St Louis Real Estate Exchange

The most informative Real Estate Blog in St. Louis

Sept. 18, 2018

4 Reasons Why Fall is a Great Time to Buy a Home in St Louis

Here are four great reasons to consider buying a home today instead of waiting.

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Insights report reveals that home prices have appreciated by 6.2% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 5.1% over the next year.

Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates Are Projected to Increase

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage have already increased by half of a percentage point, to around 4.5% in 2018. Most experts predict that rates will rise over the next 12 months. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the National Association of Realtors are in unison, projecting that rates will increase by half a percentage point to around 5.1% by this time next year.

An increase in rates will impact your monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

3. Either Way, You Are Paying a Mortgage

There are some renters who have not yet purchased homes because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to build equity in your home which you can then tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person building that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

4. It’s Time to Move on with Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide if it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer, or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

Sept. 4, 2018

5 Reasons You Should Sell This Fall

Here are five reasons why listing your home for sale this fall makes sense.

1. Demand Is Strong

The latest Buyer Traffic Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that buyer demand remains very strong throughout the vast majority of the country. These buyers are ready, willing and able to purchase…and are in the market right now! In fact, more often than not, multiple buyers end up competing with each other to buy the same homes.

Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There Is Less Competition Now 

Housing inventory is still under the 6-month supply needed for a normal housing market. This means that, in the majority of the country, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers in the market. This is good news for homeowners who have gained equity as their home values have increased. However, additional inventory could be coming to the market soon!

Historically, a homeowner stayed in his or her home for an average of six years, but that number has hovered between nine and ten years since 2011. Many homeowners have a pent-up desire to move as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. As home values continue to appreciate, more and more homeowners will be given the freedom to move.

The choices buyers have will continue to increase. Don’t wait until this other inventory comes to market before you decide to sell.

3. The Process Will Be Quicker

Today’s competitive environment has forced buyers to do all that they can to stand out from the crowd, including getting pre-approved for their mortgage financing. This makes the entire selling process much faster and much simpler as buyers know exactly what they can afford before home shopping. According to Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insights Report, the average time it took to close a loan was 44 days.

4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move Up

If your next move will be into a premium or luxury home, now is the time to move up! The abundance of inventory available in these higher price ranges has created a buyer’s market for anybody looking to purchase these homes. This means that if you are planning on selling a starter or trade-up home, your home will sell quickly AND you’ll be able to find a premium home to call your own!

According to CoreLogic, prices are projected to appreciate by 5.1% over the next year. If you are moving to a higher-priced home, it will wind up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage payment) if you wait.

5. It’s Time to Move on With Your Life 

Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than your health? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you feel you should?

Only you know the answers to the questions above. You have the power to take control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.

That is what is truly important.

Aug. 24, 2018

5 Reasons To Hire A Real Estate Professional Before Entering The Market!

Whether you are buying or selling a home, it can be quite the adventure. In this world of instant gratification and internet searches, many sellers think that they can ‘For Sale by Owner’ or ‘FSBO,’ but it’s not as easy as it may seem. That’s why you need an experienced real estate professional to guide you on the path to achieving your ultimate goal!

The 5 reasons you need a real estate professional in your corner haven’t changed but have rather been strengthened by the projections of higher mortgage interest rates and home prices as the market continues to pick up steam.

1. What do you do with all this paperwork?

Each state has different regulations regarding the contracts required for a successful sale, and these regulations are constantly changing. A true real estate professional is an expert in his or her market and can guide you through the stacks of paperwork necessary to make your dream a reality.

2. So you found your dream house, now what?

There are over 230 possible steps that need to take place during every successful real estate transaction. Don’t you want someone who has been there before, someone who knows what these actions are, to ensure you achieve your dream?

3. Are you a good negotiator?

So maybe you’re not convinced that you need an agent to sell your home. After looking at the list of parties that you will need to be prepared to negotiate with, you’ll soon realize the value in selecting a real estate professional. From the buyers (who want the best deals possible), to the home inspection companies, all the way to the appraisers, there are at least 11 different people who you will need to be knowledgeable of, and answer to, during the process.

4. What is the home you’re buying/selling really worth?

It is important for your home to be priced correctly from the start in order to attract the right buyers and shorten the amount of time that it’s on the market. You need someone who is not emotionally connected to your home to give you its true value. According to a recent article by the National Association of Realtors, FSBOs achieve prices significantly lower than the prices of similar properties sold by real estate agents:

FSBOs earn an average of $60,000 to $90,000 less on the sale of their home than sellers who work with a real estate agent.”

Get the most out of your transaction by hiring a professional!

5. Do you know what’s really going on in the market?

There is so much information out there on the news and on the internet about home sales, prices, and mortgage rates; how do you know what’s going on specifically in your area? Who do you turn to in order to competitively and correctly price your home at the beginning of the selling process? How do you know what to offer on your dream home without paying too much, or offending the seller with a lowball offer?

Dave Ramsey, the financial guru, advises:

“When getting help with money, whether it’s insurance, real estate or investments, you should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman.”

Hiring an agent who has his or her finger on the pulse of the market will make your buying or selling experience an educated one. You need someone who is going to tell you the truth, not just what they think you want to hear.

Bottom Line

You wouldn’t replace the engine in your car without a trusted mechanic, so why would you make one of the most important financial decisions of your life without hiring a real estate professional?

Aug. 16, 2018

Homebuyers Willing To Sacrifice ‘Must-Haves’ In Favor Of Good School Districts

It should come as no surprise that buying a home in a good school district is important to homebuyers. According to a report from Realtor.com, 86% of 18-34 year-olds and 84% of those aged 35-54 indicated that their home search areas were defined by school district boundaries.

What is surprising, however, is that 78% of recent homebuyers sacrificed features from their “must-have”lists in order to find homes within their dream school districts.

The top feature sacrificed was a garage at 19%, followed closely by a large backyard, an updated kitchen, the desired number of bedrooms, and an outdoor living area. The full results are shown in the graph below.

Buyers are attracted to schools with high test scores, accelerated academic programs, art and music programs, diversity, and before and after-school programs.

With a limited number of homes available to buy in today’s real estate market, competition is fierce for homes in good school districts. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist for Realtor.com, explained further,

“Most buyers understand that they may not be able to find a home that covers every single item on their wish list, but our survey shows that school districts are an area where many buyers aren’t willing to compromise.

For many buyers and not just buyers with children, ‘location, location, location,’ means ‘schools, schools, schools.’” 

Bottom Line

For buyers across the country, the quality of their children’s (or future children’s) education ranks highest on their must-have lists. Before you start the search for your next home, meet with a local real estate agent who can explain the market conditions in your area.

Aug. 7, 2018

What Sellers Want from Their Real Estate Agent

It's easy to say that the seller wants to sell fast and for top dollar.  Of course, that's true.  As real estate professionals, we provide a number of valuable services in setting up a listing to sell fast for more money. Knowing what our seller's value or their perceptions of what we offer is important. By providing the services they expect plus a few more they find surprisingly valuable, we create clients for life.

Actual Seller Input, Not Our Assumptions
We may think we know what sellers want and need from us to sell their home or land. The best way to know is to ask. It is done every year in a survey of buyers and sellersof real estate done by the National Association of Realtors.  We'll look at one year's report stats here.

Surveys taken of sellers probably show many of the things we would assume, but possibly not in the order of importance we would think. The requirements here are in order of their importance to the sellers, most important first.

Find a Buyer for Their Home
Helping find them a buyer was, as we might have assumed, the top requirement of sellers, with 28% placing this as their top concern. This tells you that your marketing plan and media are quite important to your prospective listing clients.

Sell Their Home Within a Specific Time Frame
This seller requirement was only 1% below the top one, with 27% of sellers desiring this service from their real estate agent. It's highly related to the first one, with marketing being a very important factor in how fast a property sells.

Price Their Home Competitively
With 17% of sellers placing importance on this requirement, they're telling us that puffing their egos with a fat listing price isn't what they want. They want their property to sell. Do a thorough market analysis and be honest with them about expected results at different price points.

Find Ways to Fix Up Their Home to Sell It for More
This might surprise some, at fourth in importance with a 12% response. Maybe that Home Staging® class would be a good idea. Or perhaps suggesting a staging professional would be appreciated. At the very least, don't be bashful about suggesting things to do to enhance the look and presentation of the property.

Help With Paperwork, Inspections and Preparing for Settlement
Many real estate agents would have assumed this requirement to be higher on the list. However, only 7% of sellers made this a priority need. It is very important, but using this list as a guide, you want to build your listing services presentation around marketing and proper pricing first.

Negotiate and Deal With Buyers
Here again is an item that many real estate agents value more than their seller clients. At 5%, sellers are telling us that it's one of their needs, but down at sixth on their priority list. By all means, tell your sellers about your negotiating skills, but use this list to prioritize your presentation.

Update in the New Internet-Intensive World

This article is updated to reflect the realities of getting listings from sellers who are more educated in real estate and the local market because they can get loads of free information on the Internet.  It's also a competitive issue, as they can check out many agent websites to see who they believe is doing the best job of marketing.

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that your photos are top notch, even professionally taken if you're in a high-end price market.  Images are the top requirement of home buyers on the Web, and sellers will want to see that you're doing a good job for your listings. The other thing you need to do to impress sellers is to show them your syndication list.  These are the major websites their home will be displayed on once your listing is syndicated through your efforts or a third party.  They want maximum exposure.

Aug. 3, 2018

Important Steps in the Home Selling Process

The home selling process is the same whether it's a for sale by owner or you're hiring a listing agent. Certain details can vary a little from state to states but this checklist can serve as a general guide. Just be sure to confer with a local professional to make sure any specific requirements conform with the rules in your state.

No. 1: Choose a Listing Agent

A listing agent represents you and has a fiduciary responsibility to look out for your best interests. Interview agents and meet with at least three of them as you make a decision. Try to hire experience.

Ask questions about your listing agreement, including the length of time the home will be listed.

No. 2: Find Out How Much Your Home Is Worth

A seller's greatest mistake is often overpricing her home. Keep your price in line with sold homes that have been identified in a comparative market analysis report. Consider whether your market is hot, cold, or neutral and price according to the market temperature.

No. 3: Get Your Home Ready for Sale

Prepare your home for sale by cleaning and decluttering it and improving curb appeal. You might want to consider hiring a professional stager to stage your homefor showings or ask your real estate agent for help with this. You can often use your own furniture.

Make any necessary repairs. If you're selling a home where pets live, you might want to make temporary, alternate plans for them.

Remember, you only get one chance—and sometimes only 3 seconds or so—to make a great first impression so make it count.

No. 4: Market Your Home

You or your agent should identify the sizzling selling points of your home and choose the best advertising words to sell it. Approve your agent's marketing campaign or figure out how to advertise your house for sale yourself. Hire a virtual tour company to take quality photographs and put a virtual tour online if possible.

Tweak marketing to increase traffic and showings. Confirm that your listing is posted online. You—or your agent—should saturate the internet with photographs and descriptions of your property.

No. 5: Show Your Home

Plain and simple: You'll get more showings if you let agents use a lockbox to show your home rather than force them to make appointments.

Keep in mind that your home will show better if you sell in spring rather than in winter. And selling during the holidays will likely result in a lower sales price.

Prepare for an open house but use this approach sparingly. Ask for buyer feedback so you can adjust your price, condition, or marketing campaigns accordingly.

No. 6: Receive Purchase Offers and Negotiate

Be prepared to receive multiple offers if your home is priced right. Don't ignore any even if you receive an insultingly lowball offer. Negotiate by making a counteroffer.

Consider making a counteroffer that's contingent on you buying a home if market conditions warrant it. And don't be afraid to make a full-price counteroffer if your price is competitive and it's warranted.

Ask for a kickout clause or right of first refusal if the buyer's offer is contingent on him selling a home.

No. 7: Open Escrow and Order Title

Your agent or transaction coordinator will open escrow and order a title policy for you. Write down the contact information for the closing agent and select a date to close based on when the buyer's loan will fund.

And don't forget to ask for a receipt for the buyer's earnest money deposit.

No. 8: Schedule an Appraiser Appointment

Clean the house the day before the appraiser arrives. If you receive a low appraisal, ask your agent about alternatives.

You're typically not entitled to receive a copy of the appraisal because you didn't pay for it. If the buyer decides to cancel the contract based on an appraisal, ask your agent or lawyer about your rights.

No. 9: Cooperate With the Home Inspection

Now get ready for the home inspector. Ask your agent to provide you with a home inspection checklist so you'll know in advance what the inspector will want to see. Prepare the attic and basement for inspection, too. Move stuff away from the walls in the garage.

Prepare for the final walk-through inspection with the buyer as well. It usually takes place a few days before or even the morning of closing.

No. 10: Obtain Seller-Required Inspections

If your contract calls for a roof certification, hire a reputable company to conduct the inspection. Keep in mind that states that allow for termite or pest inspections often make these reports a matter of public record. A sewer inspection might call for a new sewer line if your home was built before 1950 or so but trenchless sewers are typically less expensive to install.

The fees for all inspection reports, even if seller-mandated, are usually negotiable.

No. 11: Delivery Seller Disclosures

All homes in the U.S. are subject to lead-based paint disclosures, even those built after 1978.

If you're aware of any other material facts, disclose them. Your title company should provide CC&Rs, but additional documentation might be required if you belong to a homeowner's association.

No. 12: Negotiate Requests for Repair

You don't ordinarily have to accept a buyer's request to make repairs, but he can cancel the contract if you don't. A buyer might accept a closing cost credit instead if you choose not to make repairs. You're entitled to a copy of the home inspection report if the buyer requests repairs.

No. 13: Ask the Buyer to Release Contingencies

The buyer isn't obligated to provide a contingency release if you don't demand it. In some states, you might have a right to cancel the contract if the buyer will not provide a release.

No. 14: Sign the Title and Escrow Documents

Depending on where you're located, you might sign escrow documents shortly after opening escrow or you'll sign them nearer to closing. It's common in some states for everybody to sit around the table, buyers and sellers, so ask your agent about the norm in your location.

And be sure to bring a valid photo ID.

No. 15: Close Escrow

Your property deed, reconveyance, and deed of trust will record in public records. The title company will notify you and your agent when it records the deeds.

Depending on the buyer's possession rights, you might be required to move on the day the home closes or even in advance. This should be specified in the contract.

July 30, 2018

5 No-Cost Tricks to Sell Your Home Faster

 

You decided to sell your house, and you can’t wait to buy a new place. There's just one thing standing in your way: You've got to close the deal on your current one first. You just hope it doesn't take months to get an offer. You want to sell your house fast!

Well, there’s one tried-and-true trick that’s proven to reduce your home’s time on the market. A study by the Real Estate Staging Association found that homes staged before listing received an offer in just 23 days on average. That’s 90% faster than those who waited months after listing to bother staging.(1)

If your budget’s tight, you may think you can’t afford to stage your home. But Dawn Kirkland, a real estate agent in Birmingham, AL, offers five free tricks to help you sell your house quickly.

1. Channel Your Inner Neat Freak

You always knew your tidying tendencies would come in handy one day. Now it’s time to clutter-bust your way to buyers’ hearts!

Dawn admits decluttering isn’t rocket science—but it is the key to creating a pleasing environment. Pay particular attention to common junk magnets like:

  • Kitchen and bathroom counters
  • Fireplace mantels
  • Laundry room shelves
  • Tabletops
  • Magazine racks

No decluttering advice would be complete without a call to streamline your closets. “If your closet is crowded, I’m going to think my stuff won’t fit,” Dawn says. Wow buyers by showing them how much space there is for stuff—not how much stuff there is in the space. 

2. Rearrange the Furniture

Once all the clutter’s out of the way, take a step back and look at the big picture. Does your home invite buyers to sit and stay a while? Can buyers flow freely through your home without bumping into things? If not, you’ve got work to do!

Start by putting bulky pieces in storage and moving furniture away from the walls. “Oftentimes, the room is arranged so the children can play in the middle of the room or the TV can be seen easily from every chair and sofa,” Dawn says. Buyers want to walk in and see an open—yet intimate—space that inspires conversation, not channel-surfing.

An experienced agent can lend a fresh eye and help you reimagine your home. “Go to different rooms and see if there are pieces that you can repurpose for the living room to get the effect you want,” Dawn suggests.

Buyers want to walk in and see an open—yet intimate—space that inspires conversation, not channel-surfing.

3. Think Like a Buyer

Cleaning your home for home showings is common sense. But many folks underestimate just how clean it needs to be.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill weekend tidy-up. Think of it as spring cleaning on steroids. You’ve got to think about what buyers look for and get down to the nitty-gritty so that even the smallest details shine. From ceiling fans and window blinds to baseboards and tile grout, no surface goes unscrubbed!

Don’t forget to get your windows squeaky-clean. “There needs to be as much light coming in as possible,” Dawn says.

 

4. Set the Table

Staging paints a picture for potential buyers so they can envision life in your home. “If I see that a family can live here, I will think my family can live here too,” Dawn explains.

And nothing represents family life quite like the dinner table.

That’s why Dawn recommends giving the dining room some staging attention. Bring your good china, flatware and linens out of hiding. Or add seasonal flair with a dash of bold colors. You don’t have to go over the top with every piece of dinnerware you own. Keep things simple by setting just two places at the table or arranging a decorative centerpiece on top of a neutral table runner. You can find loads of inspiration on Pinterest and Houzz.

If I see that a family can live here, I will think my family can live here too. – Dawn Kirkland, real estate agent

5. Bring the Outside In

Make your house feel like home by taking advantage of what’s in full bloom right outside your door. “[Fresh flowers] are so inviting,” Dawn says. “They warm up a room and send the message that this is a really nice space to be in.” If plucking decorations from your yard isn’t an option, stop by your local grocery store and pick out a fresh bouquet that’s already been prearranged. If you run short on vases, display your finds in an antique pitcher or Mason jar for a touch of vintage charm.

And flowers don’t have to be the only star of the show. If you grow your own fruits and veggies, entice buyers with a bowl of fresh produce on the kitchen counter.

Use That Extra Cash to Sell Your House Fast

If you do have a little cash to spend, here’s what Dawn recommends to sell your house on a tight timeline and a small budget: “If you’ve got $400, I would spend it on paint and mulching the front yard.” Why? Because buyers give you about six seconds to make the sale—three seconds from the curb and three seconds from the foyer.

Of course, every home is different. Before you spend a dime freshening your home up, ask a real estate agent you trust for advice. A true pro knows what buyers in your area want and can help you maximize your home’s appeal without busting your budget.

July 24, 2018

8 Ways to Boost Your Home Value

Image result for home value

When Alec and Jennifer Harmes spent $264,900 for their first home in 2011—a 1,500-square-foot ranch fixer-­upper in Austin, Texas—they assumed they would be living there for many years. So the couple, millennials in their early 30s, embarked on a series of home improvements to make it suit their tastes and needs. They refinished the kitchen cabinets, and installed new stainless-steel appliances and LED lighting. New engineered wood floors replaced the mishmash of linoleum tiles and musty, high-maintenance carpeting.

Outside, they removed the asbestos siding and installed durable, no-paint fiber cement. They also used that moment to rewrap the house in rigid insulation, improving its overall energy efficiency. Though the Harmeses saved big by doing most of the work themselves (he works in construction management, she oversaw design), the total investment was close to $65,000. They were even planning to build a separate mother-in-law apartment on the property to help lure family to Austin. But their folks didn’t want to relocate, so they made the tough decision to move back to Florida to be close to them. “If we could have picked up that house and brought it with us, we would have,” Jennifer says.

Lorella Martin of Redfin, an online real estate brokerage, was the Harmeses’ listing agent; she set the asking price at $450,000. The first open house was like a feeding frenzy, attracting many young professionals eager to move into the popular Austin neighborhood, she says. And it wasn’t hard to figure out why. “When a home is move-in ready and buyers know they can be cooking in the kitchen from day one and entertaining in the backyard that very weekend, you know you’ve got a winner,” she says.

The house sold for $472,000.

Granted, some of the roughly $200,000 increase in home value had to do with the Austin market’s 20 percent appreciation in the Harmeses’ 3½ years of stewardship. But it’s also a testament to the couple’s savvy instincts about what today’s buyers are looking for, especially now that millennials, 75 million strong, have become the leading cohort of buyers, purchasing 32 percent of homes in 2014.

So let the following renovation rules, driven by shifts in the current housing market and informed by Consumer Reports’ nationally representative survey of 1,573 millennials, inform your decisions on improving your home and its value.

1: The Kitchen Is Still King

Buyers of all kinds have long focused on the kitchen, but it holds particular sway over the newest wave of first-time homeowners. A “modern/updated kitchen” topped the list of ideal home features in our survey of millennials, registering as most important to more than a third of respondents. If you plan to sell, don’t rip your kitchen down to the studs; a smaller investment can have serious impact. For as little as $5,000, you should be able to add a new suite of appliances, as well as a new countertop and flooring, resulting in a fresh, coordinated look. Applying a fresh coat of paint to the walls or cabinets, and updating the hardware, can also breath new life into the space. (Check our kitchen planning guide for more information.)

Value-Added Buzzwords

Stainless steel. Though it has been around for decades, this appliance finish conveys clean, contemporary design, so it will signal “updated” in the mind of the buyer. For the latest spin on stainless, look for new versions of black stainless steel from KitchenAid, LG, and Samsung, each with a softer, less reflective finish but the same cachet as the original.

Quartz countertops. Engineered from stone chips, resins, and pigments, quartz has started to challenge granite and marble as the go-to material in higher-end kitchens. It shrugged off heat, scratches, cuts, and stains in our tests, and it requires none of the upkeep of comparably priced natural stones. Expect to spend $40 to $100 per square foot, installed.

Potential bump in sale price: 3 to 7 percent

2: Make Floor Plans Work Harder

Bigger isn’t necessarily better in today’s market, but strategically increasing the amount of living space is sure to boost home value. An “open floor plan with flexible living space” was second only to an updated kitchen on millennials’ list of most desired features.

Finishing a basement is the most common way to add usable square footage to a home. Most homeowners spend between about $10,000 and roughly $27,000 converting a basement, depending on the size of the space, according to estimates from HomeAdvisor, a website that connects homeowners with prescreened service professionals. Attic conversions are another option. The average attic remodel in 2014 cost $50,000.

Many younger buyers will envision the additional living spaces as a dedicated office, especially if they work from home. And at the other end of the spectrum, “a lot of my boomer clients are daytime caretakers for their grandkids,” says David Pekel, who owns a remodeling company in Wauwatosa, Wis. “They want a playroom that they can close the door to after the kids leave, so they’re not dealing with toys underfoot.”

Value-Added Buzzwords

Flex rooms. Also known as double-duty rooms, you’ll see flex rooms advertised as an additional living area that can serve a variety of purposes, from a guest bedroom to a game room to an exercise room to a study room for the kids.

Mother-in-law apartment. These spaces go by many names, including “granny flats,” “casitas,” and the technical sounding “accessory dwelling unit,” or ADU. They can house an additional family member or provide rental income—­allowing baby boomers to afford their house once they retire or helping millennials pay the mortgage. More municipalities, particularly in Western cities, are amending zoning laws to allow for ADUs.

Upstairs laundry rooms. Younger buyers in particular say they want a dedicated laundry room, perhaps off the kitchen or even near second-floor bedrooms. Manufacturers are obliging with washer/dryer sets with a matching fit and finish that neatly integrate into the living space. We like the Maytag Bravos ­MVWB855DW HE top-loader and Maytag Bravos ­MEDB855DW electric dryer, $1,050 each.

Potential bump: 4 to 6 percent

3: Don’t Let Your Home Be an Energy Hog

Lowering your home’s energy costs will save you money for as long as you live there and is expected to be a major selling point down the line. Indeed, “energy-­efficient” was second only to “safe community” on the list of attributes that would most influence a purchase decision, according to a 2015 survey by the National Association of Home Builders.

Older homeowners who have felt the sting of escalating energy costs tend to be driving the interest. But there are some early adopters among younger buyers, too, especially in regions of the country with more extreme weather. “My millennial buyers usually ask for two years’ worth of utility payments,” says Joe Rivellino, a real estate professional in the Buffalo, N.Y., area. “They want to know the R-Value on the insulation and whether the windows have low-E coatings,” he says, referring to two important efficiency measures.

And don’t forget about water heating, which accounts for 16 percent of energy costs in the typical home. Spending $1,800 to $2,400 on a new unit is another way to impress efficiency-minded buyers.

Value-Added Buzzwords

High-efficiency windows. Energy Star certified windows can lower your home’s energy bills by 7 to 15 percent.

That will be a selling point with buyers, though replacing every window in a home costs anywhere from $8,000 to $24,000, so you probably won’t recoup the entire investment if you plan to sell right away.

LED lights. Some listings emphasize their “green” credentials by mentioning the presence of LED lighting. Choose the Feit Electric 60 Watt Replacement 9.5W LED, a $7 bulb that delivers superb light quality and has a 23-year life expectancy.

Potential bump: 1 to 3 percent

4: Keep It Simple and Stress-Free

Stain-prone stone countertops, grime-­collecting ornate cabinets, and dust-­catching wall-to-wall carpet used to be symbols of luxury, but today’s homebuyers are more likely to equate them with extra work. “We call it stress-free living,” says Miguel Berger, president of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Tech Valley in Albany, N.Y. “The younger generation in particular would much rather spend their time entertaining at home than fussing over it.” It’s safe to assume boomers feel the same.

Beyond a home’s cosmetic finishes, it’s important to keep the major mechanical systems in working order. Many first-time buyers will have used up much of their savings on the down payment, so they want to know that the heating system, plumbing, and electricity have been recently updated. Central air conditioning is also in demand because it eliminates the need to switch window units in and out. ­HomeAdvisor puts the average cost nationwide at just more than $5,000.

Value-Added Buzzwords

Updated systems. In addition to including the age of the system, it helps if you can also point to its reliability. For example, Consumer Reports surveys have found American Standard and Trane to be among the least repair-prone manufacturers of gas furnaces.

New roof. This will help assuage fears of water damage, ice dams, squirrel infestation, and other home disasters that can result from an old, shoddy roof. For a typical 2,300-square-foot house, you might be able to put on a new asphalt shingle roof for as little as $6,000.

Hardwood floors. More carpets are being replaced with long-wearing hardwood flooring with a durable factory finish. Engineered wood flooring, which uses a thin veneer of real wood or bamboo over structural plywood, tends not to wear as well as the solid stuff, though it has the same look and tends to cost less, making it a good choice if you plan to sell soon.

Potential bump: 3 to 5 percent

5: Build a Home for ‘the Ages’

By 2040, there are expected to be almost 80 million seniors accounting for 21 percent of the population. The existing housing stock isn’t equipped to safely accommodate that many older people—too many steep staircases, narrow walker-­unfriendly doorways, and slippery step-in bathtubs and showers. Forward-thinking homeowners are making necessary improvements to their home now—and those changes will benefit people of all ages, not just seniors. According to a 2015 survey by ­HomeAdvisor, 56 percent of homeowners who hired a pro for aging-related projects were younger than 65, and 10 percent were younger than 50.

Value-Added Buzzwords

Walk-in shower. “People in the 50-plus age range don’t want to step over the tub to take a shower,” Pekel says. Curbless showers eliminate the threshold between the shower and surrounding bathroom, making them wheelchair accessible, not to mention sleek and streamlined.

Master on main. A floor plan in which the master bedroom is on the first floor reduces the need to climb stairs. “It’s probably the most desired feature among boomers,” says JP Endres, a real estate professional based in Westchester county, north of New York City. Creating a truly functional master-on-main suite usually involves a multiroom renovation, which can cost upward of $35,000.

Comfort-height toilets. These toilets are a few inches taller, which makes getting on and off easier. Most top flushers in our tests are comfort height, including the Glacier Bay N2428E two-piece toilet, which sells at Home Depot for $100.

Potential bump: 1 to 2 percent

6: Paint Is Still a Potent Upgrade

Paint keeps your home looking its best while also defending its surfaces from wear, tear, and the elements. If you’re getting ready to sell, don’t blow thousands having every square inch repainted. Instead, focus on high-traffic areas, including the kitchen and bathrooms. “Your home has to look better on the day of the open house than it’s ever looked before,” says Steve Clark, a real estate professional in Los Angeles. “If the back door is covered in scratch marks from the dog, you have to fix that.” Do the job yourself for about $100 in material costs or pay a professional $1,000 or so, which should cover multiple rooms.

Value-Added Buzzwords

Neutral color scheme. Whites and off-whites remain the top-selling interior colors and will appeal to most homebuyers, allowing them to envision the space as their own. Neutrals appeal to all generations of buyers, according to Jule Eller, trend and style director at Lowe’s.

High-quality paints. Home Depot’s Behr Marquee, $43 per gallon, is our top-rated interior paint. For outdoor projects, Behr Premium Plus Ultra Exterior, $39 per gallon, and Clark+Kensington Exterior from Ace Hardware, $35 per gallon, offered the best protection.

Potential bump: 1 to 2 percent

7: Remember the Great Outdoors

Your home’s property is another opportunity to expand its living space. Adding a deck or patio, with room for seating and a built-in or freestanding grill, is a way to create a defined space for outdoor living on a large or small scale.

But remember the rule of low upkeep, especially if your future buyer is likely to be a millennial. “They love outdoor spaces, but whereas prior generations might have gone for the pool, Gen Yers recognize the maintenance costs associated with it,” Berger says. “They’d much rather see an outdoor fire pit surrounded by a simple seating arrangement.” Don’t go for overly lush landscapes, especially in drought-stricken regions with high water costs. (Check our guide to outdoor living.)

Value-Added Buzzwords

Curb appeal. Trimming overgrown shrubs and making minor repairs to the façade, including painting the front door, can deliver quick results. Replacing worn-out siding is a major undertaking, costing $12,000 on average, but it can give your home a complete facelift.

Water-smart yard. Replacing a section of turfgrass with native ground covers or pea gravel will reduce the maintenance costs while adding visual interest.

Potential bump: 3 to 5 percent

8: Make Sure Your New Technology Is Smart

High-tech features offer notoriously bad returns on investment because technologies tend to evolve quickly. “One of the biggest losers in recent years is the fully wired audiovisual system,” says Duo Dickinson, an architect based in the New Haven, Conn., area. “They’ve probably lost 80 percent of their value since everything went wireless.”

But certain smart devices add to home value and interest, including programmable thermostats. “I’ll often install a Nest thermostat in a home that doesn’t have one because it creates the impression that this is a high-tech home,” Berger says.

We’re seeing the same benefit with a range of products, such as lights, door locks, and security systems. Those smart features have broad appeal with millennials, “who grew up on smartphones, so they’re used to being able to control things at their fingertips,” Endres says. “And they’ll pay 3 to 5 percent more for a home with the right amenities.”

Value Added Buzzwords

Programmable thermostat. The Nest is widely recognized, but the Honeywell RTH9590WF, $300, proved easier to use in our tests. Both models can be controlled from a smartphone or computer.

Whole-house generator. Power failures are a reality for more homeowners. Stationary generators can usually power the entire property. A professionally installed unit can range from $7,000 to $15,000, according to Porch, a website connecting consumers with home service pros. The Generac 6241, $3,500, excluding installation, is a top pick.

Potential bump: 3 to 5 percent

 

July 23, 2018

21 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Sale

Ready to sell your home?

Don’t just list it without any advance preparation. A few minor touch-ups can go a long way towards making a favorable impression on potential buyers — and perhaps cinching a deal.

“Put your buyer’s hat on and walk thru your home like it is the first time,” says Marilou Young, an Accredited Staging Professional and an Associate Broker with Virtual Properties Realty in the metropolitan Atlanta area.

“Make notes on what you, as a buyer, would notice,” Young advises, “and then repair or replace those items.”

Some of her top recommendations include getting rid of clutter, hiding family photos, cleaning out closets, removing excess or oversized furniture, and cleaning.

These tips are among the 21 top ways to prepare your home for a sale. Let’s look at the others:

supercharge

1. Clean, clean, clean. Dust on top of the fireplace mantle and fan blades, polish your appliances and faucets, and give the windows a thorough washing. If you’ve already moved out or if you’re too busy to stay on top of things, consider hiring a cleaning service to stop by every couple of weeks.

2. Pay attention to smells. “Don’t cook bacon in your home the day of a showing,” advises Rachel Weinberg, a broker at Wright Kingdom Real Estate in Boulder, Colorado. “Although it might taste great, the smell is strong and lingers for a long time. You don’t want your home to smell like a fast food restaurant!”

3. Clear out the clutter. You want buyers to focus on how awesome your space is, not how messy it looks. Banish that piles of shoes from the entry, that stack of mail from the kitchen table and anything else that detracts from your home’s gorgeous features.

4. Repaint the walls neutral colors. As much as you love your dramatic red dining room, it could turn off a good portion of your buyers. So repaint your rooms in neutral tones like tans and whites that allow buyers to focus on the spaces themselves, not the color of the walls.

5. Keep the décor simple. To help buyers imagine themselves in your space, get rid of any art or other décor that might turn off people with different tastes. A classic landscape painting? Totally fine. Your zebra print leather couch? Might want to slipcover that for showings.

6. Get rid of personal items. Buyers want to be able to envision themselves in your home, so remove anything overly personal, like family photos in the hallway or your kids’ artwork on the fridge.

7. Let there be light! Open up all the windows to let in natural light and add floor or table lamps to areas that are dim. A bright, cheery room looks bigger and more inviting.

8. Bring nature inside. Potted plants or a few pretty buds in a vase can help bring energy into a space, fill in empty corners and even draw attention to features you want buyers to notice. Just make sure the plants are in good health (and bug-free!).

9. Get rid of bulky furniture. Your furniture should fit the scale of the room, so get rid of any extra or oversized items that could make your space look smaller than it really is.

10. Organize your closets. Storage space is a huge selling point, and if your closets are stuffed to the brim, buyers will think you don’t have enough of it. Invest in some boxes, dividers and other solutions that will help you make your stuff look more organized, and remove extra items you don’t need immediately (you can stow them away until you move).

11. Tackle that honey-do list. All those little things you’ve been meaning to do but never got around to? Buyers will notice them, and they’ll detract from the value of your home. So set aside a weekend to tighten those loose doorknobs, fix that leaky faucet and paint over the scuffs from when you first moved in your sofa.

12. Do a faux “renovation.” Little tweaks can make a big difference in the overall feel of a room. Kitchen a little outdated? Replace the fixtures, faucets and hinges. Family room furniture beaten up? Throw some slipcovers over it.

13. Give each room a purpose. That spare room you’ve been using as an office / guest room /dumping ground won’t help sell your home unless you show buyers how they can use it themselves. So pick a use (office, guest room, crafts room) and clearly stage the space to showcase that purpose.

14. Turn the bathroom into a spa. Create the feel of a relaxing, luxurious bath — for less than $30. Stack a few pretty washcloths tied with ribbon, add some scented candles and faux plants, and buy bathmats and towels in coordinating tones such as light green, blue and white.

15. Close the toilet! When it comes to both showing and photographing your home, this little trick can make a surprising difference.

16. Turn the living room into conversation central. Help buyers picture themselves relaxing with family and guests by grouping your furniture into arrangements that inspire conversation.

17. Keep the flow going. The last thing you want is people bumping into furniture as they tour your home; it disrupts their focus and makes your space look cramped. Do a dry run as though you’re seeing your home for the first time and tweak anything that interrupts the “flow.”

18. Make something yummy. Realtors don’t put out fresh cookies at open houses just to treat buyers; a “homey” smell like baking cookies or bread can help people connect with a kitchen. Not a baker? Fake it with a scented candle.

19. Make it look “lived in” with vignettes. Help your buyers see themselves in your home by adding deliberate vignettes that showcase how your home can be lived in. An inviting armchair and a tray with a coffee cup and book can turn that empty corner into a reading nook. Pretty soaps in a decorative tray can make your tiny half-bath more appealing.

20. Highlight focal points. Draw buyers’ eyes towards any special features with bright colors or accents like plants. A pop of red throw pillows can draw a buyer’s attention to that lovely window seat. A striking fern on the mantle can show off your fireplace.

21. Boost the curb appeal. Don’t spend all your time indoors. More than one buyer has decided not to even enter a home based on its curb appeal, so make sure your home’s exterior looks excellent. Trim your shrubs, weed your flower beds, fix any peeling paint and keep the walkway clear. Just adding a row of potted plants along the walkway or a cheerful wreath to your front door can make a big difference.

The final tip is a critical one, says Young. If her clients are on a tight budget, she’ll recommend that they at least spruce-up the front entrance. That first impression, she says, goes a long way.

Kimberly Ehardt, a firefighter in Austin, Texas, agrees. She’s in the process of shopping for her first home, and she says she spends a lot of time viewing houses from the outside.

She and her agent will often meet at a house (rather than drive there together), she says. If she reaches the property before her agent arrives, she’s left standing outside for several minutes — with nothing else to do but scrutinize the exterior.

“Before I go inside the house,” she says, “I have a strong feeling about it.”

Resource: http://bit.ly/2zZBbPY

July 20, 2018

10 Best-Kept Secrets for Selling Your Home

Selling Secret #10: Pricing it right
Find out what your home is worth, then shave 15 to 20 percent off the price. You’ll be stampeded by buyers with multiple bids — even in the worst markets — and they’ll bid up the price over what it’s worth. It takes real courage and most sellers just don’t want to risk it, but it’s the single best strategy to sell a home in today’s market.

Selling Secret #9: Half-empty closets
Storage is something every buyer is looking for and can never have enough of. Take half the stuff out of your closets then neatly organize what’s left in there. Buyers will snoop, so be sure to keep all your closets and cabinets clean and tidy.

Selling Secret #8: Light it up

Maximize the light in your home. After location, good light is the one thing that every buyer cites that they want in a home. Take down the drapes, clean the windows, change the lampshades, increase the wattage of your light bulbs and cut the bushes outside to let in sunshine. Do what you have to do make your house bright and cheery – it will make it more sellable.

Selling Secret #7: Play the agent field
A secret sale killer is hiring the wrong broker. Make sure you have a broker who is totally informed. They must constantly monitor the multiple listing service (MLS), know what properties are going on the market and know the comps in your neighborhood. Find a broker who embraces technology – a tech-savvy one has many tools to get your house sold.

Selling Secret #6: Conceal the critters
You might think a cuddly dog would warm the hearts of potential buyers, but you’d be wrong. Not everybody is a dog- or cat-lover. Buyers don’t want to walk in your home and see a bowl full of dog food, smell the kitty litter box or have tufts of pet hair stuck to their clothes. It will give buyers the impression that your house is not clean. If you’re planning an open house, send the critters to a pet hotel for the day.

Selling Secret #5: Don’t over-upgrade
Quick fixes before selling always pay off. Mammoth makeovers, not so much. You probably won’t get your money back if you do a huge improvement project before you put your house on the market. Instead, do updates that will pay off and get you top dollar. Get a new fresh coat of paint on the walls. Clean the curtains or go buy some inexpensive new ones. Replace door handles, cabinet hardware, make sure closet doors are on track, fix leaky faucets and clean the grout.

Selling Secret #4: Take the home out of your house
One of the most important things to do when selling your house is to de-personalize it. The more personal stuff in your house, the less potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. Get rid of a third of your stuff – put it in storage. This includes family photos, memorabilia collections and personal keepsakes. Consider hiring a home stager to maximize the full potential of your home. Staging simply means arranging your furniture to best showcase the floor plan and maximize the use of space.

Selling Secret #3: The kitchen comes first
You’re not actually selling your house, you’re selling your kitchen – that’s how important it is. The benefits of remodeling your kitchen are endless, and the best part of it is that you’ll probably get 85% of your money back. It may be a few thousand dollars to replace countertops where a buyer may knock $10,000 off the asking price if your kitchen looks dated. The fastest, most inexpensive kitchen updates include painting and new cabinet hardware. Use a neutral-color paint so you can present buyers with a blank canvas where they can start envisioning their own style. If you have a little money to spend, buy one fancy stainless steel appliance. Why one? Because when people see one high-end appliance they think all the rest are expensive too and it updates the kitchen.

Selling Secret #2: Always be ready to show
Your house needs to be "show-ready" at all times – you never know when your buyer is going to walk through the door. You have to be available whenever they want to come see the place and it has to be in tip-top shape. Don’t leave dishes in the sink, keep the dishwasher cleaned out, the bathrooms sparkling and make sure there are no dust bunnies in the corners. It’s a little inconvenient, but it will get your house sold.

Selling Secret #1: The first impression is the only impression
No matter how good the interior of your home looks, buyers have already judged your home before they walk through the door. You never have a second chance to make a first impression. It’s important to make people feel warm, welcome and safe as they approach the house. Spruce up your home’s exterior with inexpensive shrubs and brightly colored flowers. You can typically get a 100-percent return on the money you put into your home’s curb appeal. Entryways are also important. You use it as a utility space for your coat and keys. But, when you’re selling, make it welcoming by putting in a small bench, a vase of fresh-cut flowers or even some cookies.