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It’s a highly competitive market for home sellers right now. More homes to compete with means that the impression your homes makes - from the curb, and on the inside - matter now more than ever. You can increase your chances of selling faster - and at today’s top dollar - by investing in a select few home improvement projects that have been shown to make a big impact on buyers.

Bad news alert: it might cost you a little time, effort and cash.  The good news, though, is that the best projects for quickly increasing your home’s resale value tend to be cosmetic and fairly simple and inexpensive to do. Here are five projects with big-time return on investment for home sellers-to-be, in terms of their power to attract buyers, and to attract dollars from those buyers.

1. Painting:  Adding a fresh coat of paint to ceilings and walls is a tried and true way to increase your home’s appeal to buyers. Go for white or neutral tones that help lighten your rooms. (Now is not the time to show off your fascination with fuschia and lime green.) Buyers will have an easier time envisioning how they will infuse their own personalities into your home if they’re looking at a relatively blank slate. 

Painting lightens and brightens rooms, instantly removes scuffs and dings and gives every room a fresh, polished feel. 


Fresh exterior paint - even if your time or cash budget limits your efforts to accents like eaves, shutters, doors and trims - is also a quick, inexpensive way to polish the look of your home from the curb.

2. Landscaping:  Everything you’ve heard about curb appeal is true. First impressions matter - especially if your house is one of eight or nine a buyer has seen in one day. Buyers will be more excited to look at the inside your home if the outside looks clean, charming and inviting. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, pull the weeds and plant some flowers, bushes or shrubs for the biggest impact - and be diligent about keeping your landscaping very well-manicured throughout the time your home is on the market. 

Be sure to keep it low-key, relatively low maintenance and neutral, though. This is not the time to indulge your personal fantasies of living in an exotic paradise, unless that matches the existing look and feel of your home, nor is it the time to install a time-intensive English garden that buyers will love, but not want to take on. Think clean, simple and elegant for the biggest boost in value.

3. Cleaning and de-cluttering:  Start by removing all your family photos from the walls and all sorts of tchochkes and clutter from the tops of tables, desks, dressers and counters. Buyers want to be able to envision their lives in the house, not yours. Personal items - and the visual clutter they create - have been shown time and time again to block buyers’ ability to create this vision. 

Also, remember that buyers are coming to see the house and evaluate its space, not to bear witness to all the fabulous furniture that means so much to you (no matter how amazing your personal taste). Remove furniture that takes up too much space and fills up rooms. Get rid of clutter such as clothes, boxes, piles of mail and other items. 

And then clean - and keep cleaning obsessively, the entire time your place is on the market. Kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms should look unlived in when they are shown.  And don't forget to clean less obvious places like windows, walls, doors and  and floors, to dust off shelves and furniture, and to polish appliances. 


4. Plumbing repairs and water stain/damage repair: Paying a plumber to make a few stops throughout your home can be well worth the investment. Leaky faucet in the master bathroom? Get it fixed. Does the space under your kitchen sink look like a science experiment? Leaks and water stains definitely provoke disgust and exasperation on the part of the buyers you want and need to impress.  And they can be pretty cost effective to fix - ask your agent for a referral, if you need one.

5. Staging:  Staging your home can make a dramatic difference in the price for which your home sells. Good staging is equal parts:


(a)    removing your personal belongings and replacing it with more  artwork, decor and cleaner-looking furniture,

(b)    and tweaking the home’s paint, wall coverings and even landscaping to show the place in its very best light.


When done well, staging can convert your home from just another listing on a buyer’s list to the setting for a fresh, new start to the fresh, new life of their dreams. Professional stagers, in particular, have special skills and materials they use, from convincing you to get rid of a bunch of things you value (but read: junk to a buyer), to  items like mirrors, plants, art work, lamps, pillows and even furniture that tells a visual story of the life buyers can fantasize about living in your home.

Talk to your agent about staging - some agents have the skill to do this on their own, while others might have a professional stager they frequently work with.

In some cases, you might want to take on even larger projects. Before you go that route, talk with a local real estate agent; they are well-positioned to know what sort of updates and features will make the most impact on local buyers. Not all major, non-cosmetic upgrades to your home will create a significant difference in the price it commands, so take advantage of your agent’s expertise as you make decisions about which property preparation investments to make (and which to forego). 

Written by:  Tara-Nicholle Nelson

Fast Fact .........

by Desi Sowers



Trying to keep costs down this summer?

You can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent by raising

your thermostat two degrees and using a ceiling fan.

Kitchen Cosmetics

by Desi Sowers

 

Kitchen Cosmetics

Could your kitchen use a facelift? According to Remodeling magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report, the average minor kitchen remodel costs $21,695. And considering the amount of time people spend in their kitchens, it could be well worth the investment: Homeowners typically recoup about 73 percent of the cost, according to the report.

     If you’re hiring contractors to do the work, make sure you do your research. Estimate how much the down payment will be (usually about a quarter of the total project cost) and be sure to discuss a schedule for the payments. Walk through and make a list of what (if anything) in the kitchen won’t be replaced during the remodel. Keep in mind that you can save thousands if your remodel allows you to keep existing wiring and plumbing in place. Still, unexpected costs do pop up, so experts recommend keeping about 20 percent more cash on hand to cover unforeseen cost overruns.

     When it comes to the details, costs can certainly add up. But there are ways to get the luxe look for less. Kitchen counter materials range in price, from a top-of-the-line expensive granite surface to a wallet-friendly durable quartz countertop that has the look and feel of granite. If you do go for a luxurious countertop, consider installing a less expensive backsplash (beadboard, DIY mosaic tiles, or faux pressed tin are some options). Refacing cabinets, painting them or just replacing the knobs for a fresh look might be a more viable option than replacing the entire set.

New Listing - Backs up to Jefferson Natl Forest

by Desi Sowers

<p><span class="expanded_field_value">Gorgeous mountain views surround this  comfortable home nestled adjacent to Jefferson National Forest. </span></p>
<p><span class="expanded_field_value"> Screened by nature,  the property offers a quick commute to Blacksburg,   Salem or Roanoke. </span></p>
<p><span class="expanded_field_value"> Bright and open floor plan,  hardwood floors and  fresh paint are just a few features you will enjoy. </span></p>
<p><span class="expanded_field_value"> Just over 3 acres  offers plenty of room for gardening,  pets and privacy - Come See!   Please View Virtual Tour.</span></p>
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Gorgeous mountain views surround this comfortable home nestled adjacent to Jefferson National Forest.

Screened by nature, the property offers a quick commute to Blacksburg, Salem or Roanoke.

Bright and open floor plan, hardwood floors and fresh paint are just a few features you will enjoy.

Just over 3 acres offers plenty of room for gardening, pets and privacy - Come See! Please View Virtual Tour.

Must See Video - This Month in Real Estate

by Desi Sowers

This Month In Real Estate (US) February 2011

8 Tips to Lower Your Heating Bills

by Desi Sowers

Thermostat issues among common energy-wasters.

Q: We received our heating bill (gas) today in the amount of $266.74. We keep our thermostat set on 70 degrees during the winter and turn it down to 60 degrees at night. When we leave for any period of time during the day, my husband turns it down to 60 degrees.

My friend has a two-story house and keeps her thermostat set at 66 degrees during the winter. Her gas bill is much lower than ours. What might we be doing incorrectly? We have a fairly new energy-efficient heating system, the filters are changed, and the system is cleaned. --Ruth A.

A: There are lots of factors that can affect the difference in heating costs between two homes, including insulation levels, the efficiency of the windows, the amount of weatherstripping, how much air leaks into and out of the house, even how often you open and close exterior doors.

I would offer the following suggestions:

Have a heating technician come out and check the accuracy of your thermostat. If it's calibrated incorrectly, you might be heating the house to a higher level than you realize, which can waste energy. While the technicians are at the house, be sure to have them check the condition of the ducts. A broken or loose duct can lose a lot of heat into the attic or crawl space, which really wastes energy. Finally, be sure that they check the furnace itself. A cracked heat exchanger or other problem with the furnace can also lead to high energy bills.

Try a heat setting of 68 during the day instead of 70 and see if you're comfortable with that. Also, try setting the thermostat to 62 instead of 60 when you go out. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but a 10-degree temperature swing is a lot for the furnace to make up, and it make be making it work harder than it needs to.

If you tend to stay in one part of the house during some parts of the day -- for example, if you tend to stay in the living room during the evenings -- then consider lowering the thermostat below 68 and adding an energy-efficient portable electric or other type of heater in the living room. Known as "zonal heating," this helps confine the heat to the rooms you use instead of heating the rooms you're not occupying. Do not, however, shut off ducts in unused rooms, as this can unbalance the air flow in the heating system and potentially damage the furnace.

Consider the installation of a ceiling-mounted paddle fan, especially if you have high ceilings or a two-story house. This will move heated air off the ceiling and back down into the room, helping to make the rooms feel warmer. Finally, have an insulation or weatherization contractor examine the house and make recommendations about insulation levels -- including floor and duct insulation -- as well as weatherstripping and other measures to prevent heat loss.

Q: I have recently done extensive renovations on my 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment in New York City. I am on the 14th floor and have great views [and] have worked hard to make it look as beautiful as I can. The problem? My neighbor below smokes in his bathroom and it unfortunately is rising up into my bathroom. I cannot figure out how it is getting into my bathroom, but every time I open my bathroom door after being closed for a while it hits me in the face! The smoke odor is nauseating to me, as I do not smoke and it's extremely frustrating because I don't know what to do about it! Any suggestions? --Kathy D.

A: Every building has a number of penetrations in the walls and ceilings where pipes, wiring and building components are run. This is especially true with multistory buildings, where large chases are created for water lines, drain lines, air ducts, etc. I suspect that what's happening is that your neighbor's smoke is getting into the walls and/or the ceiling through penetrations in his bathroom, coming up through one of these chases, and getting into your bathroom through similar openings.

The first thing I would suggest is that you seal up everything you can find in your bathroom. This would include caulking the joint between the floor and the baseboards; getting behind the trim rings where pipes come out of the wall and sealing between the pipe and the wall; sealing around any heating ducts; sealing around medicine cabinets and light fixtures; even installing foam gaskets at the electrical outlets and switches.

In other words, close off any access from the walls, floor or ceiling that could be opening into your bathroom. Depending on the location and the size of the gaps, you can use clear silicone sealant, colored acrylic latex caulk, or even expandable foam.

I assume you have an exhaust fan in your bathroom. I would suggest putting it on a timer, and having the timer operate the fan daily at a time when it's convenient for you -- perhaps while you're away at work during the day, or late at night when you're asleep. This will flush out the stale air, along with any excess moisture, and keep the odors from building up.

Finally, if you're on good terms with your neighbor (or if you have a good building superintendent or condo association), perhaps you could explain the situation to your neighbor, and ask if he would consider the same steps in his apartment: sealing penetrations and installing a fan timer.

Written by Paul Bianchina

30-Year Mortgage Rates Plumb New Depths

by Desi Sowers

30-Year Mortgage Rates Plumb New Depths

Freddie Mac reports that the average interest on 30-year fixed mortgages slipped to an all-time low, for the third consecutive week, to 4.19 percent.   WOW!!!

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Nathan Becker (10/15/10)

What's New in New Housing Design

by Desi Sowers

What's New in New Housing Design

Here are the products grabbing the attention of the home building and remodeling industries, according to Bill Millholland, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Case Design/Remodeling in Maryland, and Jamie Gibbs, a New York-based interior designer:

· Appliance Drawers
. Small warning drawers, modest-sized dishwasher drawers for small loads, refrigerator drawers and microwave drawers.

· Counter-depth refrigerators
. Some are only 24 inches deep.

· Motion-detecting faucets
. Like you'd find in the restrooms of businesses.

· LED (light-emitting diode) lighting
. These are used under cabinets and in ceiling fixtures as a longer-lasting, more efficient alternative to compact fluorescent lamps and incandescent bulbs.

· Electric heated floors
. A nice touch in bathrooms.

· Showers with multiple heads and body sprays. Bathtubs are out.

Source: The Washington Post (09/25/2010)

Great Advise for Selling Your Home

by /posted by Desi Sowers

Sell Faster When You Understand The Buyers Mindset

When most sellers list their home for sale the first thing they think about is how much will I get and that is usually followed by how soon will I get the money. It's certainly understandable that those two concerns are, most often, top of mind. After all, you're likely selling your home to buy another one or invest the money in something else.

 But, if as a seller, you can get into the buyer's mindset, the sale of your home can come faster and for more money.

Understanding the way buyers think involves seeing things not from your perspective but from your potential buyer's mindset. It can sound easy but actually it's often harder to do than most sellers think. The psychology of buying is driven by emotional experiences, money, and timing. With that in mind, sellers can help create optimal circumstances that literally help walk the buyer through the process and completion of the sale of your home. 

 It starts with a feeling. When you meet someone for the first time, you form a first impression based on a feeling. That's exactly what happens when buyers set foot into your home. Work with an experienced agent to learn exactly what kind of impression your home is giving off. If it's a small home, make sure it's not overfilled and cluttered.

 Pick up all the loose clutter that's floating around. Throw out old magazines. People like to see things that are streamlined or clean or fresh looking. There's nothing worse than walking into a place and seeing a stack of magazines all over the place or an unmade bed.

 Go the extra step and take care of items that might have been overlooked for quite some time. Steam clean the carpets, the upholstery, the furniture, if that's what's needed. Have the windows cleaned, light fixtures cleaned. Make it feel clean when you walk in.

Go back to basics. You may love your turquoise carpet but do you really think buyers will? Getting inside the buyers mind will help you answer these questions. You can also pick up home décor magazines and see what appeals to the masses. You don't have to change everything in your home, but going back to basics in a few areas will help buyers see how your home can become their home.

 As soon as buyers see a really loud red, orange or lemon-green color they automatically think about re-doing. That, of course, means the buyers are already beginning to calculate the amount of money they need to take off of the sale price in order to get the home in the condition they would like it.

 If instead you stick with neutral colors such as painting the walls off-white, light beige or Navajo white, you have a better chance in preserving the sale price.

 Repair anything that looks torn, worn or broken If you walked into a retail store and saw a garment that you liked but it was torn or missing buttons, chances are you'd search for another one or ask for a discount if that were the only one of its kind.

 That's what buyers will do with your home when they spot torn screens, garage doors that don't open, or broken light fixtures that are hanging out of the wall. Buyers, if at first they don't get completely turned off and walk away from the sale, will first begin to think that there is more damage to the home than what they're able to see and then they start to calculate the cost of repairing those damages. But buyers often exaggerate the amount of money needed to fix the repairs.

 In today's market people are looking desperately to find out what's wrong with a home so that they can lower the price.

 n the buyers' minds, they come up with some kind of incredible price to fix repairs. In their mind, they go way overboard and eventually it affects the bottom line price for the seller.

 Don't miss an opportunity to get the word out about your home being listed for sale. It only makes sense to let your neighbors know. By doing this your neighbors can sometimes become great facilitators and supporters of the sale.

 Most people are visual buyers. If the home doesn't look clean, spotless, and repaired then the buyer thinks what's behind the walls, how much more money do I have to put into this home.

 Remember understanding the psychology of the buyer's mindset can help you sell faster and for the price you really want. 

  Written by Phoebe Chongchua

A professional home inspection can not only provide a great education about the home’s systems, but also be a crucial tool in negotiating the most equitable price on the home, according to HouseMaster, one of the first and largest home inspection franchisors in North America.

“Our experience and research shows that approximately 40% of resale homes have at least one defect that can cost a home buyer a minimum of $500 to repair,” said Kathleen Kuhn, President of HouseMaster.“A home inspection by a professional and qualified home inspector is an excellent tool to encourage home sellers to make repairs or make further price adjustments as a result of conditions noted in the inspection report.”

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), in 2009, a record 47% of homes sold were purchased by first-time buyers. Tax credit incentives from the federal government of up to $8,000 and historically low mortgage rates continue to attract first-time buyers to the market. A professional home inspection not only educates buyers on the condition of the home but can minimize costly surprises down the road. HouseMaster provides the following tips to ensure that first-time buyers make an educated decision when purchasing a home and get the best price possible.

1. Inspect the Inspector. Only hire a home inspector with an excellent reputation and credentials. Ask how long the company has been in business, ask about specific formal training and ongoing education the inspector has and verify the inspector carries professional liability insurance also known as “Errors & Omissions” (E&O). If the company doesn’t carry this insurance, it could indicate a poor track record or lack of experience.

2. Ask for a sample of a report. The credentials of the inspection company and the quality of the final inspection report will be important. A poorly prepared report without pictures or clear, concise details addressing all the various systems and accessible elements of the home is less likely to be taken seriously by a home seller.

3. Inspect ancillary systems. It’s hard for first-time home buyers to know what they need, so be sure to ask what additional services the company offers. If the home you are considering has a septic system for example, a professional home inspection company may offer septic system inspections or can coordinate that service for you. Generally, the company will offer you a multiple services discount as well as the added convenience of only having to attend one inspection appointment. Other common services offered by home inspectors are termite inspections, mold screening, water testing and radon testing.

4. Go along on the inspection. Ask the inspection company if they encourage buyers to tag along on the inspection. If the inspector discourages you from going along and asking questions, find another inspector. A home inspection is not simply a laundry list of what is wrong with the home. In addition to documenting issues and needed repairs that may exist, a professional home inspector will also show the new buyer how to operate the various systems in the home and provide tips on improving energy efficiency and maintaining the home in general. And being present during the inspection will make the final written report that much more meaningful.

RISMEDIA, April 21, 2010

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Photo of Desi Sowers,  Associate Broker,  Real Estate
Desi Sowers, Associate Broker,
Certified Residential Specialist at REMAX 8
1344 N. Main Street
Blacksburg VA 24060
Phone: (540) 320-1328

Each Office Independently Owned and Operated