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5 Questions to Ask Before Selling Your Home—and Why Missing Even One Can Cost You Dearly

July 10, 2019

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Selling your house is not as simple as just putting it on the market and waiting for offers from eager buyers to roll in. (Ah, if only…) If you have any hope that your sale will go smoothly, you’ll have to sit down, take a hard look at your house, and ask yourself a few questions.

Though some steps of the home-selling process seem fairly straightforward—find a real estate agent, set a list price, hold a few open houses—there are a number of lesser-known factors that play a big role in whether your house gets sold, and how much you’re going to fetch for it.

To help you enter the home-selling process fully prepared and with your eyes open, here’s a list of five essential questions to ask yourself to get started.

Overlook these things at your own risk!

1. Can I afford to sell my house?

Although you’re going to cash a check when your house gets sold, as the adage goes, it takes money to make money. Some home-selling costs are obvious, like commissions to the listing and buyer’s agents (which typically amount to 5% to 6% of your home’s price), but there are a number of other expenses to take into consideration.

Here are some expenses home sellers often overlook:

  • Professional photographs: About 4 in 10 home buyers start their home search by looking at properties online, according to the National Association of Realtors®. And, no surprise, photos are overwhelmingly viewed first. That may explain why many real estate agents recommend home sellers hire a professional photographer to take their listing photos. While the cost varies by area and the size of your property, you can expect to pay about $500 to $1,000 for professional photos.
  • Landscaping: No doubt, curb appeal is crucial. After all, it’s what gets prospective home buyers in your front door. What many home sellers don’t realize, though, is just how expensive professional landscaping can be. The average cost of a full-on landscaping job—flower beds, plants, trees from scratch—is around $3,228, according to HomeAdvisor. But improving your landscaping can raise your home’s value by up to 12%, according to research from Virginia Tech.
  • Staging: It’s all about presentation. In a recent survey from NAR, about 83% of buyer’s agents said staging a home makes it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home. In addition, staged homes sell, on average, 88% faster and for 20% more than nonstaged homes. Last year the median dollar value spent on home staging was $400, NAR reports, but costs can increase significantly depending on how many rooms you’re staging.
  • Closing costs: Closing costs will likely be your second-biggest expense behind commission fees. You can expect to spend roughly 2% of your home’s sale price, says Keith Gumbinger, vice president at mortgage information resource HSH.com.

2. What do I need to disclose to home buyers?

As much as you want to present your house in the best light, you should also be prepared to disclose some of your home’s flaws, says Rick Davis, a Kansas real estate attorney.

Though disclosure laws vary by state—and even by city—sellers should disclose any known facts about the physical condition of the property, existence of dangerous materials or conditions, lawsuits or pending matters that may affect the value of the property, and any other factors that may influence a buyer’s decision.

“Most sellers think it is in their best interest to disclose as little as possible,” says Davis. “I completely disagree with this sentiment. In the vast majority of cases, disclosing the additional information, especially if it is something that was previously repaired, will not cause a buyer to back out or ask for a price reduction.”

3. Should I hire a home inspector?

Many home buyers will include a home inspection contingency in their offer. But some real estate agents recommend home sellers hire a home inspector to perform what’s called a “pre-inspection,” where a professional inspector scrutinizes your property for problems before it’s even listed.

There are pros and cons, of course, to doing a pre-inspection. One huge advantage is that pre-inspections give sellers the ability to fix problems ahead of time—and present buyers with a clean bill of health on the property. This can be a strong selling point if you have an older house. However, pre-inspections cost money (about $200 to $500 on average), and just because you hired a home inspector doesn’t mean the buyers won’t hire their own—and their results won’t necessarily be the same.

4. Which areas of my home get the most attention?

Even if you don’t have the money to stage your entire house, many home stagers recommend home sellers, at the very least, stage their house’s living room, kitchen, and master bedroom, since home buyers focus on those areas. Also don’t forget about your home’s entryway.

According to the “Psychology of House Hunting” report by BMO Financial Group, 80% of prospective buyers know if a home is right for them within seconds of stepping inside. Therefore, you’ll want to spruce up the area they’ll see in that time frame—namely, your foyer.

Most important, make sure the foyer is decluttered.

“It can be a challenge to keep this area tidy since that’s where homeowners put their mail, keys, coats, shoes, dog leashes, and other items,” says Sissy Lappin, a real estate broker in Houston.

Pro tip: Containers are key for keeping this mess under control. Use baskets or racks for shoes, bowls for keys and change. Also, be sure to stash any seldom-used items elsewhere.

Another room home sellers make the mistake of overlooking: the garage. In fact, a recent realtor.com® survey found that 32% of home buyers said the garage is one of the most important rooms in a house! Thus, it may make sense to jazz up the space, like by adding storage space or even a fresh coat of paint.

5. What do I have to leave behind when my house is sold?

While it’s ultimately your decision what house items you leave behind for the home buyer, there are rules governing what things convey with your property.

“The law says that anything bolted to the wall or ceiling goes to the buyer unless specifically excluded in the contract,” says Avery Boyce, a real estate agent with Compass Real Estate in Washington, DC. “If you want to take your flat-screen TV, chandelier, or custom pot rack, be sure to label it as soon as the house goes on the market, so that buyers don’t bank on owning that item and wind up disappointed.”

The post 5 Questions to Ask Before Selling Your Home—and Why Missing Even One Can Cost You Dearly appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

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

July 10, 2019

Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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

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

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

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

What are the benefits of selling a furnished home?

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

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

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

What are the disadvantages of selling a furnished home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will selling my home furnished affect my asking price?

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

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

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

Is my furniture good enough to attract buyers?

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

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

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

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

Should You Sell Your Home As Is, or Spring for a Renovation? Here’s How to Decide

July 3, 2019

sturti/iStock; realtor.com

When you decide to sell a house that desperately needs updating, you basically have two choices: Sell it as is—in its current condition without improvements—or make upgrades in the hope of reaping bigger bucks down the line.

While renovating your property will inevitably sell your home faster and for more money, listing your property as is has its perks, too—including not having to fork over lots of cash for major improvements you won’t get to enjoy, and not dealing with the headaches of those improvements.

Deciding what to do can be overwhelming, but we’re here to break it down for you. If want to unload your property pronto and for maximum cash, here are some things to keep in mind.

Out of house often means out of mind

If you’ve already purchased another home and have one foot dangling out the door, things can get challenging. Between work and family obligations—plus dreaming about decorating your soon-to-be new home—chances are you won’t have the time or energy to reimagine your old one.

If you’re set on upgrading your old home to get top dollar, you’ll want to find the right professional to guide you through the process, says Eric Stewart, a Realtor® with Eric Stewart Group of Long & Foster Realtors.

“Unless you find a real estate agent whose experience you can trust, someone who has a very good track record preparing homes and understands how to do the work, you’re often better off to sell the property as is, so that you don’t get involved in chasing the market,” Stewart says.

Assess the potential workload, time, and money it’ll take to upgrade

Get an expert opinion—or better yet, several opinions—regarding how much updating and repair work would be required to boost the home’s bottom line: Does the place just need a good scrub, or an entirely new kitchen and three new bathrooms? And more importantly, do you have the cash, the time, and the patience to see the project through?

“It’s all about whether people want to deal with renovations or not,” says Paul Morse, a licensed contractor and owner of Paul’s Carpentry Workshop in Stoneham, MA.

Morse, who’s worked for several clients who wanted to spruce up a neglected home prior to listing it, suggests that sellers should identify three projects that need doing, and then consult their agent to crunch the numbers.

“Sellers should ask what their return would be if they fixed the bathroom and kitchen, for example, versus what the investment would be,” he says. “Then, get three prices from three qualified local contractors.”

And don’t forget to factor in the cost of owning the home during major renovations. Depending on how extensive your revamp is, you might need to find temporary housing while your property is being gutted, so add that fee to your bottom line.

Take your location—and the market—into account

If your home sits on a great lot in a sought-after loascation, buyers—especially investors—might line up in droves. When the land is more valuable than the structure sitting on it, you might be better off selling the property as is, Stewart says—there’s little point revamping a house that will probably be torn down as soon as the ink on the purchase agreement is dry.

Stewart recalls a recent listing priced at $650,000 in a hot market.

“We sold it as is for $655,000, and the seller was able to leave everything they didn’t want in the house, lock the door, and say goodbye, which provided tremendous freedom for them,” he says. “The work they would have had to do would never have got them the return they got by doing nothing.”

‘As is’ doesn’t mean ‘falling down’

Of course, doing some inexpensive repairs often helps sell your home faster, notes Lynn Pineda, a Realtor with eXp Realty in Southeast Florida.

“Even when buyers say, ‘I’m going to sell my home as is,’ that doesn’t mean you have to present your home in shoddy light to a buyer; you still need to prepare it and make it look good,” she says. “Otherwise, you will sell for less money, or the house will sit on the market and you’ll lose money in the long run.”

If you just want to do the bare minimum and are willing to shell out a few thousand dollars, Morse suggests painting the entire home and resanding hardwood floors, if there are any. These upgrades would take about a month to do, but will make a huge difference in listing photos.

Selling your home as is won’t stop buyers from trying to negotiate

A house that hasn’t been updated in years—or even decades—often attracts builders or investors looking to gut or tear everything down and construct a new home. These “fix and flip” buyers always want to maximize their profit, Stewart says, and might try to haggle down the purchase price.

Find a real estate professional who can help you maximize your profits; look for one who’s had considerable success selling homes like yours, in your specific area of town. Some good questions to ask include how long comparable properties have stayed on the market before selling, what kinds of houses are selling fast and what condition they’re in, and which neighborhoods are most desirable.

Together, you can weigh what your home’s worth—and negotiate a better bottom line.

The post Should You Sell Your Home As Is, or Spring for a Renovation? Here’s How to Decide appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Make Buyers Swoon With These 4 Summer Vignette Staging Ideas

July 3, 2019

KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock

Picture walking into your dream house and being greeted by inviting scenes of summer relaxation throughout. Maybe there’s a short stack of beach reads next to the pool, or a pitcher laid out with chilled glasses, all ready for you.

This is what vignette staging is all about: drawing in buyers with curated scenes that showcase your home’s top features. It’s even better if they evoke the mood of the season.

So if you’re looking to sell your house quickly this summer, keep reading to master these four fresh vignettes that are guaranteed to make buyers swoon.

1. A dreamy front porch


Photo by Houzz  
“Nothing says ‘welcome home’ like a well-designed front porch,” says Seattle-based interior designer Sherri Monte. “Whether it’s a hanging swing with accent pillows and throw blankets, or a pair of rocking chairs with a side table in between, a good first impression starts at the front door.”

Go the extra mile by adding several magazines or books with a decorative coffee mug or wineglass. Monte even suggests adding a small rug or accent greenery to complete the look.

“Vignettes work because they create a story in the buyer’s mind,” says Justin Riordan, interior designer and founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency.

Just by looking at your front porch vignette, potential buyers might imagine a summer afternoon relaxing in a rocking chair, or watching their children or grandchildren play in the yard.

“The story may or may not be true,” Riordan says, “but if we, as the seller, can make them feel desire for the type of lifestyle they crave, then we’ve done our job.”

2. An enticing entryway


Photo by JayJeffers
As the second space your buyer sees, the entryway is arguably just as important to focus on when selling your home. To ease buyers into the summer vibes, try pairing a large vase with freshly cut flowers on an entryway table.

“A tall vase, one that adds whimsical personality and maintains a transitional style with greenery, will create a light and airy vibe,” Monte explains.

Add a few soft-scented candles and a linen tea towel. Remember to limit the number of objects in your vignettes to avoid the scenes becoming overcrowded.

“Layer in tones and elements found outside during the summer, but don’t be afraid to leave a little breathing room,” Monte says. “Repeating colors and elements that we see outside is a great way to subconsciously create continuity.”

3. A fresh, breezy kitchen


Photo by Lowe’s Home Improvement 
Everyone loves a clean, fresh-feeling kitchen. So go ahead and throw open a few windows before the buyers arrive.

But don’t stop there. Summer is easily the best time of year to use colorful produce to your advantage—and not just while cooking. The next time you visit your local farmers market, make a plan to pick up a few extra-bright veggies or fruits for display in your favorite bowl.

Forgo the freshly cut flowers in favor of a small potted plant, something fragrant—like rosemary or basil. Place these items on a wooden cutting board or textured mat with folded cloth napkins to complete your countertop vignette.

Another great kitchen vignette is what Riordan likes to call “the drink setup,” which consists of an empty pitcher and six empty glasses on a tray with cloth napkins.

“This can be placed on a kitchen counter, and it speaks to having guests over on the front porch and preparing to have drinks brought out to them,” Riordan says.

A word of caution: “Do not—and I repeat, do not—fill the pitcher with liquid or fake liquid,” he says. “It takes the gentle whisper of the vignette and turns it into a desperate scream of fakery.” When it comes to vignettes, subtle is best.

4. The perfect backyard


Photo by Smith & Vansant Architects PC
If you have any outdoor space to speak of, you’d do well to consider throwing in an outdoor vignette or two.

“If your outdoor space has room for a dining table, why not set that table with a gingham tablecloth, picnic basket, and a set of outdoor dishes?” Riordan says.

For vignettes like these, stick to a single color scheme.

“If every outdoor vignette has multiple colors, it will appear chaotic in listing photos,” he says.

Another simple summertime vignette can be built around a hammock. String one up between two trees and add a pillow and a light blanket.

“Suddenly your buyer has a great place to read and relax,” Riordan says.

The final word

No matter which spaces you decide to stage, it’s good to have a central object and build your vignettes from there. A fire pit, for example, might call for some stacked wood, a lantern, and a cozy flannel blanket. The pool might do well with a lounge chair and a folded beach towel paired with a large brimmed hat.

Having a focal point keeps things from getting too chaotic.

“Vignettes are designed to be a bite-sized section of the overall home, so you want them to create cohesion and harmony,” Monte says.

Keep these guidelines in mind as you create the dreamy summer home your buyers can’t wait to get their hands on.

The post Make Buyers Swoon With These 4 Summer Vignette Staging Ideas appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Should You Sell Your Home—or Rent It Out? 4 Times to Hang On Tight

July 1, 2019

KentWeakley/iStock; realtor.com

While many homeowners reach a point where they decide to sell their place, here’s an alternative I’m considering for my own home: Rather than sell, I may rent it out instead.

When I bought my condo three years ago, I knew it was only a starter home. My one-bedroom, two-bath condo was the perfect space for me at the time, but I knew that as I got older, got married, and started a family, I’d need to move up, and out.

For a long time, I assumed I would just sell my current house, but it has since come to my attention that it could be smarter to hang on to this property instead. Here are four times renting out your house might make more sense than selling it—take a look to figure out whether it might make sense for you, too.

rental
My first home—and perhaps my first rental property

Jillian Pretzel

1. You don’t need to sell your house to buy your next one

“The first thing you need to ask yourself is ‘Do I need to sell this house because I need the money for something else?’” says Emily White, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty.

Many homeowners sell their current house to finance their next home, but this isn’t the case for everyone. Maybe you paid off your old house long ago, and you have the funds upfront to get a new mortgage. Or, maybe you’re planning on renting your next place and you don’t need a lump sum from your home sale for a down payment.

If you don’t need to sell your house to get into your next one, you might consider renting it out for a while so you can enjoy some passive income—then sell later when the time feels right.

2. You’re able to qualify for a second mortgage

Even if you don’t need to sell your current home to buy your next, the question remains: Can you qualify for a second mortgage?

After all, when you apply, lenders will consider any standing mortgages in your application, and if your debt-to-income ratio is pushing the limits, you might have no choice but to sell before you buy your next place.

Not sure where you stand? One way to gauge that is to seek mortgage pre-approval, where you meet with a lender who then crunches the numbers on your finances to see how much you can afford to borrow.

3. It’s a bad time to sell your house in terms of the market

Another bonus to renting rather than selling? It can give you the opportunity to be strategic with the timing of your sale, which is important because if you list your house at the wrong time, you could be risking big money.

If you haven’t been in the house very long (so the investment hasn’t had time to appreciate) or if the market isn’t good when you decide to sell, you might not be making the profit you could be getting if you wait for a better time.

To find out if you’ll make money off the sale if you list your house now, check out the value estimate of your home and find out what comparable houses in your area have been selling for. Of course, home estimates and comp prices are no guarantee of what your house is worth, but they will help you get an idea of what ballpark figure you’re looking at.

Then, calculate how much it will cost to sell the house—you’ll want to factor in repair fees, lawyer fees, plus the fee for a real estate agent—and see how much of a profit you’ll actually make on the house. If you won’t be making much, or if you come out at a loss, you might consider renting it out for a while instead.

“The good thing about renting out your place is that, in some regard, you can time the market to see when the best time to sell would be,” says White.

Renting it out for a year and taking a look at the market and your home value later could make this waiting game pay off.

4. Your house is in a good renter’s area, and renter-ready

If you’re in a big city where lots of people rent, or near a university where plenty of students are looking for off-campus housing, you could make a good amount of money renting out your place. So much of real estate is about supply and demand, so if there’s a big market, your home could be a great cash cow for years to come.

Next, ask yourself if your home would be attractive to renters. Some features could make your home especially valuable as a rental property, while those interested in buying may have different needs.

For example: While a buyer may want some good outdoor space and won’t mind mowing a lawn, renters might prefer a condo with a simple patio so they don’t have to worry about upkeep. While buyers might be OK with doing some updates and personalizations (after all, they’re probably planning on being there for a while), renters prefer a turnkey home.

Even furniture could be a big factor. While buyers are likely going to come in with their own stuff, some renters might pay extra for a fully or partly furnished home.

The post Should You Sell Your Home—or Rent It Out? 4 Times to Hang On Tight appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

What Really Happens When You Sell Your House for More Than You Owe on a Loan

June 26, 2019

turk_stock_photographer/iStock

What happens if you sell your house for more than you owe on your loan? If you find yourself asking this question, congratulations are most likely in order. Selling a house for more than the value of your mortgage often means you’ll walk away with a nice profit.

But not always. Sometimes, even if a home’s sales price is higher than the mortgage amount owed, a seller may not see a dime—or may even owe money at the closing table instead! Here’s how to figure out if you’re going to make or lose money when you sell your house.

Where your profits go when you close the deal

During your home closing—the final leg of the sales process where you swap your house keys for a check—there’s traditionally a go-between who handles transferring funds from buyer to seller. That might be an escrow company, a real estate agent or attorney, or a title company, depending on where you live, but they’re the ones who will take the buyer’s money (usually a check from the lender) and use it to pay off the seller’s mortgage, says Bryan Zuetel, managing broker of Esquire Real Estate and the managing attorney of Zuetel Law Group, in Pasadena, CA.

Yet that check doesn’t just go straight into a seller’s pocket. Many other parties must be paid off first. Here are a few costs that may eat up your profits.

Real estate agent commissions

First up, the seller’s real estate agent has to be paid a commission—as well as the buyer’s agent, if the buyer had one, says Robert Berliner Jr., a real estate attorney with the Berliner Group, in Chicago.

The typical commission for a seller’s agent is around 5% to 6% of the sales price of the house, although just how much your real estate agent gets will be outlined in the listing agreement—the document you signed when you hired the agent to sell your house.

Traditionally, the title company, escrow company, or lawyer handling your closing will cut a check directly to your listing agent, Berliner says. This agent will split this with the buyer’s agent who helped secure the deal.

If for some reason there isn’t enough money left over from the sale to pay your agent, you’ll need to be ready to write a check at closing to make up the difference.

We know: It’s a downer to write a check on the day you sell your home, but it happens if housing prices have dipped since you bought the place. Comfort yourself with the thought that you might be getting out before suffering more serious losses.

Closing costs

The buyer typically pays most closing costs, but sellers often face some closing costs, too. These fees can amount to as much as 1% to 3% of the purchase price of the house. Everything from recording fees to title insurance premiums can come out of the sales price of the house—aka the money the buyer pays to the seller—as part of closing.

And you guessed it, these fees will be paid during the process, so they’ll come right out of the money left over after you pay off your mortgage.

Property taxes

After the agents get their cut and the closing fees are settled, any taxes you owe on the property will be levied. In many states, taxes are paid a year in arrears, Berliner says. In other words, the real estate taxes paid in 2019 are actually the taxes on the property for the year 2018. Your buyer isn’t responsible for taking on the taxes for the time you owned the property—which means you may have to pay up.

Some states also levy a transfer tax when property is sold, which falls on the seller to pay out of the price of the home.

Just how much you’re facing can vary greatly depending on where you live, Zuetel says, but you can expect costs roughly from $50 to $225.

Anything left? It’s yours!

After your loan is paid, the agents get paid, and any fees or taxes are settled, if there’s money left over, you get to keep the balance. Congratulations! The money can be paid by check or wired straight into your account.

To see just how much you’re expected to net, you can ask your closing attorney, escrow officer, or even the title company for a draft settlement statement before closing. This document details all of the closing costs, real estate commissions, fees, and taxes that will come out of the sales price of the home.

The post What Really Happens When You Sell Your House for More Than You Owe on a Loan appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Selling a Home Out of State: 5 Secrets for Streamlining a Sticky Situation

June 26, 2019

Selling a Home Out of State: 5 Secrets for Streamlining a Sticky Situation

iStock; realtor.com

In a perfect world, buying a new home and selling the old one would happen at the same time. But in the real world (especially when job and school schedules are involved), you might be in your new dream home and still have a house several states over that needs to be sold. Take it from us: Selling a home from out of state can be tough, especially as you’re trying to unpack your new place, get the feel of a new job, and settle into a new routine.

In order to get through it and make a successful sale, you’re going to need an all-star team back at the old homefront. Here, we’ll cover how to guarantee they can get the job done. We’ll also walk you through some things you can do to minimize the back-and-forth—so that your local team can wrap up your old life while you focus on building a new one.

1. Hire a real estate agent who can handle the distance

Your former city probably has a lot of qualified real estate agents to choose from, but you should be especially particular when hiring someone to handle an out-of-state sale. Your listing agent should be experienced in coordinating with clients remotely, and able to make a fast sale on your home so that it doesn’t just sit on the market.

“My best advice for this is to choose the Realtor® who has done the most sales in the past year,” says Avery Carl, a Realtor® in Nashville, TN.

And you should get into the semantics here: “A lot of sellers look for the agent who’s listed the most properties,” she says, “but finding the agent who has done the most buyer-side sales is a hidden gem—they’ll have a ton of buyer contacts and can get your listing sold the fastest.”

You should also make sure your listing agent is someone you can trust to be responsive—who will keep you up to date on what’s happening and will respond to your emails and voicemails at lightning speed. After all, that’s the only way you’ll know what’s happening with your property.

“Since most of the communication will be over the phone and through text or email, you want to get a feel for their personality,” explains Nadia Anac, a real estate agent in Tampa, FL. “A real estate agent should be able to keep you up to date with any changes in the market, recommend contractors, and communicate with you frequently.”

2. Work with a stager to get the home sold faster

DIY staging is going to be hard to pull off from a distance, especially when all of your furniture is already in the new house.

“A little face-lift from a hired interior designer or the broker can really make a huge difference on selling this home while you’re out of state and unable to do it yourself,” says Lior Rachmany, founder and CEO of New York City–based Dumbo Moving & Storage.

By working with a stager (ideally one your agent recommends), your home won’t look like it was recently abandoned—a vibe that could turn off buyers.

3. Make sure you can close on the sale from out of state

Amid the chaos of buying a new home and selling another, you probably didn’t take the time to consider how closing on your former house would affect you. Since a lot of attorneys require you to be present at the table during closing, this is a good piece of logistics to work out in advance.

If you live close enough to go in person, that’s fine. But if you’re looking at a $600 plane ticket and a boatload of inconvenience, it’s a good idea to find someone more flexible to work with.

“When you sell a house out of state, pick a flexible closing attorney or title company,” says Shawn Breyer, owner of Georgia’s Breyer Home Buyers. “When you’re vetting the companies you are going to close with, ask them if you can sign the closing documents with a local notary present. If the buyer’s lender or your Realtor is choosing, have them make sure that you can close from out of state.”

To learn more about remote closings, check out our handy guide.

4. Make sure your team has what it needs—and members know one another

Avoid unnecessary back-and-forth during the sale by making sure your team has all the paperwork and documents it’ll need throughout the process. And make sure team members are aware of one another, so that they know how to communicate without going through you.

“Be sure to hire a broker and a real estate lawyer while you’re in town so you can walk them through your property, give them your deed, etc., and make sure all involved parties have each other’s contact information,” advises New York City–based real estate agent Daniele Kurzweil. “When you’re selling from out of state, you should have your game plan set from the beginning.”

5. Relinquish control

Once you’ve hired an all-star team, it’s time to sit back and let it handle the sale. Easier said than done, we know. But being as far away as you are, it’s going to be fairly difficult for you to do much else.

“Surround yourself with a team you trust and let them do the heavy lifting,” Kurzweil says. “Listen to their advice. They’re on the front lines every day with your property.”

The post Selling a Home Out of State: 5 Secrets for Streamlining a Sticky Situation appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: An Urban Victorian Gets a Modern Makeover

June 25, 2019

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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 pics highlight the home’s best assets.

Before undergoing a massive renovation, a 4-bed, 4.5-bath Victorian home in San Francisco was full of that Old World charm some buyers crave—but it was also outdated and full of tiny, enclosed spaces. So when it was purchased in 2017, the new owners made logical changes to the floor plan and brought this 3,000-square-foot stunner up to date.

All that hard work paid off, because just two years later, they sold, for a $1.6 million profit. Pretty impressive, right?

So how did they pull it off—and how can you bring those same lessons to your property? We went straight to the experts to find out what they did right, and why. Here’s what they had to say.

Before: Kitchen

kitchen_before
The old kitchen was small and outdated.

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After: Kitchen

kitchen_after
After renovations, it’s open, bright, and functional.

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No matter how much you love old houses, you have to admit that this kitchen needed a lot of love.

“Opening up the kitchen and installing wide plank floors immediately upgrades this space from an outdated, dysfunctional area to one where anyone would love to entertain guests,” says interior designer Lauren Visco. “Now there’s a workable kitchen triangle with all of the appliances and prep area concentrated together.” Visco was also impressed by the dual-tone cabinetry and says it subtly shows the owners’ playful side while keeping a sophisticated, neutral palette.

“The countertops have also been modernized to look more contemporary,” adds designer Kobi Karp, principal at Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design. “Decorative elements such as plants and vases were also added, bringing a little bit of vibrancy into the kitchen area as well.”

Designer Paul Andrés Trudel-Payne, founder and director of Casa Consult and Design, calls this kitchen “Fresh, clean, light, and bold without being abrasive. This makes cooking and eating in the space a true experience.”

Before: Living and dining rooms

living and dining_before
The fireplace is charming, but disturbs the flow between the living and dining rooms.

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After: Living and dining rooms

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These rooms are now a cohesive, functional space.

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It’s a natural reaction to mourn the loss of the fireplace and built-in shelves, but you have to admit that the result—a seamless cohesion between the living room and dining room—was worth the loss.

“The overuse of trims and the dark wooden floor in the ‘before’ photo created a claustrophobic environment. I’m glad they got rid of that,” Karp says. “By replacing this with a lighter, softer-colored wood, and adding a decorated carpet to the living room, the area is instantly more contemporary.”

Visco says the two rooms now flow much better. “With the demolition of the white overhead beam and molding separating the two spaces, the living and dining blend together now,” she says.

“Taking out the archway really has helped the room breathe a sigh of relief,” says Trudel-Payne. “Opening it up like this provides a higher sight line, making the room look so much bigger.”

Before: Bathroom

bathroom_before
The pre-renovation bathroom was a mess.

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After: Bathroom

bathroom_after
This modern bathroom is completely transformed.

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Vintage tiles may be in, but this bathroom was a fixer-upper if we’ve ever seen one.

“The bathroom was littered with out-of-date tiles, covering the bottom half of the walls,” says Karp. “The homeowners were smart to take out the tiles and add a coat of a white paint to make the bathroom appear more spacious.”

“This newly renovated bathroom is timeless and truly maximizes the space, with a built-in shower and a clean floating vanity, offering plenty of counter space and storage,” says Levi Austin, chief designer of Levi Austin Design. “The oversized mirror beautifully reflects the stone tiles and natural lighting in the space.”

Before: Staircase

staircase_before
The old staircase was small and compact.

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After: Staircase

staircase_after
After renovations, this space is sleek and airy.

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As you’ll see in the “before” photo, the previous owners tried to lighten up the old staircase with a coat of white paint, but it still looks clunky and compact. Check out its amazing transformation into a modernist staircase with glass panels. “You will never go wrong updating a staircase with glass, metal, and wood plank flooring. It’s the perfect balance of rustic and modern and works great with so many different types of decor styles,” says Trudel-Payne.

And it’s not just the architectural updates that make an impression in this area. “Decorative elements, such as a vase of flowers and modern art hanging from the walls, give the space a sense of lifestyle,” explains Karp. It’s now a section of the house worth gawking at.

Before: Backyard

backyard_before
The old backyard was not inviting.

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After: Backyard

Backyard_after
After renovations, this backyard is a perfect entertaining space.

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Lava rocks are an odd choice for ground cover in the backyard—they’re not exactly pleasant to walk on! The old yard did not immediately suggest a place where family and friends would love to gather. But the sellers fixed that problem by adding a wooden deck, an outdoor rug, and plenty of cozy furniture.

“I love the way they increased the overall living and dining space with the addition of folding glass walls,” says Visco. “This allows a free flow between the interior and exterior landscape. Smoothed, plastered walls, sleek glass railings, and inky wicker furnishings lend a cool, modern aesthetic that appears balanced against the warm wood floors and rustic siding.”

Notice the extension of the house, which added a bonus room with a wet bar and additional seating. “This expertly designed backyard was done perfectly—to every last detail,” says Austin.

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: An Urban Victorian Gets a Modern Makeover appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

How Much Does Home Staging Cost—and How Much Will You Gain?

June 25, 2019

Home staging

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Home staging—where you decorate your house in an effort to entice buyers to bite—may seem counterintuitive at first blush: Why spend money on real estate if you’re moving out? Simple answer: because home staging can get you more money for your home sale.

If your real estate agent has suggested staging, it’s because evidence shows staging real estate is usually well worth the effort. On average, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more than nonstaged homes, which is nothing to sneeze at. But just how much does home staging really cost? Here’s the scoop, so you can decide if paying a professional stager is worth the investment for you.

How much will staging a home cost?

File this one under “obvious”—but the pricier the staged home, the higher the potential home staging costs. As a general rule of thumb, the average cost for most stagers is $300 to $600 for an initial design consultation, and $500 to $600 per month per staged room.

“Therefore, staging a 2,000-square-foot home would cost around $2,000 to $2,400 a month,” explains real estate professional Crystal Leigh Hemphill. Most professional home stagers also require a three-month minimum staging contract, “even if you sell the home in 24 hours.” That could bring your final staging bill to $7,200.

Home staging might sound expensive, but if you own a vacant home, for example, you’re already paying lots of bills every month that your unstaged house sits empty. If a home stager can help buyers envision how fabulous your living room looks with a little classy furniture and tasteful decor, the costs of home staging may be some of the best money you have ever spent.

What can make staging cost more?

Most home stagers work with the knickknacks and art that the homeowner already owns. But sometimes home stagers “need to purchase new accessories, fresh towels, flowers, and/or fruit, as these small touches make a big difference,” says Sheila Schostok with Your Home Matters Staging and Redesign, which serves Chicago and southeastern Wisconsin. This is especially true with a vacant house. The stagers’ new purchases will add to the overall cost of the project.

The layout of your home could also add a cha-ching to the home staging costs. Home stagers often use lightweight versions of basic furniture pieces. However, a home staging job that requires heavy lifting in a multistory house still usually means hiring additional help to move furniture, says Schostok.

And if you’re listing a vacant home because you’ve already moved out, you’re looking at home staging costs that include rental fees for every stick of furniture and all furnishing and decor items from a stager.

Conversely, if you inherited a ton of antiques (or have a One King’s Lane addiction), the stager may recommend you declutter by putting excess knickknacks into storage, tacking that monthly rental onto your overall staging costs. Staging services may also suggest that sellers declutter and depersonalize the home by removing unusual, religious or political, and personal items, so home buyers can more easily envision themselves living in the home.

A final expense, an important one that can help ensure staging success, is the price of painting a room. A fresh coat in a 12-by-12-foot room will cost a DIYer around $200, or $400 to $700 if left to the pros.

How to save on the cost of home staging

You don’t have to pay a home stager to transform the decor of your entire house from basement laundry room to attic storage.

“A great way to save money when staging is by only focusing on the main areas of a home,” says Schostok.

These are the rooms potential buyers would spend the most time in—the kitchen, living room, dining room, and master bedroom. You’ll also want to pay attention to what the buyers see when they first step in the front door. That first impression, whether it be a bare, unstaged home or an inviting, perfectly staged one, can make the difference in whether they decide to buy and how much they are willing to pay for your house.

Another cost-saving home staging option is to limit yourself to an initial consultation with a home stager, instead of full-service staging. When Schostok does a home staging walk-through with the homeowner, offering home staging tips to maximize the potential for each room, “the price is far less, $125 for 90 minutes.”

You may want to ask your real estate agent if she thinks your home would benefit from home staging. Your agent may also recommend a home staging service or even offer other cost-saving tips besides staging, based on her experience showing real estate to buyers. For example, your agent may recommend that you start by decluttering your home yourself, or spend the money on a specific home improvement task, instead of hiring a professional stager, depending on her own first-time impression of your home.

The biggest cost savings for home sellers who use home staging? Selling their home faster, at a better price, and without months of carrying costs—because their house was properly staged and buyer-ready.

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Watch: How to Stage Your Home Like a Pro

The post How Much Does Home Staging Cost—and How Much Will You Gain? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Sleep On It: Why Letting Buyers Spend the Night Could Pay Off Big for Sellers

June 20, 2019

Nattakorn Maneerat/iStock

For most buyers, thoroughly vetting a house includes opening every cabinet, driving by the neighborhood at different times of the day and night, and getting a thorough home inspection. But if a buyer close to making an offer asked to spend the night in your house, would you accommodate the request?

Well, maybe you should. Although extreme, this “try before you buy” approach can show some positive results.

The idea first took shape among buyers considering planned communities and luxury properties.

Bob Kanjian, director of sales at AV Homes, says the two 55-plus communities he sells properties in give prospective buyers the opportunity to pay a reasonable rate to stay a few nights and test-drive the community. And it works: A third of the people who participate in the sleepover showings end up purchasing a home in the community, a rate three times higher than potential buyers who don’t spend the night.

Sellers of luxury properties have also been known to cater to genuine buyers who request an overnight stay.

“On the rare occasions that I do see a request for an extended showing, the situation often involves a very high-end property and an international buyer who is trying to get a feel for the entire community as much as the home,” says Bruce Elliott, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association.

Part of the reason it’s relatively rare is that there are significant liability issues involved.

“With any type of sleepover showing, it’s advisable to prescreen buyers to ensure they have the financial wherewithal to purchase the property, to ensure the appropriate insurance policies are in place, and to have both parties sign a protective waiver,” Elliott says.

Still, should you get your place ready for a serious-buyer sleepover? Let’s weigh the pros and cons for the everyday seller.

Why sellers should consider sleepover showings

There are a number of things buyers can learn from spending 24 hours in a property that they wouldn’t pick up on during the day. An overnight stay would allow them to test-drive all of the amenities in your home—from the dishwasher to the rain shower in the master bath.

Concerns about night noise from roads, neighbors, or other potential sleep disruptions nearby could all be addressed during an overnight stay.

An extended showing would also allow the buyers to check out not just the home itself but also the community at large. Potential buyers could walk to a nearby park, explore the local restaurants and cafes, and experience the morning traffic.

Disadvantages of a sleepover showing

Unless there is some pressing concern that can’t be addressed in any other way, sellers may balk at a buyer’s request for an extended showing of their home. It can be a hassle to prepare the home for strangers (e.g., stashing your valuables and cleaning everything) and find a place for them to stay the night.

Allowing potential buyers to occupy your place will also cut into the number of days the home is on the market. And the more time your listing spends on the market, the less desirable it looks to typical buyers.

“Days on market is key. If you allow someone to spend the night for 24 or 48 hours, you’re limiting the exposure to other buyers,” says Dillar Schwartz, a Realtor in Austin, TX.

How do you make a sleepover showing work in your favor?

You don’t want to let just anyone spend the night in your home, so how do you make sure the test drive goes as smooth as possible?

According to Elliott, potential buyers should prove that they are serious about buying your home and have no problem signing a waiver that protects you from any liability. It’s also reasonable to ask the buyer to pay a deposit to cover potential damages.

If you’d prefer buyers to pay for their stay, the local Airbnb or VRBO rates can help you determine a reasonable price per night. Even better, if your sellers have been an Airbnb host in the past, they might be willing to go through the service again to rent you their home for a night.

Since sleepover showings are a relatively new thing, there is not really a standard procedure for setting one up. The details all depend on your comfort level, the advice of your lawyer or real estate agent about liability issues, and how far you’re willing to go to cater to a buyer.

Still, buyers make unusual requests all the time. If a sleepover is the only way to put an earnest buyer’s mind at ease, it might be worth it to put fresh sheets on the master bed and allow the sleepover in your home.

The post Sleep On It: Why Letting Buyers Spend the Night Could Pay Off Big for Sellers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.