Monthly Archives: January 2019

Bonus Points for Bonus Rooms: 8 Ways to Make Buyers Fall in Love With Your Flex Space

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Home buyers love to get the most space for their money. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 66% of millennials cite more living space as the No. 1 reason for buying a house. So if you’re selling a home with a bonus bedroom, a finished basement, or an extra-large landing on the second floor that could be used for something, you’re adding a lot of extra value.

But are you really highlighting the glorious potential of that space to buyers?

Remember, you’re not just selling a house; you’re selling an aspirational lifestyle! So whether you’re showcasing an attic hobby room, a gamer’s paradise in the basement, or a wellness retreat on the second floor, consider these strategic staging tips to make that flex space shine.

1. Avoid giving rooms a split personality

For optimal results when selling, execute a single theme in your bonus room, says Howard Andrews, a licensed broker with Knipe Realty in Portland, OR.

Someone who craves a spot to paint landscapes probably doesn’t want one that also crams in an elliptical trainer and a double bed. And a young couple imagining a sweet nursery won’t be impressed if their future baby’s room is also a makeshift potting shed with hydroponic herbs sprouting below bright lights.

“You really want potential buyers to be able to imagine themselves in your house,” Andrews says.

2. Get physical with a yoga studio or gym

The number of Americans practicing yoga and meditation has surged in the past couple of years, according to a recent study from the National Institutes of Health. So staging your bonus space as the perfect spot to get healthy makes it an attractive alternative to the gym (and a budget-savvy one, too), says Michael Sinatro, broker-owner of the Sinatro Co. and an accredited home stager in West Hartford, CT.

“When buyers come across a home that has a meditation or yoga room—a calming, Zen kind of place—people’s gut reaction is how they wish they had one,” he says. “In our overscheduled digital world, people are yearning for peace, mindfulness, and a moment of quiet.”

Sinatro suggests keeping the decor simple: a yoga mat or two, some plants, and a nook in the corner piled with comfy pillows.

“A home gym is also appealing, especially when you have things like rubber mats, a water cooler, and mirrors on the wall,” he adds. But skip the giant stair-climbing machine if the room has low ceilings—it will only draw attention to that feature.

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Watch: Home Staging Secrets the Experts Wish You Knew in Advance

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3. Consider getting crafty

There’s no reason to spend piles of cash to stage an extra room for a nonexistent purpose, but if you’re passionate about a hobby and can showcase the space attractively, do so. A new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that 1 in 5 Americans finds hobbies make their lives more meaningful.

“My wife would probably fall in love with a house that has an organized sewing and crafting space, and I think that’s true for a lot of couples, because we’re seeing a lot more of the do-it-yourself crowd becoming more mainstream,” says Andrews.

“Buyers also value extra storage everywhere, so built-in storage is a great asset for a hobby space. Good lighting is also a must.”

An industrial-style long table and freestanding bookshelves also help define a hobby room.

4. Gear up for a gaming room

One recent survey reported that 65% of U.S. households regularly play video games. Buyers who love gaming will appreciate a space with plenty of electrical outlets that can accommodate consoles or charge wireless joysticks, gaming computers, and even vintage arcade machines.

“A gaming space has to be a large enough to accommodate a table with about 3 feet around every side of the table—it gives people enough room to get around each other,” says Andrews.

5. Trick out an office with awesome storage

With nearly 4 million U.S. employees telecommuting at least half the time, home offices are hugely desirable. But don’t just stick a cheap desk in a room, slap a lamp on it, and call it an office. Create the kind of office where people can picture themselves producing their best work.

“You’re selling what buyers picture themselves to be,” Sinatro explains.

Add some tall storage with lots of shelving that’s well-designed, plus a small seating area, and you’ll show all the options in a nice space, he says.

6. Create a dream closet and dressing room

According to the National Association of Home Builders, more than 40% of first-time home buyers consider a walk-in closet essential. So if your home’s master bedroom is short on storage, consider spending about $1,500 to transform an adjacent bedroom into an Instagram-worthy walk-in closet, with tons of hanging space and shoe cubbies—and maybe even a storage island in the center of the room.

7. Don’t forget the Big D’s: Declutter and depersonalize

Spare rooms that just showcase piles of things you can’t find space for is a surefire way to tank a sale, no matter how great your home is.

“People might be very forgiving when they see a cluttered garage, but if your third bedroom is full of boxes, it’s really hard to get past that cluttered impression,” Andrews  says.

8. Downsizing? Stage your space authentically

If you’re new empty nesters planning on moving to a condo, you might be tempted to stage your home so a young family sees themselves there. But resist the temptation to revamp the entire house.

“While you want to appeal to as many buyers as possible, you don’t want to fake a playroom if you don’t have children,” Sinatro says.

Similarly, if you’re not an artist, staging a bedroom as a bright art studio just won’t work.

“If something is genuinely your passion, that will come across to buyers, as long as it’s clean and simple,” he adds.

The post Bonus Points for Bonus Rooms: 8 Ways to Make Buyers Fall in Love With Your Flex Space appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

That’s So 2018! The Most Outdated Home-Selling Advice You Should Now Ignore

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There’s one thing more scary than buying a house, and that’s selling a house.

There is so much pressure to list your house and sell it quickly—and for a great price—that you probably find yourself turning to those who’ve been there before for advice.

But here’s the problem: The housing market changes on a dime, meaning whatever worked for them might not necessarily work for you. In fact, it may backfire, big-time! Here are some of the most outdated words of wisdom you might hear that you may be better off ignoring.

Wait for spring to sell your home

Odds are you’ve heard that the best time to sell your house is in the spring, because that’s when the buyers are out and about. But it also means you’ll be competing against a slew of sellers.

“Listing in the spring means you are positioning yourself to compete with several other homes. So as a seller in the spring, you have to price and market your home flawlessly to show buyers that your home is more desirable than the house next door,” says real estate agent Cheyanne Banks, of Nest Seekers International in Jersey City, NJ. “Because buyers have more choice in the spring market, they’re more likely to negotiate a lower price.”

In fact, Banks now advises her clients to list in the summer and winter, when there’s less competition.

Price your home high

Not too long ago, it was a seller’s market—meaning competition was so fierce between buyers that you could still almost guarantee a sale if you priced your home over market value. According to Daniel Martinez, real estate agent and founder of HOULIVING, a boutique real estate company located in Houston, that’s not the way it works these days.

“We are seeing homes on the market last longer and listings become stale one after another,” says Martinez. “In today’s market, we need to be realistic about what is selling for what dollar per square foot and adjust, because the market decides what it’s willing to pay for a home. Not you or me.”

And if you think you’re going to start it at a higher price just to test the market, you should think again.

“Testing the market with an above-market price means your home will not fly off the shelf, and the longer it’s on the shelf the more potential buyers wonder what’s wrong with it,” warns Phyllis Brookshire, president of Allen Tate Realtors in the Carolinas. “This results in more carrying costs for you and dramatic price reductions later.”

Leave room to negotiate

Another reason sellers were pricing high was to leave room for buyers who were eager to negotiate, but real estate broker Gill Chowdhury, with Warburg Realty in New York City, says today’s buyers won’t play that game.

“With supply higher than it was a few years ago, if you’re not priced at market, or at least very close, you’re not going to get that many people in the door to begin with,” she says. “Price your property to sell.”

Sell your home as is

As recently as just a few years ago, sellers were often told not to invest too much into remodeling, as buyers would want to customize themselves. Why worry about it when they’re going to do it anyway, right? Well, not only has the market changed, but so have the buyers.

“With many millennials entering the housing market, one of their biggest desires is to have a turn-key home, meaning they don’t want to have to make changes or repairs, such as modernizing appliances and amenities—essentially the home is move-in ready,” explains Nick Giovacchini, head of client services at AlphaFlow. “Not updating an older home could leave sellers at a disadvantage, especially if other homeowners have updated their homes before selling, even if the unimproved home is priced at a discount compared to more updated homes in the area.”

Even though home prices are going down, the  buyers that remain are willing to pay a premium for homes that look the part, so put in some elbow grease before you put up that “For Sale” sign.

Amateur photos of your house are fine

If you’ve ever sold a home before, you probably remember the real estate agent coming in and snapping a few quick photos of your home to place with your listing. Heck, you may have even taken the photos yourself. We’re sorry to say that’s just not going to fly this time around.

“How your property looks online will have a direct impact on the number of buyers who will be interested in purchasing your home,” says Nancy Wallace-Laabs, a real estate broker with KBN Homes, in Frisco, TX. “Hiring a professional photographer and adding drone pictures are an increased cost to a seller, but well worth the investment.”

In fact, it may be a good idea to take it even further, says Mark Cianciulli, real estate agent and co-founder of the CREM Group in Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA. “For instance, the benchmark has become getting professional photos taken of the property, creating high-quality videos for your property that allow buyers to see different perspectives inside and outside the home, as well as 3D tours of the home that allow buyers to navigate though the home at will and in any direction they choose,” Cianciulli explains.

So much for just snapping a few pics with your smartphone.

Holding an open house is a must

There was a time that hosting an open house (featuring freshly baked cookies, of course!) was a near guarantee that your house would sell before the weekend was over. Unfortunately, open houses aren’t the shoe-in that they used to be.

“In my experience, those attending open houses are just putting their toes in the water and seeing what’s out there—or they’re just your typical nosy neighbor. Serious buyers will be out looking at the houses they want any chance they can get and not waiting until an open house to submit an offer,” says real estate agent Heather Carbone, of Heather Carbone Team Big River Properties in Boston.

“Real estate agents like open houses because they create good opportunities for them to find unrepresented buyers, or to create a frenzy around the listing. Ultimately, an open house should be just one small piece of a bigger marketing plan for the property,” says Carbone.

The post That’s So 2018! The Most Outdated Home-Selling Advice You Should Now Ignore appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

How to Donate a House—and Why You Might Want to Really Do It

how to donate a house

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While donating money, art, and other possessions may be common, there are instances when people might wonder how to donate a house. This question might crop up if there’s an organization you’d like to support, and you have a house you want to unload without the hassles of selling it. But there are a few things you need to know about the process.

Read on to find out the steps to donating a house, along with the benefits and potential pitfalls.

The benefits of donating your house

Donating a house comes with a bunch of benefits not only to the charity of your choice, but to you, too. Here are the main ones to consider:

  • Getting a major tax deduction: This one’s the biggie. According to Chris DiLorenzo, a certified public accountant with Nussbaum Yates Berg Klein & Wolpow in New York City, you may be able to use the cost basis of your home (its value when you purchased it originally) as the amount of your charitable deduction. This allows you to take a deduction of up to 60% of your adjusted gross income. If you take your deduction based on the appreciated basis, which is the value of your home right now, your deductions are limited to 30% of your adjusted gross income. It’s a bit complicated, so talk to your trusted financial advisers before moving forward.
  • Avoiding capital gains taxes: “You can avoid capital gains taxes on the appreciated value of the house, and the charity can also avoid those taxes,” says Josh Zimmelman, president of Westwood Tax & Consulting in Rockville Centre, NY. “Your donation is worth more than if you sold the home yourself and donated the proceeds after taxes.”
  • Minimizing estate taxes: Transferring your property to a charity instead of leaving it to someone in your will removes your property from your estate, saving money on estate taxes, according to Zimmelman.
  • Making a difference: Donating a house allows you to make a sizable donation that might not otherwise be possible, and you can do it without the hassle and stress that typically goes with a home sale.

 

How to donate a house

Donating a house is a bit more complex than other types of donations, but it doesn’t need to be daunting. Here are the steps to ensure you have a smooth home donation process:

  1. Talk with your donor organization. To take a tax deduction from donating a house, it would need to go to a 501(c)(3) organization. Once you confirm your organization’s status, ask if it would like a home donation. Some organizations will be thrilled to receive your home donation. For other organizations, though, a home donation may not be a good fit due to the cost involved in maintaining or selling the home.
  2. Get a professional appraisal. “You want an appraisal in order to give credence to the value of the home you would be giving,” says James G. Aaron, attorney and partner at Ansell Grimm & Aaron in Ocean, NJ. “You’re going to want to take [the donation] as a tax deduction, and you want it to pass muster with the IRS.” Although you can look up your property value online or through your local municipality, a professional appraisal may give you a higher value and lends your appraisal more weight if your donation comes under scrutiny. Your donor organization may require a professional appraisal as well.
  3. Talk to your advisers. A tax adviser can guide you regarding the potential tax benefits of your deduction. DiLorenzo recommends taking an estimate of the fair market value, a record of your purchase date and the original cost of the property, and the amount you’ve spent on capital improvements to your adviser meeting.
  4. Pay off your mortgage. If you haven’t already, consider paying off your mortgage. This simplifies the donation process immensely and keeps the receiving organization from having to pay unrelated business income tax if they sell the property. In general, it’s best for all parties involved to donate a home with a clear mortgage, but if this isn’t possible or realistic, talk to your advisers and the donor organization to find out the best path for proceeding with the donation.
  5. Sign over the property and get a receipt. Once everyone is on the same page, proceed with the property transfer. Coordinate with the donor organization regarding utilities and any belongings that need to be removed from the home. Be sure to get documentation of your transaction from the donor organization.

 

The post How to Donate a House—and Why You Might Want to Really Do It appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

5 Hacks to Make a Tiny, Cramped Closet Look Huge

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No matter how beautiful and spacious your home is, one out-of-sight area could still make visitors cringe: your closet. Especially if it’s small, dark, and cluttered.

“A house can be amazing, but if it has no closet space or the closets are super small, which you do see sometimes in older homes, that can be a major turn-off,” says Lori Matzke, owner of Home Staging Expert.

It’s a fact: Having ample closet space is a high priority among homeowners—all the more so if you’re trying to sell your place. After all, you never know if a home buyer is a fashionista with oodles of apparel, or just someone with tons of stuff to store (which is just about everyone else). So, trust us, home buyers checking out your house definitely won’t be shy about opening up your closets to see what’s up!

While you might be able to renovate and add closets to your home or make the ones you have bigger, that will be costly and not necessarily worth the investment. Instead, staging a closet to look its best is a relatively inexpensive way to make what you have look more appealing. Here’s how to do it right.

Declutter your closets

Get those garbage bags ready, because the first step is cleaning and clearing. You don’t want a potential buyer opening that door only to have an old box of scarves or your extra bedsheets fall on their heads!

Kris Lippi, owner of Get Listed Realty in Hartford, CT, suggests removing as many items from your closets as you can to show them off as spacious. If you have to invest in a self-storage space to hold your old boxes of letters or your holiday decorations, do it.

Add a fresh coat of paint—and a light

“Small or dark closets are never a good selling point,” Matzke warns. To maximize the space you’ve got, Matzke suggests painting the entire closet white or off-white to appear brighter and larger.

You can also add a closet light to brighten the space. This will give buyers the sense that they’ll be able to find things, even way, way in the back.

Finally, attach a mirror to the inside of the closet door or to the back of the wall, Matzke suggests, to add a sense of depth. This “can make the space feel much more livable,” she notes.

Photo by Deborah Broockerd/Closet Factory 

Add some closet organizers

If your closet always ends up as a pile of clothes, this may be the time to pull the trigger on a fancy closet organization system.

Investing in a California Closets type of system, or even one custom-built by a local carpenter, can make a huge difference. Or, on the lower end of the budget, shelves from your local home improvement store can accomplish something similar for less money. A few simple elements such as shoe organizers that make the entire closet look neater and larger will go a long way without costing you a significant chunk of change.

“There are certainly DIY closet systems, or even just individual organizers you can implement yourself and attach to the closet walls, if you’re handy or maybe know someone who is,” Matzke says. “You don’t even need an entire system.”

Display your stuff

Although it’s tempting to cart all of your stuff away to a self-storage unit, remember that part of staging a home is making it look just lived in enough for other home buyers to see themselves in your home. When you add your clothes back in, one-third of the space on each shelf or hanger rack should remain open, making the space appear useful, rather than overflowing.

Invest in some nice hangers to give it a truly organized feel, and position all the items in your closet so they face forward or are hung in the same direction—just like boutiques do, Lippi advises.

Fix what’s broken

This isn’t about space, but ease of use: Does the door of your closet stick? Is that shelf hanging by a thread? It may not bother you, but others will notice—and this detracts from their first impression. As Matzke warns, “A sticky closet door or one that just doesn’t open smoothly or all the way would be frustrating.”

Plus, it leaves the feeling that your closet presents a problem; spacious or not, this isn’t good. All in all, it’s these little things that make a closet look and feel spacious and well-organized—and can make your home the envy of all who peer inside.

Photo by Renew Doors and Closets LLC 

The post 5 Hacks to Make a Tiny, Cramped Closet Look Huge appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: A Midcentury Modern Makeover That Helped the Sellers Make a Profit

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It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. “Lessons From Listing Photos” is our new series in which we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pics highlight the home’s best assets.

The former owners of this Portland, OR, home knew they had a gem of a property—even before they fixed it up. Despite the dated kitchen and questionable wall paint colors, they purchased the two-bedroom, two-bath home for just a shade over $450,000 in 2014. There were plenty of midcentury modern design elements like floor-to-ceiling windows and an extensive wood-paneled ceiling that made the home a good buy.

Three years and numerous renovations later, they put it on the market—selling it for nearly $300,000 more than they paid!

To find out which updates made the biggest impact—and how you can consider them for your own renovations—we went straight to the experts. Check out their insight on this Pacific Northwestern knockout below.

Kitchen (before)

kitchen_before
Old appliances and cabinetry give the room a dated look.

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Kitchen (after)

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Simple updates make the kitchen look fresh and modern.

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Welcome to the future

It’s no secret that kitchens sell houses, but this one looked incredibly dated. Clearly the renovations—including new cabinets, appliances, flooring, lighting, and subway tile backsplash—made an impact.

“Buyers love freshly updated kitchens. Although the previous cabinet style is popular for those who love a midcentury modern vibe, it can also narrow your buying market,” says property stylist Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP. “Painting the upper cabinets white and lower cabinets black is classic and very much in style now.”

Interior designer Maryline Damour of Damour Drake explains that the painted cabinets also make the space feel roomier.

“The new kitchen has the same footprint as before but feels bigger and brighter with the use of white upper cabinets, tile, and the new recessed lights,” she says.

Damour also pointed out the addition of wood floors—something the rest of the house already enjoyed.

“Continuing the wood floor into the kitchen ties this space to the rest of the home,” she says. “It also helps to highlight the wood frame around the window and door—an element that was all but lost before.”

Fireplace (before)

fireplace_before
The old room was empty, but still looked cluttered.

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Fireplace (after)

fireplace_after
Adding furniture removes the confusion of this space.

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Defining features

In the before photo of the fireplace, the area lacked furniture and featured several different wall colors—two things that made it feel disjointed.

“You don’t necessarily need to have the fanciest furniture to sell a property, but you do need to package a property so that it resonates with buyers,” says Gray-Plaisted. “The placement of the furniture allows buyers to see the full value the house has to offer.”

She also says the neutral wall color allowed the architectural details of the fireplace to shine.

“The room appears larger due to use of the same color throughout,” Gray-Plaisted says. “Color can break up spaces making a home feel cramped and broken up.”

Damour says furniture is also important in making a space feel cozy—or in this case, less harsh.

“With all the right angles in the architecture, both the free-form coffee table and the cowhide rug brings in some curves and helps relax this space,” she says.

Leslie Saul, interior designer and founder of Leslie Saul and Associates, thinks the biggest impact comes from the lack of clutter.

“I approve of removing the artwork that was high on the walls and decluttering all of the plants and stuff,” she says. “With all the extras gone from the walls, it’s easy to focus on the features that make this house stand out.”

Dining area (before)

dining area_before
Before, it was hard to tell what this space should be.

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Dining area (after)

dining area_after
After, it’s obvious that it’s the perfect space for dining.

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Give it a purpose

With only a rug and a painting, it was pretty hard to tell what this space was supposed to be used for in the before photo. But a few simple changes made it obvious that this is a great place to set up a dining table and take advantage of that floor-to-ceiling view.

“Creating a dining area gives the space purpose,” says Gray-Plaisted. “It allows the buyer to understand the flow and possibilities that a property can have.”

She also says that using the same white paint in this area gives the entire house continuity.

Damour is a big fan of the smaller decor choices in the dining room.

“The map provides visual interest to a plain wall, while the sheepskin on the chairs helps soften all the wood and brings in another textural element,” she says.

Sitting area (before)

sitting area_before
This sitting room has some strange quirks.

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Sitting area (after)

sitting area_after
As with other areas in the house, furniture and new paint enliven this room.

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Show them how it’s done

The wood wall and accordion doors are tricky elements to design around and could leave potential buyers confused about how to use the space—especially if it’s empty when they see it. But filling this area with ample seating options and a sideboard with storage capacity was a genius move.

“Staging the area definitely brought purpose to the room, allowing buyers to see how they can use the space,” Gray-Plaisted says. “Removing the pink walls was also a wise choice.”

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: A Midcentury Modern Makeover That Helped the Sellers Make a Profit appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

8 Habits All Successful Home Sellers Have in Common

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What’s the secret of selling your home fast, and for top dollar? Keeping your house looking fantastic, of course! To achieve that, most successful home sellers have certain key habits in common, whether it’s clearing out their mail pile every day or doing a monthly deep clean.

So if you’ve resolved to sell your home this year, listen up: Here are the best habits you can adopt to proactively maintain your home all the way to a successful sale.

Daily: Tidy up

When your home is on the market, it’s best to always have it “show-ready,” which means in tiptop shape, since buyers love an impeccably clean house.

“I recommend my clients create a daily checklist of what to quickly tidy up before they leave for the day, so they can be prepared for last-minute showings,” says Jessica Creel, a real estate professional in Phoenix. The checklist will help you get into the habit of making sure beds are made, clutter is put away, countertops are wiped down, blinds are left open, and fliers are left on the table.

Daily: Respond to offers

Successful sellers are in the habit of responding to offers quickly. “It’s very important to strike when the iron is hot,” says Bruce Ailion, a real estate professional at Atlanta’s Re/Max Town and Country. “Buyers get antsy when their offer isn’t responded to and begin to doubt it, because so much of real estate is emotional.”

Prepare yourself by figuring out in advance what you will and won’t accept. This includes the lowest offer you will take and what contingencies you’ll allow.

Weekly: Build buzz

Make it your mission to broadcast to friends far and wide that your home is for sale. This means promoting your listing on social media—not just once, but every week—and through good, old-fashioned gabbing. After all, you never know which friend of a friend is looking for a new home.

Weekly: Do a deep clean inside and out

Pick a day each week to do a deep clean of your home, to keep the daily maintenance to a minimum. If you have a pet, this might include a weekly refreshing of carpets and upholstery that may harbor unpleasant smells.

Monthly: Purge your closets and cabinets

“When a client approaches me about wanting to list their home, the first thing I tell them to do is go through closets and get in the habit of donating unwanted items every month,” says Beverly Burris at William Means Real Estate in Charleston, NC. “Closet and storage space is extremely important to buyers, and a seller needs to make them look as spacious as possible.” Getting into the habit of eliminating clutter will make it easier for you to keep your closets show-ready.

Monthly: Maintain your exterior

Establish the routine of ensuring your home’s stellar appearance by replacing outdoor light bulbs and cleaning the front porch. Freshen up exterior paint, get a professional window-cleaning and plant new landscaping if needed. “Most buyers fall in love with a house before they even enter,” says Molly Lasater, an agent in Midland, Texas, at soldwithmolly.com, so this area is especially important to maintain on a regular basis.

Monthly: Sit down with your real estate agent

Even though you’ll regularly be in touch with your real estate professional on the progress of your home sale, get in the habit of having a monthly review. You’ll want a breakdown of the activity going on in your neighborhood and on your property in particular. This will keep you alert to anything that needs to be recalibrated, such as changing the price or marketing if you aren’t seeing the results that you would like, says Burris. The routine of checking in can also help drive an overall strategy to sell your home.

Annually: Make sure your home is in good repair

Once you know a sale is in your future, it’s time to get a presale home inspection, so you can get in the habit of keeping your property in shape until you list it. An inspection will allow you time to make any major repairs, meaning that you’ll be able to keep the negotiation power on your side instead of the buyer’s, says Shawn Breyer of Atlanta’s Breyer Home Buyers.

If you choose to forgo an inspection, a good rule of thumb is to replace mechanicals if they have reached 75% of their life expectancy. For example, if your water heater’s life expectancy is 10 years, you should replace it if it’s seven years or older.

All these habits add up to one thing—demonstrating pride of ownership. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

The post 8 Habits All Successful Home Sellers Have in Common appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

How to Stage a House for Free: 7 Ideas That Don’t Cost a Dime

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One of the most common mistakes sellers make is assuming they need to sink a bunch of money into home staging. Some choose the expensive route—swapping out their furniture and art at the behest of a hired professional home stager—but that’s not the only way to impress potential buyers.

“Everyone needs to stage their home to sell it efficiently,” says Laura McHolm, co-founder of NorthStar Moving. “But you do not need to spend a lot of money to stage your home.”

Want to get your house in tiptop shape without spending a dime? Follow these home staging ideas that are 100% free.

1. Depersonalize

The first step to staging your home is getting rid of personal items such as photos, albums, handmade items, trophies, and mementos—even the kids’ artwork on the fridge.

“No family pictures,” says McHolm. “A buyer wants to be able to envision living in that house. It’s not your house anymore. It’s a house that will soon be their house. So get the ‘you’ out of your house.”

Removing your personal items isn’t easy—they’re the things that make your house feel like your home, but keep in mind that it’s only temporary. Pack them up and store them safely until you can find them all spots of honor in your new place.

2. Declutter

All that stuff littering the surfaces of your home has to go.

“Most surfaces should have between three to five items on them, because clutter is distracting both in photos and in person,” says property stylist Julie Chrissis, of Chrissis & Company Interiors. “You want buyers looking at the home, not the stuff.”

This means eliminating piles of mail and magazines, collections you have on display, knickknacks, and most other items that can easily be packed away.

3. Nix the extra storage

If you’ve been living in your current home for a while, you’ve probably come up with a lot of creative ways to store all of the items you’ve accumulated. But now that you’re hoping to sell, it’s time to get rid of them. Purge!

“Eliminate any plastic storage bins, over-door storage, above-cabinet storage, and extra racks in rooms,” says Chrissis. “This is important because buyers never want to think they will outgrow a home. A seller’s job is to show them there is plenty of storage space for them to grow into.”

Since all those stored items are already packed into bins and baskets, it should be simple enough to move them to a storage facility until you’ve moved.

4. Deep clean

Even if you consider yourself a neatnik, you’re probably going to need to do a little extra work to get your house ready for buyers.

“Take a critical eye to your home. Living somewhere daily reduces the things you notice that might be a problem, like dirty walls, scuffs and scrapes, leaks, or even odors you have become accustomed to,” says Marty Basher, home organization expert at ModularClosets.com. “Also, deep clean the kitchen and bathrooms. These areas of the home are generally the most cluttered and dirty. Both of those things will turn off willing buyers.”

It might help to ask a friend or family member to come by and help you find areas that need attention. Someone who doesn’t live in your house will be better able to look at your space through the eyes of a buyer.

5. Change the furniture layout

Maybe you’ve placed your couch at an odd angle to keep the sun out of your eyes during your midday nap, or your armchair is in the middle of the room so you can better see the TV. Those things are all fine for you—but not for buyers. Now it’s time to stage the room for optimal space and flow.

“Room layouts should be set up for photos first. It’s important that the photo not be of the back of a sofa, large chair, or other piece of furniture, as this makes the room look smaller because it blocks the view of part of the room,” says Chrissis. “The same goes for open houses and showings. If buyers see a room with furniture barriers, it makes the room seem smaller.”

6. Let there be light

Now that your home is clean and uncluttered, it’s time to brighten things up so buyers can actually see it.

“You want natural light and lamps with warm light—no swirly bulbs that look like office light,” says Chrissis. “We tell most of our clients to remove valances as they typically make a room darker and, in most markets, are a little out of fashion. Lamps are important, especially in winter months when there is less sun and sunset is earlier.”

7. Reduce your furniture

If your house is filled to the brim with furniture, it’s time to move some of it out.

“After the home is thoroughly cleaned out, keep only up-to-date furniture in excellent condition, and just a couple of accent pieces in each room,” suggests broker and interior designer Tory Keith of Natick, MA.

Not only does this go hand in hand with making things look less cluttered, but less furniture will also make the rooms look bigger.

Move unneeded pieces to the basement, garage, or a storage facility until you’re ready to move.

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