7 Myths All New Homeowners Fall For

You’ve signed the closing papers and have your new house keys in hand.

As you open the door to your exciting — and sometimes overwhelming — new life as a homeowner, steer clear of these seven common home ownership myths. Avoiding them will save you time, money, and protect your home value.

Myth #1: Only Homes In Warm Climates Need Roof Vents

Yes, roof vents do suck hot, humid air up and out through the roof. That act is called ventilation. Which is why you need roof vents if you live in a colder climate.

Huh?

Because ventilation pushes the warm away from your snow-covered roof and gutters. If warm air lingers under your roof, it could cause the snow to melt just enough to easily refreeze at night, melt again, refreeze (you get the picture) creating If you spot icicles hanging from your gutters, that’s a clue you might have ice dams forming.Read More In6 Chilling Facts About Icicles That All Homeowners Should Know ice dams instead of pretty, fluffy snow on your roof.

And when those ice dams melt come spring, that water could funnel into your insulation and walls causing mold, mildew — and a busted bank account.

Myth #2: Mowing Grass Extra Short Means Mowing Less Often

Garden gnome next to a home's lawnImage: Chris Clor/Getty

Save the grass — and your home’s good looks — by cutting your lawn no more than one-third the length of the blades at each mowing. Overall, aim to keep the grass between two-and-a-half and three inches high.

Myth #3: If My Water Main Springs a Leak, The Water Company Will Cover It

Nope. The city fixes the public water lines from the road to your property, but you’re responsible for the main that runs from your property line to your dwelling.

A broken water main can cost anywhere from $500 to a shocking $3,000 (or more!) to repair. Plus: all that water everywhere.

And you may have to If you alert your utility, and address the leak as quickly as possible, they may forgive all or part of the cost of the water that leaked. pay for that water, too, which also can run into the thousands, especially if you don’t address the leak quickly.

The most common cause of water main breaks is tree roots getting into older pipes. If you have mature trees with roots pushing up the sidewalk or driveway, that could be a hint that you might encounter a water main break — or sewer line break (yup, just like the water line, the sewer line on your property is your responsibility).

And don’t waste money on special water pipe insurance. It’s not worth it. You’re better off putting that money into a home maintenance account. Besides it only covers fresh-water pipes.

Myth #4: I Can Remove a Tree or Paint My Mailbox Any Color

Tree stump in a yardImage: David Crespo/Getty

What an HOA (or condo association or co-op board) may control is surprising. Things like pet ownership, outdoor clotheslines, or even (true story) parking in the driveway instead of your garage.

So check the rules. Because breaking them could cost you — by making you redo a remodel, or fining you.

But keep in mind that HOAs are there to protect your home value. They’ve got your back. Just stay in touch with the rules so you don’t make a costly mistake.

Myth #5: When The Pipes Clog, Pour In a Bottle of Drain Cleaner

While drain cleaners are quick and convenient, they can cause more (and bigger) problems than they fix. They don’t typically remove the entire clog, making it more likely to recur — and their caustic chemicals can wear away the insides of the pipes, causing leaks.

Instead, invest in a $15, manually-operated drain snake at the hardware store, or rent an electric one to clear bigger clogs. Then use screens to prevent food scraps and hair from getting in your pipes.

And keep everything but sewage and TP out of the toilets. Always.

Myth #6: My Neighbor’s Tree Fell In My Yard, So They’ll Pay For It

Well …  that depends. Your first step, no matter what, is to call your insurance company. They’ll restore your property and then decide whether to pursue the neighbor for reimbursement.

That may be tough, though, (and awkward) because in order to collect the insurance company needs proof that the neighbor knew the tree was old or damaged, and didn’t maintain it.

The good news is that your policy should cover tree damage caused by wind, water, and storms. It may also cover hauling away tree debris if it damaged your home.

Likewise, if your tree falls on a neighbor’s property, don’t rush over with a wad of cash. Offer your sympathies, and let them know you’ll wait to proceed until their insurance company contacts you.

And always keep receipts for trimming and other tree care, should you need to prove your diligence.

Myth #7: I’ll Save Time And Money By Reroofing Over Old Shingles

An old roof that needs to be replacedImage: Peter Horrox/Getty

But it’s not wise. A roof is like a cake of wooden sheathing beneath an icing of shingles. If the cake is spoiled, you can’t fix it (or even find out about it) by putting an extra layer of icing on top.

If there’s damage to your roof, get a new roof. Period.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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5 Strategic Ways for Millennials to Save Money

Putting money in piggy bank

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Today’s affordability pressures are holding back the most eager would-be home buyers. In a recent study by CoreLogic and RTI Research, young millennial renters under the age of 29 are the most enthusiastic demographic wanting to purchase a home in the next 12 months. However, one-third of millennial renters said they can’t afford the downpayment required to do so.

If the down payment is your potential clients’ biggest hurdle to buying, share some tips with them on how to meet their savings goals.

1. Investments. Investing may be widely used in higher income brackets and older demographics, but it’s often an intimidating practice for young adults just starting out. There’s also a misconception that you need a lot of money to begin investing, which simply isn’t true, Dave Nugent, head of investments at Wealthsimple, told Bustle. Wealthsimple, Swell Investing, Stash and other investment platforms are easy to use and allow users to start small.

2. Micro-tracking costs. Tracking every single monthly expense will help potential home buyers see precisely where their money is really going. This will also help them start to find unnecessary spending, according to Jennifer McDermott, consumer advocate at finder.com, in her interview with Business Insider.

3. Budgeting apps. Clients can take advantage of financial planning apps like Wela, Acorns, Mint, and Wally to alert them when they’re spending too much in one category and find additional ways to save.

4. Get rid of high-interest debt. Saving money is important, but if buyers are sitting on a mountain of high-interest debt, paying that down first is more crucial, according to Adam Jusko, founder and CEO of ProudMoney.com, in his Bustle interview.

5. Think twice before using credit cards. Consumers should never use a credit card like a bank account. If they can’t afford a purchase now or in the near future, “putting it on a credit card just kicks the can down the road,” Jason Reposa, the CEO and co-founder of MyBankTracker, told Bustle.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

 

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What You Need to Know Before Accepting – or Rejecting – an Offer

It’s not always about the money (except when it is).

And on that day, you’re going to face a question you may not have previously considered: How do you know if an offer is the best one for you?

Your listing agent will be a big help here. They will understand and help you suss out the merits and faults  of an offer because — believe it or not — it’s not always about price.

One buyer’s beautifully high offer might not look so good anymore, for example, if you discover that it’s contingent upon you moving out a month earlier than planned. Or, conversely, you may prefer speed over price, particularly if you’re moving to a new city.

Your listing agent will have a sense  of what you want financially and personally — and can help you determine whether the offer at hand satisfies those goals.

Before the first offer rolls in, here’s what you need to know about the offer evaluation process, including the main factors that should go into making a decision — accept or reject? — with your agent.

5 Important Things — Other Than Price — to Consider When Evaluating an Offer

Want to fetch top dollar for your home and walk away with as much money in your pocket as possible? Of course you do. You’ve gone through the time-consuming process of setting your asking pricestaging your home, promoting your listing, and preparing for open houses — and should be rewarded for your efforts.

Your first instinct may be to just pick the highest bid on the table. But the offer price isn’t the only thing worth considering.

When vetting offers, evaluate these five areas in addition to price:

1. The earnest money deposit. One important consideration when weighing an offer is the size of the earnest money deposit. The EMD is the sum of cash the buyer is offering to fork over when the sales agreement is signed to show the person is serious (i.e., “earnest”) about buying your home. This money, which is typically held by a title company, will go toward the buyer’s down payment at closing.

A standard EMD is 1% to 3% of the cost of the home (so, that would be $2,000 to $6,000 on a $200,000 house). If a buyer tries to back out of an offer for no good reason, the seller typically keeps the EMD. Therefore, the higher the earnest money, the stronger the offer.

2. The contingencies. Most offers have contingencies — provisions that must be met for the transaction to go through, or the buyer is entitled to walk away from the deal with their earnest money. Contracts with fewer contingencies are more likely to reach closing, and in a timely fashion.

Here are five of the most common contingencies:

  • Home inspection contingency. This gives the buyer the right to have the home professionally inspected and request repairs by a certain date — typically within five to seven days of the purchase agreement being signed. Depending on where you live, you may be required to make home repairs for structural defects, building code violations, or safety issues. Most repair requests are negotiable, though, so you have the option to haggle over which fixes you’re willing to make.
  • Appraisal contingency. For a mortgage lender to approve a home buyer’s loan, the home must pass appraisal — a process during which the property’s value is assessed by a neutral third party. The appraisal verifies that the home is worth at least enough money to cover the price of the mortgage. (In the event the buyer can’t make their mortgage payments, the lender can foreclose on the home and sell the property to recoup all — or at least some — of its costs.) Generally, the home buyer is responsible for paying for the appraisal, which typically takes place within 14 days of the sales contract being signed.
  • Financing contingency. Also called a loan contingency or mortgage contingency, a financing contingency protects the buyer in the event their lender doesn’t approve their mortgage. Although the timeframe for financing contingencies can vary, mortgage lenders report that buyers generally have about 21 days to obtain mortgage approval.
  • Sale of current home contingency. Depending on the buyer’s financial situation, their offer may be contingent on the sale of their home. Usually, buyers have a window of 30 to 90 days to sell their house before the sales agreement is voided. This contingency puts you, the seller, at a disadvantage because you can’t control whether the buyer sells their house in time.
  • Title contingency. Before approving a mortgage, a lender will require the borrower to “clear title” — a process in which the buyer’s title company reviews any potential easements or agreements that are on public record. This ensures the buyer is becoming the rightful owner of the property and the lender is protected from ownership claims over liens, fraudulent claims from previous owners, clerical problems in courthouse documents, or forged signatures.

These contingencies are standard for most real estate sales contracts. There’s one exception: the sale of current home contingency, which tends to be used more often in strong buyer’s markets, when buyers have greater leverage over sellers.

That being said, contingencies are always negotiable. (The caveat: Mortgage lenders require borrowers to have appraisal financing contingencies, or they won’t approve the loan.) It’s up to you to decide what you’re comfortable agreeing to, and your agent can help you make that decision.

3. The down payment. Depending on the type of mortgage, the buyer must make a down payment on the house — and the size of that down payment can affect the strength of the offer. In most cases, a buyer’s down payment amount is related to the home loan they’re taking out. Your chief concern as a seller, of course, is for the transaction to close — and for that to happen, the buyer’s mortgage has be approved.

Generally, a larger down payment signals the buyer’s financial wherewithal to complete the sale. The average down payment, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, is 10%. Some mortgage products, such as FHA and VA loans, allow for even lower down payments.

If, by chance, the appraisal comes in higher than your contract’s sale price, the buyer with a higher down payment would more likely be able to cover the difference with the large amount of cash they have available.

4. The all-cash offer. The more cash the buyer plunks down, the more likely the lender is to approve their loan. That’s why an all-cash offer is ideal for both parties. The buyer doesn’t have to fulfill an appraisal contingency — whereby their lender has the home appraised to make sure the property value is large enough to cover the mortgage — or a financing contingency, which requires buyers to obtain mortgage approval within a certain number of days. As always, having a sales contract with fewer contingencies means there are fewer ways for the deal to fall through.

5. The closing date. Settlement, or “closing,” is the day when both parties sign the final paperwork and make the sale official. Typically, the whole process — from accepting an offer to closing — takes between 30 and 60 days; however, the average closing time is 42 days, according to a report from mortgage software company Ellie Mae.

Three days before closing, the buyer receives a closing disclosure from the lender, which he compares with the loan estimate he received when he applied for the loan. If there are material differences between the buyer’s loan estimate and closing disclosure, the closing can’t happen until those amounts are reviewed and approved. But this is rare.

Some transactions can take more time, depending on the buyer’s financing. For example, the average closing time for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan is 43 days, according to Ellie Mae.

Whether you want a slow or quick settlement will depend on your circumstances. If you’ve already purchased your next home, for instance, you probably want to close as soon as possible. On the other hand, you may want a longer closing period — say, 60 days — if you need the proceeds from the sale to purchase your new home.

When Should You Make a Counteroffer?

Depending on the circumstances, you may be in the position to make a counteroffer. But every transaction is different, based on the particular market conditions and your home. In some circumstances, you can be gutsy with your counteroffer. In others, it might serve your goals better to give in to the buyer’s demands. Your agent can provide helpful insight about when and why a counteroffer will be the right thing for you.

For instance: If you’re in a seller’s market — meaning that homes are selling quickly and for more than the asking prices — and you received multiple offers, your agent may recommend you counteroffer with an amount higher than you would have in a buyer’s market.

If you choose to write a counteroffer, your agent will negotiate on your behalf to make sure you get the best deal for you.

A caveat: In many states sellers can’t legally make a counteroffer to more than one buyer at the same time, since they’re obligated to sign a purchase agreement if a buyer accepts the new offer.

When Does an Offer Become a Contract?

In a nutshell, a deal is under contract when the buyer’s offer (or seller’s counteroffer) is agreed upon and signed by both parties. At that point, the clock starts ticking for the home buyer’s contingencies — and for the sweet moment when the cash — and home — is yours.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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Home Searches Are Stretching on Longer

Hourglass with blue sand running out in front of a calendar

© BrianAJackson – iStock / Getty Images Plus

The two chief reasons why home buyers said their search was taking so long was not being able to find a home with the features they want (45%) and having difficulty finding one at a price they could afford (43%).

The NAHB survey also asked prospective buyers what they would do if they still couldn’t find a suitable home in the months ahead. Fifty-five percent said they would continue to look for the “right” home in their same preferred location; 34 percent said they might expand their search area; 24 percent might be willing to accept a smaller or older home; and 19 percent may up their budget to buy a more expensive home.

But one thing the majority of prospective buyers agreed on: They wouldn’t give up. In fact, only 16 percent said they would end their search if they didn’t find a home soon. This suggests “that despite the difficulties and delays, most prospective buyers will press ahead undeterred in their homeownership goal,” writes Rose Quint, the builder trade group’s assistant vice president for survey research, at the NAHB’s Eye on Housing blog.

prospective buyers surveyed in the second quarter said they’d been trying to find the right home for three months or longer.

© National Association of Home Builders

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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The 7 Most Financially Savvy Home Upgrades You Can Make

Enjoy your home more today — and sell it for the best price tomorrow.

Here are seven affordable  home improvement projects that’ll help you enjoy your home more today and provide excellent financial return in the future.

#1 Add the Finishing Touch of Molding

Decorative molding in a homeImage: Crazy Wonderful

Plus, wood moldings come in hundreds of options — from simple to ornate — that you can stain, paint, or leave natural.

You can also find moldings in flexible materials, such as foam, that make installation a whole lot easier. Some moldings even include lighting that casts a soft, ambient glow.

And at $1.50 per foot if you DIY it, or $8 per foot if you hire, it’s a no-brainer in terms of personalizing your home while adding value. (Although we don’t recommend DIY unless you’ve got above-par mitering skills.)

A few tips about molding:

Be careful about proportions. If your ceiling height is 9 feet or less, go with simpler styles to avoid overwhelming the room.

Place a chair railing at one-third the distance of the ceiling height. Chair railing placed incorrectly can make a room seem out of proportion.

Don’t forget entryways, doors, and windows: Bump up the trim around these areas to give rooms a completed and expensive feel.

Add a pop of color for bright curb appeal and ROI.

#2 Hang Quality Ceiling Fans

If your ceiling fans are old and outdated, new ones (coupled with a fresh paint job and crown molding) could give your rooms a refreshing update while saving money.

Some tips about ceiling fans:

  • Hang 7 to 8 feet above the floor.
  • If you’ve got a low ceiling, buy a hugger ceiling fan that’s flush-mounted.
  • Go for the biggest Energy Star-rated fan that will fit the space.
  • Choose quality. You’ll get better cooling results, less noise, and good looks at a digestible price point of $200 to $600.

#3 Plant Some Trees

Apple tree outside of a house next to a patioImage: M. Williams

Say what? Adding trees doesn’t instantly pop into your head when you think of adding value to your home. But trees are moneymakers that get better with age.

A mature tree could be worth between $1,000 to $10,000, says the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers. A 16-inch silver maple could be worth $2,562, according to a formula worked out by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service.

In urban areas, money really does grow on trees. A recent study of home sales by the Pacific Northwest Research Station of Portland showed that street trees growing in front of or near a house boosted its sale price by an average of $8,870 and shaved two days off its time on the market.

There’s more. Trees also:

  • Save $100 to $250 annually in energy costs
  • Lower stress
  • Prevent erosion from downpours and roof runoff
  • Protect your home from wind, rain, and sun

#4 Install a Deck or Patio

Back yard patio in the duskImage: Suzanne Davis at bebehblog

But don’t go crazy and trick out your outdoor space with high-end amenities, like an outdoor kitchen — especially if you’d be the only one on the block with one. When it’s time to sell, you won’t get back much — if any — of your investment on outdoor kitchens and other high-end amenities. Instead, keep it simple and functional to see a return on investment.

A professionally installed deck costs about $10,000 to install, but if you DIY it, you’ll save more than half that while adding to your equity.

Don’t skimp on deck lighting. It can make all the difference in functionality and beautification.

#5 Upgrade Your Insulation

It’s not as sexy as a kitchen remodel, but it doesn’t cost as much either ($65,000 vs $2,100).

Plus, you’ll save all year long on your utility bills. Win-win!

#6 Add Some Creative Storage

We don’t have to sell you on the value of storage and built-in organization. Since when have you heard someone complain about too much storage? Never, we bet.

Adding storage is a no-brainer, but it does take a little brainpower to find your home’s hidden storage.

Here are a few ways to think outside of the toy box:

  • Open drywall to create storage cubbies between your wall’s studs.
  • Install platform storage that hangs from your garage ceiling.
  • Even stairs can give you more storage. One clever mom repurposed an old chest of drawers and created storage within a basement staircase.

#7 Install Landscape Lighting

Exterior lighting makes your home shine in the evening, accents features you like most about your house, and helps keep burglars away. Installing motion-detecting lights can even lower some homeowners’ insurance premiums.

Tips:

  • Place accent lights under your favorite trees to show off your landscaping’s top earners.
  • Put them on a timer so you don’t waste energy running them during the day.
  • Choose a warm, white light. It’ll make your home look and feel welcoming.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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15 More States Now Can Do Fully Digital Home Closings

A new partnership between digital notary platform Notarize and Title Resources, a national title company, is ushering in faster and fully digital closings on real estate transactions in a handful of states. Consumers are able to complete a 100 percent digital closing process in 15 states, where they won’t have to be present at the closing table.

Many lenders and title companies now offer digital applications and underwriting processes. However, for the most part, buyers are still required to be present to have a notary public come on settlement day.

The company Notarize allows consumers to have their documents notarized via webcam. Notarize was part of the 2017 REach Accelerator program through Second Century Ventures, a strategic investment arm of the National Association of REALTORS® that mentors start-up firms and offers them wide exposure within the real estate industry. Earlier this year, Second Century Ventures also announced it was making a strategic investment in Notarize, following the company’s participation in the REach Accelerator program.

More than 60 percent of real estate professionals surveyed by NAR and Notarize earlier this year reported a closing last year that was delayed or canceled due to one of the parties not being able to be present. Thirty percent of respondents reported anywhere between 5 to 25 percent of their closings are delayed or canceled for this reason.

The new states announced under the new partnership between Notarize and Title Resources are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.

That said, regulations over electronic notarizations can vary by county. As such, not every buyer in these states may be able to take part in a fully digital closing and notarized process.

“Understanding the value technology can bring to all participants of a real estate transaction, our organization has prioritized investing in technologies like Notarize that streamline complex processes and deliver newfound convenience,” says Scott McCall, CEO of Title Resources. “By reducing paper, time and human error, and allowing customers to close anytime, anywhere, on their terms, we are empowering our agents to deliver an exceptional customer experience.”

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

 

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10 Tricks for Hosting an Open House That Make Buyers Say “OMG, Wow!”

Here’s what you can do to get your home ready for its big reveal.

An open house is their opportunity to give your house a whirl. To wiggle the light switches. To admire the crown molding. To, y’know, awkwardly ask to use the bathroom. (Which, by the way, savvy buyers will totally do — because they’ll want to test how the water pressure holds up when they give the toilet a flush.)

For you, seller, an open house is a chance to throw open the doors. To dazzle buyers with the big reveal. To make someone fall head over heels for your charming abode.

These tricks can help you make your open house a massive hit.

1. Time It Right

Your agent will typically hold an open house for two to three hours between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, when buyers have time and flexibility away from their jobs. To maximize your foot traffic, avoid having your open house during holidays, big community events (marathon days, for example), or unofficial “holidays” like Super Bowl Sunday.

2. Let Your Agent Take the Lead

In your own personal Open House Show, your real estate agent has two roles. To you, they are the director, giving you instructions on how to prepare for open house day, and what to do during the event. To buyers, your agent is the host. They will welcome viewers, introduce your home’s impressive features, and take questions from the audience.

Your job is to make your house look like a million bucks — or more like $300,000, depending on your price range. (Tips on cleaning and spiffing up your home in a moment.)

The job of your agent, an expert on your local real estate market and what makes buyers tick, is to take care of the rest. That will include:

  • Staging your home, or recommending a reputable stager that you can hire
  • Hosting the open house
  • Communicating with home buyers and buyers’ agents
  • Receiving feedback during the open house and communicating that feedback to you

Your agent will also recommend that, actually, you should probably leave while they show off your house to strangers, who will look under your sinks and peek into your closets. Why should you heed that advice? Because it makes good business sense for you.

  1. A home owner’s presence can make it awkward for the buyer. Buyers want to make assessments on their own, without worrying about how the seller might react or try to influence them.
  2. Buyers may have trouble picturing themselves living in the house when the owner is right there, say, serving lemonade in the kitchen.
  3. Sometimes sellers say too much. You might point out something that you think is a nice feature or amenity of your home, when it’s something that might turn off a buyer. (That busy arcade bar down the block may have been your favorite place to meet friends and play Pac-Man during weekends, but it could be a deal breaker for a buyer looking for a peaceful block.) You might blurt out something that could tip your negotiating hand, like how motivated you are to sell (soon!), or that you always wanted to update the retro kitchen — but just never got around to it.

The last things you want buyers to think after the open house is, “This place needs work,” or “This seller is desperate — I have the upper hand.” So, let your agent take the lead. This won’t be their first rodeo. They know the nuanced ways to show your home in its best light so that buyers will oooh and ahhh. They also know how to strategically answer questions from buyers to help set you up for success later, during negotiation.

Your agent can also stage a broker’s open house on your behalf. Unlike standard open houses — where buyers can stop by — at broker’s open houses, only real estate agents and other industry professionals are invited to attend. Generally, a broker’s open is held within the first few days of a house being put on the market. Complimentary lunch is often served as an incentive to get more people to show up.

There are two main benefits of having a broker’s open house:

  1. It gives your listing more exposure.
  2. It allows you to get feedback from real estate agents on your home.

If your house “shows well,” as they say in the industry, the agents who toured your home may recommend it to one (or more) of their buyer clients. If your home doesn’t get rave reviews, your agent will relay that feedback to you, and may suggest improvements before the next open house, such as staging certain rooms.

3. Try Some Simple Staging

You want your home to look its best while it’s on the market — especially during the open house. Many agents say the best way to primp your home for its big day is to stage it.

Depending on what your agent recommends, staging may involve renting new furniture or decor for certain rooms in your home. There are also some easy staging tricks you can try on the day of your open house. Consider displaying a bouquet of fresh flowers in the entryway, setting your dining room table to make it look inviting, or turning on your outdoor sprinklers shortly before visitors arrive to make your lawn sparkle.

4. Clean Like Crazy

When your home is on the market, you need to keep it in showing shape — not only for the open house, but also for any scheduled showings with buyers. Even though you’ve already (hopefully) cleaned and organized your home for its listing photos, there’s a good chance you’ve let clutter or dust pile up again, especially if you have children or pets.

Make sure appliances, windows, and mirrors are fingerprint-free. Clean and organize your closets, cabinets, and under the sinks (during the open house, buyers are allowed to be nosy). Clear every bit of clutter and get rid of it or put it in storage.

Don’t have the bandwidth to do a deep clean? Hire a house cleaning service to do the work for you. A professional cleaning service costs around $115 to $230 on average. If you’re not sure about which service to hire, ask your agent to recommend cleaners.

5. Do a Smell Check

If buyers get a whiff of something funky, they’re going to run — not walk — out of your open house. A week prior to the open house, ask your agent or a neighbor to do an honest, no-holds-barred smell check. Some possible smell solutions:

  • If your house has the aroma of your beloved pet(s), deep clean the carpets, relocate the litter box, and take steps to eliminate all olfactory traces of Fluffy.
  • If the basement is dank and musty, buy a dehumidifier to remove air moisture and run a fan to circulate the air.
  • If the kitchen drain stinks, drop in a cup of baking soda, then two cups of white vinegar. Enjoy the bubbling, then let the mixture sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Finally run hot water for 15 to 30 seconds to flush the odor.

6. Put Your Pictures (and Valuables) Away

You want your home to feel cozy and inviting, but not like someone specific (you, for example) is living there. Personal belongings such as family photos, awards, and religious art can distract home buyers and make it harder for them to imagine themselves living in your home. You don’t have to go overboard — the idea isn’t to eliminate every trace of yourself — but consider temporarily hiding some pictures and personal effects out of sight during the open house.

There’s a safety element to stowing your personal belongings, too: Though your agent will be at the open house, you’re inviting strangers into your home.

  • Securely store checkbooks, jewelry, prescription medications, family heirlooms, and other valuables.
  • Alert your neighbors to your open house date — as a courtesy, but also to ask that they let you know if they notice any suspicious activity, in the unlikely event suspicious activity occurs.
  • Make sure your agent signs visitors in, so that you have a record of who was in your house. (Bonus: With the sign-in sheet, your agent can follow up with buyers to find out if anyone is interested in making an offer.)
  • Lock windows and doors after the open house.

We’re not suggesting that visitors have any intention other than potentially buying your home. It’s just a good idea, generally speaking, to keep your home secure.

7. Let the Light In

Light doesn’t only (literally) brighten up your space. It also makes rooms look and feel larger. On open house day, open all curtains and blinds to let natural light in. (And in the week before the open house, make sure curtains and blinds are squeaky clean.)

Replace every single burnt-out light bulb in and outside the home — buyers should see a working light every time they flip a switch.

8. Give Your House Some Extra Curb Appeal

Buyers will judge your house on its outsides. So make last-minute improvements to turn up your home’s Landscape upgrades — adding a walkway, plants, edging, patio — recoup more of their costs at resale than even popular interior projects, like kitchen and bath remodels, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® “Remodeling Impact Report.” curb appeal . Cut the grass, prune the trees, and trim the shrubs. Touch up porch fixtures and furniture with a little paint. Heck, paint the whole porch, if your budget allows. Plant new shrubs or set out potted flowers.

Small, relatively low-budget outdoor enhancements will make your home look all the more enticing to buyers — and can add some last-minute value to its price.

9. Draw Attention to Your Home’s Best Features

After your agent signs in and welcomes buyers to your home, they typically will have some time to wander around on their own. Even though you won’t be there, you can still draw visitors’ attention to features in your home that you’d like to highlight.

Prior to the open house, post (friendly, aesthetically pleasing) signs around the house with calls to action such as, “look down, new hardwood floors,” or “gas fireplace, push this button.” Buyers will likely appreciate the help, and that they’re working with a conscientious seller.

10. Serve Refreshments

Serving warm cookies or freshly baked brownies at an open house is one of the oldest tricks in the book. That’s because it works: Buyers love being greeted with a sweet treat and a cold or warm beverage depending on the time of year. Refreshments also give people a reason to stay longer: No one will rush off because they’re hungry or thirsty.

Your agent may even have relationships with a local cafe or bakery, which might offer snacks for free advertising at the open house.

What to Do During and After the Open House

Once you’ve done everything you can to make your house look and feel amazing to buyers — and your agent is on site to assume their hosting duties — the time during your open house is yours to enjoy. Go to the park, get a three-course lunch, do whatever you like as long as you’re free to take calls.

Your agent may need to get in touch with questions, so make sure you’re available and have good cell phone reception. (A movie, for example, is not a great activity for you during the open house for that reason.)

After the open house ends, your agent will share with you what questions buyers asked and any comments they overheard by visitors. Buyers’ remarks will likely run the gamut, including some that could be negative. (“Why is the closet such a mess,” for example.)

The important thing is to stay open to buyers’ feedback, and to follow your agent’s advice about how to respond. Based on buyers’ reactions, your agent may recommend that you make certain repairs, do some painting, or invest in additional staging before your next open house. Whatever they advise, it’s not personal — it’s just the business of selling your home.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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8 Ways to Get Rid of Awful Pet Smells That Turn Off Buyers

You probably only think you’ve eliminated pet odors. Here’s how to make sure.

If your agent holds her nose, here’s how to get rid of the smell:

#1 Air Out Your House

While you’re cleaning, throw open all the windows in your home to allow fresh air to circulate and sweep out unpleasant scents.

Once your house is free of pet odors, do what you can to keep the smells from returning. Crate your dog when you’re out or keep it outdoors. Limit the cat to one floor or room, if possible. Remove or replace pet bedding.

#2 Scrub Thoroughly

Scrub bare floors and walls soiled by pets with vinegar, wood floor cleaner, or an odor-neutralizing product, which you can purchase at a pet supply store for $10 to $25.

Try a 1:9 bleach-to-water solution on surfaces it won’t damage, like cement floors or walls.

Got a stubborn pet odors covering a large area? You may have to spend several hundred dollars to hire a service that specializes in hard-to-clean stains.

#3 Wash Your Drapes and Upholstery

Pet odors seep into fabrics. Launder, steam clean, or dry clean all your fabric window coverings. Steam clean upholstered furniture.

Either buy a steam cleaner designed to remove pet hair for around $200 and do the job yourself, or pay a pro. You’ll spend about $40 for an upholstered chair, $100 for a sofa, and $7 for each dining room chair if a pro does your cleaning.

#4 Clean Your Carpets

Shampoo your carpets and rugs, or have professionals do the job for $25 to $50 per room, depending on their size and the level of filth embedded in them. The cleaner will try to sell you deodorizing treatments. You’ll know if you need to spend the extra money on those after the carpet dries and you have a friend perform a sniff test.

If deodorizing doesn’t remove the pet odor from your home, the carpets and padding will have to go. Once you tear them out, scrub the subfloor with vinegar or an odor-removing product, and install new padding and carpeting. Unless the smell is in the subfloor, in which case that goes next.

#5 Paint, Replace, or Seal Walls

When heavy-duty cleaners haven’t eradicated smells in drywall, plaster, or woodwork, add a fresh coat of paint or stain, or replace the drywall or wood altogether.

On brick and cement, apply a sealant appropriate for the surface for $25 to $100. That may smother and seal in the odor, keeping it from reemerging.

#6 Place Potpourri or Scented Candles in Strategic Locations

Put a bow on your deep clean with potpourri and scented candles. Don’t go overboard and turn off buyers sensitive to perfumes. Simply place a bowl of mild potpourri in your foyer to create a warm first impression, and add other mild scents to the kitchen and bathrooms.

#7 Control Urine Smells

If your dog uses indoor pee pads, put down a new pad each time the dog goes. Throw them away outside in a trash can with a tight lid. Remove even clean pads from view before each showing.

Replace kitty litter daily, rather than scooping used litter clumps, and sweep up around the litter box. Hide the litter box before each showing.

#8 Relocate Pets

If your dog or cat has a best friend it can stay with while you’re selling your home (and you can stand to be separated from your pet), consider sending your pet on a temporary vacation. If pets have to stay, remove them from the house for showings and put away their dishes, towels, and toys.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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4 Renovation Myths Reality TV Shows Propagate

Home improvement reality television shows have long misguided consumers about the renovation process. You likely have some clients who are obsessed with channels such as HGTV, and they may have developed some common misunderstandings about the real time and effort it takes to undergo remodeling a home. Fox News recently highlighted several myths these shows tend to generate.

The answer to creating more space is always to knock down walls. Designers on television often make major changes to floor plans to increase the dramatic effect. But the truth is large undertakings such as removing walls aren’t always necessary—or wise. “When someone buys a 1990s-era home—which [usually were] built quickly and on the cheap—we can’t rip out walls,” Teris Pantazes, a Baltimore contractor, told Fox News. “It’s important for a home to have good bones. I have been in this business for a long time, but I’m not an engineer. I still have customers question me, and I see them waste tons of money to verify what I already told them.”

A well-done remodeling project can be completed in a day. Viewers may forget that fitting an entire narrative into a 30- or 60-minute show requires editing out some—or most—of the actual renovation process. Your clients may falsely believe real-life work can be done as quickly as it appears on TV. “The number one problem with real estate television shows is that they significantly shorten the amount of time that almost anything takes for the purpose of advancing the narrative,” says Kevin Deselms, a sales associate with RE/MAX Alliance in Golden, Colo. That can mislead viewers to expect instant results.

The permit process is a simple, insignificant part of the equation. Remodeling, especially when it involves additions to the home, often requires securing building permits from the local government—which can significantly slow the timeline of a project. “HGTV shows sometimes discuss the need for permits, but they don’t often show how this process can slow the entire project,” says Jeffrey A. Hensel of North Coast Financial Inc. Waiting for permit approval can increase time and budget by 50 percent, he says.

For higher ROI, go bigger with renovations. “HGTV shows like to feature flips with full kitchen and bath remodels because the before-and-after shots make for more compelling viewing,” Bobby Montagne, CEO of Walnut Street Finance, told Fox News. “In fact, aspiring fix-and-flippers are often better off doing small-scale renovations that just need carpet, paint, and some freshening up—especially for their first projects.”

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

 

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