Thinking About Selling Your Home? Read This!

sold signWhile no one can accurately predict the real estate market, there are general selling tips that rule the day.  In an attempt to merge several on-line lists into one, I offer you this information and various theories presumed to help the sale of your property.  Select the information most important to you. Here are some “tips” that may help the real estate process.

1.             Don’t list your home until you’re serious about selling.  Many homeowners think they’re ready to sell, but they haven’t fully gone through the emotional process of the decision.  Do you have a place to go if you sell?  Have you fully cleaned and de-cluttered your home?  Have you taken your agent’s advice on staging and pricing?

2.             Be ready to separate your “home” from your “investment.”  Selling your home can be an emotional process, so prepare yourself before listing your property.  Begin viewing your house not as a home but as an investment and a business transaction.  Try not to take suggestions from your realtor personally and it will make the process easier.  Being able to change your homeowner hat to your investor hat is crucial.  If you are too sentimentally attached to your home, you may reject a good price or fail to negotiate with a serious buyer.  Don’t let your emotions sabotage your sale.

3.             Price it right.  No matter how well your home is advertised, if it’s not priced right, it won’t sell.  Pricing depends on the type of market and pricing strategy.  Accurate home pricing from the outset never goes out of style because it sells homes.  Some agents advise sellers to overprice because inventory is low.  Others say go below market to spur a bidding war.  Don’t get caught up in pricing games.  Activity in the first month of a listing is always the best, so don’t risk wasting it.  Price too high, and scare off many buyers and agents.  Price too low, and risk leaving dollars on the table.

4.             Hire the right real estate agent.  Although it’s important that you trust your agent, if you are not comfortable with a suggestion and their reasoning, you can always terminate your relationship, just as the agent can do.  Remember that the agent that you used to purchase the home many years ago may seem like the logical choice for listing your home this time around.  But is that really the best option?  Remember that the right agent makes all the difference and if you have any doubt about an agent’s abilities, hold off on establishing a relationship.  Be sure you have an agent who is informed with your area and market.  They must constantly monitor the multiple listing service (MLS), be familiar with the properties that are on the market and know the comparables (comps) in your neighborhood.

5.             Depersonalize your home.  It is important to remember that you are selling your home, not yourself!  The more personal “stuff” in your house, the less potential buyers can imagine themselves living there.  Put away family pictures, memorabilia collections, and personal keepsakes so the potential buyers are not distracted by them.  The fewer things in the home, the larger it will look, so remove knickknacks and excess furniture. Also take down family photos, religious items and political posters so prospective buyers can envision their family in the house, not yours. Finally, you may want to hire a cleaning service to do a deep cleaning.  Take a look at your house from an outsider’s position.

6.             The kitchen comes first.  The benefits of remodeling your kitchen are endless, and the best part is that you’ll probably get 85% of your money back.  The fastest, most inexpensive kitchen updates include painting and new cabinet hardware.  Use neutral-color paint so the potential buyers are presented with a “blank canvas” where they can start envisioning their own style.  If you have a little money to spend, buy one fancy stainless steel appliance.  Why one?  Because when people see one high-end appliance it creates a perception that all the rest are expensive too.  Plus it updates the kitchen.

7.             Don’t over-upgrade.  Quick fixes before selling always pay off.  But mammoth makeovers, not so much. Resist a huge improvement project before you put your house on the market.  Do updates that will pay off and hopefully help get you top dollar.  Apply a new fresh coat of paint on the walls.  Clean the curtains or go buy some inexpensive new ones.  Replace door handles, cabinet hardware, make sure closet doors are on track, fix leaky faucets and clean the grout.  Trim bushes, wash walkways and change out trampled welcome mats.  Inside de-stink with candles and counter sprays, de-clutter rooms, keep the kitchen counters clean.  Hide scrub brushes and other labor tools.  Dust, wax, scrub toilets, wash windows, test and clean lights, put out fresh towels, remove prescription drugs from medicine cabinets and police the yard for “pet bombs.”

8.             Sell by the season.  Though spring is optimal, home selling is a year-round sport.  Use seasonal accents to make potential buyers linger longer.

9.             Have a presale inspection on your property.  It’s better to know now about issues with the plumbing, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), foundation, electrical systems and roof.  Provide the buyer a copy of the inspection along with repair receipts, and explain if or how you’ve adjusted your asking price accordingly.  Remember that buyers appreciate honesty.

10.          Half-empty closets.  Storage is something every buyer is looking for and can never have enough of.  Take half the stuff out of your closets then neatly organize what’s left in there.  Buyers will snoop, so be sure to keep all your closets and cabinets clean and tidy.

11.          Maximize the light in your home.  After location, good light is the one thing that every buyer cites that they want in a home.  Take down the drapes, clean the windows, change the lampshades, increase the wattage of your light bulbs and cut the bushes outside to let in sunshine.  Do what you can to make your house bright and cheery – it may make it more sellable.

12.          Make the property easy to show.  The more flexible you are about visits, the more people will be able to see your home. Be ready for prospective visitors early in the morning, at night and on weekends, with little notice. Also, leave when the house is shown so would-be buyers can feel free to move about without feeling like intruders and discuss the home’s pros and cons honestly.

13.          Enhance your home’s curb appeal.  This could mean adding new sod, planting flowers, painting the front door or replacing the mailbox. Prospective buyers form an opinion literally within the first moment they see the house. Curb appeal is everything, and pulling into the driveway and walking into that front door sets the expectations.

14.          Remove your pets if possible.  Also remove (or at least hide) their paraphernalia, such as dog dishes and cat litter boxes.  A prospective buyer shouldn’t even know that a pet lives in the house if you can help it.

15.          Regulate the heat during showings.  Whether buyers are stepping in from the winter chill or a hot and humid summer day, they want to feel a sense of “Ahh” comfort and relief when entering your home.  Make sure you crank up the heat or the air conditioning a few hours before a showing.  It’s difficult for buyers to fully appreciate the great feature of the home if they ditch out early because they’re distracted by their own discomfort.

 

 

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Home Buyers: What to Look For!

home inspectionSpring is right around the proverbial corner and many online sites are offering lists of items buyers should be looking at when sizing up a potential home.  In an attempt to merge several lists into one, I offer you this information. Select the information most important to you.  In addition to this information, it is important for you to do your own research prior to hitting the first open house and continuing to research until you sign on the dotted line.  Know what you are buying.

Remember that one of the most important steps in purchasing a home is inspecting it to learn about its condition.  It is imperative to know what you’re buying before you sign on the dotted line.  An excellent and thorough home inspector will provide you with a detailed home report that might help you know more about the physical condition of the home than the current owner does.  The detailed report will cover all parts of the home, from the roof to basement floor, and can also ensure that the foundation is solid and the wiring is up to code.  Be sure to hire the best in your area and be prepared to pay for your own inspections.  The best scenario is when the home inspector works for you, not the seller.  Ask for a Home Warranty and remember you can ask the Seller to either pay or purchase for one.  After all, you are getting ready to spend at least six figures on a purchase.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides great information about the buying process.

Make sure to bring along a camera (or your cell), a notebook and tape measure.  Remember that there are some good apps for your cell phone that can help with the measurements and documentation!

INTERIOR

Attic

If possible, check out the attic for water problems inside the home.  Look for evidence of water leakage and damage at the ceiling and walls, and the insulation.  The insulation should be sufficient for the geographical location of the house.  Use your nose to detect musty and damp odors.  Be sure that the kitchen and bathrooms vent directly outside, and not to the attic, where the moisture can cause problems.

Basement

Check the basement floors and ceiling carefully for water marks and other signs of a leaky basement.  Once water begins to leak into a basement it is usually better to add a system to remove it rather than trying to stop it from coming in.  Check for signs of leaking around the foundation of the house, also checking for evidence of rotting wood in exposed beams in the basement.  Look for cracks in the interior basement walls. Plumbing systems in the basement should be checked for leakage and proper working order.

If the house has a crawl space, inspect it for moisture, mild, cracks in the foundation, and rotting in any exposed wood.

Bathroom

Check the bathrooms for rot and mildew, particularly along the baseboards by the tub and the ceiling above the shower. Look for cracks and leaks in the sink and toilet.  Are the pipes leaking?  Find the access panel (typically behind the tub) and if possible look at the ceiling directly below the bathroom. Turn on every faucet to access the water pressure and check the speed that water drains down sinks and tubs.  Toilets should be inspected for pressure and leaks.

Closets

Look in the closets. Are they empty (a sign that the seller has probably vacated the property?)  If so, the seller/s may be in a hurry to sell.

Electrical

Find the fuse box or the main breaker box in the home.  This box must be easy to access and it should be in good condition.  Note the number of electrical outlets – are they sufficient?  Check outlets in the kitchen, bathroom, and areas around sinks for ground fault circuit interrupters – GFCI – which can prevent severe shocks from occurring.

Fireplace and Chimney

Examine fireplaces and chimneys carefully.  Check the mortar to ensure it is not crumbling and loose.  Look for a rain cap on the chimney.  Examine the chimney’s exterior for evidence of smoke and creosote staining.  You may want to have it inspected and cleaned.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

Remember that old heating and air conditioning systems can be a big expense because they can be expensive to replace and expensive to operate.  Furnaces can last 20 years or more, but some models will begin to break down after 10 years or more.  Check the capacity and models to ensure they’re the appropriate size for the house.  Be sure to examine these units and the area surrounding them.  Consider hiring an expert to examine and inspect these systems to ensure they are in proper working order.

Kitchen

Take a good look at the cabinets.  Are they painted, stained, solid wood, particle board?  Examine the water pipes underneath the sink.  Is there water damage, mold or leaks?  While looking under the sink, check to see if the electrical wiring for the disposal and dishwasher is in a conduit.  Are the kitchen’s counters laminate or a solid surface?  What type of flooring?  Laminate is the least expensive and most common kitchen flooring.  Tile is durable but the tiles can crack and the grout can be a pain to keep clean and sealed.  Wood is a nice touch, but it scratches and can be damaged by water.  Are the appliances new?  Are they built in?  Remember that refrigerators can be the most expensive kitchen appliance and that the newest models are sometimes the most energy efficient.

More Interior!

Don’t be put off by the color of current paint.  Focus on structural issues such as dangling wires.  On the same note, if the house was built pre-1978, you will want a completed lead based paint disclosure form from the seller.  Examine all ceilings, walls, and floors looking for evidence of leaking or water damage.  Look closely for cracks in walls and ceilings which could indicate structural damage to the home.  Walk over all floor surfaces to notice any spongy or weak areas in the floor and check the floors to see if they slope at an angle in any rooms (one or two marbles work great!).  Lift a corner of the carpet by the heating vent to check for hardwood floors.  Take stock of the storage space.  Another great hint – turn off any music playing in the home so you can gauge road noise and airplane traffic.  Keep an eye open for possible asbestos and wiring that needs to be replaced.  Do you smell sewage, gas, or anything equally unpleasant?  Sewage systems in older homes can sometimes get clogged or damaged by tree roots.  Some sewer or plumbing companies can send a camera through the pipes to detect any breaks or blockages.  If there are discrepancies in the square footage, bedrooms or bathrooms, look for evidence of a remodel since the last sale.  Also worth noting:  pet odors, cigarettes, and mildew.

Windows

Look closely at the windows.  Are they double-paned and energy efficient?  If they are double-paned, take a minute to check the seals to ensure they are not broken.  Remember that when replacing windows quality is the key and it usually comes at a high price.

EXTERIOR

Driveways and Walkways

Check to see if the driveway and walkway are even and not cracking, crumbling or have sunken areas.

Garage

Check the interior and exterior of the garage.  Check the garage flooring for stains or cracks.  Open and close the garage doors to ensure they work property.  Check the connection of the garage to the house to ensure it is settling in the same way the house is settling, or is it pulling away from the house.  Is there proper drainage around the foundation of the garage?  Soil should slope away from the garage like it slopes away from the house foundation.

The Lot

What is the lot grade or the steepness of the lot?  Will it impact any future yard renovations?  Could the surrounding land around the lot be prone to flooding, wildfires, landslides or land “movement” issues?  Is the driveway shared with another property?  If there are fences, have they been built properly?  How much sunlight does the house get?  Keep in mind that the south and west direction receives more sun than the other two sides.  Are there shade trees?  The south-facing wall gets the most sun; the north-facing is the most damp.  Keep an eye out for wavy or discolored wood siding on the exterior.

On Site Wastewater Systems (Septic Tanks) (Idaho)

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality website offers information about septic tanks that buyers should familiarize themselves with when considering purchasing property utilizing a septic tank.  You will note that documents related to the property should give information about the last time the septic tanks was pumped out along with a copy of the receipt.  Please refer to the State’s website for more information.

Private Wells (Idaho)

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Water Resources offer a plethora of information regarding the testing of well water, the well owner’s responsibilities, well driller reports, septic tank information and more, and is your best resource.  Beyond the State, a professional well inspector is your best source for specific well information.

Radon (Idaho)

Before you buy a house, you should consider having the home tested for radon.  The most common procedure for testing during a real estate transaction is for the potential buyer to request the radon test as part of the overall home inspection.  More information can be found at Health and Welfare – Radon.

Roof

Before going inside, take a look at the roof.  Is it caving in or have a gaping hole in it?  Does it look new?  That could be a money saver for the buyer as a homeowner insurance rate or a potential claim, in addition to lasting 20 – 30 years.  Make sure shingles are present and in good condition.  Make sure water spouts drain away from the house – water gushing from the roof may cause water damage in the foundation.

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Melanie Pinola, author of “Five Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Bought a House,” writes:

The last bit of information is simple:  Don’t be afraid to walk away – you don’t have to buy a house!  Watch out for emotional attachment, one of the biggest problems homebuyers confront.  After grueling, energy sapping months of home shopping, hoping, planning, re-planning, monetary, and time investments including a hefty down payment, it’s easy to consider the house you finally decide on, your home.  You’ve become emotionally attached throughout the buying process.  Don’t become so invested that a sense of reality becomes clouded over.

You Don’t Have to Buy a House!

Don’t buy a home because that’s what you’ve been told you’re “supposed” to do.
Don’t buy a home because that’s what you think you’re “supposed” to do.
Don’t buy a home because it’s a good investment for the future. It’s really not all that great of an investment.
Don’t buy a home because you might get married and have kids someday and you need the space for this hypothetical future.
Don’t buy a home because you think it will lead you to some sort of idealized suburban life. A home won’t change who you are.
Don’t buy a home because you’re trying to “keep up” with someone in your life. It’ll make you fall further behind in the long run.

Buy a home because you it truly makes sense financially and you’re ready (and excited) to deal with the challenges of homeownership.

Buy a home because it’s better for your housing dollar than the other options available to you.

Lost and Found!

lost items imageHow many hours do you guess you spend a day or a week looking for lost objects? It’s a huge time waster, yes?

Finding lost objects can be easier, thanks to some gadgets that let you attach a small (the size of a quarter or a stamp) tag to objects—keys, laptops, and gym bags, for instance–that you often misplace.

The tag relies on Bluetooth technology and lets you hunt down missing objects by using a phone app. The item usually has to be within a certain range – say 50 to 100 feet – of your smartphone.

Another use is attaching a tag on a dog’s collar. You get a notification if your pet has roamed out of range at a park or has left your yard.

In addition, some of these object-finding devices also allow others who are using the technology’s network to help you find lost items. That means that if you left a backpack in the park and it’s out of range of your phone, others’ phones can signal you and you and give you a heads-up about its location.

For more see:

As you’re choosing a device, be certain that the system you pick is compatible with your phone.  And remember that technology is changing as we speak!  A quick Google search on “object-finding devices” will keep you current with the market.

Enjoy your life!

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Prepare your house for the spring selling season – Declutter!

January is the month when talk turns to resolutions, and magazines and newspapers give readers tips and resources.

So here is my reader tip for decluttering, which somehow not only ranks up there with diets and health on New Year’s resolutions lists, but also hangs around in those shadowy cob-web corners that we don’t want to look at!

Home Storage Solutions 101.com can help you in your quest for that Zen living environment. The site offers that classic declutter-365approach of setting a timer and suggesting that you deal with stuff in a given space for a set amount of time.  Somehow its methods do the trick for those of us that either procrastinate (I’ll put it away tomorrow!) or are just plain disorganized by giving a structured approach to help encourage that motivation that says YES – I CAN DO THIS!!

For one, the site provides a calendar of daily to-dos and how-tos for the year.

So, for instance, during January there’s a mission each week—kitchen counters, kitchen cabinets and drawers, pantry, and refrigerator and freezer.

Each day of the week is devoted to an activity associated with that mission, whether that entails purging the junk drawer or making an inventory of the freezer and pantry.

If your kitchen spaces are in good shape, you can skip ahead to other months and find help with dealing with dining rooms, bedrooms and paper clutter.

For Sale signEspecially if you’re preparing your house for sale this spring or later in the year, this daily decluttering strategy will get your spaces in shape slowly and steadily and without panic.

You can sign up to get weekly reminders or join the Declutter 365 Facebook Group for daily reminders; you can find tips on specific problem areas –the dresser, the nightstand or the bathroom counter; and  you can print out monthly calendars, as well as checklists, inventory sheets, and password organizer forms.

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