You’ll never have a second chance at a first impression, so let’s make it count! When it comes to upping your home’s curb appeal, there are plenty of small changes you can make that have a big impact. And best of all, you don’t need to call in the pros or spend a fortune to get beautiful results. Below are some helpful and affordable tips.
A Well-Maintained Yard
Mowing: The first step to a well-manicured lawn is to mow it regularly. The experts recommending mowing high because mowing it too short can damage the grass and allow weeds to set root.
Weeds: To prevent weeds like crabgrass use a pre-emergent herbicide in early spring. These herbicides manage the weeds by stopping the seeds from sprouting in your lawn. Broadleaf weeds like dandelions can be stopped by applying granular weed control products.
Feeding: Lawns consume mostly nitrogen, so look for mixes of fast and slow release fertilizers; they will feed your lawn over time while keeping it lush and green.
Watering: Nighttime watering can result in long spans of moisture on the blades, potentially exposing your grass to disease. Consider watering your lawn in the morning – the sun helps dry out the blades throughout the day.
Flowers: You can quickly and affordably dress up your yard with colorful pre-made flower pots and containers. When placing your flower pots and containers remember that asymmetrical arrangements and staggering plants will provided the liveliest setting.
Dress up the Front Door and Porch
Paint: A fresh coat of paint in a pop color can give your home a well-deserved facelift. If you are hesitant to add a bright color to your front door, check out our article Energize Your Home This Winter With Bright Hues.
Replace Old Hardware: Clean off any dirty spots around the door knob, and use a metal polish on the fixtures. Change out house numbers for an updated feel, put up a wall-mounted mailbox, or add an overhead light fixture. Keep in mind that well thought through elements, instead of mix-and-match pieces, will add the most curb appeal.
Create Perfect Symmetry: Symmetry is one of the simplest design techniques to master and is the most pleasing to the eye. Maintain symmetry by flanking your front door with two sidelights (just make sure that your hardware matches); find two urn planters or a unique visual detail to put on either side of your door.
Appraisals are designed to protect buyers, sellers, and lending institutions. They provide a reliable, independent valuation of a tract of land and the structure on it, whether it’s a house or a skyscraper. Below, you will find information about the appraisal process, what goes into them, their benefits and some tips on how to help make an appraisal go smoothly and efficiently.
Appraised value vs. market value
The appraised value of a property is what the bank thinks it’s worth, and that amount is determined by a professional, third-party appraiser. The appraiser’s valuation is based on a combination of comparative market sales and inspection of the property.
Market value, on the other hand, is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home or what homes of comparable value are selling for. A home’s appraised value and its market value are typically not the same. In fact, sometimes the appraised value is very different. An appraisal provides you with an invaluable reality check.
If you are in the process of setting the price of your home, you can gain some peace-of-mind by consulting an independent appraiser. Show him comparative values for your neighborhood, relevant documents, and give him a tour of your home, just as you would show it to a prospective buyer.
What information goes into an appraisal?
Professional appraisers consult a range of information sources, including multiple listing services, county tax assessor records, county courthouse records, and appraisal data records, in addition to talking to local real estate professionals.
They also conduct an inspection. Typically an appraiser’s inspection focuses on:
- The condition of the property and home, inside and out
- The home’s layout and features
- Home updates
- Overall quality of construction
- Estimate of the home’s square footage (the gross living area “GLA”; garages and unfinished basements are estimated separately)
- Permanent fixtures (for example, in-ground pools, as opposed to above-ground pools)
After considering all such information, the appraiser arrives at three different dollar amounts – one for the value of the land, one for the value of the structure, and one for their combined value. In many cases, the land will be worth more than the structure.
One thing to bear in mind is that an appraisal is not a substitute for a home inspection. An appraiser does a cursory assessment of a house and property. For a more detailed inspection, consult with a home inspector and/or a specialist in the area of concern.
Who pays and how long does it take?
The buyer usually pays for the appraisal unless they have negotiated otherwise. Depending on the lender, the appraisal may be paid in advance or incorporated into the application fee; some are due on delivery and some are billed at closing. Typical costs range from $275-$600, but this can vary from region to region.
An inspection usually takes anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the size and complexity of your property. In addition, the appraiser spends time pulling up county records for the values of the houses around you. A full report comes to your loan officer, a real estate agent or lender within about a week.
If you are the seller, you won’t get a copy of an appraisal ordered by a buyer. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, however, the buyer has the right to get a copy of the appraisal, but they must request it. Typically the requested appraisal is provided at closing.
What if the appraisal is too low?
If your appraisal comes in too low it can be a problem. Usually, the seller’s and the buyer’s real estate agents respond by looking for recent and pending sales of comparable homes. Sometimes this can influence the appraisal. If the final appraisal is well below what you have agreed to pay, you can renegotiate the contract or cancel it.
Where do you find a qualified appraiser?
Your bank or lending institution will find and hire an appraiser; Federal regulatory guidelines do not allow borrowers to order and provide an appraisal to a bank for lending purposes. If you want an appraisal for your own personal reasons and not to secure a mortgage or buy a homeowner’s insurance policy, you can do the hiring yourself. You can contact your lending institution and they can recommend qualified appraisers and you can choose one yourself or you can call your local Windermere Real Estate agent and they can make a recommendation for you. Once you have the name of some appraisers you can verify their status on the Federal Appraisal Subcommittee website.
Tips for hassle-free appraisals:
- What can you do to make the appraisal process as smooth and efficient as possible? Make sure you provide your appraiser with the information he or she needs to get the job done. Get out your important documents and start checking off a list that includes the following:
- A brief explanation of why you’re getting an appraisal
- The date you’d like your appraisal to be completed
- A copy of your deed, survey, purchase agreement, or other papers that pertain to the property
- If you have a mortgage, your lender, the year you got your mortgage, the amount, the type of mortgage (FHA, VA, etc.), your interest rate, and any additional financing you have
- A copy of your current real estate tax bill, statement of special assessments, balance owing and on what (for example, sewer, water)
- Tell your appraiser if your property is listed for sale and if so, your asking price and listing agency
- Any personal property that is included
- If you’re selling an income-producing property, a breakdown of income and expenses for the last year or two and a copy of leases
- A copy of the original house plans and specifications
- A list of recent improvements and their costs
- Any other information you feel may be relevant
By doing your homework, compiling the information your appraiser needs, and providing it at the beginning of the process, you can minimize unnecessary phone calls and delays and get the information you need quickly and satisfactorily!
For more than 20 years, the benefits of staging a home have been well documented. Numerous studies show that staging helps sell a home faster and for a higher price. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 88 percent of homebuyers start their search online, forming impressions within three seconds of viewing a listing. When a home is well staged, it photographs well and makes the kind of first impression that encourages buyers to take the next step.
Studies also indicate that buyers decide if they’re interested within the first 30 seconds of entering a home. Not only does home staging help to remove potential red flags that can turn buyers off, it helps them begin to imagine living there. Homes that are professionally staged look more “move-in ready” and that makes them far more appealing to potential buyers.
According to the Village Voice, staged homes sell in one-third less time than non-staged homes. Staged homes can also command higher prices than non-staged homes. Data compiled by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development indicate that staged homes sell for approximately 17 percent more than non-staged homes.
A measurable difference in time and money
In a study conducted by the Real Estate Staging Association in 2007, a group of vacant homes that had remained unsold for an average of 131 days were taken off the market, staged, and relisted. The newly staged properties sold, on average, in just 42 days, – which is approximately 68 percent less time on the market.
The study was repeated in 2011, in a more challenging market, and the numbers were even more dramatic. Vacant homes that were previously on the market for an average of 156 days as unstaged properties, when listed again as staged properties, sold after an average of 42 days—an average of 73 percent less time on the market.
Small investments, big potential returns
Staging is a powerful advantage when selling your home, but that’s not the only reason to do it. Staging uncovers problems that need to be addressed, repairs that need to be made, and upgrades that should be undertaken. For a relatively small investment of time and money, you can reap big returns. Staged properties are more inviting, and that inspires the kind of peace-of-mind that gets buyers to sign on the dotted line. In the age of social media, a well-staged home is a home that stands out, gets shared, and sticks in people’s minds.
What’s more, the investment in staging can bring a higher price. According to the National Association of REALTORS, the average staging investment is between one percent and three percent of the home’s asking price, and typically generates a return of eight to ten percent.
In short, less time on the market and higher selling prices make the small cost of staging your home a wise investment.
Interested in learning more? Contact your real estate agent for information about the value of staging and referrals for professional home stagers.
While you hear a lot about ghosts in October, they’re actually a year-round phenomenon (and they’re not all as friendly as Casper). Specters come in all shapes and sizes in real estate, and they can be spookiest to prospective buyers. So, if you’re in the market for a home right now, you might want to consider your threshold for the paranormal. Here are some ways to identify – and avoid – ending up with a haunted house.
Something doesn’t feel right. When it comes to finding a home, we talk a lot about how a home feels. People generally feel it in their gut when they have found “the one”. Same goes for ghosts. If you feel like something is off, but you just can’t put your finger on it, you probably want to investigate a little further. This is the perfect time to break out the Ouija board and grab a bottle of something strong for your nerves (caution: seeing ghosts may or may not be due to alcohol consumption).
Follow the history of the home. Hit the interwebs and do a little online investigation to find out if the home has any skeletons in its closets (literally). Did anyone die in the house? Was it built on an ancient burial gravesite? Both of these could be DEAD giveaways for paranormal activity. Public records can be helpful for basic information, or you can check out this handy website: www.diedinhouse.com. If you don’t mind the house’s sordid past, use it as leverage to knock some zeros off the asking price. What’s a house filled with dead people if you can get it for a steal?
Meet the neighbors. It’s always a good idea to get to know the neighborhood before moving in. Learn about the schools, check out the local shops and amenities, and take a good look at who your neighbors will be. If you walk next door and the equivalent of the Adams family is staring you in the face, it might be a good time to look at other options. And if you have no other options, it’s never too early to invest in a respectable tombstone. Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Follow the paperwork. When selling a home, homeowners are required to fill out a “Self Disclosure Form” to reveal any known issues. In some states, this includes revealing if the home has any paranormal activity. In fact, if a home is known to be haunted, it can be deemed a “stigmatized home” which can impact the sale. But keep in mind, self-disclosure of paranormal activity is hard to qualify and prove, so buyers beware.
Look for more overt signs. Did you feel a tap on your shoulder, but nobody was there? Is there blood oozing through the walls or furniture moving by itself? Or maybe a spirit physically manifested itself in front of you. Well, this might be a ghost trying to get your attention. If you have an experience like this, it’s probably a good idea to find the nearest exit as quickly as possible and move onto the next home.
Let logic be your guide. So you’ve fallen in love with a home, but you suspect that it’s haunted. There could be a totally plausible explanation. Start by trying to explain the phenomena you are feeling. Could the creaks and bangs come from pests or plumbing issues? Perhaps the chills you feel are caused by a draft? Are you watching too many horror movies? Do you need to make an appointment with your shrink? What you think are signs of a haunting could all be in your head.
Staying organized while uprooting your life and moving from one home to another can feel impossible. Not only are you trying to get the best financial return on your investment, but you might also be working on a tight deadline. There’s also the pressure to keep your home clean and organized at all times for prospective buyers. One thing you can be sure of when selling your home is that there will be strangers entering your space, so it’s important for you and your agent to take certain safety precautions. Like so many things in life, they can feel more manageable once written down, so we made this handy checklist.
- Go through your medicine cabinets and remove all prescription medications.
- Remove or lock up precious belongings and personal information. You will want to store your jewelry, family heirlooms, and personal/financial information in a secure location to keep them from getting misplaced or stolen.
- Remove family photos. We recommend removing your family photos during the staging process so potential buyers can see themselves living in the home. It’s also a good way to protect your privacy.
- Check your windows and doors for secure closings before and after showings. If someone is looking to get back into your home following a showing or an open house, they will look for weak locks or they might unlock a window or door.
- Consider extra security measures such as an alarm system or other monitoring tools like cameras.
- Don’t show your own home! If someone you don’t know walks up to your home asking for a showing, don’t let them in. You want to have an agent present to show your home at all times. Agents should have screening precautions to keep you and them safe from potential danger.
Talk to your agent about the following safety precautions:
- Do a walk-through with your agent to make sure you have identified everything that needs to be removed or secured, such as medications, belongings, and photos.
- Go over your agent’s screening process:
- Phone screening prior to showing the home
- Process for identifying and qualifying buyers for showings
- Their personal safety during showings and open houses
- Lock boxes to secure your keys for showings should be up to date. Electronic lockboxes actually track who has had access to your home.
- Work with your agent on an open house checklist:
- Do they collect contact information of everyone entering the home?
- Do they work with a partner to ensure their personal safety?
- Go through your home’s entrances and exits and share important household information so your agent can advise how to secure your property while it’s on the market.
For many people, a home inspection is a hurdle that has to be overcome during the process of buying or selling a home. But, in fact, it can be a useful tool for buyers, sellers or anyone who plans to get the greatest possible value from their home.
Find out if the house you are selling has “issues”
When you’re selling a house, a pre-sale inspection can be particularly useful. By uncovering any potential problems your house may have, an inspection can give you an opportunity to address them before your first prospective buyer arrives.
In any market, a pre-sale inspection can give your home a competitive edge. Potential buyers are likely to find the kind of detailed information an inspection provides reassuring—and are encouraged to give your home a closer look.
Get to know a house before you buy it
A home is a major investment and, for many people, the greatest financial asset they have. With so much at stake, it makes sense to do what you can to protect your financial interest. Getting an inspection is a smart, simple way to do just that.
When you make a written offer on a home, insist that the offer provide that your contract is contingent on a home inspection conducted by a qualified inspector. You’ll have to pay for the inspection yourself, but an investment of a few hundred dollars could save you thousands of dollars and years of headaches. If you’re satisfied with the results of the inspection and are assured that the home you’re purchasing is in good shape, you can proceed with your transaction, confident that you are making a smart purchase.
When does a home inspection make sense?
In addition to routine maintenance and pre-sale inspections, there are a number of circumstances in which a home inspection could greatly benefit a homeowner. If you are not sure, here are a few simple questions to ask yourself:
· Was your home inspected when you bought it? If not, an inspection would be beneficial even if your home was a new construction at sale.
· Are you an older homeowner who plans to stay in your home? If so, it makes sense to hire a professional who can inspect difficult-to-reach areas and point out maintenance of safety issues.
· Do you have a baby on the way or small children? An inspection can alert you to any potential safety issues that could possibly affect a growing family, such as mold, lead or structural problems. If mold or lead is present, be sure to rely on technicians or labs with specialized training in dealing with these conditions.
· Are you buying a home that’s under construction? You may want to hire an inspector early on and schedule phased inspections to protect your interest and ensure that the quality of construction meets your expectations.
What doesn’t your home inspection cover?
For a variety of reasons, some homes will require special inspections that are not covered by a typical home inspection. A specialty inspection might include such items as your home’s sewer scope, septic system, geotechnical conditions (for homes perched on steep slopes or where there are concerns regarding soil stability) or underground oil storage tank. If you have any questions about whether or not your home needs a specialty inspection, talk to your real estate agent.
Hire a professional
If you decide to hire a home inspector, be sure they’re licensed in your state. They should be able to provide you with their license number, which you can use to verify their status with the appropriate government agency. It’s also helpful to ask for recommendations from friends and family members. Even among licensed and qualified home inspectors, there can be a difference in knowledge, performance and communication skills, so learn what you can before you hire a home inspector to ensure that you get the detailed inspection that you want.
What to ask your home inspector
Ask the right questions to make sure you are hiring the right professional for the job.
What does your inspection cover?
Insist that you get this information in writing. Then make sure that it’s in compliance with state requirements and includes the items you want to be inspected.
How long have you been in the business?
Ask for referrals, especially with newer inspectors.
Are you experienced in residential inspections?
Residential inspection in a unique discipline with specific challenges, so it’s important to make sure the inspector is experienced in this area.
Do you make repairs or make improvements based on inspection?
Some states and/or professional associations allow the inspector to perform repair work on problems uncovered in an inspection. If you’re considering engaging your inspector to do repairs, be sure to get referrals.
How long will the inspection take?
A typical single-family dwelling takes two to three hours.
How much will it cost?
Costs can vary depending upon a variety of things, such as the square footage, age, and foundation of the house.
What type of report will you provide and when will I get it?
Ask to see samples to make sure you understand his or her reporting style. Also, make sure the timeline works for you.
Can I be there for the inspection?
This could be a valuable learning opportunity. If your inspector refuses, this should raise a red flag.
Are you a member of a professional home inspector association? What other credentials do you hold?
Ask to see their membership ID; it provides some assurance.
Do you keep your skills up to date through continuing education?
An inspector’s interest in continuing education shows a genuine commitment to performing at the highest level. It’s especially important in older homes or homes with unique elements.
How Restrictive Growth Policies Affect Housing Affordability In Many Cities
Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner explains how restrictive growth policies are affecting housing affordability in many cities.
What’s your home worth?
It seems like a simple question, but finding that answer is more complicated than it might seem. Sites like Zillow, Redfin, Eppraisal, and others have built-in home valuation tools that make it seem easy, but how accurate are they? And which one do you believe if you get three different answers? Online valuation tools have become a key part of the home buying and selling process, but they’ve been proven to be highly unreliable in certain instances. One thing that is for certain is that these valuation tools have reinforced that real estate agents are as vital to the process of pricing a home as they ever were – and maybe even more so now.
There are limitations to every online valuation tool. Most are readily acknowledged by their providers, such as Zillow’s “Zestimate”, which clearly states that it offers a median error rate of 4.5%, with varying accuracy across the country. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that amounts to a difference of about $31,500 for a $700,000 home. For Redfin and Trulia, there are similar ranges in results. When you dig deeper into these valuation tools, it’s no small wonder that there are discrepancies, as they rely on a range of different sources for information, some more reliable than others.
Redfin’s tool pulls information directly from multiple listing services(MLSs) all over the country. Others negotiate limited data sharing deals with those same services, but also rely on public records, as well as homeowners’ records. This can lead to gaps in coverage. These tools can serve as helpful pieces of the puzzle when buying or selling a home, but the acknowledged error rate is a reminder of the dangers of relying too heavily on them.
Home valuation tools can be a useful starting point in the real estate process, but nothing compares to the level of detail and knowledge a professional real estate agent offers when pricing a home. An algorithm can’t possibly know about a home’s unique characteristics or those of the surrounding neighborhood. They also can’t answer your questions about what improvements you can make to get top dollar or how buyer behaviors are shaping the market. All of this – and more – can only be delivered by a trusted professional whose number one priority is getting you the best price in a time frame that meets your needs.
If you’re curious what your home might be worth, Windermere offers a tool that provides a series of evaluations about your property and the surrounding market. And once you’re ready, we’re happy to connect you with a Windermere agent who can clarify this information and perform a Comparative Market Analysis to get an even more accurate estimate of what your home could sell for in today’s market.
Change is afoot. We suppose it always is, but doesn’t it all seem to come at us so much faster in today’s world? We see change all around us. Just consider, for a moment, how much technology has changed our lives thanks to innovators like Uber, Google, and Apple, to name a few. Technology has also changed the way we do real estate.
The real estate world is a complex environment that most of us only travel once every 10 years. This infrequency, coupled with the ever-changing laws and emotional toll, makes it very hard for most of us to navigate. That’s why we rely on a professional. Even those of us who live and breathe real estate every day use a Windermere agent to conduct our personal transactions.
Thanks to technology, certain aspects of the real estate process that were once difficult are now very easy, like searching for a home. Within minutes of a property being listed, it’s fed to websites all over the world for potential buyers to see. Information about neighborhoods, schools, and home values are also readily available online to help buyers make smart decisions.
There’s no doubt that real estate will continue to benefit from technology, but we’re concerned about the companies that are beginning to look at consumers less as people and more as data that can be generated and shared for monetary gain.
At Windermere, our agents don’t treat their clients like data points being fed into an algorithm; they know them on a personal level. They help buyers make one of the biggest financial and emotional decisions of their lives. They help sellers understand the nuances of the market so they can get top dollar for their home. They are experts in neighborhoods, market trends, contracts, and negotiations. They treat their clients with respect and compassion. And they care deeply about their local community.
As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Real estate is the perfect example of that. Technology will continue to change and improve how people buy and sell homes, but our pledge to you is that it will never replace what has always mattered most to us: relationships.
– OB JACOBI, JILL JACOBI WOOD, AND GEOFF WOOD
It is still a great time to be a seller, but in much of the Western U.S., the local real estate market has begun to soften. With significant increases in inventory, buyers now have more choices and less sense of urgency. If you are thinking about selling your home, pricing it correctly the first time is critical. Here’s why:
1. If you overprice your home, it won’t show up in some search results.
Buyers search for homes using the parameters they desire. Price range is one of the most critical. If you set an unrealistic price of $850,000 for your home, all the buyers searching for homes up to $825,000 will fail to see your property in their search results.
2. An overpriced home attracts the wrong buyer.
An overpriced home will not compare favorably with the realistically-valued homes in a buyer’s price bracket. If your home is missing the amenities, square footage or other features of homes within the price range you’ve placed it in it won’t sell.
3. Overpriced homes linger on the market and risk becoming “stale”.
The interest in a home is always highest when the listing first hits the market. When an overpriced home goes unsold for a long period of time buyers often wonder what is wrong with the property. When a buyer moves on from a listing they rarely come back, even if you drop the price.
4. You run the risk of getting less for your home than if you priced it correctly the first time.
A Zillow study showed that homes that linger on the market tend to sell for significantly less than their listing price. When a home sits on the market for an extended period of time, buyers feel they have lots of room to negotiate.
5. The longer your home remains on the market, the more expenses you incur.
Every month your home goes unsold you put out money for mortgage payments, utilities and other home expenses that you will never recover.
Setting a realistic price for your home from the start is critical. If you’re thinking of selling, our highly trained experts at Windermere Real Estate can provide you with a comprehensive pricing analysis based on current market conditions.
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