Paint your home to sell

First things first.  You all know how important it is to keep your home in showing condition when you have your home on the market to sell.  No clutter, messes, dirty laundry, etc.  But it’s also important to make your home look the best it can in order to move quicker and to get you a good return on investment.  Paint color is key.  

Let’s start with what not to do.  No wallpaper.  I know it’s hard to remove.  I know it matches the bath towels that you special ordered along with the custom faucets.  But it just doesn’t work for most people.  And the buyers that want move-in ready homes don’t want to deal with it, either.  So if you have wallpaper, you’re probably going to benefit the most from this blog post.  I suggest removing it and painting.

No white paint.  This might sound surprising given that it’s neutral.  But having all white walls can make your house look very sterile and not lived in.  It also can appear too bright.  You do want to keep the colors neutral.  So if you’re going to be painting, I suggest light beige or light yellow.  

Don’t go crazy.  I am completely serious when I say that I’ve shown homes where one room is orange, another turquoise, another dark purple, etc.  It looks hideous.  If you have this in your home now and you are planning on selling, you’ll want to paint all the walls neutral to match.  And remember that dark colors make a room look a lot smaller.  So for those of you with navy blue bathrooms, now is the time to go neutral.

Here’s what does work.  Make sure that there are no noticeable scratches or marks on walls.  Touching up paint is very simple to do and can make a huge difference.  It shows buyers that your home is well maintained and cared for.  According to this AOL blog, “Karen Dembsky, president of Peachtree Home Staging LLC and Georgia’s Real Estate Staging Association, as well as a Pro Stager of the Year nominee, has the first and most important piece of advice before even tackling the issue of color.

‘A seller should always make sure that their paint has a fresh appeal, no dings, no marks. If there are any, it should be repainted or touched up because it gives the feeling of a well-maintained home,” she said. “The color has to be livable and appealing, you want a color where the buyer will come in and say that it’s not their first choice but they can live with it.'”

Dembsky suggests food-related colors for the kitchen, such as yellow, red, or orange.  But this is not permission to go out and paint your kitchen bright orange.  You still want to keep it soft and light.  She doesn’t recommend bright colors for the bedrooms because people view bedrooms as a place to sleep and relax, so light and neutral is best.  Dembsky recommends beige and light tan for bathroom walls.  If you’re dying for a bit of color, play it up with colored hand towels, bath mats, and fun soaps.  She does say that you can go for darker and richer colors in a home office, especially to play against a dark wood desk.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Please leave me a comment or visit my Web site.

Finding a home that won’t lose value

Given the current state of the economy, for all of you home buyers out there, I’m guessing that, when you do find a home you’re going to purchase, that you want to find one that won’t lose value.  You’ll want to look for features that will appeal to a seller when you do go to sell, whether that’s in one year or 20.  Here’s a quick list of features in homes that won’t lose value in a recession.

1. Choose a single-family home.  Sure, you may be starting out and want something small, preferably a condo.  However, in a worse economy, condos and townhomes lose their value more quickly than a single-family home.  So ask your Realtor to help you find a smaller detached home.  I have sold many first-time buyers one- or two-bedroom single-family homes, which was just the right size for their needs.

2. Keep carrying costs low.  When you do go to buy, make sure you find a property that is well-maintained and one that doesn’t require a lot of work over time, especially if you don’t plan to stay long.  New buyers get scared with all the costs of a mortgage, taxes, insurance, and maintenance, so whatever you can do to keep costs low will help you in the long run.  Here’s another tip.  If you see a problem, such as water dripping from the roof, make sure to take care of it BEFORE it turns into a large hole, which will just cost you more money because you waited.

3. Know your market.  Certain markets will never lose much value because they are important to certain segments of the population.  For example, a home within walking distance of the Metra in the Chicago suburbs is a great feature for commuters heading into the city.  A home with a swimming pool is going to sell quicker than one without in Arizona.  

4. Keep your kitchen and bathroom up to date.  As I have mentioned in the past, if you’re going to update or remodel any room in your home, these are the two to focus on.  These are the biggest rooms that “sell” a house.  Try to include appliances if you can.  Many first-time buyers don’t have these at their disposal, and it’s another thing that will help keep their costs down.  If you must take yours with you, consider offering an appliance credit instead.

I hope these tips help both potential buyers and sellers.  And to all my readers, have a very Happy Thanksgiving!  Visit me online.

Get those buyers in before winter

As the cooler and colder weather is starting to breeze through the midwest, we’ve reached the part of the season that might be the end of regular home showings through the holidays.  If you have your home on the market to sell, here are some tips to get it shown and sold prior to wintertime, according to this AOL article.

First of all, the number one tip this article stresses is that, if you don’t have to sell over the winter, don’t.  If you’ve ever sold a home before, you know that you’ll get a lot less showings in the winter because of the weather and the holidays.  People don’t want to go out traipsing through snow and sleet to look at homes unless they have to.  So if you don’t have an urgent need to sell, you might consider taking it off the market until after the holidays or early spring.  We always say after the Super Bowl is a good time to get it relisted.

 1. Keep your photos updated.  Just like it’s important when your home is for sale during June to remove the pictures of the snow-covered driveway, it’s equally important to do the opposite.  If you’ve been listed since April with a green lawn and trees in full bloom, you’ll want to switch photos to that showing some snow and the way the interior looks with the light on.  You don’t need to make it obvious through your photos how long your home has been on the market.  You might also want to consider updating your remarks to reflect upon the new season and the holidays, such as, “You’ll love winter mornings nestled in front of your gas fireplace.”

2. Target your specific buyer.  Is your house just a few-minute walk to the local elementary school?  Consider advertising in a PTO or PTA bulletin.  Located 3 minutes from the commuter train station?  Post a flyer there.  If you have farmland with horse stables, you might want to advertise in an equestrian magazine.  Built a home gym in your basement with a steam shower?  Post a flyer at the local gym.  You get the idea.  Think outside the box.

3. Make your home accessible.  Keep driveways and walkways clear of snow, ice, and leaves so that buyers can easily reach the front door.  Keep the heat on and turn the lights on.  And as I always stress, try not to turn away any showings for any reason.  You never know if that buyer will get a chance to come back at another time.  And they could be the future buyer of your home!

If you have any more tips, I’d love to hear them.  Please leave me a comment or visit me online.

Your online activity could cost you a home deal

With the influx of people using social networks today, such as Facebook and Twitter, it’s very common to know all the going-on of your friends and family.  It’s great to find out where everyone is when, and share important news stories and photos.  However, when it comes to real estate, it’s best to be cautious with what you post.  Here’s why:

In a recent MSN article, a real estate agent mentioned how her client lost a house.  She was looking in a particular neighborhood and went online and posted something like “We found out dream house in XYZ neighborhood!”  Well, one of her friends saw the post and shared it with another friend who was looking in that same neighborhood at the one house for sale.  That person went and offered more money and ended up buying the home.

I’ve always told my clients never to give out information until a deal is closed, especially the price paid, because if something happens before you get to closing, now someone has information on what the seller was willing to take and could offer a better price.  This is also why real estate agents never share what a home goes under contract for until it sold.

You also have to be careful when posting pictures because other people may be able to recognize the home.  But not all social network activity surrounding buying or selling a house is bad.  Here is when it’s okay to post.

1. You’re the seller and want people to know your house is available.  The more people that know about it, the more potential buyers you’ll see.

2. Asking what people know about a certain town in terms of schools, activities, etc., especially if you’re new to the area

Otherwise, you can figuratively stick your foot in your mouth by posting something that other people shouldn’t know.  And for security reasons, never post that you’re going to be viewing open houses or out looking at houses because then people know you’re not at your home!

I’d love to hear more thoughts on this subject.  Please leave me a comment or visit me online.

 

Summer selling tips

A couple weeks back I wrote about how to save money by cooling your home.  I’m sure those of you choosing to sell right now would appreciate some tips on selling in the summer months.  While it seems like the housing market is at a standstill, there are plenty of buyers out there now who need to purchase a home.  I just read an article that lots of buyers now are cash buyers, which is good for people selling rentable units, as a lot of these buyers are investors.

1. Keep it cool.  Make sure the air conditioning is on in your home, even if you’re gone – actually, especially if you’re gone.  If the outside air is 75 degrees or higher, I recommending turning on the air.  You don’t have to make it feel like a meat cooler, but make sure it’s cool enough in there so your potential buyers aren’t sweating the second they walk through the door.  If there’s no air conditioning, make sure to put fans in there to circulate the air and open windows.

2. Stage your balcony if you have one.  Make sure you have some colorful flowers and a comfortable place to sit.  A balcony is extremely inviting and not only does it make the balcony look spacious by adding furniture, but it adds to the living space, making the entire unit seem more spacious.

3. Stage the inside.  It’s really hard these days to show a vacant unit.  They seem a lot smaller and lifeless.  You can stage it without spending a fortune by picking up furniture at garage sales or on Craigslist.  You don’t need to furnish it to the nines.  Just enough to put a bed in a bedroom to see how that fits, a dining room table in a dining room, etc.  It really will make the place look bigger.  It’ll be worth the investment.

4. If you live in attached housing, get FHA certified.  This is something that your condo association will need to do, not you individually.  It makes it much more attractive to buyers who use FHA financing, and that represents about 30% or more of buyers these days.  

5. Spread the word.  And this isn’t just for summer.  Yes, it’s your Realtor’s job to market the listing.  But you never know who you might run in to that is looking to move or knows someone looking.  Post ads on your social networking sites, let your colleagues at work know, tell people at church.  

A few more great tips can be found in this article.

Any more tips you can offer those trying to sell in the summer?  I’d love to hear your suggestions.  Please leave me a comment or visit me online.

What not to do when selling

It’s hard enough when you’re stuck selling your home in a buyer’s market.  You have so much competition as it is.  But this MSN article also talks about what’s important when selling your home and what not to do.  I wanted to go over the main points because this is so important.

1. No photos.  So you want to get your home listed Friday to make sure it’s available on the weekend but the photographer can’t come out until Monday.  So you’ll list it and just add the photos early in the week.  That’s a bad idea.  Every buyer who sees your home with no photos will not go back once the photos are in to look at your listing again.  They’ll pass over it the first time and won’t remember they wanted to see pictures.  Another bad idea is only listing photos of the exterior of your home.  Buyers will automatically assume something is wrong in the interior that you didn’t want to show.  It will prevent showings.  As always, make sure your home is in showing condition prior to scheduling photos so that it shows in great shape.

2. Not giving all the details.  It’s very common these days to be viewing short sales and foreclosures, just because of the sheer number of them.  But what buyers want to know when something says “third-party approval” is who that third party is.  What’s the estimate on when they’ll hear back if they’re interested?  It’s as easy as saying a home needs the bank’s approval and you’ll get it in 2 weeks.  Even better, if the bank has already approved a price reduction, be sure to mention that it’s at a bank-approved price.

3. Lies or exaggeration.  Do not say your home is “freshly painted” if that paint job happened 4 years ago.  I just had clients visit a so-called “freshly painted” and “meticulously kept” rental that had marks over the walls and cabinets falling off the hinges.  Be honest.  Do talk about the great features of your home, as long as they’re truthful.  While your carpet may not be new, if it’s neutral in color, that’s a great selling feature so people don’t have to worry about their furniture not matching.

4. Selling as is.  While it’s not always the wrong thing to do, if you’re worried about cosmetic repairs or replacing an out-of-date furnace, just be up front about it.  It’s likely that it will come up during negotiations anyway.  I’ve seen plenty of sellers offering a $2,000 carpet allowance or $1500 for the buyer to choose new appliances.  This is better than having the buyer think everything has been removed from the house to the studs.  

I’d love to know what other tips you have for sellers looking to sell their homes at the moment.  What would you suggest they not do?  Please be sure to leave me a comment or visit me online.

What buyers are looking for this year

We all know there’s a lot of houses on the market.  Inventory is high.  Values are down.  It’s harder to get a loan.  Interest rates are low.  People’s discretionary income is lower.  So what does all this mean in terms of the housing market?  Here’s a list of some items that Bankrate.com has put together of what home buyers are looking for when they buy a home this year.  This will also help sellers be aware of how to stage their home and what buyers are looking for when it comes time to negotiate.

1. A deal.  An amazing deal.  They want to tell everyone they know that they got this amazing house for such a good deal.  In 2007, it would have cost them $500,000, but they just closed on it for $395,000.  So this makes them a lot more critical.  They’re going to take longer than usual to find a house.  They’re not going to feel like they have to settle.  And that’s because they don’t.  Unfortunately for sellers, buyers hold the power when negotiating right now.  So understand that when turning away a low offer.  It might be worth it just to counter to see what happens.

2. Good condition.  I mentioned before that discretionary income is limited.  They don’t want to have to redo carpet and paint and put in new appliances.  They want homes that are more updated and in good condition.  When showing your home, make sure it’s clean and presentable.  It’s like putting your best foot forward at a job interview.  You only get one shot.  Make it a good one.  And reconsider taking your appliances with you when you move.  It’s likely the buyers want them to stay with the home.

3. More green.  It’s a lot more common these days to find buyers looking for energy-efficient appliances, windows, furnaces, and air conditioners.  Again, this helps them save money down the line, aside from being good for the environment.  Buyers want to know that maintaining their home will be easy on the wallet.  So if you are looking to sell and plan to upgrade some items, try to go as green and energy efficient as possible.

4. Smaller homes.  This is not to say that if you are selling a 5,000 square foot home that nobody will be interested.  But consider how you stage your home.  Make use of space.  It’s more common that buyers aren’t interested in a sitting room.  Make it into an office.  Create a craft room with your sixth bedroom.  Buyers want homes that serve a purpose because they don’t feel like they need the extra space if all it is is just space.  “Three to five years ago, if they could get a loan that would get them into a McMansion with stone and tile and brick and more rooms than they needed, they would do it,” says Jeff Wiren, president of the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors. “Now they’re saying ‘I don’t know if I want to heat that place and clean it.’ They’re being much more realistic.”

So those are four of the nine items that Bankrate thinks buyers are looking for in 2011.  What do you think?  As a buyer, do you agree?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave me a comment or visit me online.