Prep your home to sell in fall

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t believe how fast this summer has gone by.  In two days, it’s going to be September.  It seems like it was just yesterday that school was ending for the summer.  Maybe it was the consecutive high temperatures we’ve had in Chicago, but this summer flew by.  So for those of you who will be putting your homes on the market for the fall or for those of you who have your homes listed but want a better chance of it selling now, here are a few tips to get your home sold this fall.

1.  I can’t stress the importance of curb appeal.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I’ve had buyers decide not to look at the interior of a house because the exterior was so neglected.  Your home could look like the Taj Mahal inside, but if the outside isn’t taken care of, it probably won’t matter.  So make sure leaves are raked and clear of the driveway and walkways.   Keep the lawn mowed.  Nothing is more unappealing than a front lawn that looks like the rainforest.  Trust me; I’ve seen it.  Keep gutters free of debris so that they drain properly.  If you get snow early, make sure to shovel any area that a potential buyer will walk on.  Again, I’ve had people not able to reach the front door because of 12″ of snow blocking the path.  If your home is vacant, make sure to go back to take care of these items or hire a service to handle it for you.

2. Keep windows clean.  Nothing brightens up a room more than a sunny day.  When the sun is shining through those windows, it’s pretty obvious if they’re covered in grime or dust.  The house will look bigger and brighter if you open up curtains/blinds to let the sun shine through clean windows.

3. If you have rooms that are painted dark colors, considering lightening them up with something neutral, or even a light yellow color.  It will make the room feel larger, brighter, and even cooler, especially as it gets dark earlier.  Buyers will be able to get a better sense of what the room looks like if they come to view your home in the late afternoon/early evening.

More great tips can be found here.  If you’re ready to get your home on the market, I’d love to help you prep it for fall.  Please visit me online.

What’s most important in selling your home

I read a great article this morning in the Chicago Tribune. It talked about why sellers might be upset that the home they’re selling isn’t going under contract and why their neighbor’s home might be.  It listed some good points as to what will help get buyers through the door to get a sale.  Given the current housing market, homes aren’t selling as quick as they used to.  Market times are up, but given the right conditions, these tips will hopefully get your home to sell faster.  I want to go over a few of them.

1. Price.  This is the absolute most important reason why a home is not selling.  If you’ve had 30 buyers through the door and don’t have an offer yet, this is a good reason as to why not.  It’s probably overpriced.  This is not the right economy to “test the water” and list higher than market value for your home.  It will just lead to your home sitting on the market for longer and becoming stale for buyers.  If you need to sell quickly due to a divorce or relocation, for example, you will need to price your home below market value.  Make sure you discuss comparative properties with your Realtor as to what a good price should be.

The article also made a good point that you shouldn’t list your home for $299,900, thinking it will look better than $300,000.  You’re missing out on all the buyers who are looking for homes from 300-350 or 300-400K.  If you have a buyer looking from 250-300, your house will get noticed on both lists.

2) Curb appeal.  I cannot stress enough how important this is.  There’s a home in my friend’s neighborhood that just went on the market.  It looks like a jungle in the front yard where it’s impossible to find the front door.  It doesn’t take much time or money to trip the trees, rip out the weeds, and mow the lawn.  If I were a buyer looking for that home and I drove up for the first time, I wouldn’t even bother going inside.  So make sure your lawn is mowed, you have easy accessibility from the street or driveway to the front door, and even plant a few flowers with bold colors to make the front pop. 

3) Clear the clutter.  I’ve mentioned before how I’ve shown homes with dirty dishes in the sink, dirty laundry on the floor, and so much clutter in one room that you can’t even walk through it.  If you’re selling your home, now is the time to cut back.  Put some belongings in storage.  Clean out half your closet.  Make sure to remove family photos from the walls.  And do the simple things: put your dishes away, set the table, take your lotion and contact solution off your vanity and put it in a cabinet or drawer.  The less stuff of yours showing up, the better.

4) Internet marketing.  Make sure your home is being shown in the places where the buyers are looking.  It might be important for you to make sure your open house is showing up in the newspaper and there’s a big photo of your home there, too.  This is not where the buyers are looking anymore.  You want to make sure your Realtor is advertising on the proper sites: Zillow, Craigslist, Realtor.com, etc.  Ask any agent before you hire them what they do in terms of advertising and how many buyers will see it.  Find out how quickly the sign gets placed in the front yard.

These tips will help you sell a lot quicker.  If you have questions about if your home is ready for the market, please visit me online.

Spruce up your sale for fall

leavesAs August makes its way into September, we’re already preparing to say good bye to summer.  While it wasn’t around long (especially in the Chicago area), we can now prepare ourselves for shorter days and cooler weather.  Whether you still have your home on the market or are deciding to list now for the first time, I wanted to offer some tips to help you sell in the fall.

1. Make sure your exterior stays in tip-top shape.  Even though your flowers are probably gone, make sure that you are raking the leaves and they’re not scattered all over your front and back lawns.  Make sure to keep your grass mowed if it’s getting long.  The beautiful fall colors look great in photos.  Try to capture your exterior photo with a tree with some orange, red, or yellow leaves.  And don’t forget your regular summer maintenance!  Keep shrubs and trees from hanging over parts of your house by trimming and pruning as necessary.  This will be your last chance before the snow starts and it gets really cold.

2. Decorate as appropriate.  While you may want to go all out for Halloween, if you’re selling your home, now isn’t the time to be putting the fake graves on the lawn or have the skeletons hanging from every window.  Your buyers probably won’t enjoy that.  Keep it simple with a fall wreath on the door or a pumpkin centerpiece on the table. 

3. If it gets really cold, make sure you keep your house at a comfortable temperature.  If you can make it through the season without turning on your heat, that’s great to save energy.  But you want your buyers to be comfortable while they’re walking through the home.  You don’t want them to feel rushed because they’re freezing. 

4. Show off that fireplace!  In climates like ours, a fireplace is a great feature to have as the temperature cools off.  Make sure the mantel is clutter-free.  You might want to go ahead and get your chimney and fireplace inspected prior to listing your home, just to make sure nothing will come up in a home inspection.  You want that fireplace in working order for your new buyer.  And make sure your Realtor mentions the fireplace in all the marketing materials.

5. As the days get shorter, you’ll still have buyers coming to view the home during the week after work.  If you’re not home yet from work yourself, make sure to set some lights on a timer so that your home is bright when the buyers come by.  Make sure your blinds stay open and you turn on any lamps that will help brighten the room up. 

View some more great tips here.  And if you’re ready for your home to sell this fall, be sure to contact me online.

Lawn care tips for adding value

I’ve talked plenty before about some house fixes that were cheaper and could potentially add a lot of value to your home if you’re planning to sell soon or sometime in the future.  While indoor improvements can definitely mean a return on investment, it’s also important to be aware of what you can do outside to add value.  There’s a lot of importance in landscaping.  Now, you don’t have to be a landscape architect or master gardener to help your house show its best.  These easy tips are ones that anybody can do and they’ll increase your investment easily.

1. Take care of clutter.  Get rid of junk that’s sitting against the side of your house.  Do you have patio furniture from 30 years ago that’s completely rusted but still sitting on your patio?  Trash it.  Keep garbage cans in the garage and out of sight.  Move yard waste out of the yard and into the garage or out of view until garbage day.  And if you’re a fan of lawn ornaments, try to tone them down to an appropriate level. 

2. Give your lawn some TLC.  Fertilize it when it’s in its growing stage (starting in the spring).  Don’t let it get too long, but don’t cut the grass too short, either.  This exposes the bare patches in the lawn for all to see.  It also allows bugs and weeds to take over.  The Yard Doctor says to mow only one-third of the lawn’s height for each mowing.  This lawn will be stronger and be able to protect itself against weeds.  lawn-care

3. Trim!  Nothing is less appealing than driving up to a house seeing overgrown trees and branches hanging in front of a front door or blocking a side of the house.  It really ruins the curb appeal.  You also want to cut back near decks and patios.

4. Add color.  Choose some annual flowers with a burst of color like hot pink, purple, or orange.  Try planting some near your front walk or around the base of trees in your yard.

5. Install an automatic sprinkler system.  Could lawn care be any more easy?  This is a great selling point for new buyers.  You choose when you want the sprinklers to go off.  This could be very beneficial for those living in towns where they’re trying to save water by only allowing you to water your plants and lawn at certain times and on certain days.  If you’re not around, your automatic system sure is.

View some more great tips at this Web site. Hopefully this Chicago weather will start to warm up a bit, but these cooler days could be the perfect opportunity for you to make some quick lawn fixes. Visit me online if you have any questions.

What men and women like best in a home

It’s probably no surprise that when it comes to buying a home in most couples, it’s the women who ultimately make the decision.  They’re the ones that determine what house best suits their lifestyle.  They want the best floor plan for them. 

A recent Chicago Tribune article discusses what’s most important to both men and women when it comes to making the choice for the perfect home.  Linda Reimer is president of Design Basics, a company in Omaha that specializes in selling “woman-centric” house plans.  She highlights some of the important features for women:

1. An open floor plan for entertaining.  So they want to make access from the kitchen to the dining room easy.  They don’t want huge walls with separate rooms as part of the home.  They want it as open as possible.

2. Designs that reduce stress.  An example of this is a mudroom that is in the back of the house or off the garage so that everyone can put their coats, shoes, and other miscellaneous clutter in the room without bringing it all the way into the house.  This might also be a room to store pet food and cages.

3. Plenty of storage.  You’re going to need more than just the garage, attic, or basement to store everything.  Women want this in places around the house.  That’s why they prefer big walk-in closets in the master bedroom, as well as large or walk-in pantries in the kitchen. 

menandwomenMen, on the other hand, prefer rooms that are big enough for their large-screen TV or for a theater room.  They also like high-end gadgets and products that enhance energy efficiency to save money on utility bills.  Some men prefer the basement as their space.  That’s when they can make a room for the big TV or even add a mini golfing range.  Orren Pickell Builders, based out of Lincolnshire, says they’ve built homes with basements that have swimming pools, basketball courts, and even shooting ranges.

North Shore architect and custom builder and architect Charles Page says that men oftentimes want an office in their home.  He also noted that women he worked with prefer gourmet kitchens with upscale countertops and cabinets.  Since most families spend most of their time in the kitchen, this makes perfect sense.  It acts as a gathering space for a large family.  Page also notes that women prefer a laundry room on the first or second floor, rather than in the basement.  It makes their lives easier when they have to go up and down stairs. 

So home builders now are focusing on what men and women want in a home, rather than just building for shelter.  A lot of them are making sure there’s plenty of closet space.  If they don’t finish basements, then the laundry room goes on the main or upper level of the house. 

What’s important to you in a home?  I’d love to hear about it and help you find the perfect one.  Please visit me online.

Make your home stand out among foreclosures

With the amount of foreclosures on an uphill climb, sellers that need to sell their house have a hard time in this market because of the low prices being advertised with the foreclosures and short sales.  Sellers become panic stricken if they don’t have the financial  burden of a foreclosure but they need to sell their house.  Phoebe Chongchua, an award-winning journalist, offers this advice to sellers to help get their homes sold.

standouthome1. Price your home competitively.  Now is not the time to be testing the water with your home price, especially in a subdivision with other homes similar to yours that are in foreclosure.  Try to take a ride out to visit open houses of other similar homes or ask your Realtor to show them to you.  Buyers will be doing the same research, so you want to see what your competition is.  Overpricing your home will make it sit on the market longer and you’ll receive offers way below market value. 

2. Understand market time.  Sellers know best if they are in a dire situation where they need to unload their home quickly, or if they have time to let it sit a bit.  This will help you price your home correctly and help you get what it’s worth.

3. Use a Realtor.  Agents and brokers can help offer advice more than ever before.  Plus, imagine how much harder it is to sell your home For Sale by Owner among hundreds of foreclosures in your same zip code.  A Realtor has a lot more tools to make your home stand out.  Visit me online to learn how my marketing plan can help you.

4. Make sure your home is in showing condition at all times.  You don’t want to lose a sale because of the one day the home was a mess and you had a showing.

5. Figure out the best methods for selling your home.  Virtual tours and many photos of the home are extremely important in this age when almost all buyers use the Internet to preview a home before they come look at it.  Make sure the pictures you use online are of the house that you’re selling currently.  Do not use pictures taken before a remodel, for example. 

6. Make sure your home is the best value.  While this doesn’t always mean the lowest price, it could mean that it’s the nicest house in a certain price range.  Or it may mean a bunch of upgrades in the home in a certain price range.  Use your Realtor to help determine your price and get recommendations for how to keep your home in prime showing condition.

Tips for buyers and sellers for a great 2009

Even though the mortgage rates have dropped considerably and buyers are getting some great deals, there are some negatives.  First of all, the credit crunch has made it a lot harder to get low down payment programs and to qualify for extremely low rates.  Plus, buyers that got adjustable-rate mortgages are probably starting to feel the pain from those increased payments.

A 2008 survey done by Pricewaterhouse Coopers and the Urban Land Institute projected that the real estate market should start rebounding in 2010, with values starting to appreciate again.  That’s all fine and dandy, but what should buyers and sellers do NOW?

While we are in a transition year, the one between the beginning of the slide heading into what we hope is a large incline, here are some tips that can help buyers and sellers for 2009.

Buyers:
1) Put as much down as possible and finance as little as possible.  Past years have lent to advice on getting a low interest rate and financing as much as you could, but with loans harder and harder to obtain, buyers with cash will stay ahead of the game.

2) Negotiate deals with sellers as much as possible.  While a flat screen TV or new carpet may be a great incentive, any concessions worth money will be your best bet.  Try to get a year of homeowner’s dues paid, or even closing costs.  If you can get money for repairs or money to go towards property taxes, you’ll be much appreciative.

3) Research and budget.  Make sure you have a budget in mind before you speak to a mortgage lender.  Do not let them talk you into purchasing a home for more than you think you can afford.  This is what got so many homeowners into trouble in the past few years. 

4) Watch the foreclosure lists.  helpful_tips_bannerBanks are going to be under a crunch to get rid of all the extra homes that aren’t making them any money.  They’ll have to unload a lot quicker than they thought and for a lot less money.  This could be a great opportunity to score a deal.

Sellers:
1) As I mentioned in a post last week, repositioning seems to be the key now.  You have to price your home right from the beginning.  This is a not a market to test out the waters and see what kind of buyers you get from being overpriced and waiting it out.  The first 30 days on the market will get you the most attention, so make sure you’re priced correctly from the start.

2) With the competition getting stronger, curb appeal is still very important.  I’ve had many clients drive by a home and decide to not even go inside once they’ve seen the outside.  The inside could look like the Taj Mahal, but buyers will miss out if the outside isn’t an equal match.

3) Don’t overdo your remodeling.  You might not make as much money in this market or recoup your expenses by redoing your entire kitchen.  Talk to me or an agent about what you’re planning to do before listing it.  I could save you money!

Please let me know if you need some more tips, or are ready to buy or sell in this market.  I still say that now is the time to buy to get a great deal.  I can be reached via my Web site.