Small Home Updates that Make Big Changes

Many people want to add a little pizzazz to their homes but don’t know where to start. Whether it be to prepare to sell or for the owners personal appeal, these small updates can turn around an entire vibe to make a house a home.


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Never underestimate the power of a can of paint. One can completely revitalize a room. If you still have that pea green wall color that your friends complimented you on in the 1970’s then it may be time to change up your style. Fashions change and our tastes change with them. If you are selling then choose a neutral color even if they all look the same to you and are only slight variations of “baguette” or “camel.” If you just want to spice up your life then choose a hue that shows your personality.


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Replace old hardware on cabinets and drawers. I remember when my mother inherited our grandparents’ house. I had never really thought much of the handles to cabinets. My mother changed them because I am pretty sure they were the originals from 1955 when my grandparents bought the house. I immediately noticed the change even though I had never given them thought before. All her family members commented on them as well. It was such a little thing that made a large impression. Along with hardware, light fixtures and faucets are the next items that can really date a room. Replacing these with a more sleek look will instantly modernize the space.


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Give the outside love. The inside of a home is important, but the outside can be just as inviting or uninviting. Simple ways to add curb appeal is to add a small flowerbed around that tree in your front yard. You can paint your rusty mailbox to a nice warm tone. Of course, don’t forget to mow and edge the lawn. It is an easy and cheap fix to spruce up the yard. Placing flower pots around the porch and a few decorations can really increase the visual appeal and make you want to come home after a long day to sit on your relaxing porch.

 

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Simple tips for selling your home during the Holidays!

A Welcoming Curb Appeal

Maintain a polished look by keeping gutters clean and shrubs trimmed. Be sure to also remove any hazards by shoveling, sanding, and removing any ice or snow from the driveway, walkways, and sidewalks. To engage buyers on a gloomy day, keep the front porch well lit, use potted evergreens or berry branches, a wreath on the door, lanterns, and a seasonal welcome mat.

Simple and Elegant Holiday Decor

Do not overdo! Buyers want to see the home’s permanent features and a fireplace or window covered with too many ribbons and stockings will distract from key focal points. Instead, incorporate elegant finishing touches such as mercury glass votives and ornaments for some sparkle paired with candles, pine cones, berries and twigs.

Create Warmth With Lighting

Use modest lighting as an accent to create an inviting ambiance. Scatter a few lightly scented tea lights in votives, candles in varying heights on beautiful pillars or lanterns and soft white string lights on the front porch, entry stairway or fireplace.

Splashes of Minimal Color

Too much traditional green and red can compete with existing decor and command a room’s attention. A couple of red plaid throw pillows or a red wool blanket draped on the sofa will add just enough festive pop. We also love using silver and gold paired with fresh, white seasonal flowers to complement freshly painted neutral walls that appeal to nearly all buyers.

Keep It Bright

With shorter days, let in as much natural light as possible by opening blinds and curtains. Make sure that all lights are working, light bulbs have been changed, and be sure that the property is well lit both inside and out for late afternoon showings.

The new “Top Ten” that might turn off a home buyer!

1. Boldly Painted Walls

Decorators often tout black or another bold paint color as the perfect backdrop to metallic accessories or appliances in modern home design.

The reality is that people prefer the exterior and interior walls of a home to be neutral. Even though repainting is cheap and relatively easy to do, it’s still a pain and buyers might not want to bother.

When decorating, your best bet is to stick to an appeasing hue for the walls and use accessories to provide pops of color.

2. Wallpaper

Bold, graphic patterns increasingly are being incorporated into interior design, often in the form of wallpaper.

But wallpaper—even if it’s only on one wall—is an extremely personal choice and time-consuming to remove if it doesn’t appeal to the buyer

Consider replacing wallpaper with a neutral paint for broader appeal.

3. Lavish Light Fixtures

While potential buyers want rooms that seem airy and bright, beware of installing a showpiece light fixture that is too modern or ornate.

Fixtures should enhance your home—not steal the spotlight.

4. Gleaming Gold

Designers may be mixing silver and gold to give homes star quality, but it might be wise to change out fixtures if they have the wrong metallic sheen.

Gold can give a home an outdated, ’80s feel. Switching out the faucet and door handles with a more appealing finish—such as brushed nickel—is relatively inexpensive and can help make your home appear sleek rather than out of style.

5. Converted Garages

People want a covered parking space so that they have a safe place for their car—especially in areas where street parking is at a premium. Additionally, people often use their garage as storage space.

If you convert your garage into a space tailored your specific needs, such as a music practice room, it may not suit your potential buyers.

6. Converted Bedrooms

Like with the garage, people want rooms built for their original purpose.

If you’ve converted an unused bedroom to an office, walk-in closet, or a game room, make sure you can easily convert it back to a bedroom when you’re ready to sell.

7. Carpets

While designers love to play with the texture of shag carpeting as it feels soft underfoot, the majority of home buyers prefer hardwood floors.

People assume carpets trap dirt, germs and odors, and they don’t want to go through the hassle of steam cleaning their home before they can move in. Potential buyers also don’t want to spend time removing carpet to expose hardwood floors.

If someone really loves carpet, it’s much easier for them to add it themselves—after the purchase.

8. Too-Lush Landscaping

The “outdoor living room” is all the rage, and you may be tempted to build out your backyard into a lavish wilderness of flowers.

But potential buyers may be hesitant to buy a home with an overly landscaped property requiring a lot of maintenance.

Focus on creating or maintaining a nice and neat outdoor space that people can enjoy without too much fuss.

9. Pools and Hot Tubs

A pool may seem like a luxurious feature, but it can be a big turnoff for buyers.

Pools are perceived to be expensive to maintain and potential safety hazards, especially for families with children. Above-ground pools are eyesores and can leave a dead spot in the backyard.

These sentiments extend to hot tubs, too. Many people see hot tubs as breeding grounds for bacteria, and they are not a feature easily removed from the deck or back yard.

10. Fancy (or Not) Pet Products

Sales of pet products are expected to increase nearly $3 billion from last year, and there’s an increasing market for luxury pet items.

But even animal lovers don’t want to see another family’s pet paraphernalia in a potential home. Even if your home is immaculate, the presence of pet-related items will give the impression that it’s dirty.

Be sure to remove all traces of your pet—including toys, food dishes and photos—before listing your home for sale.

The decision to FSBO could cost you!

Some homeowners opt to sell their residence without a real estate agent to get around paying a commission and make more of the profit. Forty-eight percent of people who sell without a real estate agent think that if they sell themselves, they’ll end up doing a little extra work in exchange for not paying a commission or closing fee. According to the research, however, what they actually get is a lot of time spent hustling to make the sale and a final selling price that is less than what the market can bear.

Do you have a lot of extra time to market your home and do all the work to meet and greet properly? Are you versed in local trends on the housing market and know the latest regulations for closing a sale? Do you have a list of potential buyers ready to view your home? Eighty-nine percent of all homes sold in 2015 were sold with the assistance of an experienced real estate professional, according to the 2015 Home Buyers and Sellers Profile. Most leave it to the professionals, yet there is still a small group of people who prefer to do it themselves. Eight percent of home sellers chose to list themselves, known as For-Sale-By-Owners (FSBO) home sales. That number has steadily declined since 2004 where only 82 percent of all home sales were agent-assisted and 14 percent of homes were listed FSBO. FSBO sales are currently at an all-time low since data collection began in 1981.

Let’s break it down further. Thirty-eight percent of all FSBOs—that’s only three percent of the total home sales in 2015—were homes sold to people where the buyer knew the seller selling to a friend, neighbor, or family member. However, 62 percent of FSBO home sales—five percent of total homes sold—were sold by the owner to someone they didn’t know. According to the 2015 Home Buyers and Sellers Profile report, sellers cited creating yard sings, listing their homes online on multiple websites, spreading the news through word of mouth, putting out classified ads, displaying on social media, hosting an open house, and registering with the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database. That’s a lot of work just on marketing and finding potential buyers.F

The time it takes to sell a home on the market was roughly the same for FSBOs and for agent-assisted homes, the median time listed was four weeks for both groups. A third of all homes were sold in less than two weeks last year. Most FSBO homes sales were located in a resort area (16 percent), rural area (15 percent), or a small town (13 percent). Seventy-five percent of FSBO sales were detached single-family homes. Ten percent were mobile or manufactured homes. FSBOs typically had lower incomes than those who worked with an agent. The median income of FSBOs was $84,000 and for those who sold through an agent was $105,600. Those who sell themselves have the perception that they have less money to pay for assistance when selling their home and opt to go it alone.

As it turns out, FSBO make less money on their home sales than buyers who work with a real estate agent. According to the report, the median selling price for all FSBO homes was $210,000 last year. When the buyer knew the seller in FSBO sales, the number plunges to the median selling price of $151,900. For homes sold with the assistance of an agent, the median selling price was $249,000 ̶ almost $40,000 more for the typical home sale. According to NAR’s 2015 Member Profile, sixty-nine percent of all real estate agents get paid by a percentage commission split between two agents representing the buyer and seller.

Talk to an agent and find out what they suggest for the commission and then do the math yourself. The closing price for the agent-assisted seller is likely going to be way above an FSBO. In reality, homes sold by the owner make less money overall. Based on these closing numbers, why not save yourself time and make more money by working with a real estate agent that is excited to sell your home?

Home owners believe it’s a good time to sell: read why!

Fifty-two percent of home owners say now is a good time to sell in their neighborhood. This is up from 34 percent who said so last year, according to a survey conducted by the real estate brokerage Redfin.

What’s more, 58 percent of home owners believe sellers have more power than buyers in the market right now. Redfin researchers note this is nearly the highest level of seller confidence they’ve recorded.

The top reasons sellers say they want to sell now:

  • I want a larger or nicer home: 40%
  • I am relocating to a new city: 24%
  • I want to pull out my profit: 21%
  • I want a smaller or less expensive home: 20%
  • I have had a change in family status: 19%
  • I want to move to a better school district: 15%

“Many move-up buyers have told me they are buying now to take advantage of low mortgage rates,” says William Porterfield, a real estate professional with Redfin in Little Rock, Ark. “Buyers are trying to get as much home as possible before rates rise.”

Still, some Americans expressed concerns about selling, mainly about finding a new home to buy when they sell their own.

The following were Americans’ top concerns about selling:

  • I might not find another home I want: 30%
  • Prices might fall before I sell: 26%
  • I might not find another home I can afford: 25%
  • General economic conditions might discourage buyers: 23%
  • The appraisal might come in low: 19%

Pricing Matters

When it comes to setting the price for their home, 55 percent of home owners say they will price in the middle range based on comparable sales. However, 19 percent of home owners said they would price high, citing that negotiation is inevitable. Also, 12 percent of home owners said they would price high because if the market didn’t value their home, they would wait until it did.

“While we’re noticing a shift among sellers in terms of their confidence in getting their homes sold quickly and for good prices, it’s up to the agent as their advocate to keep their expectations grounded and recommend a pricing strategy that is most likely to get the best value for their home,” says Sascha Gummersbach, a Redfin real estate agent in Atlanta. “A seller’s market doesn’t grant home owners a license to skip things like valuable upgrades, home staging or setting a price based on comparable homes in their neighborhood.”

Great news for home sellers this Summer!

All major U.S. regions except the Midwest saw an uptick in existing-home sales last month, the National Association of REALTORS® reported Wednesday. As tight inventories continue to plague many markets, the median sales price for all housing types climbed to an all-time high of $239,700 in May — up 4.7 percent from a year earlier — as buyer demand outweighs housing supply.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions for single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops, increased 1.8 percent month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.53 million in May. Sales are now up 4.5 percent from a year ago and are at the highest annual pace since February 2007. This is the third consecutive month for gains in existing-home sales.

“This spring’s sustained period of ultra-low mortgage rates has certainly been a worthy incentive to buy a home, but the primary driver in the increase in sales is more home owners realizing the equity they’ve accumulated in recent years and finally deciding to trade up or downsize,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “With first-time buyers still struggling to enter the market, repeat buyers using the proceeds from the sale of their previous home as their down payment are making up the bulk of home purchases right now.”

Yun says sales likely will maintain their current pace throughout the summer, assuming there are no further decreases in job growth that could prompt a pause among repeat buyers.

A room with a view!

On a lazy afternoon, you curl up in the sofa in front of the window, with your Kindle and a cup of steaming Earl Grey. Can life get any better? Yes! Add a breathtaking view in front of you. Perfect!

It’s no surprise that a view makes a home more attractive to buyers. But a view of what, exactly? Ocean waves, snowy mountains, or just the trees in your own backyard?

It turns out that homes with a view of the urban jungle sell the fastest—at just 83 days on the market. If you guessed that homes with ocean views would be most in demand, well, they sit on the market for 98 days on average. But let’s get real; the median price of $749,000 for an oceanfront home is clearly not for everyone.

The benefits of downsizing are many, but can come at cost!

Hidden cost No. 1: Taxes

Depending on how long you’ve lived in your home, when you sell the place, a large portion of your equity may go straight to federal and state capital-gains taxes. Many folksdownplay or underestimate this heavy lift. You can exclude up to $500,000 of profit from the sale of your home if you’re a married couple filing jointly, or $250,000 if you’re single. (Your profit is the sale price minus its selling expenses and “tax basis”—that is, what you paid when you originally purchased it, plus the cost of any improvements you’ve made to the property.)

The IRS offers some guidelines on how to calculate capital gains, but you’ll still want to consult a tax adviser to find out how much you’re going to walk away with when you sell your home, says Rae Wayne, a Realtor® with the Bizzy Blondes team in Los Angeles.

Additionally, if you’re buying your next property, you might have to pay more in property taxes depending on where you’re moving. But if this is a retirement move you’re making, you may be in luck: Some cities offer property tax relief to seniors, so find out from your adviser if a discount is available and whether you qualify.

Hidden cost No. 2: Repairs

Depending on how long you’ve lived in your home, you might have plenty of deferred maintenance to deal with. So to get the most value for your house, you’ll need to make repairs before putting your property on the market. You may also have some cosmetic issues that need attention. Maybe lots of ’em.

“A lot of homeowners just let landscaping slip,” says Nancy Newquist-Nolan, a Realtor with Pacific Coast Realty in Santa Barbara, CA, who specializes in downsizing. “Older homeowners in particular just don’t have the energy.”

Is that you? When Jeb Bush was labeled “low energy” during the Republican primaries, did you nod sadly in recognition? Then it’s worth hiring a professional to do basic landscaping, including removing weeds, planting flowers, and pruning hedges and trees. Improving your home’s landscape can raise its value by up to 12%, according to research from Virginia Tech.

Moreover, painting the front door, replacing the mailbox, and updating light fixtures are low-cost upgrades that can boost curb appeal substantially.

Hidden cost No. 3: Moving

Unless you can get friends or family to help you (and at this point in your life, do you really want to?), you’ll probably hire a moving company when you downsize. Just keep this in mind: The average professional move costs a not-at-all-small $12,230, according to Worldwide ERC, an association that tracks mobility costs.

But there are a number of ways you can save.

Timing is crucial. Summer is peak moving season, since most families want to move when their children are out of school. And trust us, surge pricing isn’t unique to Uber. So avoid the priciest periods if possible: You’ll save if you can relocate during the winter. Moreover, a mid-month move will help cut costs, since movers are busiest during the beginning and end of the month when leases turn over, says Scott Michael, president and CEO at American Moving & Storage Association.

Another way to cut costs is simply to comparison shop: Get in-home quotes from at least three companies, Michael advises. Transporting valuables like antiques? Make sure you’re covered if something breaks. Since legal coverage varies by state, look into purchasing “full replacement value” protection from the moving company, says Michael. Also, some homeowners insurance policies cover items when in transit, so check your coverage.

If you’re making a local move, you’ll likely pay by the hour, so make the process as seamless as possible, says Regina Leeds, a professional organizer and author of “Rightsize … Right Now!: The 8-Week Plan to Organize, Declutter, and Make Any Move Stress-Free.”

To conserve time, pack smaller items yourself, label boxes and furniture to indicate their designated room, and supply workers with handwritten instructions the day of the move.

“The less questions movers have to ask you, the faster they’ll go,” and the more you’ll save, says Leeds.

Since long-distance moves are typically priced based on weight, you can shave costs by unloading your “clutter” before moving.

Hidden cost No. 4: Storage

Having trouble parting with some of your possessions? You may be tempted to put them into a storage unit, but Newquist-Nolan says it’s a waste of money.

“When you downsize, you should be able to reduce your possessions to fit your new living space,” she says.

Leeds recommends going room to room and making a list of everything you’re going to get rid of, including furniture, clothing, and canned foods.

“You want to have space in your next home for new mementos,” says Leeds.

Be brutal—you’ll be happy you were. You have three options when paring down your belongings, according to Newquist-Nolan: Give them to family, sell them (either on eBay or in a yard sale), or make a donation and receive a tax write-off. Some organizations (e.g., the Salvation Army) will pick up donations from your house, making it a hassle-free decision. If you’re going to simplify, simplify.

Hidden cost No. 5: Living expenses in your new locale

This one is a big wild card. Some living expenses are fixed, like condo dues or homeowners association fees, and thus easier to budget for; in other cases, your cost of living might go up—sometimes way up—if you’re making a long-distance move.

Online calculators can give you a rough estimate of what you’ll be paying, but you can get a better sense of how much things cost by visiting your prospective town.

“Check out the supermarkets, restaurants, and shopping centers,” says Wayne, “and talk to as many people as possible to get a feel for what it’s like to live there.” After all, small is the new big. Just make sure it’s the right kind of small.

The features active first time home buyers are looking for!

Mid-Atlantic real estate professionals are bullish on the housing market this spring, particularly due to the growing number of first-time home buyers entering the market.

In its 2016 Mid-Atlantic Housing Market Survey, MRIS – one of the nation’s largest multiple listing services – found that 57 percent of nearly 750 real estate professionals recently surveyed expect this spring to be busier than last year. The majority of the respondents cited low mortgage rates as the main reason they believe buyers will act faster this year than last year.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents predict there will be more first-time buyers this year too. With that growth, how do you appeal to first-time buyers with your listings? Respondents rated the following home features as the most important to first-time home buyers:

  1. Updated kitchen and bath: 81%
  2. An open floor plan: 59%
  3. Low-maintenance features: 43%
  4. Walkable communities: 36%
  5. Energy efficiency: 20%
  6. Strength of cell phone service or WiFi: 19%

Selling or just decluttering this Spring? A storage space may be your answer!

You might think the easiest way to declutter your home is to shove everything into the closets. Bad idea: Anyone who tours your home is going to check out the storage spaces, and disorganized, overstuffed closets only serve as evidence that your home is lacking. Opt instead for a storage unit to house the things you won’t need while your home is on the market. The general rule? Get rid of a third of your stuff. “If you don’t use it every day, store it,” says Justin Seeby, principal at the Graham Seeby Group with Keller Williams Intown Realty in Atlanta, GA. Holiday decorations, baby gear, seasonal clothes, that bread maker you’ve never used — they can all go into storage. Bonus: If you choose a portable unit, it can be transported to your new home, making moving day a cinch.