Home Looking Drab? Boosting Curb Appeal Is Easy And Worth It

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Improving the curb appeal of your home will not only bring a smile to your face when you pull up after a long day, but it will leave you smiling all the way to the closing table. Boosting the exterior aesthetic of your home adds to your enjoyment, but also can dramatically improve the value at resale. By focusing on the three main areas of your home’s exterior, you’ll be proud no matter who is driving by.

Improving the driveway, garage, and walkway

In most homes, the driveway and the garage comprise a significant portion of the home’s curb appeal, yet they are often overlooked by homeowners. Ensuring your driveway is in good condition and free of weeds will automatically freshen the exterior — edging your driveway with coordinating stones or pavers can also enhance the appeal.

Also, take some time to inspect your exterior walkway. Is it in good condition? Does it enhance the other exterior features? Upgrading a walkway with pavers or flagstones is relatively inexpensive and can dramatically change the way you feel walking up to your front door.

Garage doors can also set the tone for a home’s appearance. Consider touching up garage door paint or replacing your door altogether. With a wide variety of materials to choose from, a new garage door can transform your home’s exterior. Doors are available in wood, steel, and fiberglass with countless choicesin design and color.

Attending to your home’s exterior

A home with siding and paint in good condition that blends well with the neighborhood and surrounding landscape will offer a more serene experience. Even if your paint is in good condition, consider power washing the exterior to remove dirt and grime that can diminish its appeal. Renting a power washer for the weekend is inexpensive but can reap massive rewards in how your home looks and feels.

Small changes to the entryway can have a dramatic impact on visitors. Replace broken or rusted lighting fixtures, update door hardware, and embrace symmetryat the entry point. Even the simple act of repainting your front door with a fresh shade can add tremendous appeal. Installing additional lighting along a walkway or dark areas can also enhance these exterior spaces.

Luscious landscapes

Landscaping is one of the primary ways to make a dramatic impact on how your home looks. Improvements in landscaping are thought to return about 4 to 5 times your investment when it comes to selling your home. To maximize your time and investment, first, assess what of your existing landscape can be used or improved. Trim overgrown bushes, prune trees and refresh mulch or other ground covering. Peeling back the overgrown exterior can attract some unwanted attention to your home — consider purchasing home insurance ridersto protect any belongings not covered in your policy.

Adding plant beds to feature climate appropriate plants will help you maintain your landscape with less hassle and will enhance the natural beauty of your lot. Choose annuals to add bright pops of color, either in beds or matching planters at the front of your home.

Lastly, attend to your lawn. Patch dead areas with sod or seed and ensure you are caring for your lawn using recommended methods — mow regularly, use fertilizers and weedicides as needed, and make sure your clean up after any pets. Stubborn bare patches can be transformed into unique flower beds or improved with alternative ground cover, such as ivy, in areas where it is too shady for many types of grass.

With some simple and inexpensive fixes, you can create an exterior that you are not only proud of but that you enjoy spending time in. Not only will this improve your happiness in your home, but it will also reap benefits when you’re ready to move someplace new.

WRITTEN BY MIKKIE MILLS

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A SELLER’S GUIDE TO A WINNING OPEN HOUSE

Holding an open house for your soon-to-be-listed or newly on the market home is a lot like being on a game show where edging out the other contestants in a short period of time is key. In TV game shows, such as “Jeopardy,” the contestants don’t automatically know answers to so many trivia questions; they study and they plan and they make it appear to viewers like they walk around with that body of knowledge every day. Open houses need to be thought of similarly. Once your home is on the market, an open house is your opportunity to plan and strategize how you are going to win over buyers in very short time.

Even in a strong real estate market where houses sell quickly, it’s still important to ask your agent to hold as many open houses as possible until the home sells. One reason is that even buyers with agents still like to look at homes on their own without feeling the pressure of a home tour. Sometimes their agent is out of town when your house goes on the market. Many buyers are not represented by an agent and the only way for them to tour a home is through an open house. Your agent will plan the open house to include everything from signage to freshly baked cookies. As a seller, you should take the following steps:

Depersonalize

Back to the game show analogy, think of depersonalizing as studying the answers and questions before trying out for “Jeopardy.” Your house is lovely for how you live in it, but buyers don’t want to see youin your house. In fact, the more your house makes it difficult to guess who lives there (age, religion, gender etc), the better. Take down personal photos, religious emblems, the cute collection of mini ceramic frogs, etc. Analyze your stuff for whether it’s morally, politically, or otherwise socially objectionable and remove all of it. You don’t want to eliminate buyers because they are turned off by your personal tastes.

Declutter

While you are depersonalizing it’s also a good time to declutter as the two go hand in hand. The more simple and understated your home is, the more likely buyers can see the home for what it is and imagine themselves in it. When you have too much stuff cluttering walls and counters and shelves, buyers turn their focus toward those things and sometimes even make the assumption in logic that if you are cluttery, then you are disorganized, which means maybe you don’t take care of the house as well or as on time as you should. A good rule of thumb is to box up or store at least half of the smaller items displayed in your home.

For example, how much is on your kitchen counter right now? Now imagine reducing that number to just three things. What would you choose to keep versus store? Some sellers are benefited by going to other open houses in their area and looking at how other people have decluttered and arranged what is left. Online pictures, such as what is found on Pinterest, can help too. Often you can get some good ideas on what works visually just by seeing how others do it. When you are all done decluttering, clean your home like never before because buyers notice dirt and grime. Hire a maid service if you have to.

Lure Them In

The outside of your home is as important as the inside, especially the front entry area. Before an open house, take care of simple yard maintenance such as mowing, edging and weeding flower beds. A fresh layer of mulch adds color especially in winter months when not much is blooming. At your front door, clean off spider webs, blown leaves, and place a large, colorful pot of annuals or anything you can buy in season.

Complete Your Honey-Do List

While you have the yard power tools out, dust of your workbench and take a walk around your house inside and out. Make a list of all maintenance issues such as wiggly door handles, missing fascia, paint that has chipped, etc. and repair them before the open house. Buyers see even the smallest of maintenance issues as an extension of the condition of larger items such as roofs, plumbing and major appliances and assume you haven’t taken care of the home. You might talk to your realtor about a pre-inspection to deal with all home maintenance and problems upfront, before you get into contract with a buyer.

Be Cautious

Once you have taken the above steps and you are ready for the actual open house, there’s one last thing to plan. Protecting your valuables and identity. It might be rare, but criminals do use open houses as a way to case a house or to find collateral to steal identities. Make sure indoor safes are locked and hidden. Store heirlooms, checkbooks, prescriptions, and valuable jewelry away from prying eyes. Utilize a reliable, trustworthy, identity theft protection service to see you through the entire listing and sales process.

Written by Realty Times Staff

13 BRUTALLY HONEST REASONS YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO SELL YOUR HOUSE ON YOUR OWN

Thinking about selling your house without a real estate agent? It’s a choice some people make, mainly to try to save some money. But the number of people who list their home For Sale By Owner is in decline. “Eight percent of home sellers chose to list themselves – a record low of for-sale-by-owner transactions,” according to a National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) survey.

So why isn’t it a good idea to go it alone? Let us count the ways.

1. Because you’re not thinking with your head

No matter how level-headed you think you are, selling your home is emotional. When someone comes in with a lowball offer or offends your decorating style, will you be able to remain professional, or are the cops going to have to get involved because you punched a guy?

2. Because you think your house looks fine as is

And it may, for everyday living. But a “lived-in” house is not going to wow buyers. Beyond the obvious tips of making your house sparkling clean, a Realtor will help you declutter and depersonalize to get it in selling shape.

3. Because you clearly have no sense of smell

If you did, you’d know your house smells like crap. Cat crap, to be exact. Or maybe it’s just musty, which could give potential buyers the idea that there are water issues (which there may very well be). A real estate agent would undoubtedly make you address any odor issues, along with a whole host of other staging stuff to make your place look – and smell – good.


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4. Because Formica countertops went out in the ‘60s

Actually, were they ever really in? A dated kitchen isn’t just going to affect your sales price. It may keep you from getting offers altogether. The rule about kitchens and bathrooms selling homes is still true; even small but impactful changes can help substantially, which Realtors are keenly aware of. Trying to save a buck by listing a home yourself and not making even small changes can hurt you in the end.

5. Because you have a view of the freeway

Think it’s gonna be easy to distract from the eyesore down the street or the overwhelming noise in the backyard? Nope. But an agent will give it their all in ways you may not have thought of or be skilled in, using smart pricing and marketing strategies to deflect, downplay, or refocus attention on other, more attractive elements of the home.


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6. Because you don’t know thousands of people. And you’re not connected to hundreds of agents.

That’s the difference an agent can make in using their network to market your home far and wide and getting it in front of potential buyers.

7. Because you need to come down $20k from your “dream” sales price

Then come down another $10k. Then you might actually be close to market value. This goes back to that “emotional” process thing. Your home isn’t worth the memories you made there, or the work you put in. Market value is market value, and a real estate agent will have a much easier time establishing that and sticking to it.

8. Because what you call charming and eclectic may just be seen by buyers as tiny and outdated.

You may not be able to get real about the reality of your home. But your Realtor will.

9. Because the only offer you got was $30,000 below your asking price

Know how to proceed? What if you play hardball and lose the only bite you’ve had? What if you agree and always regret the idea that you left money on the table?

10. Because the inspection report showed all kinds of unpleasant stuff, and now the buyer wants a big, fat credit

It’s an agent’s job to handle the multiple unpleasant details that would make a regular person run toward a quiet space to roll up into the fetal position. The fact that you don’t have to do any of the negotiating – not on sales price to begin with, not on whether or not you can include your master bedroom furniture, set of luggage, lawn chairs, and collection of vintage cookbooks in the home sale, and not on who’s going to pay to fix the leaky roof and the cracked living room window – is well worth the commission you pay.


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11. That overgrown mess you call a front yard

Curb appeal is critical to getting your home sold. A real estate agent will help you focus on the simple steps to get it in good shape. Fail to address this key area and those coming to see your home may just pass on by.

12. You

Yes, you. You could be the No. 1 deterrent to getting your house sold, starting with the house tour. Shadowing potential buyers while they check out the house, pestering them with questions about how they like it, interrupting their agent to add in inconsequential details – all of these things may turn off buyers and send them off to the next home.

Agents know what to emphasize and how to give potential buyers space. Crowding and/or annoying them may be enough to make them walk. After all, if dealing with you during the home tour is a drag, who’s going to want to deal with that during the escrow?

13. And the most important reason of all: the money.

“In reality, homes sold by the owner make less money overall,” according to the NAR.

By the numbers: “The median selling price for all FSBO homes was $210,000 last year. When the buyer knew the seller in FSBO sales, the number sinks to the median selling price of $151,900,” they said. “However, homes that were sold with the assistance of an agent had a median selling price of $249,000 — nearly $40,000 more for the typical home sale.”

Still want to do it on your own?

Written by Jaymi Naciri

5 FRONT YARD LANDSCAPING TIPS THAT WILL WOW BUYERS

Your front yard is the red carpet inviting buyers into the beauty that is your home. If it’s rugged, messy and unkempt, buyers will take one look and then keep on driving to the next property on their list. Don’t let that happen by making your front yard luscious and as amazing as the inside of your home.

What areas should you focus on in your front yard? Where do you start? To help you break down the revitalization of your front yard, here are the steps you should take:

1. Cut the grass.

Buyers don’t want to trudge through high grass as though they were in the Amazon or on a safari in Africa. This means the lawn mower needs to be out at least once a week if not every other week, keeping it trimmed and maintained. It also needs to be green so it looks alive and lush. Water so the sun doesn’t dry out the lawn and turn it yellow or brown. A professional landscaper can help maintain a balance of trimming and growth so it looks just right for buyers.

2. Plant more shade trees.

One or two trees in the front yard are all right, but if you want to really add some shade, plant more. Shade trees will detract from the glare of the sun, and it can help decrease the temperature of the house if they’re placed close to windows. It also will help keep the lawn green with moisture. You can plant trees that are shorter and will grow by the time the new owner buys the home, but be sure they’re strong and can handle the climate.

3. Install outdoor lighting.

Outdoor lighting is a good way to both illuminate the house at night and accent parts of your yard. Depending on where you install the lights, your house will look very appealing at night to those buyers who might not have time to do their shopping during the day. Outdoor lighting also helps to illuminate a path like a sidewalk to get from the curb to your front door for easier navigation. It helps to accent the beauty of your landscaping which all together increases the beauty of your home.

4. Consider adding flowers for more color.

If your front yard has a lot of greenery, you should increase the yard appeal by adding more colors. Flowers are a great and simple way to do this, as well as shrubbery with different blooms. Perennials are the best for this because they last for more than a year, which means less maintenance for the seller and the new homeowner. They come in a wide variety of colors and types so the yard can be decorated with any number of them while still requiring less maintenance.

5. Keep everything clean!

In addition to keeping the lawn trimmed, everything else should be clean. Anywhere that can build up dirt or grime – siding, porch, front door, driveway – should be cleaned on a regular basis. Buyers don’t want to see a lot of dirt and mess, and it will detract from them wanting to walk into the house. So take a broom, a power washer and a few hours on the weekend to keep everything sparkling clean. Don’t have a power washer? A professional power washing service can cost as little as $293.

Written by Realty Times Staff

HOME SELLERS: CREATE A ‘MILLENNIAL MAGNET’

Sellers whose homes are ideal first-time-buyer starter homes may count on attracting millennial buyers to purchase this real estate. If so, sellers benefit from learning how to look at their homes from the millennial point of view since this group does not represent the force that it has in the past.

With more than 83 million millennials — a larger group than boomers — needing a roof over their head, millennial home buyers should represent very significant proportions of the real estate purchasers in many markets — but they don’t.

According to the National Association of Realtors 2015 2015 annual home buyers and sellers survey, the percentage of buyers who were first-timers was down to an almost historic low of 32%. Only one-third of these first-timers are millennials, where traditionally this group represented the majority of buyers. The thirty-something millennial segment that is buying has the income, borrowing clout, dual income status, and parental-boosted down payment to afford home ownership, where their millennial colleagues are renting or living with their parents.

“Millennial” is a popular label (replacing Generation Y and Echo Boomers) that business gurus and authors apply to those born in years ranging from the early 1980s to the first years of the 21st Century — that’s the Millennium connection. The millennial label has no absolute definition. The defining range of years is usually chosen to prove the user’s point. Popular start years are 1980 or 1982 while wrap years run from 1992 to 2004.

As more millennials reach traditional home buying age, buyer ranks will swell since the age 23 cohort is currently the largest in the overall population. Until then, sellers intent on attracting millennial singles and couples — and other first time buyers — will benefit from understanding how to transform their home into a “millennial magnet.”

Five Seller Perspectives Create a “Millennial Magnet”

1. New Functionality & Cool Design Matter

To millennials, many rooms have new functions and, therefore, should look very new and different from the decor many sellers preserve from their move-in decades ago. TV rooms are now media rooms; bedrooms are now sanctuaries; bathrooms are spas; recreation rooms are man caves; garages are studios; closets are to die for. Keep in mind that rooms themselves are on the out. Open concept is the preferred “dream home” configuration. Sellers must disregard how they have used and enjoyed specific rooms to concentrate on transforming old rooms look to like the right new space. Hot real estate markets have millennials feeling that they are settling for less than they want. Give them something to be excited about when they prepare a an offer to buy your property.

2. Fun-Filled Low Maintenance Yards Are Mandatory

“High maintenance” is out everywhere in, on, and around a house and especially in the garden. Temperamental roses, shrubs that demand pruning, bulbs that must be dug up each fall, plants that must be watered, lawns that need mowing, and anything that adds to millennials’ “To Do” lists does not add value according to their appraisal of the property. Environmentally-friendly, low maintenance landscaping along with anything fun, like hammocks, earn “wow’s” and add value for buyers. Fire pits, outdoor kitchens, and party zones display more value that high-maintenance fish ponds and fountains. Real estate professionals know when swimming pools are a plus or are considered a work zone by buyers.

3. Storage Plus

Millennials are moving from their family home or a rental condominium, neither providing enough storage. Adding storage is equivalent to adding space — you can never add too much storage.

4. Walkability Is Key

What’s in the neighborhood can hold more value than what’s in the house. Proximity to cool places and hot spots represents big value to buyers. Millennials think of their dream home as the center of a universe of fun and convenience. Sellers need to switch from evaluating the area from their own point of view and consider it the way thirty-somethings do.

5. Bearable Trade-Offs

Urban lifestyles in major cities like New York are irresistible to most millennials until they start a family. Then, the less expensive, traditionally-safe suburbs look attractive. Sellers in the burbs should check with their real estate professional to learn which benefits local millennial buyers value most — proximity to train a station, a large entertaining-friendly yard, a detached home, great schools…to understand how the seller’s home will rate against local attraction factors. According to a recent study of counties by California-based CoreLogic, a global property information, analytics, and services provider, millennials favor the more affordable properties found in counties in the middle of the country over higher-priced east and west coast real estate. The top 10 counties are in central states like Utah, Colorado, and Minnesota; the bottom 10 counties are in coastal states including Florida, California, and Massachusetts. The study revealed that “millennials are buying in markets they can afford, and specifically, where there are good paying jobs.”

Written by PJ Wade

CREATE BIG APPEAL WITH SMALL KITCHENS

Many people complain about small kitchens but tiny spaces aren’t always to be dreaded. If you’re selling your home and your kitchen is, well, compact, know that you can find ways to achieve big appeal with a little creativity.

 

  • Bring in the light.Sometimes small kitchens can be dark, making them feel even smaller. But if you remove the curtains from any windows in your small kitchen, it’ll let light in and open up the area. Instead of curtains, you can use small blinds that are recessed inside the frame of the window. These are easy to clean and still provide some privacy even when the blinds are open. 
  • De-Clutter the counter tops and the walls.Most people have a tendency to let kitchen clutter build up on the counter tops and walls. Removing items from the counters, kitchen table, and even off the walls will make the space feel bigger. Yes, I know these items on the counters are useful but when you’re selling your home, a little inconvenience may help you receive a higher offer and you’ll probably agree, that’s worth it! Take the appliances and either store them in the kitchen cabinets or, if there isn’t enough room, pack them up. You’re moving soon, anyway.Clearing off photos and miscellaneous papers that are stuck on your refrigerator door or kitchen walls will also help make your kitchen look bigger. If you’re tight for space, mounted storage units can be added to your kitchen walls to free up limited counter-top space. But again, too many storage units, even the decorative kind, will give people a feeling like the walls are closing in on them. The same goes for hanging pot racks from the ceiling. Be sure to leave some open wall space and to use storage units that aren’t completely solid. The open units, if the shelves aren’t stuffed, will give a less closed-in feeling.
    My Kitchen

     

  • Opt for lighter and brighter wall color.Going with lighter colors tends to open up a room. Light and bright colors are also very inviting and friendly, making them a perfect choice for the kitchen. You can use a darker accent trim to create some contrast. You can also use decorations including floral arrangements or even some colorful kitchen appliances to add spice to the kitchen. 
  • Wall-mounted appliances and reduced counter-top depth.Wall-mounted or under-the-cabinets-mounted appliances can save valuable kitchen counter-top space. You might even have a way to wall-mount your kitchen faucet. In one small home design, the faucet was mounted to the wall, creating a very distinctive look. The counter-top was a standard 24 inches deep but elsewhere the counter-top was reduced just slightly down to 21 inches–very subtle and hardly noticeable but it allowed more floor space in a tiny kitchen.Small kitchens don’t have to be an eyesore. Some even prefer less space because there’s less to clean. If you know the audience you’re marketing your home to, you can play up the home’s best features–including, perhaps, a small, quaint, and simple kitchen.

Written by Realty Times Staff

11 THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU MOVE INTO A NEW HOUSE

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You’re finally in escrow, packing up your stuff to move it into the home of your dreams, and the excitement is palpable. But before you step foot in your new house, there are a few important things you should take care of.

1. Change your address

You’ll have to stop into your local post office or visit the United States Postal Service’s website to change your address at some point. Doing it early ensures that your mail will make as smooth a transition as you do. A side benefit to changing your address is the coupon package that comes with the form. That 10% off Lowe’s discount will surely come in handy in a new home.

2. Update your contact info

Change your address online with creditors, financial institutions, schools, publications, and anyone else that is important. Your change of address form from the post office will forward your mail but going right to the source will ensure your new address is on file.

3. Tell your mailman and say “Thank you”

A little consideration goes a long way when it comes to forwarding mail.

4. Change the locks

How many of us have moved into a new place and used the same locks and keys that were provided to us?

“You really don’t know who else has keys to your home,” said HouseLogic. “That ensures you’re the only person who has access. Install new deadbolts yourself for as little as $10 per lock, or call a locksmith — if you supply the new locks, they typically charge about $20-$30 per lock for labor.

5. Get the house deep cleaned

The previous occupants probably cleaned the house or had it cleaned when they left. But is it up to your standards? Get a crew in there before you move in. It’ll be money well spent.

Make sure the crew also gets inside the closets, cabinets, and drawers. You don’t want to start your new life with someone else’s crumbs and dust bunnies.


Impressions6. Clean the carpets too

This is another area where you will probably want to focus a little energy—unless you’re a fan of “germ hotspots,” said Huffington Post. The blog reported that carpets are “botanical and zoological parks…that can be 4,000 times dirtier than your toilet seat,” said microbiologist Dr. Philip Tierno, according to Men’s Health. Let that set in for a moment.

7. Call an exterminator

Nothing ruins your first night in a new house like critters scurrying across the floor.


Terminix8. Research utilities

The current providers might be the best (or only) options…but they may not be. Deregulation in some areas means competitive rates for utilities that can pay off for you. Be sure to ask about any new user discounts for cable or satellite, and, also for bundling packages that might be available.

9. Shut off the utilities on the house you’re moving from

Sounds like a given, but it’s one of the most common errors people make when moving—an error that can turn out to be costly when you’re paying double utilities.

10. Alert your service providers

Let your gardener and anyone else that services your home regularly know you are moving early on. Details like this can be easily overlooked during a move, and giving ample notice will allow them time to try to replace the business if you’re moving out of their service area.

11. Pare down your stuff

The only thing worse that having boxes of stuff you don’t use and don’t need crowding your space is carting them from house to house. Days disappear quickly when you’re packing and preparing to move. If you are at all concerned you won’t have time for a garage sale or even to drive to the local donation spot, take advantage of charities that will come to your house and do a pick up. Then all you have to do is haul the stuff to the front porch and bring in your tax receipt once they’re done.

Written by Jaymi Naciri