Posts Tagged ‘Seller Tips’

Do You Need Flood Insurance?

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Major weather events such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy have demonstrated the devastation that sudden flooding can cause. While major storms like these thankfully don’t happen on a regular basis, even a small amount of flooding can be a major concern for a home owner. It doesn’t necessarily take a big storm to cause trouble: Heavy rains or melting snow can lead to flooding if drainage is insufficient. Anywhere there’s rain, there can be flooding. But how do you know if you need flood insurance?

Fixing flood damage can cost thousands of dollars. Standard home owner’s insurance doesn’t typically cover flooding. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers flood insurance to home owners and renters. People who live in high-risk areas are legally obligated to take out flood insurance if they have a federally backed mortgage. If you live in an area that benefits from a program like NFIP, you will need to take out flood insurance to get a mortgage. Even if you do not live in one of the NFIP communities, your mortgage provider may insist that you take out flood insurance. If none of these provisions applies to you, insurance is your choice, but it’s probably a very good decision. You can find out more about the practicalities of buying flood insurance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

You may be required to take out flood insurance if your mortgage lender specifies this in your policy. Make sure to check out any small print in your mortgage contract. Mortgage lenders often have the right to change the requirement for flood insurance even after your mortgage payments begin. If this happens, your mortgage lender should contact you to let you know that you should buy flood insurance. There are also designated flood-hazard areas defined and categorized by FEMA; these are at higher risk for flooding. It may be hard to buy a home in these areas without adequate flood insurance.

Flood risk often changes over time. FEMA updates flood hazards across the country. Flood maps, also known as Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps, show flood risk at a property-by-property level. When new maps are issued, your risk may change, as well as whether you will require flood insurance. If your property is mapped out of a high-risk area, your insurance rates can go down. However, if you are mapped into a high-risk area, you will probably be required to purchase flood insurance, if your mortgage is held through a federally regulated or insured lender. You can check out the update schedule on the FloodSmart website

FEMA advises that even houses in low flood-risk areas should have flood coverage. According to FEMA records, since 1978 over a quarter of all flood claims have come from home owners in areas with low or moderate flood risks. According to statistics gathered by the NFIP, within a 30-year mortgage, a home owner has a 9 percent chance of making a claim for fire damage, compared with a 26 percent chance of making a flood-damage claim.

What Goes With You When You Sell Your Home?

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

When you are getting ready to sell one of the things you will need to consider is what stays in the home and what goes. There are certain things that are generally considered to be part of the home and others which are often negotiable. Before you put the home up for sale you will want to figure out what things you absolutely want to take with you and what might be up for discussion. If you know where you will be moving to next then you are already one step ahead of the game because you know what is in your new place. If not, or if you are moving far away, it can be trickier to decide what is worth moving or putting in storage and what is worth offering to the buyers of your home.

Generally things that are not attached go with the seller. If there are things you are absolutely certain you want to take with you that are attached, make sure you tell your Realtor and so that they are included in the listing and you don’t end up breaking any potential buyer’s heart.

Some people, especially if they are downsizing or moving far away, may choose to include the furniture as part of the package. This can be tricky because furniture will not factor into an appraisal value so if it adds significant numbers to the sale price then the sale may need to be done separately. These items can also be included as a value add for the potential buyer.

There are several areas which generally feature in this type of discussion:

Lighting: Lighting fixtures are often something that people are attached to because they often reflect personal style. In general things that are attached to the home such as lighting fixtures are generally considered to be part of the home. For example, when I bought my condo, the owners wanted to take their crystal chandelier in the dining room with them. For me this wasn’t an issue, the chandelier wasn’t my style and I was happy with having the chance to replace it with something else. However if I hadn’t known this in advance and I had my heart set on the way the dining room looked with the chandelier it  could have been an issue. Fixtures are to remain in the home unless the seller explicitly stated the item is not to be included in the sale. The seller also needs ensure that the item be removed without damage to the home. Lamps are moveable items and are considered personal items that can be claimed by the seller when they vacate the home.

Appliances: Appliances are often an area where the buyer and seller can negotiate.  In some cases, the buyer may actually prefer that the seller remove appliances because they have their own. Other times, the seller may be ready to take the appliances but could use them as an incentive to get the buyer to pay the list price because the buyer won’t have to pay for new appliances. If you are absolutely certain that you want to take the appliances with you make sure your agent notes that. If you are willing to negotiate let your agent know that too. Most appliances are moveable items that the seller would normally be allowed to remove from the home. Moveable items are considered personal items or possessions of the seller.

Landscaping: Plants, shrubs and trees are items that are affixed to the property and will remain with the home however if you have container gardens or perhaps flower-filled urns on the front porch those can be negotiable. Backyard equipment, such as lawn chairs, tables, swings and grills, are all considered personal items. The swing set may get a bit tricky because it can be claimed that it is attached to the ground in some cases. The seller may often be very willing to sell all of the backyard items for a price.

Window Treatments: Window treatments are another area that can be negotiated. Often window treatments were bought to fit the specific size and shape of the windows and so the seller may not be interested in taking them to a new home. If you are planning to leave the window treatments behind be sure to let your agent know so that it can be added to the listing. This is often a great selling point to use because it means the person can move in and not have to worry about privacy.

Six Ways To Spruce Up Your Garage

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

We are all aware of clutter in our homes but the garage is often forgotten as an area worth cleaning up. The garage may not be the first place potential buyers look at when checking out your home but it is an important part of the overall package.

You’ve taken great care to ensure your home is in beautiful shape when the first buyers walk through the door. Well, except for the garage. That seems to be the catch-all for the house, and not exactly the best room to make a good, first impression. Although your garage certainly won’t have the “wow” factor like other rooms in your home, it nevertheless can impress your potential buyers. Here are a few ways to take your home’s least-attractive room to one that will make buyers stop and stay awhile:

Unload the clutter – Since you will be moving soon, now is a great time to roll up your sleeves and tackle the junk you’ve been collecting in your garage. Heck, why not have a garage sale while you’re at it? You can make some money and clean house at the same time. Now is also the time to make a pile of charitable contributions, too.

Dust things off – Just because it’s a garage doesn’t mean it should have dust-filled floors and cob-web filled corners. Sweep it out and clean it up.

Add hooks – Get your larger garage items, like bicycles and golf bags, up off the floor with heavy-duty garage hooks. They will free up garage space and give buyers plenty of inspiration for extra storage.

Add more storage – From shelves to cabinetry, adding more storage in your garage will make the space appear larger and more organized. Let the buyers know the shelves and cabinets will stay with the house and get extra bonus points.

Clean the garage door – You can make your dingy garage door look like new with the help of a pressure washer. Clean the windows to your garage, too, as they likely haven’t had sunlight streaming through them for some time.

Clean up the floor – If your floors are oil-stained, apply some paint thinner to the spot. If there is any standing oil, pour cat litter or saw dust to the area, allow the oil to be absorbed, and sweep it up. Purchase a concrete cleaning solution at your local home improvement store and, with the help of a stiff-bristled push broom, get all the dirt and grime off your garage floor.

The Pros and Cons of Multiple Offers

Monday, December 17th, 2012

A multiple offer is the dream scenario, right? Could there possibly be any bad news in more than one person being interested in buying your home? While there are major pros to this situation, there are also a couple of cons to be aware of:

I know you’re asking yourself what possible downside could there be from multiple offers on my home?  Sure, for the most part, getting multiple offers on your home is a dream come true. So, let’s start with the Pros:

  1. You will likely get your full asking price or very close to it.
  2. You will probably be able to avoid stressful negotiations.
  3. You are more likely to find an offer that matches your specific needs – speedy sale, getting a higher price, contract contingencies, etc.

But before we start jumping for joy, let’s look at the Cons:

  1. In a buyer’s market, buyers don’t like to get into a bidding war and are more likely to walk away and find a property they don’t have to compete for.
  2. If you come back with an over-confident counter offer, you risk alienating your buyer.

Bottom line, multiple offers on your home are a blessing, but this is a buyer’s market so tread lightly and trust your Realtor to guide you through the negotiations.

Your First Showing May Not Really Be Your First Showing!

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

In this Internet age, your first showing is long before the first potential buyers arrive at your doorstep: it’s actually the moment your listing appears on the MLS. The photos of your house, along with the pricing and listing description, determine whether or not your house is considered good enough for an in-person look, or placed on the “do-not-see” list.

This is why staging your house prior to the photos is so important! Your house needs to put its best (square) foot forward! Otherwise, buyers—who are much more in control today of what houses they see and which ones they don’t—will eliminate it just by looking at the photos online.

“That one looks dated”—gone off the list because there’s too much work to do. “Look at that wallpaper, yuck!”— wallpaper is too personal and doesn’t have universal appeal. “Who would paint rooms such dark colors?”—again, bright or dark paint colors can be a turnoff. “There’s only one photo! That must mean that the rest of the house looks awful!”—be sure there are enough photos to showcase your house properly and entice prospective buyers, not leave them wondering.

Consulting with a professional home stager prior to your ”first showing” can make a dramatic impact on how well your house shows in the photos. Stagers look at your house through a buyer’s eyes, as well as assessing how it will appear in photos. It’s important to follow the stager’s recommendations about furniture placement (compliment the architecture and maximize the space), accessorizing (bigger is better), paint colors (warm yet neutral, and NOT white), de-clutter (de-clutter, de-clutter—did I say de-clutter?), and decorate for the potential buyer (it’s not about you anymore!).

Stagers will also make recommendations about the best ways to update your house: new lighting, new handles on cabinets, replacing worn carpeting, painting older cabinets, replacing counters, framing bathroom mirrors, getting rid of wallpaper and borders.

Often, a house shows poorly (in pictures and in person) because of the furniture—the style doesn’t match that of the “target market”, the condition is worn or worse, or it’s just too large or overstuffed. Stagers have ideas for dealing with these issues as well, often suggesting slipcovers, or even rental furniture. Sometimes, borrowing from friends or family can be a great “temporary” solution.

Your house needs to stand out from all the competition (after all, it’s now a product on the market), and great photography can help with this. Ask your Realtor if they use a professional photographer, and look at photos of their other listings. Make sure the simple issues are addressed—no toilet seats up, no pets in the pictures, not blurry or poorly lit shots, no pictures of the photographer reflected in bathroom mirrors, etc. A moderate wide-angle lens really helps to showcase your rooms; a fish-eye lens is too exaggerated and can distort ceilings and doorways.

Buyers need to have an emotional connection with your house. There is a reason people say that they “fell in love” with a particular place. Staging addresses the emotional elements of presentation, as well as the rational ones. You are not only selling your floors, windows, counters and space—you are selling a lifestyle!

Photos can add to the emotional connection. Take an outside picture at sunset with the lights on inside the house, and the warm glow instantly says “home”. If you have wonderful views of mountains, lakes, trees, or a garden, make sure these are included. Detail shots also add to the emotional appeal—beautiful moldings, wonderful cabinetry, a fire in the fireplace, romantic bedding, candles and flowers. Use some unique angles for even more appeal, such as a lower angle (look at shelter magazines for examples) or a higher view (from a catwalk or stairway).

You’ve often heard that selling your house is all about “location, location, location.” (And lately, “price, price, price.”) But equally as important is “emotion, emotion, emotion.” Make sure your first showing allows a buyer to experience “love at first sight”!

What Are Today’s Buyers Looking For?

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Every person shopping for a home has a personal list of what they are looking for. While these lists often vary greatly because of family, career, pets and hobbies, there are a few things that just about every buyer wants to see. Below is a lists of three things every home seller should keep in mind:

Value – In other words, buyers want to get as much for their money as possible; and this means you must price your home to sell. Pricing your home accurately according to its location, its features and other comparables in the area is the best way to attract the largest number of buyers. If you price it too high you can be certain you will exclude a large percentage of potential buyers.

The “wow” factor – If you are selling a three-bedroom bungalow in a neighborhood with a half dozen other three-bedroom bungalows for sale, be prepared for competition. A great way to make your home stand out from the crowd of other homes for sale is to give it the “wow” factor. Your “wow” factor may be new, stainless steel appliances, newly refinished hardwood floors or new landscaping. Whatever it is, make it impressive so that buyers will be captivated with your home the moment they walk through the door.

Maintenance issues tackled – Although not every property will be turn-key, most buyers expect basic maintenance issues to be addressed by the homeowner. For example, a buyer should never see a leaky faucet, a torn carpet or chipped ceramic tile. Even if your home is in good condition otherwise, small maintenance issues will immediately turn buyers off and make them suspect that there are a number of bigger issues in the home. Take the weekend and make sure all maintenance issues are handled, and don’t forget about the details, such as burned-out light bulbs, squeaky door hinges and dirty walls.

Want to Sell Your House This Fall?

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Fall often signals a slowing down in the real estate business. Meaning if you’re selling, you’ll want to do everything you can to make you house look its best. As you set out to put your home on the market and add your home sale to this year’s statistics, keep the following fall tips in mind:

  • Curb appeal. A home shopper’s first impression is everything. The moment they pull up to the curb, they’ll make an instant judgment. You’ll want to be sure it’s positive. You can begin by making sure leaves are raked, and your shrubs and bushes are pruned.
  • Make sure your walkway is free of leaves and debris.
  • Trim trees so unexpected winds don’t knock down branches that could damage your home or hurt anybody.
  • If it is rainy, be sure you have a good doormat so all potential homebuyers can wipe their feet and not traipse mud and water through the house.
  • Make sure gutters are free from debris and are draining properly.
  • If you already have snow, be sure you clear the front walkway to the door. And if you have stairs leading to your front door, make sure they’re not icy.
  • If you live in a warm region, plant a few fall annuals to give your exterior some instant color.
  • Be sure your lawn is mown and fertilized.
  • Make sure your door area is clear from bicycles and toys.
  • Hang a festive fall wreath on your door.
  • Fall is an excellent time to paint your house if you live in a warm region. If your house’s exterior looks drab and you’re in a buyer’s market, you may want to consider painting to raise your home’s appeal.
  • Keep the house cozy. Entering a cold house could leave an unfavorable impression. Instead, set the thermostat at a comfortable temperature.
  • Place a nice fall centerpiece on your dining room table.
  • Decorate the house with festive fall embellishments and bright orange pumpkins.
  • Make sure the back yard isn’t covered in leaves. Also, try to make it look as child-friendly as possible so potential buyers can envision what the space will look like for their own children.
  • If you live in a warm region and still use the patio in the fall, make sure your patio area is inviting and attractive. Clean your patio furniture and arrange it keeping the views from indoors in mind. Spruce up the area with a few container plantings.
  • Windows. Make sure your windows are sparkling clean, especially if you live in a sunny region that doesn’t get much fall rain.
  • Walls. If you’re thinking about touching up the paint on your walls before you put your home on the market, keep the colors neutral and light. A light yellow or beige will make the room feel cooler than a brick red or dark taupe.
  • Let the light in. Open blinds and curtains so plenty of light illuminates the home’s interior.
  • And, just like any other time of year, get rid of the clutter throughout your house. And get rid of any offensive odors that may come from cigarette smoke or pets.

Finally, if you’re selling your home during the fall, there’s nothing more inviting to a potential home buyer than the aroma of a freshly baked, cinnamon-laced apple pie!

What Is Your Home Worth?

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

The Comparative Market Analysis is key to answering this question.

When you are interviewing REALTORS® to market your home, you’ll be introduced right away to a priceless document—the comparative market analysis(CMA.) This is one of the areas in which the real estate industry really earns its keep—by showing you in black and white what your competition is. But like a sword, it is a tool that can cut both ways. You and your agent will use the CMA, among other tools, to determine where your home will stand in comparison to others which are on the market, and those which have recently sold to determine the highest possible asking price. Your buyer will use it to find ways to reduce his or her offer.

CMA’s are about facts which can be qualified and quantified. The CMA is typically designed to give quick capsules of information such as number of bedrooms and baths, approximate square footage, size of major rooms, amenities such as fireplaces and pools, age of the home, property taxes, listing agent contact information and more. CMA’s can include homes that are currently for sale and those which have recently sold. They can go back in time as long ago as a year or a month or week. CMA’s can cover areas as narrow as one or two streets surrounding your home, or as broad as an entire subdivision.

What is not included in the CMA are those factors that affect perception, and that is the key difference between why one home with identical features will ultimately command a higher price than its twin. Perception alters reality, and this is a crucial consideration in understanding the buying and selling process and the value of the CMA. Much of a home’s value will ultimately be determined by the emotional impact it has on buyers. These emotions are based on subjective elements such as drive-up appeal, interior decor, colors, views from the windows, light, darkness, room flow, and hundreds of other factors.

At the end of each home’s information on the CMA report there will be a brief statement provided by the listing agent. This statement is usually a combination of fact and subjective opinion, and will generally cover selling restrictions or selling points. It could be anything from “seller’s agent must be present at all showings” to “kitchen and master bath completely remodeled in 1997” to “Charming! Must see!” (Keep in mind that Realtors are salespeople, self-employed and have individual styles of marketing and that some will be better at writing CMA reports than others.)

For privacy reasons the CMA that is offered for public viewing does not list every piece of information that has been obtained by the seller’s agent. It will give the what, when, where, but it won’t give the who (the seller’s identity) and the why (why the home is being put up for sale.) The reasons are two-fold, to protect the seller’s privacy and to keep from inadvertently giving the buyer an advantage in a distress situation.

The CMA is clearly a selling tool, but like any tool, it doesn’t work very well by itself. It takes a skilled person to be able to use it. For this reason, the CMA will always need to be interpreted by a professional or with complete objectivity by the seller or buyer. Remember that the CMA is also a buying tool; it is taken just as seriously by the buyer and his or her agent. As you and your agent are going to use the CMA to ask the highest possible price for your home, the buyer is going to use it to find reasons to either choose or eliminate your home, and to arrive at the lowest price possible.

Don’t Neglect the Garage

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

This important space needs to be as clutter free as the home.

Your yard is in perfect order, the front door is freshly painted, the interior is sparkling, and soft music plays lightly in the background. Your house is ready for potential buyers. Or is it?

If you’re like other whose home is on the market, you’ve gone through the steps of making your house show well. But how much time have you spent making your garage look its best?

The garage is an important amenity for many homeowners.

Among new-home buyers, about one-fourth want garages that can hold not two, but at least three vehicles, regardless of the additional cost, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ report, “The Next Decade for Housing.” Most buyers like the extra space for storage.

So, just as you’ve beautified the rest of your house, making it open and clutter-free, you’ll want the same attention given to your garage.

You can achieve that by following these steps:

  • Get rid of all that extra stuff. What’s in all of those boxes lining the shelves of your garage? Gather all the items you don’t use anymore (this would also be a good time to gather those final items from the rest of your house as well) and have a garage sale. Once you’ve sold everything you can, take everything that’s left over to a local charity.
  • Dust the walls and corners. Get rid of spider webs.
  • Hang up heavy-duty hooks for larger items that are taking up room. This will help the garage look more orderly.
  • If you have cabinets, shelves, or ready-made storage systems, organize the contents; get rid of anything you don’t need.
  • Try to get everything off the floor and into cabinets or shelves.
  • Make sure all flammable items, tools, and chemicals are stored away and out of reach of children. You don’t want potential buyers to wonder what else you may have handled irresponsibly.
  • If you don’t already have one, install a smoke detector in your garage.
  • Make sure your garage door opener is working. Are all the extra functions operating properly – the automatic light function, the automatic reverse (this is a safety feature that reverses direction when something is obstructing the door), small opening feature for pets, emergency release, and the wall control panel.

And finally, clean those floors:

  • Wipe up any excess oil with a towel or cloth.
  • Pour some paint thinner on the oil spot, making sure it is fully saturated.
  • Pour an absorbent material over the saturated spot. You can use cat litter, sand, baking soda, corn meal, sawdust, or any other absorbent material you may have on hand.
  • Leave the mixture to set overnight.
  • Sweep up your mixture. If possible, try to use a heavy push broom with sturdy bristles.
  • Pour a little laundry bleach, dry dishwasher detergent or a concrete cleaning solution on the oil-marked concrete. Let it sit for about an hour.
  • Rinse the area off with hot water and scrub the area with a broom.

If your garage has a workbench, extra storage space, or any unique features, be sure you let your real estate agent know so those features can be pointed out to potential buyers.

And don’t forget the garage door, part of the total “curb appeal” package. Make sure it’s clean, and if it’s worn or marked up, a coat of fresh paint is an easy step that will make a big difference to the house hunters who pull up alongside the curb and will likely see the garage right away. While a garage usually won’t make or break a sale, it could be a tiebreaker and adds to the overall first impression.

14 Ways You Can Make Your House Show Better

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

You don’t have to be a minimalist when it comes to your decor but if you want to sell your home, your chances improve greatly if you get rid of the clutter. While curb appeal speaks volumes, once potential buyers enter your house, you want them to be able to picture themselves in it. And they can’t do that if your stuff is spilling out all over the place. Clutter is confusion to prospective buyers and that puts you at a disadvantage right away. If you’re living in a cluttered home, you may not be able to see disarray. You see sentimental memories of your beloved grandparents, or knick-knacks from a great vacation; the buyer, on the other hand, sees chaos. They can’t separate the house from the clutter and in a market where there are more homes than buyers, you need every advantage you can get. Even if your house is clean, having stuff crammed in every nook and cranny is visually unappealing.

What to do?

  • Well, you don’t need to hire a stager, at least not initially, but you should consider renting a storage space and clear everything out.
  • Make the house neutral. Make it possible for buyers to mentally move their own belongings in. As with any type of decluttering project, make piles of things you’re going to save, things you’re going to donate, and things you’re going to throw away. Be ruthless. There’s a lot of money at stake, after all, especially if you need to sell your house fast.
  • Call a local charity to pick up your items or drop them off yourself. If you can absolutely, without a doubt have a garage sale or sell items online, you can do that as well but it might be best if you can just say good-bye to what you don’t need any more and give to a charitable organization. Yard sales, eBay and Craigslist take time and organization that you might not have during the selling process.
  • Keep what you’re going to save and store it. You’re not getting rid of it, you’re just getting it out of sight.
  • And throw things away. Really. It’s time.

Here are some particular areas you should pay attention to as you de-clutter.

  • Keep furniture to a minimum in your living areas so that your rooms look bigger.
  • Clear out shoes, coats, umbrellas and other outdoor items from your foyer or mudroom.
  • Move out big pieces of equipment, such as guitars, amps, drum sets, or exercise equipment.
  • Take down your personal photos and store them for yourself. Let the buyer imagine putting pictures of their own family on the walls, tables and shelves.
  • Get rid of old newspapers, books and magazines, recycling if you can.
  • Organize your wires in computers, printers, televisions and other electronic equipment so that it doesn’t look sloppy and overwhelming.
  • Take away those boxes of tissue, medicines, magazines and other items you might have on your nightstand and keep just lamps, clocks and maybe a book or two on them.
  • Edit your bookshelves so that you have a neat, orderly space with books and perhaps a few decorative items, like a vase, globe or other art object.
  • Remove everything from your kitchen countertops, keeping only essentials like a toaster. Add decorating items sparingly (bowls of unblemished fruit look nice). And clear off all those magnetized coupons and your child’s artwork from the refrigerator.
  • Arrange the shelves in your pantry nicely. Have everything point in the same direction so that it looks neat and organized.
  • Get rid of sickly plants and only keep a few healthy looking ones on display.
  • Make sure your beds are made and all extraneous items, like clothes, toys or shoes, are off the floor.
  • Clear out the bathrooms and spruce them up with some fresh soaps, towels or maybe flowers. Hide your razors, toothbrushes and shampoos out of sight in a cabinet while your house is being shown.
  • Clean out your closets so they aren’t packed to the rafters.

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