Selling a Home in the Fall
Often, buyers looking for a home at this time of year are relocating because of job change and want to get settled before the holidays. Plus, because there are typically fewer homes for sale in the fall, buyers know they need to make a competitive offer quickly if they want to be successful. All this is good news for home sellers…if you know how best to price, position and market your home.
In most real estate markets around the country, the advantage goes to sellers. With home loan interest rates still historically low, and still far too few homes for sale in many areas, sellers can often command high prices and preferred terms.
However, many sellers have grown too emboldened and are now making the mistake of over-pricing their property. Price your home too high, and you risk alienating your most likely buyers, or not being seen by them altogether. Overpriced homes can also be seen as poor value by agents and buyers qualified for the higher price, and lose valuable time on the market.
Improving your home’s curb appeal can significantly elevate its perceived value. Consider these three changes:
- Focus on the entry – Your front door, and everything surrounding it, makes a big first impression on potential buyers(when they view photos online, and when they arrive in person). Ideas for improvement include: replacing dated railings; repairing loose steps; repainting the steps and porch; buying a new door mat; updating the address numbers; putting out potted flowers; replacing the mail box and/or porch light; even replacing your whole front door with something more modern, attractive and/or secure.
- Give your landscape a makeover – Few landscapes have the right balance of greenery. With many, mature plantings have grown so large that they hide much of the house; other yards have so few trees and shrubs that the property looks stark and staid. Hire a professional landscaper to give your hard true symmetry. And, while they’re at it, ask them to intersperse some colorful plants, as well.
- Less-obstructive fencing – If there’s a full-height solid fence between your home and the street, consider removing it, removing select sections, or replacing it with one that’s lower.
The open house is your opportunity to make real estate agents and prospective buyers fall in love with your home. To make the best impression, focus on the following:
- A cleaning blitz – A top-to-bottom cleaning of everything should be your priority before an open house because, in the eyes of those who tour it, a clean house is a well-maintained house.
- Swap something old for something new – Installing a modern, digital thermostat is an easy way to give your old heating system a new-and-improved look. Swapping an old toilet seat for one that’s shiny and new can make the who bathroom look better.
- Lots of light – Open all the window coverings and consider installing new light fixtures. But think twice before simply installing a brighter bulb in an existing light fixture as harsh lighting can also be a negative.
- Explanatory notes – You can’t be there to point out all the best features of your house to everyone who tours it, but you can strategically place note cares with messages like “New bathroom fan is very powerful and quiet” or “Built-in entertainment system to remain with the home.”
As an added bonus, we’re also going to touch base on safety around the home before you start handing out those Halloween sweets to trick-or-treaters.
- Lighting is key – The pathways leading to your front door should all be well-lit. Inexpensive, solar-powered walkway lighting kits are available online and at your preferred home-improvement store.
- Electrical matters – Use electrical equipment specifically designed to withstand wet weather; avoid overloading outlets (ask a neighbor if you need more places to connect cords); make sure extension cords don’t pose a tripping hazard.
- Clear the porch – Pumpkins sitting on the porch or front stairs can be a dangerous tripping hazard. Move these and any other decorations away from the walkway before the youngsters start visiting.
- Keep your pets contained – For their safety and that of visitors, keep your pets in a separate room while you’re greeting trick-or-treaters at your front door.
- Make quick work of any shenanigans – If you become the target of a Halloween night prank, clean up the mess as soon as possible to keep visitors safe and minimize work. It’s much easier to clean up things like soda, eggs, toilet paper and graffiti before they’ve been sitting too long.
Source: Windermere October Home Update
If you think it’s okay to let your roof languish, know this: Doing so could nullify your homeowners insurance coverage. If your roof is nearing or past its expiration date – or if you’ve notice leaks, water stains on the ceiling or other telltale signs of a possible leak – no is the time to take action.
Inspect it before winter
It never pays to wait and see if a worn roof still repels the rain. So make time in the fall, before winter kicks in, to ensure it’s fit for another winter. The safest way to assess its current condition is to use binoculars to look for curled shingles, cracks, loose or missing shingles, moss growth and other signs of damage. If you have access to the attic space, check the underside of the roof for water stains, especially around chimneys, vents and roof valleys. If you find signs of leaks or serious wear, ask for evaluations from a couple of reputable roofing companies – or an independent certified maintenance professional. I’m happy to provide a referral if you need it.
Determine the number of layers
If you currently have just one layer of asphalt shingles on your roof, and they need replacement, you may be able to simply add another layer. However, if there are already two layers, you must remove both before installing new. A roofing contractor can assess the situation and explain your options.
Stick with the style you have
Switching to a different roofing styles can be an expensive, involved process. Before considering such a radical change, take a look at the options available for the style of roofing you already have.
Higher quality is your best option
The most expensive aspect of a roofing project is the cost of labor. so it’s to your advantage to choose higher-quality, longer-lasting materials – which will allow you to rest easy knowing you won’t have to re-roof again for decades.
Keeping cool with better venting
When heat gets trapped in your attic during the summer months, it prevents the interior of your home from cooling down, even after the outside temperature has dropped. To keep that heat blanket from forming, consider installing more roof and attic venting – especially if you’re having a new roof installed.
New gutters are optional
If your gutters are damaged or of poor quality, it’s a good idea to replace them when the house is re-roofed, but it’s not necessary. Your gutter system is separate from the roofing system, and both can be repaired or replaced independently, by different companies.
Also not included…
Don’t expect roofers to make chimney repairs (that’s a job for a mason). The roofers also won’t paint the trim around your roofline, prune overhanging branches, or perform other maintenance chores around the upper areas of the house.
Alert the neighbors
Be proactive and tell the neighbors about your roofing plans. Depending on the space between homes and the access required, your roofing contractor may need to get their permission before setting ladders and other equipment on their property. Even if that’s not the case, your neighbors will no doubt appreciate the notice.
A final note for prospective sellers
If you’re thinking of selling your home anytime soon, you’ll want to be sure to tackle any necessary roof repairs before the inspection. For other pre-sale preparations tips, contact me.
*Source: Windermere Home Update September 2018
The (Not-SO) Secret Selling Advantage
There are lots of great reasons to entrust the sale of your home to a professional agent instead of trying to sell it yourself, but here’s one guaranteed to grab your attention: Two new batches of research prove that agent-sold homes sell for more money.
According to the most recent Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers by the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), the average sales price for homes sold by their owners is $185,000, while the average for a home sold by an agent is $245,000 – a difference of $60,000.
Meanwhile, a study performed by Collateral Analytics, featuring :the most accurate method ever used to control for property differences,” compares the two approaches on an apples-to-apples basis. It found that, when a homeowner and a real estate agent sell similar homes, the owner-seller, on average, nets nearly 6% less money than an agent.
To put that second study into perspective, you need to understand that most real estate professionals charge a commission of about 6%. That means many owner-sellers take on all the work, worry and risk of selling their own home, only to net the same amount they would if they had paid an agent to handle everything.
New Online Resources Not Helping
For years there has been rapid growth in the number of online services and resources for homeowners who want to sell their home without the help of a real estate agent. However, researchers studying the issue note that the success rate for owner-sellers has remained stagnant for decades. Meanwhile, the number of homes successfully purchased with the help of a traditional agent just keeps growing (increasing 20% since 2001, according to the latest NAR research).
Why are agents so much more effective? These are some of the keys:
Spot-on Pricing – no one is better equipped to determine the best price for your home than an agent. They have all the best information, resources and processes.
Widespread Exposure – the only way to get your home listed on the all-important multiple listing services (MLS) is through a licensed real estate agent. Plus, agents share their sales listings amongst each other through their own corporate and social networks.
Valuable Advice – your agent will be able to tell you what, if any, home improvements/repairs are necessary to ensure a quick sale, as well as whether staging could help attract a better class of buyer. They can also recommend reputable contractors to carry out those tasks.
Salesmanship – showings will be scheduled and managed by your agent. All you have to do is keep the property clean and tidy.
Negotiation – your agent will also help you review all the offers from interested buyers, prepare counter-offers, weed-out unsuitable offers and negotiate the best final terms.
Paperwork expertise – your agent will properly prepare, explain and manage all of the contract paperwork, addendums, property disclosures, and other documentation associated with the sale.
When to Make Contact
For the best results, I encourage home sellers to contact me at least 60 days before they want to sell. Even if you haven’t found a new home yet, or you aren’t positive you’re going to sell, it’s important to get the agent/client consultation process started early.
Source: Windermere Real Estate March Home Update.
I’m house-sitting. Actually dog and turtle sitting. The house is fine without me.
The first morning I came out to check on Hermie, the turtle. He was staring at the temperature and humidity gauge in his aquarium. Staring does not properly describe it — his neck was stretching towards the gauge with great attention.
Hermie sensed his owner was gone and he was at the mercy of my furtive fending for his needs. I’m convinced that he was staring at that gauge and thinking: “My owner is gone. This woman does NOT know what she’s doing. If those gauge indicators move outside of the required ranges, I will die. I’m terrified!”
OR — Hermie believes in the great gauge god in the sky.
Either way. Hermie’s owner has successfully overseen her turtle out of hibernation. Just in time for me to force him into existential angst.
Environments are tenuous. Any little change can cause damage, chaos, … a renewed focus on a higher power.
This is true when you buy a new home. Maybe more people are now living in the home. Systems are used differently. A period of vacancy dried out the o-rings in your [insert plumbing fixture here] and you are 3 uses away from total failure and flooding.
Home warranties cover major systems in a home for the first full year of ownership. The one time fee for coverage can be negotiated as paid by the Seller, too. In Walla Walla, American Home Shield is a common provider — www.ahs.com.
So — when it comes to care of your new home, don’t just hope and pray. Hermie needs all the support he can get from the gauge god in the sky and there’s a better resource for home owners in a home warranty.
Source: Melissa Tetz
Fun Ideas for the Yard
If your yard is not living up to its full potential as a place for family and friends to relax, enjoy the weather, and gather for fun, then it’s time to get out there and make some improvements before winter sends everyone scurrying indoors again. Because the yards around most homes account for such a large part of the property, any updates to outdoor spaces can make a dramatic difference for the better – for your own enjoyment, as well as the future resale value. Here are seven yard improvements to consider:
A garden fountain can make your whole yard seem more sophisticated. The moving water is a great attraction for birds, plus, the sound effects are perfect for making the noise from surrounding streets, commercial districts, and noisy neighbors.
These water-less landscape features use carefully arranged stones to create the feel of flowing water in a nearly maintenance-free setting.
With the right lights staged throughout your yard, you can bring your whole garden into view, make outdoor paths and walkways safer, and highlight the best architectural aspects of your home’s exterior.
Family and guests love to gather in the kitchen (and cooks enjoy the company), so why not create an outdoor kitchen in your backyard? High-end versions often feature running water and natural gas. But less-expensive layouts can be created using bottled water and propane gas tanks.
While everyone loves the sun, your family and friends may not want to sit directly in it for hours at a time. Freestanding yard awnings (also called sun shade sails) offer an inexpensive way to create some respite. Made of colorful, fade-resistant outdoor fabric, they can be relatively easily stretched overhead across areas of your yard using cables, turnbuckles, and other inexpensive mounting hardware.
Connect a projector to your existing laptop, erect a temporary screen, and before you know it, you can be watching mainstream movies in your backyard.
WEATER-PROOFING PING PONG
That 1970’s favorite, Ping Pong, is more popular today than ever – and weather-resistant tables made specifically for the outdoors make it easy to bring the excitement of this paddle sport to your backyard.
Another favorite is the Fire Pit. Once dusk descends and the temperature drops, everyone loves to gather around a toasty fire pit – which is why you need to make sure it’s safe for all involved.
Choose Gas – A wood-burning fire pit is less expensive than a gas-powered model, but also much more dangerous. IF you do opt for a wood-burner, always keep it covered to contain sparks.
Place it in Open Yard Space – Fire pits do not belong on decks or balconies, nor under low-hanging branches. Place it on the ground, at least 10 feet from any structures, and surround the unit with stone or other non-flammable material.
Turn it off when there’s too much commotion – if children are playing near the fire pit, or there’s a lot of activity, simply turn the flame off or let the fire die down until things are calm again.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update
The vast majority of Americans (about 70%) will go on at least one vacation this year – leaving their homes vulnerable to thieves for days at a time. There are lots of ways to secure your property against burglars, but the best ideas are usually centered on facts. Following are the latest home-burglary statistics complied by the FBI and the insurance industry, as well as specific suggestions to prevent your home from becoming the next vacation victim.
VACATION TIME IS ALSO PRIME BURGLARY TIME
July and August are the most popular months for Americans to vacation. But for thieves, it’s a time to get to work burglarizing homes. According to the FBI, residential burglaries spike 10% during those two months, marking that 62-day period as the most active of all for home break-ins. To play it safe, carefully consider who you tell about your vacation plans. And wait until you’re safely home to post accounts of the trip on social media.
MOST THIEVES ARE NON-PROFESSIONAL OPPORTUNISTS
The idea that professional thieves are monitoring your home, waiting for you to go on vacation, is seldom true. In reality, the typical burglar tends to act quickly when a good opportunity presents itself. To keep thieves at bay, make it always appear that someone is inside:
- Don’t let the mail, packages or newspapers pile up on the porch
- Use timers to make the interior lights turn on and off
- Arrange for someone to cut the grass if you’ll be gone for longer than a week during the growing season
- Ask a neighbor to care for your garbage and recycling containers when you’re traveling
MOST BURGLARIES HAPPEN DURING THE DAY
The majority of burglaries happen between 9am and 3pm, when you and most of your neighbors are at work. Installing an alarm system is one very good way to protect your home during the day. But another, often overlooked, option is to ask the retirees in your neighborhood to keep an eye on the place.
UNLOCKED DOORS & WINDOWS ARE A BIG PROBLEM
Many people think they won’t be burglarized, so they don’t make an extra effort to keep all the doors and windows locked. The result: nearly 30% of all “unlawful entries” are made through an unlocked door or window. The solution is simple: lock everything (including the garage door and any upper-floor windows) every time you leave.
ALARM SYSTEMS SCARE BURGLARS
Homes without an alarm system are two to three times more likely to be burglarized. Fortunately, there are many types of systems available today, with a wide variety of affordable price tags.
PROTECT YOUR PIECE OF MIND
It’s tough to transition into a vacation state of mind if you’re worrying about your home’s security. Take time now to implement the ideas above, and you’ll be able to leave those concerns behind on your next vacation getaway.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update May 2017
Spring Maintenance Matters
The best way to avoid expensive, disruptive home repairs is to regularly inspect and address the areas prone to major problems. Giving the house a deep cleaning has become a springtime ritual. But if you really want to make a difference – and save yourself big money on future home repairs – take some time over the next couple of weeks to also assess these potential maintenance problems:
WATER LEAKS – Freezing winter weather can cause water pipe fittings to fracture. Turn off all the water on your property, then look at the main water meter (typically located under a metal or concrete lid near the street in front of your house). If the meter dial is moving – even a tiny bit – when all the water is turned off, it may mean a water pipe buried on your property, or hidden inside an interior wall, is leaking.
OLDER TREES – Large trees that have been growing in your yard for 35 years or more should be assessed every spring to ensure they aren’t prone to falling in a windstorm. Those with dead branches, soft spots and other unhealthy attributes should be professionally inspected by an arborist.
RODENTS – During winter, rats and mice look for warm places in and around your home to take shelter. Now is the time to take a close look at the places they like to hide (the attic, closed-off areas of the basement, behind the furnace and other appliances, in storage sheds and garages, etc). If you see any droppings, it’s time to take action.
GUTTERS AND DOWNSPOUTS – Venture out on a rainy day and look at the top and bottom of each downspout (the pipes attached to the side of your house that run vertically from your roof gutters to the ground below). Is rain water overflowing at the top? Is water pooling at the bottom? Are puddles forming next to your foundation? If so, don’t delay making any necessary repairs.
ROOF MOSS – When moss is allowed to grow on your roof, the burrowing roots can damage shingles and cause leaks. To check for these build-ups, keep your feet safely planted on the ground, and use binoculars to scan the room for clumps of green. Also look for signs of problematic wear: chipped or missing roof shingles.
WORN PAINT – If you wait until your house paint is peeling to put on a fresh coat, the labor costs will be far higher. Instead, compare a sunny side of your house to a side in near constant shade. If the difference in paint condition is dramatic, it’s time to get bids from painters.
Use the tips and suggestions above as a checklist, and you’ll be motivated to tackle these tasks before all the distracting sun and fun of summer arrives.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update April 2017.
Moving Made Easy
The average American will pack up all their belongings and move to a new house or apartment 11.4 times during their lifetime. Many of us – especially those of us with young children and a multitude of possessions – have come to dread the moving process. Yet, there are people who have a knack for making it all look…dare we say…easy. On the day that the moving trucks arrive, everything just seems to fall into place. Everyone knows the plan. Things happen quickly.
Truth be told, those are the people who planning and organized for weeks beforehand, which is the key to a smooth move. To become one of those people, here are six suggestions:
- Get Started Six Weeks Beforehand – Organizing for a whole-house move takes time. This is not something that can be rushed. Give yourself at least six weeks to prepare.
- Hire a Pro to Help You Purge – If you’re like most people, you love the idea of streamlining your possessions before a big move, but you find it one of the most challenging of tasks. The solution: Hire a professional organizer. Typically, the organizer will provide coaching, support and recommendations, as well as physical help.
- Develop Plans for the New Spaces – Move-in day will go much smoother if you determine ahead of time exactly where you want your furnishings to be place in the new property. Take measurements. Create a schematic. Put notes on each piece of furniture. You should even designate a space in each room where boxes can be safely stacked out of the way.
- Include the Kids – If you have children, give them plenty of advance notice so they can get used to the idea of a new home. Take time to answer their questions. Visit the new home and neighborhood as a family. And finally, arrange for someone to care for your children off-site on moving day.
- Arrange a Smooth Exit – While you’re surely excited about your new home, you’ll want to focus some of that energy on your current residence too.
- Renters: Plan to meet on-site with your landlord at least two weeks before your move-out date to review all the move-out processes and expectations. Ask if any of the required steps or paperwork can be completed before your final day.
- Sellers: Confer with your real estate agent about what items should/should not be left behind, how much cleaning needs to be done and more.
- Set Aside the Essentials – Moving is an all-day affair – which means you won’t have time to do much unpacking before the next day dawns. Red-tag the items you’ll want to access the first day in your new space (phone charger, essential kitchen items, etc) so they can be packed in a specially marked box.
Taking the time to plan in advance can save you a lot of stress on moving day and help you start enjoying your new home as quickly as possible.
Source: Windermere Home Update March 2017.
How Home Staging Sells
If you’re planning to sell your home anytime soon, give some serious thought to hiring a professional stager for an interior makeover.
After assessing your home, neighborhood and the most likely buyer, a home stager will physically arrange furnishings throughout your house and recommend other changes – which often include inventive ways to tackle clutter, high-impact painting suggestions, quick fixes for long-overdue repair issues, plus much more.
The process and underlying principles involved are akin to interior decorating, but are also very focused on the ever-changing desires of today’s home buyers and how best to appeal to them.
Here are some reasons why home staging can be well worth the investment:
Your Home Will Feel Bigger
Over the years, many homes fill with furnishings that make rooms feel awkward, cramped and crowded. A professional stage knows what to remove and how to rearrange what’s left to make these areas feel more spacious and useful.
Problem Areas Can Ben Downplayed
Some homes have rooms that are too small, too big or oddly shaped; interior payouts that make it difficult to get from room to room; fireplace mantels that overwhelm the living room; closetless bedrooms; misplaced windows; and other problems. Home staging can make those weaknesses seem insignificant, even unnoticeable; at the very least, it will demonstrate for prospective buyers how they can overcome the challenges.
Marketing Photos Look Better
Today, buyers begin their search for a new home online, where photos of the property will largely determine how many people will take the time to tour your home in person. When the walls are hung with neutral artwork, the interior decor is balanced, and the lighting is uplifting, it’s far easier for the photographer to make your house a standout.
Buyers Will Feel At Home
It’s difficult for many prospective buyers to see someone else’s home and envision living there themselves – especially if the current owner has outgrown the space, is using rooms in unusual ways, has out-of-date design ideas, or just hasn’t maintained the property well. The goal of home staging is to make every space in the house appeal to either the largest pool of prospective buyers or a very specific type of targeted buyers.
You’ll Sell Faster
A recent study performed by a team of real estate professors showed that most prospective buyers are not willing to pay significantly more for a house simply because it’s expertly furnished. However, another marquee study has demonstrated that staged homes sell far more quickly – which also has a direct impact on the seller’s bottom-lined profit:
- Homes that sell quickly usually garner the highest asking price
- Sought-after homes often attract multiple bidders
- A fast sale means the homeowner can cut their expenses and move on more quickly
According to the most recent RECA study, professionally staged properties valued between 4300,000 and $499,000 sell in 22 days on average, while comparable unstaged homes were found to typically languish on the market for an average of 125 days.
For more information about staging, as well as referrals to professional stagers, contact me anytime.
Source: Windermere Home Update February 2017.
HOME MAINTENANCE ON A BUDGET
There’s no escaping the need for a home maintenance and repair, so you may as well budget for it. Assume some aspects of your house will need work and put money aside each year to cover the costs. When you’re a homeowner, there’s no landlord. It’s up to you to fix or otherwise address whatever breaks and needs maintaining. It’s one of the responsibilities that many new homeowners tend to under-estimate. Even those who have owned a home for decades are often guilty of putting off necessary maintenance projects until the proverbial “next year”.
The daily- lift disruption these projects can cause is one reason why homeowners tend to delay or ignore the work. However, the money involved is often the major hurdle. The best solution, say experts, is to create a budget – plan ahead by putting money aside each year.
How much should you budget? That depends on your home, its size, age and condition. However, as a general rule, experts recommend you set aside between 1% and 4% of your home’s purchase price. For a house that cost $350,000 to buy, that means the maintenance/repair budget should be between $3500 and $14,000 per year. The lower amount would be appropriate for a new home or condominium; owners of homes 50+ years old should target the high end of the scale.
To develop a custom budget based on the cost of specific projects, see the “cost guides” provided for free on the ImpoveNet.com website. But remember, your budget must also include funds for unexpected repairs (e.g., broken appliance, broken window, leaking toilet), not just the known maintenance projects.
DO IT YOURSELF
Because labor makes up most of the cost of many home repairs and maintenance projects, you can save significant money by doing some of the work yourself. YouTube has become famous for its how-to videos. And the big-box home-improvement stores (Home Depot, Lowes, etc) offer all of the necessary tools and supplies.
REGULAR CONTRIBUTIONS ARE KEY
The best way to manage your maintenance/repair money is via a separate savings account. Try funding it by making regular contributions: for example, contributing $300 per paycheck until you reach your budget amount for the year. If you don’t make the contributions a common practice, it’s too easy to spend the money elsewhere.
Not only is a well-maintained house less expensive to operate, it will also sell for more money. When it comes time to list it, you’ll be glad you saved, budgeted and quickly tackled maintenance problems. For more suggestions that could increase your home’s value, contact me directly.
Source: Windermere Home Update December 2016.
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