Monthly Archives: May 2019

7 Wild Things in Your Outdoor Space That Can Freak Out Potential Buyers


When you put your home on the market, your to-do list expands by about 1,000 items. You want everything in your home to be perfect, or as close to it as possible. So you get to work scrubbing the kitchen and bathrooms, clearing out the clutter from your closets, and putting fresh flowers in all the right places.

But for goodness’ sake, in all of your indoor hustle, don’t forget to give some TLC to your outdoor space. Not only will potential buyers most certainly check it out, but what they find there (cue the spooky music) could make them walk.

Or run.

Here are a few true stories of things that have turned off buyers before.

1. Spiders

Ryan Fitzgerald, broker and owner of UpHomes in Charlotte, NC, remembers touring a property once with an enthusiastic client. An offer seemed likely to happen. And then, “That’s when we ran into massive spiderwebs and spiders,” Fitzgerald recalls.

Not only were they all over the exterior siding of the house, but they were hanging between trees.

“It became clear that no one had been to this home in a while,” Fitzgerald says.

And his clients couldn’t see past it.

“They said, ‘Ew, I hate spiders. No thanks,’” Fitzgerald says.

2. Ants

Are you sensing a theme here? Just a few weeks ago, Cassie Nichols, president and owner of Origen Realty in Baytown, TX, was walking around the backyard of a home with potential buyers when she stepped into an anthill.

“A huge pet peeve of mine, that I’ve seen all too often, is a neglect for pest control,” Nichols says. “It’s hard to look professional while kicking off your shoes and slapping ants off of your feet.”

After that debacle, the numerous other ant beds all over the yard were impossible to ignore.

“It certainly didn’t leave [my clients] with the best impression,” Nichols says. “When a homeowner doesn’t take care of their yard, which is clearly visible, it’s not a leap for a buyer to question if other home maintenance was also ignored.”

3. Fresh kill

Talk about killing the deal. Dusko Sremac, a real estate professional at Re/Max First in Calgary, Alberta, recalls recent clients who were interested in properties with lots of acreage, with a price point over $1 million. More specifically, they were shopping for newer homes, with cabin-style features.

“These buyers weren’t the outdoorsy type, but liked the idea of a space outside the city with a rustic, outdoorsy feel,” Sremac explains.

But when they got to one property, “They immediately felt the vibes that ‘A hunter lives here,’” Sremac recalls.

It wasn’t hard to see why. In the backyard, a recent kill—a big buck deer—was prominently strung up, and still being worked on.

Sremac’s clients asked to leave.

“Sellers should keep in mind that what’s normal or acceptable to them isn’t always going to be OK for everyone else,” he says.

4. Squatters

You already know dead animals and live pests are sure to freak out potential buyers. But just in case it’s not clear, make sure to keep wayward people out of your outdoor space, too.

Several years ago, Michael McGraw, now a luxury specialist for Blue Desert Cabo rental properties in Mexico, was showing a client a home in Las Vegas.

“When it came time to go to the backyard, we noticed it was a complete mess, but decided to walk the property anyway, because my client felt it had potential,” McGraw remembers.

Then they noticed a blue tarp, with legs and boots sticking out from under it.

“After my client and I grabbed onto each other, I called 911, thinking it was a dead body,” McGraw says.

Within minutes, several police cars arrived, but it turned out to be a homeless person, alive, but fast asleep.

“Needless to say, my client passed on the property,” McGraw says.

5. Confusing smells

When Bob Gordon, a Realtor® with Berkshire Hathaway in Boulder, CO, toured the property of a potential client, he noticed a door on the barn had several padlocks and warnings to keep out. Of course, he asked the seller why.

“That’s my marijuana grow,” was the answer.

“I suggested he just keep it locked and remove the signs,” Gordon says. “Nope, he had to have the signs, and said the last Realtor didn’t address the smell or grow space.”

As a result, a string of would-be buyers complained about the pungent, skunklike odor.

6. A real-life pet cemetery

Lewis Friedman, a licensed real estate salesperson with the Friedman Team at Compass in NYC, didn’t lose a deal because of a property’s odd outdoor environment. But maybe that’s because his clients didn’t realize what was in it.

The brownstone that Friedman’s clients purchased had previously been inhabited by four generations of the same family.

“The backyard was a jungle—completely overgrown,” Friedman says. “You could hardly walk 2 inches.”

Not until they did a renovation did his clients cut all the weeds back.

“That’s when they saw all these strange little stones,” Friedman says. “A few generations of the previous owners’ dogs were buried in the backyard.”

7. Mysterious holes

Justin Riordan, interior designer, architect and founder of the Portland-based home staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency, still vividly remembers walking through the house of a new client.

“He gave me super creepy vibes, but wanted us to look at the backyard for our opinion,” Riordan says.

Once Riordan and his team went outside, the client showed him a very large hole he had dug that was about 6 feet deep, 3 feet wide, and 6 feet long.

“I kid you not,” Riordan says. “It looked just like a grave.”

The client then prodded Riordan to guess what he thought the human-sized hole was for.

“I seriously expected to get hit over the head with shovel at any second,” he says. “The only thing that would have made it creepier was if he’d been wearing a kimono, and ‘Goodbye, Horses’ was playing.”

Riordan faked a phone call on his cell, said he had to leave, and did so ASAP.

Moral of the story: If anything on your property makes visitors think “Silence of the Lambs,” your home’s probably not going to be a quick sell.

The post 7 Wild Things in Your Outdoor Space That Can Freak Out Potential Buyers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Should You Do Home Upgrades Now … or Right Before You Sell?

Mint Images/Getty Images

Home sellers are often told to make upgrades to their house before they sell … but when is the best time to get those home improvements underway, in terms of scoring the best ROI?

It’s a tough balance to strike. After all, the sooner you remodel your kitchen or retile the bathroom, the more you’ll get to enjoy it all yourself. But if you make those improvements too long before you sell, you risk them looking run-down and outdated by the time you want to market your home. So, when’s the right time to give the green light?

If you’re agonizing over such questions, we can end your misery now—in a good way! Here’s how far in advance of listing your home you should do certain home improvements, so they’ll still look fresh enough to fetch top dollar.

7 to 10 years out

Well, you’re quite a planner, aren’t you? That’s cool … we’ll play the long game with you. Here are upgrades you can safely undertake when you still have significant time until your sale.

1. Redo your landscaping

This is truly one of the few housing projects that gets better with age, since shrubs and trees only improve as they mature. And, bonus: It’s likely that it will never look dated, says Lisa Shiroff of Leafy Green Landscaping in Buena, NJ. However, she cautions, think twice about unique or difficult-to-maintain items if you are concerned with resale value—we’re talking elements like a meditation nook, bocce ball court, or koi pond.

“Most people are not willing to invest the time, energy, or finances to maintain those areas, so keep your additions relatively mainstream and user-friendly,” Shiroff says.

2. Update the garage door

Believe it or not, updating your garage door is the top upgrade you can make in terms of return on investment.

“Curb appeal is key when you’re getting ready to sell your home, and garage doors can dramatically improve the look of your home,” says Matt Edstrom of GoodLife Home Loans in Laguna Hills, CA. Since garage doors can last for up to 40 years, this is an update you can enjoy right now, without worrying about taking a depreciation hit.

3. Replace your roof

If your roof is more than 20 years old and you plan on selling, you may want to replace it, suggests Taylor Willson, owner of Willson Home Inspection Inc. in Tampa, FL. For one thing, you may receive immediate savings from your insurance company, he says, and beyond that, “A newer roof is a great selling point.” Choose a hardy material, like concrete tiles or asphalt shingles, that have a long useful life.

4. Keep up on repairs

Repairs should have a permanent spot on your “to do” list. If it’s broke, then, yes, please fix it.

“Don’t put off repairs while you wait for the optimum time,” says Cristina Miguélez, remodeling specialist at “They help your home retain value and can keep a small problem from becoming exponentially bigger.”

5 years out

This is a good time to start thinking about big-ticket items that will affect your resale and that you won’t want to pay for all at once. Here are some to consider.

1. Replace major systems

We’re talking HVAC systems, plumbing … anything whose average life expectancy is relatively long, and where you want your listing to showcase that these key systems are less than five years old. Replacing them now allows you to enjoy the improved operation and potential energy savings, while avoiding a concession in the sale price when the time comes, Willson says.

2. Check on anything with a warranty

This is also a good time to do a check on any items that have a current warranty—such as windows and appliances—while they are still covered, suggests Frances Dawson, with Re/Max Executive at the Lake in Cornelius, NC.

3. Switch out your front door

Another important element of “curb appeal,” your front door can really make your house pop, says Edstrom, as well as potentially increase your energy efficiency. Front doors can last for decades, but they are also exposed to the elements, so this is a good time frame to allow you to enjoy the aesthetics and energy savings, without running the risk that it will look too weathered come sales time.

2 years out

Two years is nothing in a home’s history, so it’s time to really start getting serious. Here’s what to do to start prepping for a relatively imminent sale.

 1. Reno the kitchen or bathroom

This can be subjective, but you’re probably safe doing an overhaul in this time frame if you are hoping to get some personal enjoyment out of your updates. Miguélez suggests, however, that you pick your decor carefully to avoid being stuck with an upgrade that’s already dated.

“A ‘trend’ is something that’s predicted to last roughly 10 years, so your safest best is to find a look that’s been on the upswing for roughly two to three years,” Miguélez explains. “That means it will look relevant for a while, rather than something that is already five years old and potentially nearing its expiration date.”

Dawson recommends seeking the opinion of a local real estate agent, who can steer you to cost-effective updates that will increase the value of your home without over-improving it. And, she says, beware of DIY.

“If you don’t have extensive prior experience, hiring a professional is going to be cheaper in the long run, because the DIY look is unappealing to your potential buyer.”

2. Get to organizing

This is also a good time to start cleaning out storage areas, closets, cabinets, the garage, the attic—anyplace you have an accumulation of stuff, Dawson says. Your future self will thank you for getting this time-consuming project out of the way now.

3. Have a home inspection

Very few sellers do this, but it’s smart to have your home professionally inspected right about now, so you won’t run into any nasty surprises when selling time rolls around.

“It is always less expensive to repair items before you get into negotiations with a buyer,” Dawson points out.

1 year or less

It’s crunch time, and now is the time to attend to all the high-traffic areas, as well as make improvements that will freshen up your listing.

1. Redo flooring

Pets and kids can scratch up your floors quickly, so wait as long as you can before refinishing floors. Replace carpet, too, if it’s dingy, and especially if it has pet odors.

2. Roll on a fresh coat of paint

Walls get dinged up constantly, so painting right before putting your house on the market can really make it sparkle. It’s also a quick job that you can get done in a week or two.

3. Replace all your accessory items

These are things like bedding, throw pillows, chair cushions, patio furniture, shower curtains, plumbing fixtures, cabinet pulls—all the embellishments that provide the “lipstick” for the foundational elements.  Shop those sales and switch out everything you can, Dawson recommends.

“You want the house to shine like a new penny, not appear to be well-loved,” she says.

The post Should You Do Home Upgrades Now … or Right Before You Sell? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

6 Surprisingly Petty Issues That Can Sabotage a Home Sale


Selling a home can be a long, time-consuming process, especially if the seller and potential buyers butt heads. Sometimes, the issues behind a deal-making deadlock are legitimately big. Other times, they simply aren’t. Here, we talk to agents about some of the most petty issues that can sabotage a home sale.

Missing cover plates

When you’ve lived in a house for a long time, sometimes little things go missing that are easy to forget about, especially when those little things are in rooms that aren’t used a ton. For people seeing a house with fresh, about-to-plunk-down-a-bunch-of-money eyes, however, these little things can seem significant.

“One of the funniest—and most annoying—requests I get is for sellers to replace missing cover plates on light switches and outlets,” Amy Berglund, a real estate agent with Re/Max Professionals City Properties in Denver, CO, says. “Usually they’re missing in places such as laundry rooms and basements—think places that aren’t used that much. It is an incredibly affordable fix.”

While this fix is cheap and easy for sellers, Berglund also cautions buyers not to let such matters stand in the way of a purchase.

“Despite what your overzealous inspector tells you, you are not going to die from electrocution because of a missing cover plate!” she says.

Missing blinds

Jen Horner, a real estate agent with Re/Max Masters in Salt Lake City, says that one all too common issue she’s encountered involves what she calls “the case of the missing blinds.” The caper goes like this: A buyer sees a house and falls in love. Between the offer and the final walk-through, however, the sellers finish moving out and, to them, that includes the blinds, rods, and/or drapes. In Horner’s experience, this can spell trouble. Big trouble!

“When looking at a property, buyers incorporate window dressings into their overall impression of the house. It’s part of the all-important connection,” she says. “And if they are not clearly excluded in the contract, window dressings belong to the home. Most of the time, the seller will agree to replace or reimburse the missing items. But if a seller refuses, we’ve seen it become a contentious issue that threatens the entire deal—even though you’ve made it to the walk-through.”

Dead lightbulbs and batteries

Berglund says another common request sellers should be prepared for is to replace light bulbs and smoke detector batteries. These might seem inconsequential, but they help make a home feel move-in ready in a really basic way. Refusing to replace them can be a petty (and unnecessary) way to kill a sale.

Weird odors, jiggly handles, and other small details

Horner stresses that tiny, seemingly inconsequential issues can often be the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity. Since sellers have often lived in a house for years, it’s easy for these small details to fade from their awareness.

“Sellers should also understand the keys to making a good first impression with potential buyers,” she says. “To start with, most sellers have lived in their home for many years and no longer have a first impression. While the seller may have grown accustomed to the litter box odor, the jiggling handle on the back-sliding door, or the mismatched paint in parts of the house, prospective buyers do not want to encounter these things. In aggregate they will kill further interest from buyers.”

Creaky floors

Due diligence is vital when buying a home, but Berglund says that especially when it comes to older homes, it’s important to be realistic. She cites floors in vintage homes that are not level as a prime example of this kind of misguided quest for perfection among some prospective buyers.”I would be creaky and un-level if I was 110 years old as well!” she says.

She notes that not all of these concerns stem from prospective buyers themselves and that sometimes, home inspectors can contribute to the potential for pettiness, especially states that don’t require licensing for inspectors.

“The bottom line is that inspection is intended for major health and safety concerns only—roof, sewer line, foundation problems,” Berglund says. “If you love the house, particularly if it’s a vintage home, talk with your agent about what constitutes a reasonable inspection objection, and don’t create problems where there aren’t any. Also, find a great home inspector! So many of these problems are created by subpar inspectors. In Colorado, home inspectors don’t need a license, so there are a lot of charlatans running around here! Be savvy, rely on your agent, and do your own homework on inspectors.”

Small freebies

Sometimes potential buyers might have their heart set on something that’s not really a part of the house that’s being sold. Horner recalls one memorable incident in which a $100 foosball table was the cherry on top that closed a deal—and threatened to kill it.

“During a 2017 sale of a $1.2M home in Utah, and after months of negotiations, the deal literally came down to a last-minute ask for a foosball table worth about one hundred bucks,” she explains. “Through some professional real estate therapy on both sides, we were able to avoid this final barrier and close on the property. Most importantly, both the buyer and seller were pleased with the outcome.”

While the foosball table might seem like a bizarre example, Horner says these small issues come up time and again and come down to the psychology of the sales process.

“Oftentimes, completing an agreement between a buyer and seller will come down to a seemingly very small term in the contract or ask,” she says. “These types of issues, which might seem petty on the surface, are oftentimes rooted in buyers or sellers psychologically wanting to feel like they got a final win before the deal closes. Successfully navigating these last-minute complications is what good real estate agents do. Good real estate agents are also therapists, and need to consistently aim for mutual assent between the parties.”

The post 6 Surprisingly Petty Issues That Can Sabotage a Home Sale appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Are You Killing the Mood? 8 Things in Your Bedroom That Freak Out Potential Buyers


Your house is on the market, and you’ve thrown all your energy into sprucing up its curb appeal and scrubbing your kitchen and bathrooms until they shine. So you think to yourself: The bedroom is just fine the way it is, right? After all, you made the bed!

Here’s a tip: Your bedroom is not fine the way it is.

“While your bedroom might be your private sanctuary, it is made public when your home is on the market,” says Daniele Kurzweil, a licensed real estate salesperson with the Friedman Team at Compass in New York City. “We’ve always found that the intimate nature of someone’s bedroom seems to get a reaction when the sellers don’t let their real estate agent stage it.”

And that reaction is by no means always positive.

According to the pros, here are the items in your bedroom most likely to make potential buyers run for the exit.

1. Mr. Whiskers’ litter box

Brett Ari Fischer, an associate broker at Lee & Associates Residential NYC in New York, has had buyers who were turned off because a bed wasn’t made, there were light stains on the floor, or even worse, a strong odor from a pet.

“I had a client legitimately almost throw up when she walked into a bedroom that smelled like cat urine,” Fischer recalls. “It was especially unfortunate, as the apartment was actually quite gorgeous.”

Remove any evidence of your pet before a home showing, including litter boxes, toys, and, of course pet hair. And remember: Even if you can’t smell your pet, other people can. Remove dog and cat odors before you throw open the doors for the public.

2. Boudoir photos

“I’m sure it’s fun to take saucy boudoir photos for your spouse,” says Justin Riordan, interior designer, architect and founder of the Portland, OR-based home-staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency. “But honestly, it only will evoke one of three emotions with potential home buyers: laughter, disgust, or ill-timed physical responses—none of which will help you sell your home.”

Riordan’s rule should be easy enough to follow: “Time to put that glamour shot away.”

3. Medical equipment

“I know CPAP machines keep you from suffocating in your sleep and are the absolute best for curing sleep apnea,” Riordan says of continuous positive airway pressure therapy. “However, they’re super gross for anyone that is not the user of the machine.”

Because CPAP machines—or any medical equipment, for that matter—evoke feelings of anxiety rather than inspiration, put them away prior to showings, Riordan advises.

4. Sex toys

You knew this one was coming into play. Bob Gordon, a Realtor® with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Boulder, CO, once worked with a home inspector who, during a routine inspection, checked under the master bedroom sink for leaks. What he found there instead? A pair of sex toys.

“He told me he sees stuff like this ‘hidden’ all too frequently,” Gordon says. “You’d think owners would understand that if they really want something out of sight, they need to get it out of the house for that day.”

5. Lotion or other lubricants

It’s not only explicit sex toys that are a problem. We know the bedroom is where the magic happens, but let’s be honest: Even a hint of sexual activity can turn off a buyer, the pros say.

For instance, “Your hands get dry sometimes, right? Mine too,” Riordan says. “However, lotion combined with a box of tissues on your nightstand connotes a whole other activity that has not a single thing to do with eczema. Put them away.”

6. Laundry

Another thing potential buyers don’t want to think about? Your grubby clothes.

But a hamper of clothes on the floor—or even neatly folded socks left out on your bed—makes that hard to do.

“It doesn’t matter if [your laundry] is dirty or clean,” Riordan says. “Other people’s laundry is downright gross. Fold it up and put it away before showings.”

7. Locks on bedroom doors

While touring a home once, Riordan spied a lock on the outside of a child’s bedroom door.

“It was very subtle, but it was more than three years ago, and we still wonder what the heck was going on there,” he says.

“If you need a lock on a bedroom, fine,” he adds. “Just make sure it locks from the inside.”

8. Mirrors (and more)

Kurzweil recalls touring a listing with a client where all was going well—until they walked into a bedroom with mirrors on the ceiling and a life-sized photo of the wife—nude—hanging above the bed.

“The agent showing us the apartment was so embarrassed, and explained that no matter what she said, the owners would not take down the photo,” Kurzweil says.

The reason? The couple “thought the wife looked ‘smoking hot’ and wanted to show off,” she says. But “my client was turned off to the idea of the apartment and could not see herself living there, no matter what the renovations.”

Kurzweil’s advice when you prep your bedroom for a showing is: Play it safe.

“You want people to walk into your bedroom and feel like they’re walking into a hotel suite at the Ritz,” she says.

The post Are You Killing the Mood? 8 Things in Your Bedroom That Freak Out Potential Buyers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

4 Money Missteps to Avoid With Your First Home Flip

Meriel Jane Waissman/Getty Images

So you’re zeroing in on your very first real estate investment purchase: a home with potential that you’re planning on flipping. Congrats! But now it’s time to get to work.

Just be aware: Even if you spend weeks, or months, getting your investment property ready to sell, these efforts don’t necessarily guarantee profits. To give yourself a greater chance of making money off of your flip, you’ll want to avoid the following mistakes.

1. Hanging on for too long

For professional investors, flipping a home should be seen as a short-term process.

“I’d rather take a shorter profit in a shorter period of time than a marginally bigger profit over a longer period of time,” says Joshua Jarvis, CEO of Jarvis Team Realty, in Atlanta. Why? It can interfere with your year-end goals of making more money on flipping other properties. If your money is tied up in a project, you can’t invest in a new one.

“A 10% per annum return on a three-month investment is fantastic, but that same return doesn’t look so hot if it takes three years to come to fruition,’ says Nick Schlekeway, founder of Amherst Madison Legacy, in Boise, ID.

2. Over-renovating

Time is of the essence when flipping a home, and the quicker you can make it look good and sell it, the better. Any additional time spent on over-renovating it or obsessing over minute details can cut into your bottom line.

Patrick Freeze, owner of the Bay Management Group, in Baltimore, advises investors to “make the necessary repairs to your property but don’t over-renovate.”

The longer it’s not getting sold, the more potential revenue you miss out on. Plus, sinking money and labor into additional features can also mean you’ll make less money at the end of the deal.

So to make sure your house will fit in with comparable properties in the neighborhood, look for trends. In your neighborhood, are there McMansions stuffed with high-end appliances, or are most of the houses from the ’70s with modest updates? Figure it out, and play it close to the medium.

3. Not having an emergency fund

Experienced investors will consider this house flipping 101, but we cannot stress enough how important it is to have plenty of cash on hand in case of emergencies. What if your contractor finds asbestos and you have to pay additional money to eradicate it? What if there’s a downpour on the day you’re supposed to paint? Not having an emergency fund set aside can badly derail your project and put you in the red.

“The larger the fund, the better you are and the longer you can handle any risks,” says Jeff Tomasulo, CEO of Vespula Capital, an investment firm in Greenwich, CT.

To figure out how much you need, add together your overhead per month—mortgage, taxes, insurance, your lawyer, leasing agent, accountant, etc.—and multiply that by six for at least a half-year cushion, Tomasulo recommends.

4. Pricing yourself out of the market

Are you holding out for a higher sale price? You’re doing it wrong. The main reason houses sell fast is because they’re priced right for the market they’re in. That’s why it’s important to look at the comps in your neighborhood and speak to local real estate agents when deciding on a price for your investment property.

I’ve seen many new investors try to get $5,000 or $10,000 more than they should on lower-end homes. When it doesn’t happen, they spend the rest of the time chasing the market, Jarvis says.

His bottom line? “Price it right in the beginning, and get it sold.”

The post 4 Money Missteps to Avoid With Your First Home Flip appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Look on the Bright Side: 6 Ways to View Your House’s Flaws in a Positive Light


So you’re getting ready to list your house for sale, but its flaws keep staring you straight in the face. Your bedrooms are small. The kitchen needs new paint. The place desperately needs a new roof.

As hard as it may be, don’t beat yourself up over the features that some buyers may see as undesirable. The truth is, no house is perfect, and a successful sale always comes down to connecting with the right buyer.

Here’s the reality: Many potential buyers may actually see the flaws of a home as challenges they can design around or things they can negotiate into the sale price.

Of course, you don’t want any glaring weaknesses to scare off potential buyers and kill any buzz surrounding your home. So the best thing to do is to come up with a plan. The tips below will help you smooth over your home’s shortcomings.

1. Focus on the positive

Photo by Flippa Interiors

Buyers tend to see features like a large front yard, a multicar garage, outdoor living space, wood floors, lots of storage space, a renovated kitchen, a master suite, large bedrooms, and an open layout as major positives. So if your home has any of these features, talk them up!

For some buyers, the highly desirable features can far outweigh the undesirable ones.

“Your goal is to ensure that the buyers take notice of these really appealing features during the open house,” says Sophie Kaemmerle, a home improvement and neighborhood expert for

Highlight all of your home’s desirable features on the listing and the information sheet you leave out for buyers to take at open houses.

2. Create curb appeal

Photo by Allard Ward Architects

The goal of an open house is to impress potential buyers from the moment they pull into your driveway. So if your curb appeal is on point, they’ll likely be excited to see the rest of the house.

“Your home’s curb appeal will be their first exposure to your home, thus making it an important component in leaving a positive lasting impression on the buyers,” says Kaemmerle.

To increase the home’s curb appeal, make sure to keep the lawn clear of clutter. Remember to keep the grass cut and the bushes trimmed, and remove any dead shrubs and trees. Giving the shutters and front door a new coat of paint will add a fresh appearance to the exterior of the home.

3. Design a focal point in each room

Photo by Rez Studio

To bring awareness to the favorable parts of each room, Kaemmerle suggests creating a focal point that accentuates the best features.

For example, if the best feature in your home is the high ceilings, display vertical art that emphasizes the height of a room. A small bedroom could be seen as a bummer, but a striking wallpaper statement wall can create visual interest.

4. Add soothing sounds

The sound of a babbling brook or relaxing music can dull a negative noise feature like a nearby highway or heavy airplane traffic.

Mike Gobber, president of the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors® in Illinois, encourages sellers to add a water feature (like a portable fountain) or play some mellow music. While these sounds won’t eliminate or hide the noise, they can lessen the impact and make the ambiance during the open house more pleasant.

5. Get estimates

If an undesirable aspect of the home could be easily changed, Gobber says, it’s not a bad idea to go ahead and get a few estimates for the work ahead of time. Then share this information with buyers who ask about what it would take to change that feature. If necessary, you can even offer to work those costs into the offer. Be prepared.

6. Sweeten the deal with a fun gift

Photo by Vinotemp

Everybody wants a deal, especially home buyers. Many sellers, at the behest of their real estate agent, will throw a gift in addition to the home.

“When selling a home, you can offer to include a six-month gym membership, stock the wine fridge, or pay to have the outside power-washed,” says Kimberly Friedmutter, a motivational coach in Las Vegas.

An unexpected bonus like this could make the purchase worthwhile for the buyer and minimize any undesirable features in the house.

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Lessons From Listing Photos: Cost-Effective Kitchen Revamp Pulls in $300K Profit

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. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pics highlight the home’s best assets.

They say the kitchen is the heart of a home—so it stands to reason that a kitchen renovation is an excellent way to pump new life into your entire house. And great new photos of your kitchen will attract buyers and increase the value of your property.

Need some proof? The renovated kitchen in this Massachusetts home helped the sellers snag a price nearly $300,000 more than what they paid for it just four years ago. Here’s what our experts say they did exactly right.

Before: Kitchen

kitchen before_angle 1
The old kitchen looked dark and dreary.

After: Kitchen

kitchen after_angle 1
The renovated kitchen is bright and welcoming.

While the before and after photos of this kitchen might look drastically different, the sellers actually made minimal changes to save time and money.

“Leaving the existing footprint of the kitchen and not moving the appliances or plumbing made the transformation cost savings huge,” says property stylist Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP.

“Cabinetry is typically the most expensive line item in a kitchen renovation, but luckily this home already had classic white kitchen cabinetry and high-end appliances,” adds interior designer Anelle Gandelman of A-List Interiors in New York City.

Before: Cabinetry and appliances

kitchen before_angle 2
The original cabinets and appliances were already top-notch.

After: Cabinetry and appliances

kitchen after_angle 2
Keeping the island base but changing the countertop had a huge impact on the kitchen.

One small change that makes a huge impact on this kitchen is the island. These savvy homeowners made the cost-effective change of keeping the original base of the island and swapping out the countertop.

“The island was updated by switching the black countertop to a white marble,” says Gandelman. “That lightens up the space and complements the original backsplash.”

She also notes the sleek pendant lights over the island complement the other silver finishes in the kitchen (e.g., the faucet and appliances) and enhance the tall ceilings.

Before: Breakfast area

kitchen before_angle 3
The tiny breakfast table didn’t leave much room for guests.

After: Breakfast nook

kitchen after_angle 3
The new breakfast nook has room for everyone.

And just like that, the eating area in this kitchen nearly doubled in size with the addition of a breakfast nook. Removing walls isn’t for the faint of heart, but our experts say this major project was more than worth the work.

“Adding a breakfast nook was a great idea in this renovation. An eat-in kitchen is always good for resale, but in this case, the breakfast nook expands the kitchen space even further,” Gandelman says.

Gray-Plaisted agrees: “Removing the wall to open the kitchen created better flow and use of the area.” She also notes that the coffered element above the table mirrors the dining room ceiling and pulls the two areas together.

Before: Dining area with wall

kitchen before_angle 4
The original dining area was dark and cramped.

After: Sitting area without wall

kitchen after_angle 4
The new seating area makes everyone feel welcome.

Speaking of opening up the space, what was once a dining room separated from the kitchen by a wall is now a bright and comfy sitting area.

“This setup is the perfect spot for large family gatherings and entertaining,” says Gandelman. “The original kitchen felt cut off and small, but the space was transformed into a more functional and inviting great room.”

Gray-Plaisted also notes the appealing white, Shaker-style cabinets under the window seat.

“Using similar cabinetry as the kitchen tied the new living space into the kitchen, producing a great usable space,” she says.

But did the homeowners do away with a dining area altogether? Of course not! They just moved it closer to the kitchen in an area that has plenty of space for a full table and chairs.

As for the cost of the renovations, Gandelman says it’s nothing compared with the return.

“Depending on labor costs and location, this type of kitchen update would likely cost between $40,000 and $50,000,” she says. That’s small potatoes compared with the $300,000 profit.


Watch: The 4 Things You Must Do to Sell Your Home Fast


The post Lessons From Listing Photos: Cost-Effective Kitchen Revamp Pulls in $300K Profit appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Home Sellers Spill: ‘The Home Upgrade I Wish I’d Done Sooner’


If you’re like most homeowners, your house is a host of tiny irritations you keep meaning to fix but never do. Maybe it’s a light fixture you constantly bang your head on, or wallpaper you’ve always despised. And then one day you decide it’s time to sell the house. And what do you do? You replace the light fixture. You strip the wallpaper. And then you stand back and think, “Why didn’t I do that sooner?”

We feel your pain—and, in an effort to spur you to act now, we decided to ask fellow homeowners what little inconvenience they had put up with for far too long, and regretted waiting to improve until it was time to sell the house.

Let this inspire you to carpe diem and finally get rid of that @*#$&% low-hanging light fixture. And then you can be the one saying, “I’m so glad I did that” sooner rather than later!

Solar panels

“We installed solar panels one year before we sold, so not only did we not get to reap the full benefits of the solar itself, but we had to cut a big check out of escrow to pay off the installation loan. We wish we’d done them earlier, but we’re still glad we did—it absolutely was a selling point for the buyer and made for a quick listing.” – Carey Madill, Clements, CA

A walk-in closet

“I recently sold a home, and I decided to build a walk-in closet in the master bedroom to add a little cachet. All of a sudden, we had tons of room for all of our clothes and shoes—and the whole room felt more orderly! Now that I’ve moved, I’ve already made a few changes to my house, because I realized there is no reason to wait.” – Alex Tran, Seattle, WA

Gas-powered fireplaces

“Before moving out of my home of 23 years, I had great gas logs professionally installed in my two fireplaces. They had remote-control starters and dimmers that set the mood and broadcast the heat nicely. Wow! I can’t even describe the ambiance and coziness of an instant, clean, controlled, roaring fire. I hope the new owners enjoy them as much as I briefly did.” – Nancy Cramer, Dallas, TX

Tile instead of carpet

“We updated the master bathroom right before we left. While most of it was beautiful, it had this grungy old carpet on the floor, and carpet is terrible when it gets wet. We updated it to an attractive tile. I just loved that new tile floor and couldn’t believe I only enjoyed it for less than a year.” – Amanda Ponzar, Alexandria, VA

An outdoor dining area

“The main thing I regret not doing sooner was cleaning up the backyard. A few months before we moved out, I decided to make our overgrown patio hospitable—and honestly it wasn’t even that hard. I pressure-washed the tiles and installed a new barbecue, along with a table with six seats. I can tell you that was the best summer our family ever had, spending it mostly outside in the fresh air.” – Bryan Stoddard, Jersey City, NJ

Bye-bye, pink bathroom

“It took me seven years to finally deal with our hideous, ’80s-esque pink master bathroom. We kept putting it off because we thought, ‘Hey, nobody can see it, so who cares?’ But we knew we had to update it before putting our house on the market. We refinished the painted pink tile to a bright white and swapped out pink floor tile with plank flooring. I seriously couldn’t believe how much happier we were waking up to that.” – Laura Burton, Los Angeles, CA

We painted wood white

“My washing machine and dryer are located in my back entranceway, and about 15 years ago, we added wainscoting to the hall area and painted it white. All the doors were wood and even though I wanted to paint the doors white as well, I kept thinking of all the prep work hassle, so I put it off. Fast forward to this past December: Knowing we are going to be selling soon, I finally painted all the doors white to match the wainscoting—and what a difference! It opened up the space, making it feel brighter and more spacious. I wish I could have enjoyed it all along!” – Karen GrayPlaisted, Warwick, NY

A ton of tiny repairs

We’ve been busily fixing a ton of stuff in our house as we get ready to sell: The bathroom fixtures have been broken this whole time so we replaced them; I repaired a kitchen cabinet shelf that was constantly falling down due to a broken center support; I replaced a window door shade that wasn’t properly installed, so it would always blow off during storms; and we added a bunch more lights. I think because these things were always ‘good enough,’ we never bothered to get around to doing anything about them. My wife was like, ‘We should have done these the first week,’ and she’s right.” – Derek Hales, Phoenix, AZ

It’s the little things

“When we were getting ready to sell our house, we took care of all those little things that I didn’t even realize had been bugging me. We had the garage doors painted, porch columns repaired and painted, touched up the doors and baseboards, and painted this ceiling patch where it had been repaired but never repainted. It didn’t take a lot of time or cost a ton, and it really made such a difference.” – Rhonda McRae, Seattle, WA

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When Is the Best Time to Sell Your House? 5 Factors to Consider

When is the best time to sell your house?

supawat bursuk/iStock

When is the best time to sell your house? Timing can make a big difference in terms of selling your home quickly and for the most cash. But here’s the thing: The rules on pinpointing that best time might not be what you think.

The assumption that spring is always the best time to sell is not necessarily true. The general direction of your local economy and mortgage interest rates come into play as well.

There’s no crystal ball for reading the housing market, but there are ways to stack the deck in your favor. Here are five things to consider before putting your house on the market.

1. Spring isn’t always the best season to sell your house

Though conventional wisdom maintains that the spring home-buying season (April to June) is the best time to sell, that’s not always the case. In fact, one recent study even found that sellers typically net more above asking price during the months of December, January, February, and March than they do from June through November. Surprised?

One reason may be that the spring home-buying season generally means you’ll have more competition from other home sellers—and that may require you to price your home more aggressively in order to attract buyers.

“Listing in the spring means you are positioning yourself to compete with several other homes,” says Jersey City, NJ–based real estate agent Cheyanne Banks. “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 place next door.”

Additionally, a number of experts recommend listing a home in February or March so that the property hits the market before the competition ramps up—which may explain why a 2018 study by ATTOM Data Solutions of 14.7 million home sales from 2011 to 2017 found the second-best day of the year to sell a home is Feb. 15, with sellers netting an average premium of 9% above their house’s estimated market value on that day. (Sellers nab a 9.1% premium above market value on June 28.)

Winter is also a hot time of year for people relocating for jobs, says Jennifer Baldinger, a real estate broker in Scarsdale, NY.

“One of the biggest months for corporate relocation is January-February, so those buyers who need to move quickly are out in full force looking for new homes,” she says.

2. Keep an eye on the local economy

The strength of the U.S. housing market as a whole certainly plays a role in home prices. According to a analysis of annual price growth rates, a home’s value generally increases 3% to 4% a year when the economy is strong, driven by inflation and natural population growth. From 2011 to 2016, the national housing market was recovering from the bubble at a slightly higher speed: 6.3% a year, on average.

You’ll want to assess your local economy’s conditions when figuring out when to list your home. One benchmark you can use is the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which monitors single-family home sales in 20 major U.S. cities. Another valuable resource is the Metropolitan Median Area Prices and Affordability tracker from the National Association of Realtors®.

3. Mortgage rates matter, too

Generally, more people buy homes when mortgage rates drop, historic data shows. As a result, prospective sellers should be monitoring the mortgage market, says Jack Guttentag, author of “The Mortgage Encyclopedia.”

Need help keeping an eye on interest rates? has a mortgage rate trends tracker, which lets you follow interest rate changes in your local market.

4. Wait until your home’s in good shape

To fetch top dollar for your home, the property must show well. This may require you take time to make repairs to your house.

“Any defect or condition that affects the intended function or operation of a major house system should be fixed,” says Kathleen Kuhn, president of HouseMaster, a national chain of home inspection offices.

Translation: Taking care of leaks, built-in appliances not functioning properly, insect infestations, plus any imminent safety or environmental hazards, is crucial before listing your home. Even making cosmetic changes (e.g., repainting the kitchen or sprucing up the property’s landscaping) can make your home significantly more appealing to home buyers.

Keeping up with your neighbors is also important. If all the houses on your block are beautifully furnished and landscaped, then it’s likely worth it to spend the extra cash—and the time—primping your own home for sale.

5. Your personal preparedness is a priority, too

Yet no amount of timing should eclipse what time is right for you—personally, professionally, and otherwise. Are you ready to move on, or up into bigger digs? Many homeowners sell when they change jobs or when their children switch schools, or when the kids fly the coop and the parents are ready to downsize. So, take stock of your own situation when deciding whether to put your house on the market now or wait.

Michele Lerner contributed to this article.

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The $17,000 ‘Sweet Spot’ You Should Know About Before You Sell Your Home

The $17,000 ‘sweet spot’ you should know about before you sell your home


Open the door to bigger profits.

Home prices are on the rise, climbing another 3% year over year, according to S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index from February released this month. Still, that growth is slowing and some experts are predicting that we’re increasingly entering a buyer’s market.

And that means sellers who want to get a premium for their home may have to work for it. So MarketWatch dug into the research and asked experts what really moves the needle to get you a better-than-average price for your home. Here’s what we found.

‘By listing during the week of March 31 to April 6, sellers are able to take advantage of a sweet spot in the season that offers high buyer demand, less competition, quick home sales, and strong price.’ analysis

Time it right. Don’t try to sell your home in winter, but do try to sell it in the spring. Sellers who sold their homes in June — meaning June was the sale date on the deed of the house, so they likely put the home on the market in spring — got 9.2% more than what their home was valued at, according to data released this month from real estate analytics firm ATTOM Data Solutions.

Sellers got a premium in other spring and summer months too: May (7.4%); July (7.3%); April (6.4 %); March (6.1%); August (5.8%); meanwhile December, January and October sellers got less than a 4% premium. ATTOM’s Chief Product Officer Todd Teta says that this is because demand is much higher in spring and summer in part because school is out and winter is over so people are out and about.

And research released this week by on the 50 top housing markets confirms that spring is the best time for listing a home. Indeed, homes listed in the first week of April got 14% more views, had 5% less competition and garnered 6% higher prices. ‘Based on early 2019 data, this could mean an extra $17,000 added to the list price for a typical listing priced just over $306,000 in early April,” the data found. “By listing during the week of March 31-April 6, sellers are able to take advantage of a sweet spot in the season that offers high buyer demand, less competition, quick home sales, and strong prices,” the analysis revealed.

Pause before you renovate. While you might be tempted to put in a top-of-the-line kitchen or a fresh bathroom, most of the time you don’t recoup the costs of a big-time renovation when you sell, according to a study of 22 major renovations. Indeed, with the two renovations where you recoup the highest percentage of your costs — garage door renovation and manufactured stone veneers — you’re still out of pocket at least $100.

So if your house is in decent condition, you may be financially better off making smaller cosmetic updates that don’t cost much. “If the house has ‘good bones’ — which refers to items like structural integrity, a solid roof, well-functioning windows and sufficient HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) — then upgrading the FF&E [finishes, fixtures and equipment] may be very worthwhile,” says Justin Riordan, interior designer, architect and founder of the Portland-based home staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency. That might include “fresh interior paint, new carpeting, refinishing wood floors, replacing outdated countertops, painting cabinets, and installing new appliances and light fixtures. Recouping the cost of these items is easy provided the bones are good and the house is beautifully staged and presented to potential homebuyers.”

Set the stage. Nathan Garrett, owner of Garretts Realty in Louisville, Ken., says that you should both “create more floor space and room by removing any unnecessary furniture” and “create more closet space by packing away 50% of your belongings so it looks like there is plenty of storage.”

And if you can find an affordable staging company — or do it smartly yourself for little money — that’s a good bet too, according to a study MarketWatch recently reported on. Kati Baker, a luxury home staging specialist with Downtown Realty Company in Chicago, says you should take a lot of your personal effects out of the home: “Today’s buyers want to walk in the door and immediately envision themselves in the space. So, we start with a blank slate – paint the walls a neutral color, remove personal photos and knick-knacks, haul non-essentials to off-site storage, clear all countertops – and then we add visual items to highlight the space and make it interesting.” That means putting up a few mirrors (which can make a space seem bigger) or neutral and tasteful art pieces (think abstract canvas art), especially large artwork “as too many small pieces in one space can create visual clutter and look messy.”

Another pro tip: “Set a vignette that highlights a favorite feature of the home. For example, we might arrange a tray with two glasses and a bottle of wine on a bar countertop or place plush towels, bath salts and a candle on the ledge of a soaking tub,” says Baker.

‘Sure, you have a fancy camera and you take great photos of your cat, but you’ll garner much more interest in your property and make more money if you leave the listing photos to the pros.’

John Graff, the CEO and a broker at Ashby & Graff Real Estate Los Angeles

Call in the pros for photos. Fully 90% of homebuyers searched online for a home to buy, according to data from the National Association of Realtors — and that showcases just how important good photos are towards getting people into your home for a viewing.

“One of the first things a potential home buyer will do is see photos of the house online before they even see the house. First impressions are crucial in garnering interest from the largest number of potential buyers and therefore creating competition that drives up the sale price of the home,” says real estate investor Ryan Substad, owner of Northwest Property Solutions.

That usually means hiring a pro: “Sure you have a fancy camera and you take great photos of your cat, but you’ll garner much more interest in your property and make more money if you leave the listing photos to the pros,” says John Graff, the CEO and a broker at Ashby & Graff Real Estate Los Angeles. “Depending on the real estate in question it may be worth paying extra for virtual tours, drone videos, and other creative ways to generate interest in your home.” Indeed, pros can make small rooms look bigger, dimly lit areas brighter and more.

“Taking your own photos (or having your agent take photos) might save you $100-$200 but in the end it might cost you thousands of dollars on the back end when you end up selling your home for less,” says Substad.

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