Real Estate News and Information

Welcome to Real Estate News and Information Sign in | Help

Century 21 Gold

  • 5 Ways You're Sabotaging the Sale of Your Home

    So you've finally decided to put your home on the market. You've planned your first open house, begun searching for new digs, and even made a mental packing list. Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for the offers to roll in, right?

    Well, sellers, we don't mean to freak you out, but we've got bad news: You just might be sabotaging your home sale. Obviously, that's the last thing you'd want to do, but one wrong turn—or wrong decision—could hurt your chances of landing a buyer. And the most unsettling part? You probably have no idea you're doing anything wrong.

    Below are some of the ways you may be turning off buyers without even knowing it.

    1. Bad color schemes

     

     When your house is on the market, you want to make it appeal to as many people as possible. And while your kitchen painted in your favorite shade of neon green might be attractive to you, it could repel buyers.

    “When a buyer comes into your home, you want them to imagine it as their future home. The more difficult it is, the less likely they are to buy,” says James McGrath, licensed real estate salesperson for Yoreevo in New York. “The more muted the decorations and color schemes, the broader the reach and the better off you are.”

    2. Too much personal taste

    It's not just bold colors you should avoid; beware of showing off too much of your style—at least while your home is on the market. (Yes, we're even talking about your beloved lion statues on the front porch.)

    “Odd decorations divert buyers' attention away from the home itself,” McGrath says. “I once saw a home with a stuffed peacock in the bedroom, and every buyer would go in and note the peacock, but not the bedroom itself."

    When in doubt, think neutral: Replace loud patterns with muted ones, and put eccentric decorations and personal knickknacks in storage before your next open house.

    3. Bad odors

     You might have become nose-blind to cigarette or pet odor, but savvy buyers will instantly pick up on funky smells—and that's a sure way to drive them away.

    If you smoke—or used to smoke—inside your home, know this: Residual nicotine can still be present in the drapes, furniture, carpets, and on walls and other objects long after you’ve put out the last cigarette, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    And this isn’t a problem that can be solved with air freshener. You’ll need to either wash or dry-clean your fabrics, shampoo your carpets, and wash your walls. If washing the walls doesn’t work, you’ll need to repaint.

    Pet urine on baseboards and in carpets and rugs is also problematic. Bleach, vinegar and water, or specially formulated cleaners can combat these smells. No matter what, expect to do a deep, deep clean before you list your home.

    4. Not being flexible for showings

    The real estate market moves quickly, so if you want to sell your home you need to cater to the potential buyers' schedules.

    “I get it, getting kicked out of your house for showings isn't fun, but to maximize the activity on your home, you have to be accommodating to potential buyers,” says Jim Stevenson, a real estate agent at Realty ONE Group in Doylestown, PA.

    If possible, require only a few hours' notice before showings, he recommends.

    “It's so much easier for me and my buyers if we're able to schedule a showing when it's most convenient for us,” Stevenson says. “The sooner a buyer can see your house, the sooner they can make an offer, which lessens the chance of them finding something else."

    And remember: One thing buyers definitely shouldn’t see during a showing is you.

    “When owners are home during a showing it adds a layer of uneasiness since buyers don’t really feel free in the space,” says Louisa Gillen, co-founder and principal broker at the Simple Real Estate Co. in New York. “They feel like a guest in someone’s home, and ... you want them to feel like it’s their home.”

    5. Disguising problem areas

    In your quest to have a show-ready home, don’t cut corners. A fresh coat of paint might temporarily hide the appearance of mold, but it'll likely crop up in the home inspection.

    “Savvy buyers know to look for mold, which is a fungus that could be toxic,” says Tina Tyus, real estate broker at Town Square Realty in Birmingham, AL. "If they don’t find it, a home inspector will.”

    Structural issues are another concern for buyers.

    “Hairline cracks over doorways could be a sign of settling, but they could also be a sign of structural issues,” Tyus explains.

    Instead of trying to hide these problem areas, be sure to address them before you put your house on the market—and be upfront with buyers if you decide to sell the home as is.

    Bottom line: Don't try to use paint, rugs, or fancy lighting to mask problems that a buyer will probably uncover.

  • 8 Things to Never, Ever Put on a Table If You Hope to Impress Guests

    Do you have visitors coming over or, egad, home buyers you hope might purchase your place? Then you'd better watch what you put where—particularly on tables, countertops, and other highly visible surfaces. Let's face it: A candle or vase of flowers might be considered fine DIY home staging. But choose the wrong kind of place setting or decor, and buyers will take note!

    Don't believe us? One need look no further than Instagram, which is bursting with horrifying sights that, for some reason, the sellers thought might be OK to display. Luckily, real estate agents couldn't help but snap some pics to document these snafus.

    Consider this a list of what to not place on a table if you hope to impress, well, anyone!

     

    1. Your dirty laundry

     "Laundry, it's what's for dinner!" said no one ever. That little toy bus doesn't seem too appetizing either. The rest looks like a dollar store's clearance bin exploded. Yikes. Any would-be buyer is bound to make a U-turn after seeing this. Holiday guests, too.

    2. Nonfood items on a plate

     Even squirrels might struggle with this meal. You could see where a bowl of lemons or even an array of pine cones could add a nice touch to this kitchen. But together on a plate? Not so much.

    3. Wine is fine, but can that can of cashews

     You don't have to go "nuts" to make your dining area appealing. That simple white runner alone may have done the trick.

    4. Toilet paper as a centerpiece

     We don't want to know what this suggests about the homeowner's cooking abilities. Still, it's safe to say prospective home buyers probably saw more than they wanted to after spying this.

    5. Wrinkly tablecloths and slipcovers

     Slipcovers and tablecloths? Aren't these home sellers fancy?! Alas, unless you're holding a wedding at your house, it's entirely too formal. And surely smoothing out the wrinkles on those ghostlike slipcovers would have helped a bit.

    6. Fake ice

     Having fake ice in a glass bowl is weird enough—wouldn't that money have been better spent fixing that gaping hole in the ceiling? In fact, skip the fake ice entirely; you don't need a professional stager to tell you that fake foodstuff is just not a good look.

    7. Unusual food tableaus

     The breakfast tray alone would've been plenty. No one needs to know that the seller needs more fiber in his diet. And while we're at it, that still life of plastic fruit should go back to art school, and that beauty product display back to, um, Bloomingdale's. As this listing agent explains, it all amounts to "motel staging" at its worst.

    8. Nativity scenes

     It might be fine for Christmas, but even then, this is a bit much (particularly combined with that bear motif and "Rock the Day" inspirational message on the wall).

  • How to Stage a House for Free: 7 Ideas That Don't Cost a Dime

    One of the most common mistakes sellers make is assuming they need to sink a bunch of money into home staging. Some choose the expensive route—swapping out their furniture and art at the behest of a hired professional home stager—but that's not the only way to impress potential buyers.

    "Everyone needs to stage their home to sell it efficiently," says Laura McHolm, co-founder of NorthStar Moving. "But you do not need to spend a lot of money to stage your home."

    Want to get your house in tiptop shape without spending a dime? Follow these home staging ideas that are 100% free.

     

    1. Depersonalize

    The first step to staging your home is getting rid of personal items such as photos, albums, handmade items, trophies, and mementos—even the kids' artwork on the fridge.

    "No family pictures," says McHolm. "A buyer wants to be able to envision living in that house. It’s not your house anymore. It’s a house that will soon be their house. So get the 'you' out of your house."

    Removing your personal items isn't easy—they're the things that make your house feel like your home, but keep in mind that it's only temporary. Pack them up and store them safely until you can find them all spots of honor in your new place.

    2. Declutter

    All that stuff littering the surfaces of your home has to go.

    "Most surfaces should have between three to five items on them, because clutter is distracting both in photos and in person," says property stylist Julie Chrissis, of Chrissis & Company Interiors. "You want buyers looking at the home, not the stuff."

    This means eliminating piles of mail and magazines, collections you have on display, knickknacks, and most other items that can easily be packed away.

    3. Nix the extra storage

    If you've been living in your current home for a while, you've probably come up with a lot of creative ways to store all of the items you've accumulated. But now that you're hoping to sell, it's time to get rid of them. Purge!

    "Eliminate any plastic storage bins, over-door storage, above-cabinet storage, and extra racks in rooms," says Chrissis. "This is important because buyers never want to think they will outgrow a home. A seller's job is to show them there is plenty of storage space for them to grow into."

    Since all those stored items are already packed into bins and baskets, it should be simple enough to move them to a storage facility until you've moved.

    4. Deep clean

    Even if you consider yourself a neatnik, you're probably going to need to do a little extra work to get your house ready for buyers.

    "Take a critical eye to your home. Living somewhere daily reduces the things you notice that might be a problem, like dirty walls, scuffs and scrapes, leaks, or even odors you have become accustomed to," says Marty Basher, home organization expert at ModularClosets.com. "Also, deep clean the kitchen and bathrooms. These areas of the home are generally the most cluttered and dirty. Both of those things will turn off willing buyers."

    It might help to ask a friend or family member to come by and help you find areas that need attention. Someone who doesn't live in your house will be better able to look at your space through the eyes of a buyer.

    5. Change the furniture layout

    Maybe you've placed your couch at an odd angle to keep the sun out of your eyes during your midday nap, or your armchair is in the middle of the room so you can better see the TV. Those things are all fine for you—but not for buyers. Now it's time to stage the room for optimal space and flow.

    "Room layouts should be set up for photos first. It’s important that the photo not be of the back of a sofa, large chair, or other piece of furniture, as this makes the room look smaller because it blocks the view of part of the room," says Chrissis. "The same goes for open houses and showings. If buyers see a room with furniture barriers, it makes the room seem smaller."

    6. Let there be light

    Now that your home is clean and uncluttered, it's time to brighten things up so buyers can actually see it.

    "You want natural light and lamps with warm light—no swirly bulbs that look like office light," says Chrissis. "We tell most of our clients to remove valances as they typically make a room darker and, in most markets, are a little out of fashion. Lamps are important, especially in winter months when there is less sun and sunset is earlier."

    7. Reduce your furniture

    If your house is filled to the brim with furniture, it's time to move some of it out.

    "After the home is thoroughly cleaned out, keep only up-to-date furniture in excellent condition, and just a couple of accent pieces in each room," suggests broker and interior designer Tory Keith of Natick, MA.

    Not only does this go hand in hand with making things look less cluttered, but less furniture will also make the rooms look bigger.

    Move unneeded pieces to the basement, garage, or a storage facility until you're ready to move.

  • Home Improvement: DIY or Hire a Pro?

    There’s something appealing about the idea of a do-it-yourself home improvement project. By tackling a job yourself, you can save money on labor costs and enjoy work that’s been done with your own hands.

    But the reality is some projects are better left to the experts. Professional contractors can handle tasks that are complicated, time-consuming or downright unpleasant. Whether you plan to spruce up your entire home or just remodel part of one room, you’ll want to make a smart choice between doing it yourself or hiring and paying a pro.

    Here are some tips to help you choose.

    When you could try DIY

    The project is small enough to learn quickly: It’s a good idea to take some time to research a home improvement job before you start. If you want to paint your deck, for example, you may need to watch tutorial videos, read about paint choices, and ask paint sellers for advice. If you’re willing to learn the steps, a do-it-yourself project could make sense.

    You have patience to work through small mistakes: You may have to make extra trips to the store because you didn’t correctly measure the amount of wood you needed. Or you may discover your paint dried unevenly, and you’ll need to start over to get the look you want. Expect that your DIY project won’t be perfect on the first try. It’ll help if you’re flexible enough to work through small errors.

    You view the home repair as more hobby than work: If you enjoy carpentry, painting and other renovation-related activities, you may enjoy a DIY project involving those or similar tasks. You may even find the process as enjoyable as the final result.

    You’re OK with “good enough”: There’s a chance your project won’t turn out as well as a pro’s work. There may be some visible brushstrokes in a newly painted room. Some floor tiles may be slightly uneven. If the problems are minor and you’ll be able to live with the results, it could be worthwhile to try a small DIY job.

     

    When it’s best to hire a home improvement contractor

    A mistake would have serious or disastrous consequences: If an error would make your home unsafe — faulty electrical wiring that could cause a fire, for example — it’s not worth the risk of doing it yourself. Outsource projects that could affect your family’s well-being or that would be expensive to correct if not done right. Reputable contractors will have insurance and offer a warranty for their work, which protects you as the homeowner. If they make a mistake or worse, damage your property, they’d pay to fix the problem.

    The home renovation requires permits: Many localities require permits for electrical, structural and other major work. You’ll want to contact your city government and ask local contractors which remodel licenses are required in your area. These jobs generally require specialized knowledge, so it’s better to let a professional handle the work.

    Your time’s better spent on something else: Paying a contractor can free you up for other activities, such as spending more time with your family. If you put a premium on those other activities, it makes sense to hire a professional.

    You’re planning to sell your home: When you get ready to sell your house, you want it to be in the best condition possible. An amateurish DIY job could be a turnoff for potential buyers. They may even wonder if the home has other problems.

    If you do decide to hire a pro, you’ll need to do some legwork. Make sure you get estimates in writing, and ask for and contact references. You should also confirm that the contractor has the licenses and insurance needed for the job. You can learn more about how to hire a reputable contractor from the Federal Trade Commission.

    In some cases, you might do some parts of a remodel or upgrade yourself while also working with an expert. For example, you could decide to take on the role of general contractor for a major project, such as a bathroom remodel, and hire out subcontractors for specialized work, including electrical wiring, plumbing and cabinet installation.

    When considering a home improvement project, you’ll want to know the difference between a DIY job and one that should be handled by an experienced contractor. By considering the time you would have to spend on the project, your experience and the difficulty of the job, you can weigh the benefits and make the best decision for your situation.

  • Save on Granite Countertops and Rock Your Remodel

    Granite countertops, durable, high-fashion and low-maintenance, are stars in kitchen and bathroom remodels nationwide. And you don’t need to buy the most expensive granite to get stunning results in your home.

    Here’s what to know about granite counters, how much they will set you back, and tips for cutting costs.

    Granite countertop costs

    Granite countertops generally range from $2,000 to $4,500 including materials and installation, a survey by HomeAdvisor has found. In terms of the overall cost for your project, countertops of any material eat up around 7% of the budget for a bathroom remodel and about 10% for a kitchen remodel.

    Extras

    Granite fabricators typically quote granite prices by the square foot, which usually includes labor, delivery, installation and a simple finish to the edges. Other products and services — like decorative edge treatments, a sink, faucets, cutouts for sinks and cooktops, plumbing hook-ups, and removing and disposing of old counters — may cost extra.

    Different grades

    Granite is priced according to its grade (also referred to as tiers or levels). Different grades have different price structures. The grade reflects a stone’s availability, color, shipping cost and its distinctiveness, but not necessarily the overall quality.

     

    7 tips to save on granite countertops

    1. Shop around

    Granite countertops are sold and installed by big box stores, kitchen and bathroom design studios, granite fabricators and companies specializing in prefabricated granite counters. You’ll get the best results by hiring a well-established, experienced and fully insured company.

    Ask family and friends for recommendations and look online, including searching for nearby installers and fabricators at the Natural Stone Institute, a trade association. After narrowing the search, visit two or three companies to discuss your project and see their work. Ask each company for a preliminary estimate based on your rough measurements.

    Sharon Millett, a real estate agent in Auburn, Maine, says she saved nearly $1,000 recently on kitchen and bath countertops for her home by shopping around. One company charged extra for the edge treatment she wanted, so she found another that included it at no charge.

    2. Buy the sink and faucet separately

    Ask your fabricator if it’s OK to buy the sink, faucet and any plumbing parts elsewhere so you can find a style you like that also fits your budget.

    3. Use a remnant

    Granite companies may offer discounts on smaller pieces of stone left over from other projects.

     

    4. Go prefab

    A prefabricated piece of stone is one that is already cut and polished. Prefab is best for simple counters requiring few cuts. It’s perfect, for instance, if your cabinets are a standard, off-the-shelf size, says Jarren Cheha, owner of Seattle Granite Countertops, a granite fabricator.

    He stocks a single size — 8 feet by 25½ inches — of prefab granite countertop blanks in seven to 10 common colors. They come with three finished edges and a polished surface. The cost is about half that of a custom granite countertop, Cheha says.

    5. Get a line-item breakdown

    Ask for an estimate showing the individual costs of products and services. That lets you compare multiple offers and choose the option that best fits your budget.

    6. Use granite tile

    Tile cut from stone like granite lets you get the look without the price. Granite tile costs about $5 to $15 per square foot uninstalled, according to Home Advisor. You’ll also need to hire a tile installer and buy grout and other materials.

    7. Have the installer do final measurements

    To avoid making expensive mistakes, always be sure the installer takes the measurements and creates a template on which your final estimate is based.

     

    Are granite countertops worth the cost?

    It’s hard to know exactly how much of the cost of granite countertops can be recouped when you sell the home. Certainly, upgraded kitchens and baths are sought after by most buyers.

    “In my area, real estate agents pretty much insist that homeowners get natural stone in their homes before it goes on the market,” says Sharon Koehler, support services manager at Artistic Stone Design, a stone fabricator in North Chesterfield, Virginia.

    “I have seen agents pay for the (counter)tops themselves and get the money back after sale. It is that important,” Koehler says.

  • A Home Buyer’s Guide to Motivated Sellers

    Home shoppers outnumber home sellers in many places. If you’re a home buyer, you need every competitive advantage you can get. That’s why it pays to know how to find motivated sellers and persuade them to choose you.

    The definition of “motivated seller” has changed since the depths of the economic crisis about a decade ago, when many motivated sellers were trying to avoid foreclosure. There are fewer of these desperate sellers now, but you can still find motivated sellers if you know where to look.

    What is a motivated seller?

    “A motivated seller is someone that needs to move out quickly,” explains Sonia Figueroa. Figueroa, a real estate agent with Century 21 Affiliated in Chicago, lists common motivators:

    • The home has been on the market for three months or more, and the sellers feel impatient
    •  The sellers are relocating for a job
    •  The sellers are divorcing. “They’re super motivated because they want to get rid of each other, get rid of their assets and be done,” Figueroa says.
    •  The owner died and the sellers are the heirs. “They just want to price it to sell it, to divvy up the money,” Figueroa says.

    Identifying a motivated seller

    Here are telltale signs that the seller is motivated: The home is priced to sell quickly, it has been fixed up and staged, and the listing photos were taken by a professional photographer, says Stacy Hennessey, a real estate agent with McEnearney Associates in Falls Church, Virginia.

    Another sign is when the seller is willing to negotiate. That’s not the norm in a typical seller’s market, where “if you don’t come with a full-price offer or a near full-price offer with terms that the seller likes, they can say, ‘Thank you, but no. Next!’” says Terri Robinson, a real estate agent with Re/Max Select Properties in Ashburn, Virginia. A motivated seller will make a counteroffer, even to a lowball bid.

    And sometimes a home’s listing contains the phrase “motivated seller,” or the seller’s agent says the seller is motivated.

    Tips for buying from a motivated seller

    Ask what the seller’s priorities are. “The question becomes what are their hot buttons? What are their needs?” Robinson says. Maybe the sellers need a place to live while renovation work on their new house is wrapped up. Or maybe the sellers want certainty that the buyer can qualify for a mortgage.

    Offer to solve the seller’s problem. “From the very beginning, having your agent tell the listing agent that you will be flexible and you want to help them out” can give you the competitive edge, Hennessey says.

    Get preapproved for a mortgage. With a mortgage preapproval, you can close faster and the seller is assured that the deal won’t fall apart because of problems getting financing.

    Offer flexibility on the closing date. Your offer is more competitive if you can adjust your timing to the seller’s timing, Hennessey says. One seller might want to close as quickly as possible, and another might want to wait until the end of the school year.

    Offer a larger-than-usual earnest money deposit. Offering more than your area’s customary deposit is a signal that you’re serious. “My sellers always ask me what the deposit is,” says Creig Northrop, president and CEO of Northrop Realty in Clarksville, Maryland. A 1% deposit is standard in Northrop’s market. More than that is “showing sincere interest. So if you can get in the 2% to 5% range of deposits, you’re in really good shape,” he says.

    Pay your closing costs instead of asking the seller to pay. Depending on where you are, it might be customary for the seller to pay certain closing costs. Offer to pay them yourself.

    Offer to rent the house to the seller for a limited time. Sometimes sellers want to close the sale of their home a few days or weeks before moving into their next home. You can offer to let the seller rent the home for a few days or weeks. Customarily, buyers charge a daily rate of the mortgage payment divided by the number of days in the month. Your offer will stand out if you don’t charge rent.

  • You Don’t Have to Overpay For Your First Home

    A typical first-time home buyer pays thousands of dollars more than an experienced buyer would pay for the same house, according to research from two housing economists.

    First-time buyers overpaid an average of about $2,200, or 0.79%, for their homes, according to senior economist Jessica Shui and economist Shriya Murthy of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. They analyzed appraisal data from 1.7 million home sales from late 2012 to early 2016. The study’s average home price was $275,020.

    Their research doesn’t mean that you’re destined to spend too much when you purchase your first place. With some expert advice, you can pay a fair price and nothing more.

    It’s about being eager

    First-timers “pay significantly more than repeat buyers,” despite also buying “smaller, inferior and cheaper homes,” Shui and Murthy concluded in a working paper titled “Under What Circumstances Do First-time Homebuyers Overpay? An Analysis Using Mortgage and Appraisal Data.”

    It’s no surprise that first-time buyers tend to buy starter homes. But why do they have “a higher willingness to pay,” as Shui and Murthy put it in their paper?

    “The underlying reason for first-time home buyers’ overpayment likely is their inexperience,” Shui and Murthy say in an email interview, adding that home buyer education would be helpful.

    It’s about emotion, too

    The reasons go beyond inexperience, says Jim Murrett, president of the Appraisal Institute, an association of real estate appraisers. Buying any home, and especially a first home, is an emotional undertaking.

    “First-time home buyers, many times, let their emotions get the better of them,” Murrett says. “They have the excitement of owning their first home, and they sometimes kind of look at a property with blinders on.” He says that first-timers “tend to overlook potential negatives and only look at the positives of a particular house.”

    Murrett says he’s not surprised by the research. “I probably would have guessed a little higher” than an average overpayment of 0.79%, he says.

    Neil Garfinkel, a real estate attorney in New York with Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, says first-timers are “more likely to think with their hearts than their heads.” By contrast, someone who is buying a home for the second or third time “probably can sort out the emotions a little bit and create that opportunity to say, ‘Well, I’m not going to pay any more than this.’”

    And the experienced buyer is more willing to walk away, even if it hurts emotionally.

    Tips to avoid overpaying

    You can avoid overpaying for your first (or next) house by following these tips:

    • Hire an exclusive buyer’s agent who will work in your best interests.
    • Use multiple tools to determine the home’s value, such as online home value estimators and a competitive market analysis from your real estate agent.
    • Strive for objectivity by writing a list of pros and cons for each house you view and paying attention to the drawbacks.
    • Get personalized advice by seeking homeownership counseling from a HUD-certified agency.
    • Maintain control by being willing to walk away if you can’t get the fair price you want.
  • 12 First-Time Home Buyer Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

    Every year, first-time home buyers venture into the market and make the same mistakes that their parents, siblings and friends made when they bought their first houses.

    But today’s novice buyers can stop the cycle. Here are 12 mistakes that first-time home buyers make — and what to do instead.

    1. Shopping for a house first before a mortgage

     Talk to a mortgage professional about getting pre-qualified or even preapproved for a home loan before you start to seriously shop for a place.

    It’s more fun to look at homes than it is to talk about your finances with a lender. So that’s what a lot of first-time home buyers do: They visit properties before finding out how much they are able to borrow. Then, they are disappointed when they discover they were looking in the wrong price range (either too high or too low) or when they find the right home, but aren’t able to make a serious offer.

    How to avoid this mistake: Talk to a mortgage professional about getting pre-qualified or even preapproved for a home loan before you start to seriously shop for a place. The pre-qualification or preapproval process involves a review of your income and expenses, and it can make your bid more competitive because you’ll be able to show sellers that you can back up your offer. (See what a preapproval is and why it matters.)

    Neal Khoorchand, broker-owner of Century 21 Professional Realty, in the South Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens, New York, pre-qualifies his clients before showing them properties.

    “If you’re qualified for a one-family house for $500,000, we’re not going to show you a one-family for $600,000 — it would be a waste of time,” he says.

    2. Not looking for first-time home buyer programs

    As a first-time home buyer, you probably don’t have a ton of money saved up for the down payment and closing costs. But don’t make the error of assuming that you have to delay homeownership while saving for a huge down payment. There are plenty of low-down-payment loan programs out there.

    How to avoid this mistake: Ask a mortgage lender about your options. You might qualify for a Veterans Administration or U.S. Department of Agriculture loan that doesn’t require a down payment. Federal Housing Administration loans have a minimum down payment of 3.5%, and some conventional loan programs allow down payments as low as 3%.

    3. Not hiring a buyer’s agent

     Work with an exclusive buyer’s agent, someone who has a duty to work in your best interests.

    Some home buyers make the mistake of working directly with the seller’s real estate agent, who is obligated to secure the best price and terms for the seller. As a novice home buyer, you could be overmatched when negotiating with an experienced agent who’s working on the seller’s behalf.

    How to avoid this mistake: Work with an exclusive buyer’s agent, who has a duty to work in your best interests. 

     

    4. Using up all of your savings

    If you buy a previously owned home, it almost inevitably will need an unexpected repair not long after. Maybe you’ll need to replace a water heater, repair a crack in the chimney or get rid of hidden mold.

    “That’s a growing pain for the first-time homeowner, when stuff breaks,” says John Pataky, executive vice president of the consumer division of EverBank. “If they don’t have enough in back reserves, emergency funds, they find themselves in a hole quickly.”

    How to avoid this mistake: Save enough money to make a down payment, pay for closing costs and moving expenses, and take care of unexpected expenses. This is easier said than done. But you can buy a home with a down payment of much less than 20%, allowing you to conserve your savings. (Find out how much down payment you need to buy a home.)

    5. Ignoring a home’s drawbacks

     Write a list of the attractive and the unattractive qualities of each house, and pay attention to each home’s downsides.

    A lot of first-time home buyers fall in love with one of the first properties they look at. They ignore the negatives of the house and its neighborhood.

    But you can’t disregard the downsides forever. For example, you might think you’ll be OK with a long commute, but after a few months of spending too many hours stuck in traffic, you’ll wish you had bought a house closer to work.

    How to avoid this mistake: Do two things. First, resolve to visit “10, 15, 20 houses” before making an offer, Khoorchand says, so you’ll be less likely to fall in love with the first or second or third home you look at.

    Second, write a list of the attractive and the unattractive qualities of each house, and pay attention to each home’s downsides.

    6. Being indecisive

    The flip side of choosing a place too quickly is acting too slowly when you find the right home. In a market with more buyers than sellers, you have to move fast.

    Khoorchand says he can talk all day about clients who “needed some time to think about it” and made an offer two or three days after viewing a house, only to discover that another buyer had swooped in and made a successful offer.

    How to avoid this mistake: “Once you look at multiple houses, and you get a feel of the market and you know what the market is like and where the prices are at, and you see something you like, don’t hesitate to make an offer, because you and 10 other people will be interested in that same property,” Khoorchand says.

    7. Overpaying for a house

    First-time home buyers tend to pay more than experienced buyers would pay for the same house, according to research conducted by two economists with the Federal Housing Finance Agency. In their analysis of appraisal data from more than 1.7 million home sales, FHFA economists Jessica Shui and Shriya Murthy concluded that first-timers overpay by an average of 0.79%, which was nearly $2,200 per house, according to the data set they examined.

    Shui and Murthy pointed to the inexperience of first-time home buyers. Real estate agents say newbie buyers let their emotions take over, too. “You tend to overlook potential negatives and only look at the positives of a particular house,” says Jim Murrett, president of the Appraisal Institute, an association of real estate appraisers.

    How to avoid this mistake: Ask your agent for a competitive market analysis, a report that looks at the prices of comparable nearby homes that have been sold recently. And it helps to fully understand the real estate process, so seek homebuying advice from a certified HUD housing counselor.

    8. Skipping the home inspection

    It’s a mistake to buy a previously owned home without an inspection because there could be expensive, hidden damage.

    In some markets, a lot of buyers compete for a small number of properties for sale. In these strong seller’s markets, buyers are tempted to waive a home inspection. It gives them a competitive edge over smarter buyers who wouldn’t dream of forgoing an inspection before plunking down hundreds of thousands of dollars for a home.

    It’s a mistake to buy a previously owned home without an inspection because there could be expensive, hidden damage that you wouldn’t spot but an inspector would.

    How to avoid this mistake: Simple: Hire a licensed home inspector. Your real estate agent will gladly make a recommendation, but it’s better to hire an inspector of your own choosing who doesn’t depend on your agent for referrals. The American Society of Home Inspectors (homeinspector.org) has an inspector search tool.

    9. Underestimating the costs of ownership

    After you buy a home, the monthly bills keep stacking up. This can come as a surprise if you’re not ready.

    “It’s not just your mortgage payment,” says Seth Feinman, vice president of Silver Fin Capital, a mortgage brokerage in Great Neck, New York. “You’re going to have the oil bill, the gas bill, you’re going to have a cable bill, you’re going to have all these things that the bank doesn’t care about when qualifying you for a mortgage.”

    Renters often pay these kinds of bills, too. But the new home could have higher costs — and it might come with entirely new bills, such as homeowner association fees.

    How to avoid this mistake: Work with a real estate agent who can tell you how much the neighborhood’s property taxes and insurance typically cost. Ask to see the seller’s utility bills for the last 12 months the home was occupied so you have an idea how much they will cost after you move in.

    10. Miscalculating repair and renovation costs

     Assume that all home repair estimates are low. Seek more than one estimate for expensive repairs, such as remodeling.

    First-time home buyers are frequently surprised by high repair and renovation costs. Buyers can make two mistakes: First, they get a repair estimate from just one contractor, and the estimate is unrealistically low. Second, their perspective is distorted by reality TV shows that make renovations look faster, cheaper and easier than they are in the real world.

    How to avoid this mistake: Assume that all repair estimates are low. James Ramos, owner of Re/Max Bay to Bay, a real estate brokerage in Tampa, Florida, recommends doubling the estimates to get a more realistic view of costs.

    Seek more than one estimate for expensive repairs, such as roof replacements. A good real estate agent should be able to give you referrals to contractors who can give you estimates. But also seek independent referrals from friends, family and co-workers so you can compare those estimates against ones you receive from contractors your agent refers.

    11. Applying for credit before the sale is final

     It’s a mistake to get a new credit card, buy furniture or appliances on credit or take out an auto loan before a mortgage closes.

    One day, you apply for a mortgage. A few weeks later, you close, or finalize, the loan and get the keys to the house. The period between is critical: You want to leave your credit alone as much as possible. It’s a mistake to get a new credit card, buy furniture or appliances on credit or take out an auto loan before the mortgage closing.

    Here’s why: The lender’s mortgage decision is based on your credit score and your debt-to-income ratio, which is the percentage of your income that goes toward monthly debt payments. Applying for credit can reduce your credit score a few points. Getting a new loan, or adding to your monthly debt payments, will increase your debt-to-income ratio. Neither of those is good from the mortgage lender’s perspective.

    Within about a week of the closing, the lender will check your credit one last time. If your credit score has fallen, or if your debt-to-income ratio has gone up, the lender might change the interest rate or fees on the mortgage. It could cause a delay in your closing, or even result in a canceled mortgage.

    How to avoid this mistake: Wait until after closing to open new credit accounts or to charge furniture, appliances or tools to your credit cards. It’s OK to have all those things picked out ahead of time; just don’t buy them on credit until after you have the keys in hand.

    12. Missing the first mortgage payment

    Sounds hard to believe, but it’s not rare for new homeowners to be late with their first monthly payment, or to miss it altogether, says Neil Garfinkel, a real estate attorney with Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson in New York City. “Maybe you didn’t fully understand the process. You thought it was being auto-deducted but it’s not being auto-deducted. You didn’t get the bill in the mail. Whatever. Those first couple of payments, from a credit perspective, are really, really important,” he says.

    How to avoid this mistake: At the real estate closing, ask when the first mortgage payment will be due and write it down. Ask how you will receive notice that the payment is due: A coupon book? A letter in the mail? An email or a text? Then, look out for that notification.

    In many cases, the mortgage servicer — the company that bills you, collects the payments and makes sure the principal, interest, taxes and insurance all go to the right places — will mail you a welcome letter with these details.

     

  • Find the Best Agent to Sell Your House


    Working with the right real estate agent can mean the difference between getting prompt, expert representation and feeling like you’re going it alone when selling your home. Here are 10 questions to ask when you’re interviewing agents.

    1. How long have you been selling homes?
    Mastering real estate requires on-the-job experience. The more experience agents have, the more likely they’ll be able to handle any curveballs thrown during your home sale.

    2. What designations do you hold?
    Designations like GRI (Graduate REALTOR® Institute) and CRS® (Certified Residential Specialist), which require that agents complete additional real estate training, show they’re constantly learning. Ask if agents have designations and, if not, why not?

    3. How many homes did you sell last year?
    Agents may tout their company’s success. An equally important question is how many homes they’ve personally sold in the past year; it’s an indicator of how active and aggressive they are.

    4. How many days on average did it take you to sell homes?
    Ask agents to show you this data along with stats from their local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) so you can see how many days, on average, their listings were on the market compared to the average for all properties in the MLS.

    5. How close were the asking and sales prices of the homes you sold?
    Sometimes sellers choose their agent because the agent’s suggested listing price is higher than those suggested by other agents. A better factor is the difference between listing prices and the amount homes actually sold for. That can help you judge agents’ skill at accurately pricing homes and marketing to the right buyers. It can also help you weed out agents trying to dazzle you with a lofty sales price just to get your listing.

    6. How will you market my home?
    The days of agents putting a For Sale sign in the yard and hoping for the best are long gone. Look for an agent who does aggressive and innovative marketing, especially on the Internet.

    7. Will you represent me exclusively?
    In most states, agents can represent the seller, the buyer, or both in a home sale. If your agent will also represent buyers, understand and consent to that dual representation.

    8. How will you keep me informed?
    If you want weekly updates by email, don’t choose an agent who plans to contact you only if there’s an offer.

    9. Can you provide references?
    Ask to talk to the last three customers the agent assisted. Call and ask if they’d work with the agent again and if the agent did anything that didn’t sit well with them.

    10. Are you a REALTOR®?
    Ask whether agents are REALTORS®, which means they’re members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR). NAR has been an advocate of agent professionalism and a champion of homeownership rights for more than a century.
  • How to Use Comparable Sales to Price Your Home

    How much can you sell your home for? Probably about as much as the neighbors got, as long as the neighbors sold their house in recent memory and their home was just like your home.

    Knowing how much homes similar to yours, called comparable sales (or in real estate lingo, comps), sold for gives you the best idea of the current estimated value of your home. The trick is finding sales that closely match yours.

    What makes a good comparable sale?

    Your best comparable sale is the same model as your house in the same subdivision—and it closed escrow last week. If you can’t find that, here are other factors that count:

    Location: The closer to your house the better, but don’t just use any comparable sale within a mile radius. A good comparable sale is a house in your neighborhood, your subdivision, on the same type of street as your house, and in your school district.

    Home type: Try to find comparable sales that are like your home in style, construction material, square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, basement (having one and whether it’s finished), finishes, and yard size.

    Amenities and upgrades: Is the kitchen new? Does the comparable sale house have full A/C? Is there crown molding, a deck, or a pool? Does your community have the same amenities (pool, workout room, walking trails, etc.) and homeowners association fees?

    Date of sale: You may want to use a comparable sale from two years ago when the market was high, but that won’t fly. Most buyers use government-guaranteed mortgages, and those lending programs say comparable sales can be no older than 90 days.

    Sales sweeteners: Did the comparable-sale sellers give the buyers downpayment assistance, closing costs, or a free television? You have to reduce the value of any comparable sale to account for any deal sweeteners.

    Agents can help adjust price based on insider insights

    Even if you live in a subdivision, your home will always be different from your neighbors’. Evaluating those differences—like the fact that your home has one more bedroom than the comparables or a basement office—is one of the ways real estate agents add value. 

    An active agent has been inside a lot of homes in your neighborhood and knows all sorts of details about comparable sales. She has read the comments the selling agent put into the MLS, seen the ugly wallpaper, and heard what other REALTORS®, lenders, closing agents, and appraisers said about the comparable sale.

    More ways to pick a home listing price

    If you’re still having trouble picking out a listing price for your home, look at the current competition. Ask your real estate agent to be honest about your home and the other homes on the market (and then listen to her without taking the criticism personally). 

    Next, put your comparable sales into two piles: more expensive and less expensive. What makes your home more valuable than the cheaper comparable sales and less valuable than the pricier comparable sales?

    Are foreclosures and short sales comparables?

    If one or more of your comparable sales was a foreclosed home or a short sale (a home that sold for less money than the owners owed on the mortgage), ask your real estate agent how to treat those comps.

    A foreclosed home is usually in poor condition because owners who can’t pay their mortgage can’t afford to pay for upkeep. Your home is in great shape, so the foreclosure should be priced lower than your home.

    Short sales are typically in good condition, although they are still distressed sales. The owners usually have to sell because they’re divorcing, or their employer is moving them to Kansas.

    How much short sales are discounted from their market value varies among local markets. The average short-sale home in Omaha in recent years was discounted by 8.5%, according to a University of Nebraska at Omaha study. In suburban Washington, D.C., sellers typically discount short-sale homes by 3% to 5% to get them quickly sold, real estate agents report. In other markets, sellers price short sales the same as other homes in the neighborhood.

    So you have to rely on your real estate agent’s knowledge of the local market to use a short sale as a comparable sale.

  • Getting your house ready to sell

    Wondering how to get your house ready to sell? If you're looking to sell your home during prime house-shopping season this spring, you'd better get cracking now.

    How to get your house ready to sell

    Unfortunately, getting a house ready to sell is not as easy as slapping an ad on Craigslist. If you want your humble abode to stand out from the competition, that could take months to do right. So, here's how to whip your place into shape by fixing any problems and upgrading the eyesores. Because like it or not, your home has sustained some wear and tear over the years. Here's how to assess the damage and find out which renovations will pay off down the road.

    1. Tally the age of various items

    No matter how great your home looks at first glance, any savvy buyer will point to various parts and pop the question: How old? And since guesstimates won't cut it, you will need to gather some paperwork to get your house ready to sell. If you've purchased your home in the past few years, check your home records or seller's disclosure for the age or last repair of big items (namely your roof, HVAC system, water heater, and gutters), or dig up copies of your own maintenance records or receipts.

     Wondering how to get your house ready to sell? If you're looking to sell your home during prime house-shopping season this spring, you'd better get cracking now.

    How to get your house ready to sell

    Unfortunately, getting a house ready to sell is not as easy as slapping an ad on Craigslist. If you want your humble abode to stand out from the competition, that could take months to do right. So, here's how to whip your place into shape by fixing any problems and upgrading the eyesores. Because like it or not, your home has sustained some wear and tear over the years. Here's how to assess the damage and find out which renovations will pay off down the road.

    How long items last depends on a lot of factors such as the model and how well it's been maintained, but you can get a general idea of average lifespan from the National Association of Home Builders. For example:

    • Wood shingle and shake roof: 15 to 30 years
    • Central air-conditioning unit: 15 years
    • Electric water heater: 14 years
    • Gutters: 30 years

    2. Do your own walk-through

    Channel Sherlock Holmes and go through your home, room by room. Look for signs of damage that might drag down its value. Chandler Crouch, broker for Chandler Crouch Realtors in Fort Worth, TX, suggests looking for these common problem spots:

    • Wood rot around outside door frames, window ledges, and garage doors. Condensation and rain can cause these areas to weaken and rot.
    • Water stains on the ceiling or near doors and windows. This can indicate a leaky roof or rain seeping in from outside.
    • Leaks under sinks or around toilets.
    • Bulges under carpet or discoloration on hardwood floors, which can indicate flooding problems or an uneven foundation.

    Next, test what's called the “functionality" in every room. For example, “Cracks visible in the walls and floor, doors that don’t shut right, broken handles on cabinetry, basically anything that doesn’t work perfectly should be repaired,” Crouch says. And don’t forget to inspect the outside.

    “A lot of sellers skip the outside, but it is so important. That is where buyers will make their first impression,” says Darbi McGlone, a Realtor® with Jim Talbot Real Estate in Baton Rouge, LA.

    3. Bring in the pros

    Once you’ve done your own walk-through, you may want to have a pro take a second look before you decide you're ready to sell. These people can spot flaws you overlooked, because either you're used to them or you didn't realize they could cause trouble. You can enlist a Realtor or hire a home inspector to do an inspection (or pre-inspection) to pinpoint problems from bad wiring to outdated plumbing.

    While the cost varies, people pay $300 to $500 for a home inspection. Go to the National Association of Home Inspectors to find an inspector in your area. It may cost a bit, but it will buy you the peace of mind of knowing you're not in for any surprises down the road. In fact, having a home inspection report handy to show buyers can inspire confidence that they (and you by association) aren't in for any nasty surprises as you move toward a deal.

    4. Decide what needs renovating

    Once you know what in your house could stand for repairs or upgrades, it's time to decide where to infuse some cash. Don't worry, not everything needs to be done before your home is ready to sell. And while you're probably not jumping at the idea of renovating a property you're going to sell, certain fixes will give you an edge over the competition, which means more/better offers. Remember, real estate is an investment!

    But don't just obsess over the obvious—e.g., your kitchen could stand for new cabinets. After all, many buyers will want to tweak cosmetic details to their own tastes, so you could be throwing money down the drain. Instead, focus on fix-its that are less susceptible to personal preferences that buyers like to know are in good shape.

  • How to Get Your House Ready to Sell

    Wondering how to get your house ready to sell? If you're looking to sell your home during prime house-shopping season this spring, you'd better get cracking now.

    How to get your house ready to sell

    Unfortunately, getting a house ready to sell is not as easy as slapping an ad on Craigslist. If you want your humble abode to stand out from the competition, that could take months to do right. So, here's how to whip your place into shape by fixing any problems and upgrading the eyesores. Because like it or not, your home has sustained some wear and tear over the years. Here's how to assess the damage and find out which renovations will pay off down the road.

    1. Tally the age of various items

    No matter how great your home looks at first glance, any savvy buyer will point to various parts and pop the question: How old? And since guesstimates won't cut it, you will need to gather some paperwork to get your house ready to sell. If you've purchased your home in the past few years, check your home records or seller's disclosure for the age or last repair of big items (namely your roof, HVAC system, water heater, and gutters), or dig up copies of your own maintenance records or receipts.

     Wondering how to get your house ready to sell? If you're looking to sell your home during prime house-shopping season this spring, you'd better get cracking now.

    How to get your house ready to sell

    Unfortunately, getting a house ready to sell is not as easy as slapping an ad on Craigslist. If you want your humble abode to stand out from the competition, that could take months to do right. So, here's how to whip your place into shape by fixing any problems and upgrading the eyesores. Because like it or not, your home has sustained some wear and tear over the years. Here's how to assess the damage and find out which renovations will pay off down the road.

    How long items last depends on a lot of factors such as the model and how well it's been maintained, but you can get a general idea of average lifespan from the National Association of Home Builders. For example:

    • Wood shingle and shake roof: 15 to 30 years
    • Central air-conditioning unit: 15 years
    • Electric water heater: 14 years
    • Gutters: 30 years

    2. Do your own walk-through

    Channel Sherlock Holmes and go through your home, room by room. Look for signs of damage that might drag down its value. Chandler Crouch, broker for Chandler Crouch Realtors in Fort Worth, TX, suggests looking for these common problem spots:

    • Wood rot around outside door frames, window ledges, and garage doors. Condensation and rain can cause these areas to weaken and rot.
    • Water stains on the ceiling or near doors and windows. This can indicate a leaky roof or rain seeping in from outside.
    • Leaks under sinks or around toilets.
    • Bulges under carpet or discoloration on hardwood floors, which can indicate flooding problems or an uneven foundation.

    Next, test what's called the “functionality" in every room. For example, “Cracks visible in the walls and floor, doors that don’t shut right, broken handles on cabinetry, basically anything that doesn’t work perfectly should be repaired,” Crouch says. And don’t forget to inspect the outside.

    “A lot of sellers skip the outside, but it is so important. That is where buyers will make their first impression,” says Darbi McGlone, a Realtor® with Jim Talbot Real Estate in Baton Rouge, LA.

    3. Bring in the pros

    Once you’ve done your own walk-through, you may want to have a pro take a second look before you decide you're ready to sell. These people can spot flaws you overlooked, because either you're used to them or you didn't realize they could cause trouble. You can enlist a Realtor or hire a home inspector to do an inspection (or pre-inspection) to pinpoint problems from bad wiring to outdated plumbing.

    While the cost varies, people pay $300 to $500 for a home inspection. Go to the National Association of Home Inspectors to find an inspector in your area. It may cost a bit, but it will buy you the peace of mind of knowing you're not in for any surprises down the road. In fact, having a home inspection report handy to show buyers can inspire confidence that they (and you by association) aren't in for any nasty surprises as you move toward a deal.

    4. Decide what needs renovating

    Once you know what in your house could stand for repairs or upgrades, it's time to decide where to infuse some cash. Don't worry, not everything needs to be done before your home is ready to sell. And while you're probably not jumping at the idea of renovating a property you're going to sell, certain fixes will give you an edge over the competition, which means more/better offers. Remember, real estate is an investment!

    But don't just obsess over the obvious—e.g., your kitchen could stand for new cabinets. After all, many buyers will want to tweak cosmetic details to their own tastes, so you could be throwing money down the drain. Instead, focus on fix-its that are less susceptible to personal preferences that buyers like to know are in good shape.

  • 26TH ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

    An Unforgettable Holiday Experience

    The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa - Southern California’s historic AAA-Four Diamond hotel will kick off the holiday season on November 23, 2018 with our 26th Annual Festival of Lights celebration a free, six-week-long holiday extravaganza featuring one of the nation's largest holiday light collections of its kind. Now in its 26th year, Festival of Lights is an annual gift to the community from property owners Duane and Kelly Roberts, who saved the historic hotel from destruction in 1992.

    The beloved Southern California tradition recently named “Best Public Lights Display in the Nation” by USA Today creates a magical, Disneyland-like experience in the heart of Riverside and attracts more than 500,000 visitors from all over the world each year, commencing with the famous “Switch-On” Ceremony, a spectacular event in which the castle-like hotel is instantly illuminated with 5 million holiday lights followed by a full fireworks display.

    Highlights of Festival of Lights include 200 animated figures including angels, elves and Dickens carolers; appearances by Santa Claus, the world’s largest man-made mistletoe, horse-dr

    awn carriage rides, elf tuck-ins, freshly fallen snow, elaborately decorated Christmas trees; and delectable holiday confections at the famous Casey’s Cupcakes, among other festive offerings. 

     

    • Starts Friday @ 4:30 pm
    • November 23rd, 2018
  • How to Get Your House Ready to Sell in 4 Steps

    Wondering how to get your house ready to sell? If you're looking to sell your home during prime house-shopping season this spring, you'd better get cracking now.

    How to get your house ready to sell

    Unfortunately, getting a house ready to sell is not as easy as slapping an ad on Craigslist. If you want your humble abode to stand out from the competition, that could take months to do right. So, here's how to whip your place into shape by fixing any problems and upgrading the eyesores. Because like it or not, your home has sustained some wear and tear over the years. Here's how to assess the damage and find out which renovations will pay off down the road.

    1. Tally the age of various items

    No matter how great your home looks at first glance, any savvy buyer will point to various parts and pop the question: How old? And since guesstimates won't cut it, you will need to gather some paperwork to get your house ready to sell. If you've purchased your home in the past few years, check your home records or seller's disclosure for the age or last repair of big items (namely your roof, HVAC system, water heater, and gutters), or dig up copies of your own maintenance records or receipts.

     Wondering how to get your house ready to sell? If you're looking to sell your home during prime house-shopping season this spring, you'd better get cracking now.

    How to get your house ready to sell

    Unfortunately, getting a house ready to sell is not as easy as slapping an ad on Craigslist. If you want your humble abode to stand out from the competition, that could take months to do right. So, here's how to whip your place into shape by fixing any problems and upgrading the eyesores. Because like it or not, your home has sustained some wear and tear over the years. Here's how to assess the damage and find out which renovations will pay off down the road.

    How long items last depends on a lot of factors such as the model and how well it's been maintained, but you can get a general idea of average lifespan from the National Association of Home Builders. For example:

    • Wood shingle and shake roof: 15 to 30 years
    • Central air-conditioning unit: 15 years
    • Electric water heater: 14 years
    • Gutters: 30 years

    2. Do your own walk-through

    Channel Sherlock Holmes and go through your home, room by room. Look for signs of damage that might drag down its value. Chandler Crouch, broker for Chandler Crouch Realtors in Fort Worth, TX, suggests looking for these common problem spots:

    • Wood rot around outside door frames, window ledges, and garage doors. Condensation and rain can cause these areas to weaken and rot.
    • Water stains on the ceiling or near doors and windows. This can indicate a leaky roof or rain seeping in from outside.
    • Leaks under sinks or around toilets.
    • Bulges under carpet or discoloration on hardwood floors, which can indicate flooding problems or an uneven foundation.

    Next, test what's called the “functionality" in every room. For example, “Cracks visible in the walls and floor, doors that don’t shut right, broken handles on cabinetry, basically anything that doesn’t work perfectly should be repaired,” Crouch says. And don’t forget to inspect the outside.

    “A lot of sellers skip the outside, but it is so important. That is where buyers will make their first impression,” says Darbi McGlone, a Realtor® with Jim Talbot Real Estate in Baton Rouge, LA.

    3. Bring in the pros

    Once you’ve done your own walk-through, you may want to have a pro take a second look before you decide you're ready to sell. These people can spot flaws you overlooked, because either you're used to them or you didn't realize they could cause trouble. You can enlist a Realtor or hire a home inspector to do an inspection (or pre-inspection) to pinpoint problems from bad wiring to outdated plumbing.

    While the cost varies, people pay $300 to $500 for a home inspection. Go to the National Association of Home Inspectors to find an inspector in your area. It may cost a bit, but it will buy you the peace of mind of knowing you're not in for any surprises down the road. In fact, having a home inspection report handy to show buyers can inspire confidence that they (and you by association) aren't in for any nasty surprises as you move toward a deal.

    4. Decide what needs renovating

    Once you know what in your house could stand for repairs or upgrades, it's time to decide where to infuse some cash. Don't worry, not everything needs to be done before your home is ready to sell. And while you're probably not jumping at the idea of renovating a property you're going to sell, certain fixes will give you an edge over the competition, which means more/better offers. Remember, real estate is an investment!

    But don't just obsess over the obvious—e.g., your kitchen could stand for new cabinets. After all, many buyers will want to tweak cosmetic details to their own tastes, so you could be throwing money down the drain. Instead, focus on fix-its that are less susceptible to personal preferences that buyers like to know are in good shape.

  • 7 Things in Your Kitchen That Are Grossing Out Potential Buyers

    Once upon a time, my husband and I toured an adorable home for sale in a bucolic New Jersey town. We were thrilled when we walked through the front door. But that feeling dissipated quickly once we entered the kitchen.

    At least, I think it was a kitchen. There was a sink.

    The rest was indistinguishable due to the sheer volume of stuff—boxes, newspapers, empty cans, and dirty dishes. As we picked our way to the adjoining living room, we were forced to squeeze past a sullen teenager, who'd apparently just rolled out of bed and was slurping what appeared to be a bowl of milk.

    We didn't buy that house. Or even tour the rest of it.

    The kitchen is the nucleus of any house, and if it's not looking its best, every other part of the home seems icky, too.

    "Most buyers have a 5-second rule," explains Claire Groome, an agent with Warburg Realty in Manhattan. "If they walk into a [home] and don’t see themselves living there after 5 seconds, it’s not for them. How the kitchen looks is a very important part of that."

    Everyone has their own deal breaker, but these things that might be lurking in your kitchen are likely to make buyers run—not walk—toward the nearest exit.

    1. Trash

    Ashlie Roberson, an agent with Triplemint Real Estate in Manhattan, has encountered used dog potty pads splayed out in the middle of kitchens. But even that wasn't her scariest kitchen tale.

    One Sunday, Roberson took her clients to see a cool loft in the West Village. Although they had an appointment, when the seller’s agent opened the door, there were people passed out on the floor of the kitchen, surrounded by empty bottles.

    “We slowly backed out of the apartment,” Roberson recalls.

    The bottom line: If you want to throw a farewell bash, don't schedule it for the evening before you show the house. If you must, build in a cushion of cleaning time.

    2. Anything related to cats

    You love Mr. Whiskers, but not everybody feels the same—especially if his bathroom is in your kitchen.

    “You’d be surprised how many people leave kitty litter [out],” Groome says.

    And even if a litter box isn't front and center, seeing your feline friend roaming through the area where food is prepared and served might send potential buyers fleeing. One of Groome's clients insisted on leaving a home showing when she saw cats lounging on the kitchen counter and open cans of wet, pungent cat food on the floor.

    Remove evidence of your pets before you show your home. (They'll forgive you.)

    3. Stuff, stuff, and more stuff

    Oddly enough, the kitchen—where you actually need room to do things—is often ground zero for stockpiled stuff, says Cedric Stewart, a real estate agent in the Washington, DC, area.

    "Due to the lack of space, this phenomenon is usually accompanied by a crowded sink—and buyers can't get past this," Stewart adds.

    While you might cohabitate just fine with your clutter, you're going to have to clear it—or  chuck it—before you show your home. Remove everything from your kitchen counters, Stewart advises, and free up your sink. While you're at it, clear out the pantry of old foodstuffs, and remove magnets and photos from the refrigerator.

    4. Straight-up weird things

    While touring one home with clients, Stewart discovered commercial hair dryers and a salon chair parked in the kitchen.

    “The house was also operating as an unlicensed hair salon," he recalls. "Big turn-off.”

    During another tour, all was going well until Stewart and his clients peeked into the fridge and freezer. “They both contained a lot of meat,” he says. “Like, really big sections of meat and nothing else. Freaky stuff.”

    Neither home was purchased by his clients.

    If you're unsure whether something in your home is odd, let's be honest: It probably is. Find a temporary storage plan for your weird stuff before someone asks, "What the heck is that?"

    5. A fast-food vibe

    Would buyers walk into your kitchen and see fryers with grease still in them? Could they possibly spot spatter all over the walls, hood range, and cabinets? Might there be a heavy odor as well?

    “Some kitchens get put through their paces and it shows,” Stewart says.

    Now, no one's telling you to stop eating at home. But if you cook foods that cause a mess, “buyers will be too concerned about leaving with a smell on their clothes to properly consider your home,” Stewart says.

    Buy a Magic Eraser (or several) and go to town on the grease. Once your kitchen's sparkling, try to keep it that way.

    6. Pests—or evidence of them

    Pat Vosburgh, an agent in St. Petersburg, FL, recently took some clients through a home in an upscale area—and discovered piles of termite droppings in the kitchen.

    "Our clients actually kept stepping in the debris, it was that bad," Vosburgh says.

    Although the owners promised to get the pests under control ASAP, Vosburgh's clients didn't bite.

    "Most buyers know that if there's one bug or one mouse, there are likely many more," says Christy Murdock Edgar, a real estate agent in the Northern Virginia and Washington, DC, area. "Buyers don't want to find out that what they thought was one random cockroach is, in reality, a massive infestation."

    Pests are inevitably drawn to the kitchen. But if you're fighting the good fight, hide the evidence while showing your home. Stow away traps, poison, and bug sprays. Even better? Complete your campaign against the little critters before you open your kitchen to the public.

    7. Neglected appliances

    Nashville, TN, broker Leneiva Head admits that her clients make a beeline to the kitchen of any house they’re interested in. What they want to see the most? The appliances—specifically, the inside of them.

    “They equate a clean oven with the level of care the owner gives to their home,” she explains.

    Many buyers will even pull out the refrigerator or lift the stovetop, warns Bruce Ailion, an agent with Re/Max in Atlanta.

    “A filthy home is a turn-off for all but investors,” Ailion cautions.

    Don't have the fortitude to clean your refrigerator coils or scrape old marinara off the inside of your microwave door? Hire a professional crew. That will ensure all your appliances get the deep clean they—and your potential buyers—deserve.

More Posts Next page »

This Blog

Syndication

Archives