. 
  4. Dining Room
    It's helpful if the people viewing your home can envision living in it themselves. Setting the table will give them an impression of daily life. If you have an informal eating area in the kitchen or nearby, be sure to set that table too, since people are more likely to eat there than in a formal setting. A bouquet of live flowers is always an engaging touch on either or both tables. 
  5. Bedrooms
    Everyone's bedroom needs to look presentable. Be sure nothing is on the floors. Check the closets to verify that no one has jammed everything it. Open the window coverings and turn on a bed stand light. 
  6. Garage
    Unless there is something unique about your garage, it's probably not necessary to move all your vehicles from it, especially if there are stains on the floor. The primary purpose behind an open house is to get people to look at it and drum up interest. Garage conditions don't make or break too many sales so unless it's dirty and messy, make sure it is organized and clean. 
  7. Yard
    Visitors will form lasting impressions the moment they drive up to your home. Make sure that you mow the grass and the front door looks appealing. The landscaping should have something of interest like flowers to move shoppers toward the door. A landscaping service will increase your yard's appeal when selling your home. 

In the Doghouse? Tips for Homeowners with Pets

Selling a house that has pets? Potential buyers may automatically expect fur, odors, dirt, and damage. Luckily, you have time to erase all traces before you list. If you're a homeowner and a pet owner, don't let your beloved family members become financial obstacles. Keep them out of the selling and showings altogether with a few practical real estate strategies.

Here are some of the most valuable steps to take in order to sell a home with pets:

  • Keep Pets and Pet Supplies Out of Photos
    Professional real estate photography can make all the difference for a listing, but your rooms will look less valuable if you forget this crucial step. Before the photos are taken, stash anything that belongs to your pets in cabinets and closets. That means litter boxes, dog toys, scratching posts, water bowls, and any other dead giveaway that animals live there.

    Of course, once the photos are taken, it's a good idea to keep these items out of sight for good. If you need to take them back out, make a note of each item. Then, make sure you find it and put it away before anyone shows up. It's easy to overlook the supplies you see every day (for example, leashes hanging near the back door or food bowls on the kitchen floor). Your list will prevent slip-ups when you're in a rush.

  • Get Rid of All Pet Odors
    Whether or not your pets have accidents inside, there's a very good chance they changed the odor of your home. Fur, oils, and dirt get trapped in carpet and upholstery, and covering them with new smells are only temporary. Instead, spray pet-specific products, such as odor eliminators with enzymes, on all your furniture, rugs, drapes, textiles, and carpet. Don't forget to replace all your air filters too.

    Of course, you might be "nose-blind" to your home's odors, so it's important to get an outsider's perspective. If you think the smell's gone (or didn't notice it in the first place), get a second opinion. Your real estate agent, friends, and even neighbors will be able to tell you whether any scent lingers. If it does, invest in an air purifier, a fan with a high-quality filter, or even professional cleaning services.

  • Make Arrangements for Last-Minute Pet Care
    As soon as your home is listed, you have to start living like a buyer could arrive at any time. Being flexible and keeping things clean (or easy to put away quickly) helps your real estate agent maximize your opportunities to sell. It also eliminates the risk of any encounters that upset the strangers in your home. Of course, that means pets need to come with you when you leave.

    Prepare your carriers and leashes for a quick exit, and find a place you can always bring your pets for a couple of hours, like a dog park or a friend's house. Remember: you may already be out of the house the next time you get a call. If you're not home when it's time for a showing, you will need to call a reliable pet-sitter who can bring them elsewhere for you. Arrange this now, before you run out of options and have to turn down a visit.

Are you ready to turn your cozy doghouse into a home that will sell? Before you list, make sure you take these steps to keep pets out of the picture.


Nine Things That Top a Millennial Wish List

There are many misconceptions about what drives Millennial homebuyers to make an offer on a property. When you are selling your home, cutting through the "wrong" ideas can make your home more appealing to this highly motivated demographic. As you prepare your listing, the following are nine things that are at the top of a Millennial buyer's wish list.

  1. Room to Grow
    The majority of Millennial homebuyers are around 30. They are eager to settle down and start a family. This means they want a property with an extra bedroom or two, a yard, and enough space for them to put down solid, stable roots. Three bedrooms and two bathrooms within a 2,500 square foot home is an ideal property for this demographic. 
  2. Value for the Money
    75% of Millennial homebuyers view homeownership as a good investment that can create wealth over the long-term. As a result, selling your home to a Millennial buyer requires demonstrating that the property is likely to continue appreciating.
  3. Location Matters
    For Millennials, location is more than just a good neighborhood that is close to good schools and shopping. It also entails places that are close to public transportation or within walking distance of where they work, grocery stores, parks, etc.
  4. Technologically Up-to-Date
    Many Millennials work from home and require a reliable internet connection and cellular network. Connectivity is crucial when selling your home to Millennial buyers. Furthermore, homeowners who invest in smart features including smart home security systems, smart thermostats, etc. can set their property apart from the competition.
  5. Energy Efficiency
    With energy bills rising across the country, energy efficiency is something that transcends demographics. Millennials are cost-sensitive to energy bills for many reasons. These include environmental awareness and the desire to apply the savings towards other purposes including investments, vacations, etc.
  6. Stylish and Appealing
    Setting the stage for Millennial homebuyers is essential. When selling your home to Millennials, they want to see modern home decor. This means color schemes that are stylish, newer appliances, furniture placement that opens the rooms up, and an absolute minimal level of bric-a-brac throughout the home. Modern traditional is the most commonly desired type of home for Millennial homebuyers.
  7. Outdoor Space
    Millennials love to entertain and relax at home. They want landscapes that are well-kept and suitable for entertaining guests, and they want retreats where they can rest and recharge after a long day at work. Towards this end, homes with large patios, spacious decks, outdoor kitchens, and a bit of grass are ideal features to promote when you are selling your home.
  8. Minimal Maintenance
    Millennials are a busy group and don't want to spend any more time trimming trees, fixing roofs, or dusting shelves than is necessary. The lower the maintenance requirements of the home, the more appealing it is to millennial homebuyers. Similarly, Millennials are highly sensitive to HOA fees and rigid HOA requirements. In this regard, they want minimal financial obligations and plenty of creative flexibility when it comes to their home.
  9. Modern Kitchens & Bathrooms
    It is possible that no generation in history has enjoyed cooking at home more than millennials. Millennials want name brand stainless steel appliances, six-burner ranges, wine-coolers, dual ovens, solid wood cabinetry, sustainable stone countertops, and plenty of room to gather and socialize with family and friends. This trend continues in the bathroom where glass shower doors, stone counters, and brushed nickel fixtures are appealing features that millennials will look for when you are selling your home. 

Multiple Offers? Here's How to Choose the Right One

In today's hot real estate market, it's not uncommon to receive multiple offers shortly after listing your home for sale. Since getting top dollar is a common goal when selling your home, you may feel tempted to jump on the offer with the highest price. However, doing so could be a mistake. Before you accept an offer, consider these seven other important factors.

  1. Cash Offer
    An all-cash offer usually tends to be lower than other offers, but it's often the safest option. When the buyer doesn't have to worry about getting bank approval, there's far less of a chance that the deal will fall through. If selling your home quickly is a priority, this may be your best bet.

  2. Buyer Pre-Approval
    If your potential buyer isn't paying cash, you'll want to see a pre-approval letter from the buyer's lender. Accepting an offer from a pre-approved buyer is much safer than taking your chances on one without it. You must also understand that pre-qualification is not the same as pre-approval. A buyer who has only been pre-qualified still may not receive loan approval once they go through the full underwriting process.
  1. Contingencies
    When you receive an offer, there's a good chance there will be a list of things that need to happen before the final deal can go through. These are known as contingencies and often include things like inspections, appraisals, and financing approval. As a seller, you'll want to consider the offer with the fewest contingencies and the shortest amount of time you'll have to wait until you're fully under contract.

  2. Loan Type
    The type of loan your potential buyer is using also makes a difference. Conventional mortgages are fairly simple to obtain. However, if the buyer is using an FHA, VA, or other government-back loans, there is a greater chance for delays. With these types of loans, it's common for the lender to require additional approvals and repairs before final loan approval.
  3. Seller Expenses
    Carefully review each offer for seller costs, which will lower your final profit. This includes items like seller-paid closing costs and requested repairs. If a buyer is requesting that you include appliances like the washer and dryer, factor in the value of these items when determining the total value of the offer.

  4. Closing Timeline
    How soon the buyer wants to close can also have a big impact on deciding which offer is right for you. If you're building a new home or need to delay moving for some other reason, then an extended closing timeline may save you the hassle and expense of having to move twice. If you've already purchased a new home and are paying two mortgages, then you might want to choose the offer that will close the soonest.

  5. Earnest Money
    When submitting a purchase offer, buyers must make an initial deposit, called earnest money. This typically ranges between one and three percent of the purchase price. If the buyer gets cold feet after the contract is executed, the seller is usually allowed to keep the earnest money. When comparing two similar offers, the one with more earnest money offers you more security. 

Working with a qualified real estate agent when selling your home will give you the peace of mind you need to make good decisions.


Home Sellers: Overpricing Your Home Can Be Risky Business

Location and condition aren't the only things that can keep you from selling your home. In a healthy real estate market, houses that don't sell after awhile are at a significant disadvantage. One issue that can keep an otherwise desirable house from selling is a price that's too high.

Many homeowners are eager to set a relatively high price when they go to market.

There are several reasons:

  • They believe that by setting a higher price, they will leave room for buyers to negotiate.
  • They expect that by selling at a higher price, they can save money financing a new home.
  • They include the "invisible" sentimental value of their home when calculating the price.

Unfortunately, there are good reasons why a higher asking price spooks buyers. It can take qualified buyers out of the running even if they can afford the home.

If you are selling your home, learning about pricing can help.

The Psychology of Pricing Can Scare Qualified Buyers Away

In big-ticket items such as houses and cars, pricing is anything but an exact science.

Unfortunately, the more valuable an item is, the easier it is to misjudge its fair market value. This is especially true of things, such as houses, that cause great sentimental attachment.

In many cases, people who are otherwise ready to buy your home will decline to make an offer not because they feel the price is unreasonable, but because better bargains are available.

What's more, there are psychological factors involved:

  • Buyers might feel that offering less than the asking price will be offensive to the seller.
  • Buyers may believe (incorrectly) that the seller already knows the house is overpriced.
  • Buyers typically assume the seller has already entertained other "lowball" offers.

When selling your home, the price is an important signal to prospective buyers. If the price is not in tune to both your needs and market conditions, it will create confusion.

Remember, this doesn't mean a house has to be underpriced just to sell! Instead, sellers should look to the expertise of a trusted real estate professional for a proven pricing methodology.

How Should Sellers Price a Home When They Want Results?

To develop an accurate picture of the fair market value of a home, ask your real estate agent to prepare a comparative market analysis (CMA) for you. He or she will look at recent sales in the neighborhood as well as sales of comparable homes – those with similar amenities.

Only after doing this research is it possible to select a price that:

  • Helps the sellers achieve their financial goals through the sale of the home.
  • Ensures the home gets sold fast enough to avoid stagnating on the market.
  • Attracts several qualified buyers, the real negotiating leverage for sellers.

The price a real estate professional comes up with may be lower than what you first expect. However, a good home can still be priced somewhat higher than average for the local market. In the long run, this leads to an easier and more rewarding selling experience.

Pricing Issues Can Sink Your "FSBO" Listing

Many sellers choose "for sale by owner" methods because they think it'll be quicker and easier.  When it comes down to it, many FSBO listings are either overpriced or underpriced.  Studies show FSBO listings sell for substantially less than agent-led listings.

No matter what your goals are, your first step in selling your home should be to contact a reputable local real estate agent. That way, you can get on track for the results you want.


Is It Time to Sell Your Home?

Do you know if now is the right time to consider selling your home?

Don't worry — many homeowners scratch their heads at this same question. While buying a home is an important decision, selling your home is a matter of equal significance. When you first consider selling your current home to purchase a new house, a million thoughts may fill your mind.

For some, selling a home involves questions of practicality: when is the best time to sell, how do I know if I can afford a new home, will buyers want to purchase my home in its current condition?

For others, saying goodbye to a home is like saying farewell to part of the family. They'll often have emotional concerns that raise stressful questions: can I really leave our family's first home and will I ever find a home that feels just as special?

If you're unsure whether or not now is the right time to sell your home, you're not alone. Thankfully, there are a handful of key questions you can ask yourself to help you determine if there's no better time than the present to sell your home.

Question 1: Does it feel like your home is getting too big or too small?
As you transition into different periods of your life, the needs of you and your family will change. With the lifestyle you currently have, and where you believe it's headed, consider if the size of your home is adequate to accommodate these needs. If your young family of four is starting to grow in a small two-bedroom home, you may consider upsizing. However, if your children have moved out of the house and you're considering retirement, it may be in your best interest to downsize.

Question 2: Is it a wise financial move?
Take a look at your finances and think about whether you can reasonably afford —or not afford — to move. Selling your home may be a great idea for those who have been saving for years or who want to lower their mortgage expenses. However, it may not be a wise choice for those that may be unable to take on the financial requirements of a new home responsibly. Also, it's wise to discover whether or not your home has equity or if you'll have to make renovations before you can realistically ask for your targeted price.

Question 3: What is the current status of your local real estate market?
Is your area in the midst a housing boom or has the market not been favorable for sellers over the last few years? Depending on the market, selling your home may not be a wise idea even if the answers to the questions above insist that you should. Ultimately, you want to receive a fair price for your current home so that you're able to afford your next property. Selling in a buyer's market or during a recession may not be a smart choice.

Question 4: Is this the right time for you to sell your home?
Although the changing seasons can make it easier or harder to quickly sell your home, you also have to consider if this is the right time for you personally to take on this transition. If you have major life changes coming up that may impact you financially or occupationally, it may be best to wait. However, if you've responsibly prepared yourself to sell and feel that you can comfortably make the next move, perhaps now is the best time for you to consider selling your home!


8 Things Agents Do to Sell Your Home

Are you considering selling your home? Then it's time to call a real estate professional.

When it comes to property sales, a real estate agent is one of the greatest resources a seller has. Of course, an agent can help you successfully sell your home. However, what most homeowners don't know is that a real estate agent performs a variety of other critical duties both during the sale and behind the scenes.

Read on to discover eight things that real estate agents do to help you sell your home!

  1. An agent uses their knowledge and experience to sell your property successfully.
    An experienced real estate agent may have years, if not decades, of experience successfully selling homes in your area. This means that they know housing trends, what buyers in this area desire and what not to do to impede or disinterest potential buyers. This level of experience helps them accurately price your home at a rate that is intriguing to buyers and beneficial to you.
  2. They will market your home professionally.
    Your home may be perfect for a potential buyer, but they may never know it unless the home is marketed well. Selling your home involves more than simply listing it and waiting for offers. Agents will create listings that feature professional-quality photography to showcase your home in its best light. They will also create a buzz for your home by communicating through other channels like videos, brochures, social media and their connections.
  3. Agents will keep you motivated and informed. 
    Selling your home doesn't have to be a worrisome experience. A great agent will be in constant communication with you as you both strive to accomplish your goal. They'll request feedback from showings and pass this information along to you. They'll also be available to answer all of your questions throughout the process.
  4. They can take care of the paperwork for you.
    Selling your home is a significant undertaking, and since you'll only sell once or twice in your lifetime, it can seem like quite a commitment. Thankfully, real estate agents sell homes frequently and can assist you by filling out the necessary paperwork for you before the listing and during the sale. This also ensures that you're performing this sale following all laws and legal requirements.
  5. Real estate agents won't let you sell your home to an unqualified buyer.
    Although many people are pre-qualified to purchase a home, not all are pre-approved. Agents understand this fact and will make sure that potential buyers are pre-approved so that the sale won't fall through due to the inability to secure a loan.
  6. They'll also negotiate with the buyer's agent for you.
    There are three different prices on a home: what you think it's worth, what the buyer thinks it's worth and what it's actually worth. Agents negotiate the best terms with buyers so that both parties are happy.
  7. Agents are present for the home's inspection and appraisal process.
    Great agents go out of their way to attend the inspection and appraisal of the home. This allows them to answer any important questions and immediately let you know what the inspector or appraisal agent says. This also helps them mitigate any buyer requests like repairs or replacements that might be unreasonable.
  8. Agents make sure the home is closed correctly.
    Wouldn't you be disappointed if your home sale fell through during closing? Agents try to prevent that from happening by tying up all loose ends and ensuring that the property is legally ready to sell according to the terms the buyer agreed upon.

7 Things Home Sellers Forget to Do

When it comes to selling your home, there are a lot of important things you need to get done. While you're worrying about finding the right real estate agent, staging your home for photos, and improving its curb appeal, it's easy for some other important details to fall through the cracks. 

Forgetting to do the little things can sometimes cost you big money. Don't fall into this trap! Here are seven of the most common things that home sellers forget to do.

  1. Google Your Address
    Since most home buyers start their journey by searching online, it makes sense for you to do some research on your home. 

    Start by doing a Google search of your address. Check out the street view on Google Maps. Also, take a look to see what the major home sites are using for your property's estimated value. If it seems off, check to make sure all of the information (like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms) is correct. Reach out to the sites to make corrections if needed. 

  2. Clean the Inside of Everything
    When potential buyers come to look at your home, there's a good chance they'll open doors and look inside things. Make sure you're ready by thoroughly cleaning the inside of all appliances, drawers, and closets. If you have a garage or a basement, make sure these are clean and organized as well.

  3. Double-Check the Little Details
    First impressions are important, so make sure you pay attention to the little details. Check to make sure everything is dusted, light bulbs aren't burned out, and the doorbell works. Failing to do these things might make buyers wonder what else in the house been neglected. 

  4. Get a Pre-Listing Inspection
    Having your home inspected before you put it on the market will help you find and fix problems ahead of time. This lessens that chance that a buyer will have second thoughts when they get their own pre-closing inspection. It also helps ensure you're not blindsided by any unpleasant surprises that could seriously impact your selling price. 

  5. Make a List of Problems With Your Home
    Before selling your home, you'll most likely have to complete a statement disclosing all of the things that are wrong with it. You're expected to include all past issues like a roof leak, basement flood, or small kitchen fire, even if the damage has been repaired. 

    If you've lived in the house a while, it might take some effort to remember everything. Make things easier by keeping a running list as things come to mind. 

  6. Ask About Your Realtor's Marketing Plan
    We live in a digital world, and social media marketing can play a huge role in selling your home quickly. Before you sign a contract with a realtor, ask about his or her marketing plan. If social media isn't a part of this plan, it could be a sign that you need to find another agent.

  7. Clarify Which Items You're Taking With You
    Don't make the mistake of getting into a disagreement with a buyer because he or she fell in love with something that you didn't intend to leave in the house. If there are items in the home like a light fixture or mirror that you plan to take with you when you move, make sure you let your realtor know this ahead of time. 

7 Questions to Ask a Listing Agent

Your house is a valuable asset, and likely the most valuable asset within your portfolio. There is no question that you want to get the best price possible when selling your home. As with all investments, getting the price you want requires answering the hard questions. To that end, the following are seven questions that every seller should ask their real estate agent before listing.

  1. What Experience Do You Have? 
    It is always advisable to go over a prospective real estate agent's credentials before choosing to list with them. Not only do you want to know that they have significant experience under their belt, but that they have experience with the specific type of property you want to list.
  2. What is Your Marketing Strategy?
    You should ask how the real estate agent recommends marketing the listing. Marketing strategies and options are vastly different than they were just a few years ago. Your real estate agent should know how to use the latest tools to your advantage effectively.
  3. How do You Communicate?
    Bad communication can sink even the easiest deals. When you are selling your home, it is a good idea to discuss your real estate agent's communication style. It is also a good idea to convey your style and determine the best ways for you to merge the two.
  4. What Strengths/Detriments do You See in the Property?
    Every home has good and bad things that prospective clients may notice. The key is to promote the positives and address the negatives. A seasoned real estate agent can help you identify the greatest strengths of your property. They can also help you navigate the negatives and address issues that can be corrected before listing the home. It is important to listen intently to what the real estate has to say as their answers can help add considerable value to the property.
  5. How Solid is Your Knowledge of Home Loans?
    When you are selling your home, the ability of the buyer to secure the loan is a make or break proposition. The more your real estate agent knows about the loan products that are available and the processes buyers need to go through, the better off you will be.

    Moreover, not every lender has a positive reputation. Dealing with lenders who are shady or distrustful can cause a deal to fall through at any time. The best real estate agents have good relationships with reputable lenders and take proactive steps to keep a deal from falling through because of financing issues.
  6. What is the Agent's Track Record?
    Like sports stars, real estate agents take considerable pride in their real estate record. You will want to know their stats before you sign them on to your team. Start by asking questions regarding their list-to-price ratio; this is the final sales price divided by the final listing price. You will also want to know how long their listings stay on the market. When you are selling your home, these two stats will help you determine if the agent is the best agent for your property.
  7. Who is on Your Team?
    No real estate agent works alone. When you hire a real estate agent for help with selling your home, you want to know as much as possible about the staff they have on their team. It is a good idea to ask them about the assistants, photographers, lenders, and other people the real estate agent relies on to seal the deal.

6 Tips for Selling Your Home This Winter

This winter season may be the perfect time to list your home for sale. Some shoppers may be motivated to buy before year's end.  Making your home appealing to prospective buyers is key to catching their attention and sealing the deal. Using these six tips to get your home ready for the market and let this winter be a season be your selling success story.

  1. Make a Statement With Curb Appeal
    The first thing buyers will see when viewing your home is its exterior. Ensure that your walkway is in good condition and clear of snow, ice, and debris. Tidy up the front porch by replacing old or broken containers and cleaning the windows and doors.
  2. Make Your Home More Inviting
    During the colder months, buyers will likely spend more time assessing your home's interior than looking around outside. You'll want to be sure that your house is super clean, giving attention to corners, nooks and crannies and closets. Get rid of the clutter in your home by organizing and neatly storing items you are keeping and disposing of or donating the rest.
  3. Focus on Lighting
    Allow natural light to enter your home by keeping your curtains and blinds open when showing your home, and turn on the lights in each room. This simple act allows the buyer to see all that your home has to offer and adds both warmth and depth to your home's interior. Add or update lighting fixtures to highlight the architectural features and decor of your home for a more dramatic effect.
  4. Win Them Over With Warmth
    Set the temperature to a comfortable level before showing your house. Selling your home in the winter is much easier if you exhibit an environment that is warm and comfortable for visiting buyers. Be sure to have your heating system serviced and in good operating condition before listing your home. If you have gas logs, turn them on for added warmth and aesthetic appeal.
  5. Avoid Added Scents
    Not everyone has the same taste in scents, and some buyers may even be allergic to room sprays, scented candles, and other fragrances. You want your home to smell clean.   Be careful, adding overpowering scents may dissuade some buyers and can even be a distraction in your otherwise beautiful home.
  6. Create a Welcoming Atmosphere
    Welcome buyers personally when showing your home and offer them a warm drink such as cider, coffee or tea. Use tasteful and complimentary decor to set a cozy mood in each room, and use small touches such as greenery to welcome potential buyers home.

Set aside some time in your schedule to make your home a winter showcase before listing, and see how much difference these tips can make. 


How Long Should You Live in Your Home?

You may have bought your home as a starter, or perhaps you've outgrown your space. What you thought was your dream home might no longer suit your lifestyle. The fact is, people, sell their homes for a variety of reasons, and there's no rule of thumb for exactly how long you should stay in your current house.

If the thought of selling your home has crossed your mind recently, it may be time to revisit your goals to determine if now is the best time for you to make a move. Give some consideration to the following scenarios, and if they are right for you, it just might be time to list your home for sale.

Area Homes Are Selling High
Browse through listings for homes in your neighborhood, paying particularly close attention to homes comparable to yours in size and features. If the list prices seem high, it might be time to pay attention and do some further research. Using public information, or better yet, the help of a qualified real estate agent, you can see what similar homes in your community are selling for currently and recently. You may be able to make a nice profit by selling your home.

Two Words: Seller's Market
A seller's market happens when more potential buyers are looking for homes than there are homes available. The cards are stacked in your favor in this scenario when selling your home, as you are more likely to get at or above your asking price. Your real estate agent will know the market trends, so letting them know that you are thinking of selling your home will allow them to alert you of the best time to list.

Your Home is Cramping Your Style
Has your family grown since purchasing your home? Perhaps you've begun working from home, but don't have enough space for a proper home office. Many homeowners choose to sell when their current home is no longer big enough for their family's needs. It's important to weigh the pros and cons of additions and renovations against buying a new home that already has the features your family now needs.

Your Home Has Become a Financial Burden
If you underestimated the costs of home ownership when buying, you might be feeling a constant strain on your budget. A different neighborhood may have a lower cost of living, and you may even want a smaller home that requires less maintenance. Smaller homes or those in more affordable neighborhoods could potentially cost less in property taxes, homeowner insurance, and utility bills as well.


How to Hire a Reliable Mover

The process of selling your home and finding a reliable mover can be as stressful as meeting your potential spouse or starting a new career. It doesn't matter if you're moving a few miles away or a few hours away, you want to hire a moving company that you can trust.  How can you tell the difference between a reliable moving company and a bad one before they start loading your prized possessions on their truck?  These tips from the experts will teach you what to look for when talking to potential moving companies to make selling your home less stressful.

  • Get recommendations for a local mover.  Ask your friends and neighbors who they've used in the past. You may even want to ask your real estate agent for a few names.  While researching movers on the Internet won't hurt, visit nearby movers where you can visit their local office.  Finding a nearby mover gives them the opportunity to do an in-person estimate of how much it'll cost to move your belongings.
  • Conduct a background check on several moving companies.  Verify that they are licensed by checking their U.S. Department of Transportation number (USDOT number). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration assigns one to every moving company.  Professional moving companies will have the license available to show to you.  This also lets you check if they're current with their insurance. Check to see if they belong to the American Moving and Storage Administration (AMSA). If they are a member, it means they follow federal moving and storage regulations.
  • Read moving company reviews online.  Pay attention to how many overall reviews the company has, and if the percentage is skewed more positive or negative. Generally, if the positive ones outweigh the negative, it's a reputable company.  Consider running a search of potential companies through the Better Business Bureau, since any recent complaints will pop up.
  • Get in-house estimates from at least three moving companies. Avoid companies that only want to give you an estimate over the phone quote. An over-the-phone estimate doesn't work because even if you tell someone you live in a three-bedroom house, it doesn't clarify how much furniture or boxes need moving.
  • Show the in-house estimator everything that needs to go, whether it's in the bedrooms, closets, basement, or even the attic. If you suddenly have more stuff on moving day, the estimator can challenge his original quote, if he catches it before packing the truck. While he can't technically force you to pay more, you can't force him to move stuff not listed in the estimate.  Therefore, it's best to be up front early. Include information about your new home as well, such as if it's a narrow street or a two-level home.
  • Compare your estimates, checking for ones that may seem overly high or low. These should be a red flag since your stuff should cost around the same ballpark figure to move. You don't want to pick the cheapest one necessarily, and the high one could be ripping you off.
  • Research what kind of insurance each moving company offers.  Generally, the most common plan is the Full Replacement Value Protection Plan, which means if any item is damaged, the movers will repair or replace it with its value.

Keep these tips in mind as you go through the process of selling your home. It's a lengthy list, but it will feel great to check one thing off your checklist—hiring the movers.


9 Ways to Save Money When You're Moving

When you listed your home for sale, you knew someday you'd have to move. Unfortunately, the process can be stressful and time-consuming. It can also be surprisingly expensive.  If you're moving, you can't eliminate expenses altogether, but these nine tips should help you save some cash. 

  1. Get organized
    At least a month before your scheduled move, create a moving to-do list and mark off each task as you go. Organizing your move will help you plan each step. You can avoid last-minute overspending on unanticipated purchases.
  2. Get rid of the pounds
    Professional movers charge by the pound and the more stuff you have, the bigger the DIY rental truck. Do a ruthless decluttering to get rid of junk you won't use. Have a moving sale to make money on your decluttering efforts or donate unwanted items where you can get a tax deduction.
  3. Economize on moving supplies 
    To get the freebie boxes you need, you might have to ask a grocery store's night crew to put some aside for you. The bigger stores dismantle or pitch boxes after stocking the stores at night. You might not have that problem at a smaller store. 

    You can sometimes stock-up on discount packing tape and bubble wrap in a dollar store. You'll also get a good deal by buying shipping supplies in bulk at membership stores like Sam's Club or Costco. Limit bubble wrap costs by cushioning TVs and delicate electronics with blankets, quilts, and pillows.
  4. Take your time when DIY packing
    Instead of a rushed marathon packing session, spread your tasks over several weeks. When you do a leisurely pack, you won't use as many supplies and you'll have more time to find donatable items.
  5. Save on your truck rental
    Guarantee your rental by reserving early. If the truck size you need is unavailable, you'll pay more for a larger truck or have to make more trips with a smaller truck. Get loading and unloading help if you're moving locally. The work will go faster and you'll avoid paying for extra rental days. 
  6. Compare mover's costs
    Consumer Reports recommends getting three estimates before you commit to a mover. Review the details carefully. Ask questions about charges you don't understand. To help you choose, look for mover complaints and reviews on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Better Business Bureau sites and on social media.
  7. Control additional charges
    Professional movers charge extra for using elevators or stairs, moving pianos, guaranteed arrival dates, and many other items you might think are free. Make sure you understand which services have additional costs so you can plan for them or avoid them. 
  8. Use a container service
    PODS, Upack, and other shipping container companies, combine DIY with professional moving. They drop off a big container. You load it at your leisure. When you're ready, you schedule a truck to move it to your new destination.
  9. Employer relocation assistance
    If you're relocating to a new job, ask your employer about relocation benefits. They may have a program to reimburse your costs or contribute a flat dollar amount.

First-time Sellers: 6 Tips to Get the Job Done

Selling your first home takes a big commitment of time, energy, and emotion. You'll leave behind your first-home memories while looking for a new place to start all over again. It's not an easy job, but it's worth it.

6 Tips for Selling Your Home

Until you sign the papers on your new and current home, you'll pull double-duty as a home buyer and a home seller. It's a tough job, but it's doable when you have a plan. Here are six tips to help you get the job done.

  1. Don't Wait!
    You'll have to get your current home ready for the market while searching for the next place you'll call home. Time constraints, job duties, even treasured memories can hinder the process. It's important to set a things-to-do schedule and get an early start.

  2. Find a Real Estate Professional
    When you're selling your home, connecting with a real estate professional will ease the strain of simultaneously marketing and buying. Your realtor can offer advice on pre-listing home preparation. When you're too busy to search for a home that meets your criteria, your realtor keeps your search going.

    You need someone with knowledge of your current community and the community where you've decided to relocate. Ask enough questions to feel comfortable with their marketing, negotiating, and closing experience.

  3. Do Your Pre-Listing Preparation
    You can't just list it and hope for the best. This is where your plan for selling your home kicks into high gear.

    Remove unnecessary furniture, toys, appliances, tools and other objects crowding your space. Store personal mementos and cultural displays so every potential buyer will feel at home. 

    Repair and Upgrade:
    Fix all the little things you always wanted to fix but didn't have time. Repair wall dings and dents and paint your walls in neutral colors. Replace broken bathroom and kitchen tiles. Consider upgrading anything that looks worn and faded. DIY what you can to save money. Hire a pro for tasks you can't do or prefer not to do.

    Consider hiring a pro to clean everything thoroughly from top to bottom.

    Enhance: Add final touches to beautify your home's interior and heighten your curb appeal. Add lighting, decor, and room-brightening window treatments. Upgrade your landscaping with plants and flowers. Keep your lawn mowed until you can turn the job over to the new owner. 

    Your realtor can give you pointers on arranging your rooms to look their best. You can also hire a professional stager. 

  4. Price it Right
    When you overprice, selling your home takes too long. When you underprice, you lose money. Do the research.  Your realtor can conduct a comparative market analysis of recently sold homes. You can check current listings for prices on homes similar to yours. Your comparables research will help you price it right.

  5. List With Professional Photos
    The NAR 2017 Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers tells us that 51% of homebuyers begin their search online. You need great listing photos to catch a buyer's eye. To maximize your listing visibility, hire a professional photographer.

  6. Be Flexible
    Selling your home requires flexibility. You must be available for home showings and respond to offers quickly. You must be a fair and flexible negotiator and make concessions when necessary. 

It's Worth the Effort

Selling your home is a labor of love. When you hand over your keys to the new owner, you'll feel the thrill of making someone's homeowner dream come true. When you close on your new home, you get to repeat the process all over again. 


What Sellers Should Know About VA Loans

The Veterans Administration home loan program, also known as a VA loan, has helped millions of Americans become homeowners. But some sellers still don't have much information about how these loans work. When you're selling your home, being informed will help you make a good decision.

How the Process Works
A buyer starts the house hunting process by obtaining proof from the VA that they are eligible for this type of loan. The buyer then contacts a VA approved lender, who handles the financing. These are private lenders, and most of the process is the same as it would be if the buyer were choosing any other type of mortgage.

The Veterans Administration does not lend buyers money; they only guarantee a portion of the loan. That means the lender still has recourse if the property is foreclosed on. Because of that guarantee, buyers can get more favorable terms. It's similar in concept to FHA loans but applies only to Veterans, currently enlisted military personnel and sometimes their spouses. The bid process is the same, and once you accept the buyer's bid, everything proceeds as usual with an appraisal, home inspections, and closing. Most VA loans close in 30 to 45 days, just as other mortgages do.

Some sellers worry about delays and extra paperwork because the VA is a government agency. However, the VA's role in this process is small, and VA approved lenders are very familiar with how it all works, so those fears are simply unfounded.

Where the Big Difference is For Seller

VA loans are subject to a stricter appraisal process. All mortgage lenders require an appraisal of the property before finalizing the loan. For VA loans this process also includes an assessment of Minimum Property Requirements (MPR). For this reason, not every appraiser handles these types of assignments. Although this could cause potential delays, in most areas, it won't. Unless a property is remote and difficult to get to, there are likely plenty of appraisers in your area capable of handling the job.

Some sellers worry unnecessarily about the minimum property requirements. Because they are guaranteed, VA loans are designed for properties that are in good shape and move-in ready. For most people, selling your home will mean it's in move-in condition already. In situations where that isn't possible, this can be an issue. Fixer-uppers and homes that need extensive major repairs will require some other form of financing. In most cases, a buyer using a VA loan will probably already be aware of this, so it shouldn't be a big issue for the seller if they have submitted a bid on your home.

Closing Costs

There are limits on how much and what type of closing costs can be paid as part of a VA loan. As a result, sellers often think they will be required to pay them instead. The closing costs and who pays what are a frequently negotiated part of the contract when selling your home. And as with any other type of mortgage, the seller still has the option to negotiate or just say no. Buyers may have to pay some costs in cash at closing instead of rolling them into the loan, or sellers may opt to adjust the selling price upward to compensate.

When selling your home, it's a good idea to keep an open mind and objectively assess the offers you receive. That buyer with a VA loan could be the perfect match for you!


Ins and Outs of Pricing Your Home to Sell

If you've recently decided to sell your house, you might be experiencing a range of thoughts and emotions. Aside from committing to selling your home, deciding on your asking price is probably the biggest choice you will face during the process, and it's an important one! Working with an experienced agent is key to getting your home sold efficiently, and having professional guidance to help you determine the asking price allows you to list your home with confidence. Following are some of the ins and outs of home pricing you'll want to consider before making a decision. 

  1. Get Acquainted With the Market
    The housing market is known to change often, and trends develop because of supply and demand. Your strategy may be much different in a buyer's market than when the seller has the advantage. Do some research, to understand exactly what is happening in your area where the housing market is concerned. Upfront knowledge is important in deciding how to proceed, and your real estate agent understands the market and will provide valuable insights into the market.
  2. The Power of Comparison
    It's your right to ask any price you want for your home, but that doesn't guarantee that you'll get it. An important part of pricing your home is to look at comparable homes and their selling prices. Your real estate agent can provide you with a comparative market analysis which is full of helpful information on area comps. Keep in mind that you should consider homes that are comparable in size, age, and location when setting your asking price.
  3. Put Your Emotions on Hold
    The excitement of selling your home is running high, but now is the time to look at your home thoroughly, and view each aspect of it with a critical eye. Of course, your home holds sentimental value, as it should, but some parts of your home may be worth more to you than they would to a potential buyer. Are there add-ons that may detract from the value to buyers? Could your home use a makeover? The answer to these and other questions, when answered honestly, may influence how you ultimately price your home.
  4. Spruce Up Your Home
    Your home may be in good or even great shape, and if so, you may feel comfortable setting your asking price once you've done your research. Most homeowners, however, can find a few things that need attention. Small projects such as tidying up your home's landscaping and decluttering its interior may allow you to up your asking price. Potential buyers will be looking at the home as a whole but will hone in on details as well. A tidy, welcoming home is what they hope to see.
  5. The Zero Debate
    Traditionally, setting a home's price ending in too many zeros may not be to your advantage. Although there's truly little difference, a prospective buyer may be more enticed by a home priced at $299,000 versus one priced at $300,000. While avoiding the zeros may present a bargain to some, it may cause some buyers to miss your home entirely. Online real estate searches are extremely popular, and that home priced at $299,000 won't show up if the buyer sets the parameters from $300,000 to $350,000. Your real estate agent knows the market and will offer advice depending on your unique selling scenario.

Taking the time to do your research and make your home its best before listing your home will make the pricing process easier. 


5 Ways to Sell Your Home Faster

If you're going to be selling your home, you'll want to make sure buyers can make an easy decision to say yes. Everyone knows the importance of finding a good real estate agent and pricing your home correctly, but your prep work is vital too, especially if you need to sell quickly. These five tips can do a lot to help your home sell faster.

  1. Improve your curb appeal.
    This one gets talked about a lot when selling your home and for a good reason. It is rare that a buyer makes an offer on a house they haven't seen. The outside view of your home is the first thing buyers see when they come to your home, and it's usually the first photo if they're looking at online pictures. You need to get them interested enough to see your home in person and come inside to look around. If your curb appeal makes a good first impression, it sets a positive tone and makes a buyer optimistic and enthusiastic about what they'll see inside.
  2. Stage your home.
    Your home should have some staging. Ideally, you can hire a professional. If that's not possible, your agent can likely give you a few tips, and there are a few things you can do yourself. Remove bulky furniture and rearrange the rest, ensure easy movement from room to room, brighten up rooms and replacing linens and window treatments are simple fixes that can do a lot.
  3. Get a storage unit.
    The first thing you do when selling your home is to declutter and deep clean everything. During that process, it's likely you found some stuff you still need but won't use every day. Extra furniture, items that you have multiples of, and seasonal décor are good examples. You can't start stuffing things back into the closet and garage. Enough storage is extremely important to buyers, so you'll want them to be able to look into those areas. If you opt for portable storage, it can be moved to the storage facility then directly to your new home when the time comes without any extra work for you.
  4. Do a little self-promotion.
    Your agent will be able to market your home like a pro, but why not let your network know too. You never know who might know someone who is house hunting, and if you need to sell quickly, casting the biggest net possible won't hurt. Your personal social media or a homeowner's association email are great places for a little publicity.
  5. Keep your end goal in mind.
    There are some temporary inconveniences when selling your home like having to leave at a moment's notice for showings. But keep your end goal in mind. Don't get too hung up on those situations and remember that a reasonable offer close to what you're asking for can save you money. Your costs for an extra mortgage payment, insurance, and utilities for an extra month or two will add up fast, and they'll probably be more than the difference between a good offer and your asking price.

No seller wants their home to stay on the market indefinitely with little interest. Making an effort to sell your home quickly will make everyone happy, and you'll be able to look for your next new home sooner.


The Ins and Outs of Pricing Your Home to Sell

If you've recently decided to sell your house, you might be experiencing a range of thoughts and emotions. Aside from committing to selling your home, deciding on your asking price is probably the biggest choice you will face during the process, and it's an important one! Working with an experienced agent is key to getting your home sold efficiently, and having professional guidance to help you determine the asking price allows you to list your home with confidence. The following are some of the ins and outs of home pricing you'll want to consider before making a decision. 

Get Acquainted With the Market
The housing market is known to change often, and trends develop because of supply and demand. Your strategy may be much different in a buyer's market than when the seller has the advantage. Do some research, to understand what is happening in your area where the housing market is concerned. Upfront knowledge is important in deciding how to proceed, and your real estate agent understands the market and will provide valuable insights into the market.

The Power of Comparison
It's your right to ask any price you want for your home, but that doesn't guarantee that you'll get it. An essential part of pricing your home is to look at comparable homes and their selling prices. Your real estate agent can provide you with a comparative market analysis that is full of helpful information on area comps. Keep in mind that you should consider homes that are comparable in size, age, and location when setting your asking price.

Put Your Emotions on Hold
The excitement of selling your home is running high, but now is the time to look at your home thoroughly, and view each aspect of it with a critical eye. Of course, your home holds sentimental value, as it should, but some parts of your home may be worth more to you than they would to a potential buyer. Are there add-ons that may detract from the value to buyers? Could your home use a makeover? The answer to these and other questions, when answered honestly, may influence how you ultimately price your home.

Spruce Up Your Home
Your home may be in good or even great shape, and if so, you may feel comfortable setting your asking price once you've done your research. Most homeowners, however, can find a few things that need attention. Small projects such as tidying up your home's landscaping and decluttering its interior may allow you to up your asking price. Potential buyers will be looking at the home as a whole but will hone in on details as well. A tidy, welcoming home is what they hope to see.

The Zero Debate
Traditionally, setting a home's price ending in too many zeros may not be to your advantage. Although there's truly little difference, a prospective buyer may be more enticed by a home priced at $299,000 versus one priced at $300,000. While avoiding the zeros may present a bargain to some, it may cause some buyers to miss your home entirely. Online real estate searches are extremely popular, and that home priced at $299,000 won't show up if the buyer sets the parameters from $300,000 to $350,000. Your real estate agent knows the market and will offer advice depending on your unique selling scenario.

Taking the time to do your research and make your home its best before listing your home will make the pricing process easier.


I've Sold My Home. Who Do I Tell I'm Moving?

Once you've decided where you're moving to, it's time to let everyone know the good news! And your social media posts filled with pictures of your new place aren't entirely going to do the job. Changing your address is one of those things you can't put off. Doing so can cause overdue bills, costly billing errors, service interruptions, and can even leave you vulnerable to identity theft. Here are some of the places you'll need to update your address after selling your home. 

Top Places to Change Your Address

  • US Postal Service. Address changes can be done online for $1 with a credit or debit card or by picking up the good old fashioned paper form at your local post office. It will help catch anything you've forgotten.
  • Utilities and Information Services. Electric, gas, water, cell phone, TV, and internet. After selling your home, you'll have to set up a turn off date for your current residence and a turn-on time for your new one along with changing the billing address.
  • Current Employer. Notify your current employer about your move even if you're staying with the same company. They'll need to know where to send your W2's if they're not available electronically.
  • IRS. If you expect to get a refund via check, this is extra important because some post offices won't forward government checks. If you're moving around tax time, you can file a change of address with your return.
  • DMV, Voter Registration, and Social Security. You'll only need to change your address with Social Security if you're currently receiving benefits. Any other government agencies you receive benefits from or offices you need to deal with regularly will need to be added to this list too. If you're moving further away, they may be able to direct you to services in your new area.
  • Insurance Companies. Health insurance, homeowner's or renter's insurance, car insurance, and life insurance.
  • Banks, Financial Institutions, Credit Card Companies, and Lenders. You may be changing banks but will probably be keeping other accounts like investment, retirement and credit cards including personal, auto, or student loans.
  • Schools

Additional Places to Notify

  • Home Services. Landscaping, gardening, lawn mowing, cleaning services, pool maintenance, and any other recurring home maintenance services you're paying.
  • Doctors
  • Dentists
  • Veterinarians
  • Subscription services and online retailers. Ones you buy from frequently or get recurring shipments from
  • Religious, community, or recreational groups and clubs

Make Updating Your Address Easier

Lots of organizations allow you to change your address online, either through an online form, e-mail or chat with a customer service representative. Some companies will still require you to call.

The US Postal Service, DMV, and most voter registrations allow you to fill out a web-based form to change your address.

If you have a lot of people to notify, especially friends and family, you may want to send out postcards. You can use templates found on or in Microsoft Office to design your own.

The TouchNote app allows you to create custom postcards and even mails them for you.

The by-invitation-only app, Updater, can manage the address changes for you and help you coordinate utility services, book a mover and even get insurance.  

If you want to notify some friends and family via social media, opt for private messages.

The process of updating your address is even more critical when you're selling your home and moving out of state. Keeping everyone informed will make things easier during this stressful and exciting time.


Sell Your Home as Pet-Friendly. Here's Why...

Tips to Sell Your Home to Today's Pet Owners

Your home undoubtedly has a lot of beautiful things about it. And you'll want to highlight all of them to make it more appealing to buyers. One positive you probably didn't think about promoting when selling your home is its pet friendliness. Finding a pet-friendly home is a pretty big deal to buyers so here's how to let them know your home is the perfect place for them and their furry friends.

Why Pet-friendly?
Selling your home quickly and at the right price means you need to appeal to as many buyers as possible. The National Association of REALTORS® reports the Millennial generation is the largest group of home buyers today. And pet-friendly homes are significant to them. According to the American Pet Products Association, over 60% of Americans have a pet and Millennials comprise the most significant percentage of pet owners with 34% owning pets. Additionally, a survey by Sun Trust Mortgage indicates one-third of the Millennials that bought homes did so because they wanted to have more space for a pet. So when you look at all those statistics, it's easy to see that you're very likely to be selling your home to a pet-loving millennial and making them aware of how your home can serve their needs makes sense.

What Do Pet Owners Want?
It's primarily dog owners who are opting for homeownership for the sake of their pets. Due to the size, demeanor, and activity level of some breeds, they have a harder time finding an appropriate pet-friendly rental than cat owners do. Physical space can be an issue, and if they're in an area where rent is already high, the hefty deposits and cleaning fees make renting even less appealing. So they're buying homes instead. Make sure to highlight these features when selling your home.

  • Fenced in yard
  • Pet care station
  • Custom dog house
  • Retractable pet gates

In addition to your home being pet-friendly, you'll want to emphasize the pet friendliness of your neighborhood too. These things often make a community more attractive to pet owners:

  • Dog parks
  • Fitness trails for walking
  • Other parks or beaches that allow pets
  • Proximity to vets
  • Proximity to pet supply stores
  • Community groups for pet owners
  • Pet-friendly community facilities or events
  • Doggie daycare
  • Pet spas

These pet-friendly features are not just for single family homes either. Many condo communities have made efforts to appeal to pet owners and if yours includes any of these amenities on premises, make sure you tell your real estate agent.

Make it Visible Your Home is Pet-friendly

Pet owners naturally connect with one another so don't be afraid to provide some visual evidence of your love for your pet. It will help give a buyer an emotional connection to your home that could help close the deal. A picture of you with your pet, a flashy new water bowl, and a container of dog treats on the shelf are an excellent way to make an impression with a pet owner.

Selling your home as pet-friendly is the right thing to do for today's buyers, and it helps with finding the perfect buyer for your home.


Selling Your Home: How to Make a Counteroffer

As you go through the process of selling your home, you'll most likely receive more than one offer from potential buyers. In these kinds of situations, it may be necessary to make a counteroffer. There are a number of factors that can affect the type of counter you make and the success of acceptance. Here's what you should know about how to make a counter offer when selling your home.

All Things in Consideration

There are a variety of things you'll want to pay attention to within an offer from a potential buyer. Most likely, your focus will fall to the offer price first. Whether or not this price is acceptable to you, it's important to take the time to read all of the terms of the offer before making the decision to counter.

You'll want to carefully consider things like:

  • Closing date
  • Items from the home the buyer wants to be included in the sale
  • Additional contingencies the buyer has included in their offer

Once you've determined which terms of the offer are acceptable, you can then begin preparing your counteroffer to address the unacceptable terms. For instance, you received an offer on your home for the full asking price but the buyer has added contingencies to the contract for the major appliances to be included in the sale and a 60-day closing.

A 'give-and-take' perspective is typically the best approach when selling your home. When considering a counteroffer, consider meeting the potential buyer halfway. For instance, you may counter by including all major appliances except for the washer and dryer and a 30-day closing in exchange for the buyer's responsibility for half of the closing costs.

A professional real estate agent can help you draft a counteroffer that works best for you. You'll want to thoroughly read, sign, and date the counter and your agent will present it to the buyer or
buyer's agent.

It's All in the Details

No matter what you've included in your counter, make sure every detail is in writing. It's important to understand that presenting a counteroffer will negate the original and create a completely new agreement.

In some cases, it may be beneficial to negotiate the terms of your counteroffer verbally to avoid the extensive paperwork. Once everything has been agreed upon, the final terms of a counter can be put to paper and submitted for as a final purchase agreement for formal acceptance from the buyers.


What Every Home Seller Needs to Know About Closing Day

The closing day is an exciting time for sellers, but it can also be stressful. With help from an experienced real estate agent, you can minimize complications and keep things moving forward.

Even with the best real estate agent on your side, however, it's important to understand as much as you can about the process. An informed seller ensures that he or she will be able to make the best decisions even down to the final hours of the process.

And, unfortunately, unexpected things can happen at the last moment. By the time a home sale reaches closing, it's usually ready to go off without a hitch – but it never hurts to be prepared.

What Sellers Must Know About Closing Day

Most of the closing simply consists of sitting down and signing documents--lots and lots of them. Many people are surprised by how long this can take: Although a quick closing may be done in as little as an hour, it's a good idea to clear off the entire morning or afternoon.

Keep these pointers in mind for a successful closing as a seller:

You'll Need to Bring the Right Items

Everything has to be signed and verified at closing. If even one piece is missing, you'll have to reschedule. That, in turn, can endanger the terms of your mortgage loan, which is often offered with very strict time constraints. Luckily, there's a simple list of items to remember.

You'll need to bring:

  • The deed, if your property is already paid off.
  • A valid state or federal ID, such as your current driver's license or passport.
  • If required, a verified check in the amount specified by the escrow officer.
  • All keys and security codes needed to access the property if the closing is successful.

You'll Sign Tons of Different Paperwork

These include:

  • Closing Instructions
    These can sometimes be signed at the opening of the escrow account, but they are usually done at closing. You should carefully review the exact amount of credits and debits for accuracy. This ensures that liens (and your existing mortgage, if any) are fully paid off.
  • HUD-1 Settlement Statement
    This is a statement required by federal law that serves as a full accounting of all money involved in the transaction. There's both a buyer's column and a seller's column, and you should receive a copy well in advance so you can review it in full. Check the math and look for clerical errors.
  • Certificate of Title
    This affirms you have the right to sell a given property.
  • Deed
    This document passes ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer. It must be signed along with a full description of the property, then recorded at the county courthouse.
  • Loan Payoff
    This itemizes your loan payoff amounts to be paid at closing.
  • Bill of Sale
    This document lists any personal property, such as furniture, you agreed to provide to the buyer as part of the sale. Make sure there are no extra or missing items and that all prices are correct.
  • Statement of Closing Costs
    Closing costs vary a great deal in each transaction. Although buyers are generally responsible for many of these, you may have negotiated concessions. It's a good idea to review all closing costs.
  • Statement of Information
    This document is simply used to affirm your identity.

Your closing should be a day of celebration. Double-checking all the paperwork with an expert advisor by your side will help give you peace of mind as you reach this major milestone.


6 Hot Tips to Sell Your Home This Summer

Summer is a perfect time to sell your home. Whether you live on the coast or in the heartland of America, the number of home seekers is steadily rising, which creates a fantastic market.

If you have yet to put your home on the market, here are six reasons to sell your home this summer.

  1. High Demand  
    The demand for homes is skyrocketing, as there are plenty of more buyers compared to the available homes for sale. This is especially true in markets where it isn't cheap to build, and space is limited. The high demand for homes results in a favorable seller's market, which substantially increases the price and makes it much more likely that you will sell your home this summer due to the rising demand and lack of available homes.
  2. Additional Money
    Another reason why it is such a good idea to put your home on the market this summer is due to the record levels of unemployment. People are finding better jobs, which results in additional money that can be used to purchase a home. Consumer confidence is at an all-time high and existing-home sales have skyrocketed over the past few months. The majority of people are also getting a tax cut, which is just one more reason why the summer is the perfect time to list your home for sale.
  3. Millennials
    Many young adults have been crippled with student debt, which delayed them from purchasing a home. However, Millennials are expected to account for over 40 percent of home buyers taking out a mortgage in 2018, as these first time home buyers are ready to transition from renting to homeownership. These additional home buyers will only increase the price and demand of your home, and listing your home on the market this summer is a great way to reap the benefits of a seller's market.
  4. More Available Time
    School is out for the summer, which means that families have a lot more free time without the constant demands of bringing their kids to school each day or participating in after-school activities. It is also much more manageable for families to move during the summer, as they do not have to worry about disrupting classes, which makes it easier for the kids. Summer is also a prime time to move for anyone who lives in colder states, as you do not have to worry about the snow or freezing temperatures.
  5. Increase Curb Appeal
    The curb appeal of your home peaks during the summertime, with the green grass, blooming flowers, and leafy trees. Of course, landscaping your home will generate even more interest, as well-placed flowerbeds and a frequently mowed lawn is a simple, yet highly effective way to attract potential home buyers.
  6. Less Competition
    Many home sellers wait until the spring or fall to sell their home, which results in much less competition. With fewer homes on the market, you will have the power set your own price without having to compete against an overcrowded market. Going against the grain and making your house available for sale during the summertime is a wise investment that can generate plenty of extra money.

Selling your home during the summer offers a wide range of benefits, whether it is due to the economy, more available time, less competition, or a whole list of other advantages. Don't delay any longer, but your home on the market today and enjoy the many perks of listing your home during the summer!


10 Signs You've Outgrown Your Home

For many homeowners there comes a point when your current home doesn't seem to "fit" any longer. 

How do you know if it's time to sell your current home and buy a new one?  Here are ten signs you've outgrown your current home:

  1. Change in Family Size.
    The addition of (or return of) children, a spouse, an aging relative, or even furry friends can mean things are just too crowded. Perhaps your children are grown and squeezing into that two bedroom apartment just isn't going to be an option any longer. Or your children have left home and you no longer need the extra space.
  2. There's Stuff Everywhere.
    You can't walk around your home without tripping over or running into stuff. When you straighten up, there just isn't anywhere to put it. Obviously more people means more stuff, but we acquire things just going through life. Y­ou may have started out in your current home as a young adult with little more than your clothes and a bed. In the meantime, you've acquired hobbies with equipment, had life experiences complete with photos and souvenirs, and had to buy an entire wardrobe of work clothes. Cleaning out the closets and other storage spaces can only go so far, and parting with everything just isn't realistic.
  3. Major Life Changes.
    Sometimes change happens all at once and your current living space just isn't practical going forward. Marriages, divorces, blended families, boomerang kids, career changes and changes in your financial situation can all signal it's time to move.
  4. Your DIY Projects Never Happen.
    This is probably a good sign you don't really feel at home here. If you've been there a while and done nothing to make the space unique and personal, it may be time to move on.
  5. You're Always Doing Yard Work.
    Having a yard is nice but it comes with maintenance. If you don't enjoy it or it takes too much of your time and you don't want to pay someone to do it, it may be time to move.
  6. Your Home Doesn't Appeal to You Any Longer
    Often in this situation those little quirks just become annoying and you spend all your time at home wanting to change or avoid them. If they can't be remedied by remodeling or you don't want to, it may be time to part.
  7. Your Home or Neighborhood Doesn't Fit Your Lifestyle.
    If your lifestyle has changed significantly or you made some sacrifices with your current home, finding a place that better fits your lifestyle might be a good idea. For example, if your current space can't accommodate entertaining, you may decide it's something you don't want to sacrifice anymore.
  8. You're Getting Lots of New Neighbors.
    If your neighborhood is hot and property values have risen significantly, selling when you can get the most out of your investment might be a good idea.
  9. You Spend Lots of Time Somewhere Else.
    If you're always hanging out in a different neighborhood or city or constantly looking for excuses not to hang out at your own place, you'd probably be happier elsewhere.
  10. You're Home Shopping Even Though You're Not Officially Looking.
    You spend tons of time looking at other homes online and daydreaming about your perfect home.

Seeing the signs that your current living space no longer fits is the first step toward a happier life for you and your family. It can be hard to part if you've made many memories there, but being honest and objective about your situation will help. Things change and if your current home isn't meeting your needs, it's time to move on.


Downsizing Mistakes Not to Make

Whether the kids have gone and you no longer need such a big house, or you're just trying to live a little on the lighter side, downsizing can be a very liberating experience. Nothing quite beats returning to a more simple existence, or so the conventional wisdom goes. This can be true, of course, but there are several common mistakes that people make. Here are a few missteps to avoid on your journey.

Five Mistakes NOT to Make When You're Downsizing

  1. Overestimating the Financial Benefits
    It costs more to run a bigger household, but don't overestimate the financial advantages. Over time, you will likely see the benefits in transitioning to a smaller place and a simpler lifestyle, but don't start counting your chickens just yet. Initially, you may not see much in the way of savings at all, due to the expenses associated with selling a property. Additionally, you often pay a premium to live someplace with a smaller footprint or less maintenance, such as a condo. 

  2. Forgetting to Consider Lifestyle Needs
    Don't be so eager to downsize that you forget to take into account your lifestyle and your needs. For example, it might seem like a good idea to have a smaller house to maintain, but if you enjoy cooking and entertaining, would you really be happy downsizing your kitchen space or foregoing a separate dining room? And even if that extra bedroom seems unnecessary, would it be a good place for housing your hobbies? 

  3. Letting Emotions Cloud Your Judgment
    One of the hardest things about downsizing is the emotional attachment you have to your possessions. Start with the easy stuff, purging items that hold fewer associations. As you encounter items with an emotional connection, ask yourself if that's the only reason why you're considering keeping the item. If so, would a picture suffice? Or could you pass the item on to your kids, family, or friends, to let someone else form new memories and connections?

  4. Trying to Do Too Much at Once
    It might not seem like it, but downsizing is hard work. Even if you're excited about the idea, even if you're jazzed up when you first start, there's only so long you can keep purging before you start feeling overwhelmed. Divide your household up into many smaller sections and focus on just one at a time. If you find yourself wanting to keep more and more, it's time for a break. Kitchen appliances, outdoor tools, clothes, and books are good places to start since those are the areas most people want to downsize first.

  5. Downsizing Too Much
    While downsizing truly can be the liberating experience you're expecting, there is such a thing as downsizing too much. Forcing yourself to get rid of too much too fast may only lead to regret, so let yourself keep anything you're unsure of, especially as it's easier to get rid of more than it is to get stuff back. Likewise, moving into a place that is too small may only make you feel cramped and unhappy, so look for something that's a little bigger than what you think you want. It's easier to deal with too much space than too little. The truth is, most of us keep more than we ought to, and over time that builds up.

Whether this move is a large milestone for you or more of a periodic reset, downsizing is a healthy exercise that not only simplifies your life and increases satisfaction, but also makes this and future moves much easier. If this sounds appealing to you, contact your real estate agent today to review your options for downsizing to a smaller home.


Selling a Home? Don't Bother to Fix These Things

Most guides to selling a house will tell you all about the things that you do need to fix or upgrade, and for good reason. There are some things that every buyer will look for, and you don't want to fall short in those areas. However, there are also plenty of renovations and fixes that you don't need to worry about. Whether an item is simply not a priority for buyers or the cost of an upgrade doesn't match the expected return, it's a good idea to know what not to fix.

Selling a Home? Save Money and Effort by Skipping Unnecessary Fixes and Upgrades

The big thing to remember with upgrades is that the more you spend on a project, the bigger your risk if the taste of your buyer doesn't match your own taste. That rules out most major renovations unless the room is in such rough shape that it needs an upgrade for the home to sell.

  • Major Bathroom Renovations
    There's no doubt that buyers tend to look at kitchens and bathrooms first, but that doesn't mean you have to shell out big bucks for a full bathroom renovation. A full renovation is an expensive prospect, and the return just isn't enough to justify the cost. Many buyers even look forward to renovating key areas themselves when they move in, and the last thing you want is to invest in a major renovation that doesn't fit the buyer's taste.

  • A Brand New Kitchen
    Just as with bathrooms, making major upgrades to your kitchen is a big risk, because you don't know if the buyer's taste will match your own. Rather than diving into big, costly projects, focus on making necessary fixes or small upgrades to kitchens and bathrooms for a better return on your investment. That way, your new buyer can spend their own money picking out cabinets, countertops, and anything else they desire.

  • Painting in Bold Colors
    While it's a good idea to touch up paint or even apply a fresh coat, you'll probably want to skip the bright, bold colors in favor of something tamer. You want buyers to be able to imagine their lives in your home, and that may be hard to do if the walls are painted neon green. Trends come and go, so stick with classic colors.

  • Upgrades That Don't Fit Your Neighborhood
    It's important to consider what other homes in the neighborhood have to offer because you don't want to upgrade the home to the point where your list price will be too expensive for the neighborhood where the home is located. Unless you're competing with upscale homes in an affluent neighborhood, too many bells and whistles may actually be a negative for buyers who are shopping on a budget.

  • Upscale Outdoor Patios
    Yes, many buyers will love having a nice patio in their backyard where they can host parties and enjoy the outdoors. But an upscale outdoor patio often costs more to install than you'll be able to recoup from your eventual buyer. This is another area where the buyer's taste might not match your own.  Even if they do want a patio it's best to let them handle the job themselves.

If you have any questions about which fixes to prioritize, which to skip, and what matters most to buyers in your market, then your real estate agent should be your number one source for advice. Working closely with your agent will help you focus your effort where it's most needed, and simplify the process of selling your next home.


Staging Mistakes That Can Sabotage Your Sale

Staging a house is a popular practice in the real estate world, and, if done properly, an excellent way to help a buyer fall in love with your home.

However, there are some common staging mistakes that could cripple your efforts to sell your home. We've compiled a list of a few staging blunders that you'll certainly want to avoid. 

  • Letting the Decor Upstage Your Home
    The idea behind staging is to make your home look inviting and comfortable to interested buyers, so complementary furnishings are key. What you don't want to do is overshadow the potential and beauty of your home by staging it with too many furnishings or over-the-top style. An abundance of furniture or decorative pieces may actually detract from the home's natural appeal and prove to be a distraction to the buyer.
  • Stay True To Scale
    Generally, everyone wants to create the illusion of space, but using furniture that doesn't match the scale of the room will likely result in the opposite effect. A small dining room table in a large dining area will look out of place and may have the buyer questioning whether the space is adequate for their needs.
  • Don't Ever Fake It
    You want your home to look and feel like it is lived in yet well kept. Staging with fake fruit, flowers or even fake electronics takes away from the warmth of the home and leaves it feeling much like a department store display.
  • Surprises In the Closets
    While it may seem tempting to store items you want out of sight into your closets, think twice before shoving your clutter behind closed doors. It's almost a given that prospective buyers will want to see the type and size of storage space, and the last thing you want is for them to open the closets only to find a mess.
  • Closed Doors and Dark Spaces Are Not Welcoming
    Perhaps it's habit to close doors in your home, but you'll want your entire home to seem open and welcoming to buyers. Open the doors and curtains or blinds to let in natural light and create the impression that your home is inviting them to explore.
  • Lived-In Vs. Untidy
    Prospective home buyers typically have a keen eye and may notice virtually everything in your home. While it's acceptable and often recommended that your house feels "lived in", you should be sure that your home is clean and uncluttered before it is shown. Household smells such as pet litter boxes and full trash bins are a turn off to buyers as well.
  • Ignoring the Curb Appeal Factor
    In the staging process, it's easy to focus your attention on the home's interior. Don't overlook the fact that buyers will be taking in your home's exterior and landscaping as well. Before you show your home, take a little time to tidy up outside, making sure that walkways are clear and that your landscaping is in good condition.

Selling your home shouldn't be stressful. Relax and have some fun with staging, letting your home take the spotlight.


6 Step-by-Step Home Selling Tips

Developing a plan and setting attainable goals are two of the biggest ingredients in the process of selling a home successfully. By understanding what steps you need to take, when you need to take them, and where you can look for help along the way, you'll put yourself in a great position to sell a home quickly while maximizing your return on investment. This step-by-step guide to selling a house is designed to prepare you for the process, and help you achieve your goals.

From "For Sale" to Sold: A Step-by-Step Guide to Selling Your Next Home

Step One – Find the Right Real Estate Agent
The first step on our list just might be the most important, because finding the right real estate agent will make all the steps that follow so much easier to handle. Remember that you definitely don't have to settle for the first agent you meet, unless that agent truly shows that they're the right person to sell your home. Ask around for referrals, interview agents, and find the right agent for your unique needs. 

Step Two – Research the Market and Pick a Price
One of the first things that your agent can help you with is understanding your local real estate market, and picking a price that will help get your home sold. Your agent should offer a comparative market analysis (CMA), which will help you understand what other similar homes in your market are selling for, and set a price that attracts competitive offers.

Step Three – Clean, Clear Out Clutter and Prepare Your Home for Sale
With a great agent on your side and a fair market price chosen for your home, you'll be ready to prepare your home for potential buyers. This is a great opportunity to start the process of moving out, clear clutter, store personal items, and make your home as attractive as possible for buyers. You'll want to clean every inch of your home, from basement to master bedroom. Curb appeal is a big deal too, so make sure that your yard is looking its best.

Step Four – Market Your Home to the Masses
With your home ready for buyers to visit, it's time to start attracting attention and introducing buyers to what you have to offer. Your real estate agent can help you market your home through social media, online listings, and traditional marketing tools. You can also do your part by spreading the word and letting others know that your home is on the market.

Step Five – Prepare for Multiple Offers
By working with an experienced agent, picking the right price, and marketing your home effectively, you'll set yourself up to receive multiple offers on your home. Make sure that you understand exactly what you're looking for from an offer, so you can negotiate the deal that best matches your needs.

Step Six – Negotiate and Close the Deal
All of the work that you do up to this point leads up to the process of negotiating with the buyer and closing the deal. Work closely with your real estate agent to ensure that all of the key legal details are covered and that you're maximizing the value you receive in return for all of the hard work you've done to sell a home.

No matter where you are in the sales process, remember that there's plenty of help available, both from your real estate agent and from other homeowners you trust. Start by following our step-by-step guide, and you'll already be ahead of the game when you decide to sell a home.


Rookie Mistakes That Can Bench Your Home Sale

Spring and summer are when many people go all-in on plans to sell a home.

The decision to sell a home isn't one to face lightly. Going through with it means undertaking one of the most complex processes you'll ever undertake. Luckily, the help of a real estate expert simplifies things and makes it a lot less stressful.  Still, researching the topic is always a good idea.

The more you know, the easier it'll be to make informed choices throughout the "game." Your real estate pro can offer you expert advice, but the final decision is always up to you.

Let's look at some of the most common "rookie mistakes" that can send your sale to the dugout: 

  1. Choosing the Wrong Agent
    Selecting an agent is one of the most important things you'll do in the course of a sale. Your choice influences everything that follows. How your home is staged, listed, and marketed all come back to your agent – so take time to carefully compare options and credentials.

  2. Hiring a Family Member or Friend
    You may have loved ones in the business, and they're sure to offer you a good deal. Still, it's best to find an impartial professional to help you with something this sensitive. It's all too easy to fall into conflict with someone you know about issues like the agent's commission.

  3. Setting the Wrong Price
    Poor pricing can add eighteen months to your sale timeline. Homeowners bring a long, emotional history to price question. On the other hand, a good agent will use knowledge of the local market and trends to find the ideal price: One that helps you reach your profit and timeline goals.

  4. "For Sale By Owner" (FSBO)
    This may be the single biggest mistake sellers can make. It invites all kinds of problems – from buyers seeing you as a target for rough negotiations to paperwork issues few people are prepared for. It puts legal liability for a whole host of issues directly in your lap, too.

  5. Waiting to Spruce Up the Home
    There are many things you can do, even on a tight budget, to make your property much more appealing to would-be buyers. A quick coat of exterior paint, a new doorknob, and a touch of landscaping supercharge curb appeal. For a bit more, think about adding new kitchen appliances.

  6. Forgetting to Clean and Organize
    Before a home hits the market, it should be thoroughly cleaned. Pressure cleaning the outside is a must. Interior carpets and upholstery should be steam cleaned, especially if you have pets. Start moving items out of the closet and into storage early on to make them seem bigger.

  7. Neglecting to Stage the Home
    When you really want to sell a home fast, staging is your secret weapon. Staging breathes new life into a home even if it has some factors working against it, potentially adding thousands to your selling price. It's more than fresh-baked cookies, though, and is best handled by a pro.

  8. Not Looping In Your Mortgage Lender
    Your current mortgage situation goes a long way toward telling you what your sales goals should be. Only your lender can give you all the details you need about loan payoff and how paying early might affect you. Be wary of early payoff penalties that some lenders require. 

It may sound complicated to sell a home, but it doesn't have to be a hassle. A real estate agent who specializes in homes like yours will be a team player throughout the process. Experience is essential! Now, play ball!


5 Things to Stash Before Your First Open House

Once you've listed your home for sale and are getting ready for your first open house, there are five things you need to stash away for safety.

Your home is going to be in a vulnerable position as REALTORS® begin showing it to anyone with an interest in buying, so keeping valuables protected is essential. Follow these tips before that first open house.

  1. Put Away All Personal Information
    Before your real estate agent schedules the first open house, take a walk around your home and look for any documents or papers that contain personal information. Make sure you do not have any credit card statements out, phone numbers, and even your college diploma should be taken down. These documents and papers should not be visible to the strangers that will be entering your home. The best solution is to keep these personal items in a locked drawer or cabinet with a key you take with you. 

  2. Remove All Spare Keys
    Many of us have those handy key holders by the door, so we can easily find a key when needed. When you are selling your home, these become possible threats to your security as someone can easily take them during an open house and return later to enter your home illegally. All spare keys should either be with you or locked in a secure box or cabinet to remain out of sight.

  3. Daily Life Items
    Some of the items we use in our daily life may give prospective buyers the wrong idea about your home. If they see earplugs lying by the bedside, they may believe the neighborhood is noisy and hard to sleep in. When potential buyers see fans scattered throughout the house, they will think it becomes too warm, or space heaters will indicate it is hard to heat. These types of items allow prospective buyers to use their imagination as to why you have them, and the ideas they generate are usually not favorable to your house. Before that first open house, you need to tuck these items out of sight.

  4. Remove Any Political Endorsements
    Remove all political endorsements when you are selling your home, even those tucked away on a bookshelf. Buyers have been known to turn away from a potential purchase just because of a simple campaign sign they saw in a yard. 

  5. Medications
    During an open house or when you have a scheduled showing, you should never leave any type of medication in plain sight. Even though your medicine cabinet has a door, this does not make your medication safe. If a prospective buyer has to use the bathroom, this leaves them free to access all your medications. The nightstand next to a bed is also a place looked for by anyone wanting to gain access to your prescriptions. All medications should be locked up in a storage container and concealed from sight.

When you are selling your home, there is no way to avoid opening it up to strangers. It is an essential piece of the selling process you cannot remove. When you are ready to open your home to prospective buyers, make sure you have stashed valuable and important items and have found a way to secure them.


Questions To Ask An Agent Before Listing Your Home

According to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, most home sellers hire the first real estate agent they meet.

Now, that might not necessarily be a bad idea if you happen to meet a great agent right out of the gate, but selling your home is a big move, and it's important to choose your listing agent carefully.

To find the best agent for the job, you need to ask questions—and not just "how much will you get for the property?" and "what will the commission be?"  Include these questions during the interview process:

  • What are your credentials?
    A real estate agent should have, at the very least, a state license and belong to the local real estate trade association. But you might want to go a step further and find someone who is a licensed REALTOR® (a member of the National Association of REALTORS®), which requires additional training and a strict code of ethics.

  • Do you specialize in my neighborhood?
    Local expertise is crucial. Your agent needs to have in-depth experience in your local real estate market, including inside knowledge about any upcoming developments that might affect the value of your home.

  • How many homes have you sold in the last year?
    Past performance doesn't always ensure a quick sale, but you'll be able to put your mind at ease knowing that your agent has a track record of success. Ask about how much these home sold for, so you know that your agent has experience selling homes in your price range.

  • How do you determine the listing price?
    The "money talk" is the make-or-break conversation for many home sellers. It's important that your agent can help you land on a listing price that you feel good about, but is also appropriate for the market. An underpriced home doesn't give you the profit you deserve, but an overpriced home could end up languishing on the market. Be sure you understand how the agent arrives at a price for your home.

  • What's your sales plan?
    Your agent should have a plan laid out for marketing your home. Mailers, listing services, open houses, and social media are all important.  

  • What will it cost me to sell my home?
    From broker's commission to closing fees, there are a number of costs that can really add up when you're selling your home. Find out what it will cost, and compare from one agent to the next.

  • Will I be working with you directly?
    There's a balancing act between working with a specific agent (which means plenty of personal attention) and a team of agents (which means a greater pool of resources). Either way, you'll want to know for sure whether you'll be working with one specific agent or a member of the agent's team. It's also important to know how you will be communicating with your agent.

  • How long will it take to sell?
    No agent can say exactly how fast any home will sell. The national average is 65 days, but this depends on a variety of factors.

Your goal should be to an agent with whom you are confident in and comfortable with and who can sell your home quickly and at the right price.


Kitchens Sell Houses

The kitchen is the heart of a home.

This is where meals are made, families eat together, and all the hustle and bustle of holidays happen. So it may come as no surprise that the kitchen is one of the top places to update when selling your home.

When you update your kitchen, you'll get more of your investment back when you sell the home. On average, sellers get back 70 or 80 percent of the cost of the updates. The updates you choose do matter, though, so here are a few things to focus on.

  1. Paint
    There's no better way to brighten your kitchen than a fresh coat of paint. Stick to light neutral shades to keep the kitchen bright and leave room for buyers to envision their own color schemes and decor. Think beyond white to shades of cream, beige, and tan. If your cabinets are in good condition, a few coats of paint and a change of hardware can give them a whole new look.

  2. Cabinetry
    Nothing makes a kitchen look dated faster than old cabinetry. If the cabinets aren't in good enough condition to be repainted, you can give them a major facelift by refacing. Completely new cabinetry should be a last resort, as the added expense may not be reflected in the returns.

  3. Appliances
    One of the top things to update when selling your home is your kitchen appliances. A full set of new, matching appliances is a strong selling point in any home. Opt for something neutral--stainless steel is always popular with buyers. Energy Star appliances can turn some heads, especially with younger buyers, who tend to be more energy conscious. 

  4. Granite
    Granite is another kitchen upgrade that you're likely to see a high return on when selling your home. Buyers love seeing granite countertops. You don't necessarily need to upgrade with the most expensive options.  You can always opt for something that looks similar to granite, like quartz with a granite pattern. 

  5. Flooring
    Think of your kitchen's floor as setting the stage for impressing potential buyers. Drab or dated flooring can detract from any other updates you might make in the kitchen. Budget permitting, install high-quality flooring that will turn people's heads, like attractive, high-quality tile. Want to make your kitchen look bigger? Set the tile on the diagonal to create a space-stretching optical illusion. Hardwood is another favorite with buyers, even in kitchens.  If you have hardwood underneath your linoleum, consider uncovering it and having it refinished.

Make a Strong Impression

The kitchen is possibly your best chance to impress potential buyers, not to mention one of the few areas of your home where your investment gets the biggest return. Even so, you'll want to do it right for maximum impact. While updating these five areas, make sure you're staying true to your home's character, architecture, and neighborhood. If you need help deciding what updates to make, your real estate agent can help guide your decisions.



Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

When you form a relationship with a real estate professional, you hope for a perfect match.

Selling your home is like a short-term romance. It requires faith in the person you choose. You depend on your REALTOR® for meaningful communication and timely feedback. You want to sell your home, so you must trust them because they're your connection to achieving your goal.

The REALTOR® you choose is critical to your success in selling your home. Follow this guide on "Finding the Right Real Estate Agent," to help you through the selection process.

Start with a List
If you have no idea how to find the right real estate professional, start with a list.

  • Ask friends, relatives, and coworkers for referrals.
  • Check out "For Sale" signs in your neighborhood.
  • Look through member registries for your church, social club, PTA, or other organizations.

Review Websites
Once you have a list of REALTORS®, search for their company websites. Some businesses use Facebook for easier client interaction, so search there too. Check out an agent's listings and sales, open houses, and marketing efforts. Look for a listing of credentials, real estate specialties, and client comments.

Undercover Observation
Compile a list of open houses from online research or open house signs in neighborhoods where you'd like to live. Simply show up with all the other guests and sign in. The person hosting the open house is usually the seller's agent, so as you walk through the home, check them out as well.

  • Are they knowledgeable?
  • Do they look and sound professional?
  • How does he or she respond to inquiries about the home?
  • What do your gut instincts tell you about working closely with this person?

You can learn a lot through undercover observation but ask a few questions as well. If you're impressed, ask for a business card.

Conduct Interviews
Treat a realtor interview as though you're the employer looking for the best candidate for the job. That's essentially what you'll be doing. Make sure the agent understands that it's an information-only meeting. Come prepared to ask the questions you couldn't answer from checking out a website or visiting an open house.

  • How long have you been selling real estate?
  • What is your specialty?
  • What homes have you sold in the area?
  • May I contact your prior clients?
  • What's your commission?
  • What services do you provide?
  • What is your marketing plan?

Check Credentials
Ask about credentials, licenses, and designations but don't waste your interview time discussing them. You should focus on marketing, negotiation, and closing experience. In the end, these are the biggest factors in getting your home sold.

You can usually verify a realtor's license status through a state's online licensing portal. Realtor and broker designations are related to education and ethics.

  • Realtor or Real Estate Salesperson: passed a license examination, is qualified to sell real estate.
  • REALTOR®: member of National Association of REALTORS® and committed to education and ethical standards
  • Broker or Real Estate Associate Broker: earned the broker's designation and broker's license through education and testing.

NAR offers education and training for other designations and certifications. You can find criteria for Accredited Buyer's Representative, Certified Residential Specialist, and other designations at

It's Worth the Effort

Making a perfect match with a real estate professional requires time and patience, but it's worth it. When you choose the right person, it can make a big difference in selling your home quickly, professionally, and for the price you want.


You Just Might Have Seller's Remorse

No matter how much you're looking forward to turning over your house keys to a new owner, selling your home can lead to deep soul-searching.

Did I get a good price? Will the new owners love my home the way I do? Did I really want to sell in the first place? If you're asking yourself these questions, you just might have a case of seller's remorse.

When you walk away from a place you love, it can feel like abandoning an old friend. Fortunately, the emotional attachments will likely fade with time. The financial regrets that settle in after closing can be even more difficult, but you'll have to let them go as well. Those wordy closing documents you signed are contracts. They're difficult to break no matter how much remorse you feel.

The best time to manage seller's remorse is before you put your home on the market. Begin the process by asking yourself these questions:

Am I listing for the right reason?
Empty nest? Divorce? Financial gain? Impulse? Exactly why are you selling your home? If you received a big job offer with a deadline to relocate to a new city, selling your home can feel like lifting a weight off your shoulders. If you list your home because Uncle Bob said you could make a ton of money, you might not realize it's a bad idea until the deal is done. 

Only you can decide if selling your home is the right decision for you. 

Am I listing for the right price?
Pricing your home can be tricky. It's not an exact science, but your REALTOR® can help. Review recent home sales and research comparables--homes similar to yours in similar neighborhoods. Also, when calculating the potential net return on your sale, don't ignore these and other before-sale and after-sale costs.

  • Home repairs and upgrades
  • Cleaning and landscaping
  • Staging and photography
  • Commissions
  • Relocation costs

Your price should include enough wiggle room to negotiate with a serious buyer. If your price is too high, you'll attract few potential buyers. If you price your home too low, you may lose money on the deal. That's a sure trigger for seller's remorse.

Have I found my next home?
Whatever the cause of your seller's remorse, it will likely fade with time. The healing process may take longer to begin if you sign the closing documents on your old home but don't have a new home to go to.

Sellers do that sometimes when a buyer's purchase is contingent on a quick closing. You can do it too. But if you don't have a backup plan, the sensation of temporary "homelessness" can leave you with an acute case of remorse. It's important to think before you list:

  • Find a home before you put your home on the market.
  • Consider what you'll do if your home sells quickly.
  • Locate movers and storage facilities that require little notice.
  • Research temporary housing options.
  • Offer the buyer incentives in exchange for a delayed closing.

Seller's remorse happens
The sense of having made the wrong choice can happen any time you make a decision with long-range consequences. That's why it's important to work with a real estate professional when you decide to sell your home. Your REALTOR® can work with you from pre-listing through closing. You'll gain confidence in the home-selling process and that will minimize your chances of succumbing to seller's remorse.


5 Home Staging Mistakes You Don't Even Know You Are Making

When a potential buyer visits your home, you want them to be impressed from the moment they arrive at the curb.

Staging your home for open houses is an important step in the selling process because you want buyers to imagine what their life would be like if they lived there. Working with an experienced real estate agent is a great way to learn what it takes to successfully stage a home. Today, we're going to take a look at five things you definitely don't want to do when staging your home. 

  1. Expecting Hidden Messes to Remain Hidden
    If you're like most homeowners, you may have some hidden dirt or grime in corners of your home that don't get much traffic. It's important to make sure that every corner of your house is squeaky clean, even if it means moving large furniture or clearing out everything in a closet to reach the floor. Potential buyers will look at every corner of your home to gauge how well you've taken care of places people don't normally see.

  2. What's That Smell?
    Cleaning up the spaces that people can see is a great start when selling a house, but you'll also want to make sure that they don't smell anything unpleasant when they walk through the door. If you've got pet odors or any other smell that might be unpleasant for buyers, now is the time to track down the source and take care of the problem.

  3. Personal Items in Plain View
    Throughout the list, you'll notice a consistent theme of allowing buyers to imagine their lives in your home, and that's no accident. In fact, it's one of the key steps in attracting a buyer when you're selling your home. Leaving personal items around the house (like photos and personal mementos) may make it more difficult for those buyers to imagine what their life would be like in the home. Be sure to pack up personal items before visitors arrive, and remember that you'll be able to display them again in your new home.

  4. Clutter, Clutter Everywhere
    Removing personal items is a way to provide a blank slate for anyone who visits your open house, but personal items aren't the only thing you'll need to take care of before your guests arrive. A disorganized, cluttered home is definitely not what buyers want to see, so it's crucial to clear out any clutter before your open house. Just as with removing personal items, you can treat clearing clutter as an opportunity to start packing and getting a head start on moving into your new home.

  5. Forgetting the Front Yard
    Or the backyard, for that matter! Curb appeal is selling a house, so make sure that your yard is clean, your landscaping is well taken care of, and the entrance to your home is looking its absolute best. If you have outdoor space in your backyard, make sure that's looking great too.

By avoiding the most common mistakes for staging an open house, you'll be ready to present your home to potential buyers in its best possible light. The big key is keeping your home clean and clutter-free so that every buyer who visits can imagine their own life there.


6 Tips for a Stress-Free Home Closing

Whether you're buying or selling a home, closing day can be a stressful part of the process. The closing day is when everything related to your real estate transaction becomes finalized. Luckily, closing often goes smoothly--especially when you have a great real estate agent working with you throughout the process.

Once the sale is final, there's often still a few things you need to do. None of these steps are as big or as complex as what you've already been through but making sure they are taken care of will go a long way toward protecting you from last-minute hiccups.

Let's review some of the most important considerations you shouldn't forget: 

  1. Take Utilities Out of Your Name – Fast!
    Remove your name from all utilities as soon as possible after closing. Contact every utility and service provider, preferably on the day closing takes place. It could be much more difficult to get this done once you move out. Don't forget about insurance: You may be eligible for a refund of any prepaid premium on your old homeowner's policy.
  2. Change Your Address
    Change your address with the post office about two to four weeks before your closing date. If you forget or decide to wait until things are really final, don't forget you can file your change of address with the USPS online. The IRS also offers an address change procedure. Check-in with your local DMV to ensure your license will have the correct address, too.
  3. Make Moving Out Easier
    Take a close look at any moving company estimate, especially before a long-distance move. Most movers will only insure what they pack themselves, so consider supplemental insurance for anything else. Be present during packing to ensure a higher quality of service. Excessive packing material can raise the weight of your items, leading to heftier charges.
  4. Double-Check Your Settlement
    Even in a detail-oriented situation like closing on a home, mistakes do happen. To be certain everything is accurate, get out a copy of your closing disclosure and compare it to your loan estimate. You might save hundreds or even more if you happen to spot a discrepancy. The best time to do this is right away, so you can report any problems within 24 hours of the closing day.
  5. Your Closing Documentation
    The worst-case scenario is this: A tiny typo leads to a situation where mortgages that should be paid off aren't. Reread all closing docs to ensure mortgages are fully paid and payoff amounts are correct. Also, keep your eyes peeled for any additional fees added by the title company. As closing approaches, fees become easier to estimate and should be disclosed well in advance.
  6. Empty the Escrow Account
    Don't forget: Unused funds that you placed in escrow belong to you. There are two situations where this can cause headaches. More commonly, the title company fails to release escrow-held funds in a timely manner so you can access them. Occasionally, sellers make the mistake of leaving sales proceeds in a new escrow account, leading to complications down the line.

The closing day is a huge milestone for anyone – it marks true success in selling your home. To maximize your profits and minimize frustration, plan on two extra days to manage these last six issues. You'll be glad you did!


8 Tips for Ousting Awful Pet Smells from Your Home

If you have a pet, one of the first things to do before showing your home is tackle any powerful pet odors.

Selling your home is easier if prospective buyers get a positive impression from the beginning, and that starts with smell.

Let's look at some effective methods for reducing pet odors.

  1. Steam Clean
    A powerful, easy, but somewhat pricey approach is to steam clean the carpets as soon as you get started selling your home. This will help you eliminate odors and will also get to "deep down" stains in the flooring, whether they come from pets or anything else.

  2. Add An Air Purifier
    A standalone air purifier can significantly reduce the concentration of various allergens in the air. This helps to resolve pet odors and cuts down on other irritants that could bother buyers. This is a great solution if you still have weeks to go in the sale and your pet will be around.

  3. Change Your Air Filters
    No matter where you live or how often you use it, your residential HVAC system probably has air filters. Depending on the style, you may need to clean these regularly or even replace them. This raises air quality throughout the house and keeps pet odors on the down low.

  4. Perform a Full Vacuuming Weekly
    At the end of every week while selling your home, vacuum all furniture your pets have been on thoroughly. This includes removing cushions, slipcovers, and the like to get down to the bottom of everything. Don't forget drapes and the underside of couches, where pet hair can gather!

  5. Brush Your Pet Regularly
    Brushing your pet is a fun and natural approach to minimize shedding. If you have a long-haired dog or cat, it might seem like a lot comes out – but there'll be much less, overall, throughout the next week. That helps control smells and makes most pets a lot happier, too.

  6. Use Vinegar as a Secret Weapon
    Vinegar is an amazing natural cleaner that can be even more effective than some purpose-mixed cleaning chemicals. You can spray it onto many types of flooring and allow it to evaporate over time to knock out pet musk. This helps you get the drop on odors early while selling your home.

  7. Paint the Walls
    Painting is always a smart move when selling your home because it refreshes the whole appearance of any room. If you've got drywall, plaster, or woodwork that absorbs pet odors, it may also be one of your best options for cleaning out potent pet smells.

  8. When in Doubt, Use Potpourri
    Covering up pet odors might seem like cheating, but in the long run, it's a good adjunct to your cleaning campaign. Giving buyers a nose full of something pleasant will make them happier and help chase off any lingering odors. Just make sure that "fresh" scent isn't too strong!

When you've been living with a beloved pet (or pets!) for a while, it's not always easy to pick up on their natural aroma. Buyers will be much more attuned to it than pet owners, so it's important to go a step further than you might think is necessary.

If you're not sure, invite a friend or family member over to check things out. They'll be able to tell you if they can detect Fido or Fluffy, and might even point out areas where the scent is stronger. The hard work will be worth it after selling your house for a premium price!


Why Do People Move?

Life is constantly changing--relationships, jobs, children, and family.  All of these things cause shifts in our lifestyles and more specifically where we live.

People relocate to a new home for a number of reasons: career, relationships, family, finances or just for change itself.

Here are nine reasons why people move:

  1. Larger Home
    Upsizing is one reason people move. A couple that decides to start having children soon realize that their initial home no longer meets their growing family's needs. As children grow, there is a need for extra bedrooms and living space. The more children added, the greater the need for a larger home with more bedrooms, bathrooms, and a larger yard.
  2. Downsizing
    When children grow and leave the home, some parents opt to downsize and relocate to a smaller, more manageable house.
  3. Homeownership
    Homeownership is still very much a part of the American dream for many people--and falls into our "top 10 reasons for relocating" category. While homeownership comes with a number of responsibilities, it also comes with opportunities too like creating your dream home, enjoying your personal lifestyle, and peace of mind.
  4. Change in Relationships
    Personal relationships often cause people to move. Whether you're starting a new life as a couple or starting over after a divorce, these life events cause people to move. Another reason could be a death in the family causing you to move from a home holding too many memories.
  5. Change in Employment
    Job promotions and company relations may cause people to move from their current home. If a new job requires extensive commute times, many people find it easier to move closer to their new place of employment.
  6. Change
    Some people change ... for the sake of change. Moving to a new town or state gives people the chance to add excitement to their lives. They have the opportunity to make new friends, experience new things, and explore new career paths.
  7. Financial Reasons
    The cost of living varies from one place to another. When a family faces a financial crisis, the logical thing to do is move to a convenient but less expensive location. At times, the move to a more affordable house or location is just a measure to cut down on spending and save more.
  8. Better Home
    As income increases so does the tendency to want better things. A better home falls into this category. After years of hard work and wise spending, upgrading to a better, newer home is often the ultimate reward for many people.
  9. Schools
    Good school districts should be a top priority for people with and without children. Homes located in a good school district provide families with children the best chance at a top education. And for people without children, buying a house in a good school district helps optimize the home's future resale value.




Do You Retire in Place or Move?

Retirement brings with it an unimaginable sense of freedom. You're no longer tied to school districts, commuter schedules, or alarm clocks. When you release longstanding duties and commitments, you can change your lifestyle and even your location. You can move to a new neighborhood, a new city, or even a new country. Or you can stay right where you are.

Should you go or should you stay? That's a big question that only you can answer. Here are some of the things you should consider before making your decision.

  • Housing that meets your physical needs
    It's easier to age in place when your home meets the comfort, convenience, and safety standards you require. Even if your home was built to comply with these "universal design" standards, you may wish to relocate for other reasons.

    Your home may be too big or small. As you age, you may be incapable of performing routine home maintenance. If you can't take care of your daily needs, you may require an assisted living facility or a senior community with essential services nearby.
  • A home you can afford
    If you choose to buy a new home, you'll want it to be affordable now and as you age. Your affordability calculations should consider your mortgage, taxes, utilities, insurance and other home expenses. They should also anticipate future income, medical expenses and the cost of living in your new location.

    As a retiring senior, your home is likely mortgage free with enough equity to increase your home buying options. Depending on your decision to upgrade, downgrade, or relocate, selling your home may give you all the money you need for a new home with some cash leftover to add to your retirement fund.
  • Access to healthcare facilities
    As you age, hospitals, doctors, and healthcare facilities become more important. Illnesses and disabilities increase as you age. When you anticipate relocating, you should make sure the community you choose provides a strong network of medical professionals.
  • A strong support system
    An AARP study determined that 43 percent of seniors 70 and older don't believe they'll be able to live independently. As a senior, you still have home living options that don't require you to abandon your independence altogether.

    You can upgrade your home for aging in place and rely on friends and homecare professionals to help you. You can buy a home closer to family members or purchase a home or condo in a planned senior community with access to the services you need.
  • Transportation independence
    Transportation is an important factor in your retirement housing decision. As a suburban or rural resident, you probably rely on driving your car. If an unexpected disability or illness forces you to stop driving, you probably won't want to call a family member every time you leave home. You must live where you'll have access to private cars, buses, van services, dial-a-ride, and other transportation services.
  • Livability index
    Knowing your city's livability may help you decide whether to go or stay. AARP's Livability Index page provides zip code based ratings that include neighborhood, environmental, transportation and other community factors critical to retirement living.
  • A new lifestyle
    Your retirement move doesn't have to be for practical reasons. If you live in the north you might want a warmer climate. You may want a chalet in the mountains or a condo near a golf or tennis club. If you've waited all your life for a new lifestyle and you can find a way to make it happen, that's one of the best reasons in the world to go instead of staying.

The Price is Right ... Until It's Not

Of all the choices you have to make when it's time to sell your house, none are more important than setting the right asking price.

Unfortunately, zeroing in on that magic number can be tricky. 

Set the price too high, and your home could languish on the market for months, or worse—maybe not sell at all. Set the price too low, and you could be cheating yourself out of thousands of dollars. Here's what you need to know about setting the perfect price for your home. 

  1. Forget What You Paid for Your Home
    It's easy to recall what you paid for your home and think of that number as a rule by which to measure your asking price. But taking the price you paid and adding a little extra doesn't always add up to the right number. Some homes appreciate in value more than might be expected, and some appre