Selling your home: Consider these staging tips to help buyers fall in love with your home!

Staging your house can make you money and can increase the dollar value buyers are willing to offer.

Before your eyes turn into dollar signs, keep in mind staging isn’t guaranteed to get you more money. But it’s an important marketing tool to help you compete at the right price, which means you can sell faster.

Helping buyers fall in love with your property takes more than running the vacuum and fluffing the pillows: It’s all about decluttering, repairing, updating, and depersonalizing.

Living Room

  • When placing anything from accent pillows and table lamps, go for symmetry, which is pleasing to the eye.
  • Light it up with lamps. Chic lamps provide both added lighting and appealing decor.
  • Make that fireplace glow. Scrub away soot stains and replace the old screen.
  • If you’re using staging furniture or buying slip covers, choose light colors for an airy, inviting feel.
  • Whatever amount of furniture you have in your living room, remove a few pieces to make the room feel spacious.
  • Use bright, coordinated accessories like accent pillows and throw blankets for a chic splash of color.
  • Help buyers imagine their life in your home. Set the scene by displaying a board game or tea service on the coffee table, and arrange furniture in conversational groups.
  • Let a slideshow of beautiful images play on your television like a screensaver.

Kitchen

  • Clear everything from counter tops except one or two decorative items, like a vase of flowers or bowl of fresh fruit.
  • Pack up all the dishes except one attractive, matching set. Do the same with glassware, flatware, and cookware, and pare down all other cupboard and drawer items down to the minimum.
  • Freshen up and modernize those cabinets with a fresh coat of paint or stain and new hardware.
  • Seriously evaluate your appliances. Can they look new again with a good scrubbing? Consider replacing with new models.
  • Remove those fridge magnets and give the door and handles a good cleaning.
  • Scrub dirt, grime, and stains from walls, cabinets, and backsplashes.
  • Clean cabinet interiors, especially under the sink.
  • Clean and organize the pantry, leaving some empty space to make it look bigger. Store items in decorative baskets and display a few jars of fancy jam and other upscale condiments.
  • Empty all trash cans and move them out of sight.

Bedrooms

  • Go gender neutral in the master bedroom. Ditch those dainty, floral pillow shams or NASCAR posters.
  • Pack up all but the clothes you’re wearing this season to make you closets look larger.
  • Swap out the motley crew of mismatched hangers in your closet for a set of wooden ones to create a classy, boutique look.
  • Put jewelry and other valuables in a safe spot.
  • Consider giving extra bedrooms a new identity as a home office, sewing room, or another interesting function.
  • Remove televisions or video game consoles from bedrooms to depersonalize and create a serene setting.

Dining Room

  • Let buyers entertain the idea of entertaining. Set out some chic place settings around the table, or a few wine glasses and a decanter on the buffet.
  • Strike a balance between overly formal and too casual with an attractive runner and a few fun, decorative elements — think small floral vases or short candle holders.

Bathroom

  • It’s de-grime time: Scrub and sanitize the walls, floor, shower door — virtually every surface that comes in contact with steam.
  • Spend extra time scrubbing that tile grout and re-caulk around the tub if necessary.
  • If your bathroom tile is dated, try paint instead of replacing it. Start with a high-adhesion primer and either epoxy or latex paint.
  • Remove clutter from the counter top, tub, and top of toilet. Clean surfaces until they gleam.
  • Pack up and hide all your personal products — from medicine to razors.
  • Create a luxury spa look with a fancy soap dispenser, fluffy white towels, decorative baskets, candles, plants, a white shower curtain, and a new bath mat.
  • Fix leaky or running toilets and replace toilet seats.
  • Remove hard water stains on faucets and shower heads. (Try vinegar!)
  • Take a daring sniff of the drains. Odorous? Clean them out, and deodorize with baking soda, boiling water, or vinegar.
  • Time for a new sink anyway? Try a pedestal sink to optimize precious bathroom space.

Walls, Windows & More

  • Have a dark corner or hallway? Brighten it up with a decorative mirror.
  • Neutralize the walls. If any rooms are painted in dark colors, repaint white or beige.
  • Paint adjacent rooms the same color to make the whole space feel larger.
  • Fill nicks and holes in walls, and touch up with paint.
  • Sorry, wood paneling. It’s time. Paint over paneling with a neutral color. To really cover your tracks, use wood filler between panels and paint over the entire thing.
  • Make sure every switch plate and outlet cover matches and looks brand new.
  • Wash the windows, inside and out. Repair any holes or tears in screens.
  • Replace those family portraits with interesting art placed strategically throughout the house. Avoid leaving dead space on walls.

Throughout the House

  • Declutter! Consider it pre-packing for your move. Box up books, clothes, and personal items and place them (neatly!) in the garage or — better yet — a rented storage unit.
  • Don’t forget to include memorabilia in those decluttering bins. Family photos, diplomas, and the kids’ artwork should all go.
  • Keep closets, basements, and attics as empty as possible to maximize the appearance of storage space.
  • Transform underused areas of the house — the alcove under the stairs or the end of a hallway — into functional spots. Add a desk to create a mini office, or a chair and small bookshelf for a reading nook.
  • Swap dim lights for high-wattage bulbs.
  • Check every door, drawer, and cabinet to ensure they open and close easily. Swap out any faulty — or dingy — hardware.
  • Damaged or aging hardwood floors? Replace damaged boards with new wood, sand down the entire floor, and re-stain.
  • Do a deep (deep, deep) clean. Hire a professional cleaning service to clean your home from top to bottom — including carpets — before viewings.

Exterior

  • Hang attractive house numbers that are legible from the road.
  • Brighten up your porch with fresh paint or stain.
  • Add a fresh coat of paint to the front door, preferably red, black, blue, or wood stain, so long as it complements the trim and doesn’t blend. Steer clear of unconventional colors like purple.
  • Buy a new doormat to welcome home buyers.
  • Power-wash the house exterior, walkway, steps, driveway, and porch until everything sparkles.
  • Make sure the locks and doorbell function.
  • Make that mailbox look clean and welcoming, or get a new one.
  • Plant lots of colorful blooms in attractive pots and planter beds.
  • Trim back trees and shrubs from the approach to the front door.
  • Whip that yard into shape with fresh sod or new seed
  • Store yard equipment and children’s toys out of sight.
  • Repair shaky banisters.
  • Get a hammock (or bocce ball game or raised fire pit) to show off how fun your yard can be.
  • Dress up any imperfect planting area with mulch.
  • Make sure entryway lights function and are free of cobwebs and insects.
  • Hide trash cans, recycle bins, and garden hoses.
  • Don’t forget your outdoor living space. Stage your patio like a second living room, with fashionable furniture, accent pillows, an outdoor rug, and other patio-friendly decor.

For Pet Owners

  • Scrub those pet stains on the carpets and rugs until totally gone or replace them if necessary. Try cleaning formulas made especially for pet odors.
  • Pet odors soak into your best friend’s favorite things. Completely remove pet beds (or Fido’s most-loved couch), blankets, toys, play structures, food bowls, and the like.
  • Use air fresheners that eliminate odors, rather than simply mask them. There’s nothing worse than the smell of artificial pine with kitty litter undertones.
  • Repair or remove any furniture that’s been scratched or gnawed on.
  • Clean all pet “presents” from the yard.
  • Keep cat boxes immaculate and hidden away, or — better yet — see how your feline-loving friends feel about a temporary houseguest and remove litter boxes altogether.
  • Remove any dog or cat doors. Pets? What pets?
  • When you leave the house for a viewing, take all the furry (or feathery or scaly) residents along with you.
  • Make a pet hair sweep the last thing you do before you leave the house.

 

 

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What Is a Home Warranty? Peace of Mind for Home Buyers and Sellers

Lots of things you buy come with a warranty in case they break down, from cars to smartphones. But what about homes? It turns out you can get a home warranty, too.

So what the heck is a home warranty, anyway? In a nutshell, it’s a policy you pay for that covers the cost of repairing many of your home appliances if they break down.

Many people buy a home warranty right when they close on a home, since such protections can provide some much-needed peace of mind that you won’t get hit with unexpected expenses soon after moving in. Imagine what a bummer it would be, after all, to wake up one morning to a broken boiler or leaking, malfunctioning fridge in your brand-new home. A home warranty can lessen those worries, which for many is worth every penny.

What does a home warranty cover?

Don’t mistake a home warranty for homeowners insurance, which covers your home’s structure and belongings in the event of a fire, storm, flood, or other accident. A home warranty, in comparison, will cover repairs and replacements on systems and appliances due to normal wear and tear—no calamities required.

A home warranty generally covers these items:

  • Electrical systems
  • Plumbing systems
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Washer and dryer
  • Kitchen appliances such as the oven, range, and garbage disposal

How much does a home warranty cost?

While home buyers are often required to get homeowners insurance along with their mortgage, home warranties are a fully optional purchase. Basic coverage starts at about $300 and goes up to $600 for more comprehensive plans. A homeowner can add extras if needed, such as coverage for a swimming pool or an external well.

Although many companies offer home warranties to homeowners at any point, the best deals can often be snagged if purchased at the same time you buy the home.

At the end of the first year, you usually have the option to renew your plan or bail.

Benefits for home buyers and sellers

A home warranty benefits home buyers by providing reassurance that they can move in without worrying about shelling out even more for surprise repairs.

A home warranty can also benefit home sellers (if they don’t have it already), since it can cover these elements during the listing period; some companies even offer free seller’s coverage during this time with the hopes that the buyer will decide to continue the coverage. Oftentimes, home sellers will offer to pay for the first year of a buyer’s home warranty to entice buyers to bite.

But not everyone thinks home warranties are worth the cost. Typically they aren’t necessary with new homes, since most of the appliances are already covered under manufacturers’ warranties. But in general, the older your home, the greater the odds are that something’s bound to break, and the wiser it is to get a home warranty. Best of all? Many companies don’t differentiate between newer and older homes in terms of cost, making a warranty an especially cost-effective option if you are purchasing an older home.

What to do if something breaks

If something covered under your home warranty breaks, you just call your provider and it will connect you with a qualified contractor in your area. One thing to remember is that a home warranty does not mean you’re off scot-free; typically you’ll have to pay for a service call or a certain amount of the bill up to your deductible first.

While not everyone will think a home warranty is worth it, it is a good idea for people who lean toward the “better safe than sorry” approach when buying a home.

 

Have you fallen out of love with your home? 4 Questions to ask yourself.

Remember that moment you first laid eyes on your home? How you swooned over those soaring ceilings and gleaming hardwood floors? And what about the stainless-steel appliances in the kitchen that left you utterly smitten? So you made an offer that was accepted. A few months later you moved in, giddy. Every morning you woke up and smiled, pinching yourself for being so lucky to have found a home you love so much.

But then the honeymoon ended.

The kitchen, which seemed so spacious at one time, now feels cramped. You pine for two sinks in your master bath rather than one. You start looking at local real estate listings to see if there’s anything better out there, because you realize—sadly, alas—that you have fallen out of love with your home. And that means it’s time to move on, right?

If you think the love affair between you and your home may be heading for splitsville, I suggest you ask yourself these questions before you cut bait. 

Question No. 1: Have you given it enough time?

Having a little buyer’s remorse after a home purchase is natural. Especially during the first year or so. That’s because it takes time to make a house into a home.

One key way to do that is to put your personal stamp on a place.

Question No. 2: Did you consider the bigger picture? 

There can be so many reasons to love a house, from a roof deck to a huge kitchen. But in the same way meeting someone’s in-laws can be a make-or-break moment, a home’s surroundings matter just as much as the house itself. 

Question No. 3: Are you willing to roll up your sleeves and work?

You hear it all the time: Relationships take work. And houses do, too—sometimes more than we bargain for.

Question No. 4: Have you followed your instincts?

If you do decide to do the work and put your stamp on a home, don’t be led astray too much by the return on investment—in other words, how much resale value your upgrades will bring once you sell your home. Sure, it’s important, but if you plan to live there for at least five years, fads will change by then, so rather than chase these trends, just do what will make you happy.

Pleasant Scents Can Make the Sale!

How a fresh smell can make or break a home sale

Every home carries scents of the wonderful meals we prepare, cleaners we use, laundry we’re doing and even the furniture we choose, whether it be a leather armchair or antique highboy. Combined, these are like our family scent signature.

Unfortunately, some scents, like those from our pets, smoke or pungent cooking odors, are not very pleasant. Here are some things to help offset those offensive odors before a showing:

Two hours before a showing

Open the windows and doors to exchange stale air with fresh air from outside. The fresh outside air will exchange with the inside air in about an hour.

While they’re open

  • Clean hard surface floors with a diluted floor cleaner with a warm scent, like lavender. Lavender is a welcoming, calming scent for guests.
  • Use a diluted amount of the same all-purpose cleaner to spray and quickly wipe down kitchen counters and flat surfaces.
  • Using the same cleaner, wipe down surfaces in all bathrooms. Do not use bleach or ammonia for this.
  • Sprinkle baking soda lightly on carpets and vacuum after a few minutes.
  • Clean litter boxes and move them outside or to a garage or carport area away from foot traffic.
  • Spray linen freshener in closets for a clean, fresh smell.
  • Do one load of laundry, both wash and dry. This will help the laundry room smell fresh, and externally vented dryers will make the outside smell like clean laundry, too!

Additional options

  • Bake a sheet of chocolate chip cookies. No need to go all out — just pick up a roll of refrigerated cookie dough and keep those on hand. Slice, bake and voila!
  • Put two caps of vanilla extract in a coffee cup, then place it in the oven at 300 degrees for one hour. The whole house will soon smell like vanilla heaven without using harsh chemical air fresheners.

Your fresh-smelling home will stand out from the rest!