When winter weather strikes, you may think it’s time to stop putting your house out there, but don’t worry. You can still successfully show a house in the winter months, but it will take a little extra preparation. In fact, buyers who are shopping in the winter are often highly motivated, because they typically have an urgent need to move during the “off season.” This, combined with fewer houses on the market in many communities, can lead to an easier sale. Here are some tips to help you showcase your home well, even if the snow and ice are hitting your community.
Keep Walkways Clear
Make sure that people who are interested in your home can clearly see the path from driveway to front door. This means shoveling and salting all season long. You need to be proactive about this, even if the snow is actively falling, because footprints from people walking on freshly fallen snow can turn into dangerous ice. Also, keep that “for sale” sign free of snow, so people who drive by know the home is available.
Leave Space for Wet Shoes
Have a space by your front door where potential buyers can leave wet shoes. Most buyers will be respectful enough not to tramp into your home wearing wet shoes, if you provide a spot for them. Be prepared for some extra cleaning, though, because some potential buyers won’t feel comfortable removing their shoes.
Turn on the Lights
When you leave your home for a potential showing, turn on all of the lights. Winter tends to be a darker time of year, and you want your home to show as clearly as possible. In addition, open all blinds and curtains to let in as much natural light as possible.
Make It Warm
Even if you enjoy a little chill in the air during the winter, buyers should feel warm and toasty when they walk in. During showings, increase the thermostat a little higher than usual before buyers arrive, then set it back to your comfort level during the showing to keep the furnace from kicking on while the buyers are in the home.
Take Photos Strategically
If you have the freedom to, take the photos of your home on a day when there is either fresh snow or before the grass dies at the end of fall. The photos will live on the Internet for a while, so you want them to showcase the home well. A dreary yard with half melted snow may cause the home to show poorly.
Selling your home in the winter is possible, and can even be quite successful, but it does require a little strategic planning. With these tips, you can have a successful winter home sale.
• Regularly clean gutters and downspouts. Make sure all drainage areas are unblocked by leaves and debris. Consider installing gutter guards to make the job a lot easier.
• Use a screwdriver to probe the wood trim around windows, doors, railings and decks. Use caulk to fill the holes or completely replace the wood.
• Inspect your roof, or hire a licensed professional to examine your roof for wear and tear. If the shingles are curling, buckling or crackling, replace them. If you have a lot of damage, it’s time to replace the entire roof. Also, check the flashing around skylights, pipes and chimneys. If you have any leaks or gaps, heavy snow and ice will find its way in.
• To prevent exterior water pipes from bursting when the weather gets below freezing, turn off the valves to the exterior hose bibs. Run the water until the pipes are empty. Make sure all the water is drained from the pipes, if not; the water can freeze up and damage the pipes.
• Wrap water pipes that run along exterior walls with heating tape. It will save energy and prevent them from freezing.
• Clean and replace filters in your furnace or heating system. Contact a licensed heating contractor to inspect and service your gas heater or furnace to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Check the attic to make sure the insulation is installed properly. The vapor barrier on insulation should face down toward the living space. If it is installed incorrectly (with the vapor barrier facing up) then the insulation will trap moisture causing possible water problems. Cut slits in the vapor barrier to allow moisture to escape.
• Clean Out Your Dryer Lint Vent – Corral those lint bunnies. Those deceptively harmless looking little fluffs love to snuggle down in your dryer vents and lint traps. Before you know it, they multiply like, well, rabbits. Dryer lint is extremely flammable if you let it build up in the vents. You can hire someone to do this for you, or you can do it yourself and buy a vacuum attachment made specifically for cleaning out dryer vents.
• Clean Your Refrigerator Coils! You can eliminate more than 70 percent of service calls with this simple cleaning step. Skip this chore and you’ll be contributing to your appliance repair technician’s retirement fund. Not to mention handing over $5 to $10 a month extra to your utility company because the fridge isn’t running efficiently.
Do it twice a year or more often if you have shedding pets. Their fur clogs up the coils fast. Condenser coils are located on the back of the fridge or across the bottom. These coils cool and condense the refrigerant. When the coils are clogged with dirt and dust, they can’t efficiently release heat. The result is your compressor works harder and longer than it was designed to, using more energy and shortening the life of your fridge.
• “Childproof” Your Outlets Even If You Don’t Have Kids -Sticking a simple child proof plug into your electrical outlets could save you 5% on your energy bill this year. Who knew that doing something to protect your kids could also protect your bank account! Electrical outlet boxes typically don’t have any insulation behind them, creating what is basically a hole in your wall. On a windy day take some incense or a match and put it in front of an outlet (one without a plug in it of course) and see if you can see air movement.
Fall Garden Maintenance
• Fall is the perfect time to divide or move perennials. Remove dead annuals and mulch hardy perennials. Annuals typically die when temperatures drop below freezing. But perennials often appear as though they too have bitten the bullet. That’s because their top growth dies back, although in most cases the root ball is hardy enough to survive even extreme temperatures, especially if it’s covered with a layer of mulch.
• Trim dead branches out the trees to prevent them from coming down and causing damage in a winter storm.
• Rake up the thick layers of leaves that settle on lawn surfaces. Large leaves in particular, especially when they get wet, can compact to the point where they suffocate the grass below and lead to all kinds of insect and disease problems. So it’s a good idea to routinely rake or blow them off the lawn or, better yet, use a mulching mower to shred them into fine pieces.
• Fall is a good time to aerate your lawn; it will allow moisture and nutrients to get into the roots. When you’re done, spread fertilizer then grass seed.
• This will be the ideal time to sow cool-season grasses such as fescue and rye – it will give them the opportunity to germinate and develop a good root system before freezing temperatures arrive. It’s also the right time to fertilize turf grasses, preferably with slow-release, all-natural fertilizer. When given adequate nutrients, turf grasses have the ability to store food in the form of carbohydrates during the winter months. That will mean a better-looking lawn come spring.
Check For Pests • Pests love attics because they are full of nice warm insulation for nesting, and they offer easy access to the rest of the house. With gable vents that lead into the attic it is a good idea to install a screen behind them to keep those critters out.
• Even after closing off those entryways, pests can still find a way in. The first place to check for any unwanted guests is under the kitchen cupboards and appliances.
• Each fall, check carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms and put in fresh batteries. These are very important detectors to have in a home. A smoke alarm can save lives in a house fire. A carbon monoxide detector can also save lives if a home has oil or gas-burning appliances, like a furnace or water heater.
• Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless byproduct of burning oil or natural gas, and it can be deadly. For just a few dollars, a carbon monoxide detector will sound an alarm if the levels get too high.
• Always install carbon monoxide detectors according to manufacturer’s instructions. Generally they should be installed near each potential source of carbon monoxide, and within ear shot of the living and sleeping areas.
• Have your wood-burning fireplace inspected, cleaned and repaired to prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
First impressions are everything–especially in real estate. When buyers tour a home it better look its best, or buyers will quickly move on to the next.
Furnishing the space helps potential buyers visualize their life within the walls. And, bonus points, staged properties sell on average 73% faster than non staged homes.To help you out, we rounded up a list of successfully staged homes that have used price-conscious or zero-cost strategies to make your listing look great without breaking the bank.
The last thing you want when you’re showing a home is for personal items (ahem, toothbrushes) to distract your clients. You want potential buyers to envision their own belongings in the space, not fixate on the current owner’s hair filled hairbrush.
In occupied homes it is crucial that sellers are on board with hiding clutter and personal belongings when it’s time for photography and showings.
2. Furniture That Fits the Space
It’s probably common sense that a 600 sq ft condo shouldn’t be furnished with the same living room furniture as a 2,500 sq ft family home. When working with a smaller space, consider the appropriate size of furniture for the space. Oversized furniture makes rooms feel crowded and well sized furniture creates the illusion of a larger space.
If your client already has a living room set, think about splitting up the sofa and loveseat into two seperate rooms to maximize resources and space. Also discuss rearranging furniture in order to create the best flow of the space.
3. Minimalistic Decor
Less really is more when it comes to staging. You want to keep the focus on the bones of the house, not the superficial decorations. You want the space to appeal to a larger group of potential buyers.
4. Real House Plants
There are many benefits to real plants versus fake ones. For starters, fake plants are actually more expensive than their living counterparts. You can buy real house plants at your local stores for under $20. Also, live house plants won’t become dusty over time (not cute!).
Plants are perfect for vacant and non vacant houses, they add life to any space. You can even give them to the buyer as a congratulatory gift once the deal is closed.
5. Neutral Rooms
It’s difficult to envision how you are going to style the guest bedroom when it’s painted bubblegum pink with ‘Princess’ hanging over the bed. Moral of the story: Buyers want to be able to walk into a room and not have to worry about all of the things they will have to change later on.
Your clients might resist painting before listing, but it is best practice to prepare a neutral space. White walls might seem dull, but they act as a metaphorical blank canvas for buyers to paint their life onto.
6. A Lived-In Feel
There is a fine line between a house that feels over-staged (cue the giant bowl of 20 lemons in the dining room), and a well curated home. Adding thoughtful accessories makes the house feel lived in and more attractive to buyers.
The key is to be authentic. Think of what you would actually use in the space, like beautiful utensils or local magazines (pictured above). It is a good idea to keep a stash of staging items handy for final touches–A stack of books or a lit candle goes a long way.
7. Natural Light
Do not underestimate the power of ambient lighting. Place furniture around windows so sunlight can shine through and brighten up the room. Sunlight in a home can physiologically influence our happiness without us even knowing. If you have a killer view, be sure to show it off by positioning furniture so it is the focal point of the room.
If your client has dark window treatments, switch to a sheer white option or remove them altogether. Letting in daylight will immediately elevate the space.
8. Mirror, Mirror
Mirrors create the illusion of a larger space, making even the smallest rooms feel open and inviting. Mirrors reflect the light in the room and intensifies its design power. Plus, they are useful!
Oversized mirrors can be expensive but overstock stores like Homegoods have great options at serious discounts. Plus, they can be reused for future staging.
9. Al Fresco Approved
Residential architects have ranked outdoor living spaces as the no. 1 “special function” room amongst consumers. Potential buyers see outdoor areas as an extension of living space and should be staged accordingly.
Investing in a small patio set for staging purposes if your client doesn’t own one might get the listing sold even faster. Extra points if you add a nice bouquet of fresh flowers.
Staging a home can be hard work, and it can take some creativity to get results without breaking the bank. Investing time upfront will get you a better results in the end.
Water is one of the greatest, most abundant, natural resources on earth and one of the most wasted in the home. If you use water excessively, there’s a good chance your water bill will create a deep hole in your pocket. Not only will conserving water save you money, but it will also help you reduce the strain on the environment that water wastage causes. Here are a few tips to conserve water for those who have made drought-prone areas, such as California, their home.
Turn Off Faucets That Aren’t In Use
Start saving on your water bill by reducing how long you leave your faucet running when doing chores like washing dishes. If you’re brushing your teeth or shaving, there’s no need to keep the tap running. Instead, try keeping a cup of water close for rinsing.
Be sure to check your faucets to ensure they aren’t leaking. If they are, you could be losing as much as 20 gallons of water each day, and leaky toilets may waste more than 150 gallons daily.
Buy An Energy Efficient Washing Machine
The average American household washes over 300 loads of laundry per year. It is responsible for more than thirty percent of all indoor water usage in a home and should be considered when looking for more effective ways to conserve water. Consider investing in a front-loading or high-efficiency washing machine to save water instead of a standard top loader.
When looking for a new washing machine, check for an Energy Star certification tag. Energy Star certified devices save upwards of forty percent more water over standard machines. They do this by ensuring that the same stream of water washes clothes without refilling the washer’s tub. High-pressure sprays are used to ensure that your clothes come out cleaner while using less water.
Hand-Water Your Lawn
If you have a smaller garden, then installing a sprinkler system may only waste water and cost you money. Instead, buy a watering can and water by hand. However, automatic irrigation systems could save you time and money if you happen to have a large yard that requires frequent watering. For small gardens, utilizing a hose uses one-third of the water that an automated sprinkler would use.
If you need to use a sprinkler system, then invest in a weather-based sprinkler monitor that can adjust to the current weather conditions and provide efficiently rotated sprinkler heads that will use less water.
Water can add up in the realm of wasted resources and extra expenses. These tips may help you save on water and reduce your utility bills. Installing water-conserving systems in your home may also give you an edge on the competition when selling, so talk to your real estate agent about the best ways to make your home more water-friendly.
The summer can be a fun time full of adventure and bonding with friends and family. But with the hot days, many who want to spend their time inside with the family where it is cool are choosing to do so.
With the long hours spent at home and the increase in usage, you may lose control of your electric bill and end up paying a lot of money you did not expect to pay.
For the households who want to save money, or at least use electricity efficiently, the following are some ways to do so:
The first thing you need to do is to prepare yourself for the heat. This way, you can plan and set your physical limits as early as possible. Once you get done preparing mentally, you need to make your home ready for the heat with the following steps.
You can invest in an automatic thermostat. An electronic thermostat is the best way for you to keep your home at a suitable temperature without having to increase or
decrease the thermostat, the smart device will do that for you.
You should review the maintenance of your air conditioning units and fans to check if they work and how you can further save electricity on them.
You can have a general cleaning and de-clutter your home so you can have more space for the airflow.
Second, you need to do the math and share that logic with your family members, so they know how to control the temperature.
You must remember this logic: for every degree above 72ºF, you end up saving up to 3% on your cooling expenses. Studies have shown that the ideal setting is up to 78ºF. This setting works best if you slowly acclimate early in the summer.
Third, you can spend money on blinds and end up saving more. Think of this scenario: you have the air conditioner on, and the windows allow the sun to come in. Perhaps it is ideal for you to use natural light, but it hurts your electric consumption more. The more sun that shines in the room, the more work the air conditioner does. Adjustable blinds allow you to have reflected light but reduce the thermal effect.
Finally, use summer to bond with your kids. Only use one room where your whole family can stay during the day if you plan on staying at home. This way, you save money on air conditioning and also bond with your kids.
Now that you know the best ways to save electricity during the summer, you are now ready for a better experience with your family.
You may have wanted to apply for a mortgage at some point but were put off by something negative someone said about this type of loan. Similarly, you may have been encouraged to apply for one based on some false information but met with a quick rejection. Some of the information that bred these misconceptions may not be false but has merely become outdated. Below are some of those misconceived ideas and the truth behind them:
1. You cannot get a loan with a bad credit score
While it is true that most traditional banks will consider you too risky if your score is below 620, other non-traditional lenders will listen to you. Those offering house loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) can approve borrowers with a minimum score of 580. Remember, though, that lenders will cover the risk of lending to folks with a low credit score by fixing a higher interest rate. So you might want to clean up your debt before looking for a mortgage.
2. You have to raise 20% as a down payment
In the past, this was true. You had to stump up at least 20% of the value of the property before you approached a lender. Some would require up to 30%. These days you can find lenders who will only ask for 6% to get closing on your mortgage deal. FHA-backed loans will accept even 3.5%.
3. Being pre-approved and pre-qualified are the same thing
Being pre-approved is as almost as good as having the cash to buy a property. Before you get pre-approval, you have to have submitted all required documentation to the lender. Based on your financials, the lender will arrive at a maximum amount they can advance you for the purchase of the property. Your real estate agent can, therefore, use that pre-approval to go house hunting. Getting pre-qualified doesn’t carry this much weight- it only means you have engaged a lender and that you’re ready to begin the application process.
4. The interest rate quoted is what you’ll close with
The rate quoted is subject to change unless you lock it in. Interest rates fluctuate daily, changing severally even on the same day depending on how mortgage bonds trade. From the time you get the initial quote when beginning the pre-approval process to the time you settle on a property and want to close, the rate could have changed by a few points. You can only lock the rate once you’ve identified a home to which you want to commit.
Ask your mortgage officer all the questions you can think of before you close your deal.