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.

Staging Tips for Selling During the Holidays

selling during holidays

Source: frontdoor.com ~ Author: Kara Wahlgren

Before you deck the halls, see which holiday decor can help you sell.

It’s the time of year that calendars are packed with holiday parties, budgets are strained by gift-giving and the roads are covered in freshly fallen snow. Alas, ’tis not the season for real estate. But the good news is that the few brave house-hunters who do venture out are serious about buying a house and stylish trimmings will make them want to ring in the new year in your home.

“Holidays can be personal on a lot of levels, but you want to make sure your decor is neutral,” advises Amy Powers, owner of Accent Home Staging & Interiors of Atlanta. “You want to romance your buyer, not invite them to your Christmas party.”

Try these tips to get buyers in the right spirit:

  • Clean and stage. “Before you decorate, your house needs to be staged,” Powers says. If your living room is already piled high with clutter and tchotchkes, your ceramic reindeer collection is only going to add to the sense of overcrowding.
  • Create a cozy vibe. The less-is-more mantra of home staging may tempt you to forgo holiday cheer this year. But a few subtle touches like a bowl of pinecones, an evergreen wreath, or a pot of cider simmering on the stove can create a warm and festive feeling in your home.
  • Complement your palette. Before you start untangling your tinsel, make sure your holiday collection matches your current decor. If your living room is painted a soothing ocean-blue hue, skip the clashing red garland and opt for white snowflakes or a silver glass-ball wreath. If you’ve got an earthy color scheme, accent with rich tones like cranberries, forest greens and gold.
  • Accentuate the positive. Too many trimmings may distract buyers, but the right accessories can draw attention to your home’s best features. Dangle mistletoe in an arched doorway, or display your menorah on the ledge of a bay window; just don’t block a beautiful view with stick-on snowflake decals or clutter an elegant fireplace with personalized stockings.
  • Go light on lights. Step away from the inflatable snowman, Clark Griswold. One man’s “merry” is another man’s “tacky,” so tone down any garish light displays while your home is on the market. (No, your neighbors didn’t pay us to say that.) Instead, use simple string lighting to play up your home’s architecture or draw attention to the gorgeous fir tree in your front yard.
  • Be an equal-opportunity decorator. Leave the life-sized Nativity scene in storage this year, because overtly religious flourishes may be off-putting to some buyers. “You want to keep neutrality throughout, so you can attract any type of buyer,” Powers says. Not sure what qualifies? Powers adds, “No matter what your religion is, you’re not going to feel offended by a nutcracker.”
  • Mind the tree. A tall Christmas tree can help you show off your two-story great room, but make sure the wide base won’t overwhelm the floor space. If your living area is on the small side, save space with a skinny tree. Swap the gaudy heirloom ornaments and trim your tree in a cohesive theme such as icicle lights and silver tinsel, for example, or blue and gold glass balls.
  • Clear the clutter. A few decorations can stir the holiday spirit, but don’t feel obliged to hang every last ornament. “A lot of people, when they decorate, tend to use all the extra space in their house,” Powers says. “You still want each space to look as spacious as possible.” Limit yourself to a few hints of holiday flair, but stash the rest in the basement for now. If you start to miss your Santa figurines, just remember that with a little luck, you’ll be celebrating next year’s holidays in a new home. And you can decorate that place any way you please.

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.

Tips for Living in a Staged Home while you are Selling it

staged-kitchen

Model homes make us dream about living there, but living in your own home while it is being staged is tougher than it looks. The key is to easily contain and hide your personal items – not just to showcase your home better, but also to keep your personal life, well… personal!  Below are a few tips for homeowners who are living in their staged home while it is on the market.

Kitchen

In the kitchen, keep the countertops and sink clean. It is fine to have 1-2 appliances that remain on the countertop, assuming there is ample space and they are in good condition. Try to get in the habit of keeping dirty dishes out of the sink by either washing the dishes or placing them in the dishwasher immediately after use. Ideally, the counter dish drain should be hidden from view, but as long as it is neat and not bulging with dishes, it can remain on the counter during showings.  Keep that pantry clean and neat as well. And, yes, expect that buyers will open doors to kitchen pantries, so prepare accordingly.

On the kitchen floor, reduce the number of scatter rugs to ONE in front of the sink, preferably in a solid color, and toss all of the others.  Too many rugs in all types of patterns can make the floor look like it needs work, even when it doesn’t!

One more thing about kitchens – cooking! If you tend to cook with lots of spices, fry often or prepare foods with heavy scents, have a plan to neutralize the scents immediately afterwards. There are easy ways to do this like boiling a few sliced lemons on the stove or leaving out cups of white vinegar to absorb the scents and odors overnight.  It is important that your home smells fresh for prospective buyers and not like last night’s meal.

Bathrooms

stagesd bathroom-toteRemember living in college dorms and sharing bathrooms, which meant having to tote bathroom items to use in the dorm bathroom?  Yep, it’s time for the bathroom tote to make its return tokeep the bathrooms neat.  Give each family member a tote to store their toothbrush, toothpaste, wash cloth/hand towel and all creams, gels, sprays and makeup that normally lives on the counter around the sink, tub and/or shower.  Use the tote to store items under the bathroom sink, in closed door bathroom cabinet or linen closet, thereby keeping the bathroom countertops free from personal items.  Start using the totes daily – it will save you lots of time and worry.

Bedrooms

Most of the clutter in the bedroom is found near nightstands and closets. To help remedy the clutter, hide items in a closed cabinet or nightstand. Or, purchase a basket with a lid that will slide easily under the bed. Place all of your bedroom clutter in the basket  – tissues, reading glasses, pens, journals, gels, creams, etc. You can leave 1-2 books on the nightstand with your lamp and alarm clock but anything personal should be hidden from view. It also goes without saying that you should make your bed EVERY DAY once you rise to keep your bedroom looking its best.

staged family-room

Family room

Closed storage can be your best friend in keeping your family room neat.  Keep children’s toys and play items in a cabinet, basket or storage ottoman, for easy containment during a quick showing. Reduce the stack of magazines on the coffee table to 1 -2 latest issues, along with your remote.  Routinely sort the mail as it comes in. Mail that needs a response is immediately stored in a drawer or basket; junk mail is immediately tossed. It will help you keep your family room, kitchen or office area neater and keep wandering eyes from your personal items, too. If you are still receiving the daily newspaper, don’t keep yesterday’s issue on the coffee table, move it to recycling area in your home on a daily basis.

As you will quickly learn, living in a staged home is not easy, but it is manageable.  The key is to change you and your family’s behavior daily, rather than trying to “clean” when you get the call that a showing is happening in 15 minutes.  It will make those showings feel less intrusive and the perfect buyer will walk right in and fall in love with your well-kept home!

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.

 

3 reasons sellers need a Realtor to price their home

home sales price

Source: inman.com ~ Contributor: activerain

There are dozens of Internet sites out there that reveal how much your home is worth. They are called “automated valuation model” (AVM) sites, which use statistical modeling techniques that calculate the property value by comparing it with similar-sized homes that have recently sold in your area. These tools crunch their data with publicly available numbers from several listing services and combine them with regional trends to set a sale price for your property.

Cool, right? Now, here is the question that every seller asks themselves: Do I still need a real estate agent to help me through this “assessment” process?

Well, there is a reason for the existence of a real estate agent; actually, I should say there are several reasons why these professionals are so important in any real estate transaction. May I dare to list these reasons?

1. These tools are not always accurate

Although most Realtors also use these tools to start a customer’s property evaluation, a lot of groundwork  is done after the results are revealed. Most AVMs confirm their evaluations may be off by around 5 percent. Well, actually they are sometimes inaccurate by up to 20 percent, according to a study by Standard & Poor’s (one of the reasons being that old data is being used, especially in a fast-moving market). This means that anyone strictly guided by these calculations can be way higher or under market and consequently be losing either money or possible buyers.

2. There are several factors contributing towards the price of a home that the tools do not necessarily catch

Several pieces of information compose the valuation range of a property. Market data is only one of them. The rest is very property-specific, such as whether you have made upgrades or whether your roof is too old — just to name a couple.

Other factors include where your property is located and whether it’s desirable for potential buyers. For example: Is the neighborhood safe? Are there good schools around the area? If I need to go shopping, can I just walk or do I have to drive a long way? The AVM tools cannot simply “know” these things.

3. Here is where a Realtor’s experience counts — A LOT — in this process

Real estate agents are trained to do a comparative market analysis, or a “CMA,” as we call it, for every property they list for sale. This includes going to the property and literally inspecting the home, the neighborhood, everything that will help pin down the ideal listing price range. But mostly, this will give the Realtor the ability to also “articulate” to potential buyers how the selling price is the right price.

Preparing a CMA is an art, not a science, I will dare to say. There’s no one size fits all. Well-thought-out CMAs need deep knowledge of the dynamics of property sales in a given neighborhood. The Realtor makes judgments based on their understanding of the local market and the dozens of peculiarities that affect price, such as lot size; lot orientation; tax-assessed value; and features of the lot, including its terrain, access and privacy, improvements and additions, condition, quality and age.

For example, your agent may know that an overextended home, the appearance of which is out of step with the neighborhood, will likely sell at a discount: An AVM will count only its square footage, and come up with a valuation that’s too high.

home valuation

Every home is unique and must be valued accordingly.

Get it wrong and you risk deterring buyers, or not getting the money you deserve on a sale.

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.

How You’ll Pay for Ignoring Home Repairs

How You’ll Pay for Ignoring Home Repairs

Source: zillow.com

Source: Zillow.com ~ Author: HomeInsurance.com

First-time homeowners sometimes find themselves surprised at how much maintenance they need to do on their houses — even new ones. Sometimes maintenance is as simple as plunging a toilet or touching up paint on a wall or stain on a deck. Other times, however, home maintenance means bigger projects. These are the kind you might not be willing to undertake right away — either because you lack the expertise or the money.

But skipping these projects could wind up costing you in the long run. How? Because neglecting some maintenance or repair projects could mean expensive home insurance claims. That means paying a deductible now and facing the prospect of higher premiums in the future.

Here’s a look at some common maintenance projects, their price tags and the potential cost of ignoring them.

Start at the top

The last windstorm that blew through town sounded pretty vicious, and you remember thinking that the hail was pounding your house particularly hard. Do you know whether the wind or hail loosened or damaged any of your shingles?

It matters. Roof damage can remain hidden until the next storm strikes. What could happen? Plenty. A loose shingle or two could evolve into a hole in your roof, inviting major water damage.

What you can do: Break out the ladder and inspect your roof after particularly violent storms and every time the seasons change. It won’t cost you anything but time. Better yet, have your roof professionally inspected. How much will that cost? About $200, sometimes less depending on how extensive a procedure you request. And if you need to replace or repair shingles? That can run about $200, depending on the damage.

The other threat to your roof comes from tree branches. A branch can smash through your roof (or for that matter, a window or side wall), resulting in the need for major repairs.

What you can do: Check your trees for dead, diseased or damaged branches. Hiring a professional to remove them will cost roughly $250, depending on how much work you want done. You should also check trees on neighboring yards and alert owners to any problems.

What if you ignore these tasks? The average cost of a weather-related homeowners insurance claim is more than $7,300.

Where there’s smoke

More than 64,000 structure fires in the U.S. in 2011 (the latest year for which statistics are available) happened because of faulty heating or electrical distribution equipment, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. You’ve got a real stake in making sure that your heating and cooling system is maintained properly and that you’ve got an updated electrical distribution system.

What you can do: If your heating system is more than 10 years old, have a professional inspect and clean it. It will cost about $100, possibly less. Replacing your HVAC system, of course, will cost much more, depending on the type of system you select.

What else you can do: Hire a professional to upgrade your electrical wiring. It should cost between $400 and $500. If you have electrical outlets that need replacing, bite the bullet and get it done at the same time. The cost is roughly $100 an outlet.

Before you light the fireplace: Your chimney is another major fire risk. Before you light the first fire every winter, hire a chimney sweep. Cost: about $125.

What are the potential consequences of ignoring these tasks? You increase the chances of fire in your house. The average home insurance fire claim is more than $34,200.

Water your options

It’s easy to ignore your plumbing and gutters — until something goes wrong. Broken pipes and appliance failures (think water heater and washing machine) can cause thousands of dollars of damage to your home by the time you get everything fixed.

What you can do: Check the supply hoses on your appliances. If they’re worn or leaking, replace them. You can buy PVC pipe for about $20; better yet, spring for braided steel hoses. That will cost about $100. As for the gutters, you can clean them yourself or hire a pro to do it for around $200.

If you don’t take these steps, you could face serious water damage. The average water damage claim comes in at nearly $7,200.

Remember, while your home insurance likely would cover all these claims, you’d still have to pay the deductible. Plus, you stand to lose your claims-free discount, which means your premiums will be higher for years.

Putting in a little work or money on the front end means you stand a better chance of avoiding costly repairs down the road. It also will pay off when you want to sell your house. If you keep up maintenance on the home, you likely won’t have to make a lot of costly repairs — or drop the purchase price to account for them — before you close on the sale.

If you are in the market to buy (or sell) a vacation 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.

Update your bathroom for under $100

Update your bathroom for under $100

Source: styleathome.com ~ Author:  Martha Uniacke Breen

Bathroom renovations don’t need to cost a fortune. Freshen up your bathroom with an inexpensive facelift.

From time to time, even the most elegant bathroom can use a facelift. But you don’t always need to go whole hog and do major bathroom renovations; there are many ways to freshen it up for under $100. Here’s a list of inexpensive spirit-lifters, from quick and cheerful impulse-buys to jobs that take little more than an afternoon (or two) of your own efforts to pay off.

1 Paint it. Unless your bathroom is truly palatial, it only takes a quart or two to change the wall colour. If you already have paint equipment in the house, such as trays and brushes, this bathroom renovation transformation will be even cheaper. Use painter’s tape and plastic drop cloths to tape off fixtures and floor.

2 Buy new hand towels in a bright colour; nothing cheers up a bathroom faster and more easily. If you still have some cash left, throw in some matching facecloths and bath towels too, perhaps in a contrasting shade. Finish with a matching bathmat and it will look like you had a major bathroom renovation.

3 Most shower curtains tend to get tattered after a while. Treat yourself to a new one and buy some pretty shower curtain rings – either plastic ones in a cheery colour or sleek chrome ones. Finish off with a tieback made with an oversized tassel.

4 Change the faucet. Yes, that’s right. Local building stores have many styles for under $100 and most are designed for easy DIY installation, using only basic tools, and it’s great way to add to your minor bathroom renovations.

5 Bed-and-bath stores are wonderful places for accessories of all kinds. Buy a toothbrush holder, soap dish and wastebasket in a slick style, such as stainless steel, bright retro plastic, or a pretty Victorian pattern. Wicker baskets and trays are great for displaying rolled-up towels or facecloths, toilet tissue rolls or tiny soaps – the classic hotel look.

6 The drugstore is another great place to splurge on inexpensive decorating finds. Buy a set of toiletries in pretty bottles and jars and arrange them together on a shelf. Or stock up on loofahs, delicious-smelling soaps and other bath accessories for the edges of the tub.

7 Spend an afternoon detailing your bathroom; even the most immaculately kept bath is vulnerable to hidden grime. Take an old toothbrush and scrub around faucets, whirlpool jets and insides of cabinets. Use grout cleaner to clean up tile grout. Finish with a really good, overall cleaning.

8 Visit a poster store or IKEA and buy a grouping of inexpensive framed black-and-white prints, or have a photo store reprint some family photos in black and white and frame them yourself. It’s an instant lift without major bathroom renovations. (If the backs are sealed, and they’re not in direct contact with water, humidity is not generally a problem, but to be safe, avoid hanging valuable or irreplaceable pictures in the bathroom.)

9 Update drawer handles and knobs. Nowadays, you can get everything from plastic starfish and other sea creatures to elegant old-fashioned porcelain knobs with reproduction transfer patterns. Or, if you like, splurge and get some really elegant ones from a design store; chances are you only need five or six at most, so why not treat yourself?

If you are in the market to buy (or sell) a vacation 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.