Housekeeping Tips

Over the years of my career in real estate, I have learned some interesting housekeeping tips that you may not know about:

1.  Shower door cleaning: When I was in the process of getting my own home ready to market, I was trying to remove soap scum from my shower doors and failing at the task.  I gave up and called a tradesman to replace the doors.  The contractor told me how to clean them and I must share this information because it really works.  Spread shampoo (one without any conditioner in it) on the glass surface; rinse it off; and behold, it works like a charm!

2.  Cleaning sinks, tubs and toilets: There is a miracle product called “Bar Keepers Friend” that can be purchased at Home Depot, Lowes and other such stores.  All I can say is you will be amazed at how this product works.

3.  Maintaining hardwood floors: Usually, just dust mopping is adequate, but when the floors really need more help, I recommend using Murphy’s Oil Soap,  diluted as directed on the bottle.  Damp mop, but do not soak the floors.  Do not let the solution sit, but dry the floor immediately.  I get a towel and “skate” over the floor with it.

4.  Taking care of badly scuffed hardwood floors: One home I was helping an owner get ready for the market had hardwood flooring.  In one of the hallways the floor was really scuffed up.  The owner said he would probably have to re-do the floor, and expensive undertaking.  A quick, very inexpensive fix is to use Old English Scratch Cover, that comes in different shades.  I asked my client’s cleaning lady to try it; the floors looked like new; the home sold within a week.

 

 

 

 

 

Proposed Tax Code Reforms Could Harm Real Estate Recovery

According to the California Association of Realtors, in late June, the U. S. Senate announced plans to adopt a “blank slate” approach to reform the tax code.  A blank slate approach would eliminate all tax expenditures (including tax deductions such as the mortgage interest deduction, tax exemptions such as the capital gains exemptions on the sale of a personal residence, and the deduction of state property taxes).  Senators will have to request tax expenditures be added to the reform legislation, which would raise tax rates.  This approach allows the Senate Finance Committee to highlight just how much tax rates could be reduced by eliminating all the tax expenditures.  Senators have until July 26th to request that real estate expenditures be added to the reform legislation before the Finance Committee begins drafting a tax reform package.  What can you (we) do?  It is imperative that we have our voices heard and encourage Congress to “do no harm” to real estate.  Contact your representatives today.

Countdown to Home Buying

The market is improving; inventory is low.  Check this countdown list to make sure you are ready to purchase:

1.  Get Pre-approved.  You are pre-approved when your credit has been checked and confirmed and your income, assets and employment history have been verified.  Be careful; some so-called pre-approvals are not worth the paper they are written on.  I have received “pre-approval” letters from lenders and submitted them with offers to purchase only to find out later that the buyer was not able to obtain a loan.  Sometimes it is advantageous to work with loan officers at the bank with which you do business, as they have a vested interest in your continuing to do business with them.

2.  Temper your expectations.  Listing inventory in the Palos Verdes area and the entire South Bay is only 50% of what it was last year.  This means that if you want to stick to any sort of budget, you are not likely going to get everything you want or you will have to be patient.  Have a clear understanding of your needs, wants and wishes, so you will take action when the right home becomes available.

3.  Be ready to compete.  Unless you are willing to purchase a home an outlying area or in need of a lot of repairs, prepare yourself to make multiple offers and compete with other buyers in the market.

4.  Be prepared to act quickly.  When you find the home of your dreams, you need to be ready to rush to get it.  If you do not act quickly and start making preparations right away, you may find yourself left out in the cold when it comes time for your offer to be accepted.

5.  Watch your behavior at open houses.  Everything you do and say when in front of the listing agent (seller’s agent) or his representative will inevitably be shared with the seller and may come back to haunt you when your make an offer the purchase the home.  Both being too excited about the home or nit-picking the condition of the home can put you at a disadvantage at the negotiating table.

6.  Call your real estate agent.  Actually, this step should be first.  Contact me at 310-995-3754 or Katie@katiemuck.com as soon as you would like to begin the process!

Quick Updates to Your Home

It happens to all homeowners.  Rooms that once looked fresh and contemporary have aged themselves into drabness.  For some it is an excuse to redecorate.  For others it is a chore.  Either way, homeownership is an ever-evolving process.  As one project ends, another peaks its head around the corner.

To bring your rooms current, as well as to update worn and disheveled items, consider these five room freshening tips:

1.  Paint: Paint is number one on the list because it is relatively cheap and easy to do yourself.  Getting a professional finish is simple, thanks to a myriad of products now on the market for the do-it-yourselfers.  From tape to edgers to color changing paint, you are sure to get a quality finished product.  “In” colors change every few years, so be sure to do some homework on what hues are in style.  While you are at it, research zero-voc  (volatile organic compound) paint before starting your project.  Traditional paint leaches fumes into your home for years.  Zero-voc paint, however, exposes you to fewer odors during the painting process and fewer risky fumes in the years to come.  This is well worth the effort of searching out zero-voc and the cost difference per gallon is minimal.  Paint does wonders for hiding dirt, wear, and tear.  Bring your home into the new decade with a fresh coat.

2.  Trim: The current trend for trim in the rooms of a house is to be white instead of natural wood.  It is contemporary and clean.  If your trim work is in good repair, simply puttying holes, sanding scuffs and painting can update the look.  Dated trim that is too thin for your large rooms can be replaced with new baseboards.  An amateur handyman can tackle this task with table and coping saws.  Trim is all about getting the angle out correctly.  If you already have current looking trim, upgrade your room with crown molding.

3.  Cabinet Hardware: From oil-rubbed bronze to beautiful vintage pieces, old is in.  Hardware can easily be added to any existing cabinetry or changed to bring a new feel to a tired room.  Shop your local home improvement stores, online and at local auctions to find the pieces that truly speak to you.

4.  Decorative Accents: Curtains are the frame to any well-designed room.  Choose colors and patterns that fit the scale of your room.  Heavy curtains made from chenille or jacquard work best in large rooms with tall ceilings.  Lighter weight fabrics, such as silk and chiffon, are great choices for small or airy rooms.  Decorative pillows and throws are also an inexpensive way to change the accents of your room.  Bright is in; do not be afraid to play with color.

5.  Flooring: While flooring is not a simple fix and may require the help of a professional, it can make all the difference in a dated room.  Scratched and worn wood floors should be sanded and refinished to show the natural beauty of the wood.  Laminate wood flooring is an inexpensive and easy solution for homeowners who want a clean and modern update.  I recommend that you do not over-do this type of flooring; it should be in a room or two but not the entire house.

If your rooms are looking tired, be sure to wake them up with a few new colors, paints or accents.

 

 

When Should You Sell Your Home?

Years of experience have led me to believe that the best time of year to put your Palos Verdes home on the market is March through July.   However, I decided I wanted to see some statistics from our Multiple Listing Service to support or dispute my theory.  Unfortunately, the study is not entirely scientific, as I am not able to see historical data about open sales like I am able to see with closed sales.  So, I took a look at properties in escrow as of today, May 17, 2013.  There are currently sixty-five properties in escrow (pending sales).  There were no pending sales in January; there were three in February; only two in March; twenty-seven in April; and thirty-three so far in May.

I recommend listing your home in the months of April, May, or June.  Another very slow month for open sales is August, as many take vacations that month and listing in July may be too close for comfort.

Other factors to consider include the number of competing properties on the market in your neighborhood; whether your home is in marketing condition; and of course, the price you will be asking.  Be sure to look not only at comparable homes that have sold over the last six to nine months, but also those that are currently pending.  Many home sellers believe they need to ask a higher than market price so they will have room to negotiate.  This strategy is not a good idea, as you may never get an offer to negotiate at all.  I think a good thing to remember is that it is hard to under-price your home.  If the asking price is less than buyers and their agents know it is worth, the property will most probably receive multiple offers, often for more than the asking price.   The bottom line is that properties sell at their market value.  Another thing to remember is, “timing is everything”.

 

You Can’t Sell It If You Can’t See It

Marketing a home can be extremely difficult if there are too many restrictions on the showings of the property.  I believe it is a good idea to have a plan that will enable the most showings of your property, which will probably bring the best price.  I am presently working with a buyer and plan to show properties that fit his needs during a three hour window.  Every home that I want show has instructions to meet the agent to show.  One property requires 48-hour notice to show.  The difficulty that arises is how to time the showings to allow the buyer to fully view the homes and try to calculate driving time from house to house.  I really do not want to have to say, “I know you like this house, but we have to go now so we won’t be late for our next appointment.”  If we are running ahead of time and reach the next house before the other agent gets there, I really do not want to sit in the car and wait.

When you list your property, it is wise to install a lock box.  The lock boxes we use today are electronic and our openers are updated daily.  In addition, the listing agent is e-mailed after the showing with the buyer’s agent’s name, contact information and showing time.  If you decide you really do not want to use a lock box, it might be a good idea to set apart certain times each day that an agent can call first and then just go to show your home.

Open houses for brokers are another effective way to show your home and these should be held throughout the listing period for maximum exposure.  I had a listing that I held open every week.  The last one brought only one agent, but she sold the house!  Public open houses should be held on Sundays, when you plan to be away for the afternoon anyway.  I always hold public open houses with my real estate partner so we can properly represent the property to multiple groups.  We require that each person log in to our guest book.

I know it is still difficult to have people streaming through your home.  Keep your home as clean as possible and then have a set regimen for what to do when you get an agent calling to show your home.  Clean the kitchen counters; make sure there are no dirty dishes in the sink; wipe down the bathroom sinks and toilets; make sure everything is put away.  One of my clients had five young children.  When an agent would call to show her house she would take a big garbage bag and throw any toys laying around and even half-eaten peanut and jelly sandwiches into it and toss the bag in the garage and off she would go.  The agents were able to show the house with little notice and it sold quickly.  Even if your home is not as perfect as you think it should be when shown, it is probably better to let the agent show it.  One listing I had was shown when the owner was not expecting anybody; she was very upset that there were toys strewn everywhere.  Well, that person bought her home for full asking price.  The important thing to remember is, “You can’t sell it if you can’t see it.”