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How to Stage Your Home Like a Pro When Selling

When you stage a home, you’re trying to show it in its best light. It should be styled in a way that highlights its best assets while downplaying its faults. Professionals real estate agents understand this, and that’s why they go to great lengths to ensure that any home on the market is immaculately clean and equipped with fresh, attractive furnishings. But if you’re selling your own home, you’ll face a unique set of challenges. 

Unlike real estate companies that have robust communication streams and many hands on-deck, you’re likely trying to keep in touch with potential buyers while juggling your own job and personal responsibilities. Luckily, staging your home doesn’t take much more than a bit of foresight and some elbow grease. Read on for our best tips on staging your home like the pros when it comes time to sell.

Do a deep clean 

Doing a thorough cleaning of all the living spaces is one of the most important steps when it comes to staging your home. Nobody wants to live in somebody else’s mess, and every imperfection that a potential buyer notices deducts from their estimated value of the home. 

So you’ll want to clean every corner of your home. Make sure the floors are vacuumed, the windows are polished, and any dust or dirt is gotten rid of. 

When cleaning, pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms. The kitchen appliances and countertops should be sparkling clean, free of any grease or food matter. In the bathroom, the toilet and shower should be so clean that they basically look unused. The room should be spotless, all the way down to the grout. 

Take care of clutter

Too much clutter can make a space look small and crowded. And it doesn’t just encroach on the space, it also forces your own style and personality upon potential buyers, whose sensibilities may be entirely different from your own. 

Therefore, you should store away all the unnecessary items and trinkets you would usually have around the house and just keep the essentials. Don’t stuff all your clutter into an empty closet either—visitors are going to want to look over every part of the house, and when they open up a closet to see shelves full of random items it’ll have a negative impact on how they perceive the closet space. If you don’t already have a new place where you can store your excess stuff, then consider renting a temporary storage unit. 

Clear out personal items 

While the family pictures on the mantle might make you feel at home, they won’t have the same effect on the strangers who are visiting your house. In staging your house, you should make an effort to depersonalize it. 

Remove family pictures, personal items, and anything else that makes the house uniquely yours. By doing this, you’ll provide visitors with something of a blank slate, and potential buyers will be able to envision the space as their own home rather than feeling like they’re taking a tour of someone else’s. 

Keep pets away 

Even though dogs and cats are beloved by so many, it’s unlikely that potential buyers will find them appealing. Instead, they’ll probably be more focused on the stains and smells left behind by a pet. This is why you should remove any signs of your pet from the house. Clean up fur, treat lingering stains, and put things like food bowls, toys, and pet food in storage. 

Make visitors feel at home

While you do want to clean up the house and remove your personal effects, you shouldn’t make the space completely sterile. Potential buyers want to feel like they’re in an idealized version of what the house could be, so cater to that idea by creating a warm and inviting atmosphere for visitors. 

There are many ways to go about achieving this. You could offer freshly baked cookies at the door or put out a healthy smoothie for guests to enjoy. You might also pick up some fresh flowers and put them in a vase or set the dinner table to make the space feel even more homely. 

Turn up the lighting 

One of the first things visitors will notice when walking into your home is the lighting, so make sure your house is well-lit. Clean windows and open curtains around the house to let natural light inside. This is an important step, as the amount of natural light a home gets is a major consideration for many potential buyers. 

Also, switch on the lights in the home and bring in supplemental lighting anywhere that needs it. Purchase bright new light bulbs to replace any of the existing ones that are weak or burnt-out. 

Apply a fresh coat of paint  

Clean up the walls of your house for visitors by removing any previous wallpaper and applying a fresh coat of paint. It’s a simple task that can completely transform the room and make it look new again. 

When choosing the paint color, opt for neutral shades rather than bolder ones. After all, you want to cast a wide net and bright, bold colors on the walls might not appeal to everyone. So stick with warm neutral shades that add to the welcoming atmosphere you’re attempting to build. 

Optimize the exterior

Curb appeal is extremely important when you’re trying to sell your home. Potential buyers most likely won’t even walk in the house if they’re put off by its exterior. This means you have to ensure that the facade of your home and the yard, if you have one, are in great shape. 

Trim the hedges, cut the grass, and remove any unsightly weeds from the yard. If the paint on the outside of your home is peeling, consider giving it a touch up or, if that’s too much work, power wash it to remove dirt and grime. Also give the outside of the windows a good washing to make them sparkle. 

In addition to making all the existing parts of the exterior look nice, you might even introduce new items that improve the look of your home, such as freshly planted flowers or patio furniture. 

By properly staging your home, you can make it sell faster at a higher price. Every bit of time and work you put into the staging will likely pay dividends in the end. So be sure to go the extra mile in trying to turn your old house into a stranger’s dream home. 

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Neighborhood Red Flags to Be Aware of When Buying a Home

When a home buying budget is tight, there’s always the temptation to buy a fantastic, big house in a less costly area. However, buying a home in an undesirable neighborhood might be a huge mistake, especially when it’s time to resell in the future. Occasionally, there are some qualities you can’t discover about a neighborhood until after you’ve moved in. But there are ways to scout out red flags ahead of time.

When you see homes that are rundown throughout the community, it could be a sign that the residents have given up and the neighborhood is in rapid decline. A street that is full of homes with broken/cracked windows, overgrown, unkempt yards, home vacancies, gutters filled with leaves and vines, sagging rooflines, pooling water in yards, homes with obvious chipping paint & broken fences should sound off an alarm. It’s a clue that the neighbors don’t take pride in their homes and with no upkeep, they can end up decreasing the property values for the entire street.

Are there too many houses that are for sale in the neighborhood? When driving through notice if there is an abundance of “for sale” or “for rent” signs. It everyone is trying to sell, it’s probably not a coincidence. There are plenty of reasons this could be going on, but it’s important to have your Realtor dig in and find out the details. Also, check with the local police department and find out about the crime – a real reason people would be making a mass exodus from the neighborhood.

How is the local school system? Are there fewer students enrolling? A sure sign of a healthy community is a blossoming school. Another reason to have a good, knowledgable Realtor with you – he/she should know all these details or at least where you can find the information about the schools.

Most streets have some cracks and bumps but are you noticing big potholes in the neighborhood? This could mean that this is an area of neglect in the city. Is the local park a mess? If you can see that there is no organization to take care of the streets, the parks and any public spaces in the neighborhood it is a sure sign that the property values are headed down.

Drive through the neighborhood on a beautiful day. Do you see people out and about? Kids playing ball in yards? Bike riding? Anyone sitting on front porches? A big red flag if you don’t see people. This could signal that residents stay inside and don’t allow their children to play outdoors because they don’t feel safe outside. Again, check with the local police department.

The Bottom Line: Attention to the surroundings of any neighborhood is important. Often, the focus is on the home and how perfect it is for you, but a huge part of the way you live is where you live. You’re purchasing a home AND the neighborhood. A good Realtor will remind you that the overall area the home is in can/will impact the resale value of the home. Buying a home in an area that is decreasing will create problems in the future.

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The Essential Guide to Your Search For an Accessible Home

Key, Castle, Heart, Keychain, Close To, Door Key, Close

If you’re about to embark on the search for an accessible home, you may be worried about your chances of finding a property that suits your needs. It’s normal to feel nervous, but with a strategic approach, you’ll have no trouble putting down an offer on a home you can easily modify! These simple steps will provide you with a road map to buying an accessible home.


Considerations for First-Time Buyers

If you’re buying your first home, you’ll have quite a few important tasks on your to-do list! For instance, you’ll need to look up your credit score and start creating a house hunting budget. Additionally, you’ll have to start looking up local real estate agents, preparing necessary paperwork for your lender, and identify organizations that may be able to help you cover your down payments or the cost of home modifications. In the early stages of house hunting, you may want to create a checklist outlining these items so you don’t overlook anything important!


Financing Your Home Purchase

As a homebuyer with a disability, you might be eligible for financial assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher program or Habitat for Humanity, but while you may qualify for certain forms of assistance, there’s a good chance that you will still have to take out a mortgage to buy a home. If this is the case, Money Under 30 notes that FHA loans can be a great option.

First-time homebuyers with short credit histories and who can only afford small down payments can qualify for FHA loans. However, it’s always important to research all of your loan options when applying for a mortgage.


Choose a Great Realtor


In your search for an accessible home, working with a reliable realtor will be essential. You’ll undoubtedly have some unique concerns and questions, and your realtor can help you find the perfect home without compromising on your needs. With the help of a group like Title First Agency, you can connect with a realtor who will look out for your best interests during the house hunting process and support you all the way through closing day.


Touring Properties


Once you’ve connected with a realtor, you’ll be ready to start visiting a few properties in person! This is where it’s important to be selective. While older, historic homes may be beautiful, they will also be harder to modify. Therefore, it’s crucial to check out homes that were built recently. Chances are, you’ll also prefer to tour single-story homes – while you could add a stair lift or elevator to a two-story home, those projects could prove to be quite expensive.


Find Reputable Movers


As soon as you close on a home that you love, it will be time to start packing and searching for a moving company. It’s best to start saving for moving costs well before closing day so that you’re not caught off guard! To find a trustworthy moving service, compare online reviews for a few different companies so you can make an informed choice.


Modifications


You may need to make certain modifications before and after you move in. Depending on your specific needs, 101Mobility recommends replacing entrance stairs with ramps, installing a safety frame around your toilet, and adding handrails along the walls where necessary. In order to move forward with these projects, you’ll need to bring a few contractors on board. Popular Mechanics states that you should make sure any contractor you hire is insured and officially licensed to work in your area.

When you’re on the lookout for an accessible home, it can be difficult to peruse local listings and identify properties that will fit your personal requirements. That’s why it’s important to work with a great realtor, seek out available assistance, and plan for modifications. If you’re proactive about this process, you’ll be surprised by how quickly you find a comfortable, accessible home.


Photo via Pixabay

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Buyer’s Market Vs. Seller’s Market

What is a Buyer’s Market?

A buyer’s market occurs when the availability of homes (supply) exceeds the number of buyers looking for a home (demand). Anyone looking for their next home to buy, a buyer’s market is the ideal time to make the move. The ability to but a fabulous home for a lower cost is greater.

Homes may remain longer on the market if trying to sell during a buyer’s market. There are so many homes available thus securing a buyer is tougher and lowering the price might need to happen.

What is a Seller’s Market?

A seller’s market occurs when demand exceeds supply. In other words, there are many interested buyers, but the real estate inventory is low. Since there are fewer homes available, sellers are at an advantage.

In a seller’s market, homes sell faster, and buyers must compete with each other in order to score a property. These market conditions often make buyers willing to spend more on a home than they would otherwise. Therefore, sellers can raise their asking prices.

Due to the shortage of housing, these conditions often lead to bidding wars. During bidding wars, buyers will make competing offers and drive up the price, typically above what the seller initially asked for.

Determining if it’s a Seller’s Market or a Buyer’s Market

You can use supply to determine if the market favors buyers or sellers. As a general rule, a neutral market will have 6 months of housing supply. This means that if there’s less than 6 months worth of inventory, it’s a seller’s market, and if there’s more than 6 months’ worth of inventory, it’s a buyers market. When determining if it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market, you must look at housing supply on a local level, usually by neighborhood or zip code, as it’s not uncommon for areas in the same city to be in different markets. 

How well a home is bought or sold is dependent upon the market the home is currently in. Just because the news says the nation is in one market doesn’t mean it is the same everywhere. Meet with a Realtor for the best information. Any strategy used to buy or sell a home is also dependent on the market it is in and the Realtor. Choose an agent wisely, stick to the strategies and homes can be bought and sold in any market.

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Red Flags When House Hunting

Red flags can appear anytime during a house-hunting process and depending on the size of the problem, it could signal that it’s time to walk away. Some slight problems or minor defects can be fixed, but some issues can seriously detract from your investment, and even endanger your health and safety.

Foundation Issues: If your home inspection report lists concerns with the integrity of your home’s foundation, don’t ignore them.  While all poured concrete foundations will crack at one time or another, hairline cracks are not an indication of a problem. If a crack is wider than 1/2 inch, however, it’s a good idea to have a foundation contractor examine the area. This also holds true for cracks that appear to have been recently patched. Large cracks can indicate an unstable foundation. Not all foundation issues are expensive to fix. However, major structural problems that require stabilization using hydraulic piers can cost a lot of money.

Electrical Issues: If a light switch does not work when you flip it, it’s probably just a minor electrical issue that can be fixed later. But, Outdated wiring or too little voltage is cause for concern. Not only will you not be able to hook up all your electronics and appliances, but problems with your electrical setup can also increase your risk for a home fire. Major electrical issues can end up being costly projects that require permits, professionals, and inspections to bring up to code. 

Roofing Issues: A complete roof teardown is a substantial investment, so it’s important to know how old the roof is, particularly important in areas of the country where there is a lot of snowfall since that can shorten the life span of a roof.  Besides the costs of replacement or repairs, leaky roofs can lead to other problems like mold, rot, and water damage. 

Mold: If water damage or mold is found in the home, consider it a red flag. In truth, most homes will have some mold in crawl spaces and attics, and not all mold is bad for your health. But, important: mold can mean there are other problems, like water leaks from the roof or major appliances, that could be costly to correct. It’s imperative that the source of the mold is found. Otherwise, the problem could worsen, and you could end up with a health hazard.

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For Sale By Owner

Selling a house can be a stressful event in your life. Are you really ready to do it? Of course, you want to make as much money as you can from the sale and you might be thinking your best plan to accomplish that is selling your home yourself – FSBO –  to avoid paying a real estate agent, which is understandable. But, it’s quite a big undertaking. Here are a few reasons why hiring an experienced Realtor is a better idea.

Pricing: You may think it’s as simple as pricing your home by the size and the location of it and what your neighbors are selling, or have recently sold theirs for. Add in a few amenities and boom! You have your price! No. Realtors list homes every day and watch the housing market conditions. They will be able to get all the comps for your neighborhod and find the fair market value of yours.

Marketing a home is not easy:  Listing your home online doesn’t take much effort. Anyone can do that, which is why you must make your stand out and be noticed. A Realtor will create an entire marketing plan for your home and will figure out just the audience you need to have, then use many different avenues to get the word out. The Realtor’s own website, Facebook & Instagram account will attract prospects that you simply won’t have the access to.

Qualifying a buyer is not easy:  There is a big difference between pre-approved for a mortgage and pre-qualified. A skilled Realtor will be able to find out whether the person that wants to see your house is qualified or just curious. Having to prepare your home to show takes a lot of work and you surely don’t want to put your life on hold while you ready your house for show – just for a curious neighbor. Realtors are trained to ask qualifying questions to determine the seriousness, qualification, and motivation of a person calling to see your home.

Staying unemotional about your home is not easy:  Selling your home and preparing to move is never easy and always an emotional process. A good Realtor will be there to buffer any situations that might occur because you might be letting your emotions take over. Most buyers know that an FSBO home has been priced by the seller and is quite often overpriced because they can’t detach themselves emotionally from their home. Savvy shoppers realize that after a while, sellers who can’t sell their home will finally hire a Realtor and the home will be on the market at the right price.  If they have the time to wait? They do. If not? They move on to another home.

Being home during the showing is not easy: Or smart. Nothing makes the buyers more uncomfortable than having the seller present when looking at a home. With FSBO you will have to be there touring your home with the potential buyer. More times than not, the showing will be rushed and some of your best selling points will be overlooked.

Negotiating is not easy: Especially if it’s your own home that you love and have emotional ties to. Negotiating is a complex matter and all transactions are unique.   Skilled Realtors know the laws, the contracts, the comparable sales, the closed sales that the banks usually look at when they decide to lend the money for the purchase, and the appraisal. There are plenty of points to negotiate on before the actual sale takes place. Repairs to the house, lawn upkeep, and even additions can be negotiated in the contract that may ultimately affect the price but can be negotiated almost entirely outside of the price discussion.  For every negotiating point, there’s a tactic to handle it best.

The bottom line:  Working without an agent requires a huge investment of time, knowledge, and effort. Besides separating your emotions from the home you love and possibly raised your family in, you should know how to stage it to sell, market it, negotiate and be able to accept a negative response from potential buyers. You can try to do it alone to save money, but hiring an agent has many advantages.  Interview and find the best Realtor in the area. Expect that they will be able to get the most exposure for your home, help you negotiate a better deal, and dedicate more time to your sale.  The right Realtor will bring expertise to the transaction, financially and legally.with many financial and legal

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Pre-Inspection

A pre-inspection gives the seller of a home a heads-up if there are any problems that a potential buyer will probably want to have repaired. Once you know what is wrong, you can have the issues fixed before you even put your home on the market. Too often, a home inspection is where the deal falls apart because buyers will make their offer contingent on approval of the results. Hidden defects or problems can turn any negotiating into the buyer’s favor. Even if you offer to fix a problem that arises on the buyer’s inspection report, skittish buyers may be hesitant to close the deal. Knowing before you list your home gives you the opportunity to fix the problem or price accordingly.

Most Realtors will tell you to make major repairs before you list your home. The buyer’s inspection will uncover significant defects, and you will be expected to repair them if you want to get the full price for your home. The problem is that you will only have until closing to get the repairs done after the buyer’s inspection.

The limited time frame leaves sellers scrambling to get everything fixed in time. With a pre-listing inspection, you set your own schedule for repairs. There is no rush to list the property until you have made sure the home is in good shape.

You’ll be putting your home on the market with the confidence you’ve corrected any large problems.

Sellers can justify listing price through a pre-inspection. You can feel confident in the price you are asking with the results available to buyers. In a hot market, some buyers will make an offer on a home without the home inspection contingency.

According to Forbes: …”pre-inspection is a goodwill gesture. It demonstrates a willingness to go beyond what’s expected, and that sets you apart from other sellers. You’re sending a signal that your house is an ‘open book,’ and that you’re being upfront about the property. All of this can give potential buyers peace of mind and confidence.”

Once you have the pre-inspection report in your hand you can’t ignore any issues that came up. You’ll be required to disclose that information as a known defect or fix it before anyone makes an offer.  There may be some issues that you aren’t able to take on and it will be reflected in the price. You and your Realtor will be able to establish the right sale price including what you can or can not fix before putting your house on the market.

The bottom line: As a seller, getting a home inspection before listing your home gives you more time to make the repairs that you can and to shop around and control the costs for the work.  Be sure to hire an experienced Realtor that will know how to interpret inspection reports, and to let you know which issues are vital to address before listing your home.

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Pricing Your Home Right The First Time

No matter what anyone tells you, the very first thing that buyers look at in their home search is the price. Does not matter how perfect your home is, if the price isn’t in the budget, they won’t even consider it. In order to sell your home for the most money possible, you must price it right. So, when it is time to sell your home, find the best Realtor that will price your home properly – in fact, this might be the most important thing a skilled Realtor can do. Too many Realtors will tell sellers what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear to sell their home.

Realtors see this every day. Homeowners have a price in their mind that they want even though it doesn’t align with the market. Pricing a home is a skill that takes training, understanding of the market and the comparable sales (comps). When a home is listed too high, buyers pass on even looking at it. It will end up being on the market for a long period of time and the price will eventually be forced to be lowered to be competitive. But, by that time buyers assume there must be something wrong with the home and it will gain a bad reputation and continue to be bypassed. Even the buyers who do look at it will lowball the new price and the home will end up being sold for less than what it would have had you priced it correctly to being with. Homes sell for the most money when they are on the market for less than 30 days in almost all markets.

You don’t want your home priced lower than it is worth, but you want it low enough to create excitement among buyers and possibly even multiple offers coming in. This is an excellent option if you want to sell a home fast.

A good Realtor will make sure that the seller’s home shows up in online searches. To make sure this happens, a proper price is paramount. If the neighborhood comps are lower, the house may not show up if it’s even slightly higher! For instance, if the comps top out at $300,000, and the buyer wants a 4 bedroom home in that neighborhood under $300,000, the house listed at $325,000 won’t even show up in the search.

Pricing a home to sell properly is a skill that the best Realtors have. It is the most critical piece to selling your home. The right price is 75% of the marketing for any home on the market. It’s what will attract buyers. So, when you are interviewing Realtors to sell your home, ask the question “what’s my home worth” and know they can’t tell you what it will sell for but expect comparable sales, pending sales, and active sales. Finally, ask to see a track record of their previous listings – the original price and the final sale number. And, don’t be afraid to ask for a personal guarantee from them.

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What is Title Insurance?

Whether you are buying or refinancing a home, there’s an optional insurance policy you should buy: title insurance. Title insurance is a policy on the deed of your home. Some people just don’t want the extra expense. However, going without it could end up being awful for your finances. Title insurance can protect owners of events and matters that can be brought up from the past. Can you imagine if one day someone comes along and contests your ownership of the property? What happens if an old title issue surfaces and a claim is made on a policy? Imagine buying your new home only to find out that back taxes are owed on the property and remain unpaid. If you didn’t have this protection, you would be responsible for payments on those back taxes. If the payments aren’t made, you could lose the home to the party that the taxes are owed. Title insurance was created to protect homeowners from unknown claims against their property that can show up years down the road.

Title Insurance can protect the homeowner from:

  • Mistakes on titles, especially lately, that are transferred through a sale of foreclosure without certain rulings met, thus making the transfer of the title invalid.
  • Mistakes within all the paperwork brought to a closing, somewhere along the line there may be a forged signature or recorded documents signed by people without legal authority.
  • Mistakes made during the probate process for the previous owner that overlooked someone else’s rightful claim (undisclosed heirs) to the property or someone else’s interest in the property. Misinterpretation of wills and deeds.
  • Mistakes made in the description of the property.
  • Mistakes missed where claims, tax information or easements have not been recorded properly in the public record.
  • Mistakes missed of liens on the property or judgments against the previous owner.
  • Mistakes in unpaid taxes or mortgages and unpaid debts.

Be sure to use a licensed and reputable title company, such as Title First Agency, to review the title and ensure the property you want to buy has no disputes or defects attached to it that could hurt you financially. Buying a home is probably the largest single investment most of us make, we need to protect it.

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Use Social Media to Sell Your Home

Whether you’re working with an agent or selling your home on your own, how the listing is marketed is crucial. Especially now, during the COVID pandemic. MLS will get you the most exposure for your home because it reaches other websites and most people online. Ask friends and family why they know, and look online for the busy Realtors using all the social media platforms and then interview her to see how she will take advantage of all the opportunities to get your home in front of people.  It is now more important than ever that the person hired to sell any home utilizes the internet and social media for promotion. Most American adults are online. More than 1 billion people in the entire world log in to Facebook on any given day. The potential to reach a huge number of people is exceptional.

Photographs:  The very best Realtor should help stage and prepare the home for professional pictures. All rooms should be clear of any clutter. The pictures MLS displays are usually grainy and poor quality. Homebuyers more times than not, begin the search for their new home online. Take advantage of this. Stand in the doorway to rooms and snap the photo shooting into the room.  There are never too many photos!

Facebook:  Now those beautiful photos need to be posted and announced, showcased and marketed. A good Realtor might even host open houses via Facebook LIVE and interact with people that are watching. Another option is to make a targeted ad and pinpoint people by location, interests, behaviors, age and more.

Instagram:  The worlds largest photo sharing platform is the perfect place to showcase the photos taken of the home.  A good Realtor should know how to use hashtags because that is how Instagram helps users find relevant content. Spread the pictures throughout the day.

The Bottom Line: Everyone wants a Realtor that can be trusted and will do everything she can to get the most money for a home in the least amount of time. The Realtor is the homeowner’s advocate. The marketing of the home should be exceptional.  Beyond using the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) there should be professional pictures to use on websites and every social media platform available.

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