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How Touring Open Houses Helped Me See My Own Home in a Whole New Light

August 14, 2019

Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Want to learn how to sell your house? Simple: Put on your buyer hat and tour a bunch of homes for sale in your area. That’s what I did, and I learned a ton about how to sell my own place.

I’d bought my cozy one-bedroom condo in Irvine, CA, three years ago; it was perfect for a single 20-something ready to break away from the renting game. But now, I’m married, with dreams of having kids who will need their own rooms and with plans to get a brood of pups, who probably won’t be impressed with my cement balcony “backyard.” With these goals on our horizon, I realized that my husband and I were going to need a bigger place.

So, I started touring open houses in my area, often with my husband in tow. While my original motive was to figure out what we wanted to buy, it didn’t take long for me to feel like an expert in buying and selling. Here’s what I learned.

Home staging makes a huge difference

One weekend, my husband and I toured a house I loved—it felt so homey and elegant. I was inspired by the kids’ rooms, with their vintage feel and soft colors. I even started imagining family dinners at the gorgeous wood table next to the kitchen. I could practically taste the ice cream we’d have for dessert.

Then, a few weeks later, we went to see another house. Within moments of walking in, I walked right out, calling it “definitely skippable.” That’s when my husband stopped me.

“You know that’s the same layout as the house you loved, right?”

living room
This living room felt like home to me. I loved the table off the kitchen and the cozy living room.

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I hadn’t even noticed! Sure enough, as I looked at both listings online—both in the same preplanned community—I realized that almost everything was exactly the same. I’d walked through the same rooms, seen essentially the same views though the windows, and even tested the same faucets, without connecting the dots.

I couldn’t believe how different it all looked—and how quick I had been to dismiss the second house. This convinced me that good staging could offer a huge advantage, one that I’d have to make use of when selling my own home. While I’d once considered simply moving my furniture out of my condo before selling it, I realized now that it was important to keep at least some of the best things. Buyers will have a hard time picturing eating their meals at a table they can’t see, or imagining falling asleep in a bedroom without a cozy-looking bed.

chairs and fireplace
I walked into this house and was immediately confused by the staging. I couldn’t imagine myself here.

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Odds are, some areas of your home are outdated

Walking into an open house, it can be hard not to look at the owner’s sense of style before anything else.

Sometimes, I’d be overwhelmed by the gorgeous design and glamorous art pieces that seemed made for the home. I’d even go as far as to ask if I could buy that couch, or those bar stools, along with the house. But at other open houses, I’d find myself unpleasantly distracted by an outdated dining room table, or gaudy light fixtures. You expect a house to be at its absolute best when it’s being shown, so when I went into one house with a way-too-’80s fireplace and baby-blue walls that made the living room look like a nursery, I couldn’t even focus on the large living space or the great view.

blue and white living room
When I toured this home, I got some great ideas for pops of color in my own home. I loved the use of blue pillows in this otherwise muted living room. It reminded me that it can be easy (and inexpensive) to change up a look.

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Being (relatively) young and (moderately) hip, I thought I was in the clear from any big style faux pas. But one day, coming home from open houses, I realized that my condo might be a style offender, too. Once I started looking at modern, expertly designed homes, I started to notice that none of my furniture really went together and that the accent wall I loved so much was a bit outdated. I realized I’d have to give my condo a refresh if I had any hope of fetching top dollar.

living room
I was underwhelmed with this house’s interior. Not only was all the furniture dated, but the rooms felt flat and uninteresting.

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Don’t forget about the outdoor areas, too

Since my own home had a balcony, I made a point to tour some condos with balconies, just to see how they compared to my own.

As I saw terrace after terrace with sleek furniture and creative features like shade-providing curtains, it quickly dawned on me they were much more stylish and welcoming than mine, even though they were about the same size. I realized there was a lot more I could do with this small space.

Inspired, I bought some new cozy outdoor chairs for my balcony, added a small table and a few more potted plants, and even an outdoor-friendly rug for some more color. When I’m ready to sell, my balcony will already be buyer-ready!

sitting area
I liked this simple and sweet outdoor space. It has just enough furniture to make for a comfortable sitting area (without making it feel crowded) and the pillow and potted plants provide a cozy feeling.

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You have to spend money to make money

When I first started looking at homes, I didn’t understand why they were priced the way they were. I’d see some homes with three bedrooms and three baths that were $100,000 more expensive than houses the same size in a similar area. It wasn’t until I toured the homes that I understood. These pricier houses had some noticeable differences, such as upgrades in the kitchen and better curb appeal. I realized that people are willing to pay handsomely for certain features.

black and white kitchen
I saw many boring 1990s kitchens on home tours, but this updated, chic setup cut through the clutter.

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When it came to my condo, I knew there were updates I should do to the kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities. It wouldn’t cost too much to update those things, but I knew that when the time came to sell, buyers would be more willing to pay top dollar with those updates—so they were worth the added expense.

kitchen
This is one of the many basic, outdated kitchens I saw. Kitchens should feel inviting, but I thought this one just felt boring.

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The post How Touring Open Houses Helped Me See My Own Home in a Whole New Light appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Should You Sell Your Home Furnished? How It Could Help—or Hurt—the Deal

July 10, 2019

Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

One of the hardest parts about selling your home is the hassle of moving all of your furniture out before a new buyer moves in. Sometimes it might seem easier to just leave everything behind, walk away carefree, and buy new stuff—especially if you’re not particularly attached to your furnishings in the first place.

Well, as it turns out—you can do just that. But should you?

We’re not gonna lie: It can be a tricky line to toe. Selling your home furnished could increase your home’s value—or it could actually cause it to plummet. In fact, your furniture could be the reason your home flies off the market, or lingers indefinitely.

To help ensure you’re making the best decision for your bottom line, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about selling a furnished home.

What are the benefits of selling a furnished home?

In many cases, selling a furnished home can be mutually beneficial for you and the buyer. Not only can it make the entire moving process easier for both of you, but it can also help prospective buyers envision the property as a livable home.

“Selling a furnished home can sometimes maximize the value and, if furnished well, can act as a no-cost staging of the home to help the home sell faster,” says Elizabeth Kee, a licensed associate real estate broker at CORE.

Plus, if a buyer is moving into a new town and doesn’t want to spend the time decorating her new place, a furnished space can be a selling point.

What are the disadvantages of selling a furnished home?

Of course, while you might love all of the pieces in your home, potential buyers might not.

“Oftentimes, furnishings can deter a purchaser, as tastes vary greatly and undesirable furnishings can turn off buyers—especially if the buyers are burdened with the task of removing unwanted furnishings after closing,” Kee says.

That also means that your furniture could very well delay how long your listing is on the market, says Jaime Watts, a Realtor® at Compass.

And before you decide whether to sell your home furnished, consider what kind of home you’re selling, and where it’s located.

“Resort and vacation rental areas usually sell properties furnished, and it doesn’t affect the time on the market since most people are looking to lease it out right away to a short-term tenant,” Watts says. “Luxury high-end homes with custom designer furniture can also help sweeten the deal for a buyer.”

Do keep in mind, though: Regardless of whether it’s a vacation home or suburban space, furnished homes will typically narrow your candidate pool.

How will selling my home furnished affect my asking price?

In some situations, great furniture can improve the value of your home. But for simplicity’s sake, you won’t want to factor in your furniture when settling on your list price.

“Since there are no real comparable sales for [furnished homes], it can be difficult to negotiate,” explains Johannes Steinbeck, a Realtor at Compass in Los Angeles and Orange County. “It really depends on the quality and value of the furniture.”

“In all of the furnished sales I have done, we negotiated the price of the furnishings separate from the sales price,” Watts adds. “Once we agreed on the price of the furnishings, we included a bill of sale with the purchase contract that was handled through escrow.”

Is my furniture good enough to attract buyers?

Maybe you think the fact that you’re throwing in your replica leg lamp from “A Christmas Story” should have buyers lining up at your door. Or maybe you can’t imagine someone not wanting the 18th-century armoire that would fetch a pretty penny at auction.

But before you start dreaming about all of the dollar signs, consult with your real estate agent.

“Any good real estate professional will help you to be able to determine if selling your home furnished is a good strategy in your market,” Kee says, “and what furnishings should stay, go, or be supplemented.”

The post Should You Sell Your Home Furnished? How It Could Help—or Hurt—the Deal appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

7 Times to Offer Over Asking Price on a House—or Else You May Lose Out

May 6, 2019

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Offering over asking price on a house often makes buyers wince. But let’s face it, paying above list price is just a reality in certain circumstances—at least if you really have any hopes of getting that house!

So when exactly should you aim high and offer over asking? Check for these signs below that suggest this pricey move is essential.

1. It’s a seller’s market

A seller’s market is when there are more home buyers than sellers—meaning demand outpaces the supply of homes for sale. As a result, home buyers in a seller’s market face a tough challenge: Due to increased competition, they often have to act fast and bid high to woo sellers into accepting their offer, says Seth Lejeune, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway in Malvern, PA.

Looking at a couple of key factors can help you determine whether you’re in a seller’s market, Lejeune says, starting with the average days on market.

A good rule of thumb: “If houses are selling in your neighborhood in less than 10 days, it’s a strong seller’s market,” Lejeune says. You can find what the average days on market is in your city using realtor.com’s Local Market Trends tool.

You’ll also want to evaluate what homes are selling for compared with their list price. In a strong seller’s market, Lejeune says, the final sales price is typically at least 10% higher than the asking price. (Your real estate agent can pull this data for you.)

2. You know, for a fact, you’re going up against other offers

Bidding wars can erupt, even in a buyer’s market—sometimes all it takes is an aggressively priced home, which is why it’s important to find out whether there are other bids on a property before you make an offer. So go ahead and ask (or have your real estate agent ask on you behalf); generally it’s in their interests to say if other offers are on the table since it might spur you to act fast.

3. The house is blatantly underpriced

Some sellers decide to list their home well below the property’s fair market value in an effort to spark a bidding war. In that instance, it may make sense for you to offer over asking price in order for your bid to outshine other offers.

To figure out if a house is underpriced, you and your agent should assess recently sold homes in the area (also known as comparables, or “comps”). This will give you a baseline that you can use to calculate a home’s true market value, which you can use as a benchmark when pricing your offer.

4. You’re competing with cash buyers

Home sellers swoon over all-cash offers for one simple reason: It means there’s no doubt that you’ve got the coin to close the deal. Consequently, all-cash home buyers have a distinct advantage over those who need a mortgage, because there’s no guarantee that lenders will fork over the money.

Cash offers made up 29% of single-family home and condo sales in 2017, according to ATTOM Data Solutions. So, if you know you’re competing against one, making a bid that’s over a home’s list price could persuade the seller to accept your offer.

5. The seller isn’t motivated

Some home sellers have to unload their house as quickly as possible, say, due to an imminent relocation for a new job or a need to raise cash to purchase their next home. Other sellers, though, aren’t quite as motivated—and they may just be listing their house to “test the market” and see what sized offer they can get, which is why it’s important to ascertain what the seller’s motivations are, says Diana George, founder of Vault Realty Group, in Oakland, CA.

“I always call the real estate listing agent and speak to them directly to get a better understanding as to what’s driving the seller,” George says.

If you find yourself dealing with an unmotivated seller, offering above the home’s list price could make the seller bite. The caveat, of course, is you don’t want to offer so much above asking price to the point where you significantly overpay for the home.

6. You absolutely adore the home—and can’t risk losing it

Sometimes buyers simply fall head over feels for a house, says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis. If you find a house and feel your heart would be broken if you lose it, offering over asking price can help you lock down the property, Dossman says.

7. You can afford to pay over asking price

One word of warning: If you’re obtaining a mortgage, be aware that if you pay way over what a home is really worth, the home still has to pass appraisal in order for your lender to provide you with the loan that you need. Any difference between a home’s appraised value and your contract price would have to come out of your pocket. As always, you’ll want to rely on your real estate agent to help you craft a winning offer you can afford.

The post 7 Times to Offer Over Asking Price on a House—or Else You May Lose Out appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Got Sticker Shock? These 5 Factors Are Influencing a Home’s Asking Price

March 6, 2019

zstockphotos/iStock; realtor.com

Ever gotten excited about a house for sale, then looked at the price and thought, “Are they out of their minds?” Yeah, us too.

It can be a disheartening moment when you’re house hunting. And that jaw-dropping asking price might simply seem like an arbitrary, money-grabbing number that’s keeping you from your dream home. But before you dismiss a house for being too expensive, you should know that there are a variety of reasons a property is priced the way it is.

“Pricing a home is part science and part art,” says Kevin Vitali, an associate broker with Exit Group One Real Estate, in Tewksbury, MA.

Understanding the reasoning behind a home’s price tag can make you a smarter buyer—and help you know exactly what you’re getting for your money. Here are five factors that experienced real estate agents consider before slapping that “For Sale” sign on a home.

1. What’s happening in your local housing market at any particular moment

Current real estate market conditions—including how many houses are up for sale, and how fast they’re being snapped up—determine how a property should be priced. Low inventory creates a seller’s market with aggressive listing prices. A surplus of homes for sale results in overall lower asking prices.

Perhaps you know all that. But what you might not realize is how quickly it can all change.

“Markets can turn on a dime, and I find home buyers usually have old data in their heads; often, they’re lagging about six months to a year,” Vitali says.

That’s why he recommends working with an experienced real estate agent who’s familiar with the neighborhood you’re shopping in and can assess whether a home is priced fairly—or not.

2. The (extremely specific) location of the house

Yes, you’ve heard the old place-based adage (which we won’t repeat here). But did you know how granular the idea of “location” gets? We’re not just talking about being in a good neighborhood. Similar or even identical houses just streets apart from each other can have wildly different price tags based on things like traffic noise and access to quality schools, shops, and restaurants.

“The asking price also depends on what else is on the block; for example, is there a tear-down next door? And how old are the buildings to your right and left?” asks Sheldon Salnick, a Realtor® with Dreamtown Real Estate, in Chicago. “Is there a park nearby, or a dog run within five blocks?”

A quiet cul-de-sac or a busy thoroughfare will also affect the prices of homes on them, he notes, as will the direction the home faces (any hardened home shopper can tell you how much light affects the overall perception of a home).

And in most areas, properties with easy access to highways fetch higher dollars, Vitali adds.

3. The comps

Often, Vitali says, sellers have a figure in mind based on nothing more than a wish. But real estate pros will do a comparable market analysis—what similar homes have recently sold for—before determining how to price a property.

“Historical data plays a huge role in setting a listing price; it’s not a number just pulled out of the air. So find an agent who can interpret that data,” Vitali says.

“The name of the game is what the competition is charging,” Salnick adds.

4. The amenities (and overall appeal) of the home

Sure, size matters. But today’s demanding buyers are concerned with much more than square footage—all of which helps determine an asking price, Salnick says.

“Clients prefer new construction, brand-name appliances, and large bedrooms—[preferably] at least three on one floor if they have kids—plus a den or office,” Salnick says of the Chicago market. “Light plays a major role in the value of a house: The more windows, the more people enjoy the house. Ceiling heights factor in, too:10 feet and up are where it’s all at.”

Additional features such as parking, central air conditioning, outdoor space, and floor plan also affect the sticker price.

“Layout and functionality are huge; people want open layouts, so homes built in the ’50s or ’60s without open plans are priced lower,” Vitali says.

5. Age and condition of the home

If you happen to fall for an aging, poorly maintained property that you’re just dying to fix up, know this: You won’t automatically see a deeply discounted price tag. It all depends on the home’s location (see No. 2) and other factors we’ve discussed. But chances are good it won’t cost the big bucks that a recently revamped home in the same neighborhood would, Vitali says.

If you want a newer, turnkey home, expect to pay more for that. Caveat: Even if a seller has done multiple upgrades, quality trumps quantity every time, Vitali says.

“If there’s been an addition to the house or some serious electrical work done in an unprofessional manner, that will reduce the sales price,” he says.

The post Got Sticker Shock? These 5 Factors Are Influencing a Home’s Asking Price appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

What Is My Home Worth? The Number Every Homeowner and Seller Should Know

February 16, 2019

what is my home worth

malerapaso/iStock

Have you ever wondered “How much is my house worth?”? If you’re hoping to sell your home, knowing your property’s value is essential for pricing it right to make buyers bite. Or, maybe you don’t want to sell your home right now, but are just curious whether your real estate investment has risen in value (which would merit some much-deserved back-patting).

In either case, having an accurate grasp of your home’s estimated market value can come in handy. And there are a variety of ways to do that, many of which are free and easily within reach online. Here’s how to find that magic number, and why having an accurate estimate matters whether you want to sell your home or own it for the long haul.

How to find home value estimates online

One easy starting point with a home valuation is to enter your address into an online home value estimator, which will, within seconds, present you with a free estimate of what your home is worth, based on data such as its square footage and recent home sales in the area.

While this free valuation will help you get a general idea, remember, it’s just a ballpark figure. For a more accurate estimate, there’s no substitute for the expertise of a Realtor®, who has access to a vast database of information with recent sales to help you home in on that number.

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Watch: 3 New Rules That Can Make or Break Your Home Sale

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How real estate experts determine their own home value estimates

Real estate agents specialize in answering the question “what is my home worth?” for their clients, which they do by running a comparative market analysis. This process involves finding similar properties (“comps”) that sold within the past 90 days.

The most accurate comp is a home that’s nearby, similar to yours in square footage, and has the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms. (Ideally, the lot size is also equivalent, but that’s more important in rural areas, where homes are set on multiple acres.) Once your agent finds a few comps, then she averages those figures to come up with a baseline of your own home value.

“You should always look at the sale prices of other listings in your community,” says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis.

For instance, “if your neighbor’s home is listed for $400,000 and you want to list yours at $500,000, you’d better be able to clearly explain the difference to prospective buyers.” Or else adjust your number accordingly.

What is my home value to a buyer?

Sellers need to consider how home buyers search for properties online. Let’s assume your home’s fair market value is $503,000. Yet Dossman points out that many people search for homes on the web using $20,000 or $25,000 increments. The upshot? Listing your home for $503,000 could prevent your listing from being seen by buyers who are searching for homes in the $475,000 to $500,000 bracket, so asking for $500,000 might generate more traffic—and maybe even a bidding war to push that final number well above your expectations.

Also, avoid listing your home at an odd dollar figure (e.g., $999,000 instead of $1 million). While retailers and as-seen-on-TV purveyors of the Miracle Mop effectively present product prices ending in $0.95 or $0.99, Dossman says the same approach doesn’t apply to real estate.

“It’s hard to justify awkward pricing,” Dossman adds. “It’s just confusing to buyers.”

Try to remain objective

“Sellers always think that their home is worth more than it is, because of their personal attachment,” says Dossman.

Indeed, it’s hard to boil down years or decades of memories in a home to a number. It’s also hard to accept that your home is worth less than what you paid for it, or that you can’t just tack on the full dollar amount of the renovations you’ve made. On average, renovations will reap you only a 64% return on investment, although that varies based on the type of upgrades you’ve made.

Why it’s important to know how much your house is worth

Estimate your home’s value as too high, and it could wind up sitting on the market. That’s a big problem, because a property that goes unsold for an extended period of time (e.g., more than 30 days) often becomes stigmatized.

“Buyers get suspicious when they see a house that’s been on the market for a while,” says Dossman. “They think that something is wrong with the home.”

If that’s the case, the seller may have to make a significant number reduction—sometimes dropping the number below market value—in order to nab a buyer.

Pricing your home below market value in an attempt to stir up interest and generate multiple bids can also backfire. Granted, that strategy could work in a hot seller’s market, but underpricing your home frequently leads buyers to assume that your home is worth only its list price, says Dossman.

Your best bet: Know what your home is worth, and list your home close to that figure—aka its market value. When in doubt, turn to your real estate agent to help you cut through the haze and help you pinpoint the right price.

Watch: The Secret Formula to Estimating Your Home’s Value

The post What Is My Home Worth? The Number Every Homeowner and Seller Should Know appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Hey, Big Spender! 6 Reasons Why Your Higher Offer Won’t Win the House

January 16, 2019

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images; alexsl/iStock; realtor.com

You’ve finally found your dream home, and it’s actually in your budget. You can swing it—with cash to spare—but with competition fierce, why not go all in and offer way above asking? The seller will be in no position to refuse, right?

Well, hang on for a second. While cash—and lots of it—is certainly king, there are other factors that play into a seller’s decision to accept an offer.

In fact, sometimes there are things in your purchase contract that can outweigh even your supersized offer. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But often—especially in today’s red-hot market—a successful sale goes beyond money. Here are a few scenarios in which your highest offer might not land you the keys to the front door.

1. You’re not flexible on the timeline

First and foremost among possible deal breakers is timing.

“Sellers look at the terms to their specific situation,” says Francine Brown, broker/owner and Realtor® at Brown Estate Realty in Norwalk, CT. “Maybe they need more than 30 days to move out, so if someone is pressuring them to move out sooner, that can sometimes be a turnoff if they haven’t found a new home to move into.”

On the other hand, the sellers might have already vacated the property, and are eager to unload it pronto.

That’s why customizing the length of the closing period to meet the sellers’ needs can be more important than the bottom line. Have your real estate agent find out what they need, and let them know you can accommodate them.

2. You don’t have your paperwork squared away

Yes, we’ve preached and prattled on about the importance of being pre-approved for a mortgage before you start your home search. And here’s just one of many reasons why: You can blow up the deal if you haven’t been pre-approved, says Sharon Paxson, a Realtor with Arbor Real Estate in Newport Beach, CA.

Why? If you don’t have the financing in place to make your initial down payment and closing costs, it doesn’t matter how many dollars you promise the sellers.

“Buyers must have that in place as opposed to tying up a house when they’re not really qualified to do so,” Paxson says. “When you’re ready to put in an offer, make sure your pre-approval is within 30 days or less. [If sellers] see that the pre-approval was done more than 60 days ago, that could make them wonder if you’re still credit-worthy to get a loan.”

Speaking of being credit-worthy, here’s another no-no: Making a large purchase (such as a car) during the escrow period—even if you have the money to do so. It might affect your ability to obtain financing, and that’ll be another major red flag to the seller.

3. You’re asking for too many contingencies and concessions

If you’re in a bidding war for your must-have home, you’ll want to go in not only with the highest offer, but also with the cleanest one.

“You want the deal to be as sweet and competitive as possible, so that if the seller takes it, there’s a very good chance that the sale will go through,” Paxson says.

For example, a contingency stipulating that your home must sell before you purchase the seller’s house is usually a deal breaker, Brown says.

“The seller may not consider your offer as favorable because you’re still shaky until your house actually sells,” she says.

Another potential turnoff: Negotiating for a large concession, like for the seller to pay all of the closing costs.

Instead, ask for the bare minimum closing costs—or none at all—and make sure the concession doesn’t dip into the seller’s price tag, Paxson advises.

“So if a house is listed for $300,000, and you can go up to $310,00, then put in $310,000 with a $10,000 seller’s concession,” she says.

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Watch: 5 Secrets of Making the Perfect Offer

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4. You’re requesting too many things be included with the home

On a related note: If you ask for the custom drapes, the Smeg appliances, and the Scandinavian hot tub to all be thrown in with the house, sellers might wave you off, Brown says.

“If the sellers had put in the listing that the chandelier wasn’t included, then don’t ask for it to be thrown in,” Brown says.

You might think you’re paying for all that stuff with your higher offer, but if you really want the house, tread lightly here. You risk offending the sellers if it looks like you’re trying to squeeze as much out of them as possible.

5. You haven’t expressed your love—for the house

You might not be the only one bidding high. And when similar offers are on the table, sometimes the sellers look for other factors to break the tie—that another happy family will live in their cherished home, for example. Or that the buyers won’t be gutting it and turning it into something totally different.

So how can you sway sellers who love their home? Put some heart into your offer by giving them some idea of who you are and why you want their home.

“I’ve seen buyers take a picture of themselves and their family. If that’s what works to make it more emotional, then do it,” Paxson says. “It just depends on who your target is. If your seller is an investor, they’re probably not going to care—they just want the money. But if they raised their family there and want to sell it to another nice family, an emotional appeal might work.”

Writing a love letter to the sellers can sometimes seal the deal, Brown adds.

“A buyer may outline why they feel this house would suit their family needs and how they can keep on the tradition of what the previous owner has,” she says.

6. You gave up after your offer was initially refused

If, for whatever reason, the sellers reject your bid, hang in there, Brown says. Contracts that come in way over asking price tend to have a high cancellation rate, perhaps because the buyers didn’t have pre-approval and their financing falls through.

“I make sure things always end nicely with the listing agent, and tell them that we want to be kept in the loop should there be any problems with the accepted offer,” she says.

Ask your agent to check in every two or three weeks. Because then, instead of putting it back on the market and creating a whole new bidding war, the listing agent may just go to the next most attractive offer: yours.

The post Hey, Big Spender! 6 Reasons Why Your Higher Offer Won’t Win the House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

The Very Best Real Estate Advice of 2018 That You’ve Just Gotta See Again

December 16, 2018

Navigating the home-buying and -selling process is kind of like diving into “Game of Thrones” for the first time: People speak in a language you don’t quite understand. There’s backstory you should research before you get started. And ideally, you’d have someone by your side who knows what’s coming and who can guide you through the experience.

Yes, buying, owning, and selling a home comes with its own share of drama and plot twists. But rest assured: We’re here to help guide you! That’s why we’ve doled out so much expert advice over the past 12 months on every possible real estate topic we could think of.

But what was most useful to you? In no particular order, here are our most-read advice pieces of 2018—the greatest hits that resonated with you the most and (hopefully!) have helped make your real estate journey a little less overwhelming. (Just click the headlines to read the full story.)

6 Home Maintenance Tasks You May Not Even Realize You Have to Do

Does anyone actually like the tedium of home maintenance tasks? We’re doubtful. (Although if you’re out there and single, call me!) But when you’re a homeowner, regular—and monotonous—maintenance comes with the territory.

And sure, you might think you know what you have to do to keep your house in order—mow the lawn, clean the gutters, sweep your chimney. But we guarantee there are some small things you’re overlooking—things that can create big problems and enormous repair bills.

Can’t-miss tip: Clean your refrigerator drip pan. Your what now? If you didn’t know your fridge has one of these, you’re not alone. It turns out, like with belly buttons, we all have one—and it can get pretty gross (and moldy) if you don’t clean it regularly.

But to clean your drip pan, first you have to find it. Just remove the kick panel at the bottom of your refrigerator, then use a flashlight to trace the defrost drain line to the pan. Pull out the pan carefully (it could be full of water), then empty and wash it with an all-purpose cleaner.

5 Mortifying Reasons Mortgage Applications End Up in the ‘Reject’ Pile

mortgage rejection
Don’t let your dream home dreams die with a mortgage rejection.

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

You’ve scrimped and saved for your first home, and you’ve already mentally moved in. But then, in a cruel and humiliating twist of fate, your mortgage application is rejected. How could this happen to you, of all people?

According to a Federal Reserve study, 1 in 8 mortgage applications (12%) is rejected. And often those rejections are the result of something you could have easily avoided.

Can’t miss tip: If you’re a Venmo-only kind of gal, or you’ve avoided using credit cards (debt’s bad, right?), it’s time to rethink your fiscal approach and swipe that plastic.

Credit cards allow you to establish a credit history—proof of a strong track record of paying off past debts. (Of course, don’t forget to actually pay those bills.) Without that credit history, lenders will likely be reluctant to fork over loan money they can’t be certain they’ll get back.

How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets—and What If You Don’t?

washing your sheets
Get thee to a laundromat.

iStock; realtor.com

Quick: When was the last time you changed your sheets? If you can’t remember, we won’t judge—you’re in good company (38% of Americans wash their sheets less than once a week). But after you read this, you might want to strip your bed, pronto.

This year, we launched a series where we put all aspects of homeownership under a microscope—literally. In “According to Science,” we take a look at the scientific reasons behind what’s happening in your home, the weird stuff that can be avoided, and, in this instance, what’s lurking under your covers.

“Body oils, sweat, and sloughed-off skin,” answers Bill Carroll Jr., an adjunct professor of chemistry at Indiana University. “We live in a world of pathogens, and not all are virulent enough to take us down. But can bedclothes spread disease? Kind of.” Yuck.

Can’t miss tip: We’ll let you read up on the bacterial Armageddon that’s happening every day you don’t wash your sheets. But if you want to slow down the invasion, just make a simple adjustment to your bed-making routine: Each morning, pull all the covers down from the fitted sheet and let things air out for a few minutes. This lets the sweat and moisture evaporate from your sheets.

7 Mistakes People Make Handling Deceased Family Members’ Estates

Don’t make these mistakes.

Punkbarby/iStock

This one might seem macabre, but dealing with a deceased family member’s estate is, unfortunately, a part of life. And not an easy one: Figuring out what to do with your loved one’s property and possessions, all while you’re grieving, can feel like a one-two punch. So it’s understandable that mistakes happen. We ID’d the biggest ones to avoid during this turbulent time.

Can’t-miss tip: When you’re going through a loved one’s belongings, it’s easy to overvalue the sentimental stuff and undervalue the things that are unfamiliar to you. Rather than unwittingly letting go of something rare and valuable, talk to an appraiser before you get started.

How Much Below the Asking Price Should You Offer on a House? Answers Here!

“I’d love to pay more for that house than I have to!” said no one ever.

Every home buyer wants to score a deal, and the most obvious place to start is with the house’s sticker price. Offering below asking is a common tactic, but not one that always works. How low can you go before you offend the seller—and ruin your chances of landing your dream home?

Can’t miss tip: In the same way you should know how long that leftover chicken parm has been in your fridge, you should know how long any house you’re eyeing has been on the market. If you’re familiar with the property history, you can get a better idea of demand for the house—and whether the listing is getting stale.

“Two days on the market? Probably not a good idea to go in with a lowball offer $50,000 below asking price,” Jennifer Carlson of Coldwell Banker in East Greenwich, RI, told us. “A whole year on the market, with price reductions? Go ahead and roll the dice. The longer a house has been on the market, the less of an upper hand the seller has in negotiation.”

The number of days on market is public on most online listings, and if not, any good real estate agent should know.

7 Decluttering Myths That Could Derail Your Dreams of an Organized Home

decluttering myths
Are your decluttering efforts doing more harm than good?

iStock

Decluttering seems like the last thing you’d be able to screw up. Isn’t it just sorting and tossing?

Well, sure, that’s a big part of it. But a good decluttering session (yes, there’s good and bad) hinges on more than just purging. And if you go into decluttering mode assuming you know how to do it right, you could end up with more stuff than you started with.

Can’t miss tip: We’ve been conditioned by organizing gurus like Marie Kondo to keep only the things that “spark joy” and to toss everything else. We don’t disagree entirely. But realistically, some exceptions should be made.

“Let’s be clear: My diaper pail does not spark joy, but it’s an essential item that is used every day in my home,” Laura Kinsella, owner of Urban OrgaNYze in New York City, told us.

Declutter with this thought in mind, she says: Is this item beautiful in my home or does it prove to be useful? If the answer is no, then it’s probably time for it to go.

The One Room That’ll Make Buyers Bail, Even If They Love the House

room that makes buyers bail
What dark secret is your home hiding?

iStock

You know the one. You’re touring a home, loving every aspect of it, and then bam! You turn a corner and see a space that just kills the whole home-buying mood.

Can’t miss tip: Got an empty room? You might think it’s a selling point: Look at all that space! The buyers can envision themselves in your home without your stuff in the way!

But “empty rooms can kill a home sale, especially if the other rooms are furnished,” real estate analyst Allison Bethell told us.

A room without furniture leaves the buyer wondering if it’s unnecessary space. Plus, any imperfections will stand out. If you have an empty room, stage it as an office, crafts room, or guest bedroom.

The post The Very Best Real Estate Advice of 2018 That You’ve Just Gotta See Again appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

So Nice We Did It Twice: The 2018 Real Estate Advice You’d Better Not Miss

December 13, 2018

Navigating the home-buying and -selling process is kind of like diving into “Game of Thrones” for the first time: People speak in a language you don’t quite understand. There’s backstory you should research before you get started. And ideally, you’d have someone by your side who knows what’s coming and who can guide you through the experience.

Yes, buying, owning, and selling a home comes with its own share of drama and plot twists. But rest assured: We’re here to help guide you! That’s why we’ve doled out so much expert advice over the past 12 months on every possible real estate topic we could think of.

But what was most useful to you? In no particular order, here are our most-read advice pieces of 2018—the greatest hits that resonated with you the most and (hopefully!) have helped make your real estate journey a little less overwhelming. (Just click the headlines to read the full story.)

6 Home Maintenance Tasks You May Not Even Realize You Have to Do

Does anyone actually like the tedium of home maintenance tasks? We’re doubtful. (Although if you’re out there and single, call me!) But when you’re a homeowner, regular—and monotonous—maintenance comes with the territory.

And sure, you might think you know what you have to do to keep your house in order—mow the lawn, clean the gutters, sweep your chimney. But we guarantee there are some small things you’re overlooking—things that can create big problems and enormous repair bills.

Can’t-miss tip: Clean your refrigerator drip pan. Your what now? If you didn’t know your fridge has one of these, you’re not alone. It turns out, like with belly buttons, we all have one—and it can get pretty gross (and moldy) if you don’t clean it regularly.

But to clean your drip pan, first you have to find it. Just remove the kick panel at the bottom of your refrigerator, then use a flashlight to trace the defrost drain line to the pan. Pull out the pan carefully (it could be full of water), then empty and wash it with an all-purpose cleaner.

5 Mortifying Reasons Mortgage Applications End Up in the ‘Reject’ Pile

mortgage rejection
Don’t let your dream home dreams die with a mortgage rejection.

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

You’ve scrimped and saved for your first home, and you’ve already mentally moved in. But then, in a cruel and humiliating twist of fate, your mortgage application is rejected. How could this happen to you, of all people?

According to a Federal Reserve study, 1 in 8 mortgage applications (12%) is rejected. And often those rejections are the result of something you could have easily avoided.

Can’t miss tip: If you’re a Venmo-only kind of gal, or you’ve avoided using credit cards (debt’s bad, right?), it’s time to rethink your fiscal approach and swipe that plastic.

Credit cards allow you to establish a credit history—proof of a strong track record of paying off past debts. (Of course, don’t forget to actually pay those bills.) Without that credit history, lenders will likely be reluctant to fork over loan money they can’t be certain they’ll get back.

How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets—and What If You Don’t?

washing your sheets
Get thee to a laundromat.

iStock; realtor.com

Quick: When was the last time you changed your sheets? If you can’t remember, we won’t judge—you’re in good company (38% of Americans wash their sheets less than once a week). But after you read this, you might want to strip your bed, pronto.

This year, we launched a series where we put all aspects of homeownership under a microscope—literally. In “According to Science,” we take a look at the scientific reasons behind what’s happening in your home, the weird stuff that can be avoided, and, in this instance, what’s lurking under your covers.

“Body oils, sweat, and sloughed-off skin,” answers Bill Carroll Jr., an adjunct professor of chemistry at Indiana University. “We live in a world of pathogens, and not all are virulent enough to take us down. But can bedclothes spread disease? Kind of.” Yuck.

Can’t miss tip: We’ll let you read up on the bacterial Armageddon that’s happening every day you don’t wash your sheets. But if you want to slow down the invasion, just make a simple adjustment to your bed-making routine: Each morning, pull all the covers down from the fitted sheet and let things air out for a few minutes. This lets the sweat and moisture evaporate from your sheets.

7 Mistakes People Make Handling Deceased Family Members’ Estates

Don’t make these mistakes.

Punkbarby/iStock

This one might seem macabre, but dealing with a deceased family member’s estate is, unfortunately, a part of life. And not an easy one: Figuring out what to do with your loved one’s property and possessions, all while you’re grieving, can feel like a one-two punch. So it’s understandable that mistakes happen. We ID’d the biggest ones to avoid during this turbulent time.

Can’t-miss tip: When you’re going through a loved one’s belongings, it’s easy to overvalue the sentimental stuff and undervalue the things that are unfamiliar to you. Rather than unwittingly letting go of something rare and valuable, talk to an appraiser before you get started.

How Much Below the Asking Price Should You Offer on a House? Answers Here!

“I’d love to pay more for that house than I have to!” said no one ever.

Every home buyer wants to score a deal, and the most obvious place to start is with the house’s sticker price. Offering below asking is a common tactic, but not one that always works. How low can you go before you offend the seller—and ruin your chances of landing your dream home?

Can’t miss tip: In the same way you should know how long that leftover chicken parm has been in your fridge, you should know how long any house you’re eyeing has been on the market. If you’re familiar with the property history, you can get a better idea of demand for the house—and whether the listing is getting stale.

“Two days on the market? Probably not a good idea to go in with a lowball offer $50,000 below asking price,” Jennifer Carlson of Coldwell Banker in East Greenwich, RI, told us. “A whole year on the market, with price reductions? Go ahead and roll the dice. The longer a house has been on the market, the less of an upper hand the seller has in negotiation.”

The number of days on market is public on most online listings, and if not, any good real estate agent should know.

7 Decluttering Myths That Could Derail Your Dreams of an Organized Home

decluttering myths
Are your decluttering efforts doing more harm than good?

iStock

Decluttering seems like the last thing you’d be able to screw up. Isn’t it just sorting and tossing?

Well, sure, that’s a big part of it. But a good decluttering session (yes, there’s good and bad) hinges on more than just purging. And if you go into decluttering mode assuming you know how to do it right, you could end up with more stuff than you started with.

Can’t miss tip: We’ve been conditioned by organizing gurus like Marie Kondo to keep only the things that “spark joy” and to toss everything else. We don’t disagree entirely. But realistically, some exceptions should be made.

“Let’s be clear: My diaper pail does not spark joy, but it’s an essential item that is used every day in my home,” Laura Kinsella, owner of Urban OrgaNYze in New York City, told us.

Declutter with this thought in mind, she says: Is this item beautiful in my home or does it prove to be useful? If the answer is no, then it’s probably time for it to go.

The One Room That’ll Make Buyers Bail, Even If They Love the House

room that makes buyers bail
What dark secret is your home hiding?

iStock

You know the one. You’re touring a home, loving every aspect of it, and then bam! You turn a corner and see a space that just kills the whole home-buying mood.

Can’t miss tip: Got an empty room? You might think it’s a selling point: Look at all that space! The buyers can envision themselves in your home without your stuff in the way!

But “empty rooms can kill a home sale, especially if the other rooms are furnished,” real estate analyst Allison Bethell told us.

A room without furniture leaves the buyer wondering if it’s unnecessary space. Plus, any imperfections will stand out. If you have an empty room, stage it as an office, crafts room, or guest bedroom.

The post So Nice We Did It Twice: The 2018 Real Estate Advice You’d Better Not Miss appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

6 Things You’ll Overhear at an Open House That Might Persuade You to Buy Now—or Run

September 20, 2018

When you go to an open house, it’s easy to get caught up in your own world of hypotheticals: How would you decorate the bedrooms if this home were yours? Is this a good open kitchen for hosting Taco Tuesdays? Is there a fireplace to cozy up to on a crisp fall night and binge-watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”?

But as much as you do need to try to imagine yourself in the home—and figure out whether it works for you—you shouldn’t shut out what’s going on around you. In fact, the seemingly innocuous chitchat you overhear can help you decide whether to follow through and make an offer—or to get the hell out of there.

That isn’t to say that you should rely on complete strangers to tell you how you feel about a house. But the comments and criticisms you pick up on during an open house can contain nuggets of valuable financial and personal info you can put to use. Here are some you should keep an ear (or two) out for.

1. ‘The owners are flexible on price’

Translation: “What [the agent] is really saying is that the home can and will be sold for under asking price,” explains David Ranish, co-owner of Ethos International, a full-service real estate office in Lancaster, CA.

If you’re serious about making an offer, use this nugget of info to your advantage. Take a closer look around the property with a critical eye. Do the kitchen appliances need updating? Is the backyard in dire need of landscaping? Now that you know the homeowner’s in a selling mood, you’re in a perfect position to submit a low bid. Any repairs and issues will give you leverage to negotiate.

2. ‘What’s that smell in the basement?’

Translation: There might be a big problem afoot.

If you overhear visitors discussing a specific issue—say, a damp smell in the basement, or maybe evidence of termites in the attic—“it can certainly be used as leverage when writing an offer,” says Kerry Adams with TTR Sotheby’s in Alexandria, VA. “Or it may be enough for you to decide you don’t want to take on a potential problem.”

And if other visitors are talking about it, let’s be honest: The problem is probably big enough to cause headaches.

3. ‘Wow, the sellers are getting out just in time’

Translation: The neighborhood could be on the decline.

When you go to an open house, you shouldn’t just zero in on the home itself. This is your chance to get a feel for the community. So really listen to what the community is saying.

“Since open houses tend to attract curious neighbors, they can be the ideal setting for a potential buyer to find out about hot-button issues such as future development, traffic, area crime, or just neighborhood nuisances,” Adams says.

If you’re looking for a home in a relatively quiet neighborhood, for instance, you might be grateful to find out now about the new six-lane highway that’s slated to go up a half-mile away.

4. ‘This price is way too high’

Translation: You should work with your agent and research what other homes in the neighborhood are going for.

Sure, the price of the home you’re looking at might seem high—but that doesn’t mean it’s not fair market value for the neighborhood.

“Sometimes a property is priced correctly, but buyers might not realize it,” points out Doug Milch of Century 21 Commonwealth in Natick, MA.

That’s why it’s crucial to check comps—the data on what other similar homes in the neighborhood are selling for—and make sure the house you’re touring lines up. If it still seems high, don’t run for the hills just yet. (After all, the other potential buyers could be trying to psych you out so they can put in their own offer.) You should consider adjusting your bid accordingly.

5. ‘Sweet, our couch would fit perfectly in here!’

Translation: You have competition.

“Listen for interest at an open house,” advises Deni Supplee, a Realtor® and co-founder of SparkRental.com. “Interested home buyers will often travel through the home, slowly and intently, using phrases such as ‘Our living room set would fit perfectly’ or ‘Do you think our bed would look good in this room?’”

These are clear indicators they’re thinking about putting in an offer. And if you can see yourself living in that house, too, you’d better act fast.

“The worst is losing out on [a home] because someone got there first,” Supplee says.

6. The words ‘foreclosure’ or ‘divorce’

Translation: The sellers’ misfortune—sad as it may be for them—could work in your favor.

If you hear the word “foreclosure,” “then you should pay attention,” says Brett Ari Fischer, associate broker at Lee & Associates Residential NYC in New York. “They may be open to selling it for less than they want to, due to time restrictions.”

“Divorce” is another word to listen for.

If the owners are splitting up and/or need to split their assets, “it’s likely that they don’t want to hang onto the home too long because it’s that much longer until they can move on with the rest of their lives,” Fischer says.

Before jumping to conclusions, do your homework

Of course, it’s always a good idea to consider your source. One nosy neighbor might think she knows that it will cost a fortune to repair the roof. But does she, really? Take everything you hear (or overhear) with a grain of salt. If you’re genuinely concerned, share that info with your agent.

That said, don’t discount anything entirely. “A lot of times [the seller’s] agents will give up too much information,” Ranish says.

Indeed, some listing agents tend to follow buyers around at open houses. While it might initially cramp your style, roll with it. “Let them talk, and they’ll tell you more information,” Ranish says.

The post 6 Things You’ll Overhear at an Open House That Might Persuade You to Buy Now—or Run appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.