Fall Appeal

While it’s true that most homes tend to sell in spring or summer, this shouldn’t discourage potential sellers from listing a home in fall. Think about these tips and tricks to make your home more appealing to buyers as the leaves start to turn.

Show off the home’s potential. Give buyers an idea of how the home would look during warmer months. If you’re planning on selling later in the calendar year, consider taking photos of your home in the spring or summer and have them on display during open houses or showings. Giving potential buyers a glimpse into the future may get them to sign on the dotted line.

Take care of exterior aesthetics. Piles of leaves or mounds of snow can make the exterior of your property look messy. Colder months tend to make most outdoor areas look dull or dreary, but remember to keep things clean for any photos taken of your home or for any viewings. Consider using markers to clearly define the edges of your property, as weather elements may make things fuzzy to buyers.

Brighten up the place. Colder months can feel dreary. To take advantage of available natural light, keep your blinds and curtains wide open for showings. The more natural light shining into your home, the more attractive it will look. Also, think about using different types of light bulbs to add extra brightness to your living spaces. And don’t forget about outdoor lighting! With the sun setting earlier, a well-lit exterior is a must for viewing your home in the afternoon or evening.

THE bigger PICTURE

While the price of a home might seem to be in your budget at face value, forgotten costs of the buying and moving process could potentially put you over budget in the long run. Here are six costs that are often overlooked, courtesy of Redfin:

Improvements. Even if the home you buy isn’t a fixer-upper, there may be things you want to change or add to make it your own, such as new flooring, paint or counter tops, which can add up to be a large expense.

Moving. Moving costs money, and the price goes up the more stuff you have and the farther you’re moving.

Furnishings. You may want to buy furnishings for your new home, since the furniture and accessories you own now may not be enough or fit in with a new aesthetic.

Maintenance. This is an expense that catches renters especially off guard, because maintenance is usually taken care of by the building owners. You can expect to repair or replace a variety of things during the life of a home, so be sure to include maintenance costs in your budget.

Utilities. While you may already be paying for utilities at your current residence, the costs could be higher in your new home depending on the size and area. There are also some utilities that are included in rent that homeowners have to pay for, like garbage collection.

Time. You will meet with several people to sign documents, set up utilities and prepare your move—time you might take off from work. This is fine if you’re able to use vacation days, but if not, you may need to take unpaid leave.

KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL

Each year brings about new home design trends, and one of the most popular rooms to study is the kitchen. Looking at trend studies can provide inspiration for homeowners considering updating or remodeling their kitchens, so check out these findings from the latest Houzz report:

Organization and decluttering are top priorities. Seventy-five percent of homeowners want clutter-free countertops, and 63 percent said adequate storage was the most important feature in a kitchen. Custom storage options have become popular, especially pullout waste and recycling bins, utensil and dish organizers, and wine/bar cabinets.

Countertops are getting a new look. Countertops are the most commonly upgraded feature in the kitchen (94 percent), as well as the one homeowners are most willing to splurge on. Engineered quartz has also gained popularity over granite.

Open layouts are in. Half of renovating homeowners open their kitchen to other interior spaces, with a completely open transition or double doors being the most common. One in 5 homeowners made their kitchen more open to the outdoors, usually by installing exterior doors.

Design is transitional. Iconic styles such as modern and traditional are falling out of favor as homeowners lean toward transitional, contemporary and farmhouse styles. And they are choosing shaker-style and flatpanel cabinets over raised-panel.

But what about color? White is a predominant color chosen for cabinets, countertops, walls and backsplashes, while wood is the top choice for floors. Natural wood continues to be most popular, but is on the decline as homeowners are choosing engineered wood or laminate flooring

KILL THE clutter

There’s a reason REALTORS® always advise home sellers to remove all clutter when selling their homes: The difference is remarkable. The clutter-free home often looks like a new one entirely, and homeowners even wonder how their home could look that good.

You don’t have to wait to sell your home to make it look better. Plus, clutter can physically and mentally stress us out. By breaking your decluttering down into five-minute sessions, you can slowly conquer your clutter.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits offers some ways to start:

Designate a spot for incoming papers, and don’t put them anywhere but that spot until you can sort and file them.

Clear one area and designate it your “no-clutter” zone. There is one rule for that area: Nothing can be placed there that’s not actually in use. Everything must be put way. Once you have that, expand to more areas.

Pick up five things and find places for them. These should be things you actually use, but which don’t have a good spot to live.

Pull everything out of a drawer, evaluate it and sort it into three piles: stuff that really goes in the drawer, stuff that belongs elsewhere and stuff to ditch.

Create a “maybe” box. When you’re organizing, you often know exactly which items you want to keep and which you can trash or donate. But sometimes there are items you can’t trash, and yet you’re not sure what to do with them. Put them in the “maybe” box and pull it out every six months to re-evaluate.

Keep it going: After you’ve decluttered, don’t get tempted to buy new things. Instead, create a 30-day list and put any non-essential items you want to buy on it along with the date. If an item has sat on the list for 30 days and you still want to buy it, you can.

THE pre-listing LIST

Completing some quick and easy tasks before listing a home for sale can help reduce stress and save time during the home-selling process.

Clean the House. An important part of selling a home is keeping it clean in anticipation of a showing. Cleaning the home will convey that it’s been well cared for and that the house is less susceptible to any issues caused by neglect.

Finish the Honey-Do List. Some areas of the home, although not typically thought of as areas that would affect a home’s appeal, may be displayed as safety concerns on a home inspection report. Help yourself by replacing burnt-out light bulbs, testing smoke detectors, replacing air filters and unclogging drains.

Check All Outlets. A sampling of electrical outlets will be tested as part of the home inspection to make sure they’re in good working order. Take note of which outlets are not functioning and replace them, or consider hiring an electrician to make sure all outlets and the electrical box are updated and in proper working condition.

Clear Areas for Easy Access. Home inspectors will be looking at the major systems of the home, including the foundation, HVAC systems, electrical systems, plumbing and even the water heater. Making sure they can easily access these areas, including the basement and attic, will save time during the inspection process.

Consider a Pre-Listing Inspection. Hiring experienced and professional home inspectors can save a lot of headaches during the selling process. They will thoroughly go through the home and notify you of any potential issues ahead of listing the property

Checklist For New Homeowners

You’ve finally finished the paperwork and you’ve got the keys. Congratulations, you’re officially a new homeowner! While some think the purchasing process is daunting, what comes next can be equally challenging: deciding what you need in your home. Here are a few items to think about prior to moving in, so you’re ready to live comfortably when the day comes.

1. Cleaning Equipment. If you’re coming from an apartment lifestyle, you’ll soon realize that cleaning a home is much more challenging and exhausting. More rooms and furniture amount to more work and ground to cover. Make sure you’re prepared with a broom and mop, as well as a good vacuum cleaner.

2 Toolkit. Not paying rent anymore is a burden lifted, but you also don’t have a landlord anymore. This means you’ll be responsible for all repairs. Consider assembling an extensive tool collection to be prepared for all possible mishaps—which assuredly will happen.

3. Design and Customization. As a new homeowner, you may not be able to splurge on fancy design elements, but that shouldn’t stop you from creating the interior of your dreams. Start with your window treatments and create a color scheme for your home with different styles and hues of drapes. Think about inexpensive accents like photo frames, vases or vintage furniture you can refurbish.

4. Entertainment. When your friends and family find out about your new purchase, they’ll want to come over and enjoy your home with you. Don’t forget about having party supplies to easily facilitate entertaining guests. Party-hosting materials, such as serving platters, place mats, cocktail/wine glasses, dishes and cutlery, will help show off your new space.

TIPS FOR MILLENIONAL INVESTORS

Investing in real estate can be fruitful. Now, after years in the workforce, more millennials are taking the leap. Many are first-time investors who need helpful tips about how to get started in the real estate game.

Improve your credit. Investors need a good credit score to get certain loans—especially first-time investors. Money lenders comb through your finances to ensure you’re a good risk, so pay off previous loans to bump up your score.

Build your savings. Having a stable savings stream puts you in good standing with lenders. Save a percentage of your paychecks to store funds for your first purchase, and create a smart and consistent plan to pay off your high-interest debts first.

Study up. Research can help you build a strong portfolio and learn about the industry. Calculate how much you can spend and how long it takes to renovate and sell homes in your price range. Use comparisons for similar real estate in the area to save time, money and stress.

Use your brain. Emotion can get in the way of real estate investment. What may seem too good to be true often is. Consult an inspector prior to making a purchase. And learn from any failures to become a stronger, smarter investor.

NEW BUYER beware!

If you’re looking to become a first-time homeowner, it’s easy to get excited, and in the process, get ahead of yourself. There are several financial aspects you must examine when navigating the purchasing process. Here are a few important warnings, or homebuying ‘don’ts,’ that you should consider.

Don’t delay on getting preapproved. Just because you say you’re in the browsing stage of buying a home doesn’t mean the home of your dreams won’t fall into your lap. If you find a home that you love before you’ve been approved for a home loan, you may be out of luck. Due to a low inventory of homes across the country, competition is high, so don’t delay getting preapproved.

Don’t ignore closing costs. Closing costs, which can involve a wide variety of fees, are often forgotten during the excitement of the homebuying experience. Many people focus strictly on the down payment costs when shopping, but escrow, application and inspection fees may apply to you during the closing process. Be sure to budget for these extra expenses.

Don’t forget about month to month costs. Whether it’s normal living expenses or taxes, insurance and homeowner’s association fees, you’ll be spending money related to your home on a monthly basis. Expenses such as utility costs for water and electricity often get overlooked when purchasing a home. Less essential costs such as landscaping/lawn care are also lurking. So be prepared to research all of these potential monthly bills prior to closing.

Don’t try to do it yourself. You may save money buying a home with no professional help, but it can turn into a nightmare. Not knowing the ins and outs of real estate transactions could come back to haunt you if another party takes advantage of your lack of knowledge. Unless you have extensive experience in real estate, the smart move is to always consult a professional to assist you with all facets of buying a home.

PROS AND CONS OF VIRTUAL STAGING

Trying to sell a home can often be difficult. Everyone likes something different. The question then becomes, how do you present your home so that a wide variety of potential buyers become interested? Enter the practice of staging a home. This is when you furnish your home to show off its most attractive qualities and properties, making it more appealing to buyers.

Taking the art of staging a step further is the practice of virtual staging. With no actual furniture involved, this is a digital rendering of what a potential home could look like when furnished. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks with virtual staging:

Pros:

– If your home is empty, it’s easier to showcase its best features

– Considerably cheaper than traditional staging

– Grabs the attention of buyers who primarily view properties online

– Allows the variation of styling for flex rooms, or rooms that can be used for different purposes

Cons:

– If you need to remove items or furniture from photos, this could raise the cost

– Buyers can’t see the room as designed in person, sometimes deterring a purchase

– Often difficult to configure if the house is occupied, unless you have previous listing photos

Marked Appreciation

A home generally appreciates in value between 3 and 4 percent each year, but not every home appreciates equally. While every market is different—and appreciation is naturally affected by factors homeowners can’t control— there are certain home features that create greater appreciation than others. Realtor.com did some research, analyzed millions of listings over the past five years and here’s what they found:

Size -Small homes are in high demand, especially by millennial first-time buyers. Homes smaller than 1,200 square feet appreciated an average of 7.5% a year for the past five years. Larger homes (more than 2,400 square feet) only rose by 3.8%.

Bedrooms – Two bedrooms appreciate 6.6% while five bedrooms appreciate just 4.3%.

Floor Plans – Open floor plans appreciate 7.4% a year—beating out other home features like a patio (6.8%), hardwood floors (5.7%), a fireplace (5.3%) and a finished basement (4.6%).

Style – Modern and contemporary architectural styles appreciate 7.7% a year. Bungalows and traditional homes appreciate at 6.5% and 5.6%, respectively.

Adjacency – Homes overlooking a park appreciate at 7.9% a year, hold value over a longer period of time and recover quickly from a downturn. Homes with mountain views appreciate 5.1% a year, while lake homes appreciate 4.9% annually

Know Your Coverage

There are many misunderstandings out there about homeowners insurance— misconceptions that can lead to expensive mistakes.

According to a survey by insurance marketplace InsuranceQuotes, homeowners tend to overestimate the amount of flood protection they have. Fifty-six percent of respondents still mistakenly believed that a standard homeowners policy covers flood damage. For millennials ages 18 to 36, the percentage rose to 67 percent.

Meanwhile, more than onethird of respondents thought auto insurance would cover items stolen from their car, but actually homeowners or renters insurance would cover those.

Most homeowners underestimate their coverage for dog bites: Regarding potential lawsuits filed by someone bitten by a policyholder’s dog outside their property, few knew they would be protected by their homeowners policy.

Dog Day Deals

According to Realtor.com, summer is the most popular time of the year to buy and sell a home. While you might think that waiting until the market cools down before starting your home search is the better choice, there are some distinct advantages to buying during housing’s hottest season.

Inventory is broader. Because summer is the busy season, there are more options to choose from, which is especially good for buyers looking for specific aspects in a home. Plus, knowing there are more homes out there gives you leverage during price negotiations and peace of mind if your bid is rejected.

Buying and selling may be easier. If you need to sell your home before you can buy another, it will likely be easier during the summer because houses are selling more quickly and at potentially better prices.

School is out. This could be an advantage for buyers with children because their schedules will be more flexible. Kids can more easily attend showings, and there will be less disruption to their lives during moving time. Sellers with children may want to cement a deal before school starts again, which can also be an advantage for buyers.

You may get to see more of the neighborhood. Nicer weather will likely draw out the neighbors and their children, allowing you to get a better idea of the level of noise or activity in the community. Trees and flowers are also in bloom, so you can see what your prospective yard truly looks like.