Monthly Archives: July 2019

The One Thing That Can Make or Break How People Feel About Your House

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Considering the time and energy homeowners put toward making their house look great (particularly if they’re trying to sell), many make the critical mistake of neglecting another one of our senses that can be far more powerful: smell.

Even if you’ve decorated or staged your home perfectly, if potential buyers walk in and detect an unpleasant odor, they could skedaddle fast. Good scents, on the other hand, entice them to linger.

“One of the easiest ways to evoke pleasant feelings about a space is to enhance the way it smells,” says Ben Creamer, a managing broker in Chicago. “It’s often the first thing a person will notice upon entering a space—and it’s one of the things that, when done poorly, can kill a sale, no matter how beautiful the home.”

Before considering what options you have for making your home smell amazing, you want to be sure you’re starting fresh.

“The first step to a good-smelling home is to get rid of any odor,” says Barb Boehler, a real estate agent in Madison, WI. “Make sure to scrub all surfaces, wash all rugs, and have the carpets cleaned. Until this is done, you’ll only be masking smells.”

In addition, be mindful in creating a home scent that will be as universally appealing as possible.

“The definition of ‘pleasant’ when it comes to the olfactory senses can vary widely from person to person, so it’s best to keep the scent subtle and clean throughout, with a special emphasis on the kitchen and bath,” says Creamer.

With that in mind, here are 11 tips for making your home smell amazing before guests or home buyers arrive.

Scrub down the bathroom

It goes without saying that scummy showers and grubby toilets are major buyer turnoffs. Use Fabuloso liquid cleaner for bathroom surfaces, including tubs and showers, for a lovely lavender scent, recommends Lisa Jacobs, an organizing professional and founder of Imagine It Done.

Freshen the fridge

Yes, there’s a good chance people will open your refrigerator and take a peek inside. Toss any smelly leftovers or expired condiments, then leave a fresh box of baking soda on a shelf to take care of any lingering odors, says Jacobs.

Take out the trash

Obviously, get rid of any and all garbage before you welcome guests. If your trash cans still carry an odor, sprinkle baking soda in the bottom to absorb it, advises Lisa Molinari, a real estate agent in Morristown, NJ.

Get underfoot

Carpets and rugs can trap a ton of bad smells, especially if you wear shoes in your home or have pets—and warm weather can make them even worse.

An easy fix: Get them shampooed or steam-cleaned regularly, and especially before an open house, says Jennifer Snyder, owner of Neat as a Pin Organizing & Cleaning.

Don an apron

You know all of those hours you’ve spent watching bake-offs on reality TV? Put them to good use by whipping up something sweet that will do double duty making your home smell enticing and providing a snack for potential buyers.

Cedric Stewart, a residential sales consultant in Washington, DC, loves pulling a batch of pumpkin bread or banana bread out of the oven right before the open house begins.

“This provides a great smell, and treats seem to stick in the buyers’ mind after they leave,” he says. (It’s also not a bad idea to brew a fresh pot of coffee to go with the baked treat.)

Just add soap

Round up all of those unused bars of fancy soap you’ve been gifted over the years, and place them in a pretty bowl on a bathroom counter. Dove brand soap also works great for this.

“It can fill a room with a remarkably clean, fresh scent for weeks,” says Creamer. “You can even hide a bar or two in a walk-in closet to freshen the space.”

Play with matches

Tried-and-true candles can make a room feel peaceful, as well as fill it with a pleasant scent—provided the scent isn’t overpowering.

Jacobs loves Apotheke’s bamboo three-wick candle, while Los Angeles–based real estate agent Melissa Okabe always turns to Diptyque’s baies candle, which smells fresh and fruity.

Light the candle 10 to 15 minutes before the open house begins and, of course, keep it in a well-ventilated area away from anything flammable.

Focus on essentials

Oils, that is. If you’d rather stay away from open flames, you can opt for essential oil diffusers for a similar effect.

Okabe recommends fresh, neutral scents such as lemon or lavender, to add to a high-quality diffuser such as this one from West Elm. (It will be a gadget you use long after you sell your home, too.)

If you don’t want to invest in a diffuser, you can use essential oils in a few other ways.

Tangela Walker-Craft, a home and family blogger, recommends dabbing a drop of oil on cold lightbulbs before turning them on—it’ll give off a subtle fragrance as the bulb warms up. You can also add a few drops to cotton balls and hide them strategically around your home, then simply toss them after the open house concludes.

Raid your laundry room

Face it: Potential buyers are likely going to be peeping through your drawers and cabinets, so you’ll need to consider how they smell, as well. An easy way to freshen up confined spaces like these is to add dryer sheets a few days before the open house, says Ben Mizes, a real estate agent in St. Louis.

“These places don’t see a lot of light, so they can have some funky smells—but dryer sheets make them smell like fresh laundry,” he adds.

Simmer down

If you don’t have time to bake, you can create a similarly appealing sweet scent by simmering vanilla extract diluted in water on the stove.

Molinari makes a natural potpourri by adding five cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 tablespoons cloves, three bay leaves, and an orange rind to a pot of simmering water.

Catch air

High-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, purifiers can be a little expensive, but they’re extremely effective in removing any lingering strong, strange odors from the air, says Mizes. Combining an air purifier with another method, such as baking cookies, can make a big difference in how your home smells.

At the end of the day, remember to not overdo it. Avoid having multiple scents competing with one another in various rooms.

Instead, “find one neutral, mild scent and let it breathe,” says Molinari. “A scent throughout helps give your home flow and connectivity—so allow it to become the background of the experience.”

The post The One Thing That Can Make or Break How People Feel About Your House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Curtain Call: 3 Surprising Ways Drapes Can Help Sell Your Home

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If you thought your curtains couldn’t be used for much more than hiding from nosy neighbors, think again.

Curtains are one of the most underused resources when preparing a home for sale, experts say. The right set of curtains or drapes can make or break some home sales—especially when it comes to transforming a room into the staged version you want your buyers to see.

Keep reading to find out the unexpected ways curtains can help you sell your home, and how to choose exactly the right ones for the job.

1. Curtains can block outside noise

Whether it’s the busy city street outside your apartment or the neighbor’s never-ending string of construction projects, a good set of drapes can do more than add a pop of color to your drab living room—it can also help mute the unwanted noise.

“The key is to refocus buyer attention to the positive aspects of the room,” says Caroline Carter, founder and CEO of Done in a Day. As opposed to, say, the sounds of traffic or babies wailing in the next home.

To properly block any noise from the outside, Carter recommends using a combination of neutral linen curtains and 1-inch plantation blinds or shutters.

Hang the drapes 3 inches to the sides of the window frame to avoid blocking natural light—starting just under the crown molding, all the way to the floor, she says.

But when using curtains to hide your home’s less-than-desirable features, it’s important not to lose sight of staging basics—like preserving as much natural light as possible.

“The combination of drapes and blinds will deaden outdoor noise and dress the window so the buyer is focusing on the natural light and the value of the blinds rather than the outdoor noise,” Carter says.

2. Curtains can hide ugly wallpaper or paneling

Maybe you inherited it, or maybe you chose it. Either way, we’re not judging—but buyers will.

It’s hard to fall in love with a home if certain features are detracting from its charm. So if you don’t have the means to get rid of the ugly wallpaper or paneling, at least do yourself a favor and cover it up.

“To remedy the look of paneling or wallpaper, install a fabric or curtain wall,” suggests interior photo stylist Bonnie Aunchman.

To get started, Aunchman recommends investing in quality fabric and having it measured precisely—by a professional, preferably. You’ll want the fabric grazing the floor when all is said and done, and not an inch higher, lest your buyers catch a peek of what you’re trying to hide.

“Have curtain tracks installed,” she says, “or if your budget doesn’t allow, you can achieve this look by using rods—just ensure they are as close to the ceiling as possible.”

To get an even more finished look to your handiwork, consider adding wooden or fabric-covered valances to conceal the curtain rod.

Aunchman also recommends staging furniture and a rug around the draped wall to make it look more natural in the room, and not as though something is being hidden.

“Draped walls are often done intentionally and can be beautiful,” she says. “Style your wall like it’s an element you intended to do!”

3. Curtains can make a small space feel larger

By now you’ve probably caught on to what’s considered proper curtain-hanging etiquette: That is, they should reach all the way to the floor. But did you know that you can make your house look larger by investing in curtains that are even slightly longer than what you would traditionally need?

If you have a few small rooms that need an extra bit of staging help, drapes can really come to the rescue on this.

Rather than buying curtains that start at the top of your window, opt for something longer and install the rod several inches above the window. This will give your buyer the illusion of a room with higher ceilings—and make it look much larger.

While you’re at it, extend your rods out past the window so that your windows appear larger, Aunchman says.

Just be sure your curtains look top-notch before the install.

“While it may seem that everyone would do this, make sure you steam out all the wrinkles after you unwrap your curtains—they have the obvious packing creases that need to be steamed out to drape beautifully,” Aunchman says.

How to find your perfect curtains

When selecting curtains to stage your home, there are a few important rules to follow.

“Select drapes that are up to date with the style of room as well as the style of the home,” Aunchman suggests.

And stick to neutral-hued drapes without loud patterns or geometric designs, she says.

“You want potential home buyers to focus on the home, not the drapes,” she explains.

To get started finding for your perfect curtains, check out stores like Wayfair (where you can shop for Aunchman’s go-to drapes) and J.C. Penney—which has a window treatment department that can help you kick off your custom window projects.

The post Curtain Call: 3 Surprising Ways Drapes Can Help Sell Your Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Staging and Selling a Home With Kids: Yes, You Can!

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Staging your home is universally acknowledged as one of the most important things you can do to make it appeal to potential buyers. And while no one ever goes in thinking it’ll be easy, it doesn’t have to be an insane amount of work, either—which is especially good news for home sellers who have kids. After all, few expect a home occupied by children to be perfect; that said, it should still adhere to some of the basics of staging, by being clean, inviting, and depersonalized.

This may seem like a lot of hassle, especially when buyers probably know you have kids. Won’t they forgive a few minor details? Maybe not, says Mary Hall Mayer, a Realtor® with Warburg Realty in New York City.

“It’s psychological,” Mayer says. “A dirty-feeling house implies nothing is well-maintained—not your appliances, or even the wooden floor concealed by a large area rug.”

So whether you’re selling a house with messy preteens or trying to stage while your toddler throws food across the room, we’ll walk you through the process of transforming your home so it’s seller-ready. Read these tips from the experts that will help you prepare your house (and your children) for a staging success.

Strike a balance

Just like any other room in the house, the kids’ rooms should be tidy and clean. Does this mean playtime is banned while your house is on the market? No. But it does mean you’ll need to get tough about what really needs to stay.

“The first thing I like to remember is that, if I’m showing an occupied unit, it’s occupied by everyone living there,” says New York City–based real estate broker Brian Letendre. “Let’s find out what’s absolutely essential to normalizing the day to day for the children, and get a storage space to put any overflow.”

One of the best ways to make your home inviting (besides keeping it clean) is to depersonalize. We don’t mean transforming it into a sterile space, just a neutral one that could comfortably belong to anyone, even a buyer without kids.

“You always want the prospective buyers to get a glimpse of what life would be like in the unit for them, without too much of the seller’s personality there,” explains Letendre.

That means you’ll be putting your storage unit to work, and filling it with items like old monogrammed baby furniture or those abstract clay art projects made by your kids before they could even walk.

Remove larger toys that might otherwise dominate the room, like play sets, dollhouses, or that 4,000-piece Lego Death Star set.

Corral the small stuff

Once you’ve packed the big items off to storage, it’s time to gain control of the small stuff. You know—all of those half-used crayons and McDonald’s Happy Meals toys that have been accumulating for years.

A good approach is to invest in a collection of baskets or bins. Pick something that adds some style to your space, rather than detracts from it. That means stay away from hideously bright plastic bins; the point is to make your space look like it was organized by a professional.

Kim Jones, a Realtor and owner of Louisville-based L+K Home Organization, sold her home when her twins weren’t even a year old.

“The toys you keep are the ones kids play with every day,” she explains. “Rather than leave them out, get containers and shelving. To maintain organization, it’s important to place the toys back in a manner where it’s easy for the kids to help in the cleanup process.”

If your kids are old enough to help, encourage them to keep their space clean and organized.

“Labeling the containers, baskets, and bins gives the look a finishing touch but makes it easy for everyone to identify where things go back” says Jones. “If your kids are too young to read, use pictures instead.”

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Watch: 6 Home Staging Hacks for When You Have Only 5 Minutes Till Showtime

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Prevent messes before they happen

When the bins are labeled and ready to go, it’s time to start thinking about all of the little messes that happen with kids—and how to prevent them when you have prospective buyers coming over.

“Now isn’t the time for art projects,” says Danielle Schlesier, a Realtor in Brookline, MA. “Pack up tempting supplies like paint, markers, crayons, and glitter.”

Another good point is to watch what you cook on showing days. Here’s a tip: Skip the waffles and maple syrup for breakfast. In fact, keep any sticky, high-spatter foods off the menu for those days, and plan to have the kids out of the house at least 30 minutes prior to your open house, giving you some time to clean up if necessary.

Do a final sweep

Toys organized, messes cleaned up, kids waiting outside—it looks like you’re ready to go, right? Not just yet.

Despite all of your hard work (and we see you!), there are still a few final places you’ll want to check before heading out.

Mayer, of Warburg Realty, offers up her final checklist. “Clean [off] fingerprints and sticky handles that people may open, like closet doors, appliances, doorknobs, mirrors, and glass.”

If nothing else, you should make sure your buyers can’t guess that morning’s breakfast based on the door knobs.

The post Staging and Selling a Home With Kids: Yes, You Can! appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: This Eichler Got Its Groove Back Thanks to a Modern Flip

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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. 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.

Homes built in the 1960s have a certain charm that just doesn’t exist in houses built today. But a ’60s home built by Joseph Eichler is an even rarer gem because of its clean lines and iconic midcentury modern architecture. Even if it’s in a state of disrepair, finding a deal on a bona fide Eichler is like finding buried gold.

However, renovating an antiquated Eichler, like this one in Castro Valley, CA, can be a massive undertaking. When flippers purchased the five-bed, two-bath home in early 2019 for $860,000, it was in desperate need of a complete overhaul. So they quickly restored it to its sleek former glory. And a few months later, the home went under contract for $1.3 million.That’s a fast-paced flip with a whole lot of payoff!

So how did they do it—and how can you make it happen with your own home? We asked our experts what the sellers did right.

Before: Entry

entry_before
This entry screamed 1960, and not in a good way.

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After: Entry

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Now, this transition space brings the best of both worlds.

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The entryway before and after the renovation is so drastically different, it’s almost as if you’re walking into a whole new house. Not only have the wall color and materials changed, but the outdoors has quite literally made its way inside with a planter cut right out of the floor—something you don’t see everyday, even in California.

“Removing the aggressively turquoise paint and outdated hot tub to create this picturesque atrium is the stuff true #housegoals are made of,” says Paul Trudel-Payne, founder and creative director of Casa Creative Consulting and Design. “Nothing is more welcoming than a beautiful entry that brings the outdoors inside.”

Interior designer Levi Austin of Levi Austin Design says this transitional space is a high point of the overall property.

“The modern concrete flooring and warm wood ceilings give this elegance and sophistication,” he says.

Before: Living room

living room_before
This living room has good bones, but not much else going for it.

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After: Living room

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Now, it’s the perfect place to sit in comfort.

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The living room was a mess of textures and styles that didn’t quite fit together, but all those problems were solved during the renovation—without any major changes to the footprint of the house.

According to Austin, you have to look up to see the biggest changes.

“This renovation highlights the architecture of the house,” he says. “The warm wood ceilings contrast with the white beams, creating a stunning sense of grandeur in this modern open-living concept.”

Before: Kitchen

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The glass block in the kitchen was an eyesore.

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After: Kitchen

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Modern updates created a stunning kitchen with the same footprint.

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Most buyers see the kitchen as the heart of the home, so having one that’s both functional and gorgeous is important. And very few things do a better job at making a home look dated than glass blocks; unfortunately these were a highlight of the former kitchen. The sellers tackled the eyesore by removing them, and gave the rest of the kitchen a top-to-bottom makeover that our experts approve of.

“A bright, white kitchen is always a showstopper,” says Trudel-Payne. “Adding the wood paneling on the ceiling with recessed lighting and removing those dated glass panels really updated this space.”

According to Austin, the sellers completed this major kitchen renovation in a wallet-friendly way by not changing the layout.

“Keeping the same footprint keeps the plumbing and electrical costs to a minimum.” he explains. “The kitchen was brought into the present decade with clean cabinetry, upgraded appliances, and sparking countertops.”

Before: Wet bar

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The wet bar area was dated and boring.

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After: Wet bar

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This new space is functional and nice to look at.

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Wet bars may seem like a dated concept, but when done right they do an excellent job of providing an extension of the kitchen, an extra workspace—and even a place to mix the perfect cocktail.

This renovation tied the wet bar area to the kitchen by using the same cabinets and countertops. The same wood plank ceiling also runs throughout the house. The wall that’s visible in the before photo was also knocked down to open up the room.

According to Trudel-Payne, the smartest choice was the simple color palette.

“It brightens the space and was easily the most cost-effective detail that instantly updated the entire home,” he says.

Before: Bathroom

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The original bathroom was antiquated and grim.

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After: Bathroom

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Just a few updates to the bathroom let its key feature—the sauna—shine.

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Nothing about the original bathroom was pleasing to the eye, but amid the broken cabinetry, dated tiles, and faux gold fixtures was a diamond in the rough just waiting for its chance to shine: the sauna.

“When your bathroom comes with a sauna, simple, timeless updates are all you need,” says Austin. “Again, keeping the same footprint keeps hard costs to a minimum.”

The renovations to this room included a new vanity, mirrors, faucets, and hardware.

“The wood sauna finally gets its time in the spotlight with this strategically white bathroom color palette,” says Trudel-Payne. “It’s luxe, rich, and superclean.”

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: This Eichler Got Its Groove Back Thanks to a Modern Flip appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Doing This One Thing Before Putting Your Home on the Market Can Help Sell It Faster

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You’ve lived in your home for years and haven’t exactly been on top of regular maintenance tasks. Now, your windows are covered in plastic wrap to cut down on the cold drafts, your ceiling seems to be leaking, and those shrubs you planted to conceal a few small cracks in the foundation just aren’t cutting it anymore.

Hey, we’re not judging! But if you’re ready to put your home up for sale, know this: Buyers and their agents are going to zero in on all those things that need doing—as well as some things you hadn’t even noticed yourself.

So why not get ahead of the curve by hiring a licensed home inspector who can pinpoint what needs fixing?

Of course, most sellers don’t get their homes inspected before listing them, because the buyer usually orders an inspection during escrow, says Marc Lyman, a Realtor® with Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty in San Diego, CA. And who wants to pay for something twice?

But if you’re willing to invest the time and money, a thorough inspection before listing your property can make it easier to price your home, manage repairs, and even help sell it faster—and for more money.

So what are the some of the reasons why a pre-listing inspection makes sense? Let’s take a look.

It can save you if you’ve neglected home maintenance

If you have a busy life—or maybe even if you don’t—chances are that obsessing over regular home maintenance might not be your No. 1 priority during downtime. Trouble is, letting painting, roof repairs, and other routine chores slide can lead to bigger issues down the road, says Chicago-based Frank Lesh, ambassador for the American Society of Home Inspectors.

“In a lot of cases, people think, ‘I’ve been here for 30 years; the house is fine. There’s nothing wrong with it,’” he says. “But they’re looking at it with rose-colored glasses.”

Instead of worrying what a buyer’s inspector will uncover—and which could potentially kill the sale—be proactive with a pre-listing inspection, Lesh says. This way, rather than being blindsided, you can then decide whether to make the necessary repairs or to account for that deferred maintenance by reducing the list price. Which leads us to…

You can make more a bigger profit on your sale

Sure, a home inspection that you don’t have to do is going to cost money. (An inspection for a 1,200- to 1,500-square-foot house in an average market, for instance, will cost between $350 and $600, Lesh says.) But as the saying goes: Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

After all, if you invest a little more to repair and spruce up anything the pre-inspection reveals, you can justify listing your home at a higher price, Lyman says. Plus, he adds, in most states, home improvement repairs you carry out before selling your house are deductible from the profit you make from the sale.

Sometimes, just knowing that a pro has given the house a proper once-over can persuade a buyer to make a bid (assuming that you actually follow the inspector’s recommendations).

“It minimizes surprises for a buyer, and can give a buyer more confidence in the property,” Lyman says.

You won’t have to scramble to fix things at the last minute

Once a buyer’s inspector submits a report, sellers are usually faced with two choices: If problems are found with the house, they can then either slash money from the sale price, or opt to carry out repairs before the closing date. That often leaves sellers in the lurch, having to get work done pronto—and sometimes paying a premium for the rush work.

After a pre-listing inspection, sellers can research contractors and make the necessary repairs within a time frame of their choosing, so that everything is ready before potential buyers even visit the property.

It’ll minimize back-and-forth negotiation

Buyers often use their home inspection as leverage, asking the seller (that’s you!) for steep discounts based on what their inspector’s report reveals. Not surprisingly, the buyer’s inspection is often where the deal falls apart.

If you’ve already uncovered the issues and addressed them, you can raise the price of your home accordingly, Lyman says. “That gives the buyer less leverage in the request for repair process,” he explains.

Also, in red-hot markets where multiple bids come fast and furious, there’s always a chance that buyers might accept your pre-listing inspection without insisting on doing their own. This can make for a quicker sale, Lesh says.

But make sure a pre-inspection doesn’t work against you

As advantageous as a pre-inspection can be, don’t forget that the inspector’s report could be a double-edged sword: Once you know about a problem, you can’t ignore it, Lyman says.

Sellers are legally obligated to disclose any problems that a home inspection unearths.

“For sellers unwilling to do repairs, their own inspection could be used as leverage to negotiate on price and in the request-for-repair process,” he says.

Before committing to a pre-inspection, find out what other sellers in your area are doing. Your agent can help guide you on whether it’s necessary to sell for more, or if there’s a better—and more affordable—strategy for getting your home sold.

The post Doing This One Thing Before Putting Your Home on the Market Can Help Sell It Faster appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

5 Questions to Ask Before Selling Your Home—and Why Missing Even One Can Cost You Dearly

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Selling your house is not as simple as just putting it on the market and waiting for offers from eager buyers to roll in. (Ah, if only…) If you have any hope that your sale will go smoothly, you’ll have to sit down, take a hard look at your house, and ask yourself a few questions.

Though some steps of the home-selling process seem fairly straightforward—find a real estate agent, set a list price, hold a few open houses—there are a number of lesser-known factors that play a big role in whether your house gets sold, and how much you’re going to fetch for it.

To help you enter the home-selling process fully prepared and with your eyes open, here’s a list of five essential questions to ask yourself to get started.

Overlook these things at your own risk!

1. Can I afford to sell my house?

Although you’re going to cash a check when your house gets sold, as the adage goes, it takes money to make money. Some home-selling costs are obvious, like commissions to the listing and buyer’s agents (which typically amount to 5% to 6% of your home’s price), but there are a number of other expenses to take into consideration.

Here are some expenses home sellers often overlook:

  • Professional photographs: About 4 in 10 home buyers start their home search by looking at properties online, according to the National Association of Realtors®. And, no surprise, photos are overwhelmingly viewed first. That may explain why many real estate agents recommend home sellers hire a professional photographer to take their listing photos. While the cost varies by area and the size of your property, you can expect to pay about $500 to $1,000 for professional photos.
  • Landscaping: No doubt, curb appeal is crucial. After all, it’s what gets prospective home buyers in your front door. What many home sellers don’t realize, though, is just how expensive professional landscaping can be. The average cost of a full-on landscaping job—flower beds, plants, trees from scratch—is around $3,228, according to HomeAdvisor. But improving your landscaping can raise your home’s value by up to 12%, according to research from Virginia Tech.
  • Staging: It’s all about presentation. In a recent survey from NAR, about 83% of buyer’s agents said staging a home makes it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home. In addition, staged homes sell, on average, 88% faster and for 20% more than nonstaged homes. Last year the median dollar value spent on home staging was $400, NAR reports, but costs can increase significantly depending on how many rooms you’re staging.
  • Closing costs: Closing costs will likely be your second-biggest expense behind commission fees. You can expect to spend roughly 2% of your home’s sale price, says Keith Gumbinger, vice president at mortgage information resource HSH.com.

2. What do I need to disclose to home buyers?

As much as you want to present your house in the best light, you should also be prepared to disclose some of your home’s flaws, says Rick Davis, a Kansas real estate attorney.

Though disclosure laws vary by state—and even by city—sellers should disclose any known facts about the physical condition of the property, existence of dangerous materials or conditions, lawsuits or pending matters that may affect the value of the property, and any other factors that may influence a buyer’s decision.

“Most sellers think it is in their best interest to disclose as little as possible,” says Davis. “I completely disagree with this sentiment. In the vast majority of cases, disclosing the additional information, especially if it is something that was previously repaired, will not cause a buyer to back out or ask for a price reduction.”

3. Should I hire a home inspector?

Many home buyers will include a home inspection contingency in their offer. But some real estate agents recommend home sellers hire a home inspector to perform what’s called a “pre-inspection,” where a professional inspector scrutinizes your property for problems before it’s even listed.

There are pros and cons, of course, to doing a pre-inspection. One huge advantage is that pre-inspections give sellers the ability to fix problems ahead of time—and present buyers with a clean bill of health on the property. This can be a strong selling point if you have an older house. However, pre-inspections cost money (about $200 to $500 on average), and just because you hired a home inspector doesn’t mean the buyers won’t hire their own—and their results won’t necessarily be the same.

4. Which areas of my home get the most attention?

Even if you don’t have the money to stage your entire house, many home stagers recommend home sellers, at the very least, stage their house’s living room, kitchen, and master bedroom, since home buyers focus on those areas. Also don’t forget about your home’s entryway.

According to the “Psychology of House Hunting” report by BMO Financial Group, 80% of prospective buyers know if a home is right for them within seconds of stepping inside. Therefore, you’ll want to spruce up the area they’ll see in that time frame—namely, your foyer.

Most important, make sure the foyer is decluttered.

“It can be a challenge to keep this area tidy since that’s where homeowners put their mail, keys, coats, shoes, dog leashes, and other items,” says Sissy Lappin, a real estate broker in Houston.

Pro tip: Containers are key for keeping this mess under control. Use baskets or racks for shoes, bowls for keys and change. Also, be sure to stash any seldom-used items elsewhere.

Another room home sellers make the mistake of overlooking: the garage. In fact, a recent realtor.com® survey found that 32% of home buyers said the garage is one of the most important rooms in a house! Thus, it may make sense to jazz up the space, like by adding storage space or even a fresh coat of paint.

5. What do I have to leave behind when my house is sold?

While it’s ultimately your decision what house items you leave behind for the home buyer, there are rules governing what things convey with your property.

“The law says that anything bolted to the wall or ceiling goes to the buyer unless specifically excluded in the contract,” says Avery Boyce, a real estate agent with Compass Real Estate in Washington, DC. “If you want to take your flat-screen TV, chandelier, or custom pot rack, be sure to label it as soon as the house goes on the market, so that buyers don’t bank on owning that item and wind up disappointed.”

The post 5 Questions to Ask Before Selling Your Home—and Why Missing Even One Can Cost You Dearly appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Should You Sell Your Home Furnished? How It Could Help—or Hurt—the Deal

Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

One of the hardest parts about selling your home is the hassle of moving all of your furniture out before a new buyer moves in. Sometimes it might seem easier to just leave everything behind, walk away carefree, and buy new stuff—especially if you’re not particularly attached to your furnishings in the first place.

Well, as it turns out—you can do just that. But should you?

We’re not gonna lie: It can be a tricky line to toe. Selling your home furnished could increase your home’s value—or it could actually cause it to plummet. In fact, your furniture could be the reason your home flies off the market, or lingers indefinitely.

To help ensure you’re making the best decision for your bottom line, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about selling a furnished home.

What are the benefits of selling a furnished home?

In many cases, selling a furnished home can be mutually beneficial for you and the buyer. Not only can it make the entire moving process easier for both of you, but it can also help prospective buyers envision the property as a livable home.

“Selling a furnished home can sometimes maximize the value and, if furnished well, can act as a no-cost staging of the home to help the home sell faster,” says Elizabeth Kee, a licensed associate real estate broker at CORE.

Plus, if a buyer is moving into a new town and doesn’t want to spend the time decorating her new place, a furnished space can be a selling point.

What are the disadvantages of selling a furnished home?

Of course, while you might love all of the pieces in your home, potential buyers might not.

“Oftentimes, furnishings can deter a purchaser, as tastes vary greatly and undesirable furnishings can turn off buyers—especially if the buyers are burdened with the task of removing unwanted furnishings after closing,” Kee says.

That also means that your furniture could very well delay how long your listing is on the market, says Jaime Watts, a Realtor® at Compass.

And before you decide whether to sell your home furnished, consider what kind of home you’re selling, and where it’s located.

“Resort and vacation rental areas usually sell properties furnished, and it doesn’t affect the time on the market since most people are looking to lease it out right away to a short-term tenant,” Watts says. “Luxury high-end homes with custom designer furniture can also help sweeten the deal for a buyer.”

Do keep in mind, though: Regardless of whether it’s a vacation home or suburban space, furnished homes will typically narrow your candidate pool.

How will selling my home furnished affect my asking price?

In some situations, great furniture can improve the value of your home. But for simplicity’s sake, you won’t want to factor in your furniture when settling on your list price.

“Since there are no real comparable sales for [furnished homes], it can be difficult to negotiate,” explains Johannes Steinbeck, a Realtor at Compass in Los Angeles and Orange County. “It really depends on the quality and value of the furniture.”

“In all of the furnished sales I have done, we negotiated the price of the furnishings separate from the sales price,” Watts adds. “Once we agreed on the price of the furnishings, we included a bill of sale with the purchase contract that was handled through escrow.”

Is my furniture good enough to attract buyers?

Maybe you think the fact that you’re throwing in your replica leg lamp from “A Christmas Story” should have buyers lining up at your door. Or maybe you can’t imagine someone not wanting the 18th-century armoire that would fetch a pretty penny at auction.

But before you start dreaming about all of the dollar signs, consult with your real estate agent.

“Any good real estate professional will help you to be able to determine if selling your home furnished is a good strategy in your market,” Kee says, “and what furnishings should stay, go, or be supplemented.”

The post Should You Sell Your Home Furnished? How It Could Help—or Hurt—the Deal appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Should You Sell Your Home As Is, or Spring for a Renovation? Here’s How to Decide

sturti/iStock; realtor.com

When you decide to sell a house that desperately needs updating, you basically have two choices: Sell it as is—in its current condition without improvements—or make upgrades in the hope of reaping bigger bucks down the line.

While renovating your property will inevitably sell your home faster and for more money, listing your property as is has its perks, too—including not having to fork over lots of cash for major improvements you won’t get to enjoy, and not dealing with the headaches of those improvements.

Deciding what to do can be overwhelming, but we’re here to break it down for you. If want to unload your property pronto and for maximum cash, here are some things to keep in mind.

Out of house often means out of mind

If you’ve already purchased another home and have one foot dangling out the door, things can get challenging. Between work and family obligations—plus dreaming about decorating your soon-to-be new home—chances are you won’t have the time or energy to reimagine your old one.

If you’re set on upgrading your old home to get top dollar, you’ll want to find the right professional to guide you through the process, says Eric Stewart, a Realtor® with Eric Stewart Group of Long & Foster Realtors.

“Unless you find a real estate agent whose experience you can trust, someone who has a very good track record preparing homes and understands how to do the work, you’re often better off to sell the property as is, so that you don’t get involved in chasing the market,” Stewart says.

Assess the potential workload, time, and money it’ll take to upgrade

Get an expert opinion—or better yet, several opinions—regarding how much updating and repair work would be required to boost the home’s bottom line: Does the place just need a good scrub, or an entirely new kitchen and three new bathrooms? And more importantly, do you have the cash, the time, and the patience to see the project through?

“It’s all about whether people want to deal with renovations or not,” says Paul Morse, a licensed contractor and owner of Paul’s Carpentry Workshop in Stoneham, MA.

Morse, who’s worked for several clients who wanted to spruce up a neglected home prior to listing it, suggests that sellers should identify three projects that need doing, and then consult their agent to crunch the numbers.

“Sellers should ask what their return would be if they fixed the bathroom and kitchen, for example, versus what the investment would be,” he says. “Then, get three prices from three qualified local contractors.”

And don’t forget to factor in the cost of owning the home during major renovations. Depending on how extensive your revamp is, you might need to find temporary housing while your property is being gutted, so add that fee to your bottom line.

Take your location—and the market—into account

If your home sits on a great lot in a sought-after loascation, buyers—especially investors—might line up in droves. When the land is more valuable than the structure sitting on it, you might be better off selling the property as is, Stewart says—there’s little point revamping a house that will probably be torn down as soon as the ink on the purchase agreement is dry.

Stewart recalls a recent listing priced at $650,000 in a hot market.

“We sold it as is for $655,000, and the seller was able to leave everything they didn’t want in the house, lock the door, and say goodbye, which provided tremendous freedom for them,” he says. “The work they would have had to do would never have got them the return they got by doing nothing.”

‘As is’ doesn’t mean ‘falling down’

Of course, doing some inexpensive repairs often helps sell your home faster, notes Lynn Pineda, a Realtor with eXp Realty in Southeast Florida.

“Even when buyers say, ‘I’m going to sell my home as is,’ that doesn’t mean you have to present your home in shoddy light to a buyer; you still need to prepare it and make it look good,” she says. “Otherwise, you will sell for less money, or the house will sit on the market and you’ll lose money in the long run.”

If you just want to do the bare minimum and are willing to shell out a few thousand dollars, Morse suggests painting the entire home and resanding hardwood floors, if there are any. These upgrades would take about a month to do, but will make a huge difference in listing photos.

Selling your home as is won’t stop buyers from trying to negotiate

A house that hasn’t been updated in years—or even decades—often attracts builders or investors looking to gut or tear everything down and construct a new home. These “fix and flip” buyers always want to maximize their profit, Stewart says, and might try to haggle down the purchase price.

Find a real estate professional who can help you maximize your profits; look for one who’s had considerable success selling homes like yours, in your specific area of town. Some good questions to ask include how long comparable properties have stayed on the market before selling, what kinds of houses are selling fast and what condition they’re in, and which neighborhoods are most desirable.

Together, you can weigh what your home’s worth—and negotiate a better bottom line.

The post Should You Sell Your Home As Is, or Spring for a Renovation? Here’s How to Decide appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Make Buyers Swoon With These 4 Summer Vignette Staging Ideas

KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock

Picture walking into your dream house and being greeted by inviting scenes of summer relaxation throughout. Maybe there’s a short stack of beach reads next to the pool, or a pitcher laid out with chilled glasses, all ready for you.

This is what vignette staging is all about: drawing in buyers with curated scenes that showcase your home’s top features. It’s even better if they evoke the mood of the season.

So if you’re looking to sell your house quickly this summer, keep reading to master these four fresh vignettes that are guaranteed to make buyers swoon.

1. A dreamy front porch


Photo by Houzz  
“Nothing says ‘welcome home’ like a well-designed front porch,” says Seattle-based interior designer Sherri Monte. “Whether it’s a hanging swing with accent pillows and throw blankets, or a pair of rocking chairs with a side table in between, a good first impression starts at the front door.”

Go the extra mile by adding several magazines or books with a decorative coffee mug or wineglass. Monte even suggests adding a small rug or accent greenery to complete the look.

“Vignettes work because they create a story in the buyer’s mind,” says Justin Riordan, interior designer and founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency.

Just by looking at your front porch vignette, potential buyers might imagine a summer afternoon relaxing in a rocking chair, or watching their children or grandchildren play in the yard.

“The story may or may not be true,” Riordan says, “but if we, as the seller, can make them feel desire for the type of lifestyle they crave, then we’ve done our job.”

2. An enticing entryway


Photo by JayJeffers
As the second space your buyer sees, the entryway is arguably just as important to focus on when selling your home. To ease buyers into the summer vibes, try pairing a large vase with freshly cut flowers on an entryway table.

“A tall vase, one that adds whimsical personality and maintains a transitional style with greenery, will create a light and airy vibe,” Monte explains.

Add a few soft-scented candles and a linen tea towel. Remember to limit the number of objects in your vignettes to avoid the scenes becoming overcrowded.

“Layer in tones and elements found outside during the summer, but don’t be afraid to leave a little breathing room,” Monte says. “Repeating colors and elements that we see outside is a great way to subconsciously create continuity.”

3. A fresh, breezy kitchen


Photo by Lowe’s Home Improvement 
Everyone loves a clean, fresh-feeling kitchen. So go ahead and throw open a few windows before the buyers arrive.

But don’t stop there. Summer is easily the best time of year to use colorful produce to your advantage—and not just while cooking. The next time you visit your local farmers market, make a plan to pick up a few extra-bright veggies or fruits for display in your favorite bowl.

Forgo the freshly cut flowers in favor of a small potted plant, something fragrant—like rosemary or basil. Place these items on a wooden cutting board or textured mat with folded cloth napkins to complete your countertop vignette.

Another great kitchen vignette is what Riordan likes to call “the drink setup,” which consists of an empty pitcher and six empty glasses on a tray with cloth napkins.

“This can be placed on a kitchen counter, and it speaks to having guests over on the front porch and preparing to have drinks brought out to them,” Riordan says.

A word of caution: “Do not—and I repeat, do not—fill the pitcher with liquid or fake liquid,” he says. “It takes the gentle whisper of the vignette and turns it into a desperate scream of fakery.” When it comes to vignettes, subtle is best.

4. The perfect backyard


Photo by Smith & Vansant Architects PC
If you have any outdoor space to speak of, you’d do well to consider throwing in an outdoor vignette or two.

“If your outdoor space has room for a dining table, why not set that table with a gingham tablecloth, picnic basket, and a set of outdoor dishes?” Riordan says.

For vignettes like these, stick to a single color scheme.

“If every outdoor vignette has multiple colors, it will appear chaotic in listing photos,” he says.

Another simple summertime vignette can be built around a hammock. String one up between two trees and add a pillow and a light blanket.

“Suddenly your buyer has a great place to read and relax,” Riordan says.

The final word

No matter which spaces you decide to stage, it’s good to have a central object and build your vignettes from there. A fire pit, for example, might call for some stacked wood, a lantern, and a cozy flannel blanket. The pool might do well with a lounge chair and a folded beach towel paired with a large brimmed hat.

Having a focal point keeps things from getting too chaotic.

“Vignettes are designed to be a bite-sized section of the overall home, so you want them to create cohesion and harmony,” Monte says.

Keep these guidelines in mind as you create the dreamy summer home your buyers can’t wait to get their hands on.

The post Make Buyers Swoon With These 4 Summer Vignette Staging Ideas appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Should You Sell Your Home—or Rent It Out? 4 Times to Hang On Tight

KentWeakley/iStock; realtor.com

While many homeowners reach a point where they decide to sell their place, here’s an alternative I’m considering for my own home: Rather than sell, I may rent it out instead.

When I bought my condo three years ago, I knew it was only a starter home. My one-bedroom, two-bath condo was the perfect space for me at the time, but I knew that as I got older, got married, and started a family, I’d need to move up, and out.

For a long time, I assumed I would just sell my current house, but it has since come to my attention that it could be smarter to hang on to this property instead. Here are four times renting out your house might make more sense than selling it—take a look to figure out whether it might make sense for you, too.

rental
My first home—and perhaps my first rental property

Jillian Pretzel

1. You don’t need to sell your house to buy your next one

“The first thing you need to ask yourself is ‘Do I need to sell this house because I need the money for something else?’” says Emily White, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty.

Many homeowners sell their current house to finance their next home, but this isn’t the case for everyone. Maybe you paid off your old house long ago, and you have the funds upfront to get a new mortgage. Or, maybe you’re planning on renting your next place and you don’t need a lump sum from your home sale for a down payment.

If you don’t need to sell your house to get into your next one, you might consider renting it out for a while so you can enjoy some passive income—then sell later when the time feels right.

2. You’re able to qualify for a second mortgage

Even if you don’t need to sell your current home to buy your next, the question remains: Can you qualify for a second mortgage?

After all, when you apply, lenders will consider any standing mortgages in your application, and if your debt-to-income ratio is pushing the limits, you might have no choice but to sell before you buy your next place.

Not sure where you stand? One way to gauge that is to seek mortgage pre-approval, where you meet with a lender who then crunches the numbers on your finances to see how much you can afford to borrow.

3. It’s a bad time to sell your house in terms of the market

Another bonus to renting rather than selling? It can give you the opportunity to be strategic with the timing of your sale, which is important because if you list your house at the wrong time, you could be risking big money.

If you haven’t been in the house very long (so the investment hasn’t had time to appreciate) or if the market isn’t good when you decide to sell, you might not be making the profit you could be getting if you wait for a better time.

To find out if you’ll make money off the sale if you list your house now, check out the value estimate of your home and find out what comparable houses in your area have been selling for. Of course, home estimates and comp prices are no guarantee of what your house is worth, but they will help you get an idea of what ballpark figure you’re looking at.

Then, calculate how much it will cost to sell the house—you’ll want to factor in repair fees, lawyer fees, plus the fee for a real estate agent—and see how much of a profit you’ll actually make on the house. If you won’t be making much, or if you come out at a loss, you might consider renting it out for a while instead.

“The good thing about renting out your place is that, in some regard, you can time the market to see when the best time to sell would be,” says White.

Renting it out for a year and taking a look at the market and your home value later could make this waiting game pay off.

4. Your house is in a good renter’s area, and renter-ready

If you’re in a big city where lots of people rent, or near a university where plenty of students are looking for off-campus housing, you could make a good amount of money renting out your place. So much of real estate is about supply and demand, so if there’s a big market, your home could be a great cash cow for years to come.

Next, ask yourself if your home would be attractive to renters. Some features could make your home especially valuable as a rental property, while those interested in buying may have different needs.

For example: While a buyer may want some good outdoor space and won’t mind mowing a lawn, renters might prefer a condo with a simple patio so they don’t have to worry about upkeep. While buyers might be OK with doing some updates and personalizations (after all, they’re probably planning on being there for a while), renters prefer a turnkey home.

Even furniture could be a big factor. While buyers are likely going to come in with their own stuff, some renters might pay extra for a fully or partly furnished home.

The post Should You Sell Your Home—or Rent It Out? 4 Times to Hang On Tight appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.