Is Your Home Ready to Sell?

You waited all winter to sell your home just in time to move during the summer.  You put in the extra work to make your house stand out from all the rest on the market, right?  No matter where you are in the process, review the list below to help you determine what buyers really want and do not want in their future home.

The top three must-haves:

1.  Curb Appeal:  You only get one chance to make a first impression.  Your home should sell to the buyer from the curb.   Buyers should be so impressed that they want to leap out of the car and run inside.

How do you create curb appeal? Show attention to detail.  Your home has to be prettier, cleaner and in better condition than its neighbors.  Start with sweeping the drive, walkways and porch or entry of dirt and debris.  Get rid of leggy bushes, wilted flowers and broken tree limbs and plant fresh flowers in the front garden.  Power-wash the exterior and hand wash the windows and touch up paint around the windows, if needed.  I have trusted tradesmen who can do these things for you, if you prefer.  Replace the door hardware and porch sconces.

2.  Space: The number one reason why people buy homes is to have more room.  Whether they are moving from an apartment or moving up from the home they have, they want to have plenty of space.

If you have a large home, you are golden, but that does not mean you have it made.  You can ruin a buyer’s first impression with too much clutter, so make sure to keep your home picked up so your buyer can see your home’s features clearly and easily.

What if you do not have a lot of space?  Plan to do some storing and staging.  Rent a storage unit and put away all out-of-season clothes, toys, home decorations and accessories.  Clean off all tables and counter tops so you have only the minimum of things you need to operate your home.  Empty closets of anything that is stored and move it to the storage unit.  The small expense you will pay in storage fees you will more than make back from a good offer to purchase your home.

3.  Updates: First-time buyers and single people tend to buy older homes because they are more affordable than buying new.  So unless the buyer is a building contractor, chances are he will want a home that is as updated as possible.

Concentrate on the kitchen and bathrooms.  Replace the most dated features such as counter tops, cabinet pulls and appliances.  Bathrooms are so personal that they can easily turn buyers off.  Invest in new towels and bathmats  (use your old ones and replace them with the new ones when you have an appointment to view your home or for an open house).  Throw out slimy soaps and limp ragged bath sponges.  Replace with liquid shower and bath products.  You can take all the newly purchased items to your next home.

Painting is expected by buyers, but do not repaint the same colors that you chose ten years ago.  Pick an updated neutral like a warm gray instead of beige.  Be sure to choose a color that will complement the architecture and flooring in your home.

The typical home purchased in 2013 had 1860 square feet of living space and was built in 1996, so home buyers are not expecting your home to be a mansion, nor do they expect it to be new, but they do expect to see pride of ownership.  The more updates and repairs that you perform, the more confident the buyers will be that they are choosing the right home.

The top five have-nots:

Make sure your home is free and clear of the following items (instant turn-offs).

1.  Overpricing your home: If you have listed your home at a higher price than recommended you will get negative feedback from buyers.  The worst feedback is silence that could include no showings and no offers.  The problem with overpricing your home is that the buyers who are qualified to buy your home will not see it because they are shopping in a lower price range.  The buyers who do see your home will quickly realize that there are other homes in the same price range that offer more value.

2.  Smells: Smells can come from a number of sources-pets, lack of cleanliness, stale air, water damage and much more.  You may not even notice it, but your agent may tell you something has to be done.  There is not a buyer in the world who will buy a home that smells unless they are investors looking for a bargain.

3. Clutter:  If your tables are full to the edges with photos, figurines, mail and drinking glasses, buyers’ attention is going to be more focused on breezing through your living room without breaking any glass figurines than in considering your home for purchase.  Too much furniture confuses the eye and makes it really difficult for buyers to see the proportions of the rooms.  If they can not see what they need to know, they move on to the next home.

4.  Deferred maintenance:  Deferred maintenance is a polite euphemism for letting your home fall apart.  Just like people age due to the effects of the sun, wind and gravity, so do structures like your home.  Things wear out, break and weather and it is your job as a homeowner to keep your home repaired.  Buyers really want a home that has been well-maintained.  They do not want to wonder what needs to be fixed next or how much it will cost.

5.  Dated Decor:  People want your neighborhood, but that does not mean they want a dated-looking home.  Just like they want a home in good repair, they want a home that looks updated, even if it is from a different era.

Though I am in the business of selling houses, I know it is no easy task to move.  You will receive daily calls from agents to show your home, you will be asked to leave your home during open houses; you will really have to “put your life on hold” until it is sold.  The objective should be to limit the marketing time by making sure your home is the best it can be.

Tax Implications When Selling a Home*

Home sellers used to be penalized when they sold a home, paying huge capital gains taxes on their next tax return. However,the United States government saw fit to change that taxation process with the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997.  Now, many people qualify for no capital gains at all, depending on their income and tax situation. Take a look at some sample situations that can help you to avoid tax-related headaches and stay ahead of the financial curve. Single Owners – If you are a single homeowner, you are not required to pay capital gains unless the profit is higher than $250,000. You can figure out your profit by subtracting the sold price from the original price paid.  From that figure, you can also deduct any major household improvements made over the years, including an additional room or in-ground pool installation. For most homeowners, their profit is conservative, allowing them to pocket the money or put it toward a new property.  Married Homeowners – Because a home may be larger for a married couple, the government stipulates that up to $500,000 in profit is acceptable to avoid taxation. However, there is a significant tax rate when profits are above the $500,000 threshold.  In general, your tax rate is around 20 percent.  For example, your profit is $600,000. You need to pay a 20 percent tax on the $100,000 above the threshold. As a result,you owe $20,000 in taxes alone.  Time Constraints – You must pay capital gains only if you lived in the home for less than two years. For most homeowners, this time constraint is not applicable.  As long as you remain in a home as a primary residence, you can technically sell and buy a home every two years without paying capital gains.  For families trying to grow their family and wealth, this tax relief is a welcome sight. There is no limit to the amount of times you can buy or sell with no tax liability.  Special Circumstances – The government recognizes that there are extenuating circumstances that must be accounted for.  If you bought a house and were transferred to a different state by your employer within one year, for example, you are exempt from paying capital gains.  Other issues, including long-term government or private company duties, free you from paying taxes as well. Documented health problems, such as suffering from cancer, allow you to skip taxes if you must move before the two-year limit. If You Owe – It is best to contact a tax professional.  He can look over your personal situation to find out the tax cost.  In general, tax professionals take the sold price and reduce it with documented capital improvements and depreciation costs.  You can also deduct some of the closing costs to lower your tax liability.  However, high profits mean higher taxes overall.  Selling a home is much easier than it used to be. Go over your personal situation when considering selling prices. Receiving a conservative profit on your home is helpful when it comes to tax liability.

*I am a Realtor, not an accountant or attorney; this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace your consulting with a tax professional.

90274 Zip Code Facts

The 90274 zip code includes the cities of Palos Verdes Estates, Rolling Hills Estates, Rolling Hills and the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County (Palos Verdes Peninsula).

There are 9437 households of which 87% are owner occupied;  71% are married; 35% have children.   The median home sales price is $1,225,000.  The median age of the inhabitants of this zip code is 31.88 years; 38% have a bachelor degree and 25% have graduate degrees.  83% are white collar workers, mostly in service industries and most commute by car thirty minutes to their places of work.

This information was obtained from the Realist tax portion of our Multiple Listing Service and though believed to be accurate, is not guaranteed.

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Household Problems You Can Solve

There are problems around the house that you should certainly call a professional to fix, such as a leaking roof, but here are some solutions to common problems that you can fix on your own:

Problem:  Countertop scuff

You will need a crayon, a spatula knife, and a microwave-safe bowl.  Pick the crayon whose color comes closest to matching your countertop.  Peel off the paper, place it in the bowl and place in the microwave.  Pour the hot, melted crayon onto the scuff mark and work it into the indentation with the spatula knife.  Scrape off the excess with the spatula knife.  The crayon mixture will harden and dry quickly, erasing the countertop flaw.

Problem:  Loose cabinet hinge

You will need wooden matches, wood glue and a hammer.  Remove the cabinet hinge screw.  Dab wood glue on a match and stick it into the screw holes.  Tap it in with the hammer.  Break off the match part that is sticking out.  Let the glue dry for about four hours.  Twist the screw back into place.  The match piece will create a new solid base for the screw.

Problem:  Squeaky floor

You will need talcum powder.  Sprinkle the powder over the squeaky section and sweep it into the cracks.

Problem:  Stained bathtub

You will need cream of tartar, baking soda, lemon juice and a soft cloth.  Combine equal amounts of cream of tartar and baking soda with enough lemon juice to make a paste.  Rub the mixture into the stain with your fingers or a soft cloth.  Let it sit for a half hour, then rinse well with water.

Problem:  Drywall hole

You will need wire screen, a pencil, a joint knife, masking tape, sandpaper and drywall compound.  Cut the wire screen two inches larger than the hole.  Tie one end of the string to the pencil and thread the other end through the middle of the screen; bend the screen, and insert it and the pencil into the hole.  Pull the string until the screen is flat against the hole ( the pencil will help push the screen flat against the drywall) and hold it taut while you apply the drywall compound.  Tape the string to the wall to hold the screen in place as the compound dries.  Cut the string when dry.   Sand and smooth the compound with the joint knife.

Problem:  Torn window screen

You will need clear nail polish.  Slather the nail polish over the hole in the screen, both inside and outside.  Let it dry and no more bugs will sneak in.  (This is my favorite!)

Don’t List Your Home Until You Are Ready to Show It

I have noticed that many times in today’s market that a home is listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), but the property cannot be shown until after the first brokers open house or cannot be shown until a week from the date the listing was submitted.  The reason for this delay is often due to fact that the owner needs time to prepare the house for sale.   I urge all home sellers to be ready to show their homes on the date they are listed.  The way our MLS works is that agents with buyers for a house like yours enter their search parameters into the MLS and the buyer may be put on an automatic e-mailing system; when a house that matches a buyer’s criteria is listed on the MLS, he will be automatically notified, many times immediately after the listing was entered.  In today’s market there is a shortage of homes on the market in the Palos Verdes area and in the other South Bay cities.  Buyers who are looking for a home like yours are anxious to see it when it comes on the market.  Being told they must wait “takes the wind out of their sails”.

I recommend being totally prepared to show your home the minute it is put on the market.  There are possibly a number of prospects waiting and I believe your chances of getting top dollar for your home may be better shown to those motivated buyers than waiting to show until after brokers, who may not have buyers for your home, are allowed to stream through it.  If you list your home a week or so before you are ready to show it, the wording, “Will not be listed in the Multiple Listing Service until…” can be added into the listing contract and a waiver filed with our local association of Realtors.

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.