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5 Bad Omens That Could Curse Your Home—and Jeopardize Your Sale

February 26, 2020


An outdated kitchen and a lack of curb appeal aren’t the only things that can keep buyers from biting. When it seems like there’s just no explanation for a perfectly good home sitting on the market, you might consider other possible causes.

Certain items, colors, and symbols have been thought to attract malicious forces to an otherwise peaceful abode. And while some people scoff at such beliefs, others take them seriously—and not just around Halloween.

“There are countless folkloric beliefs, and savvy homeowners are smart to acknowledge and respect such beliefs, whether they share them or not,” says Benjamin Radford, deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and co-host of the “Squaring the Strange” podcast.

Whether or not you believe in bad omens, you might still be interested in covering your bases. After all, there’s no telling what prospective buyers of your home believe.

To get you started, here are a few supposed bad omens related to houses that you might want to avoid. Because it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

1. Empty rocking chair

Photo by Schumacher Homes

Irish legend says an empty rocking chair brings dark spirits, and if the chair rocks, the evil spirit is already here. This could be of particular interest to sellers in the South, where rocking chairs are often placed on porches. One look at a chair that’s rocking by itself could send a seller running. But that doesn’t mean you have to remove it when you show the house.

Radford suggests keeping the chair still by placing a stone or doorstop under the legs to brace it.

“It just takes a few seconds, and might help seal a sale,” he says.

2. Green-painted walls

Photo by Connor Mill-Built Homes

Pantone may have chosen Greenery for its official Color of the Year in 2017, but some people believe that green on the walls can bring bad vibes.

Back in the day, green paint was made using arsenic, and the presence of this toxic chemical is believed to have killed a number of people. While arsenic is no longer found in green paint, some still consider it bad luck to use it in the home.

If you want luck on your side, consider using blue paint instead. In the Southern United States, it was traditional to paint porch ceilings blue to keep evil spirits away.

“In many places around the world the color blue is considered lucky—originally associated with the sky and divinity—which is why many window and door frames are painted blue,” says Radford. “Blue windows likely won’t make or break a sale, but if you like the color and need to repaint anyway—why not?”

3. Red and white flowers in a vase

Red and white roses
Red and white roses

Chalongrat Chuvaree/iStock

Red roses mean love and white flowers designate purity and innocence. As innocuous as a flower arrangement like this may seem, according to Victorian superstition, combining the two in a vase means death will soon follow.

But that doesn’t mean you should nix all flowers during an open house. They’re vital to elevating the appearance of your home. Instead, professional home stager Krisztina Bell of Atlanta suggests going green by using succulents and other types of greenery throughout the house. We’re also partial to eucalyptus branches, monstera leaves, or a pothos plant.

4. Old calendar

Make sure your calendar is up to date! A calendar showing the wrong month is believed to cut short a person’s life.

If you’re still stuck on the beautiful art that accompanies the calendar, cut it out and frame it for decor. Just make sure your calendar is flipped to the current month.

5. Black cats

Black cat at home
Black cat at home


Your sweet black cat might be minding its own business, but to potential buyers who happen upon it, your cat could be a bad omen. Black cats have been associated with witchcraft since the Middle Ages; but in Britain, Japan, and Ireland, black cats are seen as bringing good luck.

“Some people love black cats, while others look at them with suspicion. If you have a black cat, crate him or her up while showing the house,” says Radford.

In fact, that goes for other types of pets, too. You want potential buyers focusing on your home, not your four-legged friend.

The post 5 Bad Omens That Could Curse Your Home—and Jeopardize Your Sale appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

5 Sweet Tax Deductions When Selling a Home: Did You Take Them All?

February 24, 2020


You may be wondering if there are tax deductions when selling a home. And the answer is: You bet!

Sure, you may remember 2018’s new tax code—aka the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—changed some rules for homeowners. But rest assured that if you sold your home last year (or are planning to in the future), your tax deductions when you file with the IRS can still amount to sizable savings.

Want a full rundown of all the deductions (as well as tax exemptions or other write-offs) at a home seller’s disposal? Check out this list to make sure you miss none of them.

1. Selling costs

These deductions are allowed as long as they are directly tied to the sale of the home, and you lived in the home for at least two out of the five years preceding the sale. Another caveat: The home must be a principal residence and not an investment property.

“You can deduct any costs associated with selling the home—including legal fees, escrow fees, advertising costs, and real estate agent commissions,” says Joshua Zimmelman, president of Westwood Tax and Consulting in Rockville Center, NY.

This could also include home staging fees, according to Thomas J. Williams, a tax accountant who operates Your Small Biz Accountant in Kissimmee, FL.

Just remember that you can’t deduct these costs in the same way as, say, mortgage interest. Instead, you subtract them from the sales price of your home, which in turn positively affects your capital gains tax (more on that below).

2. Home improvements and repairs

Score again! If you renovated a few rooms to make your home more marketable (and so you could fetch a higher sales price), you can deduct those upgrade costs as well. This includes painting the house or repairing the roof or water heater.

But there’s a catch, and it all boils down to timing.

“If you needed to make home improvements in order to sell your home, you can deduct those expenses as selling costs as long as they were made within 90 days of the closing,” says Zimmelman.

3. Property taxes

This deduction is capped at $10,000, Zimmelman says. So if you were dutifully paying your property taxes up to the point when you sold your home, you can deduct the amount you paid in property taxes this year up to $10,000.

4. Mortgage interest

As with property taxes, you can deduct the interest on your mortgage for the portion of the year you owned your home.

Just remember that under the 2018 tax code, new homeowners (and home sellers) can deduct the interest on up to only $750,000 of mortgage debt, though homeowners who got their mortgage before Dec. 15, 2017, can continue deducting up to the original amount up to $1 million, according to Zimmelman.

Note that the mortgage interest and property taxes are itemized deductions. This means that for it to work in your favor, all of your itemized deductions need to be greater than the new standard deduction, which the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nearly doubled to $12,200 for individuals, $18,350 for heads of household, and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly. (For comparison, it used to be $12,700 for married couples filing jointly.)

5. Capital gains tax for sellers

The capital gains rule isn’t technically a deduction (it’s an exclusion), but you’re still going to like it.

As a reminder, capital gains are your profits from selling your home—whatever cash is left after paying off your expenses, plus any outstanding mortgage debt. And yes, these profits are taxed as income. But here’s the good news: You can exclude up to $250,000 of the capital gains from the sale if you’re single, and $500,000 if married. The only big catch is you must have lived in your home at least two of the past five years.

However, look for the rules of this exemption to possibly change in a future tax bill.

Ralph DiBugnara, vice president at Cardinal Financial, says lawmakers might push to change this so that homeowners would have to live in the property for five of the past eight years, instead of two out of five.

The post 5 Sweet Tax Deductions When Selling a Home: Did You Take Them All? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

‘Sale Pending’ Explained: How Long Will It Take Before You Can Finally Get the Keys?

February 19, 2020


If you’re in the process of buying a home, there’s no doubt you’ve seen the term “Sale Pending” or “Pending Offer” on more than a few real estate listings—perhaps even on the very home you’re trying to buy!

But how long does an offer stay in “Pending” status before the keys are handed over? We spoke with real estate agents from coast to coast to bring you the answers. But first, a little background.

What does ‘pending offer’ mean?

The terms of a pending offer can vary quite a bit. But a pending offer almost always means there’s an “accepted and binding contract” between buyer and seller, according to real estate agent Carrie George of Keller Williams Top of the Rockies. It means that both parties have signed a contract and are ready to move forward.

But there are often boxes that need to be checked (on both sides) in order for the sale to go through.

“An offer is ‘pending’ because there are some items that have not yet been completed in order for the contract to close,” explains real estate agent Chantay Bridges of Los Angeles Real Estate Now. “This can be anything from contingencies of the purchase, repairs, inspections, court approval, or reports.”

“No time limit negates a contact,” says Benjamin Ross, a Realtor® with Mission Real Estate Group. “The contract must be terminated, or adhered to and fulfilled (by both parties). Courts will decide legal disputes if the parties involved can’t come to a cooperative resolution, but until then—the property sits in limbo.”

How long do pending offers take?

In other words, how long does this crazy limbo period usually last?

“There’s no hard or fast answer, but typically if a buyer is getting a loan, the total under contract time is about 30 to 60 days,” George explains. “If a buyer is paying cash, the closing can take place in as little as a week.”

The amount of time an offer remains pending will often depend on exactly what terms each party is trying to meet, and how straightforward they are.

“In the event the contract close date is delayed for funding or repair issues, the pending status would continue until there’s a resolution— or the contract is terminated,” Ross says. “This can go on for a long time.”

The bottom line? Pending offers (on average) tend to last anywhere between a week and two months, but delays do happen. Here are a few of the most common reasons why.

Reasons why pending offers can take longer

There are a lot of mundane reasons a pending offer can just sit in limbo for months on end. Those include things like inspections, or a delay with the survey, appraisal, or even the homeowner insurance. Here are a few other issues to be aware of.


“Repairs can definitely cause the pending status to stretch out for a longer period of time,” Ross says. “Most of the time, both parties are in agreement. However, there are times when hostility arises, and parties seek legal counsel. During this time, the property will remain pending.”

Financing issues

“Pending offers can go longer than 30 to 60 days if the buyer and seller agree to a longer term due to financing issues,” says Michelle Sloan, a Realtor with Re/Max Time Cincinnati. “One example is if a seller is building a home and requests a longer period between contract to closing in order for them not to move twice—but the buyer would have to agree to those terms in the offer.”

Missing paperwork or special loans

Missing paperwork situations include title issues, “such as a missing deed or a signature on a deed from a long-lost family member,” says Chris McDermott, principal broker of McDermott Realty.

Another thing to consider is the type of financing being used, since the red tape surrounding certain types of loans can also lead to longer close times.

“Areas where FHA, state, and local-led financing, and/or USDA loans are more prominent, are likely to have longer transaction times, resulting in longer pending times,” says McDermott.

What can you do to speed things up?

The answer might sound simple, but being organized and having a great real estate agent helps a lot.

“Having a good and attentive real estate agent can actually make or break a pending status,” says Denise Supplee, a Realtor with Long & Foster. “Throughout the sale process, both sides of the sale have tasks to complete, and often these tasks must be conveyed by the agent.”

So be sure to hire a real estate agent who has the expertise to see the deal through—both by helping you to complete your half of the contractual to-do list, and by keeping on top of the other party if things fall behind.

The post ‘Sale Pending’ Explained: How Long Will It Take Before You Can Finally Get the Keys? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

7 Winter Photo Shoot Secrets to Make Your Home Shine in the Gloomiest Season

February 13, 2020

Bob Steiner/iStock

Just because the weather right now makes us want to hibernate doesn’t mean the real estate market is sleeping. In fact, the waning months of the coldest season have become one of the most popular times for buyers to begin their home search.

That’s great news if you’re looking to sell your home this winter! But those buyers won’t give your place a second look if it appears sad and drab in listing photos. So how can you possibly pull off perfect pictures when Mother Nature is working against you?

We’ve got you covered! You can beat the winter blues and snap some seriously good photos of your home—you just have to know a few tricks of the trade. Read on for the secrets to showing your home in the best light this winter.

1. Wait as long as you have to for a sunny day

Let the sun shine!

We know, there aren’t a lot of these in winter. But trust us when we say it’s worth waiting for the one day when the sun comes out. If you’re working with a photographer, then the pro probably has this whole blue sky thing on lockdown. But if you’re not, the best way to make people actually want to tour—and potentially buy—your house is to take photos on a day when the sun is shining.

“And preferably around noon,” says Benjamin Ross, a Realtor® with Mission Real Estate Group. “You don’t want dark spots overshadowing your beautiful home.”

Ross also recommends using a polarizing filter on your camera lens, since this will minimize any unwanted reflection or glare from the sun.

Planning on using your phone? Check out this polarizing filter for iPhone from Sandmarc.

2. Clean your windows

Unless you’re shooting for a Windex ad, you’ll want to be sure your windows don’t appear streaked with condensation or dirt.

Pro tip: We recommend cranking the heat up to its max, to keep the little condensation drips at bay.

As for the dirt, you know what to do. “Many people forget, but be sure to clean your windows prior to shooting,” Ross says.

3. Use all the indoor light

Counteract the gloom outside by turning on all the lights inside.

Winter is a dark season in most climates, which is why you’ll want to combat that gloomy mood by using your home’s interior lighting to make outdoor pictures warm and inviting.

“Turn on all lights in the home when shooting,” says Ross. “Even in the daytime, turn on all the lights for more clarity in your images.”

Another tip for snagging buyer interest in winter? Putting those fireplaces to work.

“I like to highlight working fireplaces when at all possible,” says Daniele Kurzweil, real estate agent with the Compass Friedman Team. “Be it gas or wood-burning, a photo of a warm, inviting fire is sure to draw in a crowd during those cold and dark winter months. Highlight your strengths, and show buyers a warm, comfy nook where they can curl under a blanket by the fireplace.”

4. Shovel the snow, for goodness’ sake

Clearing a path to the house increases the likelihood of selling it.

No one expects your house to look picture-perfect in the middle of winter, but there are a few basics you can do to make it look its cold-weather best.

For starters, clear any excess snow that’s piling up. No one wants to be reminded of chores (like shoveling snow) when they view your house, so be sure walkways, driveways, porches, and outdoor seating areas are all cleaned off.

5. Stash any and all holiday decor

The holidays are over! Deal with it. Once the snow piles are under control, be sure to cut any lingering holiday decor out of the picture as well.

“If you take a photo with seasonal items, come spring or summer if your place hasn’t yet sold, people will immediately assume your listing has been on the market since the holidays, and move right past it,” Kurzweil says.

6. Hire a gardener

It’s amazing what a few hearty winter plants can do for your curb appeal. But rather than attempting a botanical experiment, consider hiring a professional to spruce up your winter garden just in time for the big day.

“If your garden looks lush in the spring, speak with a plant specialist who can help pick out beautiful hearty plants that will make your garden pop in the winter months,” says Kurzweil.

She also suggests using winter-themed outdoor decor (like a fire pit) as a focal point.

“Instead of shying away from the outdoors in the winter, showcase how your outside space is indeed usable throughout all four seasons,” she advises.

7. Include photos from other seasons

Photos from other seasons remind buyers that someday winter will end.

No matter how great your winter photos turn out, it’s important to allow buyers to visualize themselves in your home—and that means including pictures from other seasons. Be sure to focus on shots of your home’s best features, like that outdoor patio and the bench swing on the front porch.

“Show potential buyers how inviting your home is during the coldest of months,” says Kurzweil, “and they’ll be even more impressed come springtime.”

The post 7 Winter Photo Shoot Secrets to Make Your Home Shine in the Gloomiest Season appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Home Won’t Sell? Yawar Charlie on ‘Listing Impossible’ Explains Why

January 29, 2020

Amy Sussman/Getty Images;

If your home isn’t selling, what should you do? Real estate agent Yawar Charlie, star of a new reality show, “Listing Impossible,” can offer some hope and helpful advice.

CNBC’s “Listing Impossible”—which premiered Jan. 15 and airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST—follows Charlie at the Los Angeles brokerage Aaron Kirman Partners as he and his colleagues devise fresh ways to revive stale listings and entice buyers to bite. There’s even a surprise appearance from David Hasselhoff!

“It really gives you the nuts and bolts on what it takes to sell challenging homes, and what it takes to sell a home in general,” Charlie told in an exclusive interview. “It’s not candy-coated, so the viewer really gets to see the process and the journey—not only of the home, but of the sellers.”

Curious why certain homes won’t sell and what can be done to make them move, we talked with Charlie to hear his advice—for home sellers and buyers—plus the surprising story behind how he bought his first home.

Listing Impossible
Yawar Charlie of “Listing Impossible”


How did you end up buying your first home?

I used to be an actor in L.A., and I had worked pretty steadily. But when you’re my type, and this is back 15 years ago, there weren’t a lot of opportunities. I kept getting the note “too pretty for a terrorist.”

I can laugh at it now, but at the time it was very annoying. Still, I was on a soap opera for a while and I took that money I earned and I saved it. I was thinking I should do something smart with it, and decided that I really wanted to buy a house.

I didn’t know where to start, so I sought out a casual acquaintance who was a real estate agent. However, this person was a horrible agent and didn’t take good care of me. It all ended up working out, though, because I ended up doing a lot of the research on my own, so I learned from that. In fact, I learned I had a real affinity for real estate.

How did you transition from home buyer to a real estate agent?

I casually set up a couple of real estate deals for friends and family. And my partner at the time said, “You know, Yawar, you’re really good at this, why don’t you consider this as sort of a supplemental career until acting really kicks in full gear?”

That was about 13 years ago, and within the first nine months of getting my real estate license and joining a team, I was the top new agent in my office. It was a real blessing because when you’re a creative person, you have to find an outlet for that creativity.

For me, when I work with someone selling a home, I find the creative side of things. I say, “Let’s tell a story of this house, let’s figure out a way to connect someone to it emotionally when they walk in the room.”

Yawar Charlie
Listing Impossible — Wexler House — Pictured: (l-r) — (Photo by: Nicole Weingart/CNBC)


Your new show is all about moving homes that seem impossible to sell. Why do you think certain homes sit on the market?

When something is sitting on the market, 9 times out of 10, it comes down to the price.

As simple as it sounds, if you price a property too high, it will sit unless it finds that one person who falls in love with it and has to have it. But that kind of Cinderella ending only happens in fairy tales. People want to make sure that they’re not overpaying on a house.

Home sellers should have an honest conversation with their real estate agent about what their house is worth. An agent who takes a house that’s overpriced does that seller a disservice, because an overpriced house is going to sit.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of agents who will underprice a property to get a quick sale or multiple offers. And I really think that sometimes that’s the way to go. However, it requires the seller to have a leap of faith that you’ll be able to get multiple offers, that someone won’t lowball you.

What should home sellers do if their listing isn’t drumming up enough interest?

Our show is a good representation of what happens when properties have been sitting too long on the market. We come in, retool, rebrand, and relaunch each property. That includes staging, some light construction, decluttering, price adjustment, and the right marketing. These are all things that sellers need to think about.

We put together a list of items that I encourage the seller to repair or address before we go on the market.

I bring our stager in and have the quote for that. In today’s market, homes must be staged. If a house isn’t staged, it will be devalued. Because a lot of times, buyers don’t have imaginations. They’re like, “Oh wow, will my TV fit there? Will a couch look good here?”

We have to lay it out for them. Of course, there will be those visionaries that will walk through the door, but more often than not, people need to see it.

Yawar Charlie
Listing Impossible — Wexler House — Pictured: (l-r) — (Photo by: Nicole Weingart/CNBC)


In addition to selling hard-to-sell homes, you work with a lot of first-time home buyers. What’s your best advice for them?

Some first-time home buyers think that they’re going to walk into something in their price range and, automatically, it’s going to have everything they want. But that’s usually not the case.

Buying that first home is important because, if you’re renting, you are essentially setting money on fire. Even if it’s a smaller place, it’s important to get into something you own because there’s a tax deduction that people can take advantage of, and owning a home is like a forced savings account. That payment that you’re making every month to pay off the principal is paying into equity, so therefore when you go to sell that house, that equity will be there for you.

I like working with my first-time home buyer clients and setting expectations, which are: This won’t be your dream home, it’s not meant to be your dream home. It’s meant to be something that you like, that you are proud to live in, but that most importantly will build you wealth.

When they buy that first condo, they’ll be able to trade that in, in three to five years, for a larger condo or a single-family home. And then they’ll be able to flip that single-family home into a larger home that does really fit their dream. But it takes the second or third home to reach that dream home status for most people.

What advice would you offer both buyers and sellers on finding the right real estate agent?

Make sure you’re working with a real estate agent who is not a “yes” person, who will tell you the hard truth. Because at the end of the day, it does everyone a disservice if you’re working with someone who just tells you what you want to hear. There’s a reason we’re the professionals. We’re boots on the ground, we see the market trends, we’re showing homes every day. Work with someone you know and trust who’s going to do right by you.

The post Home Won’t Sell? Yawar Charlie on ‘Listing Impossible’ Explains Why appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

How Much Does Probate Cost? Real Estate Fees and Other Expenses

January 28, 2020

how much does probate cost?


Probate is the legal process of sorting and distributing someone’s personal property when they die. The last will and testament is taken into account and executed according to the deceased’s wishes. This often includes real estate, as well as other high-ticket items like cars or valuable jewelry.

But what happens when the deceased didn’t bequeath a home to an heir? Typically, this prompts a probate sale in which an estate attorney or family representative must sell the property to liquidate the asset and distribute the money from the sale to the family.

“A probate sale is the sale of a property after the owner’s death when the late owner did not specify an heir to inherit the property,” says David Reischer, a real estate attorney and CEO of “A property is relinquished to the court, which then appoints the closest living relative as the executor who will sell the house.”

How much does probate cost?

The overall cost of probate will vary depending on the estate’s value.

“Typically the cost will be from 3% to 7% of the estate plus various fees. I’ve seen estate costs from as little as $5,000 to as much as $50,000,” Reischer says.

If you’ve just been appointed executor of a home that’s going through a probate sale, here are the fees you should be aware of.

Attorneys fees

According to Chris McDermott, a broker at McDermott Realty in Jacksonville, FL, the biggest costs in a probate sale are usually the attorneys fees. However, these fees can vary greatly depending on the state in which you live and the cost of the asset going through probate.

According to Nolo, a legal website, the state of Florida, as one example, uses the following fees:

  • Value of estate up to $40,000: $1,500
  • $40,000 to $70,000: $2,250
  • $70,000 to $100,000: $3,000
  • $100,000 to $1 million: $3,000, plus 3% of the value over $100,000
  • $1 million to $3 million: $3,000, plus 2.5% of the value over $1 million
  • $3 million to $5 million: $3,000, plus 2% of the value above $3 million
  • $5 million to $10 million: $3,000, plus 1.5% on the value above $5 million
  • More than $10 million: $3,000, plus 1% of the value above $10 million

Court costs

Court fees are usually set by state law and will vary based on location.

“Typically, court fees range between a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars,” Reischer says. “A more complicated estate will require more paperwork to be filed and will thus be on the higher end of the range.”

Costs to secure the real estate/insurance premium

One of the first things the executor needs to do is keep all easily movable valuables—such as cash and jewelry—safe until they can be turned over to the people who inherit them.

To do this, they will need to secure the property with new locks or alarm codes, according to Matthew F. Erskine, managing partner of Worcester, MA–based Erskine & Erskine, which handles estate planning and trust administration.

“Also, call the insurance agent and add the estate as a named insured to the policy, both for the property and for any motor vehicles,” says Erskine, who estimates that this process will cost between $500 to $1,000.

Cost to make required repairs

If someone in the family wants to purchase the property, they’d typically buy it from the estate.

“This is less expensive than selling it to a third party,” Erskine says, “since they will be taking the property as is, and there will be no broker’s commission on the transaction.”

However, if no one wants the property, he says it will need to be prepared for sale. The cost to make repairs—both cosmetic or mandatory—could range from $1,000 to $50,000.

There are certain building and zoning code-based upgrades that are triggered by the sale.

“For example, an older house may have 40-amp or 60-amp electrical service, which is a fire hazard when you have a lot of electrical appliances, and will need to be upgraded to 100-amp service—and that may cost several thousand dollars,” adds Erskine.

Other considerations include removing hazardous materials like lead paint or asbestos insulation.

Cost of getting the property appraised

The executor will also be responsible for arranging an appraisal of the property which will determine the minimum price for listing the property. This can cost anywhere from $0 to $5,000.

“When there is a sale to family member, charities as beneficiaries, or the potential for a dispute on the value of the home, getting an appraisal is a must,” says Erskine.

Cost to have property cleaned out

If the house is going to go up for sale, the furniture and other tangible property will need to be removed.

“Often the family will assist with this, but there is always some stuff no one wants, so they’ll need to hire a service to remove the remainder and either buy it, donate it, or dump it,” Erskine says.

He estimates this cost to be between $750 to $1,500. Sometimes more.

“I once had an estate with a two-bedroom ranch where we had five full-size dumpsters worth of trash,” he says.

Carrying costs

It can take a significant amount of time to complete a probate sale.

“A probate sale can take up to six to 12 months to finalize, depending on the complexity of the situation and the size of the assets,” says Mike Hills, vice president of investment brokerage at Denver-based Atlas Real Estate. That’s why carrying costs like mortgage payments, real estate taxes, and utilities should be taken into account— they’ll all need to be paid during the probate sale.

Other fees

McDermott says you should also expect to pay 5% to 6% of the sale price in real estate broker fees. However, Erskine warns this amount could go as high as 10%. The executor may also receive a fee, which is usually set by the court.

“Also, title fees will cost 1% to 2% to conduct closing and issue title insurance,” McDermott says.

The post How Much Does Probate Cost? Real Estate Fees and Other Expenses appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: An Outdated Texas Jewel Shines After Major Makeover

January 23, 2020

Lessons From Listing Photos: An Outdated Texas Jewel Shines After Major Makeover

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.

They say everything is bigger in Texas, and this massive 5,000-square-foot home is no exception. Built in 1970, it was once a sparkling gem in the center of a still-prestigious west Houston neighborhood, but the interiors didn’t age well over the years. As you’ll see from the before pictures below, it’s the type of home anyone would walk into and say, “Bless your heart.” Clearly, it was high time to bring this beauty up to date.

Renovating this home would be a daunting task for anyone, but the most recent sellers were game—and this clearly wasn’t their first rodeo. They bought the property in September 2018, and sold it a year later for about $600,000 over the price they paid.

So what did they do to help modernize this Southern manse? And more important, how can you have the same success with your own home?

When asked to identify which renovations and decor choices made all the difference, our experts obliged. Here’s what they had to say.

Before: Sitting area

There’s way too much going on in this room.

After: Sitting area

Now you can really enjoy the space of this sitting area.

It won’t take you long to figure out what changed in the sitting room—and these renovations vaulted it forward three decades.

“The marble columns served to provide more of an obstacle than any sort of enhancement,” says interior designer S.A. “Sam” Jernigan of Renaissance Design Consultation. “The room now exudes lightness.”

The absence of those bulky columns may be the first thing that strikes you, but that’s not the only major change this room has experienced.

“Removing carpet and replacing it with hardwood is a must if your home is competing with pricey, new construction. Buyers don’t want carpet, especially on the first floor of the home,” says interior designer and home staging expert Jill Hosking-Cartland, of Hosking Interiors.

Home staging expert Lori Matzke also says changing the paint makes a huge difference.

“While the before photo certainly feels homey, too many colors distract from the features of the space,” she explains. “The crisp, white walls really help to play up the size of the room, and extend the space right through to the back garden.”

Before: Parlor

In a word? Yikes.

After: Parlor

Now this room is airy and chic.

This parlor is a huge room with a lot going on—and according to our experts, that’s exactly the problem.

Matzke says the old room had so much furniture, its intended use was confusing.

“The updates in the after photo not only brought in more light and created a much more open layout, but they also defined the space, leaving no doubt in potential buyers’ mind exactly how this area should be used,” she says.

“This layout utilizes the amount of square footage better and brings attention to the focal points: the fireplace and the view,” says Hosking-Cartland. “More seating makes the room feel cozier, while removing the mantel and doors makes the room look larger. Painting out stained woodwork contributes to the more modern feel of the room.”

Before: Master bedroom

This master bedroom was nothing special.

After: Master bedroom

Now the master bedroom is an oasis of calm.

Jernigan calls the original version of the master bedroom “very tired-looking,” and she’s not wrong.

“The master bedroom is one of the most important rooms in the home to a buyer. After all, the occupants of this room will be paying the mortgage,” says Hosking-Cartland. “With its taste-specific bedding, dated furnishings, and patterned wall-to-wall carpet, the before photo of this room in no way communicates serenity or retreat, the two things most buyers want in their next master bedroom.”

But the overhauled master bedroom showcases some great decor decisions: a neutral color scheme, comfortable furniture, modernized fireplace, and inviting seating area.

Before: Kitchen

Dark brown finishes date the kitchen.

After: Kitchen

The contrast in colors makes the kitchen look luxurious.

The kitchen before was spacious, but that’s not enough to make it what home buyers are looking for.

“The face-lift performed on this kitchen makes it look 30 years younger,” says Matzke. “The ‘before’ was fine, but very dark, gloomy, and dated. Brightening up the cabinets and replacing the countertops make it feel younger and brighter. But what really took this kitchen over the top were the updated light fixtures. They make this kitchen feel a lot more special and luxe.”

Hosking-Cartland says an updated kitchen is a must when you’re trying to compete with other homes on the market.

“Updating the finishes, flooring, and lighting in this important room goes a long way to communicate to a buyer that your home has been well cared for and maintained,” she says.

Before: Dining room

This dining room looks a tad too personalized.

After: Dining room

The refined decor brings the dining room into this decade.

“The decor in the ‘before’ photo did make this room feel a little tired, too personal, and dated,” says Matzke. Those are things that can make it difficult for a buyer to picture themselves living in your home.

“Buyers love light, bright rooms, and in this dining room it was smart to remove the curtains to let in more light,” says Hosking-Cartland. “It also brings attention to the architectural focal point, which is the large bank of windows. Changing the wall color to a light neutral and adding artificial light at eye level also contribute to the room appearing brighter, especially for night showings.”

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: An Outdated Texas Jewel Shines After Major Makeover appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: An 80-Year-Old Ranch Gets a Rustic-Modern Makeover

January 17, 2020

lessons from listing photos

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.

Within California’s capital city lies the posh neighborhood of East Sacramento, an area filled with historic and diverse homes, ranging from Tudors to bungalows. Some homes, like this 80-year-old, four-bedroom, four-bathroom ranch, are badly in need of an update.

When the property hit the market in 2018 for $900,000, it was clearly a very valuable place.

When they bought it in 2018 for $900,000, the new owners quickly zeroed in on its considerable strengths. The original architectural touches, like built-in cabinets and an arched soffit over one of the bathtubs, give it a unique charm. It’s also located in the tony enclave known as the “Fabulous Forties” (the streets are named after numbers in the 40s). But they also realized it would need considerable work to bring it to its full potential.

An eight-month renovation returned the home to a level of sophistication it hadn’t seen in decades. And when the refurbished house went on the market, it was eventually sold for $600,000 over what the sellers paid for it just a year earlier.

So what design choices worked to the sellers’ advantage the most? We went straight to our experts to find out what they did right, and how you can have that same success in your space.

Before: Front of the home

front yard_landscaping_before
The house was hidden by overgrown greenery.

After: Front of the home

front yard_landscaping_after
After renovations, you can’t miss this gorgeous entrance.

You’ll have to look pretty hard to find any similarities in these before and after images, but we promise that it is the same house. It’s simply come out of hiding from behind all that overgrown greenery.

According to our experts, it’s really just several small changes that made such a huge difference in the appearance of the front of the home.

Kobi Karp, principal at Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design, loves the way the dark roof, door, and shutters contrast with the white panels on the house.

“The color palette makes the home pop,” says Karp, who’s also a big fan of the new landscaping.

“The lighting creates warmth, and the addition of potted wildflowers usher in the farmhouse vibe without going overboard, and creates a welcoming entrance,” he says.

Of course, nothing sells a house better than an entrance that welcomes prospective buyers, right?

Before: Living room

living room_before
The old living room was closed off and outdated.

After: Living room

living room_after
Opening a wall—and losing the fireplace—makes it larger and improves flow.

The sellers may have added a ton of style to this living room, but they also took away something fairly major: the fireplace!

So how do our experts feel about losing a feature than many consider central to the room’s design?

They don’t miss it at all. In fact, Nisha MacNeil, design manager at Kerr Construction & Design, thinks the room greatly benefits from letting the fireplace go, as it helps gain more of what really matters: space.

“This is a beautiful and bright space made even larger by removing the fireplace and opening up the wall between the living and dining rooms with an arch, enhancing the architectural details,” she says. “I love the added stained-wood casing around the other door to warm up the space. The new stain color of the floor is perfect for the update. The previous oak floor was too yellow and orange.”

Karp admires the universally flattering and stylish decor choices.

“While the color scheme is still neutral, the space is brought to life with plants and wooden accents,” he says.

Before: Office

This old room held hints of its former charm.

After: Office

A few simple touches created an inspiring office.

This room didn’t see as many changes as the rest of the house. But our experts agree that the modifications made the room more stylish and functional.

“This is a perfect example of how designer staging completely transforms a space,” says MacNeil. “With the placement of some key furniture, art, and an area rug, the space now has purpose.”

“The floors were also darkened to match the rest of the house and add warmth to the room,” says Karp. “All these elements make this a space where you can create, reflect, and feel inspired.”

Another nice touch: keeping the original built-in cabinet. It’s a nod to the house’s historical roots and provides more storage space.

Before: Bathroom

The old bathroom had nothing going for it.

After: Bathroom

Mosaic tiles and a wooden vanity give this space life.

Perhaps the most genius move in the whole house was transforming the arch above the bathtub into a unique design element.

“I am in love with this bathroom,” says MacNeil. “The original arched soffit over the tub looks stunning clad in this small mosaic.

It “is an element that would typically be removed during a renovation, and I am so happy they kept it,” says MacNeil. “It brings an architectural design feature that speaks to old European design.

The rustic sink vanity also gives a nod to the modern farmhouse aesthetic that crops up in other rooms of the house.

Before: Backyard

The old backyard was overgrown.

After: Backyard

A new patio and grass make this a place you’d want to spend an afternoon.

The original backyard looked a bit like a wasteland with no place to sit and relax. But several additions make this area a comfortable place to enjoy that California sunshine.

“A covered patio is such a great selling feature,” says MacNeil. “They took this one to the next level by creating two massive, open gables in a gorgeous stained wood. I love the exposed steel fasteners that give an edge to the design.”

Karp sees this outdoor space as the perfect complement to the renovation.

“Ultimately, they created a space that thrives on rustic details and pure functionality,” he says.

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: An 80-Year-Old Ranch Gets a Rustic-Modern Makeover appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: This Rehabbed California Ranch Is Giving Off Major Modern Farmhouse Vibes

December 24, 2019

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.

Taking a look at nothing but the property description, this four-bedroom, 2.5-bath ranch home in Loomis, CA, sounded like a buyer’s dream when it was previously up for sale in January. It had plenty of space and privacy (thanks to the 3-acre lot) and a great neighborhood.

But a quick flip through the listing photos revealed one big problem with the house. It screamed 1970s both inside and out—an issue that surely would have sent many prospective buyers running. The truth is, many people are looking for a home that’s move-in ready and may be reluctant to buy a home that’s in disrepair, so a major remodel could be a deal breaker.

Thankfully the sellers knew what had to be done. They did a down-to-the-studs renovation before putting it back on the market in August—proving along the way that Chip and Joanna Gaines aren’t the only ones who can pull off the modern farmhouse look.

Below, our design experts discuss what parts of the renovation made the biggest impact, and how you can have the same success in your own space.

Before: Bathroom

This old bathroom was ’70s overkill.

After: Bathroom

Now the bathroom is fresh and clean.

Paging Marcia Brady! This bathroom looks like something out of a ’70s sitcom.

“Carpet in a bathroom is just disturbing,” says Tiffany Fasone, owner and CEO of Voila Design Home. “The layout was also awkward because of the two separate rooms.”

A much-needed redo brought this bathroom into the current decade.

“These new Moroccan-inspired mirrors make the room look really on-trend,” says Nisha MacNeil, design manager at Kerr Construction & Design. “While the palette of this bathroom is serene and calm with all whites and grays, the hit of black really pulls the space together.”

Our experts agree that knocking down the wall next to the sink made a huge difference to the layout and added major space.

“Removing the separate room for the toilet and shower was a smart move,” says Katie Stix, partner and design director at Anderson Design Studio. “It allows for a larger shower and more open feel.”

Stix also appreciates the pendant lights (that coordinate with the mirrors) and the classic polished-nickel finish on the faucets.

Before: Bedroom

The old bedroom was dingy and bland.

After: Bedroom

New floors and trim make this room classy and comfortable.

The bedroom went from college dorm to grown-up getaway, and our experts are loving the changes.

“New flooring is a fairly simple update that has really cleaned up the space,” says MacNeil.

Stix was also most impressed by the flooring change.

“The existing carpet looked nasty,” she says. “I’m glad they changed it out for hardwood, and a pretty hardwood with warmth and movement.”

But the floor wasn’t the only big change that caught her eye.

“Removing the popcorn ceiling was well worth it, too, and adding recessed can lighting and a ceiling fan bring light to the space,” she adds.

Before: Dining room

dining area_before
That old fireplace dated the entire space.

After: Dining room

dining area_after
Now the dining room is open and welcoming.

“This room had the most drastic and necessary changes,” says Fasone. “Removing the old fireplace and adding the hardwood floors and the new color palette make it feel like an entirely new home.”

Stix agrees that removing the fireplace was the right move.

“In a lot of renovations you see people keeping the fireplace. But in this case, I think it was smart to sacrifice the fireplace for the larger, open concept kitchen,” she says. “Plus the stone wasn’t very pretty.”

Staging the dining room also helps sell the space and gives potential buyers an opportunity to imagine themselves living there.

Before: Kitchen

This closed-off kitchen is like a step back in time.

After: Kitchen

Opening it up made all the difference.

Hello, bigger kitchen! The transformation to an open concept is surely something potential buyers loved.

“By removing the kitchen peninsula and old drywall, the whole space has opened up and become more functional,” says MacNeil. “The new kitchen holds all the key elements to a shabby-chic or farmhouse kitchen: subway tiles, white and gray color palette, dark finished hardware, and rustic wood elements.”

“I’m glad they removed all the cabinets and created a large center island,” adds Stix. “They kept it simple and appealing.”

Before: Front exterior

The original exterior kind of blends into the landscape.

After: Front exterior

Now the front yard looks homey and inviting.

The exterior color chosen for the renovated house does a great job of capturing the rustic-chic vibe that’s going on throughout the inside of the house.

“Architectural details like the window boxes play a key role here and really complete this look,” says MacNeil. The same can be said for the carriage-style garage doors in that gorgeous honey-brown shade.

Fasone agrees about the new color scheme, saying it feels very clean and neutral.

“Updating the garage is such a smart way to add value and functionality,” she says.

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: This Rehabbed California Ranch Is Giving Off Major Modern Farmhouse Vibes appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Hark, the Buyers Sing! 4 Tips to Throw a Rockin’ Holiday-Themed Open House

December 14, 2019


If you’ve decided to keep your home on the market this holiday season (and you totally should), you probably have a few questions. Like, how much should you decorate the house? Or, is it OK to leave presents under the tree?

We checked with several real estate agents to answer your most pressing questions, and help you throw the ultimate holiday-themed open house that’ll have buyers adding your home to their list for Santa.

1. Make it cozy and bright

Photo by Robin LaMonte/Rooms Revamped 
The first step to getting buyers in the door (and persuading them to stay awhile) is to transform your house into a warm haven of holiday cheer. Chances are, guests coming in from the cold will be feeling just as stressed as you about trying to balance the holidays with a big move. But you can soften them up with a few simple tricks—like blasting the heat.

“Keep your house very warm,” suggest Lane Shuler, real estate broker for LeConte Realty. “Don’t try to save a buck by keeping your house below 70. Make your house the most welcoming house a buyer sees on their tour.”

You might even want to use a real fire to upgrade the coziness of your home.

“This is a great time to showcase the house, and a festive theme makes the house a ‘home’ that potential buyers can see themselves in,” says real estate agent Nadia Anac. “If you live in colder climates, turn on the fireplace.”

You should also consider using small lights, candles, and even scented decor to make every room feel like one your buyer doesn’t want to leave.

“Make sure the home smells great,” says Michelle Sloan, a Realtor®. “I love the cinnamon-scented pine cones that can be found in hobby stores. They make a great holiday decoration and make the room smell warm and cozy.”

2. Bring out the figgy pudding

All right, it doesn’t have to be figgy pudding, but your holiday-themed open house should definitely have a few snacks to keep buyers sticking around. Baked goods and festive drinks will help your event feel more like a holiday party, and less like a chore.

“Offer some bubbly,” Sloan suggests. “Small glasses of white, bubbly grape juice or some other festive drink that won’t be too messy to clean up if there are spills.”

“Play upbeat holiday music, and bake some cookies to engage all the senses,” Anac suggests. “Offer hot cocoa so potential buyers will linger longer.”

3. Don’t store presents under the tree

Photo by Marks & Spencer
The only strange guy with access to your presents this year should be Santa Claus—so do your part in eliminating temptation for theft during the open house by keeping presents and valuables out of sight.

Ditto for the genuine crystal tree topper or the heirloom china you inherited from your great-grandmother. We know it comes out only once a year, but this year it’s better off staying in the attic. After all, it isn’t just theft you should be worried about; other accidents can easily happen as well, especially with a house full of people.

“Always put away valuables and breakable items that cannot be replaced,” Sloan says.

4. Be sensitive with your decor

2010 Christmas Decor eclectic
Photo by Mustard Seed Interiors.

See more eclectic spaces designs

The holidays mean different things for everyone. Since you never know who’s going to walk through the door, it’s important to keep your decor festive and fun—not heavy or religious. Translation? Christmas trees are great, but skip the nativity set this year.

“I recommend a pine wreath on the front door, and a few large, red velvet bows tied strategically along the front of the home,” says real estate broker Flavia Berys. “Inside the home, make it nondenominational, using things like snowmen, snowflakes, holly, and candles.”

Be sure that the key focal points in your home look holiday-ready, otherwise your home might seem gloomy.

“If you have a mantel, be sure it’s decorated,” says Benjamin Ross, a Realtor with Mission Real Estate Group. “If the mantel is left plain, it’ll look out of place this time of year—not good for prospective buyers.”

But that doesn’t mean you should go all-out, like the Griswold family.

“Buyers who go to open houses during the holidays are serious about buying,” Anac says. “For a seller who’s going to have an open house during the holidays, it’s important to make the home inviting, but not too distracting with holiday decor—don’t overdo it with lights or lawn decorations.”

The post Hark, the Buyers Sing! 4 Tips to Throw a Rockin’ Holiday-Themed Open House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.