Best Time to List a Home for Sale?

For home buyers, it may feel like the best time to beat the competition to home shopping season has gotten earlier and earlier. But for sellers, the best time to list has remained remarkably consistent: Once again, U.S. homes listed for sale on Zillow in the first half of May sold faster and for more money than the average listing throughout the year.

Nationwide, homes listed for sale between May 1 and May 15 tended to sell for about 0.7 percent more (or roughly $1,600 on the typical U.S. home) and about six days faster than usual. And while the exact best time to list a home varies from market-to-market, in most cases the magic window falls squarely in spring.

More money, faster sale

The best time to list varies by metro area, but not by much. In 29 of the 35 large markets analyzed, the magic two-week window fell between the second half of March and first half of June. In the remaining six markets – Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami and Tampa – it’s the first half of July.

The largest price boost in any particular half-month period came in Minneapolis-St. Paul, where early May is optimal. Homes listed during that time frame in the Twin Cities area sell for about 1.8 percent more ($4,900 on the median local home). San Jose, Calif., and Chicago also saw their biggest boosts in early May, of about 1.5 percent in each metro area ($18,900 and $3,300, respectively). The sweet spot for listing comes a bit later in Seattle and Columbus, Ohio, where early June listings typically experience a 1.5 percent premium ($7,500 and $2,900 respectively).

The two-week magic window doesn’t just mean more money – it also can mean a faster sale. And when time is money, the benefits of listing at the right time are even greater. In Cleveland, homes listed for sale in the area’s early-May magic window sell almost two weeks faster (13 days) than an average listing throughout the year, the most time savings of any of the markets analyzed.

The magic of Saturdays

If you want to get even more strategic about when to list, it can pay to consider what day of the week will get your home seen by the most house hunters.

Saturday listings get the largest number of views by Zillow users in the first week of listing nationally and in 12 of the largest 35 metros. Friday is a great day to list as well, with homes listed that day getting the most views within a week in 10 of the top 35 markets. At the other extreme, Monday is worst time to list, nationally. Saturday listings end up with about 20 percent more page views in their first seven days on the market than Monday listings.

The Truth About Toxic Mold (and How to Get Rid of It)


Don’t let the mold panic set in just yet — it might not be as bad as you think.

Mold is everywhere. It grows on the sides of houses, it blackens surfaces like brick and concrete, and it thrives in the soil of your yard and garden.

Indoors, mold lives in sink drains, shower grout, houseplant potting mix, kitchen sponges and anywhere else that moisture has a chance to settle. Are you hyperventilating yet?

A little bit of mold is nothing to worry about, as long as you can identify the cause and promptly clean it up with a solution of bleach and water.

But before we go any further, let’s get this out of the way: Any mold, regardless of color, can make you feel sick, especially if you suffer from allergies or asthma. To be on the safe side, always wear a mask and rubber gloves when dealing with mold, and make sure that the space is well-ventilated.

Let’s get the facts straight

Also known as black mold, the infamous Stachybotrys chartarum is not toxic, but toxigenic, because it is capable of producing mycotoxins. Technicalities aside, this uncommon mold species is especially feared for its supposedly dangerous effects.

You may have read an article about how toxic mold is “secretly making your family sick” or watched local news reporters announce that black mold was found in a restaurant inspection, making it feel as if the plague arrived overnight and could be headed to your place next.

Some alternative health websites even call it “toxic mold syndrome” and warn of terrifying symptoms like memory loss or idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, say that “These case reports are rare, and a causal link between the presence of the toxigenic mold and these conditions has not been proven. … All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.”

Stachybotrys chartarum is unusual among household molds, because it requires constant moisture to survive. So if your house is oozing moisture from a roof leak, broken pipe or outright poltergeist, black mold is the least of your worries. Time to call a professional and put an end to the drip before termites or wood rot threaten to put an end to your home’s structure.

Mold is often a symptom of a bigger problem, be it as minor as a dripping faucet or as major as, well, a missing roof.

If you suspect that the slowly spreading black stain on your wall is the infamous black mold, don’t bother wasting your time identifying the stuff. Scam artists abound, and the Environmental Protection Agency even says that “In most cases, if visible mold is present, sampling is unnecessary.”

There are no established standards for judging what is an acceptable amount of mold, and even the non-toxigenic types can cause allergic reactions and make your life miserable. Remove it.

How to prevent and remove mold

Mold needs three things to survive: Moisture, a growing surface and food (dirty stuff).

The easiest way to prevent mold is to make sure that it never gets any moisture to begin with. Keep your house clean, dry and well-ventilated, especially in the bathroom wherever water collects, such as on tile grout or shower curtains. If your bathroom has gnats or a damp odor, look no further than your clogged sink drains — and be sure to wear some rubber gloves.

To clean and remove mold on hard surfaces, the CDC recommends using a solution of no more than one cup of bleach to one gallon of water.

To remove mold on exterior surfaces, use a pressure washer, and make sure that everything is properly sealed.

If mold is found on soft and porous surfaces, such as drywall, carpeting or furniture, it’s best to dispose of the affected material before the mold spreads further or exacerbates your allergies.

Flood-damaged homes with heavy mold infestations should be handled by professionals whenever possible. The Federal Emergency Management Agencywarns that “Infants, children, immune-compromised patients, pregnant women, individuals with existing respiratory conditions (allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity and asthma) and the elderly appear to be at higher risks for adverse health effects from mold.”

In addition, flood-damaged houses are often contaminated with chemicals and human waste, which are far more dangerous than the mold itself.

How to Get Lingering Odors Out of Your New Home

When homeowners sell and move out, they sometimes leave behind lingering bad odors. If you’ve just moved in to find an odor you didn’t notice before, don’t panic. There are plenty of ways to eliminate smells.

Easy odor removal

Light odors from a refrigerator that wasn’t properly cleaned or a trash bag that hung around too long are easy to combat. First, remove the offending source if it’s still around. (Be sure to check the back of the pantry and cabinets for hidden leftover foodstuffs.) After you’ve cleaned the area, neutralize the odor with these common items:

Baking soda: Open a container and place it in the area where the smell originated.

Coffee grounds: Put used coffee grounds in a shallow bowl and place it around your house. The coffee grounds will absorb smells.

White vinegar: Bowls of white vinegar can act as an odor neutralizer.

Apple cider vinegar: If the sink has an odor, it is likely coming from the drain. Pouring apple cider vinegar down the drain will eliminate the smell.

Lemon: Chopping up a lemon and putting it through the garbage disposal will remove odors from the disposal and drain.

Smoke and nicotine

If the previous homeowner was a heavy smoker, the nicotine may have left stains as well as scent. Nicotine streaks’ smell can linger long after the last cigarette was stubbed out. Try combating the odor first by washing the walls and windows. Wait a day or two before giving it the all clear, as the smell may return. If stains are stubborn, consider a heavy-duty cleaner like trisodium phosphate.

For persistent odors, you might want to use an odor-blocking primer and sealant, like Kilz, to repaint your walls. Dry-clean curtains and other upholstery around the house. If your house came furnished, you may want to consider tossing out some of that furniture, especially the upholstered pieces.

Pet smells

If lots of pet hair was left behind, you probably want to consider buying a vacuum or an attachment for picking up pet hair. Before you vacuum, sprinkle a layer of baking soda on the carpet and let it stand for a few minutes. It will help neutralize odors.

If you have pets of your own, brush your pup every day for about five minutes to cut down on both loose hair and pet smells.

Not so fresh? Clean the ducts

If your house smells musty, check the air ducts and look for evidence of mold. If you can’t determine if it’s mold, you can have a sample analyzed by a microbiology testing center for about $50, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The extra precaution could be worth it, since a duct cleaning could cost between $450 and $1,000, according to the EPA.

If you don’t think your ducts need a cleaning, replace the filters.

Rotten egg smell

Unless someone actually left rotten eggs or garbage around, the smell of rotten eggs likely indicates a gas leak. Leave your home and call a professional as soon as possible.

Last resorts for odor removal

If you just can’t get the smell out, you’ll have to take more drastic action.

  • Remove and clean or tear up and replace the carpets.
  • Repaint walls in rooms where the odor is strongest.
  • Hire a professional cleaning crew.

If you’re considering a cleaning device like an ozone machine, rent the product rather than buying one yourself. Since you’ll get only one use out of it—and many devices don’t work as well as we’d like them to—it makes more sense to rent than own.

10 tips for making small rooms look bigger

Our favorite designers at Napa Valley Modern Staging agreed to share their top visual tricks for making even small spaces look as light, bright and airy — and as large — as possible. They use these 10 strategies religiously, whether they’re staging small living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens or even outdoor spaces:

1. Think proportion and scale

Proportion and scale are everything in making rooms appear as roomy as possible, so pick the right furniture.

When you find the right size furnishings for a small room, choose the pieces with legs, glass tops on bases for tables or glass pieces constructed with thin metal strip pieces and open and floating shelving for their see-through effect.

Solid pieces that do double-

duty as storage — from baskets on shelving to case pieces like trunk-style side tables that offer storage — are also useful additions.

A room full of nothing but legs looks bigger but can start to feel a little too close to standing in a “flamingo pond.” So, add small pieces of solid furniture or plants in attractive pots to anchor the space.

Photo by Vinicius Amano on Unsplash

2. Edit the initial design

Following Coco Chanel’s rule to dress and accessorize, then take one thing away is just as applicable to staging as to fashion. In fact, deciding what to omit is often more critical than choosing what to use.

For example, can you remove the bulky coffee table and use end tables and movable tables to set drinks or reading material on? Can table lamps be eliminated in favor of wall mounted fixtures?

If so, you might also be able to get rid of the bulky bedside tables and substitute floating shelves beneath the reading lights. Thinking about what you can edit out very early in the design process is crucial.

3. Use the same or very similar light colors for wall paint and upholstery

The color of your small room doesn’t have to be white. In fact, most buyers prefer light grays, tans and nature’s other most neutral shades. Just make sure you’re using the lightest shade you can in small rooms by viewing large paint swatches during daylight hours in the room to be painted.

If you can’t reupholster a piece of furniture to match the wall color, consider draping a large throw in the wall color over the back of the piece sitting against the wall.

The largest piece, usually the sofa, is the one to reupholster or slipcover if the current upholstery’s color contrasts too much with the new wall color and the sofa has to stay. But a large credenza would also profit from a coat of paint in the new wall color if it sits against the wall.

The goal is to keep the eye moving, so the space seems larger.

4. Draw the eye around and beyond the room

You want to add a bit of personality and drama to your rooms to keep them from looking like a hotel. So highlighting large paintings, uncluttered windows and other architectural details to supplement your main focal point keeps the eye moving and visually expands the space.

If you can draw the buyer’s eye outside, by showcasing a beautiful view or using the room just beyond it as an additional focal point, that will also make a room appear larger.

5. Make contrast work for you

The temptation in a small room is to go straight monochromatic, which may look larger but feels dull and, often, cold. That’s not an inviting space, which is your ultimate goal.

Instead, include a black piece, whether it’s an occasional table or iron fireplace set, and pops of a livelier accent color (in pillows, books on the glass coffee table, etc.).

These accents stop the eye briefly, before allowing it to move on to the next feature you want to highlight. And, adding contrast creates layers throughout the space, which the mind translates into both “bigger” and more interesting.

Photo by deborah cortelazzi on Unsplash

6. Use mirrors to add space, light and drama

Large-scale floor mirrors leaned against the wall have become something of a design cliche, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work to visually add space.

Large-scale wall mirrors or judicious stretches of mirror (for example, as a backsplash between kitchen counters and upper level cabinets) magnify space and light and create a very dramatic effect when thoughtfully used to bounce light more evenly around the room.

7. Keep window treatments spare

Bare windows or sheers let in more light and allow you to draw the eye outside when the view is an asset. If the room feels unfinished with bare windows, soft sheers drawn to the side can add the perfect finishing touch without cutting down light.

Pulled shut, they let in light while blocking less than ideal views. For complete privacy, draperies that can be pulled shut over the sheers or a decorative window shade behind the sheers may be the right solution to window dressing.

8. Augment natural lighting with other light sources

You will, of course, employ and amplify natural light to the greatest extent possible. Sometimes, there’s still not enough light — day or night. Then artificial light is your best space-enhancing tool.

Use multiple light sources to create well-lit rooms that look larger, especially during the day.

Utilize fewer of them in the evening to create that warm, homey glow buyers love. Dimmer switches, recessed lights, floor and table lamps, hanging light and wall sconces give you the lighting options you need to make small rooms appear larger.

And mirrors in the room amplify artificial light just as well as natural light. So, use every lighting trick in the book in small dark rooms.

Photo by Chastity Cortijo on Unsplash

9. Use open shelving throughout the house

Open and floating shelving without closed-in sides gives you storage space without creating a visual barrier that shrinks the room.

As noted previously, a floating shelf can substitute for a side table. A set of open shelves suspended over an island can add much-needed display and storage space while keeping the eye moving through to the room beyond.

In a small kitchen, use an open movable cart or table instead of a built-in island. If you’re replacing countertops, you can extend the countertop of a peninsula to create more workspace by floating a foot or so of the solid surface material beyond the base cabinets. The eye slides right past if the color of both floor and countertop are light.

10. Use large area rugs

The tendency in small rooms is to use smaller area rugs to anchor the seating group. But small rooms don’t require that kind of anchor, which actually shrinks the space visually.

Conversely, a large area rug that comes close to the walls highlights the maximum floor space rather than dividing it into multiple, small pieces. A generous rug also creates an upscale feel; and a light, natural fiber rug can mitigate the “black hole” effect of dark floors in a light-colored room and make it feel larger.

Keeping these 10 principles in mind when you stage your next small spaceguarantees you’ll create a room with an appearance and personality that far exceed its measurements. And your buyers will think, “I could see myself living here. This is so me!”

Nicole Solari is owner and managing broker of The Solari Group in Solano and Napa Counties in Northern California. Nicole runs one of the highest producing brokerages in all of Northern California.