5 Tips for Sellers in a Buyer’s Market

Many real estate markets across the country are starting to regain some balance, with rising prices leveling off just a touch and the number of homes available for sale starting to tick back up. What does this mean if you’re ready to put your home on the market? A slightly adjusted strategy! Here are a few important tips to follow for selling your home as the market swings more to the buyer’s advantage. Pick a good real estate agent. First and foremost, do your homework and pick an experienced agent. When inventory is scarce in a red-hot seller’s market, it doesn’t take much to sell your home. When the opposite is true, you’ll need a savvy agent to help get your home sold in the shortest time for the best price. Price it right. Speaking of price, heed your agent’s advice on how to price your home properly. If your market has shifted, the bidding wars of a few months ago may be a thing of the past. Pricing your home too high could leave your home waning on the market for months on end. Work with your agent to choose a competitive listing price. Step up the marketing. Make sure you’re deploying the very best marketing plan for your home, including professional-quality photos (and plenty of them), videos, social media, and exposure on listing portals. Ask your agent to walk you through the details of the marketing plan so you understand exactly what tactics they have in their arsenal. Set the stage. While you may be able to leave the living room walls turquoise in a seller’s market, when buyers rule the...

What Comes With the House? Negotiating Fixtures

By John Voket After receiving a piece of furniture as a last-minute gift from a friend who was selling and moving, the buyer became upset assuming they would inherit the item even though it had not been agreed upon. Something that should be assumed to come with the house is known as a ‘fixture.’ But what counts as a fixture is the basis for many real estate disputes, according to Elizabeth Weintraub at thealance.com – even when that feature or fixture is outside the building. Generally speaking, she says, a fixture is not required to exist inside the house. Landscaping, or any type of plant with roots firmly ensconced in the ground, is considered a fixture, Weintraub says. Connecticut REALTOR® Kathy Hamilton says determining what will stay with the home and what will go with the previous owner will vary by seller and contract. She first suggests checking the listing, however, because a seller may have already specified any such items included in their asking price. When it comes to any questions about which items will stay, Hamilton advises both sellers and buyers to know the “screwdriver rule.” For the most part, she says, if it takes a screwdriver to remove, it’s considered part of the home – this includes shelves, light fixtures and even curtain rods. But, if it’s hung on a nail, or is a piece of movable furniture – even a grand piano – it’s likely not included in the sale. Devon Thorsby at U.S. News & World Report says states have different standards regarding what things are included in a home sale, but light fixtures...

Selling a Home? Check Your Plumbing

If you’re selling your home, you’re to-do list is likely stacked: find a REALTOR®, get an inspection, make needed improvements, up your curb appeal, and the list goes on. Another important facet to keep in mind before listing is to make sure your plumbing is up-to-date. “When selling a home, you’re going to find each buyer’s home inspector will examine some of the same items,” says Max Rose, owner of Four Seasons Plumbing. “It can be a worthwhile investment to make some repairs to strengthen a home’s appeal to potential buyers and give sellers more negotiating power.” Rose recommends sellers evaluate the state of the following items: Water heater – The water heater is one of the more common big-ticket repairs that can arise from a home inspection. If the water heater is on the older side, a buyer may request it be serviced and flushed, if not replaced entirely, as a condition of going through with the home purchase. Water pressure regulator – One point of a home inspection is to check the water pressure. If the pressure comes back high, that can be indicative of a larger (and costlier) problem. Leaking pipes – If the home has a crawl space, it can be relatively easy to check for leaky plumbing. If there are leaky pipes, that could be a red flag for the seller. Depending on the age and material of the pipes, fixes may range from a patch to whole replacement. Type of piping used – Some older homes are plumbed with piping and/or fittings that have been recalled or had class-action lawsuits filed against the manufacturer. If your home...

Put Your Home Equity to Good Use

With home values enjoying a steady rise over the past several years, most Americans have witnessed a return of home equity, and many are leveraging that equity toward other important financial goals. A recent study by LendingTree, which assessed home equity loan requests since the start of 2018, tracked six uses for home equity loans: home improvement; debt consolidation; retirement income; investment property; emergency funds; and other uses. The research revealed some interesting findings about how homeowners are using their equity: Home improvement is the No. 1 reason for taking a home equity loan. According to the study, 43 percent of respondents reported requesting a home equity loan for home improvement purposes. Real estate investors borrow the largest amount. Borrowers who were looking to invest in another property had the highest property values and requested loan amounts. For property investments, borrowers requested an average of $103,625. For non-property investments, which likely include small businesses, borrowers requested $80,241. Just over 1 percent of requests were to fund retirement. This group had the highest average age of 63, 12 years above the next highest average age. A small share accessed their home equity for emergency expenses. This group had the lowest loan amount requested of $35,747 and kept their (loan to value) LTV low at 51 percent. Debt consolidators push the limits on LTV. Borrowers looking to consolidate debt had the highest LTV of 74 percent. If you’re looking to take advantage of your home equity, talk to a local real estate professional to find out the current value of your home. You may find it’s the right time to put your home on the market...

Smart Homes: The Way of the Future or a Risk to Homeowners?

Smart Homes: The Way of the Future or a Risk to Homeowners? By Liz Dominguez Glitches of early iterations aside, AI-based technology has come a long way, and has an increasingly active presence in the lives of homeowners who are looking for convenience and savings in a pushed-for-time era. From adaptive thermostats that automatically gauge energy usage and alter temperatures for optimal savings, to smart home speakers that use sophisticated artificial intelligence to provide services and information in real-time, a smart homeowner can now cross off a variety of menial tasks from their daily to-do list without doing more than speaking a phrase out loud or clicking a button on their mobile device. What is the true cost of this convenience? Some gadget adopters are reporting invasion of privacy, security risks, and more. For those who have not yet invested in smart home technology, these factors are largely holding them back; in fact, it is the second-biggest reason for hesitation for 17 percent of non-users, behind price (42 percent), according to a recently released report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), “Smart Home, Seamless Life: Unlocking a Culture of Convenience.” In addition, 56 percent of surveyed individuals stated they would choose encryption to protect their data when creating their own smart home. What are these misuses of technology that could lead to privacy or security risks? These are a few of the reported instances thus far: 1. Gadgets May Be Susceptible to Hacking Last August, Wired published a story about a British security researcher for MWR Labs, Mark Barnes, who was able to install malware on an Amazon Echo device, turning it into a...

5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Moving Company

Moving can be a stressful, time-consuming and frustrating experience. The excitement of relocating to your new home can be quickly perturbed by the annoyances of moving day, which is why most homeowners choose to hire a moving company to do the job for them. However, your personal belongings are important to you, and, as such, it doesn’t do any good to hire a mediocre moving team that might damage your delicate items or break irreplaceable heirlooms. If you’re new to the moving game, here are five important questions to ask any company you’re seeking to employ: Do you have any references? No matter the job, references are a large part of what secures your trust and comfort in the person’s ability to perform the task effectively. When looking for movers, be sure to ask the company if they can provide references or a link to some reviews of their business, just to be sure they’re legit. What specific services do you offer? Moving companies vary in terms of what they’re willing to do for you. There are some companies that might refuse to move large items, and only provide the lifting and packing of smaller items. Before you call a moving company, be sure to know exactly what items you need to have moved. If you ask questions, and the response is anything but what you’re looking for, at the very least, you should look around for better options. Do you offer in-home estimates? Knowing what needs to be moved is one thing, but understanding the cost of labor to get the job done is another. Finding a company...

Adding an Outdoor Family Room Can Increase Your Home’s Value

Whether you’re looking to sell your home, or are just interested in making improvements that offer ROI, an outdoor living space is a great investment. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) shares the top four ways family yards and other living landscapes add value to a property and extend the usefulness of the home. Curb appeal. As you know, curb appeal is an important factor in determining overall property value. After all, the first impression on a home is made before buyers even walk through the door! According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 2016 Remodeling Impact: Outdoor Features study, 99 percent of REALTORS® have suggested that sellers improve their curb appeal before putting their home on the market, and 98 percent think curb appeal is important to potential buyers. That’s good advice. Studies show that improving overall curb appeal, which includes a beautiful lawn and landscape, can boost property values by as much as 17 percent (source: Texas Tech University). Win with trees. Mature trees are often an indicator of an established neighborhood, which can be a positive for buyers looking for an older, classic home. But the value of trees goes beyond perception and preference and right into your pocketbook. According to the International Society of Arboriculture, each front yard tree adds 1 percent to a homeowner’s sale price, while large specimen trees can add as much as 10 percent to property values. Green. Potential buyers often ask about the energy efficiency of a home, and it turns out that living landscapes impact the monthly electric bill. According to the Urban Forest Coalition, 100 million mature trees around U.S....

Surviving a Relocation

Relocating to a new area can be an exciting proposition. It can also be a process that’s full of stress. Here are some tips from relocation pros to help ease the strain and emphasize the positive when moving out of town: 1. Lighten your load. Getting rid of unnecessary paperwork, clothing, knickknacks and furniture is essential with any move, but even more so when you’re relocating out of town or out of state. Not only will this save on moving costs, it will save you unpacking time on the other end, allowing you to focus on that new job that brought you to the area and on getting to know your new community and neighbors—all of which is more important than stacking books you don’t need onto shelves. 2. Hire a pro. While you may have opted for DIY moves in the past, relocating out of the area warrants calling in the pros. If you’re being relocated by your employer, this is probably being covered, but even if you’re not, make room in the budget for moving professionals. Ask for referrals, get at least three quotes, and carefully go over all of their policies, including insurance for damages and loss. 3. Transition kids. Children add a whole new layer to the relocation equation, so make sure you make them top priority. Do your research to find the schools that will be the best fit and set appointments to meet with school counselors as you get to town (or even before you move, if possible). Find out where your kids can resume their favorite activities, whether it’s dance or hockey, and get some...

Creating Appeal: 8 Home Staging Tips That Work

By Barbara Pronin First impressions count – and experienced real estate professionals know that a clean, attractively organized home will pique buyer interest and sell more quickly than its neighbors. “Clients tend to focus not on what the house could potentially become, but on how it looks on their first walk-through,” said Kathy Murphy, a top-performing agent with in Royal Oak, Mich. “If the front door is peeling, or the kitchen is a mess, that’s the way they will remember it.” Staging a home to show at its best can make a remarkable difference. That’s why most agents work with their sellers to help create maximum appeal. Effective home staging can be accomplished without excessive effort or expense. The work should begin before the listing photos are taken, so that buyers are intrigued when they view the home online. Listing agents can broaden their staging know-how with these tips from home staging experts: Start at the street – Curb appeal is more than a catchphrase. Advise your sellers to be sure the lawn is mowed, flowerbeds are neat, bikes and trash cans are stashed away. Paint, replace, or clean the front door as needed, and set off a drab entry area with a potted plant or two. Freshen the entryway – The second most important impression begins just inside the front door. Lights should be on, the area neat, and a vase of fresh flowers on a foyer table is a nice touch. Get rid of clutter – Most homes have too much furniture and far too many accessories. Suggest your seller rearrange the furniture to create better traffic flow, and consider...

Hiring a Home Inspector? Read This First

If you’re hiring a home inspector for the first time to look at a house you’d like to purchase, you may be unsure what to expect. A professional home inspection can not only educate you on the condition of the home, but can also minimize costly surprises later on; however, not all home inspectors are created equal. Before hiring that inspector, read these tips from HouseMaster. Check experience and training. Ask how long the company has been in business and about the specific formal training and ongoing education the inspectors have, and verify the company carries professional liability insurance, also known as “errors & omissions” (E&O). If the company doesn’t carry this insurance, it could indicate a poor track record or lack of experience. Ensure accountability. Buyers want to know their inspector is committed to doing their best every time. Only hire a home inspector who will be accountable to you for the quality of their service with their own written guarantee. Many home inspectors today pay third-party companies to cover issues they may miss. Discuss confidentiality. It’s not uncommon for home inspectors to offer customers certain extras, such as discounts on products and services needed during a home purchase. While everyone loves a deal, you will want to ensure your contact information is not distributed to third parties you don’t know about in exchange for these so-called savings. Inspect ancillary systems. It’s hard for first-time homebuyers to know what they need, so ask what additional services the company offers. If the home you are considering has a septic system, for example, a professional home inspection company may offer septic system inspections or...

Hiring a Contractor? Do This First

Nothing is more exciting than embarking on a home renovation project! Hire the wrong contractor, however, and your dream remodel can quickly turn into a nightmare. That’s why it’s essential to do your due diligence when hiring a contractor, such as getting multiple estimates before signing a contract. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), when you get multiple bids, you can learn a great deal about the proposed project, such as what type of work is needed, the quality of the building materials, how long the job may take and the total cost. The BBB offers these other tips to help find the best, most ethical contractor to work with and ensure a successful home renovation: – First, check bbb.org – BBB’s business profiles can tell you how long the contractor has been in business, as well as provide contact information, verified customer reviews, complaint details and how the business responded. – Be wary of ‘today-only’ sales pitches – This is a sales tactic designed to get you to sign a contract or put down a deposit, without giving you the opportunity to do your research. Watch out for these and other ‘bargains’ that rush you into a deal. – Get references from recent customers – Speak with other property owners who had work done recently, and ask what they did or did not like about a particular contractor. A reputable contractor will be happy to provide client references. – Get everything in writing – Make sure all verbal promises end up in the written contract as well as a detailed description of the work, the cost of materials and start and...

Selling Your Home? Attack Issues Head-on

You’ve finally made the decision to put your home on the market – now comes the tough part: making sure it’s ready for prospective buyers. According to Buddy Stark, director of operations for HomeTeam Inspection Service, there are several steps home sellers should take before beginning the selling process and having a home inspection. Here’s what he recommends: Clean the house. This may seem like an obvious one, but you must keep your home at a heightened level of clean on an ongoing basis in anticipation of a showing. An ultra-clean home will convey that it’s been well cared for and that the house is less susceptible to any issues caused by neglect. Check all windows. Take a quick inventory of your windows to make sure they’re in good working order. Replace windows that are cracked or broken before the inspection to save time during the selling process. Finish the “honey-do” list. You might not think that certain areas of your home have anything to do with your home’s appeal, but they will come up as safety concerns on a home inspection report. Replace burnt-out lightbulbs, test smoke detectors, replace air filters and unclog drains. These little things are easy to forget in day-to-day life, but taking care of them is a relatively easy task that will help potential buyers focus on the important systems of the home. Check all outlets. A sampling of electrical outlets will be tested as part of the home inspection to make sure they’re in good working order. Take note of which outlets are not functioning in the home and replace them. Or consider hiring an...

5 Ways to Get Ready to Sell Your Home This Spring

Spring has long been one of the best seasons for selling a home. If you’re ready to put your home on the market, follow these steps to make sure you’re in prime showing shape once spring hits. Find a real estate agent. Use this time to interview several agents and make the right selection. Choose an agent with excellent local market expertise, technology savvy, and negotiating skills. The relationship you have with your agent is important, so be sure to select someone you connect with and communicate well with. Make necessary repairs. If your agent advises that certain repairs be done prior to listing your home, use the remaining weeks of winter to get them done, as they will likely affect the price at which you can list your home. Have a painting party. There’s likely more than one room in your home that will need to be painted before it hits the market. Stick to neutral colors and spend the next few weekends accomplishing the task. Pack up. Now is the perfect time to start packing up unnecessary items. Not only will this give you a head start on your eventual move, it will declutter your home for optimal showing purposes. Plan a photo shoot. Once the essential cosmetic changes have been made, talk to your agent about the best time to photograph and film your house. Make sure your surrounding property is camera-ready, too, and if snow is masking some of your yard’s best features, gather photos of your garden in full bloom and your pool or patio under the bright summer sun so that your agent can add them to the...

5 Quick Ways to Jazz up Your Home’s Curb Appeal

By Barbara Pronin Curb appeal, a phrase often used by real estate professionals, describes the pleasing first impression viewers have at their first glimpse of a home. It could mean, ‘neat and clean.’ It could mean, ‘welcoming’ or ‘stately.’ It could be all of these and more. In essence, a home with great curb appeal says ‘a caring homeowner lives here’ – and what homeowner wouldn’t want to be identified as such? The best part, say the home design experts at Better Homes & Gardens.com, is that jazzing up your home’s curb appeal doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Here are just a few of the ideas they suggest for upping any home’s appeal: Dress up the front door – Give it a burst of color; say a coat of red or marine blue paint to contrast a grey or white exterior. Polish up the door’s hardware, especially around the knob. Create an instant garden – Container gardens can add a warm and welcoming feel when attractively grouped on or around the porch or front steps. Affordable, ready-made containers of plants and flowers available at most home centers can make this an easy, pleasing upgrade. Do a mailbox makeover – Your curbside mailbox should complement your home. Dress it up by painting the box and/or the  post to match your home’s exterior – and surround it at the base with a neat patch of plants or flowers. Install a window box – Take a page from the French or British with a colorful window box or two to set off your home’s front windows. Choose boxes made from iron or copper for...

5 Steps to a Healthier Home

Believe it or not, being healthy at home isn’t just about what’s happening in your fridge. Sure, it’s a good starting point, but there are actually many ways to create a pro-health environment throughout your home. Here are five simple ways to start. Declutter the kitchen. In this case, we’re not talking about knickknacks—we’re talking about food. Go through your cabinets, pantry, fridge and freezer and say goodbye to anything that’s been lingering for way too long. Donate canned goods you’ve been saving ‘just in case,’ get rid of freezer-burned processed meals and old packages of crackers and snacks. Once your shelves are cleared out, start buying and eating mostly fresh items, picking up just what you need every couple of days as opposed to doing a mega shopping every couple of weeks. Honor your eating area. If you’re wolfing down meals standing up at the kitchen counter or on the sofa in front of the TV, it’s likely that you’ve adopted some poor eating habits. Make sure your dining space is set to sit down and enjoy a mindful eating experience that includes quality time with your loved ones, as well. Not only will this lead to eating better prepared, healthier meals, it will force you to eat more slowly, which will help you avoid overeating. Check the air quality in your most-frequented space. Whether it’s the living room or family room, make sure the air is healthy in the room in which you spend the most time. Dust and vacuum more often than usual (especially if you have pets or use a fireplace frequently), open the windows to circulate air,...