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Closing Costs for Sellers: Common Fees Associated With Selling Your Home

September 14, 2019

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If you’re monitoring the value of your home so you can sell it and reap a worthwhile profit, don’t forget to factor in the closing costs for sellers into the sale price.

You may be estimating that your sale price could be $350,000, which could pay off your $200,000 home loan and reap you a $150,000 profit. But before you start counting your dollars and debating the size of the down payment for your next home, you need to calculate the closing costs for the seller.

While buyers also pay closing costs (here’s more info on typical closing costs for buyers), you’ll see a long column on the HUD-1 Settlement Statement for seller closing costs.

Closing costs for sellers of real estate vary according to where you live, but as the seller you can expect to pay anywhere from 6% to 10% of the home’s sales price in closing costs at settlement. This won’t be cash out of the seller’s pocket; rather it will be deducted from the profit on your home—unless you are selling with very low equity on your mortgage. In this case, sellers may need to bring a little cash to the table to satisfy your lender—and some closing costs may be held in escrow.

1. Seller costs

One of the larger closing costs for sellers at settlement is the commission for the real estate agents involved in the real estate transaction.

Commissions on real estate are negotiable and vary somewhat by market, but a typical commission is 6% of the sales price of the home split between the listing real estate agent and the buyer’s agent.

For a $350,000 purchase price, the real estate agent’s commission would come to $21,000. Buyers have the advantage of relying on sellers to pay real estate agent commissions.

2. Loan payoff costs

Most home sellers often seek out a sales price for their home that will pay off their mortgage and satisfy their lenders.

Your mortgage payoff balance will often be a little higher than the remaining balance on your mortgage and even the buyer’s purchase price. This is because of lenders’ prorated interest on the mortgage.

In some cases, your lender may require you to pay a prepayment penalty for paying off your mortgage loan before the end of the term. If you have a home equity loan or line of credit, in addition to your mortgage, the lender will require this be paid in full at settlement as part of closing costs for the seller.

Be sure to talk to your lender about what will be required to pay off the mortgage so that you get an accurate picture of closing costs.

3. Transfer taxes or recording fees

Transfer taxes, recording fees, and property taxes are key parts of a seller’s closing costs.

Transfer taxes are the taxes imposed by your state or local government to transfer the title from the seller to the buyer. Transfer taxes are part of the closing costs for sellers.

Along with transfer taxes and transfer feeds, property taxes must also be up to date for sellers before they hand over keys to the buyer.

4. Title insurance fees

Title insurance fees are another fee to keep in mind when you sell real estate. As part of closing costs, sellers typically pay the buyer’s title insurance premium. Title insurance protects buyers and lenders in case there are problems with the title in a real estate deal.

5. Attorney fees

If you have your own attorney represent you at the settlement of your real estate sale, the seller may have to pay attorney fees as part of closing costs.

Market traditions vary, so while in some areas both the buyers and sellers have their own attorneys, in others it’s more common to have one settlement attorney for the real estate transaction. In some areas the buyer pays the attorney fees, while in others the seller pays.

Additional closing costs for sellers

Additional closing costs for sellers of real estate include liens or judgments against the property; unpaid homeowners association dues; prorated property taxes; escrow fees; and homeowners association dues included up to the settlement date. These closing costs for a home sale are separate from what buyers pay at closing.

Depending on the real estate contract, closing costs may also include termite inspection and remediation, if necessary; home warranty premium for buyers; and repair bills or a credit to buyers for repairs for items found during a home inspection.

Also, don’t forget to estimate some of the closing costs associated with preparing to sell, such as cosmetic repairs or improvements to make your home more attractive to buyers. Those closing costs may be returned with a higher sales price, but you should still include them in your calculations.

The post Closing Costs for Sellers: Common Fees Associated With Selling Your Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Will They Dig It? How to Keep Your Oh-So-Perfect Landscaping From Scaring Off Buyers

September 11, 2019

ANGHI/iStock; realtor.com

For many buyers, a beautifully landscaped yard with show-stopping curb appeal can seal the deal. After all, who doesn’t want cascading blooms, immaculately trimmed shrubbery, and a carpet of emerald sod with their new home?

Surprise: As it turns out, there are indeed some buyers who might take one look at your sprawling outdoor oasis and think, “It will take a ton of work to maintain all of this!”

“I see many home buyers looking for yards that don’t require a lot of maintenance,” says Monica Kemp, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage and accredited real estate staging professional in Leesburg, VA. “It can be generational—a lot of younger, first-time buyers don’t want to be home all day gardening or dealing with the lawn.”

Your garden should feel inviting and relaxing, not overwhelming, says Andrea Duane, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in the El Dorado Hills, CA, area.

“A beautiful garden is more of a benefit to sellers than a deterrent, but there’s definitely a percentage of buyers in the marketplace that don’t feel comfortable with that amount of landscaping,” Duane says. “It may feel daunting because they’ve never owned a home before or they just don’t have a green thumb.”

So if you’re selling a property with lots of lovingly tended flower beds and veggie gardens, how do you leverage your landscape—and not scare people off? Here’s how to reassure buyers that your yard will bring enjoyment, not exhaustion.

Declutter your yard

Be sure your outdoor space is sending the right message to buyers, Kemp says. You want your yard to say, “Sit down, have a cold beverage and relax,” rather than, “Please weed me.”

So stage the outside areas as you would the inside of your home: Declutter so that the essential elements can shine.

“Make sure trees and shrubs are trimmed, whether you hire a professional or do it yourself,” Kemp says. “Remove anything that’s dead or dying or doesn’t give you a positive first impression.”

Divide overgrown plants, so your garden looks neat instead of needing attention. And lose the whimsical gnome statues, tacky lawn ornaments, and noisy wind chimes in your garden that won’t let buyers imagine themselves in that space.

Hide the high-maintenance plants—and pack in the perennials

Perennials
Daffodils and tulips are perennials.

kdow/iStock

If you have rare heirloom roses or other specialty plants requiring extensive pampering, you might want to scale back before you put your house on the market, Kemp says.

Dig up rare or hard-to-care-for plants, and put them in pots to take with you. Be sure to exclude these on the listing, so buyers know they are not part of the sale.

But you don’t have to strip everything bare! Gardens consisting of perennial plants that grow back year after year can be a huge selling point, says Kemp, who points out such flowers and shrubs during house tours. Annuals, on the other hand, often are more vibrant and colorful but last only one year. A savvy buyer could see annuals as high-maintenance feature.

“Annuals can really make your house look nice, but I wouldn’t do an entire yardful—maybe just along your walkways, with some planters on your front stoop, or by the slider doors on your back deck, just for pops of color,” Kemp says.

Rethink your pond or water features

Water features
Think twice about the impression your water features are making on buyers.

Tim Abramowitz/iStock

Water features make gorgeous focal points and help create a resortlike environment in your own backyard. But beware: Your koi pond might deter buyers.

“Personally, I think fish ponds are really cool, but I would never describe it as a selling feature because people tend to see them as added maintenance,” Kemp says. “What if the pump fails? How am I going to keep those fish alive in the winter? They might have little kids, so there’s a safety concern.”

Duane agrees that ponds are often deal breakers if a buyer doesn’t know how to take care of it.

“One option is fill in the pond,” she suggests. “I did that in my own yard, even though I love ponds and fish; it just wasn’t something I needed or wanted.”

Not keen on filling in your pond? Kemp suggests compiling some helpful care and maintenance tips for potential buyers, along with names of service companies.

Get rid of some grass

Just as a massive swath of flower beds can alarm buyers, so too can a large expanse of lawn, Duane says.

“People might be thinking, ‘That’s a lot of mowing, and that needs a lot of water,’” she says.

Plus, allergy-suffering buyers will probably not appreciate all of the pollen that grass releases in early spring. Instead, pop in a row or circle of boxwood shrubs, which can add texture and interest and need very little maintenance beyond occasional trimming.

Be proactive with tips for buyers

Maybe you do have lush landscaping—but perhaps you’ve also figured out an efficient way to take care of it. If so, point this out to buyers. For example, noting that the large flower bed consists of easy-care plants and an in-ground irrigation system tells buyers that they won’t have much to do—and ends up being a perk.

And get ahead of any kind of hesitation by telling buyers what they’re in for: Draw up a garden plan so buyers can see the plant varieties that blossom at different times of the year, Kemp says. Make sure to include names of flowers and any seasonal care tips that have worked for you.

The post Will They Dig It? How to Keep Your Oh-So-Perfect Landscaping From Scaring Off Buyers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Lessons From Listings Photos: An Open Floor Plan Helped This CA Home Score a $900K Profit

September 5, 2019

realtor.com

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.

This four-bed, three-bath, ranch-style home in Danville, CA, had plenty of desirable qualities when it was bought for $1.3 million in 2015. But, when you looked beneath the surface, it was also fairly basic.

Built in the 1970s, it lacked most of the contemporary features that today’s buyers are really looking for. So, after a modern update, it’s no surprise that it sold for nearly $1 million more than the seller purchased it for.

What sort of design changes sealed the deal? We asked experts to weigh in on what the seller did right—and how you can incorporate similar choices into your home.

Before: Living room

danville lessons from listing photos
This living room was small and cramped.

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After: Living room

danville lessons from listing photos
Widening the door opened up the room.

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At first glance, the original living room looks to be a solid, modern space. But our designers agree that the architectural changes vastly improved this previously underwhelming room.

“Indoor-outdoor flow is one design element that so many homeowners want in their spaces, and this home has it,” says Nisha MacNeil, design manager at Kerr Construction & Design. “The newly widened sliding door to the outdoor seating area makes the backyard feel like an extension of the living space.”

To make room for the wall-to-wall sliding door, the seller had to relocate the fireplace, which was no easy feat. But Laura Davis, an architect, designer, and partner in hpd architecture + interiors in Dallas, says it paid off.

“Don’t let a seemingly permanent fixture like a fireplace keep you from making a dramatic change to your living room,” she says. “The view of the outdoor space and the additional natural light is a huge value-add for this room. Moving the fireplace and adding a huge sliding door changes the function and feel of this side of the house.”

Before: Kitchen

danville lessons from listing photos
The original kitchen was galley style with typical amenities.

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After: Kitchen

danville lessons from listing photos
The new kitchen is a “luxurious chef’s playground.”

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As you can see, the footprint of the kitchen didn’t change, but check out that new countertop!

“The new design takes this kitchen from a galley style with typical amenities to an open, luxurious chef’s playground,” says Davis. It’s now filled with high-end appliances and trendy touches such as a waterfall countertop and large windows that look to the backyard.

While most components of this kitchen stayed in place, there was some shuffling of appliances, and according to one designer, that’s exactly what buyers want.

“Placing a microwave over a stove or range is very outdated, so placing appliances side-by-side and installing a hood over the range is a sleek and modern update that will impress home buyers,” says Jay Britto, founding principal of Britto Charette.

This renovation also proves that an all-black backsplash—when done right—looks chic, not overwhelming

“The slate-black backslash over the stove provides a great focal point and contrast in the space against the all-white cabinets,” says MacNeil. “The previous space felt washed-out and too monochromatic.”

Before: Dining room

danville lessons from listing photos
The dining was previously closed off and small.

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After: Dining room

danville lessons from listing photos
Removing the small wall dividing the kitchen and dining room opens up the space, making it more functional.

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The open floor plan is a contentious topic; some people love it and some people hate it. But there’s no possible way we can argue with the seller’s decision to take down the small wall dividing the kitchen and the dining room.

“Here is a great example where the dining room has been opened up to the kitchen space to allow better flow for day-to-day life,” says MacNeil.

Paul Trudel-Payne, founder and creative designer of Casa Consult+Design, says opening the floor plan also helped improve the listing photos.

“Large, bright spaces read beautifully in images, which are used to help interest buyers in requesting a showing,” he says. “Always go open and bright with your listing photos, and you will get heavy traffic and interest for sure.”

Before: Master bedroom

danville lessons from listing photos
The bedroom was basic and boring before.

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After: Master bedroom

danville lessons from listing photos
Taking out the closet and adding a seating area made this master bedroom a retreat.

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We promise you’re looking at the same room, and if it makes you feel any better, our designers were also floored with the improvements in the master bedroom.

The most extensive changes include raising the ceiling, adding more windows, removing the closet, and replacing the latter with an egress door.

Britto believes the master bedroom was a smart place to spend money for this renovation, and he especially agrees with the seller’s decision to put in a sitting area.

“Sitting areas in master bedroom suites are on-trend,” he says. “Who doesn’t want to curl up next to that fireplace with a good book and a cup of coffee or a glass of wine?”

Some of the decor changes, like the chandelier and contemporary fireplace, may be considered risks—but Trudel-Payne doesn’t see it that way.

“Most stagers say highly stylized design choices are too polarizing and can often shrink your buyer pool,” he says. “But if you’ve done your research, know your buyer’s tastes, and design specifically to their aesthetic, your bold design choices can leave a lasting impression.”

Before: Backyard

danville lessons from listing photos
The backyard was a good place for a swim, but that was it.

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After: Backyard

danville lessons from listing photos
Now, the backyard is an oasis.

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The shape of the pool did not change, but the new lawn, stone pavers, and seating areas certainly did.

“I love how they completely modernized the yard by removing the rounded patio and adding an angular design in its place,” says Trudel-Payne. “Trimming back a lot of the greenery next to the pool and laying down fresh bark throughout was a smart and cost-effective choice.”

If you look at the the left side of the pool, you’ll see that the seller also removed the dated rock waterfall.

“While appropriate for a rustic cabin, the design looks very dated in a contemporary setting,” says Britto.

And while backyard upgrades are likely to be pushed to the wayside, our experts agree that tackling your outdoor space—even something as simple as an overhaul of the seating area—is wise if you intend to sell at some point.

The post Lessons From Listings Photos: An Open Floor Plan Helped This CA Home Score a $900K Profit appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

11 Surprisingly Tiny Home Quirks That Can Stop a Sale in Its Tracks

September 4, 2019

11 Surprisingly Tiny Home Quirks That Can Stop a Sale In Its Tracks

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Ever spend the night at a friend’s or relative’s house where they reveal some quirky shortcoming in their home? Say, the light switch in the guest room works the opposite way you’d expect (down for on, up for off), or you have to jiggle the toilet handle a few times to make it flush. These foibles might not seem like a big deal, but they could be—if you’re trying to sell your house.

“You can never predict what switch a buyer will turn on or what door a buyer will open,” warns Martin Eiden, a broker with Compass in New York City. “If one thing isn’t right, it sends a message to the buyer’s brain saying, ‘If this small thing is broken, what major things are?’”

But what, specifically, are some of the most common quirks that could turn off buyers? Here are some of the flaws that you really should repair if you hope for a swift and smooth home sale.

1. Stuck front door

Don’t make it so the agent has to shove a shoulder into the front door to open it. You need a welcoming and well-working front door that swings open and closes smoothly without much effort. A carpenter can usually make a well-worth-it adjustment to the frame for sticky doors.

2. Wobbly ceiling fan

Ever see one of those wobbling, rattling fans in action? It’s not pretty. Tighten or replace ceiling fans that look like they are about to take flight from the ceiling, so they don’t send buyers running for cover.

3. Backward hot and cold water faucets

Nothing says failed DIY like cold water coming out when the hot water is turned on, and hot water coming out when cold is turned on, says Candice Williams, an agent with Re/Max Space Center in League City, TX. If you have switched faucets or pipes, set them right or hire a plumber.

4. Shaky banister

The screws are about to fall out and your stair railing is so shaky the next guest could take a tumble. This issue is not only unsightly but also downright dangerous, says Nancy Wallace-Laabs, a broker at KBN Homes, a real estate investment company in Frisco, TX, and author of “Winning Deals in Heels.”

Check banisters, stair supports, and any railings to make sure they are secured properly.

5. Overstuffed closets

No squeaky doors and hinges or off-the-track rollers allowed.

“Have everything neatly organized and have all closets and cabinets at least 20% empty,” says Eiden. Overstuffed storage tells the buyer, “This home doesn’t have enough space!”

6. Cranky garage door

Make sure your garage door opens smoothly and without excess noise.

You might know how to get that garage door up, but you don’t want the agent struggling with it when he or she is showing the house,” says broker Robin Kencel of Compass in Greenwich, CT.

7. Noisy toilet

“A noisy toilet often just needs a new toilet flapper,” says Craig Russell, CEO of The English Contractor, a contracting and building firm in Cincinnati.

For under $10, you can ensure your toilet flushes well, because inevitably, someone will use the restroom at your open house.

8. Propped-up windows

Repair or replace windows that need to be propped open because their spring is shot.

Chess Valenti, a home stager at Staged in Geneva, IL, has seen bathroom windows propped open with shampoo bottles. This is not a look that gets offers.

9. Backyard gate that drags on the ground

You don’t want the agent opening the gate to your beautiful garden only to hear it scrape noisily on the pavers, concrete, or ground. Gates should be trimmed and adjusted over time so they continue to open smoothly about 2 inches off the ground.

10. Squeaky floors

Over time, nails in the subfloor loosen and rub, creating that squeak. If you can’t get to your subfloor easily to install a few screws, try sprinkling talcum powder around the noisy floorboards and sweeping into cracks in the floor to shush squeaks.

11. Unprofessional patch jobs

“Putty, caulk, and paint make the carpenter what he ain’t,” says Russell, referencing the liberal use of these materials by some sellers to put cosmetic bandages over imperfections in a home.

He’s seen holes filled with caulk instead of being properly patched, cardboard wedged into doors to keep them closed instead of having the lock adjusted, or painted-over water spots on walls or ceilings instead of repairing the source of the leak.

Have leaks and damage repaired properly, and make sure any cosmetic work looks like it was never done.

The post 11 Surprisingly Tiny Home Quirks That Can Stop a Sale in Its Tracks appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

5 Home Upgrades Millennials Couldn’t Care Less About

September 4, 2019

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Despite being called out for their ineptitude at saving money and their overwhelming fondness for spending it on experiences instead of things, millennials actually do desire financial stability—especially if it means they can buy a house.

So what kind of homes do they want? According to real estate professionals, a large majority of millennials seeks out properties that are move-in ready—with plenty of room for customization.

“They care more about the home being clean and in good condition,” says Mary Katherine Spalding, a Realtor® associate with Helen Painter Group in Fort Worth, TX. “Cosmetic changes are much easier to make, and millennials are a generation of DIYers.”

But home sellers are also becoming well-versed in what they don’t want. If you’re looking to attract millennial buyers, be forewarned: These home upgrades will turn them away from your home faster than you can say, “What’s your Wi-Fi password?”

1. Over-the-top landscaping

A spacious, well-manicured yard was the pride and joy of earlier generations that didn’t mind working up a sweat mowing and fertilizing their lawns. But that’s not the case with busy millennials. They prefer cultivating indoor plants—and the convenience of an outdoor space that’s easy to maintain.

Jason Duff, founder and CEO of Small Nation, a real estate development company in Bellefontaine, OH, says millennials prefer to have landscaping beds (for growing a vegetable garden?) and other green-filled areas that look nice, are easy to maintain, and can be set up for quality time with pets.

2. A formal dining room

Mom and Grandma may have cherished dinner time in their fancy dining room with matching plates, sterling silver flatware, and gold-plated tea sets. But younger buyers tend to consider that dedicated room a stuffy waste of space.

Duff says young buyers enjoy cooking in their kitchen and want to eat in or near their kitchen, too.

“Most millennials don’t care about formal dining rooms,” says Duff. “It was a fixture for many homes in previous decades, but today dining tends to happen close to the kitchen—from the convenience of a meal home delivery box like Blue Apron—or on the go.”

When it comes to gathering for a meal, millennials appreciate the laid-back simplicity of breakfast nooks and bar stools.

3. A designated floor plan

Older generations may be satisfied with a mapped-out floor plan that designates a living room, kitchen, and dining room, but millennials seek multifunctional rooms. Think wide-open spaces that make the home feel like one flowing space.

“Where homes traditionally would have separate rooms, millennials are gravitating toward having large, open rooms that bring these all together like kitchens with breakfast bars or islands that open to the living space,” says John Steele, a real estate agent with Team Steele San Diego Homes in California.

4. Brand-new carpeting

If you’re considering sprucing up your home before you sell, think twice before spending money on installing new carpets. Millennials are moving away from carpeting in favor of bare floors with statement rugs.

“There are some buyers that like it in the bedrooms, but in the living spaces, laminates, tile, hardwood, and engineered hardwood are much more popular,” says Steele.

Another reason to stick with noncarpeted flooring is that it’s more pet-friendly—and millennials love their pets. Carpeting can absorb and retain odors, stains, and hair, and pet cleanup is easier on a hardwood floor.

5. Memorabilia and game rooms

Millennials aren’t defined by their possessions—and they definitely don’t want to showcase them in a room. So if you’re thinking about staging a room where the owners can show off their stuff, think again.

“Millennials may be a little different than previous generations in wanting to keep, collect, and show off all that they have accumulated,” says Duff. “Put away the pool table and think digital,” says Duff.

Millennials live a more digital existence, so Duff recommends staging your game area in a media room with a large TV or projector and maybe even surround sound.

The post 5 Home Upgrades Millennials Couldn’t Care Less About appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

7 Important Home Repairs to Do Right After Moving Out

August 28, 2019

Kativ/iStock

Congratulations: You’re moving out, and on to your next home! Now all you have to do is pack up your things and skedaddle, right?

Not so fast. If you’re still trying to sell your current home, you’ll want to make sure it looks its best, which means you might have to make a few repairs. And there’s no better time to do this than after you’ve removed all your boxes and furnishings, since this means you’ve got plenty of space to get the job done right (and with minimal mess).

Granted, you might have already made some upgrades during the early stages of sales prep … but moving out means you could uncover a whole lot more. And trust us, buyers will notice!

Of course, if you’ve already sold your home, you’re off the hook … but if not, it will behoove you to do these seven upgrades after moving out. Don’t worry, they’re fairly easy, and they’ll make a big difference helping you find a buyer who’ll pay top dollar.

1. Patch holes in walls

Seeing walls with holes—even small holes left by nails—is an immediate turnoff to home buyers, says Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design at The Home Depot. But you don’t have to repaint your entire house to have your home looking fresh again. A little spackling, followed by spot painting—a cinch if you’ve kept some original paint—will do the trick. (If you don’t have any leftover paint, peel a dollar-size piece from the wall and bring it to the paint store so they can match the color for you.)

If you have only a few holes and scratches, you can fill them with spackling compound, which is sold in small quantifrecities. For a greater number of gashes or holes, use joint compound, which is sold in quarts or 5-gallon buckets.

2. Add a fresh coat of paint to rooms that are outdated or painted in loud colors

Love that plum paint color you chose for your master bedroom? Home buyers might not! The good news is, painting a room is an easy, low-cost project you can do yourself. Selecting the right hue, though, is crucial.

“Neutral colors are generally the safest choice, as they blend with many different decor styles,” says Hunter Macfarlane, Lowe’s project expert. “Gray is a popular color to paint a room before selling, as it gives the walls depth while still tying furniture and other decor items together.”

Moreover, “a fresh coat of paint never hurt resale value,” Fishburne says.

3. Replace old outlet wall plates

This is another quick and budget-friendly way to make a space feel cleaner and updated, Macfarlane says. Proceed with caution, however: Old wall plates can be a fire hazard if they’re cracked or damaged in any way. If you suspect there’s an issue, hire an electrician to replace the wall plates for you.

4. Clean carpeting

Dirty and dingy carpets are huge eyesores, which is why David Pekel, chief executive officer at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, recommends that homeowners give their house’s carpeting a good cleaning after moving out. You can amp up your vacuum with rug-cleaning products such as powders, foam sprays, and liquid shampoos available at grocery and hardware stores. For stained areas, use a bristled brush to work the cleaning solution into the carpet before allowing it to dry and then vacuuming up.

To remove embedded dirt, you may need to use a powerful industrial-style carpet-cleaning machine, like a Rug Doctor, which sprays hot water with a detergent over the carpet and extracts it with a high-powered vacuum. Industrial carpet cleaners have more washing and sucking power than most consumer carpet cleaners, but they’re expensive to buy—about $400 to $700—so it’s more economical to rent one from a hardware store for about $25 to $30 per day.

5. Clean hardwood floors

Many home buyers swoon over hardwood floors. So if you have them, make sure they’re glistening after you move out.

“Wood is probably the easiest floor covering to keep clean, but you have to use the right cleaning products,” says Brett Miller, vice president of education and certification for the National Wood Flooring Association in St. Louis.

Most wood floor installers or manufacturers recommend cleaners that contain isopropyl alcohol, which dries quickly, and are available at home supply stores. To make your own solution, simply add a capful of white vinegar to a gallon of water, which will help dissolve grease and grime on the floor but won’t strip the finish. To remove shoe scuffs, rub marks with a tennis ball, which cleans without scratching the finish.

Under no circumstances should you use a steam mop, Miller warns.

“Steam is horrible for wood floors. It opens the pores in woods and damages the finish, causing irreversible damage to any wood floor,” he says. Here’s more on how to clean hardwood floors.

6. Replace or refresh old hardware

Swapping out old cabinet and door hardware is a simple, low-cost project you can tackle in a day that will make your home more visually appealing. All you need is a screwdriver and a free afternoon. Want to save some money? Keep your existing hardware and give it a makeover with spray paint—a few light coats can breathe new life and personality into rusty old knobs and pulls.

7. Improve the look and functionality of your master bathroom

A full bathroom remodel is expensive; on average, it costs $10,344, according to HomeAdvisor. Just a few changes to your master bathroom, though, can make it one of the most stylish rooms in your house.

Simple touch-ups, like regrouting and recaulking bathroom tile, will make the room look newer. In addition, swapping out inefficient toilets, faucets, and shower heads for products that aid in water conservation can add real appeal to prospective home buyers who are looking to lower their water footprint (and lower their water bill!). A low-flow toilet, for example, uses 20% less water than a standard toilet, and water-saving shower heads can help families save almost 3,000 gallons of water a year.

The post 7 Important Home Repairs to Do Right After Moving Out appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

10 Secrets No One Tells You That’ll Help Your House Fetch Top Dollar

August 26, 2019

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Maybe you’ve bought and sold a home before, or maybe this is the first time. Regardless, now you need to get top dollar for it. Yes, you can tidy up, bake some cookies so the house smells nice, and place fresh flowers (research says roses, lavender, and fuchsia most sway buyers) around the house. But these are the typical techniques most sellers deploy. Really want to get the best price possible—or even spark a bidding war?

Here are 10 tips that are seldom mentioned in listing houses that just might put your property over the edge.

1. Make sure your mailbox looks amazing

First impressions matter, which is why you should check out your curb appeal. Is the driveway cracked? Is the mailbox old and leaning? The best sales rest on keeping these details in mind.

“Replace the mailbox—literally the first thing people see,” says Teris Pantazes, CEO and co-founder of SettleRite, a pre-sale home improvement company in Baltimore.

2. Make the right use of your rooms

If you use the dining room for a kid’s playroom, or if the loft is empty because you don’t have a use for it, restage your rooms so they reflect their original purpose. Buyers want to see the space used in a traditional way—with a dining table in the dining room, a desk and chair in the office—to envision themselves living there.

3. Reglaze the bathroom

“The best tip I use to get top dollar for some of our houses is to reglaze an old bathroom that has a terrible color of tile—like pink or green,” says Michael Pinter, a house flipper in Long Island, NY, with LMPK Properties. “We reglaze the bathroom white for a few hundred dollars, and a dated bathroom will look 30 years younger.”

Bathrooms and kitchens sell houses, and any small improvement that makes those rooms more modern makes a huge difference.

4. Get buyers to fall in love

Russell Volk, a real estate agent with Re/Max Elite serving Bucks County, PA, worked with a home-selling couple who decided to hand-write a one-page letter about their life in the house.

“Their story of how they raised their family and what kind of experiences they had in the home was very personal and emotional,” says Volk. The letter was framed on the kitchen counter for potential buyers to read. One buyer who liked the home absolutely loved the sellers’ story—and paid full asking price.

“If sellers can connect with buyers on an emotional level, chances of buyers paying top dollar for the house drastically increase,” says Volk.

5. List under value

“Data shows that if you list a home 10% under market value, you will attract 75% of the buyer pool, versus only 30% if you were to list 10% over market value,” says Melissa Colabella, at Sotheby’s International Realty. “Yet sellers fear that not leaving room to negotiate leaves money on the table, which is not true.”

In fact, buyers are often motivated to bid by seeing other bids on a property, a dynamic that typically pushes bids above market value.

6. Provide insider information

Make sure to include tidbits in the listing that buyers will appreciate and that they can only get from you: the mention of a popular neighborhood coffee shop, the best Mexican restaurant nearby, or the free library box around the corner. No one knows these details better than you, the homeowner.

7. Describe the neighborhood culture

Think of everything interesting you can about your neighborhood—its proximity to a community pool, street basketball games in the cul-de-sac, the number of dog walkers who gather to chat—and mention them in your listing. The smallest detail can attract a buyer with a teenager, a dog, and kids with swimsuits.

8. Don’t forget to list the house extras

The motion-sensitive outdoor lighting, an automatic garage door timer that closes the door before dark, a phone-activated security system, or camera door bell… These bells and whistles may seem banal to you, but they can make sellers feel that everything’s been taken care of for them—and inspire a top-dollar offer.

9. Create a video tour

Most people get great photos and fantastic descriptions. But filming a video tour of the property is inexpensive, can be done by an amateur, and is a novelty that will draw in buyers, says Bryan Stoddard, owner of Homewares Insider, a site exploring all things related to the home.

“If the video is well made, it will showcase exactly the same things that an open house would,” he says.

10. Get a home pre-inspection

Yes, the buyers will want their own home inspection, but getting a pre-inspection so that prospective buyers have a general idea of the property’s condition before making an offer is a win/win, says Antonio Picillo III, a broker at Exceptional Home Team in Fort Wayne, IN.

Home buyers will be impressed you took the time and effort to get your home pre-inspected to make sure everything is tip-top. It shows a level of integrity and commitment that can be hard to find.

The post 10 Secrets No One Tells You That’ll Help Your House Fetch Top Dollar appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

How Soon Can You Sell a House After Buying? 3 Times to Break the 5-Year Rule

August 22, 2019

How Soon Can You Sell a House After Buying? 3 Times to Break the 5-Year Rule

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They don’t call it a forever home for nothing. Most of us buy with the intent of staying a long time—sometimes indefinitely. But here’s the rub: Things change. Life takes us in a different direction, or the house you fell in love with only a few short months ago somehow becomes your biggest regret. Maybe the neighborhood is changing, or financial difficulties are making it impossible to enjoy your new home.

Whatever the reason, you just might find yourself asking, “How soon can I sell this house?”—mere months after you moved in.

But then there’s that pesky five-year rule that everyone cites. Basically, it says you should never even consider selling until you’ve lived in the home for at least five years. And it’s not arbitrary—there’s good reason for it.

“Unless it’s a superhot market, a seller likely won’t even recoup their transaction costs if they sell within a few years of buying,” says James McGrath, real estate broker and co-founder of Yoreevo.

McGrath, like many real estate professionals, even advises clients to avoid buying a house unless they plan on staying for at least five years, which is the typical amount of time it takes to break even on your initial investment.

But rules are meant to be broken as needed, and sometimes your situation actually requires you to break them. Here are three times you should say to heck with it all and get out of that house.

Exception No. 1: Your property value goes way up

Sometimes the market is so white-hot that it seems like property values jump overnight. This would definitely qualify as one of those times you can get away with ignoring the five-year rule and selling your home, even if you haven’t been in it for long.

But a lot depends on where you plan to go next. Moving to a lower-cost metro? You’re golden. Staying in the same area? You might not be able to get into a nicer place, or end up paying more money for a home much like the one you currently own. Look around and run the numbers carefully.

Also, keep in mind this tactic works only if the profit you make from the sale is really significant—otherwise you might see it eaten up by closing costs and a little thing called capital gains tax.

“Selling a home after owning it for less than a year generates a short-term capital gains tax,” says Denver real estate agent Alex Kishinevsky. “In this scenario, any equity you have accumulated from the sale is subject to taxation as ordinary income, according to the IRS.”

Exception No. 2: The neighborhood is going downhill

A bad neighborhood is bad news, and if there’s a clear downward trend, you’d best get ahead of it. A declining neighborhood could ruin your chances of a profitable sale in the future.

Neighborhoods can start spiraling downward for a number of reasons, not the least of which is when something new gets built—or destroyed—and disrupts the quality of life. We’re talking about malls, prisons, factories, and more.

“How far away are you from the lights and noise it produces? Are citizens concerned about possible pollutants?” asks Benjamin Ross, a Realtor® with Mission Real Estate Group. “Are town hall meetings getting volatile? If the answers to these questions are yes, it may be smart to sell early and take a small loss, versus stay and lose your shirt.”

Whatever is changing your neighborhood’s landscape, ask yourself if it devalues your home. If the answer is yes, break the five-year rule and get out.

Exception No. 3: You really hate living there

Although we keep harping on it, making a profitable sale isn’t the only important thing when it comes to deciding where to live and for how long. Your happiness is also significant. If you really, really hate where you live, then you might just need to get out—regardless of the cost.

Depending on your mortgage and home insurance policy, you might even consider turning the house into an investment property. A lot of homeowners choose to rent out their homes when the market is less than stellar but they want to stop living there.

“Allow someone else to pay your mortgage and grow your net worth,” says Seattle real estate agent Tyler Kirages.

No matter why you’re considering breaking the five-year rule, always keep in mind that listing isn’t the same thing as selling.

“Put it up and see what you can get,” Ross says. “Just because you list doesn’t mean you have to sell. Explore your options by finding real values in a possible deal, and do it if it makes sense.”

The post How Soon Can You Sell a House After Buying? 3 Times to Break the 5-Year Rule appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

10 Home Upgrades That Attract Millennial Buyers

August 21, 2019

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Think millennials aren’t in the market to buy a home? On the contrary, by early 2019, millennials represented 42% of all new home loans. What does this mean for home sellers? It means it’s time to start revamping your house to attract these buyers!

Luckily, there are plenty of simple and relatively affordable upgrades homeowners can make that appeal to millennial buyers. We asked the experts to share some of their top tips for attracting these young buyers, so your home can sell in a jiffy.

1. A home office space

The remote work trend is on the rise for all groups, but especially among millennials. As a result, Kerron Stokes, a real estate agent with Re/Max Leaders in Colorado, suggests showcasing a home’s live-work versatility by carving out space for a home office.

“More than 13 million Americans work from home, according to the most current U.S. Census data. And all signs point to that trend continuing,” Stokes explains. “It doesn’t have to be big, but millennial buyers are looking for somewhere to go for a last-minute conference call or to get additional work done during the day.”

Luckily, this is an easy fix for sellers. If you’re looking to make your property more attractive to millennial buyers, consider staging one of the smaller bedrooms (or even a bonus space like a nook or alcove) as a home office. It’s a small touch, but it will help your potential millennial buyers picture the space working with their lifestyle.

2. Smart tech

Yes, this one seems obvious: Of course millennials are drawn to smart home tech—but what type?

“Appliances such as smart thermostats, smart doorbells, and more that can be controlled from an app are all the rage,” Stokes explains. “Connectivity is king when putting a house on the market these days.”

Yuri Blanco, owner of Re/Max Executives in Idaho, adds that millennials also crave low-cost tech.

“They crave smart security systems that don’t require a monthly subscription,” says Blanco. “Any new technology that comes at a low cost is a major bonus to this age group.”

3. Energy-efficient appliances

Energy-efficient products are also hugely important (and a huge selling point) for millennial buyers.

“Millennials are choosing eco-friendly materials such as nontoxic paint, Energy Star appliances in and around the home,” Blanco says.

4. A game room/gathering space

When it comes to staging, Blanco suggests highlighting how a space could be used as a gathering place for friends—something millennials actively consider when viewing homes.

“Millennials think about friends’ needs, so they want big areas where everyone can gather for entertainment, whether this be a TV or a game room,” Blanco explains.

5. USB outlets

Photo by Houzz.com

According to Stokes, it’s particularly important to install USB outlets in bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens if you want to catch millennial buyers’ eyes. Smartphones are a fact of life today, and showing that your home is ready to make life easier with accessible charging ports will impress younger buyers.

“I recommend sellers swap out standard outlets for the outlets that include USBs for charging,” Stokes says. “Constantly being on a smartphone drains a lot of power. When your home offers a charging hub or outlet for people, especially in unconventional rooms like the kitchen, they are more likely to stop and take a second look.”

6. Neutral colors

When it comes time to paint a property, opt for soft, light neutrals to appeal to millennials.

“Millennials favor neutral colors,” Blanco says. “Particularly grays have gained wide appeal, along with more whitewashed gray variations, soft neutrals, and creams.”

7. Modern design

When it comes to upgrading cabinets and other built-in features, experts say to opt for modern design elements if you’re hoping to woo millennial shoppers.

“In recent years, we are seeing millennials prefer modern, sleek designs with clean lines and minimalist aesthetics,” Blanco says. “To them, less is more. Homes that have new, stainless-steel kitchens, and simple cabinetry draw millennials in.”

8. Outdoor living space

In addition to upgrades inside the home, Stokes recommends making sure that the backyard feels like an extension of the living space—something that’s proving important to millennial buyers.

“Millennials have demonstrated a desire to personalize their homes, and large yards provide that opportunity,” Stokes says. “Spaces designed to spend time with friends around fire pits, room for a garden, and room for pets to roam is desired. However, sellers should keep in mind that these areas shouldn’t require a lot of time and maintenance, as this is something that repels millennial buyers.”

Amy Bonitatibus, chief marketing officer with Chase Home Lending, reiterates this point and adds that it’s important to not forget the front yard as well.

“According to the recent Chase Housing Confidence Index, a survey which used data from the U.S. Housing Confidence Survey, millennial homeowners ranked landscaping first on their renovation wish list, ahead of bathroom and kitchen remodels,” she says. “Everyone wants that Instagram-worthy curb appeal. Over 40% of young homeowners are looking to install new landscaping in the next few years.”

9. Garage outlets

Millennials are also more likely than older buyers to extend that smart tech to the garage and try electric vehicles, which makes power outlets in the garage increasingly important to them.

“Having the option to power, from smart cars to toy batteries to an outdoor fridge, will instantly up your home’s appeal to millennials,” Stokes says.

10. Storage space

Millennials aren’t all about fashion over function, despite what some may (wrongly) assume. Blanco says that millennials are drawn to homes that have a lot of practical storage space.

“Millennials have a desire for storage,” Blanco says. “If a home contains a multifunctional piece of furniture with storage options, even better. A home with plenty of built-in closets and drawers is more likely to be sold to buyers in this age group. Garages are also a notable place for increased storage.”

The post 10 Home Upgrades That Attract Millennial Buyers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Home-Selling Checklist: 12 Things to Do Before Selling Your House

August 20, 2019

iStock; realtor.com

Getting ready to sell your house? Then it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work! Selling a home, after all, entails a whole lot more than just planting a “For Sale” sign on your front lawn or uploading a few random photos of your place—especially if you’re angling for the most cash. (And, honestly, who isn’t?)

So before you put your house on the market, peruse this checklist of things you must do in preparation. Some of these tips are surprisingly easy, while others might require a bit more elbow grease. But they’re bound to pay off once buyers start oohing and ahhing over your place—and hopefully ponying up a great offer.

1. Find a great real estate agent

Think you can sell your home yourself, and pocket the cash you would otherwise pay a real estate agent?

It can be tempting, especially in a hot market, but resist the urge, says Jon Sterling, a real estate consultant with Keller Williams Realty in San Francisco. He’s found that a “for sale by owner” transaction is almost always a disaster, leading you to sacrifice both money and time.

That said, don’t just blindly hire the real estate agent who most recently sent you a flyer or the one your uncle’s friend’s co-worker’s cousin used. Do some research to find a real estate agent who is knowledgeable about your specific market, and then interview her to make sure she’s a good fit.

Your real estate agent should be someone you feel comfortable working with, whom you trust to sell your house for top dollar. Don’t be afraid to talk to a few real estate agents before picking one.

2. Consider your curb appeal

Yes, for better or worse, buyers do tend to judge a book by its cover. You want to make sure potential buyers’ first impression of your home is a good oneand inspires them to stop by the open house or schedule a tourso they can see more.

By investing some effort in relatively easy fixes, like planting colorful flowers and repainting your front door, the outside of your house can beckon prospective buyers to come on in.

If you’re not sure how to improve your home’s curb appeal, ask your real estate agent for advice on how others in your area have improved the exterior before selling their houses.

3. Declutter living areas

Less is definitely more when it comes to getting your house ready to show, notes Boris Sharapan Fabrikant, a real estate broker with Triplemint.

Do a clean sweep of counters, windowsills, tables, and all other visible areas, and then tackle behind closed doors: closets, drawers, and cupboards—since virtually nothing is off-limits for curious buyers.

If the house is overflowing with stuff, buyers might worry that the house won’t have ample space for their own belongings. They won’t sign up to pay a mortgage if they think they’ll also have to rent a storage space.

Take your excess stuff and donate it, or pack it up to be stored off-site. Not only will clearing clutter help your house look more appealing to buyers, it will also help you once you’ve accepted an offer and it’s time to move into a new home. Moving out will be easier if some of your stuff is already be packed.

4. Depersonalize your space

The next step on your declutter list? Sellers should remove any distractions so the buyers can visualize themselves and their family living in the property, says Kipton Cronkite, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in New York.

He says sellers should remove personal items and family photos, as well as bold artwork and furniture that might make the home less appealing to the general public. The goal is to create a blank canvas on which buyers can project their own visions of living there, and loving it.

5. Repaint walls to neutral tones

You might love that orange accent wall, but if it’s your potential buyer’s least favorite color, that could be a turnoff, warns Sharapan Fabrikant.

“You’re pretty safe with a neutral color because it’s rare that someone hates it, but the other benefit is that a light color allows [buyers] to envision what the walls would look like with the color of their choice,” he points out.

It’s the seller’s job to help buyers picture themselves in the house. If they don’t feel at home, they’ll probably look at other real estate options.

6. Touch up any scuff marks

Even if you’re not doing a full-on repainting project, pay special attention to scrubbing and then touching up baseboards, walls, and doors to make the house sparkle and look cared-for.

Selling almost any home can be tricky, but selling a home with lots of little problems and small repair needs can be downright difficult. When buyers walk into an open house, or go on a home tour, they want to fall in love with the house, not add a bunch of small repairs to their to-do list.

In order to impress buyers (and sell your house quickly), fix up your house before putting it on the market.

With a home that is fixed up and move-in ready, you will probably see more interest, and may even see multiple offers.

7. Fix any loose handles

It’s a small thing, sure, but you’d be surprised by the negative effect a loose handle or missing lightbulb can have on a buyer, notes Sharapan Fabrikant.

“It can make them stop and think ‘What else is broken here?’” he explains.

For a buyer, submitting an offer, and later committing to a mortgage, is a big deal. When you’re selling your home, you don’t want to give any buyers doubt that your house will make a great home.

8. Add some plants

When staging your house, remember that green is good: Plants create a bright and more welcoming environment. You might also want to consider a bouquet of flowers or bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter or dining table.

Some plants and natural elements will impress buyers by bringing some extra color and life to your decor.

9. Conduct a smell test

Foul odors, even slight ones, can be a deal breaker, and the problem is that you might not even notice them, says Sharapan Fabrikant.

He recommends inviting an unbiased third party in to try to detect any pet smells or lingering odors from your kitchen.

If the smells are pervasive, prepare to do some deep cleaning as many buyers are on to seller’s “masking techniques” such as candles or plug-in room deodorizers. Plus, covering up odors with a stronger scent might backfire if the buyer doesn’t like the smell of lavender or artificial citrus.

10. Clean, clean, clean

Once you’re done cleaning your house, clean some more. Even if you’re not worried about what buyers will think of your home’s scent, you want your property to look spotless.

Think of it this way: You’ll probably have professional photos taken of your house when it looks its best. Naturally, you’ll want your house to always look like it does in those pictures.

When selling your home, it’s important to keep everything tidy for buyers, and you never know when a buyer is going to want to schedule a last-minute tour. Remember to take special care with the bathroom, making sure the tile, counters, shower, and floors shine.

11. Hide valuables

From art to jewelry, keep your treasures are out of sight, either locked up or stored off-site, recommends Kronkite.

You can’t trust everyone who comes into your house, even when you’re trying to sell it. Sometimes things disappear during an open house, and there’s little the seller can do to get those things back. Take care to hide your valuables or move them to a safe space away from your home.

12. Consider staging

Does your house scream 1985? Nothing invigorates a house like some new furnishings or a perfectly chosen mirror. The key is getting your home staged by a professional.

Home stagers will evaluate the current condition and belongings in your house and determine what elements might raise the bar. They might recommend you buy or rent some items, or they might just reorganize your knickknacks and bookshelves in a whole new (that is, better) way.

Stagers know the real estate market, and what sells, so it’s important to take their advice and not take offense when they make big changes. Their job is to help drum up interest from potential buyers, which is always good news to the seller.

The post Home-Selling Checklist: 12 Things to Do Before Selling Your House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.