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The One Thing Home Sellers Forget to Hide Before an Open House

November 5, 2019


When getting ready to sell your house, there’s a lot to worry about—home staging, repairs, keeping rooms tidy for home tours, and more. But there’s also one important thing that many sellers forget to do: hide their prescription drugs.

Sorry to break it to you, but some “buyers” touring your home might just be rooting around for valuables, and you might be surprised by which medications fit the bill.

Here’s what sellers need to know about the risks of prescription drugs at open houses, and how to keep all of their belongings safe.

Which drugs to hide during an open house

When preparing for an open house, plenty of homeowners put away their expensive jewelry, electronics, and checkbooks. But prescription drugs often get overlooked since they’re generally tucked away in medicine cabinets and drawers.

Although the painkiller OxyContin may be the most commonly abused prescription drug (and at highest risk for theft), also high on the list are attention deficit disorder medications like Concerta and Adderall, depression and anxiety medications like Zoloft and Xanax, and sleep aids like Ambien.

Plus, prescriptions aren’t the only drugs that could get swiped for recreational use. For example, over-the-counter cough suppressants (e.g., NyQuil) can be abused by being mixed with alcohol or other drugs. And sinus medications containing pseudoephedrine, like Sudafed, can be used to make meth. Even the heartburn medication Prilosec has been known to be abused due to the euphoric effect it has when taken with methadone.

Make sure these, and all other medications, are removed from your medicine cabinet. Even if a medication seems innocuous, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

How to keep your belongings safe

If you’re getting ready to show your home, walk around the house thinking like a stranger. What’s easy to pick up? What might be easy to sell? This is a great guideline for medications, but also for hiding any valuables in your home. Think about wine, perfume bottles, expensive lotions, even your designer tie collection.

Since it can be hard to know what thieves are looking for, try walking around the house with a real estate agent to make sure you’ve noticed everything. Make sure you don’t leave your checkbook in an unlocked drawer; and hide your laptop, tablet, and cellphone.

The safe way to discard old pills

After a good sweep of your medicine cabinet, you might find yourself with a few bottles of pills you don’t need anymore. While your instinct might be to simply trash them before an open house, there’s a better way to dispose of them.

Many homeowners are making use of Deterra bags, and other drug-deactivation systems, to safely dispose of medications. Deterra bags work by using an activated carbon pod, which, when mixed with warm water, absorbs the active ingredients in pills, patches, and liquids, rendering the drugs inactive.

“We’re giving them to agents to give to homeowners when they’re buying or selling homes,” says former Nevada Realtors president Heidi Kasama, a supporter of RALI, the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative.

According to Nevada Business, RALI partners are distributing 500,000 pouches to residents of Nevada. Many other supporters of the initiative have had the opportunity to pass them out as well.

If you don’t have access to a drug-deactivation bag, there are other ways to dispose of your unused medications. Drugs can be flushed down the toilet, but only if they are on the FDA’s flush list. If they are not on the list, the FDA recommends mixing the drugs with an unappealing substance like cat litter or dirt, putting the mixture in a sealed plastic bag, and throwing it away in the trash.

The FDA also states that it’s important to make sure you scratch out the information (like your name and what drug you were prescribed) on the prescription bottle.

If flushing and throwing medications away are not possible, you can always turn unused drugs into your nearest drug take-back location.

Why ‘hidden’ isn’t always ‘safe’

Once you’ve found everything of value, you may be wondering what to do with it. Your first instinct might be to hide valuables in a closet or in a drawer, but buyers often look in closets (to see how much storage space there is) and they can easily open drawers.

“When I tell owners to put valuables away, I recommend to not hide them in some obvious place, but put some thought into it, or put items in a safe,” Kasama says.

But if you don’t have a safe, you might consider locking valuables in a desk drawer, buying a large (and heavy) trunk with a lock to store your valuables, or even putting them in the trunk of your car. If you have friends or family you trust living nearby, you might even ask if you can store a few boxes of your most precious items there.

Ask your real estate agent to keep an eye on buyers

Even if you think you’ve cleared out all your valuables, it’s still important to watch potential buyers in your house.

Of course, most of the time, the homeowner will be away when the house is being shown, so make sure your real estate agent is keeping an eye out for you.

Allison Jung, a real estate agent in Las Vegas, says she finds power in numbers when it comes to preventing theft in open houses.

“I have another agent, escrow or lender partner attend the open house with me,” Jung explains. “That way we can station ourselves in different parts of the house to keep an eye on things.”

Kasama says she’s always on the lookout for suspicious activity.

“We had a showing once, and four people came in,” she recalls. “They immediately split up and took off in two directions and didn’t seem to want to listen to anything about the house. A big red flag. We called after them and said they had to all stay together and we would tour them through the house. They left very shortly after that, which tells me they were not there to look at the house.”

The post The One Thing Home Sellers Forget to Hide Before an Open House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

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

July 1, 2019


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.

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 |®.

‘The Best Home-Selling Advice I’ve Heard, Ever’

April 24, 2019


Selling a house can be a big job, and stressful too! There’s so much to think about regarding the market, home staging, repairs, and more—it’s no surprise sellers find it so overwhelming.

So in the interests of winnowing it all down to the true essentials—the tasks that can make a real difference—we asked home sellers to reveal only the very best home-selling advice they have heard. From when to put your house on the market to how to price and present your place just right, here are some top home-selling tips for the bandwidth-challenged that are truly worth the trouble.

Pony up money on repairs

“When it came to selling my house, the best advice I ever got was to get repairs done before buyers start poking around. Every house is going to have at least a few things wrong with it, and since you’ll probably have to do them anyway before you close, you might as well do those little fixes upfront so that buyers can see your house at its best.

“My last house was a pretty new build and I hadn’t had many problems with it, so I didn’t think there would be much to fix up when it came time to sell. Still, I knew that if buyers saw a bunch of small problems, they wouldn’t be wowed by the house, or pay my full asking price. So, I ended up walking around my place and sticking Post-it notes to things I thought I might need to fix. I looked for loose door handles, leaky sinks, hard-to-open windows, and things like that.

“I ended up making a bunch of little improvements, and while it took a bit of time and cost a few hundred bucks to fix everything up, my work paid off and I sold the house at asking.” – Dustin McCaffree, Salt Lake City, UT

Spend your reno dollars wisely

“In my last house, we wanted to change the color of the fence in the backyard, but we knew we were moving soon and backyard fences don’t sell houses. We knew that money would be better spent on something buyers really care about, like the kitchen.

“So, before putting my house on the market, I took the money I would have used on the back fence and painted my kitchen cabinets. Installed in the 1960s, my old, shiny oak cabinets dated the house, so I painted them gray because it was trendy to have gray cabinets at the time. It cost me under a thousand bucks to do it, but the people who ended up buying the house told us they chose it in part because they loved the color of the cabinets and how modern they made the kitchen look. They didn’t even mention the backyard or the fence. I’m glad I put my money where it would count!” – Liz Mullens, Brea, CA

Don’t price your house too high

“While certain listing agents might claim they can list and sell your house for a higher-than-market value price, they’re usually just trying to get your business, so don’t be fooled. In fact, you might be better off listing your house just under what you might expect.

“Our real estate agent in Las Vegas wanted to list our house at a modest price that was obtainable and not off-putting. We had interest in a few hours, and multiple bids within days. From there, we were able to choose the best offer from many within a week. Taking this agent’s advice to price modestly ultimately ended up fetching us a much higher price than we’d even dreamed we could get.” – Matt Romero, Las Vegas, NV

Spring is not always the best time to sell

“People will tell you to sell in the spring because the weather is usually pleasant and the flowers are probably blooming, making the yard look warm and pretty. However, not everyone’s house will show best in spring.

“The last house we lived in, in fact, wasn’t great during the warmer months. It was small and stuffy, so when it was hot outside, it was extra-hot inside. Plus, we didn’t have much of a front yard and very few plants. We were afraid buyers would think our house was dark compared to the lush, green gardens they saw on other home tours.

“So, we decided to sell in winter. Our living room was small, but when we decorated for the season (like putting blankets on the couch and lighting a fire), the house warmed up and seemed more like a romantic cabin than a small two-bedroom. Plus, during Christmas our whole neighborhood really got into decorating their homes with lights. It was beautiful to see all the houses lit up, and we knew some buyers might really value that, too. In the end, it worked out and we ended up selling our house at a great price.” – Bill Ford, Irvine, CA

Photos sell houses

“The best advice I heard was to hire the right real estate photographer so you have great pictures for online listings. Unfortunately, I ignored this advice at first. I’m sort of a DIY kind of guy, and I was thinking that hiring someone would be a waste of money. Why couldn’t we just take them ourselves?

“So, I took it upon myself to snap some pictures on my phone … and immediately realized that I was not at all qualified to do this. Our house was bright and open, but looked so dark and small in my pictures. I knew we had to hire someone.

“So my wife and I got a list of recommended photographers from our real estate agent and started narrowing down our choices. We ended up picking one photographer and were completely happy with her work—her stuff was a hundred times better than anything I could have taken on my phone. We knew that those pictures really helped drum up interest from buyers.” – Jesse Edmunds, La Habra, CA

Curb appeal and bathrooms are 80%

“Before I sold my house, I remember my parents telling me to focus my energy on making the front yard and the bathrooms look their best.

“They told me to hire a gardener before I started showing the house because they said lots of people make home-buying decisions based, at least in part, on the front yard or garden. I found that this is completely true: When I was going on tours myself, looking for my current home, I started to notice that I would often make my decision about a house before even stepping through the front door. So I ended up hiring a gardener, putting more plants in, and was pleasantly surprised with how good the front of the house looked.

“With the yard looking great, I tried to fix up the bathrooms as much as I could, too. I didn’t have a big budget for this, but I ended up going on Pinterest and watching some HGTV to get some inspiration. I ended up getting the master bathroom shower retiled, repainting the guest bath, and adding some stylish wall hangings and towels to both of them.

“I was really happy with how both my yard and the bathrooms turned out—and apparently so was my buyer!” – Jennifer Davis, St. Louis, MO

The post ‘The Best Home-Selling Advice I’ve Heard, Ever’ appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

What Great Listing Photos Can Teach You About Marketing Your Home

November 21, 2018

Gone are the days when all you needed to get buyers to come take a look at your home was a “For Sale” sign out front and a bit of curb appeal. Long gone, actually. Ancient history!

These days, potential buyers will scroll through hundreds of listings online before they ever schedule a showing, meaning your home needs to really stand out if you hope to get someone to actually set foot inside your door.

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: It’s all in the photos. This means before you, your agent, or (preferably) a professional photographer starts snapping shots of your soon-to-be former homestead, you have to get the place looking especially photogenic. Sometimes it’s as easy as moving a piece of furniture; sometimes it’s a little more complicated. There’s an art to staging a home for its photo op.

Take a look at these listing photos, before and after the owner made some major changes. Our experts identify just what they did right—and how you can do it, too.

Living room: Make it light and bright

living room before
Before: With dated and big furniture, the living room looks cramped.

living room after
After: Furniture with legs visually opens up the living room.

The changes in this living room make a huge difference in the appearance of the listing photos, and Courtney McLeod, principal of Right Meets Left Interior Design in New York City, agrees.

“The living room looks much better without the dated furniture,” she says. “The window treatments look clean, modern, and fresh.”

Designer Maryline Damour of Damour Drake in Hudson Valley, NY,  noticed the furniture first, too.

“A smaller space doesn’t necessarily need smaller furniture to feel larger; pieces with exposed legs give the illusion of more space, rather than furniture that sits directly on the floor,” she explains. “In the living room, the new sofa, as well as the pedestal coffee and dining tables, allows the eye to see more of the floor and makes the space feel larger.”

She notes that swapping out the painting for the mirror above the couch was a clever trick, “especially if it reflects the view outside.”

“Buyers like light and bright open areas,” says property stylist Karen Gray-Plaisted, of Design Solutions KGP in Warwick, NY. She adds that the first thing you should do to make any room buyer-ready is to figure out how to let in more light. “Here they framed the view with the curtains, removing the unsightly air conditioner.”

Kitchen: Declutter, declutter

kitchen before
Before: The wine rack and multiple lighting fixtures clutter up the kitchen.

living room after
After: Streamlining the lighting and switching to lighter bar stools make the space seem bigger.

It’s hard to sell a home if the buyers can’t picture themselves in the kitchen, so it’s important to spend some time in this room—no matter how small a space you’re working with.

“A really easy way to make a big statement is to declutter counter space. By getting rid of the wine rack, removing chunky pieces, and adding smaller items, this ‘after’ design is much more streamlined,” says McLeod. “Adding the lighter bar stools was a nice touch by adding more space, while keeping the room functional.”

“The kitchen benefits from some simple fixes that help this area feel bigger than it is,” says Damour. “The more streamlined lighting fixtures help to visually expand this room.”

Bedroom: Tone it down

bedroom before
Before: An aggressive color makes this bedroom seem small.

bedroom after
After: A neutral palette is crucial for making the bedroom bright and calm.

The bedroom may have undergone the biggest change of all, according to these photos, and the experts agree.

“The wall color in the bedroom needs to speak, unconsciously, relaxation,” explains Gray-Plaisted. “Red is an aggressive color when selling—stay away. Neutral soft blue, greens are better for bedrooms. Color is just as personal as the clutter. Neutral tones always help sell better than taste specific colors.”

Damour agrees that the color change was essential.

“This is aided by furniture that can be seen through, as well as large-scale artwork and floor-to-ceiling curtains that make the space feel bigger than it is,” she says.

The walls aren’t the only major change in the room, though.

“Ripping out the carpet was a smart move, as a hardwood floor with a large area rug is always a good idea,” says Damour. “The new window treatments frame the view, and the added greenery is a nice touch, as well as adding balance with side tables on both sides of the bed.”

The post What Great Listing Photos Can Teach You About Marketing Your Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Selling Your Home? Be Prepared to Cry—Here’s Why

August 28, 2018

We hated our house for much of the past five years we lived in it. Located in a suburb of New Jersey, it was too far from where we worked. It was also old, with an outdated kitchen we couldn’t afford to fix. And, oh yeah, as our family grew, it became way too small.

So when my husband was transferred to London for this summer, it seemed like a no-brainer to put the place on the market. Good riddance!

And yet, while preparing our home for sale, something strange happened: We started noticing things about our home that were always there, but that we’d become blind to over the years.

Granted, this awareness arrived in part because our real estate agent made it clear that many of the things we’d let slide wouldn’t fly with potential buyers. Yet other things we became conscious of made us realize that in spite of our home’s many flaws, we’d miss this place after we’ve moved on. Maybe a lot.

Whenever the time comes to sell your own home, you may have the same bittersweet epiphanies while walking those halls you thought you knew so well. To give you a sense of what may be in store, here are some things about our house we’d never noticed before putting it on the market.

Wow, so many ‘My Little Pony’ stickers!

My daughter’s extensive sticker collection

Sasha Brown-Worsham

We tried to stop her. Every time our preschooler came home with a pack of stickers, she peeled them, one after the other, and stuck them on the walls. They are on our kitchen cabinets, the trim in the dining room, the hardwood floors… The sheer volume of the stickers was something we didn’t fully consider until the first walk-through with our listing agent.

“That’s a lot of stickers,” she said. Sadly, most buyers aren’t looking for Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and the gang to be part of the sale. So we started peeling them off the walls, feeling a little sad each time we scraped one off.

What happened to our ceiling?

The ceiling before we fixed it.

Sasha Brown-Worsham

Our house had wallpaper on the walls and the ceiling; however, thanks to an unfortunate incident with a storm and our stove vent, much of it had sagged off. Weirdly, though, it never bothered us until we decided to sell, at which point the full horror of this eyesore struck us: Man, this was heinous. Was it always that big, or had it grown larger over time? Sure, we were busy parents with three kids, but come on, why didn’t we fix this sooner? This, too, was sort of sad.

Our bathroom may be dated, but it’s beautiful

My third daughter after her bath

Sasha Brown-Worsham

Granted, our bathroom looks nothing like what you see on HGTV. The tile is dated and dirty, and the walls are in dire need of a fresh coat of paint. And yet, it’s the bathroom where I spent hours in labor with my third daughter, a space where we dumped all three of our kids for bubble baths, their hair damp and smelling of roses. This bathroom was an intimate place, a personal place, and because of this, it was more special than we ever knew.

Wall fingerprints everywhere

Fingerprints are everywhere!

Sasha Brown-Worsham

Look closely at the wall below, and you’ll see smudges where my kids stuck their grubby hands—and left a mess that my real estate agent insisted must be painted over. But look! You can almost make out the shape of my baby’s thumb! She’s 4 now. Where will I ever find such beauty again? Each one of those scuzzy black marks is a moment in time my baby’s hand touched that white wall. You say it’s ugly. I say it’s magic.

We have too many shoes

Shoes for 100?!

Sasha Brown-Worsham

Who wears these shoes? How many people live in our house? A small army? Our mudroom is full to the brink with shoes of people I’ve apparently never met who live in my house. If you see them, can you tell them to put their shoes in their room where they belong?

That dust isn’t just dust

Just prior to showing our home to buyers, we hired cleaners to thoroughly scour the house. And yes, the dust was gross and absolutely had to go. And yet somewhere in that dust was a tuft of hair from our dog, Rocky, who had died just weeks earlier. I realized that once those areas were swept clean, we’d never get those pieces of him back. That dust wasn’t just dust, but the accumulation of life—pets, kids, parents, family—in a home we’d soon never see again.

We let the cleaners continue, but not without crying.

The post Selling Your Home? Be Prepared to Cry—Here’s Why appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.