5 red flags FOR OPEN HOUSE EVALUATIONS

It’s easy to get excited when you start looking for a home to purchase, but don’t let that adrenaline rush cloud your judgment! Sellers who are eager to sell might not be totally forthcoming in revealing any existing issues with the home. Here are a few red flags you should be on the lookout for when attending an open house:

1 Something smells. While at first it may seem pleasant, prospective sellers may try and add overwhelmingly powerful scents to their home for the showing. This could be an attempt to mask a serious odor problem in the home.

2 Amateur tiling. When looking at all the floor and kitchen tiling, you need to notice the details. If there are spaces or grouting issues, that’s a sign that the homeowners have done the tiling themselves, which may lead to an
expensive future project for you.

3 Cracks in the foundation. Of course, every home has its share of small cracks. But it’s important to observe whether the base of your prospective new home has serious foundational issues. Check to see if doors or windows stick when opening and closing them, signifying a shifting foundation. Also, look for large, noticeable cracks on walls, floors or ceilings.

4 Freaky fungus. Make suret to check out all pipes and drains in the home to see if there is any mold present. Take it a step further and check to see if there are any faults or leaks, which may lead to fungus growth later on.

5 Cosmetic enhancements. If any changes to the home seem extremely recent or out of place, that could be a sign that the owners are trying to hide something. Fresh new paint or plaster on the walls could be a sign of mold growth. A brand-new rug on the floor can mean there’s a stain or flooring issue that’s being hidden.

Garage Storage Mistakes

If you use your garage as storage space, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, because the space isn’t climate-controlled, it’s best to keep these items elsewhere, according to Realtor.com:

➊ Family photos. Pollutants, moisture and heat can quickly destroy your photos. Digitizing all photos is the best practice, or keep printed copies in a dry area inside your home.

➋ Propane tanks. These should never be kept indoors or too close to your home because they can leak or ignite. Store them outside on a flat surface instead.

➌ Car batteries. Batteries can be greatly affected by external moisture. Don’t store them on the floor; rather, place them on a piece of wood or cardboard.

➍ Artwork and collectibles. Dampness can cause tarnish and mold to grow. Insects can infest and rodents can feast on certain items. Dirt and dust can cause stains and buildup on almost anything. And car fumes can penetrate textiles and canvases. Keep prized possessions indoors.

➎ Food. Unless you have a refrigerator or freezer in your garage, fresh food can attract vermin even in a sealed container. Canned foods are best indoors, as sweltering heat can hasten their spoilage and freezing temps aren’t great either.

➏ Paint. If not sealed correctly and exposed to extreme temperatures, paint can actually spoil. Find a space that’s dark, dry and cool, like a utility closet, laundry room or mudroom.

➐ Carpet and rugs. Fresh air is vital for rug fibers and garage spaces aren’t usually well-ventilated, which can cause mold and mildew. Store in a place with low-humidity levels. Or if the garage is your only option, block any direct sunlight and place a dehumidifier near it.

5 DIY TIPS

As a homeowner, there’s no landlord or engineer to ask for help. So Realtor.com recommends you learn to handle these five basic problems:

1. Change HVAC filters: Replace quarterly to keep your system running smoothly and cut energy bills.

2. Cutting the water supply: Find and tag the shut-off valve when you first move in. When you need to turn it off, turn the handle 90 degrees.

3. Unclogging drains: Chemical drainers may work, but a drain snake is also an excellent option.

4. Resetting a circuit breaker: Open the panel cover and find the breaker in the “off” position, then turn to “on.”

5. Clean gutters: When gutters aren’t cleared of debris, water can get trapped, seep into your house and cost thousands in damages. Clean them annually or every two years.

SMALL FLAWS can be a big deal.

What may seem like small problems in your home can be a big deal to prospective buyers who will want to discount the price. Realtor.com names six of the minuscule things that could be big hurdles to closing:

An old electrical panel. Buyers will want it “up to code.” Get bids from multiple electricians to try and get a reduced repair quote, or offer that amount as a credit in lieu of repair at closing.

Ripped window screens. Window screens will wear out over time, but tears should be taken seriously. Either replace them before listing or offer credit at closing.

The location of the laundry room. The laundry on the ‘wrong’ level can be a big negative, especially in a three-level house or townhouse. Offer to move the washer and dryer to a new location if possible.

The bathtub or shower. Some people prefer showers, others want bathtubs, especially parents with small children. A bathtub with a showerhead above is the best option.

Kitchen walls. Many people prefer open kitchens. If you think your kitchen’s walls make it feel cramped and that’s stalling your sale, consider opening it up yourself.

Small closets. There isn’t much you can do to ease these concerns, but try to make your closets look roomier by de-cluttering. Hiring a contractor to build or extend closets where needed—or pointing out to buyers that they can do this themselves – is another fix.

Forgotten Chores

A lot of work goes into owning a home, and while you’re busy maintaining the obvious, you may be missing smaller, hidden tasks that could lead to damage or health and safety hazards if left unattended. Here are several to consider:

➊ Test for water leaks. Water leaks not only waste water, but can also increase your water bill and cause serious damage inside walls or other hard-to-see places.  The easiest way to check for leaks is to take a reading of the water meter, avoid using your water for a few hours and then take another reading. If it changes, then you have a leak.

➋ Seal stone countertops. Natural stone countertops are porous and absorb liquids, bacteria and stains, leading to irreversible damage.  To seal countertops, clean them with a stone-safe cleaner or soap and water, then let them dry.  Then apply the sealer, wait 15 minutes and wipe off any excess.

➌ Clean dryer ducts. Lint, dirt and other residue can build up on the dryer screen, inside the lint trap, and around the machine and vents.  Buildup blocks airflow, leading to less efficient drying or fires.  Wash the lint screen with soap and water, use a long brush to clear out the lint trap, and vacuum out the tube and any stray lint.

➍ Reseal tile grout. Most grout is a mixture of sand and cement, which can absorb liquids, bacteria and stains.  Before sealing, scrub the grout and tiles to remove dirt and particles.  Then apply sealant and wipe off the excess.  Wait 15 minutes, apply a second coat and remove the excess.  Grout is successfully sealed when water beads on top.

3 Steps To Effective De-Cluttering

Spring cleaning is a yearly ritual that most homeowners find themselves tasked with annually. While some people enjoy the activity, others find it tedious and difficult. When attempting to sell your home, you may be even more wary, as such daunting tasks can cause added anxiety and stress.

Here are a few tips on how to help get rid of your stuff:

Look for support. Friends and family are often great motivators for getting rid of clutter. Think about asking other people’s opinions on what should stay and what should go. If you’re in the process of selling your home, your REALTOR® could be a trusty resource. They have experience in helping people just like you prepare their homes for prospective showings and eventual moves.

Professional help may be necessary. Sometimes the task at hand may be a bit too much for homeowners to handle. Years of clutter and storage build up quickly and figuring out where to even begin can be tough. So enlisting the help of a professional organizer could go a long way to speedily cleaning your home.

Consider your options. When you are actually ready to declutter, the question then becomes: Where should all the stuff go? There are a few options to think about when cleaning:

  • Sell. Some things you may want to consider selling, such as antiques or collectibles.
  • Donate. Old clothes and furniture that you don’t use anymore may be better suited for others in need.
  • Store. Consider getting a storage unit off-site, if you are unsure about getting rid of your possessions.
  • Trash. Some items you have stored have no value or are damaged. Throwing them away is a quick way to create much needed space.

The Home Of Tomorrow

The future is now for homeowners, as more and more people are looking to smart devices to improve their everyday living. From thermostats, to fire and carbon monoxide detectors, technology and automation is getting more sophisticated. What’s the current state of smart technology, and where is it going? Here are a few new devices that can make your home a touch smarter:

ÄLaundry folding robot—The Laundroid from Seven Dreamers uses AI to sort and fold your clothes. Place your clothes into a drawer at the bottom of the machine, and watch as it folds your wardrobe, along with being able to separate clothes for each family member.

ÄSmart refrigerator—LG’s InstaView ThinQ has a touchscreen on the front of the fridge that keeps track of what food or drink you put in and take out. When you’re running low on a certain item, it even reminds you that it’s time to restock.

ÄInteractive mirror—Kohler’s Vedera Voice Lighted Mirror has a built-in version of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, so you can access important information while getting ready in the morning or preparing to go to bed.

ÄIntelligent security light—A floodlight with a two-way speaker and motion activated camera, Maximus is perfect for monitoring activity outside of your house. It detects movement up to 70 feet away and relays a message to your smartphone for instant alerts about potential visitors or trespassers.

ÄSmart plumbing—Flo is a smart plumbing monitoring system that can tell a homeowner not only about leaks, but also water pressure, temperature and flow rate.

MAKING THE MOST OF A MODEST MESS HALL

While some people who are selling their home think a small kitchen is a negative, there are several ways that you can make it stand out and appeal to potential buyers:

Light it up. Darkness can often make smaller rooms feel even more cramped. To open the room up to more light, consider removing all curtains from windows and instead install recessed blinds. You still get the privacy factor, while also allowing your kitchen to have a brighter feel.

Keep the counters tidy. Many people have things strewn about their kitchen counters and cabinets. Think about keeping your countertops clear of all items, including photos, papers and even appliances, to make it seem like the room is larger than it truly is.

Brighten the walls. Sellers should consider making the tone of the wall color in the kitchen brighter. Lighter colors tend to open up a room. They are also much more inviting, enticing potential buyers.

Mounted appliances. Sellers may want to consider mounting appliances on the wall or under the cabinets to create more countertop space, giving the kitchen the appearance of being more spacious. The distinctive and interesting design look could attract more interest during a walkthrough or tour.

5 Home Remodeling Trends Buyers Love

Buyers these days are looking for increasingly functional home design. When investing in a major remodel, remember that while a quick paint job or some new tile will assuredly spiff up the place, truly appealing to today’s buyers means giving some thought to functionality.

Here are three home remodeling trends buyers love—that promise to deliver on your investment.

An open floor plan

The popularity of open floor plans is undeniable, but remember that achieving this trend doesn’t mean additional square footage, it’s more about reimagining the space you have to create that larger kitchen and eliminating the dining room.

ROI: Percent of value recovered from the cost to open up a home’s floor plan is tough to pin down, because construction issues affect final costs. However, a survey by Harris Poll for Trulia reports that 46 percent of today’s homebuyers, regardless of generation, want an open floor plan.

Kitchen storage with personality and purpose

According to a National Association of Home Builders survey, 79 percent of remodelers cite kitchen overhauls as the second most popular renovation project in 2016. White kitchens have seen a resurgence in popularity, with soft grey or deep charcoal accents.

For storage, homeowners want options that serve a purpose. They’re choosing more and deeper drawer banks, eliminating the need for pricey pullout cabinet baskets that make deep base cabinets functional. There’s also a strong emphasis on the kitchen island, which provides additional storage, helps anchor an open floor plan and gives homeowners a spot to express their personal style with creative finishes and countertop materials.

Return on investment (ROI) for kitchen update: 67 percent*

A personally and environmentally superior bathroom  

In a 2016 National Association of Home Builders study, 81 percent of those surveyed gave bathroom renovations the top spot for the most common remodeling project. A strong bathroom trend is replacing that enormous whirlpool bathtub—so popular in the 1980s—with an oversized walk-in shower. Replacing the tub with a shower is not recommended in a one-bathroom home because young couples or families want a tub for their children.

Bigger tiles on bathroom walls and floors are another trend, from 12 by 24 inches up to square or rectangular extra-large tiles measuring 40 by 120 inches.

ROI for a bathroom renovation: 58 percent*

If you need some help figuring out what kind of remodeling trend works best in your neighborhood, a Certified Residential Specialist can help. These CRS real estate agents know their markets better than anyone and can tell you if remodeling your kitchen or bathroom will help your home sell faster and at a higher price point.

* 2015 Remodeling Impact Report, a joint study from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)

The 2 Most Common Pricing Mistakes

Price is the No. 1 factor that helps potential homebuyers determine which homes they want to view. The right price should attract buyers, allow you to earn the most money possible and help you sell as quickly as possible. However, there is an art and a science to setting asking prices, and many sellers tend to overvalue their homes based on two common factors—the original cost of the property and the cost of home improvements.

1. The original cost of the property does not determine your asking price. Price is determined by today’s market, not by the market in which you purchased your home. Buyers won’t be swayed to pay more for a property just because you paid a lot initially.

2. Home improvements do not necessarily increase your asking price. Improvements can add value to your home, but not all improvements add value equal to what you spent on them. What you saw as an upgrade could be seen by a buyer as a potential future cost. For example, just because you spent $20,000 installing a state-of-the art swimming pool doesn’t mean your home’s selling price will be $20,000 more. This goes for all upgrades. A $7,000 kitchen upgrade doesn’t mean $7,000 should be added to the asking price. Consider this before spending money to upgrade or update any part of a home you plan to sell.

Try to avoid allowing your enthusiasm to impact your better judgment—overpricing is a common mistake that can cost you in the end. If your home is priced too high, you may help sell similar homes in your area that are priced lower, rather than selling your own. Because your home would likely stay on the market longer, you could lose market interest as well as qualified buyers. And the longer your home is on the market, the more likely it is you’ll lose money as a result of making extra mortgage payments, incurring taxes and paying unplanned maintenance costs.

With a mix of real world experience and advanced training, a Certified Residential Specialist has the tools necessary to decide the fair market value of your home based on both the marketplace and personal considerations. Remember, the right price is key to a successful sale, so work with a CRS to price your home accurately the first time.

7 Repairs to Make Before Selling Your House

You want to sell your home quickly and profitably, but you may have a few repairs to make first. But how do you know which repairs are worth doing, and which ones are better left to the buyer? Here are a few tips:

Focus on the exterior. First impressions are lasting impressions, so be sure the outside of your home is clean and inviting. Paint or replace shutters that are faded or worn, update landscaping and make sure your front entrance is welcoming to visitors.

Play it safe. Fix items that are a clear safety risk or environmental issue, such as broken steps, electrical issues, water damage, rotten or chipped flooring or a leaky roof, which can spook buyers. You can save money on large repairs by getting competitive bids from businesses in your community, then your CRS can strategically include the repairs in your home’s listing.

Think small. Minor flaws can be seen as huge problems when potential buyers are examining the space—for every $1,000 of perceived defect, the buyer will ask for a $3,000 to $5,000 reduction of the asking price. Replacing or repairing worn woodwork, caulking in bathtubs and showers, faded wallpaper, marred walls and stained ceilings, loose knobs, sticking windows and broken light switches are all ways to make your home more appealing.

Decide when to go big. Once you know what repairs or upgrades are needed, it’s time to decide what’s actually worth fixing. For example, if your kitchen cabinets are very beat-up or outdated, it may be worth replacing them. However, since buyers tend to tweak cosmetic details to their own tastes, cabinets that are in relatively good shape can be resurfaced instead. Upgrades that are almost always worth it are hardwood flooring, roofing and insulation, which reap 95 percent returns on investment or higher. When in doubt, talk with your real estate agent about features that maximize your ability to sell in your area.

Keep it clean. Buyers may see the surface condition of your home as a sign of what’s underneath. Keep windows, floors, walls and other surfaces clean. Steam clean carpeting and other fabrics, and, if needed, hire a cleaning service to ensure the place is always tidy.

Provide quotes. Items such as energy enhancements or major appliances are best left to the buyer, but you can provide quotes to help them budget if they want to replace or upgrade in the future.

Inspect it. If you are still unsure about some features of your home, consider getting a pre-inspection or talking to a real estate agent about a pre-listing inspection.

When deciding to selling your home, guidance from a qualified real estate agent is invaluable. Not all agents are created equally though, so when you turn to sell, contact a Certified Residential Specialist. These agents have advanced education, training and experience and are certified as the best real estate agents in the business.

The 2 Most Common Pricing Mistakes

Price is the No. 1 factor that helps potential home buyers determine which homes they want to view. The right price should attract buyers, allow you to earn the most money possible and help you sell as quickly as possible. However, there is an art and a science to setting asking prices, and many sellers tend to overvalue their homes based on two common factors—the original cost of the property and the cost of home improvements.

1. The original cost of the property does not determine your asking price. Price is determined by today’s market, not by the market in which you purchased your home. Buyers won’t be swayed to pay more for a property just because you paid a lot initially.

2. Home improvements do not necessarily increase your asking price. Improvements can add value to your home, but not all improvements add value equal to what you spent on them. What you saw as an upgrade could be seen by a buyer as a potential future cost. For example, just because you spent $20,000 installing a state-of-the art swimming pool doesn’t mean your home’s selling price will be $20,000 more. This goes for all upgrades. A $7,000 kitchen upgrade doesn’t mean $7,000 should be added to the asking price. Consider this before spending money to upgrade or update any part of a home you plan to sell.

Try to avoid allowing your enthusiasm to impact your better judgment—overpricing is a common mistake that can cost you in the end. If your home is priced too high, you may help sell similar homes in your area that are priced lower, rather than selling your own. Because your home would likely stay on the market longer, you could lose market interest as well as qualified buyers. And the longer your home is on the market, the more likely it is you’ll lose money as a result of making extra mortgage payments, incurring taxes and paying unplanned maintenance costs.

With a mix of real world experience and advanced training, a Certified Residential Specialist has the tools necessary to decide the fair market value of your home based on both the marketplace and personal considerations. Remember, the right price is key to a successful sale, so work with a CRS to price your home accurately the first time.