Thursday, August 6, 2015

Which Upgrades are Worth it?

Which Upgrades Are Worth It to Help You Sell Your House?

Which Upgrades Are Worth It to Help You Sell Your House? (435)

(NewsUSA) - Is it finally time to sell your house?

That's the question on homeowners' minds as house prices just posted their largest annual gain since 2005 -- congrats to those no longer "underwater" on their mortgages -- even as interest rates remain tantalizingly low. But here's the catch: Those same higher prices can make buyers as choosy as a Michelin restaurant reviewer.

"A house with a $1,600 mortgage payment last year now has a $2,000 mortgage payment," one broker told the Wall Street Journal. "Buyers are saying, 'I better like it.'"

To increase your home's "like" quotient, read on to see which upgrades are worth making and which aren't.

Worth It: A new front door. Strictly in terms of return on investment, a steel one topped the list of Remodeling magazine's annual Cost vs. Value Report for 2014 -- recouping 96.6 percent of the average price. But a fresh coat of paint can work wonders, too.

Not Worth It: A home-office remodel. We know what you're thinking: With so many more people working from home, wouldn't it be brilliant to rewire the space for electronic equipment, say, and install commercial-grade carpeting? Not really. The magazine gave it the lowest return on investment (48.9 percent), and the guy who oversaw the study says, "Home offices don't sell houses."

Worth It: A back-up power generator. It's the biggest gainer in the study, jumping 28 percent over last year, and plays especially well in areas brutalized by storms.

Not Worth It: Major bathroom work. "You could install the most spectacular jetted tub, and it still might not suit a buyer," says Patsy O'Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby's in Montclair, NJ. "Meanwhile, you'd have spent tens of thousands of dollars." That explains why it made's list of "6 Worst Home Fixes for the Money" and why you should stick to things like re-grouting the shower.

Worth It: Roofing replacement. There's a reason this ultimate "curb appeal" enhancer consistently makes Remodeling's list and is up 11.2 percent over even last year: A roof is the first thing prospective buyers notice even before exiting their cars, and you can kiss that sale good-bye if yours looks like it's been through hell.

"It's a huge turn-off," says O'Neill, "and makes buyers predisposed to find even more things they don't like." For the look of luxury at very affordable prices, check out the Value Collection Lifetime Designer Shingles from GAF (, North America's largest roofing manufacturer.

Not Worth It: Major kitchen renovations. Again, the key word is "major," and again it's a "taste" issue.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

My Home Passed Inspection, So It’s Perfect, Right?

This month's article is brought to you by Zillow's blog and author Mary Boone
Home inspectors are skilled at sniffing out wood rot and locating cracks in foundations. But even the most experienced inspectors can’t tell you about problems that lurk behind walls, between floor joists or inside sewer lines.
“The purpose of a home inspection is to find material defects that might have an adverse effect on the value of a home or its safety,” said Curtis Niles Sr., president of Armored Home Inspections in Pottstown, PA, and past president of the National Association of Home Inspectors. “We do that through a visual inspection, and we do it to the best of our ability. But we can’t find every single problem; no one could.”
A home inspection can help ensure your new home is both a good investment and a safe place to live, but it’s important to be aware of some key defects that can go undetected:

HVAC deficiencies

Problems with heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC) can be difficult for home inspectors to uncover. Many inspectors are hesitant to run the air conditioning in extreme cold or to check the heat on a hot day because they don’t want to damage the unit by running it too long in adverse conditions.
“I can tell if a unit isn’t working, but I don’t have time during a home inspection to determine if the system is adequate for the house they’re trying to heat or cool,” Niles said. If you have concerns about the HVAC system, you may want to have it checked by a licensed HVAC specialist – separate from the home inspection.

Water damage, leaks

Your inspector will turn on faucets, but if a house hasn’t been lived in for a while, any previous water damage may be dried up and it will take a few days of use before leaks reappear. Even damage to walls or ceilings can be camouflaged by paint, making them difficult to detect.
If a faulty roof is the source of the leak, there’s a good chance your inspector won’t find it. Many inspectors visually assess roofs from the ground, but don’t go up onto them. Even if your inspector climbs onto the roof, snow, ice or fallen leaves may make it difficult to examine.

Environmental toxins

In 1978, the federal government banned the production of lead paint and asbestos-based construction materials. If the home you’re purchasing was built prior to 1978, you may want to invest in specialized testing for these toxins. Elevated radon levels, which can also be detected by a qualified radon tester, can occur in any home, regardless of its age, foundation type, location or heating system.
Lead paint, asbestos and radon can pose significant risks, but they’re not the sort of issues most home inspectors test for. If you are aware of these toxins before closing, you can ask the seller to help pay for abatement, containment or removal – and those costs can be significant. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, professional lead-based paint removal, for example, costs $8 to $15 per square foot – that’s $19,200 to $36,000 for a 2,400-square-foot house.

Blocked, damaged sewer lines

Property owners are responsible for the sewer line that runs from their home to the city main, and the best time to find out if that line is blocked or needs replacement is before buying a home – not after. A sewer line clog could lead to raw sewage backing up, out of the drains.
A standard home inspection will likely determine the type of drain pipe used and estimate its age but, it won’t cover the structural integrity or condition of sewer lines. If the home you’re thinking of buying is more than 20 years old, you may want to pay for a separate sewer scope to ensure the sewer line is in good shape and that tree roots have not worked their way into the line. Expect to pay $250 to $500 for a video sewer inspection, a fraction of the cost of sewer line replacement, which can run upward of $25,000.
An experienced home inspector can provide important information about the condition of the house you plan to buy, but to avoid unexpected costs after closing, you may need to go beyond a standard home inspection. Those extra tests and inspections won’t come cheap, but they may help you avoid unpleasant surprises later on.
Life is infinitely easier with support and guidance. Now that you have the tools to embrace your future with confidence, let State Farm help you to protect it.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Buy a Home With These 10 Must-Do Steps is a great resource for all of your home buying needs. The article below is written by them.

If you think the new year is going to be the year to put your rental days in your rear-view mirror and move into a home of your own, it’s time to start preparing.

Even if you won’t be ready to buy for six more months or even a year, here are 10 straightforward steps to take right now. Crossing these items off your list will make it easier for you to find and finance the home of your dreams.

1. Check your credit

Go to and request free credit reports from all three credit reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. For a small fee, you can also get your credit score.

First up, check the reports thoroughly for any errors that need correcting and any negative information.

These reports should also indicate what you can do to improve your credit. A higher credit score makes it easier to qualify for the lowest interest rates, which in turn make your purchase more affordable.

2. Start saving

One trick is to save the difference between your rent and what you estimate your mortgage payment will be—or more. You’ll need cash reserves to buy a home, and you’ll need to prove to a lender that you can afford housing payments that may be higher than what you’re currently paying in rent.

3. Earn extra cash

If you’re low on cash, as most first-time buyers are, consider taking drastic steps to cut spending. Or try out some ways to increase your income, such as selling some of your stuff or taking a part-time job.

4. Start looking at neighborhoods

Unless you already know where you want to live, take the time to visit a variety of potential neighborhoods. You’ll want to scout out ‘hoods that meet your needs in terms of transportation options and other amenities. Exploring different locations will help you narrow your priorities.

5. Consult a lender

The sooner you visit a lender, the quicker you’ll know what you can afford and the steps you need to take to improve your credit or generate more income.

6. Investigate down payment assistance programs

Visit Down Payment Resource to learn about programs in your area that may help you find down payment money or a low-interest loan.

7. Attend a seminar or take classes on buying a home

Lenders and agents often offer free seminars that explain the home-buying process.

Many local government and nonprofit agencies also offer classes that can help you prepare for the financial responsibility of owning a home.

8. Decide how much you want to spend

A lender can give you an idea of how much you can borrow, but you have to create a personal budget to decide how much you will be comfortable spending on your mortgage payment.

9. Visit open houses

Try to avoid walking through homes you simply can’t afford—you don’t want to fall in love with something and then be dissatisfied with all other options.

Going to open houses early in your search will let you see what’s available in your area that might fit your budget. You can then begin to see what matters most in your decision: the location, room to entertain or outdoor space.

10. Interview REALTORS®

At each open house you’ll meet a REALTOR® who represents the seller of the home. As long as you don’t plan to make an offer on that particular home, there’s nothing wrong with striking up a conversation with the REALTOR® regarding your plans for buying a home. It’s a good idea to talk with and interview multiple REALTORS® to find one you can trust to have your best interests in mind.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Be Up Front About Your Home

While your agent may not be responsible for disclosing material facts about your property to potential buyers, they can be held accountable if they had knowledge of a problem that they failed to make known or tried to hide. Agents are not expected to take on the role of a home inspector. However, an agent should use their best judgment and bring up anything that seems suspicious with both the seller and buyer.

The seller is not obligated to tell a buyer why they are putting their home up for sale. However, failure to disclose a large issue may complicate or delay the sale, frustrating all parties involved.
If there is a problem with your property, it is a good idea to either get it fixed prior to sale or lower your asking price to cover any necessary renovations.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tips and Tricks to Get Your Home Ready for Spring

Many of us are beginning to see the first signs of spring, and I have been talking about those things that you can do during the winter months to get your home ready to sell in the spring.
I covered de-cluttering and cleaning out closets, and I also talked about addressing the list of “honey do” items that all homeowners have.  Now that spring will soon be upon us you really need to move into high gear if you want to hit the market with the spring tide of homes.   IF you still need to freshen up your home this is now the time to paint any rooms that may need to be painted and to tackle the outside items.   

A recent article on focused on 10 items that a home owner needs to address.  I’ll paraphrase those items here now – many of them I have already addressed, but it’s good to go over them again.

Paint colors that just don’t blend in (with the neighborhood):
The color of your home is one of the first things a buyer will notice. If it’s a very different color from the neighborhood, you should paint it something more innocuous.  If you like color, this doesn’t mean that you cannot add a splash of color to the front door, or with colorful plantings.
The same goes for the interior. If your living room is bright orange, paint over it. Choose a neutral color so buyers can project their own ideas onto it.

A front door that’s not inviting:
The front door is one of the next things a buyer will notice. If the door is flimsy, cheap, or outdated, it’ll discourage the buyer before it’s even opened. Spring for a new one—it’s the most reliable update you can perform to recoup your cost.  If the door is in good condition, but needs a paint job – give it a splash of color, and while at it make sure that the doorknob and locks work effortlessly.  If it’s hard to get the door open buyers wonder what is doesn’t work.

A busted doorbell:
While you’re at it, don’t forget the doorbell! Having one that works with a friendly, crisp chime is a sign that your house has been well taken care of.

Tattered window and door screens:
Buyers will notice screens that look more like Swiss cheese than insect shields. You don’t necessarily have to spring for a whole new set— screens can be re-screened or patched, this is an easy handyman job.

Depressing landscaping:
As potential buyers drive up to your home, they notice everything—the trees, the grass, the rock pathway, and the plants out front.   If your lawn is home to a half-dead tree, yellowing grass, unkempt shrubs, and a pathway swallowed by weeds, you might get more lowball offers than you anticipated.
Keep the plants trimmed and the grass freshly cut. Make sure the walkway is clear and fallen branches are removed from the lawn. A fresh layer of mulch will brighten up the outside, too.

An unpleasant smell of … something:
Nothing can turn a buyer off faster than the stench of faded cigarettes or poorly trained pets. Of course, it’s hard for us to smell our homes after we’ve lived in them for a while, so ask a diplomatic friend to sniff your place. If it stinks, start cleaning.
Eerie dripping sounds:
If potential buyers hear a dripping faucet or running toilet when touring the house, they might start questioning the building’s integrity or the seller’s level of care. These are quick DIY fixes that can tell a buyer that you care about the home.

Bad lighting:
Replace harsh lights with bulbs that have a softer glow. Clean out light fixtures to get rid of dirt or dead bugs that can mute the lighting.  You want your house to sparkle and lighting makes a difference.

Squeaky hinges:
Doors that groan when they open are an easy fix. Grab a lubricant (such as white lithium grease, but in a pinch you can use cooking oil) and grease the hinges to stop the squeak.  You can also adjust the hinges at this time to insure that open doors stay open and don’t swing closed unassisted. 

An outdated kitchen:
Completely renovating a kitchen can get real expensive, real fast. Again, keep it simple by cleaning out cabinets and drawers, and as old fashioned as it seems putting down shelf paper      is a clean fix.  Adding a fresh coat of paint, if necessary, and while it’s advised to keep neutral      colors throughout the house a splash of color in a kitchen is very inviting so try something like a like pale yellow or a sage green.  Switch out old cabinet knobs and handles for something fresher.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Half of Americans Can't Afford Their House

I found this great article on and had to share it with you. Such good information to know.
As the housing market slowly recovers, a majority of homeowners and renters are finding it hard to meet rising rents and mortgage payments, new research finds.
Over half of Americans (52%) have had to make at least one major sacrifice in order to cover their rent or mortgage over the last three years, according to the “How Housing Matters Survey,” which was commissioned by the nonprofit John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and carried out by Hart Research Associates. These sacrifices include getting a second job, deferring saving for retirement, cutting back on health care, running up credit card debt, or even moving to a less safe neighborhood or one with worse schools.
“Affordability issues are real and a major hurdle,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, an industry group. Home prices have increased 20% over the past two years while wages have barely gone up, he says. “Only by adding more new supply, via housing starts, can home prices be tamed,” Yun adds. In fact, construction of housing units has averaged around 1.5 million a year for the past five decades, he says, but it’s likely to be less than 1 million in 2014.
What’s more, at least 15% of American homeowners (or residents of 78 counties across the country) were living in housing markets where the monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced home requires more than 30% of the monthly median household income — long considered the maximum for rent/mortgage repayments. Housing costs above that threshold are “unaffordable by historic standards,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at real estate data firm RealtyTrac. In New York county/Manhattan, mortgage payments represent 77% of the median income and in San Francisco County represents 70%.
Although mortgage rates are still quite low, down payments, poor credit and tighter lending standards remain three of the biggest hurdles for buying a home, especially among young people, Blomquist says. “The slow jobs recovery for young adults has made it harder for them to save and to get a mortgage.” Some 84% of young people are delaying major life decisions due to the poor economy, according to a 2013 survey by Generation Opportunity, a nonprofit think tank based in Arlington, Va.
Some people also appear to be cooling on one facet of the American dream. About 43% of respondents in the “How Housing Matters Survey” say owning a home is no longer “an excellent long-term investment and one of the best ways for people to build wealth and assets,” and over half say buying a home has become less appealing. Although 70% of renters aspire to own a home, some 58% believe that “renters can be just as successful as owners at achieving the American dream.”
But they’re still suffering the aftershocks of the property bust, experts say. In the years after the recession of 2008, more than 7.5 million homeowners lost their home to foreclosure or short sale and about 9 million more homeowners are still underwater and owe more than their property is worth, Blomquist says. “If one looks at the last seven years as a predictor of housing market behavior in the future, it certainly should give one pause about whether buying a home is a good investment or not,” he adds.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, says Stuart Gabriel, director of UCLA’s Richard S. Ziman Center for Real Estate. “From a policy perspective, we overshot in prescribing homeownership too often and to those who would have benefited more from other housing solutions,” he says. Homeownership rates hit 64.8% in April, the lowest since 64.7% in the second quarter of 1995, according to the Census Bureau. “It’s wise to approach homeownership with more skepticism and more trepidation,” he says.
The good news: Rising prices have lifted millions of homeowners out of negative equity. Since the lowest point in the housing market crash, rising prices have led to an additional $4 trillion in housing equity, going to existing homeowners, smart investors and those who can afford to buy, Yun says. Home prices, including distressed sales, increased 10.5% in April 2014 year-over-year, according to the latest survey from mortgage-data firm CoreLogic, representing the 26th consecutive month of annual increases in home prices.
This story was originally published Jan. 31, 2015, on

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Five Golden Rules of Home Staging on a Budget

Our friends at have put out a great guide for staging your home on a budget. Properly staging your home is an important, cost effective part of the home selling process. Staging not only helps show off the best qualities of your home, but when done correctly it can also add to your final selling price!

Rule #1: De-Personalize

Buyers want to picture themselves in the house, so that wedding photo over the mantel might distract from that. Safely tuck away your photos while your home is on the market to prevent the distraction that prevents them from seeing a home for their family.

Rule #2: Maximize

Declutter and maximize the space in your home. Consider storing any clutter at an offsite location until you move into your new house. Closets that are packed tight make your home look like it lacks closet space.

Rule #3: Sanitize

Make sure you keep the house clean. This is the easiest and cheapest way to stage your house. A sink full of dirty dishes is as unappealing to you as it is to the buyer.

Rule #4: Modernize

All homes can benefit from some updating. If the buyer feels the home is dated they may reflect that feeling in a lower offer. Updating does not have to be expensive though. Consider a simple update such as changing out gold fixtures for nickel or chrome.

Rule #5: Neutralize

We have all seen on HGTV House Hunters how a paint color can make or break a buyers decision on a home. You may love the colors in your house, but the buyer may be turned off by the amount of painting that needs to be done because the colors clash with their style.

Visit the article to find more helpful staging tips to maximize the return on your home and speed the sale of it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What you should do in the winter to get your home ready to sell in the Spring & Summer

The holidays are over, and many of us are in the middle of very cold weather, but even under those conditions it looks like it will be a great spring and summer for real estate.  I addressed some things to do in my last posting and I’m going to address more things now. 

Every homeowner has a “honey do” list of items that they know needs to be fixed.  These may be as minor as drippy faucets or it may be as big as refinishing hardwood floors.   But we all have them.  

If you’ve cleaned out the closets and begun to de-clutter the next thing to do is to prioritize this “honey do” list and start working on it.  I don’t mean to say that you need to remodel the kitchen or update the bath, but taking care of things like cleaning the oven (yes, buyers will look inside your oven – and if it’s got 5 years of baked on stuff in the bottom …. well enough said).  It’s all about making your home attractive to a potential buyer.  One thing that I always encourage a home owner to do is to make sure that the front door opens easily with the key.  Curb appeal is important and your front door is the opening to your home.  Think about what goes thru a buyers mind if the agent has trouble getting in the house – they begin to think “what else doesn’t work”.   Buyers buy with their heart, so make your home warm, comfortable and inviting ….

After almost 30 years I have found out that buyers only can see what they see …. 90% of buyers cannot see the potential of a property.  I have had many sellers who have said “well I know that (blank) needs to be replaced.  I’ll just let it be and the buyer can purchase what they want.  Well, the buyer can only see that (let’s say) the carpet is old and dirty …. that’s all they can see, most of them cannot see past that item to the charm of house.  So if something needs to be fixed – fix it, if it needs to be cleaned - clean it, if it needs to be replaced then replace it.  In the long run your home will sell faster and for more money.    As a seller you don’t want to find that your home has been on the market for longer than average and that you’ve had to take some price reductions, and then items that need to be fixed come up as inspection items once you do get a contract.

And let me address the old myth about giving a buyer a “credit” to do repairs.  Yes, when I began in this business 30 years ago, it was not unusual to be able to get a “credit” or even some money from a seller for repairs or improvements.  Not today.  Banking regulations do not allow a buyer to make a “profit“ when purchasing a home … and a credit can be seen as “profit”.   Sellers often want to offer credits because they just do not want to hassle with fixing or replacing items … I can promise this will just cause the buyer to reduce the offer price even more.  SO again the best thing is to clean it up, repair or replace it if necessary.  If these just are not in the cards, then make sure you price the home accordingly and don’t be offended if a buyer offers you less, because they may not have the money or time to clean it, repair it or replace it ….