5 Simple Things That May Increase Your Property Value

Here are five simple ways to increase your property value when it’s time to sell:


1. Rethink your home’s layout: If you have three bedrooms and a home office, take out the office to make your house a four bedroom home. Removing bedrooms may decrease the value of your home. Turn it into an office, gym, or craft room then turn it back to a bedroom when you’re ready to sell. (Forbes)

2. Remove clutter: Making rooms look neat and clean is always a necessity, but take it one step further and remove the clutter and personal items from your rooms. Taking out photos, magazines, and little decorations will make the room look bigger and taking away personal items will help your buyers envision their lives there. (Forbes)

3. Front yard makeovers: The saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but when it comes to real estate, that is hard to live by. The first impression of your home is the front yard so make sure it is neat and tidy. Plant some new flowers, mow the lawn, and touch up any exterior paint that might need some attention. (DIY Network)

4. Maintenance work: The last thing buyers want to see when they walk into your kitchen or bathroom is rusty, leaking pipes, or a faucet that looks like it has seen better days. Take a weekend and give attention to any little repairs around the house. It could be as easy as replacing old door knobs and faucets. Paint your home neutral colors to minimize the chance that your design aesthetic will clash with the aesthetic of your potential buyers. (This Old House)

5. Update appliances: The kitchen is a huge selling point for potential buyers. If your kitchen appliances are old and outdated buy newer versions. While you’re at it, take your kitchen from good to great without breaking the bank.

Complete these simple tasks before selling your home to increase the likelihood that you’ll get a higher offer.


Text Messaging Etiquette for Real Estate Agents

It has been reported that 31% of Smartphone users prefer text messaging over regular phone calls. Although you may be used to calling clients, your clients may prefer to communicate by text messaging. When it comes to text messaging clients, it can be tricky to know what is appropriate. Here’s the 411 on text messaging etiquette.


1. Proper language and punctuation: When speaking with clients over text, it’s important to remain as professional as possible. It’s best to not use abbreviations or “text message language.” Remember, this is still a business matter and you should behave as if you were talking on the phone, speaking in person, or writing an email.

2. Business Hours: When it comes to text messages, you should treat it the same as phone calls and emails. Would you call a client at 5 am or 11 pm? If the answer is no, do the same with text messages. Only send messages during “business hours.”

3. Length: Keep your text messages short and sweet. Don’t overwhelm your clients with information that is probably best received face to face. Send text messages with information that needs an immediate, short response and be sure to not discuss important, legal information over a text message. Use text messaging to coordinate logistics.

4. Permission: Before you start texting your clients ask them if they would prefer to communicate by phone, email or by text.

Text messaging between real estate agents and clients can help business flow smoothly. It can be beneficial in showing that you are tech savvy. This may be even more important with first-time homeowners who are younger and more accustomed to texting.

Selling a Home in 2015: 5 Resolutions for Success

zillow digsSource: zillow.com ~ Author: Brendon Desimone

If you’re considering selling your home in 2015, you should know that a lot has probably changed in the real estate market since you last sold. Knowing what works today — and resolving to put the tips and advice of the past to rest — will help you sell your home quickly and for top dollar.

1) Appeal to mobile buyers

Today nearly all home searches begin on a smartphone or tablet — not on the Web, and not using the newspaper.

If you want to get the right kind of buyer activity on your home, you need to make sure that you optimize your listing and your photos for mobile devices. If you use the tips and tricks of a generation past, you may miss out on today’s generation of buyers.

2) Be ready to separate your “home” from your “investment”

Many sellers make the mistake of letting their emotions get the best of them. Selling a home is not like selling a used car — it holds memories and occupies a special place in your heart.

When it comes time to sell, however, it’s important to realize that your home is also an investment. Being able to change your homeowner hat to your investor hat is crucial.

If you are too sentimentally attached to your home, you may reject a good price or fail to negotiate with a serious buyer. Don’t let your emotions sabotage your sale.

3) Don’t list your home until you’re serious about selling

Many homeowners think they’re ready to sell, but they haven’t fully gone through the emotional process of the decision. Do you have a place to go if you sell? Have you fully cleaned and de-cluttered your home? Have you taken your agent’s advice on staging and pricing?

Many sellers list their home before they are truly ready to sell, only to shoot themselves in the foot by overpricing it or not presenting it to the market in its best possible light.

4) Don’t hire just any agent

The agent you used to purchase the home 15 years ago may seem like the logical choice for listing your home this time around. But are they really the best option?

With access to so much information online and so much at stake, sellers should talk to a few agents before committing. Get a referral from someone who recently sold, and use online resources to research agents’ sales activity and expertise.

The right agent makes all the difference and if you have any doubt about an agent’s abilities, hold off on establishing a relationship.

5) Make the best impression online

Nothing frustrates an active and aggressive buyer more than getting an email or mobile notification alert for a new property listing only to get to the listing and not see any photos.

Buyer first impressions today are on the Internet. If you list your home without complete information — including photos, description and accurate data — not only will you turn them off, but they may simply not come back later.

Stay safe this holiday season and if you are in the market to buy (or sell) a home in  Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Realtors will do their best to make sure that both Buyers and Sellers are protected during the transaction.

10 Turn-Offs for Potential Buyers

Source: zillow.com ~ Author: Brendon DeSimone

As real estate markets continue to recover around the country, buyers are out in full force. Many of today’s buyers make judgments about homes within moments of seeing a listing online. They are also more cautious than before the housing crisis. They want to make sure they’re buying the best house and for the best amount of money. For sellers, that means giving buyers what they want. Though it’s a home first and foremost, it’s also an investment. If you’re planning to put your house on the market, here are ten ways you might be turning off potential buyers.

selling no11. A garage turned into something else.

If you’ve sacrificed the garage for something other than the garage, the trade-off might actually be a turn-off, especially to people where parking is at a premium. Even in the suburbs, most people want a covered, secure place to park their cars. Don’t forget that a garage often doubles as a storage location. The garage houses everything from lawn mower to the excess paper towels and cleansers. If you convert your garage into something else, you’re likely to force a buyer to look elsewhere.

selling no22. A bedroom turned into something else.

Aside from location, one of the first things a buyer searches for is number of bedrooms. Why? Because it’s an important requirement. You might think having a wine cellar, with built-in refrigerators, in your home will make it attractive to potential buyers because it was attractive to you. And while it’s true many people work from home today at least part of the time, that doesn’t mean they want a dedicated home office—especially one with built-in desks or bookcases that would need to be removed. If you must convert a bedroom into something else, make sure you can easily convert it back into a bedroom when you go to sell.

selling no33. Carpet over hardwood floors.

Many people today like hardwood floors. They are cleaner looking, add a design element, don’t show dirt as much, and they’re definitely preferred over carpets for people with allergies. If you have nice hardwood floors, show them off. Let the buyer decide if he or she wants to cover them. It’s easier for a buyer to purchase new carpeting of their choosing than it is for them to get past yours.

selling44. Over-the-top lighting fixtures.

A beautiful chandelier can enliven a dining room. But it can also turn off buyers who prefer simpler, less ornate lighting fixtures. Did you fall in love with a dark light fixture on a trip to Casablanca? That’s great. And you should use it for your own enjoyment. But when it comes time to sell, replace it with something more neutral.

selling55. The kid’s room that is a miniature theme park.

Little kids have big imaginations. They tend to love Disney characters, spaceships, super heroes, and such, and their parents are often all-too-willing to turn their rooms into fantasy caves. But the more you transform a kid’s bedroom into something resembling a Disneyland ride, the more you’ll turn off most potential buyers. Your buyer might have teenage children who will see the removal of wallpaper, paint or little-kid-inspired light fixtures as work. If you can, neutralize the kid’s rooms before you go on the market.

selling66. An above-ground pool.

Does it get hot in the summers where you live? Wish you had a backyard pool but can’t afford to have a ‘real’ pool installed? Then you might be tempted to buy and set up an above-ground pool. For most potential buyers, though, these pools are an eyesore. Also, an above-ground pool can leave a big dead spot of grass in your backyard — another eyesore. If you must have it, consider dismantling it before going on the market. Of course, be sure you’re really ready to sell or you may be stuck without a place to cool off next summer.

selling77. An in-ground pool.

You might assume that a gorgeous backyard pool will make a splash with potential buyers. Except in warm climates, where pools are truly an important amenity, many people see a backyard pool as a huge maintenance issue — not to mention a liability. If you live in an area where pools aren’t that common, seriously consider your decision. If you’re planning to be in the home for the long haul and you’ll get lots of use out of it, go for it.

selling88. Avocado-green kitchen fixtures.

If your home is decades old and the kitchen looks like something from The Brady Bunch, consider investing in a quick once-over. Some new stainless steel appliances and granite countertops can be installed in no time and the cost and hassle is a lot less than you think. More buyers prefer to move right in. Do the work for them and you increase your bottom line.

selling99. Cigarette smell through the house.

Over time, the smell of smoke permeates your home. It gets into the carpet, drapes, wood paneling, just about everywhere — a big turnoff to most buyers today. Getting rid of the smoke smell can be a big job. If you’re a smoker, seriously consider how you want to present your home to the market. For a long- term smoke-filled home, it means new paint, removing carpets and doing lots of deep cleaning.

selling1010. Keep Fido’s bed and toys front and center

Let’s face it; family pets bring a lot of joy to the home. But, they don’t always bring the same joy to a prospective buyer. Dog’s toys, filled with saliva, dirt and dust can be a sore both for the eyes and the nose. If you have a pet, put a plan in place to move the food and water bowls as well as the toys and dog’s bed to a better location, like the garage. Homes that smell and show like animals can scare buyers off.

It’s your home — for now

Part of the joy of owning a home is that you can do whatever you want with it, to it, and in it. You should enjoy it. But if you want to sell it easily and for top dollar down the road, try to picture how others might react to any renovations, additions or modifications you make. The more specific you get — such as turning your kid’s room into a miniature castle from Cinderella — the harder it will be to sell your home later, and the less return on investment you’ll get. When considering changes to your home, always consider resale.

If you are in the market to buy (or sell) a home in  Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Realtors will do their best to make sure that both Buyers and Sellers are protected during the transaction.

Safety First: How to Prevent Home Accidents This Holiday Season


Source: biggerpockets.com ~ Author: JOHN FEDRO

In the past, whenever I have made mistakes — and boy, have
there been plenty of mistakes — I always learn a lesson and feel silly for making the mistake. Some of these mistakes have cost me wasted time, wasted money, loss of a potential investment home, and even losing a very good friend by mixing business and friendship. All this I can learn and bounce back from. What I cannot live with is if my actions caused anyone else to suffer or be hurt due to my negligence.

This holiday season, remember the advice below as we cover some very important home tragedy prevention tips.

Important Tips to Prevent Home Tragedy This Holiday Season

Fire Prevention

The deaths from fires and burns are the 3rd leading cause of home death injuries in the United States. Every 169 minutes, someone dies in a fire in the United States. Of these deaths, about 85% happen at home. Most fire victims do not die from direct burns, but from inhaling and choking on smoke and/or toxic gase

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid smoking at home. Smoking is the leading cause of fire related deaths. Never smoke in bed while drowsy or while under the influence of medication or alcohol. Avoid lighting candles while sleeping.
  • Practice safe cooking because cooking is the primary cause of residential fires.
  • Change your smoke alarm battery annually and test monthly. Be sure that you have smoke alarms on every floor of your home, including your basement. They should be located outside of bedrooms.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher at home and learn how to use it.
  • Teach your children never to play with matches or lighters, and store these items away from young children.

Poison Prevention

Each year, more than 60,000 children visit emergency rooms due to medication poisoning. Common poisonings include medications, personal care products, and cleaning products.

When it comes to poison safety, remember to:

  • Use medications and vitamins with safety caps and listen for them to “click” to make sure the cap is locked.
  • Store medicines and vitamins out of the reach of young children. They should not be able to climb to reach your medication storage area.
  • Keep the number to poison control in your cell phone and next to home phones: 800-222-1222
  • Turn on the lights when you take medications to be sure you know what you are taking.
  • Dispose of expired or unused medications if you don’t need them anymore.
  • Always keep household chemicals in their original containers. Never use food containers to store chemical products.
  • Store food and chemicals in separate areas.
  • Have your furnace inspected before every heating season.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.

Slip and Fall Prevention

Young children and older adults are prone to injury and death from slips and falls. In addition, each week a child dies from a televisions tipping over, and over the past 10 years, a child on average has visited the emergency room every 45 minutes due to a television tipping over.

To prevent injury, follow these tips:

  • Remove clutter from stairs and walkways; toys, clothing, shoes, and other items are tripping hazards and should be put away properly.
  • Clean up spills immediately to avoid slipping on wet surfaces.
  • Check walkways and stairs for damaged steps.
  • Install hardware-mounted safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs if you have a baby or toddler in the home.
  • Ensure that your television sets are stable. Flat screen televisions should be mounted on a wall, while large CRT television sets should be placed on a low, stable piece of furniture and secured to a wall if possible.
  • Remove loose carpets or floorboards to avoid trips.
  • Never use screens to keep children from falling out of windows.

Burn and Cut Prevention

To prevent burns and cuts at home:

  • Avoid holding children while cooking on the stove. Place them in a high chair nearby instead.
  • Enforce a “kid-free zone” of 3 feet around the stove unless children are actively helping you cook.
  • Teach children safe cooking procedures when they are old enough.
  • Adjust your water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent accidental scalding.
  • Do not leave hair curlers or curling irons unattended.

Choking, Suffocation, and Strangulation Prevention

Choking is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death in children under the age of one. Hazards can include food or household items, including balloons, coins, and lights.

In order to avoid tragedy, remember the following:

  • Adult supervision is the most effective way to avoid choking, strangulation, and/or suffocation.
  • Cut food into bite sized pieces and encourage children to sit still while eating.
  • Do not allow children to eat while walking, playing, or riding in a car.
  • Encourage older adults to chew foods slowly and avoid laughing, talking, or drinking too much alcohol while eating.
  • Consider installing cordless window coverings.
  • Practice Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) safety. This includes laying your baby on his or her back and avoiding soft bedding such as stuffed animals, blankets, and bumpers.
  • Follow age recommendations when buying toys, and check toys for loose or broken parts.

Electrical Safety

In the United States, an estimated annual average of 47,000 home structure fires per year involve electrical failure or malfunction. These fires are dangerous and cause 455 deaths, 1,500 injuries, and $1.5 billion in property damage. Often, these fires are preventable with proper home maintenance and inspections of electrical systems.

You can help prevent electrical accidents by keeping the following in mind:

  • Have your electrical system inspected every 10 years or less if your home displays warning signs such as power outages, dim or flickering lights, sparks, buzzes, or odors.
  • Check for frayed wires. Repair or replace damaged wires on electrical devices.
  • Major electrical appliances should be grounded.
  • Consider adding electrical outlets instead of relying on extension cords. Extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis anyway.
  • Install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in your kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, basement, and in outdoor areas.
  • Avoid overloading your electrical system. Avoid plugging more than one high-watt appliance into a single outlet.
  • Watch appliances for warning signs including overheating, unusual smells, shorts, and sparks.

The above list of precautions are only a few of the safety concerns to consider implementing in your personal home and investment properties. While we cannot control what our tenants or buyers do, or how they treat our homes, we can decide to only sell to low-risk residents who are safety conscious and follow basic instructions.

It may be prudent to print out a “safety list” of your own safety procedures checklists and provide this to every tenant upon moving in to your properties. However, be the best example you can by implementing these improvements at home first.

Stay safe this holiday season and if you are in the market to buy (or sell) a home in  Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Realtors will do their best to make sure that both Buyers and Sellers are protected during the transaction.

Rustic Thanksgiving Decorations

Source: hgtv.com

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Give your Thanksgiving table a timeless, rustic update with our 13 ideas featuring soft, neutral colors, natural materials and seasonal accents.

Not a fan of orange and brown? No worries; your table’s color palette doesn’t have to be restricted to traditional fall colors. Instead try softer, cooler hues like the whites, pale greens and grays found on heirloom-variety pumpkins.

For a simple focal point, skip the flowers and instead stack pumpkins in varying shades and graduated sizes to create a rustic topiary. Remove the stems from all but the top pumpkin to create a stable base.

Use fresh greenery, like waxy magnolia leaves or feathery evergreen boughs, to add texture and color around the base of the centerpiece. Tuck collected pinecones and nuts into the arrangement to celebrate nature’s bounty.

Layering plates in different finishes, colors or textures is an easy trick for setting an elegant table. Start with a charger, followed by a dinner plate, topped by a folded cloth napkin and small bread or dessert plate.

It can be expensive (and time-consuming) to decorate for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas within the span of just three months. So opt for decor that can easily transition from one holiday to the next. Buy heirloom pumpkins for Halloween and store them in a cool place until they can be reused for Thanksgiving. Pinecones and magnolia leaves that were used to decorate your Thanksgiving table can be fashioned into a Christmas wreath after the big feast.

Some varieties of squash are beautiful and a perfect fit for a rustic fall table setting. Stroll the grocery store’s produce aisle or your local farmers’ market for inspiration. Artichoke, cabbage, pears and pomegranates are other great options for decorating a rustic fall table.

When setting your Thanksgiving table, don’t forget to add fall touches to the other main elements in your dining room. A few organic additions to the chandelier, buffet, hutch or cupboard will pull the seasonal look together.

Beautiful turkey feathers from a local farm are nestled among fresh magnolia branches to decorate the chandelier as a subtle yet elegant nod to the feast’s main course.

Placemats aren’t necessary when using this runner custom-made by weaving together upholstery webbing. Long and narrow runners can get lost under a centerpiece, but this square version really stands out.

For a chic-meets-easy place card, top mini white pumpkins with tags that read, “merci” or “thank you” in French as a subtle reminder of what the day is all about. Tags like these are easy to craft yourself or purchase on handmade marketplace websites.

A white tablecloth is a classic backdrop to the organic centerpiece and rough texture of the woven runner. Other options: Try layering fine linen over humble burlap or crisp cotton against nubby wool.

It’s not easy to find pumpkins that are the exact same size and shape, so it’s okay for the centerpiece to be a bit off-balance. Imperfections lend a casual feel to a table that might feel overly formal or stuffy for guests.

It’s not easy to find pumpkins that are the exact same size and shape, so it’s okay for the centerpiece to be a bit off-balance. Imperfections lend a casual feel to a table that might feel overly formal or stuffy for guests.


How to Save on Your Heating Bill

Source: quickanddirtytips.com ~ Author: Amanda Thomas

How to Save on Your Heating Bill

Image Courtesy of Home Depot

I love my husband, but there are some times I love him more than others. Over the past (almost) decade of being together, I have fallen in love with his passion for energy efficiency. See, Mr. Domestic CEO was a mechanical engineer. For 10 years, he designed heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems, so he knows a thing or two about how to use the least amount of energy possible in a building.

I admit, his tips and explanations used to go right over my head. Honestly, I didn’t really care about saving money on my energy bills because I was living in small apartments and already had low electric bills. When we moved into our 3 bedroom, two-story house, though, things changed. I started talking with friends who had similar homes, only to find out that they were paying two to three times the amount we were for our heating bills. Why? Because we put into place a few small changes around our house that save us big, year after year.

In today’s episode, I’m going to give you the tips that Mr. Domestic CEO told me, although I’ll spare you the “Put on more clothes” tip. If you are looking for ways to save on your heating bills this winter, then these three tips are for you.

Tip #1: Think Small

The first thing people tend to do when they want to heat their space is turn up the furnace. The problem with this is the furnace likely heats your whole home, and why would you want to heat rooms that you aren’t using? If you aren’t in the space, but you’re heating it, that’s wasted energy. Instead of rushing over to your thermostat to crank up the heat, consider using something smaller than a giant oil burner.

In our home, unless we have company over, or are using multiple rooms at the same time, we keep the furnace turned down, and use space heaters in the rooms where we spend most of our time. If I am working in my home office, I turn the heat up on my feet. After all, I’m probably going to be there for a while, so there’s no use heating my living room, kitchen, dining room, or bedroom just to keep myself warm while I’m working on the computer. Just make sure to turn the heater off when you leave the room, and follow all the safety precautions. Space heaters can cause a fire hazard, but if you use them correctly, they are perfectly safe.

The “think small” principle applies to sleeping, too. When we go to bed, we are likely going to be there for at least 7 hours, so why would we want to heat the office, kitchen, and living room during that time? Instead, we have a heated mattress pad that we turn on about 20 minutes before going to bed. Not only do we get to save electricity by having our bed heated instead of the entire room around us, we also never have to get into a bed with freezing cold sheets.

Tip #2: Maximize the Air

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “What about when you wake up?” Few things are worse than waking up on a dark, winter morning, and having to get out of a toasty bed into a freezing cold room. How do we make the morning bearable? Simple: programmable thermostats! Our heat automatically turns down at night when we are sleeping in our heated bed, then it kicks back on about an hour before we get up so that we don’t freeze our tootsies off when we get out of bed. We also have the heat set to turn down during the day when we are out of the house. After all, it seems silly to heat the house if no one is home, right? A programmable thermostat can be purchased at any home improvement store, or online. They are fairly inexpensive, and you can make your money back in a month or two if you set it to only heat your home when you are there.

Another tip that can help you maximize the air in the room is a ceiling fan. Ceiling fans can be put on the Reverse setting. Instead of pushing air straight down, it pulls the cool air up, which pushes the warm air back down to where you are. And the higher the ceiling, the bigger the difference this can make. If you really want to know why that is, we should probably call Everyday Einstein to see if he can help explain.

Tip #3: Seal the House

When it comes to those cool breezes you feel around your home in the winter, both Mr. Domestic CEO and Everyday Einstein would be disappointed in me if I didn’t stress that this is from the heat escaping, not the cold air coming in. So, your goal in sealing your home is to do everything you can to keep the hot air inside your home.

Every window or door of your home that isn’t properly sealed is an opportunity for heat to escape. Keep the heat in your home by making sure to seal up all the openings you can. If you can see light around your door in the middle of the day, you have gaps where heat can escape. Self-adhesive weather stripping can be purchased at home improvement stores and applied to door frames to seal those gaps.

If it feels like there is a breeze coming under your doors, door sweeps can be installed at the bottom of the door to keep heat in. If your windows are where you feel a breeze, window insulation film is your solution. It’s like a shrink wrap for your windows. If you want a more expensive, but more fashionable, option, updating your window treatments to cellular shades or heavy drapery will keep the heat from going out the windows, too.

Now that you have a few tips to get you started, it’s time to make preparations for the weather months. With the weather changing fast, the sooner you can make these small adjustments, the sooner you can start saving money on your heating bill.

If you are in the market to buy (or sell) a home in  Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Realtors will do their best to make sure that both Buyers and Sellers are protected during the transaction.