Staging 101: How to Improve Your Landscape and Gardens Before Showing Your Home

Staging 101: How to Improve Your Landscape and Gardens Before Showing Your HomeCurb appeal is often neglected by sellers. So much attention is spent getting the inside of a home cleaned up that the outside is left until last. This is a mistake. Landscaping and gardens are the first things a prospective buyer sees. Following these tips ensures homes look their best and give a positive first impression.

Spruce Up Mulch

A fresh layer of mulch brings out the color in a garden and makes gardens look well-tended. Homes on the market in the spring, summer, or fall benefit from a fresh application of mulch prior to putting a home on the market.

Clean Up

Cluttered yards full of toys and tools are unattractive. Pick up any clutter and place it out of sight of prospective buyers.

Branches, leaves, and other debris are equally unsightly. Rake leaves and eliminate brush to give lawns a clean, manicured appeal. This is important year round.

Renting a power washer to clean driveways and walkways is also advisable. A clean driveway and gleaming walkways invite prospective buyers to picture themselves strolling through the yard.

Trim Grass And Shrubs

Overgrown grass and shrubs look unkempt. Take the time to cut the grass and sweep or blow the clippings off of driveways and walkways. Trim shrubs and trees to desired shape and height, and clean up all trimmings.

Don’t worry about trimming out of season. Well-manicured landscapes suggest that the rest of the house is equally well maintained.

Fresh Plantings

Add a little color in the garden to increase its appeal with some fresh flowers. A new planting ensures blooms look their best, especially against that new application of mulch.

Tend To All Garden Beds

This is the time to spruce up all garden beds. Remove weeds and trim up perennials to create a well-maintained appearance. Remove or trim back any plants that look dead or otherwise unhealthy.

Address Water Issues

Yards with fountains, faucets, pools, and irrigation systems require additional care. The time to fix issues is before the showing.

Resolve any issues with irrigation systems. Clean fountains and pools of algae and leaves. Fix leaky faucets as they suggest issues elsewhere with plumbing.

Fixing up the outside is just as important as a clean interior. Making gardens, lawns, and landscaping appear attractive and well maintained gives prospective buyers a positive first impression.

Don’t wait until the day of the showing. Start working on landscape staging a month before putting a home on the market. Call your trusted real estate agent today for more staging tips.

Thinking About Selling Your Home Without A Real Estate Agent? Don’t – Here’s Why

Thinking About Selling Your Home Without A Real Estate Agent Dont Here is WhyIf you’re considering selling your home in the near future, you may be tempted to simply cut out the middleman and opt for an FSBO sale. However, selling a home is a major undertaking, and most “For Sale By Owner” home sales run into obstacles.

So why is an FSBO sale such a problem for most homeowners? Here are three reasons why you’ll want an agent to represent you instead of going it alone.

An FSBO Puts You At Risk Of A Lawsuit

Selling a home involves mountains of paperwork, and in order to make the transfer of ownership legal and above board, there is a large amount of minutiae that need to be considered. For instance, as a seller, you are legally obligated to disclose certain facts about the property: Some jurisdictions require you to disclose whether a death occurred in the home, for example, or if the home is located in a historical district.

Even one seemingly minor mistake could open you up to legal action. An experienced real estate agent already knows everything that needs to be disclosed, and although agents can make mistakes, they have errors and omissions insurance to protect them. Most homeowners don’t have that protection in place.

Buyers’ Agents May Discourage Buyers From Viewing Your Home

When it comes to FSBO deals, most buyers’ agents anticipate the deal being a challenge at best. Buyers’ agents typically only show FSBO properties in one of two cases: Either the price is extremely low or there aren’t any other homes available.

But according to Atlanta real estate agent Bruce Ailion, most experienced agents have had an FSBO transaction go poorly at some point and are now wary of them. Without a real estate agent to represent you, sellers’ agents will be hesitant to deal with you – and you won’t get as many offers on your home as you’d like.

You’ll Need To Discern Qualified Buyers From Dreamers

One thing that most homeowners don’t know is that not everyone who views your home is actively interested in buying it in the near future. Showing your home may mean taking time off work or away from activities you care about, and if the prospect doesn’t end up buying, you’ve wasted your time.

A real estate agent knows what questions to ask in order to weed out the merely curious and find motivated buyers, so you’ll sell your home much faster.

FSBO sales don’t always end in disaster, but they’re considerably difficult to do well. An experienced real estate agent can help you sell your home faster and for more money than you can on your own. Contact your local real estate professional today to learn more.

3 Trends That Will Help Shape Your Local Real Estate Market in 2015

3 Trends That Will Help Shape Your Local Real Estate Market in 2015Each real estate market is unique in various ways, and your local real estate agent can help you to become more familiar with the trends in your community. For example, in some areas, it may be common for a seller to pay for at least a portion of the buyer’s closing costs, but this may not be common practice in other areas. While each market may be unique, there are some common trends that you can expect to be rather widespread across many communities throughout the rest of the year.

Buyers Acting Quickly To Make An Offer

In recent years, it was rather common for buyers to take their time researching the market and comparing various listings. There was a feeling that financing would continue to be affordable and that home prices would remain relatively low in many markets due to economic conditions. However, the economy has generally rebounded and market conditions in many areas have improved. There is an increasing feel of urgency in buyers to make a purchase sooner rather than later in order to lock in a great deal.

Younger Buyers Making a First-Time Home Purchase

Many younger adults have notably been sitting on the sidelines and have not been buying real estate at the same level that previous generations did in their 20s and younger 30s. However, as overall real estate market conditions have improved as well as other economic factors like the employment rate, consumer confidence and more, younger buyers are increasingly finding the confidence to move forward with their first home purchase.

More Realistic List Prices

In recent years, it was common for some sellers to list their home for sale based on the amount they owed on their mortgage or their general belief in property value without giving much consideration for market conditions. This may have been out of financial need, a general belief that their property value did not decline significantly even when markets plummeted and more. However, because market conditions have dramatically improved, you will find that the list prices on many properties are much more realistic.

Real estate agents keep a pulse on the trends in your local market, and their insight and guidance can be invaluable to you as you search for a property, structure an offer and walk through the rest of the home buying process. If you are preparing to purchase a home in the coming year, you can begin looking for a friendly and helpful real estate agent to assist you.

First-time Mortgage Borrowers: Avoid These “Rookie Mistakes”

First-time Mortgage Borrowers: Avoid These Many home buyers who are applying for their first mortgage will go to great lengths to research the options, learn more about loan terms and generally educate themselves about a process that they are unfamiliar with. Despite these common steps that rookie mortgage applicants make, they often make similar mistakes when applying for their first mortgage. By learning about these common mistakes, you can take steps to prevent making them yourself.

Not Focusing on All Costs of Home Ownership

Many first-time home buyers are overwhelmingly focused on setting up a mortgage payment that is affordable for their budget. While this is important, the mortgage payment is not the only expense associated with home ownership. For example, there are property taxes, insurance, repair and maintenance expenses, homeowners’ association dues and more. All of these expenses should be reviewed when you consider what mortgage payment is affordable for your budget.

Not Thinking About Short and Long-Term Plans

You should also think about short and long-term plans for your home ownership experience. Some will choose a long term or an adjustable rate to keep the payments low. However, they will not consider the fact that the payment will be in place until the home is sold or the loan is refinanced. It is not certain what mortgage rates will be in the future or if you may qualify for a great rate on a refinance loan in the future, so you should always ensure that you can maintain the payment structure for as long as needed.

Not Getting Pre-Qualified

It can be intimidating to get pre-qualified for a home mortgage. Some may fear rejection or denial altogether, and some may estimate an amount they may qualify for without actually getting pre-qualified. This can backfire for you. The pre-qualification process helps you to learn the maximum loan amount you may qualify for and the payment for that amount, and this is sound, valuable information that can help you to make a more informed decision when selecting your home.

As a first-time home buyer, you may be stressed about finding the right home to buy and researching the neighborhoods and schools. While these are all factors to pay attention to, you also need to focus heavily on your mortgage. Through these efforts, you can set up an affordable home loan that is comfortable for you to manage on your budget.

Understanding Home Appraisals and Why You Want a Real Estate Agent to Determine Listing Prices

Understanding Home Appraisals and Why You Want a Real Estate Agent to Value Your HomeWhile there may be instances when a homeowner must sell a property and move regardless of market conditions, there are other times when the value of the property will be a deciding factor in whether a homeowner moves or remains in the home for a longer period of time.

Some homeowners will attempt to determine the current value of their home on their own or order an appraisal, but these values are not always an accurate representation of a realistic listing price. There are a few good reasons why it is best to request valuation services from a real estate agent to determine a listing price rather than to refer to an appraiser or estimate value through personal market research.

Appraisals Use Older Comparable Data

Some homeowners will contact a real estate appraiser for a valuation, but these valuations will not always  reflect a listing price that a real estate agent would recommend. One of the reasons for this is due to the fact that appraisals can sometimes use older comparable data, and some of these comps may even be six months old or older. In many areas, market conditions can change dramatically within a few months, so older comparable data will not provide a reasonable listing price.

Consumer Preference Is Important In Valuation

Appraisals are generally objective, and they take into account property age, size, room layout, and other physical factors. However, consumers who are in the market to purchase a new home will also take into account other factors like how desirable the location is, the style of the home and smaller designer touches that the appraiser will not typically take into account. This can all affect the actual listing price, and these are all factors that a real estate agent will take into account.

Properties May Have Special Features That Affect Valuation

Appraisers only have access to specific information when reviewing comps, and they therefore cannot take into account special features that a property has that may affect value. For example, upgraded appliances, a security system, a new HVAC system and other features may increase value, but the appraiser may not take these into consideration. A real estate agent will review all aspects of the home to help determine a fair and reasonable asking price for the home.

Valuation is an important factor in many homeowners’ decisions about whether to sell now or sell later. Those who are interested in learning about the value of their property should reach out to their trusted real estate agent for assistance.

Dealing with the Summer Heat? How to Keep Your Home Cool Without Using a Ton of Energy

Dealing with the Summer Heat? How to Keep Your Home Cool Without Using a Ton of EnergyMany people look forward to the long, relaxed, sunny days of summer, but they also dread opening up their energy bills throughout the summer months. Cooling a home can be costly, and many are searching for convenient ways to lower cooling costs without sacrificing on comfort inside the home on the warmest days of the year. These are just a few of the cost-effective and convenient options that can help homeowners to reduce cooling costs throughout the summer.

Keep The Blinds Closed

A significant amount of heat can enter a home through the windows, and blinds and curtains provide an extra layer of insulation between the window glass and the interior of the home. Some types of blinds and curtains are more effective at blocking heat than others, and homeowners may consider making an upgrade for the best results. For example, wood blinds can block significantly more heat than thin, almost translucent sheers.

Run The Ceiling Fans

Another way to keep cooling costs lower throughout the summer months is to run ceiling fans regularly. Ceiling fans help to circulate the air, and this helps the central cooling system function more efficiently. In addition, ceiling fans also can make those who are in the room feel cooler, and this may mean that homeowners can keep the home’s thermostat set at a slightly higher level than it otherwise would need to be set at for comfort indoors.

Use Heat-Generating Features At Night

There are numerous appliances and types of equipment that may be used indoors throughout the summer that can generate a considerable amount of heat, and running these at night can reduce the need to run the central cooling system as much during warm days. Consider that everything from running the washing machine and dryer to using the dishwasher and oven or range can emit heat in the home, and these serve to counteract the work that the cooling system is doing. When possible, limit the use of these features to cooler nighttime hours.

Keeping the home cool throughout the summer is a top priority for most, and the good news is that there are easy ways to reduce the cost associated with keeping a home cool. These ideas all can be beneficial in a homeowner’s quest to reduce energy costs during the summer.

If your current home is a real energy hog and you are ready to move into a more energy efficant option, make sure to speak with your trusted real estate professional for a look at newer energy efficant homes in your area.

Family Matters: How to Choose the Perfect Home for a Large or Growing Family

Family Matters: How to Choose the Perfect Home for a Large or Growing Family Selecting the right home to purchase for a family is a monumental task, and this process can seem even more challenging for those with a large or growing family. A common goal may be to give everyone ample space to stretch out and feel relaxed, but some home buyers may also be focused on other factors like location, cost and even the general style of the home. While choosing the perfect home for a large or growing family is not easy, the process can be simplified by focusing on a few points.

Focus On Storage Space

There are few things that can make home life more miserable in the coming years than a lack of storage space. When a large family does not have adequate storage space in closets, the attic, the garage and cabinets, their items will likely find a home on the counters, on the floor and in other undesirable locations. Home buyers can consider looking for a home that has more storage space than is needed right now to ensure that the new home can accommodate growing needs over the years.

Think About Function Over Size

Many people who are looking for a new home will focus on finding a home that has a specific minimum square footage or a minimum number of bedrooms, but function is generally more important. For example, if a home has bar-style seating at the kitchen counter, the family may not need as large of a breakfast room to accommodate its needs. The family may also get more use out of a home that has a second living area, such as a game room, rather than a formal dining room that may rarely be used.

Choose The Right Floor Plan

In addition, consider reviewing the floor plan of the home carefully. Many prefer to have the kids’ rooms away from the master room, a study placed away from the kids’ game room or an open area where the kitchen and family room are connected so that a parent can oversee the kids while making meals. Home buyers should consider how they live and their likes and dislikes about their current space to determine which floor plan is best for them.

Deciding which home to purchase is rarely easy to do, but your trusted real estate professional can assist home buyers with this process. Those who are searching for a new home for a large or growing family can call their local real estate agent for further assistance.

Safety Tips: 5 Ways to Prepare for a House Fire – and What to Do if One Breaks Out

Safety Tips: 5 Ways to Prepare for a House Fire - and What to Do if One Breaks Out House fires can break out for a wide range of reasons, and these include everything from grease fires while cooking in the kitchen to lightning striking the home. They can cause a significant amount of property damage as well as personal injury or even loss of life, so preventing them and knowing how to properly respond if a fire does break out are important. Whether buying a new home or residing in an existing home, everyone can benefit from learning more about fire safety rules.

Have An Exit Strategy

Fires can break out whether residents are awake in the living room or kitchen, taking a bath or sleeping in the bedrooms. It is important to have a fire exit strategy for every floor of the home and every room of the home. In addition, it is equally important that all residents in the home understand the strategies and know how to get out.

Invest In Fire Safety Ladders

Fire safety ladders are designed to give residents a safe escape route from second story windows, and they should be placed in a convenient location in every second floor room in the home. Residents should know how to attach them securely to the window as well as how to get down the ladder safely.

Purchase A Fire Extinguisher

Generally, it is safer for residents to get out of the home in the event of a fire rather than to attempt to put the fire out, and personal safety should also come before thoughts about saving the property. However, in the event a very small fire has broken out, a fire extinguisher can provide a homeowner with a safe way to put the fire out. It is best to keep a fire extinguisher in a convenient location on each floor of the home.

Place Fire Detectors In Strategic Locations

There are codes regarding the placement of fire detectors in a home, and your trusted real estate agent can provideyou with more information about this. In many cases, homeowners may benefit from having additional fire detectors placed in strategic locations throughout the home in addition to the locations required by code.

Check Fire Safety Equipment Regularly

Fire safety and prevention equipment is only useful if it works, so it is important to test the equipment and supplies regularly. For example, a homeowner may test the batteries in a fire detector monthly and may take extinguishers to the local fire department for testing annually. These steps will help to ensure that residents have access to functional safety equipment regularly.

Residents should also know what to do if a fire breaks out in a home, and in most cases, the answer is to get out of the home quickly and to call the fire department. Attempts to save personal belongings should not be made, and all residents should know where the family will meet outside of the home in the event of a fire. Those who want to learn more about safety features in a home or about the required placement of smoke detectors can contact your trusted real estate professional for further assistance.

Real Estate Roundup: The Top 5 Apps to Use When Buying or Selling a Home

Real Estate Roundup: The Top 5 Apps to Use When Buying or Selling a HomeWhether you are buying property, selling property or both, the process can be challenging, stressful and even overwhelming at times. Just as you may use various mobile apps to streamline and simplify other aspects of your life, you can also use some well-designed apps to improve your overall experience when you are buying or selling property. These are some of the best apps for you to use as you move forward with your real estate plans.

iBank

This app is not free for you to download, but the small fee that you pay to use iBank may be well worth paying for. This is an app that you can use to track your bank account balances and living expenses. Financial strain is one of the most significant sources of stress for those who are moving, and this is an app that you can use to ease your money management challenges.

PowerOne FinancePro Calculator

The property that you choose to purchase will impact your budget in a number of ways. The most obvious difference will be a change in your mortgage payment, but there are other expenses that will change as well. For example, there will be changes to your property insurance, property taxes, homeowners insurance and more. This is an app that will help you to better estimate your total housing expenses.

GoodReader

You can accumulate a mountain of paperwork when buying or selling property, and GoodReader is an affordable app that will help you keep track of the paperwork. You can scan the items into the system and keep them stored for easy access and portability.

Zillow

You may already use Zillow on your PC or laptop, but you may love the experience of using it on your smartphone. This is a property search app that buyers can use to get details about property listings while on the go. It can also be used to help you learn more about other listings and their prices that your own home may be competing with when you list a property for sale.

Although property search apps like Zillow are a good resource for general information, working with your trusted, local real estate agent is always a better option when you are seriously considering a property purchase. Your agent may also offer a local app that you can download to access the most current, relevant property search data.

ScannerPro

When you need to scan documents to send digital copies of them, ScannerPro is a great app to use. This is an affordable app that works with your iPhone or iPad. Essentially, it creates a photo image of your documents, and you can then transmit them or store them as desired.

Buying and selling real estate can be cumbersome and complicated, but it does not have to be. Working with a trusted real estate agent is always the first step to buying or selling a home. These apps can simplify the process, but they are never a replacement for a knowledgeable real estate agent.

Thinking About Selling Your Own Home? Think Again – Why You’ll Want to Work with a Real Estate Agent

Thinking About Selling Your Own Home? Think Again - Why You'll Want to Work with a Real Estate AgentThere is no requirement for a homeowner to work with a real estate agent when selling a property, and many homeowners consider saving themselves the cost of a real estate agent’s commission fee in an effort to reduce costs and to keep more money in their pocket from the sale. While this may seem to make sense, the fact is that a real estate agent’s services have true value to you, and there are several key reasons why you want to work with a real estate agent when selling your home.

Assistance With Pricing The Home

Before you initially list your home for sale, you must decide what a fair and reasonable price is. You may actively compare price per square foot data with other homes in your community to arrive at a reasonable estimate, but there are other factors that come into play. For example, one and two-story homes will have a different price per square foot even in the same neighborhood, and property condition and layout will also play a role. Pricing your home right from the start will generate immediate interest and will help you to sell your home more quickly.

Marketing Expertise And Services

It is not enough to simply list your home for sale, and you must also actively market your home for sale. A real estate agent does much more to market your property than simply place a sign in the front yard. Everything from using online marketing avenues and mobile apps services to hosting open houses are often included in an agent’s services, and these often take time, effort and financial resources to execute. These are often included in the commission that you pay to your agent.

Skilled Negotiations Services

Negotiating with a buyer and buyer’s agent on your own is possible, but you may find yourself making impulsive, emotion-driven decisions. A real estate agent is skilled with negotiations and can help you to remain clear-headed and focused on your goals during negotiations. Keep in mind that there are multiple times throughout the process when you may need negotiate with the buyer.

The Need To Pay The Buyer’s Agent

You may not save as much money as you might think on your real estate agent fees by listing your home on your own. Keep in mind that the seller typically will pay for both the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent fees. Even if you list your property for sale on your own, you will still be responsible for paying the buyer’s agent fees.

The bottom line is that most real estate agents work hard for their clients, and they bring true value to the transaction. If you have been thinking about listing your home, you may consider speaking with an agent about the services that he or she can provide to you.