When you love your home but want to make some changes, how do you know where to begin? As a real estate broker and advisor to my clients, I am often asked what improvement projects are most worthwhile or where money is best invested.
In today’s market, I am consistently seeing that buyers are looking for the “cream puff” listings. They want a home that is well maintained, “move in” ready, priced well, and in a good location. No surprise there, right?
As I work with clients, whether they are preparing to move now or just looking to improve their home for their own enjoyment, I find a few things that consistently show rewards in the end.
Beginning with maintenance items such as roofing, siding, paint (both interior and exterior), windows, and a couple secret weapons that are often overlooked, which offer a huge impact and are more reasonably priced than you may think, are new garage doors and outdoor fixtures. Remember you never get a second chance to make a first impression!
Outdoor living areas have become all the rage by giving the homeowner an opportunity to add additional entertaining space to their home. The options here are endless depending on your budget and amount of space you have to work with, but this can be a great way to improve the function and finish of your home.
Take a minute to ask yourself, where do I spend most of my time in my home? Kitchen, kitchen, kitchen! We all love to eat and hang out in the kitchen. As a result, improvements here are always a good place to start.
Owner’s bedroom suites and bathrooms are also very popular areas for improvement. The range of options for these areas is vast based again on size and budget.
Consider replacing hard surfaces, base and trim, fixtures, and doors. Think outside the box and ask an expert for help choosing something that might set your home apart. Why use the same six-panel door that everyone has? Change it up a bit. Starting with the solid bones using neutral tones and embellishing with accessories to add a splash of color and your own flair is always a winner!
The more open, clean, and well maintained your home is, the greater your return on your investment will be. Buyers in today’s market have access to an abundance of information and have a good eye for short cuts. Work done just to “flip” a home will be called out very quickly! Always ask a professional for advice. You will find your favorite contractor or real estate professional will be more than happy to spend some time helping you make educated decisions that will meet your needs and show long term return.
By Aimee Shriner
Windermere Real Estate/Northeast Inc.
Orignially posted on RGN Construction’s blog.
All photos are from www.rgncon.com
When it comes time to sell a home, most people want the property to sell quickly for the highest possible return. Setting the correct listing price is the most important step in reaching this goal. Price a property too low and it might sell quickly, but you could pocket less profit. Set it too high and you run the risk of pricing yourself out of the market.
Why overpricing a home is risky
Some sellers want to list their home at an inflated value, believing that they can always lower the price down the road if needed. But this can be a risky strategy. New listings generally get the greatest exposure in the first two-to-four weeks on the market, so setting a realistic price from day one is critical. If a home is priced too high, your strongest pool of prospective buyers is eliminated because they think it’s out of their price range. Conversely, buyers who can afford it will compare it to other homes that have been fairly priced and decide that they can get more home for their money elsewhere.
Once it has been decided to reduce the price, you’ve unnecessarily lost time and money. Your strongest prospective buyers may have found another home, while the over-inflated price could result in a negative impression amongst agents and buyers who are still in the market. Not to mention, reengaging buyers after those first critical few weeks can be very challenging. As the saying goes, “time is money”; so the longer a home is on the market, the lower the selling price will likely be in relation to the initial listing price.
Setting a home price too high has other costs
When a home languishes on the market, the seller loses in a number of ways. Each month the home goes unsold is another month of costs to the owner in mortgage payments, taxes, and maintenance—expenses that are not recovered when the home is sold. Furthermore, until the house is sold, the owner is on hold and can’t move forward with whatever plans prompted the decision to sell. If the seller is still living in the home, it can also be fatiguing to keep the property in ready-to-show condition month after month.
How to set the right price for a home
It’s not easy to be objective about your own home. That’s why it’s best to have a real estate professional work with you to set a reasonable price. According to a study done by the National Association of REALTORS®, homes that were sold using a real estate agent netted an average of $25,000 more than those without agent representation.
There are a number of factors that your agent will consider when determining a sales price for your home. Here’s a quick overview.
- Comparable sales. One of the best guides to pricing your home is knowing what recent buyers were willing to pay for similar homes in your area. So, one of the first things your agent will do is prepare a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). A CMA is a written analysis of houses in the community that are currently for sale, homes that have recently sold, and homes that were offered for sale but did not sell. While no two homes are identical, the report highlights only homes that most resemble yours. The CMA will include details about these properties, such as the number of bedrooms and baths, square footage, noteworthy amenities—and the listing price and sale price. The report will also include the Days on Market (DOM) for each property, which is the number of days it took to sell the home once it was listed. The CMA helps determine a price range that will be appropriate for your home.
- Unique property features. Since no two homes are exactly alike, looking at comparable sales is just one part of the equation. Many properties have distinctive features that add to their overall value when it comes to pricing. The importance buyers place on different features can vary by region, but examples might include a particularly pleasing view, artisan-quality interior detailing, outdoor entertaining space, or exceptional landscaping.
- Current market conditions. The real estate market is constantly fluctuating, and those cycles have a direct impact on pricing. Here are some of the market conditions an agent may consider when evaluating how to price a home:
- Are home prices trending up or down?
- How quickly are homes selling?
- Is the inventory of homes on the market tight or plentiful?
- Are interest rates attractive?
- How is the overall economy performing? Is the local job market strong or in decline?
- Current market conditions. The real estate market is constantly fluctuating, and those cycles have a direct impact on pricing. Here are some of the market conditions an agent may consider when evaluating how to price a home:
Other factors that can impact pricing include the condition of the home, seasonal influences (i.e. summer versus winter), condition of surrounding neighborhood, local amenities, and how quickly the seller needs to move.
There are a lot of factors that go into setting a home’s sales price, but it’s by far the most critical step in the overall selling process. The best course of action is to look to your real estate agent for guidance; they have the experience and market knowledge that will help you achieve your goals and reach a desired outcome that best fits your individual needs.
By Richard Eastern
If you’re shopping for a home, you may have noticed that a large number of the homes that are currently on the market are short sales. A short sale occurs when a homeowner owes a lender more than their home is worth, and the lender agrees to let the owner sell the home and accept less than what is owed. Lenders may agree to a short sale because they believe it will net them more money than going forward with a lengthy and costly foreclosure process.
Short sales do differ in a number of ways from conventional home sales. Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about buying a short sale property.
- Short sale homes sell for less, but not significantly less than market value.
Buyers hoping to snap up a home for half the market value will be disappointed. The selling price for short sales average about 10 percent less than for non-distressed properties. The bank is looking to recover as much of the value of the home as possible, so they will not accept offers that are significantly under market value. That said, with savings that can equal tens of thousands of dollars, a short sale is a great way to get more house for your money.
- Short sale properties are sold “as is”.
The lender will not be making repairs to the home. Any improvements that need to be made are most likely going to be the responsibility of the buyer. A savvy buyer’s agent/broker will get contractor bids for any necessary repairs and use those to help negotiate a lower sales price with the bank.
- A short sale will take longer than a conventional home sale.
Once you and the seller have mutual acceptance on an offer, you need to allow 60 to 90 days for the lender approval process. There are often long stretches when the offer is slowly winding its way through the bank’s system, so buyers need to be patient.
- If you have to sell your home first, a short sale is probably not the best fit.
Lenders generally will not take contingent offers on a short sale.
- A short sale is one real estate transaction that you shouldn’t attempt on your own.
Short sales are complicated transactions that involve a different process and significantly more paperwork than a standard real estate sale. An agent/broker that is unfamiliar with short sales can write an offer in such a way that they inadvertently cause their buyers to lose the deal. An experienced short sale agent/broker will protect your interest and help the process move forward smoothly.
The bottom line: As long as you can be patient, and are working with an agent/broker who understands the process, buying a short sale is a great way to purchase the house you want at a price you’ll love.
Richard Eastern is a Windermere agent in Bellevue and co-founder of Washington Property Solutions, a short sales negotiating company. Since 2003 he has helped more than 600 homeowners sell their homes. A Bellevue native and a UW grad, Richard is an avid sports fan and a devoted Little League and basketball coach. You can learn more about Richard here or at www.washortsales.com.
As the old saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. If you’re selling your home, it’s true, except that there are several impressions to be made, and each one might have its own effect on the unique tastes of a prospective buyer. I’ve worked with scores of buyers, witnessed hundreds of showings, and I can summarize that experience down this: a tidy and well maintained home, priced right, listed with professional photographs, enhanced curb appeal and onsite visual appeal will sell fastest. We all know first impressions are very important, but the lasting impressions are the ones that sell your home. It’s not easy, but if you can detach a little and look at your home from a buyer’s perspective, the answers to selling it quickly may become obvious to you.
The very first impression your home will make is through its web presence, whether on Windermere.com, the MLS, Craigslist or any multitude of websites. Fair or not, the price is typically the very first thing people look at, and it will be the measurement by which your home is judged. You can always adjust to the right price later, but the impact is lost. It will take something dramatic to get a buyer to reassess the way they feel about the value of your home.
Closely following price are the listing photos. According to this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, professional photos will not only impact your first impressions, it may also make a difference in the final selling price. Great photos might even overcome those initial price objections. Does the exterior photo capture your home at its hi-res best? Does the accompanying text enhance or distract? Online, your home has only a few seconds to capture the home buyer’s attention. If it doesn’t, they’ll click the “Back” button and resume their search. The goal is to have buyers excitedly calling their agents to arrange a showing.
Another old saying is “Location, location, location,” and sure enough, the first live impression of your home is the location. Forget this one; you can’t move your home. There’s not much you can do about location, right? Actually, there is one thing you can do: price it right from the start.
Let’s move on to the first time a buyer sees your home as they pull to the curb out front. Go stand out at the curb and look at it the way you would if you were shopping for a home. Sometimes, a couple hours of labor and $100 worth of beauty bark can be worth thousands in the sales price. I’ve had buyers choose not to get out of the car when we pulled up to a home that they had once been excited to see.
Likewise, I’ve had buyers say they’ve seen enough simply by peaking into the front door. The nose trumps the eyes when it comes to the first impression when entering the house. Buyers get more caught up in the details. Once the home shopper is inside, it’s easy for them to get distracted and focus on something that seems to have nothing to do with the structure they will be buying, from a dirty dish in the sink to a teenager’s bedroom that’s been decorated in posters and/or melodrama. Do everything you can to set a positive lasting impression. The buyer may look at dozens of homes. What is your strategy to convince them to make an offer on yours?
Guest post by Eric Johnson, Director of Education
Posted in Selling by Windermere Guest Author
The following post was written by Kathryn Madison, a real estate broker out of the Windermere Portland-Raleigh Hills office. You can learn more about Kathryn and read more insightful articles on her blog, GoBeyondtheOrdinary.com.
How do we transition from the mindset of a homeowner to a home seller? Homes bring us shelter, comfort and are a place to express our individuality. But when it’s time to move on, that same home will now be the financial springboard to the next chapter in our lives.
We start by letting go of the home layer by layer.
Both buyer and seller benefit when the seller- perhaps with some judicious coaching from their skilled Realtor- peels away those things that made their home uniquely theirs. In essence, the serious packing begins once the decision has been made to sell; bookcases and closets should only suggest their function with a few items, rather than store seasons and years worth of books and clothes. Carefully removing prized collections and family photos is also vital- nothing should distract the buyer from seeing the house, and seeing themselves in it.
Personal colors are just as important to remove as objects. After all, if you were serving ice cream to a few thousand people (that’s how many will see your house photographed online)- would you serve them mango flavor? It’s a lot more likely you would choose vanilla- and that’s pretty much what the color of your walls should be- neutral or deep neutral tones.
The last touch is a good deep cleaning- ask your REALTORtm if they have the name of a reputable company.
The seller can then replace those familiar objects with a fresh new welcome mat at the front door.
This process allows the buyer the visual and emotional space to move in.
This process allows the seller to move on.
It can sometimes be tough to hear an agent asking you to hide your prize possessions when preparing your home for sale. I overheard two agents giving each other advice about how to politely help their sellers relocate their pink flamingo display and car collection off the front yard before putting the homes on the market.
Studies indicate that buyers decide if they’re interested within the first 30 seconds of entering a home. You get one chance to make a first impression.
Make sure your house looks attractive, well maintained and move-in ready at a glance. Before you put out your “for sale” sign, put these tasks on your to do list.
• Get your yard in shape—Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, haul away debris, sweep the walk, porches and patio, and consider adding some potted plants or hanging baskets for a touch of color.
• Keep it clean—Make sure your house can pass the white-glove test. Polish windows and scrub bathrooms, appliances, counters and floors until they gleam. Vacuum carpets, rugs, drapes and upholstery. Dust shelves, floorboards and molding.
• Give it a fresh coat—Paint the front door, walls leading to entrances, ceiling stains, cracks, chipped or damaged areas. A little paint goes a long way to improve the look of your home.
• Just fix it—Repair anything that needs it, including broken doorbells, torn screens, leaky faucets, broken deck railings or banisters, damaged floor tiles or doors that don’t close properly.
• Lose the chaos—Organize your rooms, closets and basement—anywhere a prospective buyer is likely to look. And don’t forget to remove pets and litter boxes.
• Set the stage—Help prospective buyers imagine life in your house. Remove excess furniture and rearrange what remains so that rooms look spacious and welcoming. Light scented candles, play soft music, add flowers here and there, you might even bake cookies.
• Hire a pro—Don’t have time to get your house ready to show? Turn to a realtor with an ASP® (Accredited Staging Professional) designation to stage your house professionally.
As a seller today you are faced with a challenge when it comes to selling your home for a fair price and getting it done in a reasonable amount of time. Even though inventory is lower than it was five months ago, we are still looking at about 9 months of inventory in many areas. This large amount of inventory indicates there is a lot of competition out there to attract the right buyer.
We all know there are more than five steps involved when it comes to selling your home. We asked a few of our Windermere agents what advice they would give a seller today if selling your home came down to just five key things.
Top five by Liz Talley Windermere Ballard
- Refresh the garden.
- Clear the entry and front porch.
- Minimalize & depersonalize.
- Price it a wee bit under the competition so that it pulls in buyers.
As always, market presence, professional photos, etc. all make an enormous difference but these five steps are the key right now.
Top five by Jamie Johnson Windermere Camano Island
- Price. Listen to your real estate expert and don’t try to “start high.”
- Clean and stage. You are competing with other great deals out there. Yours needs to stand out and shine.
- Follow a marketing plan. Drop your price 3% every 30 days.
- Ask yourself – what is your goal? Most sellers have a dream of making a lot of money off the sale of their home. If your goal is to purchase another home, you will make up for your loss” there. It’s all relative.
- Hire a local expert. Interview at least three agents. Do your research. A good agent will do all that for you.
Selling your home can be stressful for many reasons. Not only are you trying to get the best financial return on your investment, but you might also be working on a tight deadline. There’s also the pressure to keep your home clean and organized at all times for prospective buyers. One thing you can be sure of when selling your home is that there will be strangers entering your space, so it’s important for you and your agent to take certain safety precautions.
- Go through your medicine cabinets and remove all prescription medications.
- Remove or lock up precious belongings and personal information. You will want to store your jewelry, family heirlooms, and personal/financial information in a secure location to keep them from getting displaced or stolen.
- Remove family photos. We recommend removing your family photos during the staging process so potential buyers can see themselves living in the home. It’s also a good way to protect your privacy.
- Check your windows and doors for secure closings before and after showings. If someone is looking to get back into your home following a showing or an open house, they will look for weak locks or they might unlock a window or door.
- Consider extra security measures such as an alarm system or other monitoring tools like cameras.
- Don’t show your own home! If someone you don’t know walks up to your home asking for a showing, don’t let them in. You want to have an agent present to show your home at all times. Agents should have screening precautions to keep you and them safe from potential danger.
Talk to your agent about the following safety precautions:
- Do a walk-through with your agent to make sure you have identified everything that needs to be removed or secured, such as medications, belongings, and photos.
- Go over your agent’s screening process:
- Phone screening prior to showing the home
- Process for identifying and qualifying buyers for showings
- Their personal safety during showings and open houses
- Lock boxes to secure your keys for showings should be up to date. Electronic lockboxes actually track who has had access to your home.
- Work with your agent on an open house checklist:
- Do they collect contact information of everyone entering the home?
- Do they work with a partner to ensure their personal safety?
- Go through your home’s entrances and exits and share important household information so your agent can advise how to secure your property while it’s on the market.
Your safety, as well as that of your agent and your home, is of paramount importance when selling a property. For more information, visit:
You’ll never have a second chance at a first impression, so let’s make it count! When it comes to upping your home’s curb appeal, there are plenty of small changes you can make that have a big impact. And best of all, you don’t need to call in the pros or spend a fortune to get beautiful results. Below are some helpful and affordable tips.
A Well-Maintained Yard
Mowing: The first step to a well-manicured lawn is to mow it regularly. The experts recommending mowing high because mowing it too short can damage the grass and allow weeds to set root.
Weeds: To prevent weeds like crabgrass use a pre-emergent herbicide in early spring. These herbicides manage the weeds by stopping the seeds from sprouting in your lawn. Broadleaf weeds like dandelions can be stopped by applying granular weed control products.
Feeding: Lawns consume mostly nitrogen, so look for mixes of fast and slow release fertilizers; they will feed your lawn over time while keeping it lush and green.
Watering: Nighttime watering can result in long spans of moisture on the blades, potentially exposing your grass to disease. Consider watering your lawn in the morning – the sun helps dry out the blades throughout the day.
Flowers: You can quickly and affordably dress up your yard with colorful pre-made flower pots and containers. When placing your flower pots and containers remember that asymmetrical arrangements and staggering plants will provided the liveliest setting.
Dress up the Front Door and Porch
Paint: A fresh coat of paint in a pop color can give your home a well-deserved facelift. If you are hesitant to add a bright color to your front door, check out our article Energize Your Home This Winter With Bright Hues.
Replace Old Hardware: Clean off any dirty spots around the door knob, and use a metal polish on the fixtures. Change out house numbers for an updated feel, put up a wall-mounted mailbox, or add an overhead light fixture. Keep in mind that well thought through elements, instead of mix-and-match pieces, will add the most curb appeal.
Create Perfect Symmetry: Symmetry is one of the simplest design techniques to master and is the most pleasing to the eye. Maintain symmetry by flanking your front door with two sidelights (just make sure that your hardware matches); find two urn planters or a unique visual detail to put on either side of your door.
A home is the largest investment most people will make in their lifetime, so when it comes time to sell, homeowners often wonder what they can do to get the most return on their investment. Many have the misconception that remodeling is the way to go, but that isn’t always the case. Rather than going all-in on upgrading your home, you should know which home improvements are worth it, and which ones aren’t.
We’ve sifted through the research and come up with a quick list of five home improvements that’ll help buyers fall in love with your home when it comes time to sell.
1. Add a little curb appeal
Curb appeal is critical. As the name suggests, it’s the first thing buyers see when pulling up to the front of any home so it needs to be in nearly pristine condition. Start with the garage door for the most immediate return. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2018 Cost vs. Value report and Money.com, the cost of updating your worn builder-grade garage door with an upscale steel model is about $3,470, and it’ll boost your home’s value by 98.3 percent of the installation price, which means you’ll lose about $60 when it’s all said and done.
Landscaping can also go along way for a minimal upfront investment. Six rounds of fertilizer and weed control will set you back about $330, but when it comes time to sell, you’ll see an ROI of about $1,000 according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors.
Other improvements you can easily make to your curb appeal include:
- Pressure wash the exterior
- Liven up your front door with a fresh coat of paint
- Replace hardware such as doorknobs and knockers
- Install updated house numbers
- Make your walkways pop with new greenery or flowers
- Plant a succulent garden
- Update your porch lights
- Add a little charm with window flower boxes
- Stage your porch
2. Install hardwood floors
Installing or upgrading hardwood floors is pretty failsafe as most buyers love it. Ninety-nine percent of real estate agents agree that homes with hardwood floors are easier to sell, and 90 percent of agents say that they sell for a higher sale price, according to the National Wood Flooring Association. Similarly, research from the National Association of Realtors shows that 54 percent of homebuyers are willing to shell out extra cash for homes with hardwood.
As for your return on investment, NAR’s 2017 Remodeling Impact Report projects that homes that already have hardwood floors will likely see 100 percent return. On the flip side, installing hardwood flooring pays off almost as well with a 91 percent return on investment. It can cost about $5,500 to install, and it’s projected to add about $5,000 to the home value. These estimates may vary depending on the type of flooring you install.
3. Upgrade your kitchen
According to the National Association of Realtors, real estate agents believe that complete kitchen renovations, kitchen upgrades, and bathroom renovations will add the most resale value to a home (in that order). However, complete kitchen renovations can be costly and unnecessary. In fact, kitchen remodels have some of the worst return on investment stats. Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 Cost Vs. Value report found that a mid-range kitchen remodel cost exceeds its resale value by more than $21,000, and that number more than doubles in an upscale remodel. Rather than spend a ton of cash and weeks (or months) on renovating, put a little elbow grease and a small budget into it.
Instead of doing a full renovation, focus on these smaller updates:
- Organize your pantry
- Use a little Murphy Oil Soap and hot water on all of your cabinets
- Polish cabinets with Howard Feed-In-Wax
- Tighten all hinges
- Clean grout and tiles
- Shine your sinks and hardware until you can see your face in it
- Deep clean your stove
- Give your kitchen a fresh coat of neutral paint
- Update lighting fixtures, and replace light bulbs
- Spring for a new cabinet and door hardware
- Make your countertops look new
- Upgrade your appliances
4. Go green
Today’s younger generations are embracing eco-friendly living, and millennials are leading the pack. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2018 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report, millennials make up the largest segment of buyers, holding strong at 34 percent of all buyers.
When it comes to attracting buyers who are willing to pay top dollar, going green makes sense. A Nielson study found that, of more than 30,000 millennials surveyed,66 percent are willing to shell out more cash for conservation-conscious, sustainable products. Depending on where you live, consider installing solar panels, wind turbines, and eco-friendly water systems.
No matter where you live, attic insulation replacement and weather stripping are safe bets. Attic insulation replacement was a top home improvement upgrade last year, and homeowners saw a 107.7 percent return on the investment. Weather stripping, a fairly inexpensive DIY project, costs, on average, about $168 nationally.
5. Create a summer retreat
Homes with pools can fetch a higher selling price if done properly. There are in-ground pools and above-ground pools. To truly add value, you’d want to go with an in-ground pool. It’s a permanent investment that costs more upfront, but above-ground pools don’t really add anything to a home other than a nice personal oasis from hot weather.
Pools cost about $1,000 on average to maintain between the seasonal openings and closings, necessary upkeep and utility bills, according to Houselogic.com and financial consultant Dave Ramsey’s website. Some buyers might not be up for that cost. However, pools can help sell a home especially when you live in a higher-end neighborhood where everyone has pools and in warmer climates like Florida, Arizona or Hawaii.
Ramsey wrote that a well-marketed in-ground pool can boost a home’s value as much as 7 percent, but he stresses the importance of making sure the style of the pool matches the house and surrounding property. Be sure that any pool doesn’t completely consume the outdoor space. Pools that make sense locationally and complement the property are the best. If the pool is just an expensive eyesore, it’s probably better to remove it.
With these upgrades, your home will surely see a higher price tag when you go to sell because, as the numbers show, buyers swoon for an outdoor retreat, a like-new kitchen, classic hardwood flooring, and green upgrades.
Our guest author is Sarah Stilo, the Content Marketing Coordinator for HomeLight, which helps pair homebuyers with agents. They can be found at HomeLight.Com.