Prepare Your House for Sale

Every seller wants their home to sell fast and bring top dollar.  It is not luck that makes that happen.  It is careful planning and knowing how to fix-up your home that will send homebuyers scurrying for their checkbooks.  Here is how to prepare your home and turn it into an irresistible and marketable house.

Disassociate Yourself With Your Home: Remember, once you put your home on the market, it becomes a house for sale-a product to be sold.  You must make the mental decision to let go of your emotions and focus on the fact that soon this house will no longer be yours.  This is an exciting time, and emotions can get the better of you if you do not take the time to make this separation, mentally and physically.

De-Personalize: Pack up those personal photographs and family heirlooms.  Buyers can not see past personal artifacts, and you do not want them to be distracted.  You want buyers to imagine their own photos on the walls, and they cannot do that if yours are there.

De-Clutter: People collect an amazing quantity of “stuff”.  Consider this:  If you have not used it in over a year, you probably do not need it.  If you do not need it, why not donate it?  Remove all books from bookcases, pack up those knickknacks, clean off everything on kitchen counters and put essential items used daily in a small box that can be stored in a closet when not in use.  Think of this process as a head-start on the packing you will eventually need to do anyway.

Rearrange Bedroom Closets and Kitchen Cabinets: Buyers love to snoop and will open closet and cabinet doors.  Think of the message it sends if items fall out.  Now imagine what a buyer believes about you if he sees everything organized.  It says you probably take good care of the rest of the house as well.

Rent a Storage Unit: Almost every home shows better with less furniture.  Remove pieces of furniture that block or hamper paths and walkways and put them in storage.  Since your bookcases are empty, store them.  Remove extra leaves from your dining room table to make the room appear larger.  Leave just enough furniture in each room to showcase the room’s purpose and plenty of room to move around.

Remove/Replace Favorite Items: If you want to take window coverings, built-in appliances or fixtures with you, remove them now.  If the chandelier in the dining room once belonged to your great grandmother, take it down.  If the buyer never sees it, he will not want it.  Once you tell a buyer they cannot have an item, they may covet it , and it could cause the deal to fall through.

Make Minor Repairs: Replace cracked floor or counter tiles, patch holes in the walls, fix leaky faucets and fix doors that do not close properly and kitchen drawers that jam.  Consider painting your walls neutral colors, especially if you have grown accustomed to purple or pink walls.  Take a long, hard look at any wallpapering in the house; if it is too bold in color, it will probably not appeal to most buyers.

Meake the House Sparkle: Wash windows inside and out, clean out cobwebs, re-caulk tubs, showers and sinks and polish chrome faucets and mirrors.  Consider removing window screens while showing the house for sale; this will allow for lighter rooms and prettier views to the outside.  Clean the refrigerator, wax floors and dust furniture, ceiling fan blades and light fixtures.  Hang up fresh towels (bathroom towels look great fastened with ribbon and bows).

Scrutinize: Go outside and open your front door.  Stand there.  Do you want to go inside?  Does the house welcome you?  Linger in the doorway of every single room and imagine how your house will look to a buyer.  Examine carefully how furniture is arranged and move pieces around until it makes sense.  Make sure window coverings hang level.  Does it look like nobody lives in this house?  You are almost finished.

Check Curb Appeal: If the buyers will not get out of their agent’s car because they do not like the exterior of your home, you will never get them inside.  Remember to keep the sidewalks cleared, mow the lawn and paint faded trim.  For a punch of color, plant yellow flowers or group flower posts together.  Use yellow to evoke emotion.  Make sure potential buyers can clearly read your house number.  If your mail box is unsightly, replace it with a new one.

There will be future posts with more tips for preparing and showing your home.

Top Ten Questions for a Home Inspector

Buying a home is one of the largest purchases you will ever make. Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or if you have “been around the block before,” a qualified home inspector will be a crucial member of your real estate team.  A great inspector can point out expensive repairs, familiarize you with your new home, and give you the peace of mind that you are buying a great home.  Not all home inspectors are created equal.  Consider asking these ten questions as you interview potential inspectors:

1.  May I see your license? Although home inspectors are licensed differently in each state, a qualified home inspector should be able to show you a license and professional association credentials.

2.  Have you had any recent training? Residential building codes and requirements change frequently.  A great inspector should be taking frequent training classes in your local area.

3.   How many homes have you inspected?  May I have a referral from a past customer? Don’t leave your home inspection to chance.  Hiring a seasoned professional means that he will be able to easily recognize potential pitfalls.

4.   Is home inspection your only business? Only hire a home inspector who is strictly a home inspector.  In fact, most states forbid licensed home inspectors from also being contractors, roofers, or repairmen.

5.    What does your inspection cover? A good inspection covers the home’s foundation, structure,exterior, interior, roof, attics and basements, plumbing, electrical, and much more. At the end of your inspection, you should receive a written report.  Recently, many home inspectors have started including digital pictures in inspection reports.

6.  May I come to the inspection? Being on-site during your future home’s inspection is invaluable. Have the inspector point out all issues and flaws to you in person, and make sure to ask questions and take notes.

7.  Can you come look at this? You may have noticed a few quirks during visits to your new home. Point out these concerns to your inspector.

8.  What condition is the roof in?Depending on materials and climate, the average home’s roof lasts about 20 years. Roof replacements are a costly investment. If you are buying an older home, ask your inspector for an estimate of when it will need to be replaced.

9.  Can you show me how that works? Home inspectors are experts in your home’s various systems.  Especially if you are a first-time homebuyer, have your inspector take a few minutes to show you how to use your home’s furnace, water heater, electrical
panel, and emergency shutoffs.

10.      If you were buying this home, what would you fix and when? Your inspector may not be able to give you specific repair
estimates, but he or she can help you prioritize items that need to be repaired immediately, and those that can wait a few months or years.


Attention Condominium Owners

FHA(Federal Housing Administration) loans to purchase condominiums are no longer available to buyers unless the entire development has been approved FHA and in today’s market FHA loans are the most desirable and usually the easiest to obtain.  In the past FHA would allow a “spot approval” for obtaining a loan on an individual unit even though the entire complex was not approved FHA.

I recommend that owners of condos through their homeowners associations take the necessary steps to obtain FHA approval.  This approval should greatly enhance the marketability of the units and therefore their value.  Visit the Federal Housing Administration website to find out the steps to obtain the approval.

Five Budget-Friendly Bathroom Spruce-Ups

You have probably heard from friends, real estate professionals, and on television that bathrooms and kitchens sell houses.

But what happens if you are preparing your home for sale and you do not have the money or interest in spending thousands of dollars renovating bathrooms that you will not be around to enjoy?  Many sellers also report that their buyers feel more comfortable when the information from a pre-sale inspection is shared early on, even if the buyers choose to have their own home inspection as well.

There are many quick, easy, do-it-yourself ways to bring out the best in your home’s bathrooms that will impress buyers and leave your wallet intact.

Cost: $0. Nothing makes small bathrooms look bigger and more luxurious than open space. Clear extra items like toothbrush holders and personal care tools off of counters to reveal wide-open countertops. Tidy up your shower and bath area and get rid of extra bottles.  If you do nothing else at all to your bathrooms, do the decluttering.

Cost: $25-$50. Give your bathrooms a facelift with a fresh, modern color. One can of paint from your local hardware store should be enough to cover most small bathrooms. Add a few tools like brushes, drop cloths, and rollers and you’re on your way. Pick up your favorite home décor magazine or search online for color inspiration.

Cost: $50-$200. Choose a new look and feel for your bathroom. Search your local discount stores, which offer great deals on home accents. Pick up some deluxe towels and rugs, soothing candles, and accent pieces to give your bathroom a relaxing spa feel. Consider an age- and gender-neutral theme to appeal to more buyers.

Update fixtures
Cost: $100-$300. Outdated fixtures can easily make your bathroom look dated. A small investment in new faucets, lighting, and even towel racks can bring your bathroom into this century and make older tubs, toilets, and sinks look new again.

Replace vanity and mirror
Cost: $300-$800. If your cabinets, surfaces, and sink are truly an eyesore, consider buying a new vanity. At your local home improvement store, you can find easy-to-install combination packages that include a standalone cabinet, sink, hardware, and instructions. Hang a new mirror and give your bathroom a fresh look.

Selling Your Home? Get a Pre-sale Inspection.

Most people think a home inspection is something that happens somewhere between making an offer and before closing on a home; but for a number of reasons, more homeowners are choosing to have their own home inspected before putting it on the market.

The reason is simple: uncovering problems early on enables you to fix them, often making it possible to add value to your sale price. An inspection is designed to reveal any potential problems a house may have—and that is true for both buyers and sellers. Sellers may benefit from gaining this kind of detailed information about their home, so that they can choose to handle problems long before the negotiation process is underway.

Many sellers also report that their buyers feel more comfortable when the information from a pre-sale inspection is shared early on, even if the buyers choose to have their own home inspection as well.

In short, a pre-sale inspection can reduce the chance of a surprise and help speed the closing process, which would otherwise have been delayed by scheduling repairs and having the buyers confirm they were completed properly. Because for buyers, making an offer contingent upon a home inspection is about saving expenses and trouble—not to mention providing confidence in what may well be the biggest investment they ever make.

Even if you are not a buyer making an offer, or a seller thinking of listing a home in the next few months, a home inspection can provide homeowners with a thorough to-do list for maintenance—or even a little peace of mind.

Common Credit Myths About Buying a Home

                Whether your annual earnings range well into six figures or they are on the more modest end of national salary average, you know you will probably need credit to buy a home. While you likely know how important credit is to your home-buying plans, you may not be aware of the truth behind some common credit myths.

Myth:   If your bills are paid and you have never defaulted on a loan, mortgage or credit card bill, you do not need to worry about your credit report or credit score.

Truth:   Many factors influence your credit score, and payment history is just one of them. When calculating your score, credit bureaus also consider length of credit history, types of credit used and ratio of credit available to credit used. Even if your payment history is good, scoring lower on one of the other factors could lower your overall credit score.

Myth:  As long as you know your credit score, you do not need to look at your credit report before applying for a mortgage.

Truth:  A lender will certainly look at your credit report, so you should know what is on it before they do. Errors may occur on a credit report, and if there are any negative marks on your credit history you will want to know about them – and address them – before a lender asks.

Myth:  Checking your credit score is a hassle, and it can not really help you manage your credit in the long run.

Truth:  Websites like make it easy to check your credit score. Keep in mind that lenders use a variety of scores when evaluating credit worthiness, and the one you obtain online will vary from what a lender might see.  Still, any score can be a valuable educational tool that helps you better understand how lenders view your credit.

Myth:   If your credit is not perfect, you will not be able to get a mortgage.

Truth:   Lenders are stricter than they have been in the past and a good credit score and report can certainly make you a more appealing prospect to them. However, a score in the lower range does not mean you can not get a mortgage at all. But a higher score is likely to net you more options – and better terms.

Myth:   When you apply for a mortgage, the lender could share your personal information (including your credit score and history) with other companies.

Truth:   The law limits how banks and other financial institutions can use your information and to whom they can disclose it. If you are not sure how a lender may use your information, ask. Depending on the situation, you may be able to limit disclosure of your information.  Home prices and interest rates are still low across the country, making it a good time to buy a house, real estate experts say. Knowing the truth behind some common credit myths – and understanding your own credit history and score – can help you take advantage of the many opportunities still available for home buyers. 