Staging Your Home in the Winter Months

Staging your home in the winter months is just as important, if not more so, than in the summer time. Accomplishing that warm and welcoming feel just takes a few steps and some attention to some minor details and your home can be brought out of hibernation. Make a good first impression from the moment perspective buyers pull up curbside. By creating a welcoming and relaxing environment, buyers will take extra time exploring the home.

1. Snow removal.

This may seem like an obvious first step as you want people to not only have easy access to your home, but for obvious safety reasons as well, but don’t forget those outdoor spaces you may also want to feature. Decks and patios that are a sellable feature for your home need to be accessible as well.

2. Create a warm welcome.

Hanging a winter wreath on the front door. If possible, have seasonal plants like spruce on the walkway or front porch. Be sure you turn those lights on early to avoid people approaching a dark house.

3. Provide a place to wipe feet.

Have a welcome mat and an indoor rug inside the door. Decide whether you want to keep the outdoor elements outside and then provide a place for people to wipe their feet or take off their shoes. Offering shoe covers is another affordable option.

4. Turn up the lights and the heat!

No one is comfortable meandering around a cold, dark house. You want guests to linger, checking out all the details that make your home appealing.

5. Create cozy spaces.

If you have a fireplace, light it. Use extra pillows and throws on the furniture, light some candles and pile a few books on that coffee table. This will allow potential buyers to see decorating possibilities as well as make them comfortable.

Looking for additional tips on staging or selling your home?  Here are a few more articles that might help you out:

Make the most of a 3 day relocation house hunting trip

You’re getting ready to move across the county in a few months.  For a new job or a new adventure or a change of scenery.  Relocation is a big, complicated step.  A lot of our relocation clients pick a 3 day window to fly out and start seeing houses a few months before the move.  We’ve compiled all the things we’ve learned to make a relocation trip that much easier for you.  Here’s how you can plan your relocation house hunting trip and condense it into 3 days.

 

Make the most of a 3 day relocation house hunting trip:
  1. Plan in advance
  2. Explore the area
  3. See some homes
  4. Write Offers

Plan Ahead

To maximize your relocation house hunting trip, find a real estate agent that specializes in relocation hunting.
Work with that agent in advance to discuss your home requirements and needs.  It will help them eliminate areas, homes and amenities that just won’t work for you.
Plan on seeing about 8-10 homes during your trip.  This means long and dedicated days with your agent – the more time you can give them to plan  the more you’ll be able to see.

DAY 1: Explore the Area

Spend the first day of your relocation house hunting trip exploring neighborhoods.  You agent can help you narrow down areas that make sense for you.  Don’t skip this step – you don’t want to find a home you love in an area that doesn’t suit your needs.
For example, if you have young kids finding are area with a great school district will be important.  If you want to have a minimal commute, targeting a spot that has good access to public transportation or is close to your office is key.
Narrow down your search to 2-4 areas and neighborhoods that you really like and focus your search there.

DAY 2: Visit homes

The second day is the day to dive in and start seeing homes.  Your relocation real estate agent should be able to plan a route to help maximize your time and keep you from driving back and forth across the city.  Set the goal of visiting 6-8 homes – a couple in each of the areas you like.

Wear comfortable shoes, carry some water, take time for a lunch break – it is going to be a long day.
As you see homes be sure to rank them for your agent – tell them which ones you like the most and the least.  It will help them get to know your preferences and dislikes when it comes to a home.  It can also help you cross off some homes without even seeing them.  Maximize time spent looking at homes you actually like in areas you love.
At the end of Day 2 of your relocation house hunting trip, you’ll want to have a couple of homes on the shortlist of possibilities.

 

 

 

DAY 3: Write offers

On the morning of Day 3 you can squeeze in a couple more walkthroughs if you want or if you only have one home that you like from the day before.
Afterwards, you want to spend the third day writing offers with your agent.  Ideally you have 2-3 homes that you’re making an offer on before you head home from your relocation house hunting trip.

 

BACK AT HOME:

Stay in touch with your real estate agent.  They will let you know if any of your offers were accepted, what they need from you next.  You agent can also help coordinate inspections, refer you to people to help with repairs or cleaning, and can even arrange for you to close on your home long distance.

Tips for an Easy Move: 7 Strategies To Save Your Hassle and Headaches

Moving? These are our 7 tips for an easy move

Here are 7 tips for an easy move that will make the day go extra easy. We’ve owned over 21 homes and moved countless times.  Here are some things we’ve discovered that make the move easier.  From things you can do in advance to strategies for the day of, these tips will save you hassle and headache and ensure that your friends helping you move still like you when it is over.

 

1. Purge, purge, purge

Our number one item tips for an easy move?  The more stuff you get rid of, the less stuff you have to pack, move and then unpack.  A move is the BEST opportunity to get rid of the clutter.
Go through your books, clothing, kitchenware and garage and challenge yourself to get rid of anything that is old, outdated, broken or that you didn’t even know you owned.

2.  Pack stuff that won’t be needing right away first

Another one of our tips or an easy move is to pack the things that you don’t need right away.  Things that you don’t use regularly should get pack up first and unpacked last.

 

3.  Have a system for labeling your boxes

As you are packing up, label your boxes – which room they are going to and also which order they need to be unpacked.  Especially be clear which boxes have things that you’ll need right away – so that you can unpack them quickly.

 

4.  Take inventory

One of our biggest tips for an easy move is to take inventory.  As you are packing up, label boxes and list what is inside.  This is critical for moving companies as they will want to know exactly what is in a box if it goes missing.

 

5.  Be ready for your movers

No matter if you have professional movers showing up or friends who are willing to lend a hand, be ready for them when they arrive.  If you are still tossing things into boxes, the day of a move, the likelihood that things will get damaged, accidentally get tossed or go missing is much higher.

Plus you’ll annoy anyone who is standing around waiting.

 

6.  Don’t go grocery shopping for a week before you move

Eat up all your perishables, clean out your fridge and freezer, and also some of your pantry.  Unless you are moving a very very short distance, you can’t take it with you

 

7.  Have a moving day “kit”

Have some essentials ready to go, set aside with easy access – things you’ll need right away in your new space.  It will save you time, money, and multiple trips to the store.
These are things that you don’t want to dig through boxes of stuff to find after a long day of moving.

Some things to include: 

 

  • Clothes, toiletries, medication and personal items that you will need right away when you arrive – enough for a few days.
  • Linens – at least sheets, pillowcases, a shower curtain and towels for the bathroom and kitchen.  Nothing is worse than not being able to take a shower after a move because you don’t have towels or a curtain.
  • Some snacks and drinks for you and your moving team
  • Cleaning supplies, light bulbs, toilet paper, paper towels, rags garbage bags.  You’ll likely arrive and have to do some (hopefully) light cleaning and as you unpack you’ll have some trash right off the back.

 

Anything tips for an easy move that you’d add to the list?

Some additional resources and tips for a easy move:

Beyond Curb Appeal: Staging the Exterior of Your Home To Sell

They say first impressions are important – and the exterior of your home is the first thing potential buyers will see. That’s why staging the exterior of your home is just as important as staging the interior. Here is our project list for getting the outside of your house ready beyond just curb appeal.

 

Staging the Exterior of Your Home: Repairs

The first thing you need to ask when getting your home ready to sell is if there are any obvious repairs that need to take place.  Walk around your house with a critical eye.  Look at the paint, trim, siding, roof, window casings, doors, foundation – is there anything that looks old, chipped, damaged or rough?

Sometimes when staging the exterior of your home it helps to stand back at the street and look from the point of view of a buyer that might be driving by.  What can they see?  Where are the rough spots? What are the best features of your home that you want to highlight?

 

Staging the Exterior of Your Home: Pressure Wash Surfaces & Wash Windows

Homes collect dust, grime, dirt and pollution.  Your house may look like it needs a coat of exterior paint, but it *may* just be dirty!  When staging the exterior of your home, removing the layers of dirt from your house and driveway and walkways will make it look fresh and new again.

When staging the exterior of your home you should even look at cleaning any patio furniture and potted plants – they get dusty too.

You can DIY a pressure wash, but it might be worth your time to hire a professional.

 

Staging the Exterior of Your Home: Fix Any Pet Damage

One important aspect of staging the exterior of your home is fix any damage caused by your dog!  You may love your dog – but the next owner of your house won’t want to deal with any yard problems.

Some things to look for:

  • Scratched fencing, scratched wood on the deck or scratches on the back door
  • Bare patches in your lawn or dead grass
  • Holes dug in the garden

Ideally, there should be no sign of your dog (or cat) when prospective buyers come to call.

 

Staging the Exterior of Your Home:  Think Green

During the summer, greenery makes all the difference.  Make sure that the front lawn is green, weeded and trimmed.  Flower beds should  be manicured and freshly planted and weed-free.   No one wanted to move in and feel like they have instantly have weeding to do.  Finally, adding some potted plants to the porch is a nice touch and a way to go the extra mile.

 

Staging the Exterior of Your Home:  Little Touches

A few extra touches will make a BIG impact:

  • Replace or refresh the hardware on the door
  • Make sure that any fountains, fire pits or spot lights are turned on
  • Make sure that blinds or shads look clean and well cared for
  • Refresh your home address signage – make the numbers big and easy to see from the street
  • Leave your lights on at night – it allows people to drive by and see the house in its *ahem* best light in the evening

 

Some additional resources:

 

 

8 Things I Wish I knew BEFORE Buying My First Home

16 years ago my wife and I purchased our first home. We didn’t know what to expect but we didn’t want to waste money on rent and needed a yard for our dog. So we hired a realtor and started looking at houses. We eventually found a cute little home with 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom in a neighborhood just up the street from where we were living. We loved that home, but there were a lot of things we didn’t know going into home ownership that would have been very helpful.

 

Flash forward to today, we have purchased 21 homes and own and operate a successful real estate brokerage. All that being said, here is what I wish I knew when we purchased our first home;

 

  1. Location is everything.

    Of all the homes we have owned and sold, we always did better on the homes in better areas. I define “Better areas” by 2 things. The first being, areas that people want to live in are by Universities, or other places people generally visit, such as downtown and resort areas. The second is areas where you don’t see cars on blocks parked on lawns. I know the second is different, but I have found that areas where people park on their lawn they don’t care about the yard work, or upkeep on their home in general. This indirectly brings down the value for the neighborhood.
  2. The mortgage payment is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to costs of home ownership.

    After all of our home purchases, I can safely say that you should keep at least 1% of the value of the home in reserve for repairs / upgrades. If your water heater goes bad, you can bet your furnace will go out at the same time. It is always safer to keep a small reserve to pay for repairs.
  3. The mortgage interest deduction is only exciting 1 time a year.

    Sure, you get to write off the interest you pay on your mortgage and that is great. However, it only makes a difference in April when taxes are due. Many real estate agents and lenders talk about this bonus when buying a home, but owning a home  has more important benefits than a tax deduction.
  4. You can pick your home, but neighbors are a different story

    My current neighbor, across the street, calls the city for every possible violation she can come up pretty consistently. It is annoying and there isn’t anything I can do about it. It could be worse. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to know what the neighbors are like until you move into your new home. Looking online at crimereports.com will help give you an overall idea of the neighborhood.
  5. There is no such thing as a PERFECT home

    Homes come in all shapes, sizes, and conditions. Some people prefer brand new homes, others like myself prefer homes built between 1900 and 1925. It really comes down to expectations. Many of our client’s want to live in a neighborhood called Sugar House, and they want an open concept kitchen (a kitchen and a great room combined). The problem being, a majority of homes in this area are 1940-1950’s ranch/bungalows. They weren’t built like the modern homes of today. So in order to find what they are looking for, they need to find a home that has had a serious renovation or choose a different area. When buying a house, it comes down to compromises. You can buy a home with all the features you want, but a higher price than you want to pay. Or, the features and/or location are not what you want but the price is right. In the end, finding that perfect happy medium between what you are looking for and what is available in the market.
  6. Yard work is fun but it can be a full time job

    We purchased our first home so that our dog had a place to roam. This was great, except before we moved in we had to build a better fence. Sprinklers break and have to be repaired, the garden needs to be weeded and the dog’s urine killed the grass. Sure, having a yard is great, but don’t be fooled, it requires maintenance.
  7. Remodeling like a pro is harder than you think

    I get asked all of the time if I like the new show on HGTV about flipping houses. Many people are surprised when I say that I haven’t seen it. I have watched many of those kinds of shows in the past, but they don’t represent the true amount of work that REALLY goes into a good remodel. The reason you hire a professional contractor, painter, tile setter, is because they have experience and skills. Most of us are not skilled at these trades. What seems like it should only take a couple of hours and a few hundred dollars, usually turns into a few days and several hundred dollars, not to mention the 19 trips to Home Depot. Don’t worry, you can do these remodeling projects, but always enlist the help of a professional to offer advice on your project. My first hardwood floor I installed, I paid a flooring contractor beer, pizza, and $20 to give me some expert advice. I have used that advice for a dozen or more homes and it was the best $20 I ever spent.
  8. Buy based on quality not price

    With our first house, when something would break we would replace it with the least expensive option that would work. After all, we were saving money. Over the long term, cheap isn’t always best. For example, some brands of plumbing fixture are better than others. There is a big difference between the $10 bathroom faucet and the $100 faucet. The main difference is that you will have to replace the $10 faucet every year and the $100 faucet, maybe every decade. That’s not to say that more expensive is always better, but it can be a good starting point. Do research, ask questions, and whenever possible buy the best quality your budget allows.

 

Owning a home is full of surprises but there is nothing like coming home to a place you can call your own. The American dream was built on home ownership. If you have any questions about owning a home and the true costs please feel free to contact us. We have educated hundreds of pre homeowners on what to expect when buying or selling a home.

 

5 Reasons to NOT accept an offer

You have been preparing for months.

You did everything you could to make your home the best it has ever been.

You decluttered everything, took down all the cute photos of your kid’s, painted,

cleaned, yard work every weekend, and now the home is on the market.

After a few days on the market you get an offer.

It’s a great price, but you what else should you worry about?

 

Here are the 5 reasons to NOT take that offer

 

 

The buyer isn’t qualified

It is great if a buyer wants to pay full price for your home, but how do you know if they can afford it? First, they need to submit a pre-qualification or pre-approval letter with their offer. If they didn’t send it with the offer don’t respond until they have provided it. Keep in mind, that not all financial institution’s pre-qualification letters are created equal. There are online banks that buyers can submit some of their information and it will automatically generate a pre-qualification letter. It is best for your agent or yourself to contact the lender directly and verify they have submitted the proper documents (at a minimum pulled a credit report and received income verification) to the lender.

A pre-approval letter is better than a pre-qualification letter. With a pre-approval the buyer has submitted all their information and it has been underwritten by an bank underwriter. It is always preferred to have a pre-approval whenever possible.

The offer is contingent upon them selling their home

If the buyer has to sale their home, you may not want to take the offer. Your timing and how quickly they can sell their home should be taken into consideration. If their home asking price is reasonable for the area should also be a deciding indicator. For example, if they live in a $350,000 neighborhood, but in order to buy your home they need to sale their home for $450,000. This might not be the right buyer for your home. By waiting for them to sale their home, you may miss out on other potential buyers for yours. You should evaluate all the details of their sale before accepting their offer. We deal with these offers all the time, and most work out. However, we always do our homework first on the entire situation.

Not enough earnest money

Earnest money is what buyers put down to show they are serious about buying a home.  Earnest money can become liquidated damages if the buyer backs out. Most contracts have contingencies for retaining a buyer’s earnest money, like home inspections and financing. However, if the buyer simply decides to not buy the home after those contingencies are met, the seller can take the earnest money as damages. In most cases earnest money is not left to forfeit, but if it is, the more the better.  There isn’t a specific amount that is an official standard, but we generally see around 1% of the sales price as a fair amount.

Long closing or contingency dates

These days most homes close within 30-45 days. My wife and I sold our first home before we were agents, and the buyer had a 60 day close. The buyers wanted to close at the start of the school year. We took their offer and after 58 days they backed out. We wasted an entire summer “off market” waiting for their closing date. In the end, we took an offer $10,000 less than the first, a few weeks after putting it back on the market.

Unreasonable inclusions or repair requests

Sometimes offers come in and the buyer wants to include some personal items. Maybe you have a desk that fits a space perfectly, or a nice hot tub in the back yard. These items can be included in the purchase if you don’t want/need the hot tub or desk. However, if they want the kitchen table, living room sofa, and the family dog, you may want to reconsider their offer. Sometimes buyers feel like they need to have everything “upgraded”, especially if the home you are selling is older. As a seller you don’t need to “upgrade” your home if it is priced correctly.

 

At the end of the day the buyer and seller need to agree on price and terms. We recommend you think of the big picture and ultimately consider your goals.  If you have any questions about buying or selling a home, please feel free to email or call us anytime.