Monthly Archives: November 2018

5 Home Staging Ideas That Work Wonders During Winter

Aiselin82/iStock

Winter is the time of year when most home buyers, like bears, retreat to their own cozy homes and hibernate. So what if you have a house you must sell right now, winter be damned?

Despite what you’ve heard, winter can actually work to a home seller’s advantage. With fewer homes on the market, it’s easier to stand out with some home staging—i.e., a few little tweaks to presentation that make your place shine like that crown jewel you know it can be.

So before you throw up your hands and take a home-selling hiatus, try these home-staging ideas for the winter months to make your house stand out.

Don’t skimp on curb appeal

If you live in a snowy climate, you know there’s little you can do about the white stuff piling up outside. But you can stay on top of your yard maintenance, so buyers have an easy path to your front door and walk away with a feeling that your place is easy to maintain. Shoveling the driveway and paths to your home is a must. And you’ll want to clean out your gutters, so ice isn’t backing up and giving the impression that you have roofing issues.

You can also add some winter-themed outdoor decor.

“I love putting evergreens next to the door and on the porch,” says Rebekah Scott, real estate broker for Atlas Real Estate Group in Denver, CO. “Everyone knows how elegant evergreens look with snow on them, so it’s a good way to really showcase the snow.”

If you can, now’s also the time to make sure your front door has a fresh coat of paint. A bright, colorful front door will stand out all the more in the snow, and that can really wow your buyer.

Turn up the heat

Many homeowners like to keep the thermostat set down in the 60s to save on their heating bills, but you don’t want a potential buyer to think they’re visiting a house that’s hard to heat.

“A cold house can hurt the sale,” explains Scott. “When a buyer enters the house and wants to hurry up and get out of there because it is so chilly, it probably means they are going to have a bad memory associated with the home, no matter how great it is. You want to provide a warm and inviting environment so buyers will want to take their time and linger. ”

To make buyers feel they’re right at home, turn up the thermostat. You’ll also want to fix any drafty spots around the house. You may be fine shoving a towel under the front door to keep the cold air out, but buyers will not look kindly on linens on your floor, or a chilly breeze on their feet.

Fire up the fireplace

Not only is it a good way to ensure the house feels warm, but making use of the fireplace is a good way to show off a great feature of your home.

“I love when a home has a fireplace, and I can highlight that feature by turning it on during open houses,” says Scott. Whether it’s wood-burning or you have gas logs in that fireplace, by lighting that fire, you’re giving potential buyers a window into what it would be like to cuddle on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa and their feet in front of the fire.

“Hitting all of the buyer’s senses creates a memorable experience that will hopefully lead to them purchasing the home,” she adds.

No fireplace? Play up the warm ambience with candles, fur throws, and other items that give off cozy vibes.

Add seasonal scents

It’s always wise to clean your house and make the place smell nice and fresh, but the winter months are a time to focus on seasonal scents, Scott says. That means mulling seasonal spices such as oranges, cloves, and cinnamon on the stove, to go along with freshly baked holiday cookies cooling on a rack in the kitchen.

Music should also be seasonal, though not too heavy on the silly Santa songs. Scott suggests some smooth jazz that evokes the festive feel of holiday entertaining.

It’s not a bad idea to have hot coffee on hand, says Dale Schaechterle, broker/owner at Realty Executives Integrity in Milwaukee, WI. Not only will it cut the cold, but it can boost the mood of potential buyers.

Pump up the holiday decor

You don’t want to turn your home into the real-life version of Clark Griswold’s over-the-top house in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” but Aaron Bowman, of Mazz Real Estate in Tolland, CT, says the holidays can actually make it easier to sell a home, if you decorate well.

“The main reason is that buyers like to picture themselves in the home hosting holiday get-togethers, and it’s much easier to show them the potential of a house when it’s decorated for the winter months,” he says.

He recommends a big wreath with a bright red bow on the front door and some (electric or battery-operated) candles in the windows. Avoid blow-up lawn decorations or anything over-the-top or garish inside and out, favoring the sort of classic decor you’d expect to see on a greeting card.

And if the holidays are over, and you’re still showing your home, remove the decor immediately! Got that?

The post 5 Home Staging Ideas That Work Wonders During Winter appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Your Listing Is Turning Buyers Off! Here’s Why

ArchiViz/iStock

The best way to get potential buyers through the door and interested in your home is with a stellar online listing. Photos of the house and a description of the property are standard fare, but not all listings do what they’re supposed to do. In fact, some might actually do more harm than good.

In many ways, trying to sell your home is like applying for a job, and your online listing is the resume or cover letter. If it’s not polished, you’ll never even get to the next phase.

So, what are the parts of a listing that can turn buyers off? Below are some of the worst offenses.

1. Lackluster (or non-existent) description

It can be hard to sum up your home in a couple of paragraphs. However, if you want to attract buyers, you’ll need to paint an inviting picture of the property.

“If it is a lakefront home, highlight the best parts of living on the lake; if it is an urban town, mention that you are within walking distance of top-rated restaurants,” says Cynthia Emerling, listing specialist at Finger Lakes Premier Properties in Canandaigua, NY.

Work with your real estate agent to pinpoint what buyers are looking for in your area, so you can mention it as early as possible in the listing description.

For example, Emerling’s company specializes in lakefront vacation homes, so “the views, the dock, and the topography of the land are all features that we highlight prominently.”

Also keep in mind that the online listing might initially show just a couple of lines of text, so make sure the most eye-catching information appears first.

2. Too much (or the wrong type of) information

Colorful listing photos or descriptions are sure to entice, but you have to be objective. Your favorite aspects of the home might not have the same effect on buyers.

“I had one seller that wanted to include photos of bunnies that lived in the backyard,” says Kris Lippi, real estate broker and owner of Get Listed Realty in Hartford, CT.

However, Lippi didn’t think that would necessarily be a selling point—and buyers might actually be concerned that the rabbits were destroying the lawn.

3. Amateur photographs

bad online listing
Photography equipment should never be showing in your listing photos!

Really Bad MLS Photos/Facebook

Your smartphone takes some really good photos, but that doesn’t mean they’re good enough to be used in your online listing.

“Everyone thinks they can take quality pictures with their smartphones and save a few dollars, but you only get one chance to impress potential buyers online,” says Robert Taylor, owner of The Real Estate Solutions Guy, a house-flipping company in Sacramento, CA.

That’s why it’s important to feature high-quality photographs shot by someone who has experience taking photos for online listings.

“A professional photographer will have the correct camera lenses, lighting, and angles to allow the entire room to be seen in a single photo,” Taylor says.

Jim Stevenson, a real estate agent at Realty One Group in Doylestown, PA, agrees that pictures taken by camera phone are no match for high-quality professional photos.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the infamous ‘real estate agent in a mirror’ shot,” Stevenson says. “When the photo quality is lacking, it sends a message that your home is low quality, too.”

4. Not staging your home

bad listing
By not staging a home, you’re missing out on the opportunity to show potential buyers how the space can be used.

realtor.com

While many buyers like to think of a new house as a blank canvas for their own furniture and design tastes, leaving the rooms completely devoid of furniture and art in the listing photos can hurt you in the long run. Buyers like to see the potential of the home, so staging is highly recommended.

“When a house is staged, you can get the sense of use and purpose for each space,” says Matt Morgus, a San Francisco-based real estate agent.

That’s especially important for houses with open floor plans.

“Open floor plans are extremely popular to home buyers in today’s market, but sometimes it’s hard to differentiate a space with no furniture,” Morgus says.

5. Too many days on the market

Buyers look closely at the listing price and days on the market (DOM) because this information can help them determine whether the house is priced too low or too high—and how much they should offer if they’re interested.

Because every real estate market is different, there isn’t a hard and fast number of days it takes for a listing to be considered stale. However, most real estate agents agree that it takes about 30 days on the market for a listing to lose its luster.

So how can you revive a stale listing? Additional marketing efforts like new photos or an added incentive (free tacos with purchase, anyone?) may help. But the most effective way to generate more buzz about your property is with a price adjustment.

“If you have been on the market for a while and activity has stalled, you should consider reducing the price,” Lippi advises. “Even if you reduce it by a small amount, it will show up in buyers’ emails again and appear online as a price correction, and this gets eyes on your listing.”

The best tactic, ultimately, is to price the house correctly the first time, so it doesn’t end up languishing on the market for a couple of weeks.

“An overpriced home will force a seller to drop the price of their home numerous times to reach the ‘sweet spot’ where buyers become interested in the listing,” says Shawn Breyer, owner of Atlanta-based Breyer Home Buyers.

The post Your Listing Is Turning Buyers Off! Here’s Why appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

What Great Listing Photos Can Teach You About Marketing Your Home

Lessons from Photo Listings

istock/Feverpitched

Gone are the days when all you needed to get buyers to come take a look at your home was a “For Sale” sign out front and a bit of curb appeal. Long gone, actually. Ancient history!

These days, potential buyers will scroll through hundreds of listings online before they ever schedule a showing, meaning your home needs to really stand out if you hope to get someone to actually set foot inside your door.

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: It’s all in the photos. This means before you, your agent, or (preferably) a professional photographer starts snapping shots of your soon-to-be former homestead, you have to get the place looking especially photogenic. Sometimes it’s as easy as moving a piece of furniture; sometimes it’s a little more complicated. There’s an art to staging a home for its photo op.

Take a look at these listing photos, before and after the owner made some major changes. Our experts identify just what they did right—and how you can do it, too.

Living room: Make it light and bright

living room before
Before: With dated and big furniture, the living room looks cramped.

realtor.com

living room after
After: Furniture with legs visually opens up the living room.

realtor.com

The changes in this living room make a huge difference in the appearance of the listing photos, and Courtney McLeod, principal of Right Meets Left Interior Design in New York City, agrees.

“The living room looks much better without the dated furniture,” she says. “The window treatments look clean, modern, and fresh.”

Designer Maryline Damour of Damour Drake in Hudson Valley, NY,  noticed the furniture first, too.

“A smaller space doesn’t necessarily need smaller furniture to feel larger; pieces with exposed legs give the illusion of more space, rather than furniture that sits directly on the floor,” she explains. “In the living room, the new sofa, as well as the pedestal coffee and dining tables, allows the eye to see more of the floor and makes the space feel larger.”

She notes that swapping out the painting for the mirror above the couch was a clever trick, “especially if it reflects the view outside.”

“Buyers like light and bright open areas,” says property stylist Karen Gray-Plaisted, of Design Solutions KGP in Warwick, NY. She adds that the first thing you should do to make any room buyer-ready is to figure out how to let in more light. “Here they framed the view with the curtains, removing the unsightly air conditioner.”

Kitchen: Declutter, declutter

kitchen before
Before: The wine rack and multiple lighting fixtures clutter up the kitchen.

realtor.com

living room after
After: Streamlining the lighting and switching to lighter bar stools make the space seem bigger.

realtor.com

It’s hard to sell a home if the buyers can’t picture themselves in the kitchen, so it’s important to spend some time in this room—no matter how small a space you’re working with.

“A really easy way to make a big statement is to declutter counter space. By getting rid of the wine rack, removing chunky pieces, and adding smaller items, this ‘after’ design is much more streamlined,” says McLeod. “Adding the lighter bar stools was a nice touch by adding more space, while keeping the room functional.”

“The kitchen benefits from some simple fixes that help this area feel bigger than it is,” says Damour. “The more streamlined lighting fixtures help to visually expand this room.”

Bedroom: Tone it down

bedroom before
Before: An aggressive color makes this bedroom seem small.

realtor.com

bedroom after
After: A neutral palette is crucial for making the bedroom bright and calm.

realtor.com

The bedroom may have undergone the biggest change of all, according to these photos, and the experts agree.

“The wall color in the bedroom needs to speak, unconsciously, relaxation,” explains Gray-Plaisted. “Red is an aggressive color when selling—stay away. Neutral soft blue, greens are better for bedrooms. Color is just as personal as the clutter. Neutral tones always help sell better than taste specific colors.”

Damour agrees that the color change was essential.

“This is aided by furniture that can be seen through, as well as large-scale artwork and floor-to-ceiling curtains that make the space feel bigger than it is,” she says.

The walls aren’t the only major change in the room, though.

“Ripping out the carpet was a smart move, as a hardwood floor with a large area rug is always a good idea,” says Damour. “The new window treatments frame the view, and the added greenery is a nice touch, as well as adding balance with side tables on both sides of the bed.”

The post What Great Listing Photos Can Teach You About Marketing Your Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

‘Tis the Season (to Sell): 6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Take Your Home Off the Market for the Holidays

iStock; realtor.com

As we careen at warp speed toward Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all of the joyous (read: stressful) festivities in between, you might be tempted to take your home off the market—or hold off on listing it—until after the new year. After all, you’re swamped with cooking, shopping, and decorating, and the last thing you need is a bunch of potential buyers traipsing through your house, right?

Wrong, says Tg Glazer, branch vice president and managing broker of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Bernardsville, NJ.

“It’s a huge, huge mistake to either remove your home from the market during the holiday season, or to not put your home on the market if you’re getting ready to sell,” Glazer says.

Why? The first reason is painfully obvious: Your house can’t actually sell if it’s off the market, says Nora Ling Lane, executive vice president for Allie Beth Allman & Associates, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate in Dallas.

“I’m pretty adamant about leaving a home on during the holidays,” Lane says. “Sure, people are busy, but I’d rather buyers see a house messy with baking in the kitchen than miss the house. Let somebody else take their house off the market and miss out.”

In fact, this time of year can actually be ideal for selling. Here’s why.

1. Your listing will rise to the top

If homeowners in your hood take a break from the market because they don’t want to bother keeping their properties in show-ready condition over the holidays, that makes for reduced inventory. And that means buyers who are actively searching will be more likely to uncover your listing.

“During the busy spring market, for example, you have way more competition than during the holidays,” Glazer explains. “So you’re much more likely to get your home sold when you’re not competing with more potential sellers.”

2. Your house looks (and smells) amazing during the holidays

With festive greenery, the sweet aroma of cookies baking, and a warm fire in the hearth, you’ve got built-in ambiance—meaning you can appeal to buyers’ senses in a way that you can’t during other times of the year, Glazer says.

“With that nice, homey feeling, homes tend to show a lot better during the holidays, while making people feel really good,” he explains.

Plus, chances are good you’ll tap into some buyer sentimentality: During the holidays, we tend to feel nostalgic about family, home, and memories. That can cause a nesting instinct to kick in—and that often results in a sale, Glazer says.

Don’t go overboard with decorations, though.

“I tell sellers not to put a Santa Claus in every corner; you don’t want clutter,” Lane cautions.

And remember: Buyers need to imagine their furniture in each room, so avoid blocking important selling features such as large windows and fireplace mantels.

And if you live in a colder climate, be sure walkways and stairs are always shoveled clean, and turn your thermostat up before each showing to keep things toasty.

“When you walk in and it’s warm and cozy, that helps in the selling process,” Lane says.

3. Holiday buyers aren’t messing around

Yes, things typically slow down in the weeks leading up to the holidays. But there are still people actively looking for homes and ready to pounce—or those who just entered the market on a short timeline and need to buy fast.

“The people who are out there looking at homes during the holidays are serious buyers,” Glazer says. “And in areas where you have bad weather, these buyers are going to weather the storms—pun intended—to visit your property.”

Potential buyers who take the time to set up home tours during the holiday season are also more motivated to move forward if they like what they see, Lane notes.

“These are not tire-kickers just looking around because it’s fun; those are all weeded out,” she says.

4. Families often search during school breaks

Speaking of serious buyers: Relocating families often capitalize on the holidays as a time to move without tumult on the kids. They want to find the right property, have stress-free negotiations, and get their brood settled before school starts up again in January, Lane says.

“It’s a good time to show your house to people from out of town,” she says.

5. It can be easier to close a transaction in December

Buyers can often get their loans processed and approved faster in November or December than they would in the traditionally busy spring months, says Bill Gassett, a Realtor® with Re/Max Executive Realty in Hopkinton, MA. It all comes down to the holiday slowdown: Fewer home sales are on deck to process, plus lenders are motivated to close deals before the end of the year.

“I’ve seen from personal experience that because of the low volume of business, things move quicker with lenders,” says Gassett, who has been in the business for 31 years.

6. The holidays give you a chance to adjust your selling strategy

If your home’s been languishing on the market for several weeks—or months (eek!)—you might be feeling antsy. Maybe the best solution is to take it off the market and try again after the new year.

Fight the urge! You’re better off staying the course and using this slow time to tweak your selling strategy. Would home staging draw in buyers? Do you need to tackle that paint job you’d been putting off? Should you reassess your asking price?

“Generally, the reason a house does not sell is because it’s not priced right, and if it’s been sitting on the market, nothing will change over a 30-day period if you’re pricing it the same,” Glazer says. “You’re much better off getting the price in line with where it should be, and leaving it on through the holidays.”

Lane recently had clients who wanted to take their home off the market during the holidays and relist in January. She talked them out of it, had several showings, and signed the contract on Christmas Eve.

“I’ve sold more houses in December than in most months,” Lane says. “It’s always a busy month for me.”

The post ‘Tis the Season (to Sell): 6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Take Your Home Off the Market for the Holidays appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

How to Sell a Home Fast—Even Before the Holidays!

MarsBars/iStock

Need to know how to sell a home fast, even though the holidays are speedily approaching? If you’re thinking of throwing up your hands and giving up hope until the new year, we’re here to offer hope: There’s still time!

Because here’s the deal: As eager as you may be to sell your home before the holidays, plenty of people out there are dying to buy a place before the holidays descend, too. So if you play your cards right, it is entirely possible to not only find a buyer, but also close the deal and move out before Santa’s sleigh starts making the rounds.

Here are some insider secrets on how to sell a home fast, even during the hectic holiday rush.

Polish your online listing

Because the weather outside is “frightful,” as they like to say (or at least will be soon enough), buyers want to do much of their looking online. With that in mind, focus on making your home so alluring they’re willing to put on those parkas and check it out in person.

“Make sure that your home has an online listing that’s up to date and has optimal photos available, since buyers usually don’t like to go out in cold weather,” advises Ray Sturm, CEO and co-founder of AlphaFlow.

“Most home buyers vet potential homes through online listings before reaching out,” Sturm continues, “so ensuring your home is presented in the best light online is a good way to attract potential buyers.”

Play up the holiday features

Buyers want to envision themselves settling into a home in time to celebrate that first Thanksgiving or Christmas, says home expert Lauren Mak, who has appeared on TLC’s “Trading Spaces” and ABC’s “Fab Life with Tyra Banks and Chrissy Teigen.”

Mak suggests accenting architectural features such as a fireplace or sweeping staircase to showcase how great your home could look for the holidays.

“Add twinkle lights to a fireplace or table decorations to your dining room to help potential buyers visualize their future home,” she says. “If you have something like a bay window where a Christmas tree might be, clear the clutter before showing your home.”

Suzy Minken, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway, agrees. “For sellers with a spacious dining room, the table can be decorated for holiday entertaining,” she says. “This is an ideal opportunity to create that ‘wow’ moment among buyers, so sellers may want to consider purchasing new tableware and accessories that are trending in home design. This gets buyers excited about making the house their new home just in time for the holidays.”

Home decor aside, Gill Chowdhury of Warburg Realty recommends writing a property description that highlights the features that really count during the holidays. For example, “spacious dining room, ideal for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner” will appeal to a buyer’s emotions.

But don’t overdo the holiday decor

While it’s good to be jolly, don’t go over the top, says Dawn Houlf, real estate coach and owner of EXIT Realty Number One in Las Vegas.

“Homes do look their best during the holiday, but simple is best,” she says. “Too big or too many adornments can crowd your home and distract buyers.”

Be flexible with showings

If you want buyers bidding for your home, they’re going to want to check out every nook and cranny, so you’d better be ready and willing to let ’em.

“The best thing that sellers can do during the holiday search is keep the home clutter-free and stay open and available for last-minute and short-notice showings,” says Shayna Goldburg, broker and chief human resources officer at SetSchedule.

“What I have noticed is that it is harder and harder to view homes during the holiday season,” Goldburg says. “Oftentimes homeowners go out of town, guests come to visit, or owners have their own entertaining schedule, and prefer not to have showings to interrupt this time. At the end of the day, the more open, available, and flexible you are as a homeowner for showings, the more your home will be seen and greater your chance for a sale.”

Make sure your home is move-in ready

Having your home pre-inspected before you list can accelerate your sale in three key ways, says Steve Wadlington, president of WIN Home Inspection.

  1. It makes your house more marketable: Buyers feel safer making an offer on a home that’s an open book during the home-selling process.
  2. It can save you money: Once you know what issues need to be fixed, you can have those problems taken care of before you list. The cleaner and more issue-free you can make your home, the faster it’s likely to sell, which can save you money in the long run.
  3. It allows you to highlight your home’s assets: New flooring or granite counters installed? Electric wiring redone? Brand-new appliances or furnace? “These are huge selling points, and your home inspection report will reflect all of the improvements and upgrades you’ve made,” Wadlington says.

 

Make curb appeal a top priority

“As the leaves begin to fall, maintaining the exterior of your home becomes even more important,” says Houlf. “Bare trees equal a more exposed home, so touch up the paint, clean the gutters, and spruce up the yard. Paint the front door, hang a decorative wreath, and [add] a decorative welcome mat. In addition, keep buyers’ safety in mind as well by making sure stairs and walkways are free of snow, ice, and leaves.”

And don’t forget to highlight the outdoor features buyers can enjoy year-round. If you have a fire pit or hot tub, show it off.

Offer incentives

While competition is greatly reduced around Thanksgiving, that alone may not be enough to encourage offers, notes Sophie Kaemmerle, communications manager for NeighborWho.com.

“Incentives put you ahead of the pack,” she says. “Offer what you can, ranging from updated appliances to paying closing costs, offering extras like TVs, and be flexible with negotiations.”

Plan a themed open house

“Since you are so close to the holiday, why not host a Thanksgiving or holiday-themed open house,” Kaemmerle suggests. Think: an early tree-trimming, or offering up some homemade holiday treats.

“Not only is this a fun way to show off a home, but also you will stoke buyers’ holiday and home-buying excitement,” she says.

Just keep in mind that timing is important this time of year, Kaemmerle adds: “Not many people will ditch family dinners for an open house on an actual holiday.”

Buying a home as well? Check out how to buy a home before the holidays!

The post How to Sell a Home Fast—Even Before the Holidays! appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.