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What Really Happens When You Sell Your House for More Than You Owe on a Loan

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What happens if you sell your house for more than you owe on your loan? If you find yourself asking this question, congratulations are most likely in order. Selling a house for more than the value of your mortgage often means you’ll walk away with a nice profit.

But not always. Sometimes, even if a home’s sales price is higher than the mortgage amount owed, a seller may not see a dime—or may even owe money at the closing table instead! Here’s how to figure out if you’re going to make or lose money when you sell your house.

Where your profits go when you close the deal

During your home closing—the final leg of the sales process where you swap your house keys for a check—there’s traditionally a go-between who handles transferring funds from buyer to seller. That might be an escrow company, a real estate agent or attorney, or a title company, depending on where you live, but they’re the ones who will take the buyer’s money (usually a check from the lender) and use it to pay off the seller’s mortgage, says Bryan Zuetel, managing broker of Esquire Real Estate and the managing attorney of Zuetel Law Group, in Pasadena, CA.

Yet that check doesn’t just go straight into a seller’s pocket. Many other parties must be paid off first. Here are a few costs that may eat up your profits.

Real estate agent commissions

First up, the seller’s real estate agent has to be paid a commission—as well as the buyer’s agent, if the buyer had one, says Robert Berliner Jr., a real estate attorney with the Berliner Group, in Chicago.

The typical commission for a seller’s agent is around 5% to 6% of the sales price of the house, although just how much your real estate agent gets will be outlined in the listing agreement—the document you signed when you hired the agent to sell your house.

Traditionally, the title company, escrow company, or lawyer handling your closing will cut a check directly to your listing agent, Berliner says. This agent will split this with the buyer’s agent who helped secure the deal.

If for some reason there isn’t enough money left over from the sale to pay your agent, you’ll need to be ready to write a check at closing to make up the difference.

We know: It’s a downer to write a check on the day you sell your home, but it happens if housing prices have dipped since you bought the place. Comfort yourself with the thought that you might be getting out before suffering more serious losses.

Closing costs

The buyer typically pays most closing costs, but sellers often face some closing costs, too. These fees can amount to as much as 1% to 3% of the purchase price of the house. Everything from recording fees to title insurance premiums can come out of the sales price of the house—aka the money the buyer pays to the seller—as part of closing.

And you guessed it, these fees will be paid during the process, so they’ll come right out of the money left over after you pay off your mortgage.

Property taxes

After the agents get their cut and the closing fees are settled, any taxes you owe on the property will be levied. In many states, taxes are paid a year in arrears, Berliner says. In other words, the real estate taxes paid in 2019 are actually the taxes on the property for the year 2018. Your buyer isn’t responsible for taking on the taxes for the time you owned the property—which means you may have to pay up.

Some states also levy a transfer tax when property is sold, which falls on the seller to pay out of the price of the home.

Just how much you’re facing can vary greatly depending on where you live, Zuetel says, but you can expect costs roughly from $50 to $225.

Anything left? It’s yours!

After your loan is paid, the agents get paid, and any fees or taxes are settled, if there’s money left over, you get to keep the balance. Congratulations! The money can be paid by check or wired straight into your account.

To see just how much you’re expected to net, you can ask your closing attorney, escrow officer, or even the title company for a draft settlement statement before closing. This document details all of the closing costs, real estate commissions, fees, and taxes that will come out of the sales price of the home.

The post What Really Happens When You Sell Your House for More Than You Owe on a Loan appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Selling a Home Out of State: 5 Secrets for Streamlining a Sticky Situation

Selling a Home Out of State: 5 Secrets for Streamlining a Sticky Situation

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In a perfect world, buying a new home and selling the old one would happen at the same time. But in the real world (especially when job and school schedules are involved), you might be in your new dream home and still have a house several states over that needs to be sold. Take it from us: Selling a home from out of state can be tough, especially as you’re trying to unpack your new place, get the feel of a new job, and settle into a new routine.

In order to get through it and make a successful sale, you’re going to need an all-star team back at the old homefront. Here, we’ll cover how to guarantee they can get the job done. We’ll also walk you through some things you can do to minimize the back-and-forth—so that your local team can wrap up your old life while you focus on building a new one.

1. Hire a real estate agent who can handle the distance

Your former city probably has a lot of qualified real estate agents to choose from, but you should be especially particular when hiring someone to handle an out-of-state sale. Your listing agent should be experienced in coordinating with clients remotely, and able to make a fast sale on your home so that it doesn’t just sit on the market.

“My best advice for this is to choose the Realtor® who has done the most sales in the past year,” says Avery Carl, a Realtor® in Nashville, TN.

And you should get into the semantics here: “A lot of sellers look for the agent who’s listed the most properties,” she says, “but finding the agent who has done the most buyer-side sales is a hidden gem—they’ll have a ton of buyer contacts and can get your listing sold the fastest.”

You should also make sure your listing agent is someone you can trust to be responsive—who will keep you up to date on what’s happening and will respond to your emails and voicemails at lightning speed. After all, that’s the only way you’ll know what’s happening with your property.

“Since most of the communication will be over the phone and through text or email, you want to get a feel for their personality,” explains Nadia Anac, a real estate agent in Tampa, FL. “A real estate agent should be able to keep you up to date with any changes in the market, recommend contractors, and communicate with you frequently.”

2. Work with a stager to get the home sold faster

DIY staging is going to be hard to pull off from a distance, especially when all of your furniture is already in the new house.

“A little face-lift from a hired interior designer or the broker can really make a huge difference on selling this home while you’re out of state and unable to do it yourself,” says Lior Rachmany, founder and CEO of New York City–based Dumbo Moving & Storage.

By working with a stager (ideally one your agent recommends), your home won’t look like it was recently abandoned—a vibe that could turn off buyers.

3. Make sure you can close on the sale from out of state

Amid the chaos of buying a new home and selling another, you probably didn’t take the time to consider how closing on your former house would affect you. Since a lot of attorneys require you to be present at the table during closing, this is a good piece of logistics to work out in advance.

If you live close enough to go in person, that’s fine. But if you’re looking at a $600 plane ticket and a boatload of inconvenience, it’s a good idea to find someone more flexible to work with.

“When you sell a house out of state, pick a flexible closing attorney or title company,” says Shawn Breyer, owner of Georgia’s Breyer Home Buyers. “When you’re vetting the companies you are going to close with, ask them if you can sign the closing documents with a local notary present. If the buyer’s lender or your Realtor is choosing, have them make sure that you can close from out of state.”

To learn more about remote closings, check out our handy guide.

4. Make sure your team has what it needs—and members know one another

Avoid unnecessary back-and-forth during the sale by making sure your team has all the paperwork and documents it’ll need throughout the process. And make sure team members are aware of one another, so that they know how to communicate without going through you.

“Be sure to hire a broker and a real estate lawyer while you’re in town so you can walk them through your property, give them your deed, etc., and make sure all involved parties have each other’s contact information,” advises New York City–based real estate agent Daniele Kurzweil. “When you’re selling from out of state, you should have your game plan set from the beginning.”

5. Relinquish control

Once you’ve hired an all-star team, it’s time to sit back and let it handle the sale. Easier said than done, we know. But being as far away as you are, it’s going to be fairly difficult for you to do much else.

“Surround yourself with a team you trust and let them do the heavy lifting,” Kurzweil says. “Listen to their advice. They’re on the front lines every day with your property.”

The post Selling a Home Out of State: 5 Secrets for Streamlining a Sticky Situation appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: An Urban Victorian Gets a Modern Makeover

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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.

Before undergoing a massive renovation, a 4-bed, 4.5-bath Victorian home in San Francisco was full of that Old World charm some buyers crave—but it was also outdated and full of tiny, enclosed spaces. So when it was purchased in 2017, the new owners made logical changes to the floor plan and brought this 3,000-square-foot stunner up to date.

All that hard work paid off, because just two years later, they sold, for a $1.6 million profit. Pretty impressive, right?

So how did they pull it off—and how can you bring those same lessons to your property? We went straight to the experts to find out what they did right, and why. Here’s what they had to say.

Before: Kitchen

kitchen_before
The old kitchen was small and outdated.

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After: Kitchen

kitchen_after
After renovations, it’s open, bright, and functional.

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No matter how much you love old houses, you have to admit that this kitchen needed a lot of love.

“Opening up the kitchen and installing wide plank floors immediately upgrades this space from an outdated, dysfunctional area to one where anyone would love to entertain guests,” says interior designer Lauren Visco. “Now there’s a workable kitchen triangle with all of the appliances and prep area concentrated together.” Visco was also impressed by the dual-tone cabinetry and says it subtly shows the owners’ playful side while keeping a sophisticated, neutral palette.

“The countertops have also been modernized to look more contemporary,” adds designer Kobi Karp, principal at Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design. “Decorative elements such as plants and vases were also added, bringing a little bit of vibrancy into the kitchen area as well.”

Designer Paul Andrés Trudel-Payne, founder and director of Casa Consult and Design, calls this kitchen “Fresh, clean, light, and bold without being abrasive. This makes cooking and eating in the space a true experience.”

Before: Living and dining rooms

living and dining_before
The fireplace is charming, but disturbs the flow between the living and dining rooms.

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After: Living and dining rooms

living room & dining_after
These rooms are now a cohesive, functional space.

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It’s a natural reaction to mourn the loss of the fireplace and built-in shelves, but you have to admit that the result—a seamless cohesion between the living room and dining room—was worth the loss.

“The overuse of trims and the dark wooden floor in the ‘before’ photo created a claustrophobic environment. I’m glad they got rid of that,” Karp says. “By replacing this with a lighter, softer-colored wood, and adding a decorated carpet to the living room, the area is instantly more contemporary.”

Visco says the two rooms now flow much better. “With the demolition of the white overhead beam and molding separating the two spaces, the living and dining blend together now,” she says.

“Taking out the archway really has helped the room breathe a sigh of relief,” says Trudel-Payne. “Opening it up like this provides a higher sight line, making the room look so much bigger.”

Before: Bathroom

bathroom_before
The pre-renovation bathroom was a mess.

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After: Bathroom

bathroom_after
This modern bathroom is completely transformed.

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Vintage tiles may be in, but this bathroom was a fixer-upper if we’ve ever seen one.

“The bathroom was littered with out-of-date tiles, covering the bottom half of the walls,” says Karp. “The homeowners were smart to take out the tiles and add a coat of a white paint to make the bathroom appear more spacious.”

“This newly renovated bathroom is timeless and truly maximizes the space, with a built-in shower and a clean floating vanity, offering plenty of counter space and storage,” says Levi Austin, chief designer of Levi Austin Design. “The oversized mirror beautifully reflects the stone tiles and natural lighting in the space.”

Before: Staircase

staircase_before
The old staircase was small and compact.

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After: Staircase

staircase_after
After renovations, this space is sleek and airy.

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As you’ll see in the “before” photo, the previous owners tried to lighten up the old staircase with a coat of white paint, but it still looks clunky and compact. Check out its amazing transformation into a modernist staircase with glass panels. “You will never go wrong updating a staircase with glass, metal, and wood plank flooring. It’s the perfect balance of rustic and modern and works great with so many different types of decor styles,” says Trudel-Payne.

And it’s not just the architectural updates that make an impression in this area. “Decorative elements, such as a vase of flowers and modern art hanging from the walls, give the space a sense of lifestyle,” explains Karp. It’s now a section of the house worth gawking at.

Before: Backyard

backyard_before
The old backyard was not inviting.

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After: Backyard

Backyard_after
After renovations, this backyard is a perfect entertaining space.

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Lava rocks are an odd choice for ground cover in the backyard—they’re not exactly pleasant to walk on! The old yard did not immediately suggest a place where family and friends would love to gather. But the sellers fixed that problem by adding a wooden deck, an outdoor rug, and plenty of cozy furniture.

“I love the way they increased the overall living and dining space with the addition of folding glass walls,” says Visco. “This allows a free flow between the interior and exterior landscape. Smoothed, plastered walls, sleek glass railings, and inky wicker furnishings lend a cool, modern aesthetic that appears balanced against the warm wood floors and rustic siding.”

Notice the extension of the house, which added a bonus room with a wet bar and additional seating. “This expertly designed backyard was done perfectly—to every last detail,” says Austin.

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: An Urban Victorian Gets a Modern Makeover appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

How Much Does Home Staging Cost—and How Much Will You Gain?

Home staging

vicnt/iStock

Home staging—where you decorate your house in an effort to entice buyers to bite—may seem counterintuitive at first blush: Why spend money on real estate if you’re moving out? Simple answer: because home staging can get you more money for your home sale.

If your real estate agent has suggested staging, it’s because evidence shows staging real estate is usually well worth the effort. On average, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more than nonstaged homes, which is nothing to sneeze at. But just how much does home staging really cost? Here’s the scoop, so you can decide if paying a professional stager is worth the investment for you.

How much will staging a home cost?

File this one under “obvious”—but the pricier the staged home, the higher the potential home staging costs. As a general rule of thumb, the average cost for most stagers is $300 to $600 for an initial design consultation, and $500 to $600 per month per staged room.

“Therefore, staging a 2,000-square-foot home would cost around $2,000 to $2,400 a month,” explains real estate professional Crystal Leigh Hemphill. Most professional home stagers also require a three-month minimum staging contract, “even if you sell the home in 24 hours.” That could bring your final staging bill to $7,200.

Home staging might sound expensive, but if you own a vacant home, for example, you’re already paying lots of bills every month that your unstaged house sits empty. If a home stager can help buyers envision how fabulous your living room looks with a little classy furniture and tasteful decor, the costs of home staging may be some of the best money you have ever spent.

What can make staging cost more?

Most home stagers work with the knickknacks and art that the homeowner already owns. But sometimes home stagers “need to purchase new accessories, fresh towels, flowers, and/or fruit, as these small touches make a big difference,” says Sheila Schostok with Your Home Matters Staging and Redesign, which serves Chicago and southeastern Wisconsin. This is especially true with a vacant house. The stagers’ new purchases will add to the overall cost of the project.

The layout of your home could also add a cha-ching to the home staging costs. Home stagers often use lightweight versions of basic furniture pieces. However, a home staging job that requires heavy lifting in a multistory house still usually means hiring additional help to move furniture, says Schostok.

And if you’re listing a vacant home because you’ve already moved out, you’re looking at home staging costs that include rental fees for every stick of furniture and all furnishing and decor items from a stager.

Conversely, if you inherited a ton of antiques (or have a One King’s Lane addiction), the stager may recommend you declutter by putting excess knickknacks into storage, tacking that monthly rental onto your overall staging costs. Staging services may also suggest that sellers declutter and depersonalize the home by removing unusual, religious or political, and personal items, so home buyers can more easily envision themselves living in the home.

A final expense, an important one that can help ensure staging success, is the price of painting a room. A fresh coat in a 12-by-12-foot room will cost a DIYer around $200, or $400 to $700 if left to the pros.

How to save on the cost of home staging

You don’t have to pay a home stager to transform the decor of your entire house from basement laundry room to attic storage.

“A great way to save money when staging is by only focusing on the main areas of a home,” says Schostok.

These are the rooms potential buyers would spend the most time in—the kitchen, living room, dining room, and master bedroom. You’ll also want to pay attention to what the buyers see when they first step in the front door. That first impression, whether it be a bare, unstaged home or an inviting, perfectly staged one, can make the difference in whether they decide to buy and how much they are willing to pay for your house.

Another cost-saving home staging option is to limit yourself to an initial consultation with a home stager, instead of full-service staging. When Schostok does a home staging walk-through with the homeowner, offering home staging tips to maximize the potential for each room, “the price is far less, $125 for 90 minutes.”

You may want to ask your real estate agent if she thinks your home would benefit from home staging. Your agent may also recommend a home staging service or even offer other cost-saving tips besides staging, based on her experience showing real estate to buyers. For example, your agent may recommend that you start by decluttering your home yourself, or spend the money on a specific home improvement task, instead of hiring a professional stager, depending on her own first-time impression of your home.

The biggest cost savings for home sellers who use home staging? Selling their home faster, at a better price, and without months of carrying costs—because their house was properly staged and buyer-ready.

—————

Watch: How to Stage Your Home Like a Pro

The post How Much Does Home Staging Cost—and How Much Will You Gain? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Sleep On It: Why Letting Buyers Spend the Night Could Pay Off Big for Sellers

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For most buyers, thoroughly vetting a house includes opening every cabinet, driving by the neighborhood at different times of the day and night, and getting a thorough home inspection. But if a buyer close to making an offer asked to spend the night in your house, would you accommodate the request?

Well, maybe you should. Although extreme, this “try before you buy” approach can show some positive results.

The idea first took shape among buyers considering planned communities and luxury properties.

Bob Kanjian, director of sales at AV Homes, says the two 55-plus communities he sells properties in give prospective buyers the opportunity to pay a reasonable rate to stay a few nights and test-drive the community. And it works: A third of the people who participate in the sleepover showings end up purchasing a home in the community, a rate three times higher than potential buyers who don’t spend the night.

Sellers of luxury properties have also been known to cater to genuine buyers who request an overnight stay.

“On the rare occasions that I do see a request for an extended showing, the situation often involves a very high-end property and an international buyer who is trying to get a feel for the entire community as much as the home,” says Bruce Elliott, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association.

Part of the reason it’s relatively rare is that there are significant liability issues involved.

“With any type of sleepover showing, it’s advisable to prescreen buyers to ensure they have the financial wherewithal to purchase the property, to ensure the appropriate insurance policies are in place, and to have both parties sign a protective waiver,” Elliott says.

Still, should you get your place ready for a serious-buyer sleepover? Let’s weigh the pros and cons for the everyday seller.

Why sellers should consider sleepover showings

There are a number of things buyers can learn from spending 24 hours in a property that they wouldn’t pick up on during the day. An overnight stay would allow them to test-drive all of the amenities in your home—from the dishwasher to the rain shower in the master bath.

Concerns about night noise from roads, neighbors, or other potential sleep disruptions nearby could all be addressed during an overnight stay.

An extended showing would also allow the buyers to check out not just the home itself but also the community at large. Potential buyers could walk to a nearby park, explore the local restaurants and cafes, and experience the morning traffic.

Disadvantages of a sleepover showing

Unless there is some pressing concern that can’t be addressed in any other way, sellers may balk at a buyer’s request for an extended showing of their home. It can be a hassle to prepare the home for strangers (e.g., stashing your valuables and cleaning everything) and find a place for them to stay the night.

Allowing potential buyers to occupy your place will also cut into the number of days the home is on the market. And the more time your listing spends on the market, the less desirable it looks to typical buyers.

“Days on market is key. If you allow someone to spend the night for 24 or 48 hours, you’re limiting the exposure to other buyers,” says Dillar Schwartz, a Realtor in Austin, TX.

How do you make a sleepover showing work in your favor?

You don’t want to let just anyone spend the night in your home, so how do you make sure the test drive goes as smooth as possible?

According to Elliott, potential buyers should prove that they are serious about buying your home and have no problem signing a waiver that protects you from any liability. It’s also reasonable to ask the buyer to pay a deposit to cover potential damages.

If you’d prefer buyers to pay for their stay, the local Airbnb or VRBO rates can help you determine a reasonable price per night. Even better, if your sellers have been an Airbnb host in the past, they might be willing to go through the service again to rent you their home for a night.

Since sleepover showings are a relatively new thing, there is not really a standard procedure for setting one up. The details all depend on your comfort level, the advice of your lawyer or real estate agent about liability issues, and how far you’re willing to go to cater to a buyer.

Still, buyers make unusual requests all the time. If a sleepover is the only way to put an earnest buyer’s mind at ease, it might be worth it to put fresh sheets on the master bed and allow the sleepover in your home.

The post Sleep On It: Why Letting Buyers Spend the Night Could Pay Off Big for Sellers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Home Staging in a Hurry: Hacks to Spruce Up a Space in 5 Minutes

Home Staging in a Hurry: Tricks That take under 5 minutes (or 10, or an hour) to pull off

Yuri_Arcurs/iStock

Selling your home these days takes more than just finding an agent and listing it. You’ve got to really sell it. That means impressing buyers the second they walk in the door.

One of the best ways to do this? Home staging, where your home’s decor undergoes a makeover in order to entice home buyers to swoon and make an offer.

“The statistics don’t lie,” says Samantha Rose Frith of Warburg Realty in New York City. “A well-staged house will sell more quickly and draw a higher sales price.”

But who has time for that? Hiring a pro is pricey (here’s more on how much home staging costs). Plus a pro can’t do all of the work; you’ll still need to do some sprucing up if you have an unexpected showing.

So if the clock is ticking, here are home staging tips and tricks that you can pull off fast, depending on how much time you have—from an hour to just 5 minutes.

Home staging in 5 minutes

  • Put down the toilet seats: “Yes, that makes a difference,” says Jennifer Okhovat, a real estate agent in Los Angeles. Tracey Hampson, a real estate agent in Santa Clarita, CA, also recommends hiding the plunger and toilet brush, and any reading material you may have accumulated in your bathroom. “A bathroom is a bathroom, not a library,” says Hampson. Amen.
  • Open the blinds: Let in as much natural light as possible—unless you have a spectacularly bad view, in which case, keep those blinds closed.
  • Take out the trash and recycling: You may get that one potential buyer who will look everywhere.

Home staging in 15 minutes

  • Clear your countertops: “The less clutter on countertops, the better,” says Okhovat. A nice bowl of fruit can spruce things up, but if you have several small appliances and all of your spices out, take a few minutes to stash them in your cupboards or a storage bin.
  • Adjust the temperature: You don’t want buyers to rush through your house because it’s too hot or too cold. You also want to show that your heating and cooling are working. The ideal temperature depends on your home and the season, but keeping it at around 70 degrees should ensure everyone who sees your home is comfortable.
  • Hide any piles of toys, clothes, and mail: “Remove the clothes from the stair steps, ensure the four piles of mail get reduced to one or tucked away entirely,” says Katie Coombs of Total Home Experience in Reno, NV. Janet Lorusso of JRL Interiors, in Boston, recommends keeping baskets handy in your living spaces for quick cleanup of toys and other clutter.

Home staging in 30 minutes

  • Remove personal items: Buyers like to view each home as a blank canvas, and that’s hard to do with pictures of someone else’s family dominating the space. “Family and vacation pics are great, but maybe the Disneyland throw blanket and the hanging, glued-together puzzle could go in the closet for a bit,” says Coombs. Keep your privacy in mind as well as you clear items. You may want to stash items with your family member’s full names on display, for example.
  • Clean, clean, clean: Vacuum, sweep, and mop as often as you can stand. “Check mirrors for spatters,” says Lorusso. Bonus: “The smell of cleaning products will make your house feel clean, even if it isn’t.”
  • Add or adjust your lighting: “Use torch lamps if a room doesn’t get a lot of natural light, says Joel Moss of Warburg Realty in New York City. “We also find that replacing LED bulbs with bulbs that give it a warmer feel has a beneficial effect on buyer interest.”
  • Hang a mirror: “Hang a wall mirror strategically to add visual interest and make the space look larger,” says Amber Harris of Keller Williams Capital Properties in Washington, DC, and interior decorator with At Home DC.

Home staging in an hour

  • Rearrange the living room furniture: Instead of arranging your living room furniture based on the best view of the TV, “arrange furniture to face focal points in the room, like a large window with a view or a fireplace,” says Anne Clancy, a Re/Max real estate agent in Cottage Grove, MN.
  • Make small repairs: “That leaky faucet or moldy caulk might not seem like a big deal if you lived there for the last 10 years, but they will almost always factor into a lower offer,” says Frith. If there’s a small project you’ve been putting off, like fixing a hinge on a cabinet door, now’s the time to take care of it.
  • Spruce up walls, outdated countertops, dressers, and more with contact paper: “It’s not just for lining shelves anymore,” says Michael Nelson, chief operating officer of the Pyramid Project, a property management firm in Kissimmee, FL. “We’ve used it on everything from walls to countertops. It holds up well, looks great, and when you want a change, it removes with ease and no damage to the surface.”

The post Home Staging in a Hurry: Hacks to Spruce Up a Space in 5 Minutes appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

7 Decor Items That Will Sell Your Home (and 3 That’ll Keep It On the Market)

Xsandra/iStock

When you list your home, the process can be overwhelming and full of uncertainty. Where do you start? And how much do you really need to do to make sure your house doesn’t linger on the market?

Well, consider this your secret formula—straight from the pros—for getting your place sold fast.

It all comes down to simple decor touches that can give your home a glow and make buyers want to snap it up before anyone else takes a look. But on the other hand, there are a few things that can leave buyers with an unfavorable impression of your home—and send them toward the exit.

Here are the decor items you should put out—and the ones you should hide far, far away—to make your home as buyer-friendly as possible.

1. Fresh flowers


Photo by Grand Kitchen + Bath 
Fresh flowers can make any space feel warm and inviting, and buyers will perceive that a home with well-cared for succulents and orchids is itself well-cared for.

“I love to create unique floral arrangements to place in key spaces like the dining room, master bedroom, and living room,” says Washington, DC–based decorator and real estate agent Amber Harris of At Home DC. “Artificial flowers can supplement fresh florals, but [you can] ‘wow’ buyers with fresh-cut stems.”

And it’s not enough to display plants and flowers the day of an open house—any photos on your home’s listing should include greenery to catch the eye of potential buyers.

2. Well-placed mirrors


Photo by Michael Abrams Interiors
Mirrors can brighten up a room and make it appear larger. If you don’t have high ceilings and oversize windows, use strategically placed mirrors to easily enhance a space when your house is on the market.

“Mirrors are an optimal way to create the illusion of larger rooms and draw attention to a home’s entertaining and kitchen areas,” says Lara Rhoades Ewing, a Realtor® who’s with Century 21 Redwood Realty in Ashburn, VA. “Mirrors are also a better bet over paintings, which can turn off certain buyers.”

A large mirror on the wall of a small room can also add dimension to the space, making it more pleasing to the eye. Place mirrors near windows to get the added benefit of reflected light in the room.

3. Area rugs


Photo by Sandra Oster Interiors
Spaces with wood, tile, or luxury vinyl flooring can appear cold and lackluster without an area rug to brighten it and add warmth. Worse, sofas and chairs placed on bare floors can give the impression that the owners didn’t care enough to finish the room.

“Light and bright area rugs give way to defining the space,” says certified interior decorator Dawn Earles of Dawn Earles Design, in Waterford, VA. “They also bring texture to the room, making the room more inviting to buyers.”

4. Fresh towels


Photo by Natalie Fuglestveit Interior Design
Make a beeline to your local home furnishings store to stock up on fresh, never-been-used towels, as well as bathmats and doormats.

“No matter how clean your bath and dish towels, they’ll never be new again,” Harris says. “Buy new towels and place them strategically. A small investment leaves a great first impression.”

Fluffy, matching towel sets can make any bathroom feel luxurious, as if it’s in a five-star hotel. And buyers will want to envision themselves in that space.

5. (Good) lighting


Photo by Naomi Astley Clarke
A dark house will not sell quickly, so you need to find a way to bring light in.

“Lighting is key to making a home shine,” Earles says.

She suggests following the rule of three to illuminate your home. That means having three sources of light (e.g., two table lamps and one floor lamp), all with clear, incandescent lightbulbs. Light-colored accessories can also help make a space pop.

6. Glass tables


Photo by Kimball Starr Interior Design 
You might be seeing a theme by now: Making your home look good is all about making it look lighter, brighter, and bigger. Glass tables, whether coffee tables or end tables, are an outstanding tool to have in your home seller’s toolbox.

“Glass tables with metal hardware help reflect light and visually creates open space,” Earles says.

7. The color blue


Photo by Kimberly Demmy Design
The color blue is scientifically proven to make people feel calmer and more relaxed. But we’re not talking about splashing blue across your house. That may have the opposite effect, sending buyers back out the door, never to set foot in your house again.

Instead, look to large pieces of abstract art in shades of teal and blue to evoke a calming vibe, Earles suggests.

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Decor items to ditch

1. Anything political, religious, or even collegiate (including T-shirts)


Photo by Ironwood Construction Group LLC
If a debate can erupt over anything in your house, get rid of it. Or, at the very least, make sure it’s out of sight. We’re talking “Make America Great Again” hats (and even just red hats), campaign bumper stickers, church bulletins, and even college diplomas.

(Yes, a college diploma seems innocuous, but it’s entirely possible that a prospective buyer may be turned off by the sight of a diploma, bumper sticker, or any kind of memorabilia from a rival school.)

“I always advise clients to depolarize and neutralize their home before listing to unmark their territory,” Ewing says. “Make a home look as though you are ready to move on, and don’t forget about refrigerator items.”

2. Collections and anthologies


Photo by Rikki Snyder
You may not be present for showings, but if your home is filled with a very personal collection, whether it’s vintage vinyl records, National Geographic magazines, or “Star Wars” collectibles (no matter how rare), your unwanted presence will definitely be looming over buyers viewing your home.

Worse, all of those accumulated objects give buyers the impression that your house is smaller than it is.

“Don’t leave buyers questioning whether there is adequate storage space in your home,” Harris says. “Instead of bookcases filled with classic book collections, mix a few favorites with interesting accessories.”

3. Any personal items, no matter how small


Photo by Bigtime Design
You probably already know you should remove family portraits from your home before a showing. But it’s more than photos. Remove anything that reveals much about your personality or lifestyle, like marathon medals, refrigerator magnets, or cosplay costumes.

“It is critical to leave space for buyers to place themselves in your home,” Harris says.

The post 7 Decor Items That Will Sell Your Home (and 3 That’ll Keep It On the Market) appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Secrets of the Stagers: 4 Decor Items You Should Rent to Sell Your Home Fast

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It’s no secret that staging your home will help it sell faster and for more money. But if you’re overwhelmed by the thought of renting furniture for your entire house or having to pay a professional to stage it for you, we have good news: You can do it yourself—cheaper and faster—if you know where to focus your attention.

In fact, successful stagers secretly turn to a few select rental items when they’re putting a space together.

“Rentals give people an idea of possibilities,” explains event producer Richard O’Malley of New York City. “Which is the key to any sale—to make an impression.”

So consider this the CliffsNotes of DIY home staging. (Of course, your first rental, which isn’t on our list, should always be a storage unit. If you haven’t started moving out yet, now’s the time to pack away the old grungy chair and the dog bed.) Opt for these four wow-worthy items to transform your home.

1. Big statement sofas


Photo by usona 
If your first course of action is to replace your ratty, coffee-stained couch with something nicer, you’re on the right track.

“When it comes to staging a home, sofas are the most important items,” says New York City–based interior designer Melody Vaughn. “They help show the size of the room and give a feeling of someone living there.”

But don’t opt for a petite and delicate settee. Big and bold is what can make buyers fall for your space.

“Large, modular couches can make a real statement, but they need to be more artistic than functional,” O’Malley explains. “Visual impact is key.”

Vaughn uses striking pieces like the ones available to rent through Greenroom to add depth and warmth to her clients’ spaces that catch buyers off guard.

“Regardless of the style of sofa, I say the funkier the better,” she adds, citing the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams collection at Greenroom as her inspiration of the moment.

Yes, conventional wisdom encourages sellers to choose neutral pieces. But it’s important to remember that when renting big-ticket items, you want to make a statement—which isn’t exactly something a floppy, flesh-colored couch will achieve.

“Even if [the buyer doesn’t] go with the style you chose, it gets their own imagination engaged in the possibility of that home,” O’Malley says.

To rent a Greenroom sofa, prices start at $300 for eight hours, and go up to $1,500 for a four-week rental.

2. Gallery-level collections


Photo by dustin.peck.photography.inc 
Colorful sofas aren’t the only way to draw in buyers and make them remember your space.

“There are an increasing amount of art leasing programs—online galleries that make it easy to choose short-term options at reasonable costs,” explains Logan Link, a real estate agent at Golden Gate Sotheby’s in the San Francisco Bay Area.

When staging for his clients, Link chooses artwork that corresponds with the property’s price. For very high-end properties, he might rent a few pieces from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. For something more modest, he taps into the local creative community, borrowing key pieces from independent artists who, he says, appreciate the exposure.

Why does art perform so well? Because nothing elevates a space quite like it, Link explains. Art injects a space with style and energy that excites buyers.

Another great component of art rentals is the magic they make in an otherwise minimally staged space.

“Even an empty house with a collection of large-scale pieces can have a cool gallery effect,” he explains.

If you’re looking for a rental that’s a bit more affordable than a piece from the MoMA, Link recommends using sites such as Hang Art and Turning Art, where you can find three-month rentals for under $200.

3. Room-altering LED lights


Photo by Mal Corboy Design 
We hear it time and again: Good lighting sells homes, specifically LEDs.

After years of staging events and homes, O’Malley explains why he keeps using LED uplights: “They are small, versatile, easy to set up, and affordable to rent or buy.”

Using remote-controlled LED lights, O’Malley can uplight a room’s key piece, warm up a space or make it brighter, and even completely change a room’s color at the buyer’s request.

“You can turn the venue you have into the venue you want,” he says.

You can rent LED uplighting from places such as DIY Uplighting, with free delivery anywhere in the country. Rentals start at just $17.

4. A giant-flower wall

 

Forget the drooping bouquets you see at every open house, and instead opt for this feel-good piece that will make a lasting impression on potential buyers.

Companies such as New Jersey–based Kravets Flowers are making it easier than ever to customize a floral design that’s perfect for your needs, whether that’s a flower wall or a hedge or even 4-foot-tall rose displays.

For a faux-flower wall, rental prices start between $300 and $800 depending on the size and design of your display. (If you’re in the market for a real flower wall, you’ll need to have a much larger budget, explains O’Malley—since these are far more labor-intensive to build.)

“Hedges or flower walls are great for open floor plans,” O’Malley says, “because they divide the space with flair and add warmth.”

No matter what decor pieces you choose to take your sale to the closing table, remember this: “Don’t be timid—be bold,” O’Malley says. “You’re doing this to be memorable and create buzz. As long as everything you use is high-quality, you needn’t worry about going too far.”

The post Secrets of the Stagers: 4 Decor Items You Should Rent to Sell Your Home Fast appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: This Palm Springs Pad Far Exceeds #BackyardGoals

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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.

This Palm Springs, CA, palace was built in 1998, and it’s spent a fair share of time going on and off the market since then.

The problem: While it has gorgeous bones, it was lacking a design personality to make it really shine. The most recent owner, who purchased the home for $2 million in November 2018, made quick work of upping the midcentury modern aesthetic while cultivating a bohemian vibe. You’ll see this in the eclectic mix of colorful accessories and natural textures.

After the renovation, the home was listed in May 2019 for nearly $1 million more than what the seller paid. And we have a feeling finding a buyer won’t be a problem (you’ll understand why when you see the improvements to the backyard).

To find out how the seller pulled it off—and how you can make that kind of profit on your remodel—we went to the experts. Here are the rooms—and home improvements—where the work paid off the most.

Before: Living room

living room before (1)
The living room appears cold and sterile.

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After: Living room

living room after (1)
Opening up the ceiling and adding conversation areas made the living room warmer and more inviting.

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At first glance, it looks like the changes in the living room were mostly furniture, but the homeowners went way beyond that.

“The removal of the drywall on the farthest section of the ceiling reveals the beautiful original wooden structure and allows for a more organic transition to the outside space,” says Jared Cohen of Trig Builders, in Los Angeles.

In addition, “adding an entrance tucked just off of the living room optimizes the layout and creates a perfect flow between the indoors and out for a great entertaining pad,” explains Levi Austin of Levi Austin Design, in New York City.

Of course, new furniture played a big role: “This is the perfect example of using decor to highlight the amazing features of this great space,” says designer Paul Trudel-Payne. “Multiple conversational seating areas, vibrant pops of color, and the cacti along the entire length of the windows all help to highlight how large and open this space truly is.”

Before: Kitchen

kitchen before (1)
The old kitchen was classy but dated.

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After: Kitchen

kitchen after (1)
With a reconfigured space and larger island, the kitchen is brighter and more spacious.

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It’s hard to tell this renovated kitchen is the same room shown in the before picture!

“This renovation virtually doubled the size of this kitchen. It’s the perfect nod to the history of the home, with up-to-date finishes this luxurious space deserves,” says Austin. “This kitchen remodel reconfigured the space to add ample counter space, a larger island to allow room for prep and informal dining, and high-end finishes and fixtures.”

Altering the cabinetry also makes the kitchen appear more spacious. “Colorblocking the cabinetry with white panels adds interest and allows them to take up less space visually,” says interior designer Christina Toole of Design Tribe.

Before: Bedroom

bedroom 2_sitting area before
The blandness of this bedroom could put you to sleep.

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After: Bedroom

bedroom 2_sitting area after
Fresh decor and a sitting area breathe life into the bedroom.

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You know that extra space in your home you have no idea how to decorate? That was the case with this bedroom before the sellers got hold of it. This bedroom can clearly accommodate more than a bed and dresser, but the round table and chairs weren’t cutting it. So they repurposed it into a junior suite with a sitting area.

“Adding a partition screen breaks up the long, narrow room into more pleasing proportions without blocking light,” says interior designer Janet Lorusso.

Before: Master bedroom

bedroom 1 before
Before renovation, this was just a great place to sleep.

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After: Master bedroom

bedroom 1 after
But after the changes, the space is more fun and functional.

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Before the renovations, we wouldn’t have hesitated to grab a good night’s sleep in this modern master bedroom; but after the renovations, it’s a place where you might want to spend your whole day.

Austin is a big fan of the changes, especially the elements you may not notice immediately.

“All new finishes, poured concrete flooring, and updated ventilation systems modernize this home behind the scenes,” he observes. “Clean, open, and natural woods brighten the room, setting the stage for charming, colorful elements.”

Those colorful elements also caught Trudel-Payne’s eye. “You had me at floral wallpaper and hanging rattan chair,” he says. “From the woven pendant lights above the nightstands, to the breakfast/work bar, to the perfectly placed sitting area at the foot of the bed, this room was done so right!”

Before: Backyard

Backyard before
The original backyard had a desert vibe.

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After: Backyard

_Backyard after
The new backyard has lush and green landscaping.

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Finally, we arrive at the pièce de résistance of this renovated home: the backyard. It was a good space to begin with, but the renovations here are most likely to boost the home’s value.

“This backyard was done perfectly, to every last detail,” says Austin. “The minimalist desert landscaping and thoughtful touches of color are perfect surrounding the poured concrete patio, allowing for maximized space around the pool. From the clean lines and modernized landscaping to the infinity hot tub, it’s a perfect backdrop for parties.”

Before: Another view of the backyard

Backyard 2 before
The rounded corners dated the pool.

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After: Another view of the backyard

Backyard 2 after
The new pool looks modern and luxurious.

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Chicago-based interior designer Lauren Visco noted a change to the pool’s shape that made a world of difference.

“Squaring off the rounded pool corners gives this outdoor space a clean look and allows for a gradual transition between the landscape and water,” she says.

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: This Palm Springs Pad Far Exceeds #BackyardGoals appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

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

mustafagull/iStock

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 | realtor.com®.