The Everything Guide to Buying Your First Home

How to find exactly what you want, and how to work with the experts who’ll help you get it.

So you’re thinking about buying your first home. Your very own house (and mortgage). A place to call — and make — your own.

It’s a big move, literally and figuratively. Buying a house requires a serious amount of money and time. The journey isn’t always easy. It isn’t always intuitive. But when you get the keys to your new home — that can be one of the most rewarding feelings pretty much ever.

The key to getting there? Knowing the home-buying journey. Knowing what tools are at your disposal. And most importantly? Creating relationships with experts who can help you get the job done.

That’s where this guide comes in. We’ll show you not only the major steps you’ll take during the home-buying process, but also explain the relationships and experts you’ll need along the way.

You ready to live the dream? Here we go.

Do Your Homework

Oh sure, everybody wants to jump right into open houses. But before you even set foot into a foyer, you should identify your list of “musts” and “wants.” This list is an inventory of priorities for your search. And there’s so much to decide: Price, housing type, neighborhood, and school district — just to name a few.

If you’re planning to buy a home with a partner (in life or in real estate), you want to be on the same page while buying a house. If you’re not, you’ll be less able to give agents or lenders the information they need to help you. And you risk wasting time viewing homes you can’t afford — or don’t even want in the first place.

Start Shopping

Once you know what you’re looking for, the next step is to start looking at listings and housing information online. (This part? You’re going to crush it.)

Find a Great Agent

Your relationship with your real estate agent is the foundation of the home-buying process. (And your agent = your rock.) He or she is the first expert you’ll meet on your journey, and the one you’ll rely on most. That’s why it’s important to interview agents and find the agent who is right for your specific needs.

Choose a Lender

Once you’ve found your agent (AKA, your new best friend), ask him or her to recommend at least three mortgage lenders that meet your financial needs. This is another big step, as you’ll be working with your lender closely throughout the home-buying process.

Pick a Loan

Once you’ve decided on a lender (or mortgage broker), you’ll work with your loan agent to determine which mortgage is right for you. You’ll consider the percentage of your income you want to spend on your new house, and you’ll provide the lender with paperwork showing proof of income, employment status, and other important financials. If all goes well (fingers crossed) you’ll be pre-approved for a loan at a certain amount. (Sweet.)

Visit Open Houses & Look Around

Now that you have both an agent who knows your housing preferences and a budget — and a lender to finance a house within that budget —it’s time to get serious about viewing homes. Your agent will provide listings you may like based on your parameters (price range, ZIP codes, features), and will also help you determine the quality of listings you find online. Then comes the fun part: Open houses and private showings, which give you the unique opportunity to evaluate properties in a way you can’t online.

Make an Offer

Once you find the home you want to buy, you’ll work with your agent to craft an offer that not only specifies the price you’re willing to pay but also the proposed settlement date and contingencies — other conditions that must be agreed upon by both parties, such as giving you the ability to do a home inspection and request repairs.

Negotiate, Negotiate

Making an offer can feel like an emotional precipice, almost like asking someone out on a date. Do they like me? Am I good enough? Will they say yes? It’s stressful! Some home sellers simply accept the best offer they receive, but many sellers make a counteroffer. If that happens, it’s up to you to decide whether you want your agent to negotiate with the seller  or walk away. This is an area where your agent can provide real value by using their expert negotiating skills to haggle on your behalf and nab you the best deal.

Get the Place Inspected

If your offer is accepted, then you’ll sign a contract. Most sales contracts include a home inspection contingency, which means you’ll hire a licensed or certified home inspector to inspect the home for needed repairs, and then ask the seller to have those repairs made. This mitigates your risk of buying a house that has major issues lurking beneath the surface, like mold or cracks in the foundation. (No one wants that.)

Ace the Appraisal

When you offer to buy a home, your lender will need to have the home appraised to make sure the property value is enough to cover the mortgage. If the home appraises close to the agreed-upon purchase price, you’re one step closer to settlement — but a low appraisal can add a wrinkle. Not one you can’t deal with.

Close the Deal

The last stage of the home-buying process is settlement, or closing. This is when you sign the final ownership and insurance paperwork and make this whole thing official.

When it’s all said and done — break out the rosé. You’ll have the keys to your new home!

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

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5 Things That Will Totally Ruin Your Bathroom Remodel

There is one paint color you must avoid at all costs (see #5)

A clean, well-planned, and stunning bathroom is every homeowner’s goal. But creating it can be a bit of a sticky wicket.

All that water, humidity, and artificial lighting, and those tight corners make the space a real challenge. Don’t make it worse by wasting money on materials that won’t withstand the task or will need replacing when they don’t work out. Dodge bad bathroom decisions by avoiding these five things:

#1 Wallpaper

Bathroom with red wallpaperImage: Iriana Shiyan/Shutterstock

In a high-steam area such as a bathroom, wallpaper may start to peel in a few years, according to some designers. In fact, steam is used to strip old wallpaper off walls.

Despite the many photos of stylish, wallpapered bathrooms in magazines, unless it’s a half-bath or guest bath that’s seldom used, skip it. Really want the unique look wallpaper

#2 Laminate Flooring

Love the look and affordability of laminate flooring? Use it in another room. Water and laminate floors don’t mix. Even tiny amounts of water will seep between the planks, causing them to expand, peel, swell, and lift from the floor.

Even laminate manufacturers advise against installing in high moisture areas. The good news? There are plenty of other products out there that work extremely well in bathrooms. Take another look at linoleum. It’s eco-friendly, budget-friendly, and comes in a wide variety of looks.

#3 Slippery or Glossy Tile or Stone

Bathroom with a slippery tile floorImage: Iriana Shiyan/Shutterstock

Many ceramic, porcelain, and stone floors will become slippery in wet conditions. The more polished a tile, the more likely it will become slippery when wet.

Solution: Select your bathroom floor surface carefully, vetting each against slippery conditions. Look for tiles certified to meet slip-resistance standards specified by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

#4 Wall-to-Wall Carpet

Man removing carpet from a home bathroomImage: Michelle Roth Writes

If you really want the cozy touch of carpet in the bathroom, fluffy bath mats add color and comfort — and can be regularly laundered.

#5 Yellow Paint

When selecting paint colors, remember that color will appear more intense on your bathroom walls than it would in most other rooms, especially if the bathroom relies heavily on artificial lighting.

“In that smaller space, where the mirror multiplies the impact of the lighting, the walls tend to reflect and magnify color from other walls,” says Amy Bell, an interior decorator and owner of Red Chair Home Interiors in Cary, N.C. Be especially wary of yellow or other colors that contain yellow — even neutrals — as yellow can feel brash in a bathroom, and you won’t like what you see in the mirror. Instead, opt for grays with a hint of green or blue, which can feel spa-like.

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

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10 Bathroom Materials That’ll Withstand Any Abuse

We don’t ask much from bathroom surfaces.

Just that they be beautiful and withstand every cleaning chemical invented, steamy showers, piles of damp towels, and, did we mention, tantrum-induced line-drives with bath toys?

Oh, and they should be easy to clean. That’s all.

So what materials can live up to the ask? We asked the experts. Here are 10 they recommend:

#1 Engineered Stone Countertop

Dying for a white marble countertop? Join the club. But get ready to seal, reseal, and reseal. Then repeat. Year after year.

Or, go for engineered stone, which can mimic marble (and other stone materials) for about the same cost, but minus the hassle. It’s non-porous so it resists bacteria, mold, stains, and water damage better than the real thing. Better! And it never needs sealing!

#2 Glazed Porcelain Tile Floor

It won’t hold onto water like laminate and porous materials, and porcelain tiles glazed with glass are nearly stain-proof — as are today’s high-quality epoxy and urethane grouts, which don’t require sealing.

#3 Vinyl Floor

Time to rethink vinyl. Hear us out. Luxury vinyl tiles, which mimic stone and wood, are awesome at resisting moisture.

Other affordable options like laminate just can’t keep up. Plus, vinyl sheets are so large, you can cover a small bath without a single seam or grout line, making it easy on the eye and easier to keep clean.

#4 Plywood Cabinets

Yup. We said plywood. But today’s “grade A” offering isn’t your mother’s plywood. (Or your Swedish cousin’s, which is actually particleboard.)

Composed of pressed layers of alder, birch, or cedar, “grade A” plywood (also known as furniture-grade) remains more stable in the face of moisture than solid wood, which will shrink and swell in response to bathroom humidity (causing cracks in painted surfaces and even warped panels).

As for the finish, you don’t need to spring for anything fancy: The factory finish applied to cabinetry nowadays will hold up to the moisture. Isn’t living in the future great?

#5 Tempered Glass Shower Doors

While you need your glass to be tempered for safety, you don’t need a special spot-resistant treatment or upgraded texture to have crystal-clear shower doors.

“Glass is easy to clean,” says Ebony Stephenson, a certified kitchen and bath designer. “I tell my clients, ‘I’ll give you a squeegee and you can save $2,000. It’s a lot of money when you can just wipe off your glass.’” So definitely get tempered glass, but skip the add-on treatments that promise no spots.

#6 Glossy or Semi-Glossy Paint

Mold and mildew are real concerns, even on the walls, thanks to bathroom humidity.  So paint sheen matters.

A full-on glossy paint has a shiny, sealed surface that blocks out moisture and wipes clear of residue, say from hairspray, without leaving a mark like a matte finish will. But the sheen can be a bit overbearing on anything more than trim, and calls attention to wall flaws.

A semi-glossy finish will hold up nearly as well to cleaning and moisture, without calling quite as much attention to bumps, dents, and other imperfections.

#7 Cast Iron Tub

A tub forged from molded liquid iron is likely going to be the toughest thing in your house — maybe even your neighborhood, depending on where you live.

You may need extra support for your floor (and your pocketbook) to bring it home, but cast iron won’t chip, scratch, or dent like fiberglass, acrylic, and even porcelain can.

This tub is your forever tub. And probably your children’s forever tub. And their kids’.

#8 Porcelain-on-Steel Tub

Don’t let its acronym, POS, misguide you: Heat-fused enamel on steel will resist corrosion, abrasion, and chipping better than synthetic materials, and it is much more affordable than cast iron.

#9 Acrylic Panel Shower Walls

Despite their lightweight, acrylic wall panels, often called shower surrounds, are not lightweights. They resist chipping, cracking, and peeling, and are much easier to maintain than stone tiles or slabs. Unlike tile, they nail directly to wall studs or glue to the wallboards, so they don’t require grout. Acrylic is tougher than fiberglass and colored all the way through — so it’s less likely to scratch, and even a deep cut won’t be as obvious. They’re also more affordable than tile and available in textured patterns, if you want to look like you splurged on a fancy design.

#10 Stainless Steel Sink

Stainless: not just for kitchens anymore. Corrosion- and stain-resistant, it won’t melt under a hot curling iron like acrylic can, and won’t dent or chip like porcelain if nail clippers plummet down from the medicine cabinet.

And it’s the perfect match for the industrial-chic look that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

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

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Tech Up Your Style


By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

ces-logoThe mega consumer electronic showcase, CES, lands in Las Vegas this week. It may not be the place you typically go to for décor trends, but technology is having an undeniable influence in home design, like see-through refrigerators and smart lighting.

Consumers look to you for expertise too. Forty-two percent of Americans say they would look to their sales agent to provide suggestions about how staging their home with smart home products could impact the sale of their home, according to a newly released Coldwell Banker Real Estate survey of more than 3,000 Americans.

So what do we see that has potential this year to spice up some designs? Here are a few picks from CES 2018.

Accent Wall Light Show


Photo credit: Nanoleaf

Photo credit: Nanoleaf

Nanoleaf’s color-changing Aurora light panels would make for an attention-getting accent wall in small or big doses. Connect them in any configuration you like. They just stick to the walls. The panels change colors, and you can sync the lights to music and also with one of your AI’s, Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant. The panels are touch-sensitive so with a tap you can turn them on and off, dim them, or change the color.

Statement Refrigerators

Refrigerators just keep getting smarter. LG’s new InstaView ThinQ smart refrigerator features a 29-inch touchscreen that becomes transparent if you knock on it twice. You can also use the touchscreen to manage your food and get automatic reminders when items are running low.

Photo credit: LG

Photo credit: LG

Samsung has a similar model in appearance with its 2018 version of its Family Hub smart refrigerator. This year’s model offers support for Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant to handle voice commands. It can connect to other third-party devices for the smart home too. So you can actually view what’s happening outside your front door from your refrigerator door.

Photo credit: Samsung

Photo credit: Samsung

Notice both the Samsung and LG models are both featured in black stainless, which we still believe will be a growing competitor to traditional stainless steel.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall … 

Photo credit: Kohler

Photo credit: Kohler

Check out this smart mirror. Kohler is introducing a new Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror, which is a bathroom mirror that has Amazon’s Alexa built-in. It features a dual-microphone solution for accuracy in voice-control and speakers are housed in the casings. There is also a motion-activated wayfinding nightlight for safety, and LED lights for makeup application or other grooming needs. It can also communicate with other connected products in your Wi-Fi network.

Is that an AI in your ceiling? 

Photo credit: GE

Photo credit: GE

Talk with your ceiling lights. You’ll be able to with GE’s Smart Ceiling Fixture. It is a large disk that boasts a speaker in the middle. You can give it voice-driven tasks on anything, like adding an item to your grocery list or telling it to play music. You can also tell it to adjust the warmness or coolness of the lights. It responds to your commands. Flush mount or recessed can lighting options will be available.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine’s award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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


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When to Drop Your Listing Price

Daily Real Estate News |

Though low inventory is prompting buyers to raise their offers in order to beat out competitors, you still want your sellers to know: an overpriced listing will linger on the market. Buyers pay attention to time on market and may erroneously assume something is wrong with a property that has gone “stale.” Real estate pros say it’s critical to determine what time frame is considered stale in your market and drop the price of your listing before getting to that pivotal moment.

“I typically drop the price after the second week on the market, usually in $5,000 to $10,000 increments,” says Laura Barnett, CRS, GRI, a sales associate with RE/MAX DFW Associates in Coppell, Texas. “But I may be more aggressive than most.” Price cuts in the hot Dallas-area market, where Barnett works, haven’t been common lately, she says. But “there is a strange change that is in the air, and sellers are starting to have to become more humble. I would not say it is a buyer’s market, but a new balance between buyers and sellers has been hitting us since August.”

Soaring home prices may make buyers pause, but houses are still selling fast. Nationwide, the average time a home spent on the market was 34 days in September, down from 39 days a year prior, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Some sellers may be adamant about “testing the market” with a high asking price, so you should have a game plan for what to do if it backfires. “I don’t believe in testing the market, but if we enter the market [with a list price] pushing the top of the range, we can easily gauge response within seven to 10 days,” says Dana Rice, a sales associate with Compass in Washington, D.C. “It’s almost a certainty that if we don’t get an offer within that first 10-day period, then we’ve missed the mark.”

Rice says she’s seen sellers do a rapid price adjustment that can then result in a quicker sale. You can “bring those same buyers back—the ones who liked the property in the first place and who will view the price adjustment as ‘the seller is listening to me,’” she says.

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


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8 Exterior Renovations to Boost a Home’s Value

Daily Real Estate News

Replacing the roof may be the most important upgrade your client can make to the exterior of his or her home, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2017 Remodeling Impact Report. The report takes a look at the cost of the most common exterior and interior renovation projects and gauges how appealing they are to home buyers at resale.

REALTORS® ranked new roofing, vinyl windows, and garage door as the three exterior projects that have the most appeal to buyers. Based on the potential for return-on-investment, the following exterior projects offer the best chances for the biggest returns at resale, according to the report.

New roofing

  • Cost estimate: $7,500
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $8,150
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 109%

New garage door

  • Cost estimate: $2,300
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $2,000
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 87%

New fiber-cement siding

  • Cost estimate: $18,000
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $15,000
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 83%

New vinyl windows

  • Cost estimate: $18,975
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $15,000
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 79%

New steel front door

  • Cost estimate: $2,000
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $1,500
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 75%

New vinyl siding

  • Cost estimate: $13,350
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $10,000
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 75%

New fiberglass front door

  • Cost estimate: $2,700
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $1,800
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 67%

New wood windows

  • Cost estimate: $35,000
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $20,000
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 57%

—REALTOR® Magazine

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


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5 Doable DIY Projects to Send Your Home Equity Soaring

A new front door has the highest ROI, not to mention the boost in curb appeal.

You’re going to save money with DIY home improvement projects. Sure, everybody knows that.

But did you know how much? Cut professionals out of the equation and you can save half the cost of a project — or more.

What’s more, you get a great return on your investment. Meaning, the financial value you get out of a DIY project is much more than what you put in.

Here’s a rundown of some top money-saving projects, using cost and recovered costs data from the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

#1 New Steel Front Door

Few replacement projects have as much upside as a new steel entry door. Not only will you recover about 75% of the cost of having an entry door professionally installed, but you’ll spruce up your curb appeal big time. Want proof? Ninety-six percent of homeowners responding to the “Remodeling Impact Report” say they are happy or satisfied with their new front door.

Of course, you’ll save even more if you tackle this project yourself. Know your door parts (jambs, threshold, stops) before digging in. You’ll be putting in a pre-hung door that includes jambs, so the old stuff has to come out. If you can, preserve the old casing (trim) that goes around the door. Otherwise, plan to buy new casing.

If You Hire If You DIY
Cost $2,000 Cost $250
Recoup at sale $1,500 Recoup at sale $1,500
% recoup 75% % recoup 600%

This is a good one to have a friend or spouse lend a hand. It’ll take six to eight hours if it’s your first time. Remember the three-legged mantra of door installation: Plumb, level, square.

Tired of looking at that big blank billboard every time you pull into your driveway? Change out your old garage door for a spiffy new steel model and the whole neighborhood will thank you. Save some cash by keeping the same motorized opener.

If You Hire If You DIY
Cost $2,300 Cost $850
Recoup at sale $2,000 Recoup at sale $2,000
% recoup 87% % recoup 235%

A steel garage door comes in four panels that are relatively lightweight but awkward — get a friend to lend a hand and you’ll have this project done in a day. Then stand back and admire along with 95% of homeowners in the “Remodeling Impact Report” who said they were happy or satisfied with their new garage door.

#3 New Vinyl Windows

If you want to replace four or more windows, or a second-story window, then hire the work out. Being up on a ladder with an object as bulky as a window is no place for a non-professional. Pros bring scaffolding, which takes time to set up but ultimately makes the work faster and safer.

Replacing one, two, or maybe three first-story windows is a good DIY job. Anything more and the pros will get the job done with better efficiency in terms of time and hassle.

If You Hire If You DIY
Cost (per window) $556 Cost (per window) $250
Recoup at sale $444 Recoup at sale $444
% recoup 80% % recoup 178%

If you’ve measured your rough opening correctly and bought the right window, then one window should take you three to four hours. You’ll get faster with subsequent windows.

#4 New Wood Flooring

Few projects are as satisfying, while recovering such a high percentage of your investment, as new wood flooring. According to the “Remodeling Impact Report,” 96% of homeowners were happy or satisfied with their professionally installed hardwood floors. Combine that with a 91% return on your investment, and you’ll likely be a very happy homeowner.

For the DIYer, installing hardwood flooring is a bit labor intensive, but the techniques are fairly easy to master. Once you get the hang of it, installing prefinished hardwood flooring should go smoothly.

If You Hire If You DIY
Cost $5,500 Cost $1,770
Recoup at sale $5,000 Recoup at sale $5,000
% recoup 91% % recoup 282%

#5 Insulation Upgrade

OK, maybe it’s not the sexiest project. After all, it’s tucked out of sight in your attic. But you can feel it with increased comfort, and see the savings on your energy bill. Those are big pluses.

Upgrading an under-insulated attic space can save you up to 50% per year in energy costs. With a pro cost of $2,100, it’ll take at least a couple of years to pay off your investment with savings. Do it yourself, however, and you’ll only spend about $700 for enough 10-inch-thick fiberglass batt insulation to cover a 20-foot-by-40-foot attic space. You’ll pocket the savings much sooner.

It’s also an awkward project, it can be messy, and you’ll need to bundle up behind protective clothing. However, insulating your attic is a low-skill project that most DIYers can pull off. Just be sure not to stick your foot through the drywall under the attic floor joists!

If You Hire If You DIY
Cost $2,100 Cost $700
Recoup at sale $1,600 Recoup at sale $1,600
% recoup 76% % recoup 229%

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

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6 Near-Genius Ways to Fool Burglars Into Thinking You’re Home

Your home: You love it, but sometimes you have to leave it.

Whether it’s the eight hours a day or eight days on a dreamy beach, allowing your biggest investment to fend for itself can be stressful. And it’s a legit concern; when your home looks empty, break-ins happen. A lot. Ugh.

You could deter burglars by never leaving your house again. Or you could do the next best (OK, way better) thing, and just make it look like someone is there all the time. Here’s how.

#1 Light Up a Room (From the Road)

Your parents may still rely on their lighting timer — on at 8 p.m., off at 7 a.m. That old-fashioned option still works, but apps are more fun. They not only turn your lights on and off, but can do so randomly for a more realistic effect. And you can decide to flip on your porch light while sipping a mojito in Fiji.

You can Google your options, but one affordable example is the Lutron Caséta Wireless system (about $80 for the device and $55 per switch). You replace your current wall switches with these wireless ones and “talk” to your lights from afar.

#2 Fake a Netflix Binge

Nothing says “we are definitely home” like the colorful glare of a television dancing in the window.

Put the little FakeTV gizmo where it can project light onto a curtain, and that’s exactly what your home will say to passersby.

The device (which runs between about $20 and $40 depending on size) plugs into an adapter and can either work on a timer or with a light sensor, so it can switch on when it gets dark.

#3 Change Up Your Shades Remotely

Leave your window shades down while you’re gone and you might as well put out a “Gone Fishin’” sign.

Check out wireless options to throw some shade on the go. Several companies have systems — including Hunter Douglas PowerView, Pella Insynctive, and Lutron Serena — that allow shades to go up and down at your command for about $300 to $500 a window.

#4 Make Some Noise

Burglars can change plans in a hurry at the first sound of life inside a home — they’re a bit tetchy that way. So one option when you’re just gone for the day is a noise app, like Sleep And Noise Sounds that can play on a homebound phone, tablet, or computer. With noises like vacuuming and a boiling kettle, it can deter a thief who cracks open a window.

#5 Make Them Ring And Run

“Burglars will often ring your doorbell, and if no one answers, they’ll go around back and kick in the door,” says Deputy Michael Favata with the Monroe County Sheriff’s office in New York. Now you can answer the door with the Ring Video Doorbell ($180 for the basic model).

If someone pushes the doorbell, you can talk to them through an app on your phone. Whether it’s your nosey neighbor or a sketchy stranger, you can say, “I’m in the basement” while you’re really on the slopes. They’ll never know. And even if they don’t believe you, they know they’re being watched (insert devilish laugh here).

#6 Try a No-Tech Technique

Not everything requires a gadget. Here are ways to up your home security without downloading a single app:

  • Hire a house sitter. Then someone will be home.
  • If there’s snow, have a neighbor walk up and down the path to your door, shovel a passage up to the garage door and drive in and out of the driveway. If it’s hot out, ask them to keep your plants looking fresh with regular waterings. And don’t forget to bring them a nice gift from your getaway.
  • Ask friends, family, or neighbors to just be present on your property — use your patio, play in your yard, or bring in the mail.
  • Invite a neighbor to keep a car parked in your driveway. During the holidays, they may be happy if they need overflow for visitors.
  • Install a fake security camera for as low as $8. Burglars may not notice these fakes don’t have all the wiring necessary to be real. And their blinking red lights offer reasonable doubt.
  • Get a dog. A real dog. While you’re at work or running errands, nothing deters bad guys and gals like a barking, slobbery security guard. And when you go away, having a pet sitter stay can be as economical as some boarding facilities (especially if you have multiple dogs), and you’ll get the benefit of a human and canine sentinel.

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

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9 Things Real Estate Agents Wish You Knew About Selling Your Home


When it comes time to sell your house, having a great listing agent is one of the keys to making it happen. And yet, the agent can’t do it all—your help is needed. Help your agent help you!

Ideally, you will have an open, honest relationship with your listing agent. But even then, there are some things your agent might be reluctant to tell you. Whether to spare your feelings or because he assumes you already know, here are some things your listing agent wishes you knew. Listen up and learn!

1. Your stuff is lovely, but…

“While your home may be beautifully decorated, it still looks like your home, not the buyer’s,” says Teresa Stephenson, vice president of residential brokerage at Platinum Properties in New York.

In particular, clutter can make a home feel cramped and leave a bad first impression.

2. Stop hiding things from me

Leaky faucets? Termite infestation? An air conditioner that barely blows cool air?

“Don’t keep any of your home’s flaws from your agent because you are scared it might hurt your sale,” says Karen Elmir, founder and CEO of the Elmir Group in Miami.

Remember, your listing agent is on your side and knows what must be fixed or what can slide—so go ahead and share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Whatever you hide from an agent could rear its head as a nasty surprise later.

3. You need to fix a few things

Katie Messenger, a Realtor® with Bello Dimora Real Estate Network in Kentucky and Cincinnati, wants clients to know they might have to spend a few bucks to make their house look its best.

“Replace the trim the dogs scratched up. Clean the scuff marks off the walls. Power-wash the algae off the vinyl siding,” she says. “To you, it’s totally normal because you’ve lived with these issues for years. To buyers, these will look like expensive repairs, which means they’ll have to lowball you, or not make an offer at all, because your house ‘needs a lot of work.’” Even if it actually doesn’t.

4. Your remodeling might not pay off much

Blood, sweat, tears, and a heck of a lot of cash might have gone into your remodeling projects, but that doesn’t mean there’s a guaranteed payback for any of it, as illogical as that might seem.

“An ROI, or return, on a home’s upgrades does not necessarily increase value,” says Michael Kelczewski, a Realtor with Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in Delaware and Maryland.

It largely depends on what kind of home improvement you do; here’s a list of some common renovations with their return on investment.

5. Be nice: Don’t overprice!

While listing at a high price and then coming down as necessary seems like the best way to avoid leaving any money on the table, you could actually be shooting yourself in the foot.

“If you overprice your home, buyers may not catch that, but buyer’s agents will,” points out Doc Reiss, managing broker at Town & Country Real Estate in Port Angeles, WA. “When a home is overpriced, buyer’s agents will either avoid bringing their buyers or, worse yet, they use it as an example to sell another property: ‘See how much nicer this one is for the price than the last one we saw?’”

6. Cleanliness really does count

Do people really not clean their house before it’s shown to potential buyers? Yep.

Andrew Mak, an agent with Corcoran in New York, says things like a greasy stove, dust on the floors or furniture, and unkempt bathroom fixtures like the shower, sinks, and toilets are noticed most during a showing.

“The kitchen and the bathroom are the two main areas where cleanliness—or lack thereof—is most obvious,” says Mak. Gross. (You did want to sell this house, right?)

7. Have some patience

Yes, we know you thought your beautiful house would fly off the market the moment it hit, but that’s not always the case. In fact, data show that homes sit on the market for an average 66 days.

“The real estate process is a long process from showings to inspections to negotiations,“ says Kelczewski. “Be patient! Persevering leads to success.”

8. Don’t hurt the messenger

“When I present a lowball offer, a long list of repair items, or a low appraisal, I am just relaying information from another party,” Messenger says. “I know it’s an emotional and sometimes frustrating process; however, I am not the one writing ‘insulting’ offers, performing home inspections, or appraising the home.

“I am a representative of your best interests, so know that I am always in your corner to fight for what makes the most sense for you—not all of the other parties involved in a real estate transaction,” she says.

9. Selling your home isn’t a spectator sport

“Some sellers don’t realize that hiring a real estate agent doesn’t mean they get to sit back with a bag of popcorn and watch the home sale unfold,” says Jonathan Self, a Realtor with Center Coast Realty in Chicago.

“Selling a home is a team effort, even when you hire a real estate agent. If you can keep your home clean and tidy and arrange for someone to dog sit during showings, I can be 100% focused on selling your home for top dollar. That cooperation and partnership makes it much easier for me to do a good job for you.”

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

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