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How To Show Your Home During the Pandemic: The Definitive Seller’s Guide to Virtual Tours and More

April 15, 2020

Halfpoint/Getty Images

For home sellers in the era of the novel coronavirus, showing off your home to potential buyers may seem like an impossible task. As people practice social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19, most open houses are on hold, and in-person home showings are limited across the country.

But there are still ways to reach potential buyers and show your home in the best light—through virtual tours.

In the third part of our series, “Home Selling in the Age of the Coronavirus,” we highlight all the ways home sellers can give buyers an in-depth look at their property without actually opening their doors and risking the buyers’ health (or their own).

How virtual tours work

Virtual tours offer home buyers a remote, video-enabled walk-through of a property that will give them the sensation that they’re actually there—or at least darn close.

Real estate agents used virtual tours before COVID-19 as a unique marketing tool. Now, online tours are more important than ever, since they’re often the only easy way for buyers to check out a home without physically entering the property.

Virtual tours are recommended by the National Association of Realtors® as a way to avoid face-to-face contact while marketing homes during the coronavirus crisis.

“With the current shutdown, more and more home sellers are requesting that we offer buyers a virtual tour to help expedite the sale,” says Peggy Zabakolas, a real estate broker at Nest Seekers International in Bridgehampton, NY.

Real estate listing sites like realtor.com are featuring virtual tours on more and more listings. (Look for the virtual tour icon on the bottom of the listing page.)

Types of virtual tours

Virtual tours can be conducted in a variety of different ways, depending on time, technology, and budget.

Probably the least complicated is where sellers or real estate agents use their smartphone camera to record a video as they walk through the home, showing off each room.

A more interactive option is to livestream a one-on-one showing with the buyers. This will give them more control over where you are pointing the camera, via FaceTime or another video streaming app (“Could you take a peek inside that closet/outside that window?”).

Yet another option home sellers might consider is a virtual open house.

With gatherings of more than 10 people prohibited across most of the United States, real estate agents have been forced to cancel open houses. But many are using tools like FaceTime or Zoom to host live virtual open houses so they can show potential buyers around a home.

Buyers often enjoy seeing the “raw footage” that a virtual open house or showing can offer, as opposed to a professionally produced video, says Angela Hornburg, team leader at the Hornburg Real Estate Group in Dallas.

Buyers can also ask questions, which may help them to feel more secure that they can be fully informed about the property—or perhaps even allow them to make an offer on the spot.

3D tours

A more high-tech option for showing a home is setting up a fully fledged 3D tour. This is where a home seller, real estate agent, or a professional photographer uses a special 3D camera to capture images of the home.

These photos are uploaded into a proprietary software program that renders the visuals in three dimensions, creating a tour that can be uploaded onto a real estate listing.

Adding a 3D tour is a little more involved than taking a video on your phone, however—and it can also be pricey.

For example, the 3D visual platform Matterport offers packages ranging from $9.99 to $309 per month. Immoviewer’s prices range from $69 per month to $799 per year. Typically, a listing agent will pay for this as part of the marketing material.

While 3D tours are still rare, some people insist that they’re worth the cost, especially for higher-end properties. Homes can be viewed in several different ways, such as in dollhouse view, which shows how rooms are laid out in the house (see images below).

The dollhouse view provides a sense of the flow of the home.

Matterport/Realtor.com

Virtual tours show viewers a 3D model of a home’s floor plan.

Matterport/Realtor.com

Virtual staging

Traditional staging—where furniture and artwork are arranged in a house to present the space in the best light—is a great selling tool, but it may be difficult to pull off at a time when sellers are reluctant to let outsiders into their house.

There’s a workaround here, too: virtual staging, which provides simulated images of a property laid out with alternative furnishings.

“Virtual staging, like physical home staging, is aimed at enticing home buyers and helping them connect emotionally with a property,” says Ilaria Barion, a luxury home stager, who offers both in-person and virtual staging.

Virtual home staging uses software to reimagine new decor in a property, in order to enhance the appearance of the space.

Unlike on-site staging, virtual staging comes with unlimited options, for example, paring down homes that are filled with furniture and ornament and displaying them with a simplified, cleaner design.

Before: The living room of a New York City home before a virtual staging

Ilaria Barion Design

After: The virtual staging of the same living room highlights its features.

Ilaria Barion Design

Before: Bedroom before virtual staging

Ilaria Barion Design

After: Virtually staging the bedroom offers a more neutral design.

Ilaria Barion Flow

Just as with virtual tours, virtual staging was available before the coronavirus outbreak, but is especially important now. Even small, simple changes can make a big difference.

For instance: Does your property have an accent wall painted in a bright color that might turn off buyers? Virtual staging can wipe that away. Sellers should aim for “a neutral palette, so the new buyer can envision themselves living in it,” Zabakolas says.

Also, adding a few trendy accents can make a lasting impression on buyers.

“Small accents to dress up the home, such as flowers or centerpieces, help in any virtual or in-person tour,” says Tomer Fridman, a luxury and celebrity real estate expert at Compass in Los Angeles.

Staging a home virtually is cheaper than on-site staging, Barion says. Virtual staging costs a few hundred dollars and is usually paid for by agents, unlike traditional staging, which costs thousands. Virtual staging can also be completed in a matter of days.

“Virtual staging allows for many more options that would be cost-prohibitive in real life, like stripping down wallpaper, changing window treatment, adding a pool table, or replacing old furniture and fixtures,” Barion says.

How home sellers can use virtual tours to find the right buyer

Virtual tours and open houses can help buyers get to know a home, but the fact is that some may insist that they see a place in person before they feel confident about making an offer.

Although some areas, like the state of New York, are prohibiting in-person home showings at present, they are still happening in other places.

While it may be off-putting for sellers to allow buyers to enter their home, that may be necessary if they want to get an offer.

Virtual tours and showings nevertheless serve an important purpose: They help buyers get to know a property well enough to become serious contenders for a purchase.

In turn, virtual tours help sellers lower their risk of exposure to the coronavirus, by helping them whittle down the number of buyers who enter their house.

So how else can home sellers know a buyer is serious? Maggie Wellsreal estate agent at Keller Williams Realty Greater Lexington in Kentucky, requires that buyers have a mortgage pre-approval and have taken a look at the virtual tour beforehand.

Agents also make sure to keep hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and shoe coverings available for buyers to use during their in-person tour.

Selling a home during the coronavirus crisis presents many unique challenges. Being adaptable will help sellers to reach buyers and to make sure that the home is sold.

The post How To Show Your Home During the Pandemic: The Definitive Seller’s Guide to Virtual Tours and More appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

How to Clean Out a Deceased Loved One’s Home Without Burning Out Emotionally

May 2, 2019

wernerimages/iStock

After the loss of a loved one, the thought of sorting through that person’s belongings can be heart-wrenching. But in many situations, there’s no time to delay, especially if you’re in a time crunch to get a late family member’s house ready to sell.

Before you embark on the emotional task of sorting through a loved one’s possessions, check out these tips from experts on where to begin the process, how to find support and resolve disputes, and—most importantly—how to take it easy on yourself as you grieve.

Give yourself time, but don’t delay the process

At a time like this, sorting through your loved one’s closets and cabinets is probably the last thing on your mind. Don’t push yourself too hard to get started before you’re ready, but don’t put the task off indefinitely, either.

“It’s very individual, but if you can emotionally, it’s better to start cleaning out the house sooner [rather] than later,” says Vickie Dellaquila, a certified professional organizer and author of “Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash.”

“I’ve seen people that hold onto a house for years and years and work just a little bit at a time. For a lot of people, that’s harder because it keeps weighing on them.”

Dellaquila suggests starting with the easy stuff (e.g., things in the pantry or the garage). “Anything that’s low-hanging fruit that’s not emotionally charged,” she says.

As you begin sorting through sentimental items, give yourself time to grieve and experience your feelings; you don’t want to push yourself to make big decisions about what to keep and what to let go of before you’re ready.

“I remember when I went through my father’s items, there were days I just couldn’t bear to go through more of his things,” says Jen Robin, founder and CEO of Life in Jeneral, a professional organizing company. “There were some … items I was not ready to go through.”

If you find yourself hitting a wall, put items in a box and go back to them when you’re ready.

Ask for help

Clearing out a loved one’s home is a massive undertaking, but many people attempt to do it alone. Don’t underestimate the emotional (and physical) effort involved, and don’t be shy about asking for help when you need it.

“When we experience strong emotions, it’s harder to make decisions and think clearly,” says Lisa Zaslow, founder and CEO of Gotham Organizers, in New York. “Friends and professionals who are more objective about the situation can help get you through the process.”

Bring in a friend who can toss items like toothbrushes and expired food. For larger items, you may want to call in the pros. A professional organizer can manage the process from start to finish, while movers and trash haulers can remove the big-ticket items you don’t want, Zaslow says.

You can also work with estate sale professionals to help sell valuables, and shredding companies can come in to dispose of old papers and sensitive documents.

Keep it or toss it? How to decide when emotions are raw

When a loved one dies, the last thing we want to do is get rid of everything that reminds us of them.

“You don’t want to toss everything right away, because you’re not processing your emotions, so later you’ll think, ‘Oh boy, maybe I shouldn’t have let go of that,’” Dellaquila says. But, she adds, “you do not have to be a curator of your mother or your father.”

If you’re torn about whether to part ways with something, Dellaquila suggests holding onto just a piece of it—for example, keep a single place setting rather than the full china set. That way, you can hold onto an item that reminds you of your loved one without taking on something you don’t have space for.

Finally, resist the urge to keep anything out of obligation. If you won’t use it, let it go.

“One of my clients felt that she should keep some designer purses of her mom’s, even though she knew she would never use them,” Zaslow says. “Instead, I helped her sell them, and she donated the proceeds to a charity in her mom’s name.”

Get ahead of disputes

When siblings start sorting through a parent’s belongings, the situation can get tense. What if you both want that love seat or those crystal Champagne flutes?

One way to work through disputes: Take a gym class approach to divvying up items.

“The fair thing to do is put the items out and each person takes a turn in choosing one,” Dellaquila says. “I did that with my grandfather, who was an artist. We had a lot of sketches, and we went around and chose one, then somebody took the next turn.”

If you’re feuding over a single item that can’t be split up, you could attempt a shared-custody approach. But ultimately, you have to decide whether the item is really worth a bitter fight.

“Would your loved one really want you fighting over this china?” Dellaquila says. “It really is just a thing.”

For the living, death cleaning—a Swedish tradition that is catching on in the rest of the world—is one way you can spare your loved ones a future headache. The whole idea is to start cleaning out your clutter now. While you’re at it, you can even begin deciding who will eventually receive your possessions, beyond what’s designated in your will.

“A lot of people do that by putting little stickies on the bottom of items,” Dellaquila says. “Orange is for Mary, blue is for Mike.”

Give yourself space to grieve

As you make a plan for cleaning out the space, remember that you’ll also need time to step back to reflect and recharge. Biting off more than you can chew is a recipe for emotional burnout. Instead, give yourself limits from the start—maybe you clean only one room a day, or you work for just a few hours at a time.

“Creating a goal allows you to see small results and wins,” Robin says. “This is such a mentally draining process, so setting boundaries for yourself is very important.

“There is no easy process of getting rid of a loved one’s personal belongings,” she adds. “Make sure to take your time and allow yourself to feel all the emotions along the way.”

The post How to Clean Out a Deceased Loved One’s Home Without Burning Out Emotionally appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Bonus Points for Bonus Rooms: 8 Ways to Make Buyers Fall in Love With Your Flex Space

February 1, 2019

asbe/iStock

Home buyers love to get the most space for their money. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 66% of millennials cite more living space as the No. 1 reason for buying a house. So if you’re selling a home with a bonus bedroom, a finished basement, or an extra-large landing on the second floor that could be used for something, you’re adding a lot of extra value.

But are you really highlighting the glorious potential of that space to buyers?

Remember, you’re not just selling a house; you’re selling an aspirational lifestyle! So whether you’re showcasing an attic hobby room, a gamer’s paradise in the basement, or a wellness retreat on the second floor, consider these strategic staging tips to make that flex space shine.

1. Avoid giving rooms a split personality

For optimal results when selling, execute a single theme in your bonus room, says Howard Andrews, a licensed broker with Knipe Realty in Portland, OR.

Someone who craves a spot to paint landscapes probably doesn’t want one that also crams in an elliptical trainer and a double bed. And a young couple imagining a sweet nursery won’t be impressed if their future baby’s room is also a makeshift potting shed with hydroponic herbs sprouting below bright lights.

“You really want potential buyers to be able to imagine themselves in your house,” Andrews says.

2. Get physical with a yoga studio or gym

The number of Americans practicing yoga and meditation has surged in the past couple of years, according to a recent study from the National Institutes of Health. So staging your bonus space as the perfect spot to get healthy makes it an attractive alternative to the gym (and a budget-savvy one, too), says Michael Sinatro, broker-owner of the Sinatro Co. and an accredited home stager in West Hartford, CT.

“When buyers come across a home that has a meditation or yoga room—a calming, Zen kind of place—people’s gut reaction is how they wish they had one,” he says. “In our overscheduled digital world, people are yearning for peace, mindfulness, and a moment of quiet.”

Sinatro suggests keeping the decor simple: a yoga mat or two, some plants, and a nook in the corner piled with comfy pillows.

“A home gym is also appealing, especially when you have things like rubber mats, a water cooler, and mirrors on the wall,” he adds. But skip the giant stair-climbing machine if the room has low ceilings—it will only draw attention to that feature.

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Watch: Home Staging Secrets the Experts Wish You Knew in Advance

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3. Consider getting crafty

There’s no reason to spend piles of cash to stage an extra room for a nonexistent purpose, but if you’re passionate about a hobby and can showcase the space attractively, do so. A new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that 1 in 5 Americans finds hobbies make their lives more meaningful.

“My wife would probably fall in love with a house that has an organized sewing and crafting space, and I think that’s true for a lot of couples, because we’re seeing a lot more of the do-it-yourself crowd becoming more mainstream,” says Andrews.

“Buyers also value extra storage everywhere, so built-in storage is a great asset for a hobby space. Good lighting is also a must.”

An industrial-style long table and freestanding bookshelves also help define a hobby room.

4. Gear up for a gaming room

One recent survey reported that 65% of U.S. households regularly play video games. Buyers who love gaming will appreciate a space with plenty of electrical outlets that can accommodate consoles or charge wireless joysticks, gaming computers, and even vintage arcade machines.

“A gaming space has to be a large enough to accommodate a table with about 3 feet around every side of the table—it gives people enough room to get around each other,” says Andrews.

5. Trick out an office with awesome storage

With nearly 4 million U.S. employees telecommuting at least half the time, home offices are hugely desirable. But don’t just stick a cheap desk in a room, slap a lamp on it, and call it an office. Create the kind of office where people can picture themselves producing their best work.

“You’re selling what buyers picture themselves to be,” Sinatro explains.

Add some tall storage with lots of shelving that’s well-designed, plus a small seating area, and you’ll show all the options in a nice space, he says.

6. Create a dream closet and dressing room

According to the National Association of Home Builders, more than 40% of first-time home buyers consider a walk-in closet essential. So if your home’s master bedroom is short on storage, consider spending about $1,500 to transform an adjacent bedroom into an Instagram-worthy walk-in closet, with tons of hanging space and shoe cubbies—and maybe even a storage island in the center of the room.

7. Don’t forget the Big D’s: Declutter and depersonalize

Spare rooms that just showcase piles of things you can’t find space for is a surefire way to tank a sale, no matter how great your home is.

“People might be very forgiving when they see a cluttered garage, but if your third bedroom is full of boxes, it’s really hard to get past that cluttered impression,” Andrews  says.

8. Downsizing? Stage your space authentically

If you’re new empty nesters planning on moving to a condo, you might be tempted to stage your home so a young family sees themselves there. But resist the temptation to revamp the entire house.

“While you want to appeal to as many buyers as possible, you don’t want to fake a playroom if you don’t have children,” Sinatro says.

Similarly, if you’re not an artist, staging a bedroom as a bright art studio just won’t work.

“If something is genuinely your passion, that will come across to buyers, as long as it’s clean and simple,” he adds.

The post Bonus Points for Bonus Rooms: 8 Ways to Make Buyers Fall in Love With Your Flex Space 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?

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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?

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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®.

Here’s the One Room Where Home Staging Will Pay Off the Most

September 6, 2018

As most of us know, home staging can help sell a house—particularly in the living room, which has gotten a bad rap lately as a waste of space.

The fact is, first impressions matter, and the living room is usually near the entry point for most homes. Reality check: This room may not be the end-all, be-all area it used to be, but this is no place for your kid’s train set, your husband’s guitar stands, or any unnecessary clutter. So, it pays to do all you can to showcase this space right. To help, here are some living room staging tips buyers will love.

Remove and redistribute furniture


Photo by Elizabeth Herrmann architecture + design 

Amy Bell, owner of Red Chair Home Interiors in Cary, NC, urges homeowners to evaluate whether any furniture can be “voted off the island”—i.e., out of the room.

“I recently staged a home in which the living room contained enough furniture for two rooms,” she notes. But, as part of the staging process, she shuffled the items and placed the contents in two different places. As a result, the home sold in one day.

Once you’ve removed some of the furniture, consider making an arrangement that allows people to sit and chat.

“This often means pulling furniture away from walls, which also allows for circulation,” says Gale Sitomer of G Sitomer Design in New York City. And if you have a larger living room, don’t be afraid to create several separate seating areas, which can be defined by different area rugs.

Create a focal point

Cleaned up mantle
Limit your mantel to just a couple of pretty objects.Sean Gallagher

Usually the mantel, if you have one, is the first place the eye comes to rest, so make sure your home staging packs a punch here, suggest real estate agents Jonathan Rosen and Christy Berry, co-founders of The Rosen Berry Group in Dallas.

Declutter this spot by taking down wedding photos, your porcelain bird collection, and other items so it looks like a clean line. Add back a single pretty vase, a fun piece of art, or an interesting sculpture. However, if the focal point is a gorgeous garden or backyard pool, create clear views of it through the living room.

Be neutral

Choose a cool, calm color like this pearly grey

Choose a cool, calm color like this pearly gray.Alex Kroke Photography

We’re talking about colors, says Sitomer. “Stick with a neutral tone to appeal to a larger variety of potential buyers,” she notes. And if you have bold or patterned furniture, consider white slipcovers.

“Lighter, more neutral rugs are better than oriental or brightly colored ones, which don’t photograph well and make rooms look dated,” says Lisa Gulliver, a Showhomes franchise co-owner.

The same goes for your couch, she adds. “A dark sofa against big, bright windows can be blinding, but shades of gray or khaki can help eyes adjust more quickly so the buyer can take in the room and exterior views.”

Accessorize with flair

The finishing touches count for a lot when it comes to staging the living room. Put a soft cashmere throw over a corner chair to evoke a quiet place for reading, says Katie McCann, an organizing expert with Maeve’s Method.

A small vase of fresh flowers adds beauty and perhaps a soft scent (watch out for overly strong candles).

Jack Menashe, owner of the New York–based Menashe Group, likes accessories that bring the space to life, including large coffee-table books, sculptural art, and accent pillows.

The post Here’s the One Room Where Home Staging Will Pay Off the Most appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.