Buying your new home is a serious venture. It can be an absolute pleasure or a massive headache. Your house is not just your home, it is a serious investment in the dwelling, the area and your future.
When buying a home – you’re bound to have many questions. For example, “In what area can I find a home that suits my needs?”, “How much money will I need to afford the monthly payments?” and “How long will the home buying process take?”
- Advice for First-Time Buyers
- How to Negotiate with Sellers
- Types of Mortgages
- Getting the Best Mortgage Rates Online
- Surviving Escrows
- Avoid Common Buyer Errors
- But do you need it?
- FIVE ESSENTIALS FOR FIRST TIME HOME BUYERS
- How to get the RIGHT HOME at the RIGHT PRICE
- Relocation Checklist
- Secrets of Stagers
- Six Simple Things You Can Do to Ensure a Smooth Home Purchase
- Staging tips and Tricks
- Thinking About Buying Your First Home?
Advice for First-Time Buyers
- Pre-Qualification: Meet with a mortgage broker and find out how much you can afford to pay for a home.
- Pre-Approval: While knowing how much you can afford is the first step, sellers will be much more receptive to potential buyers who have been pre-approved. You’ll also avoid being disappointed when going after homes that are out of your price range. With Pre-Approval, the buyer actually applies for a mortgage and receives a commitment in writing from a lender. This way, assuming the home you’re interested in is at or under the amount you are pre-qualified for, the seller knows immediately that you are a serious buyer for that property. Costs for pre-approval are generally nominal and lenders will usually permit you to pay them when you close your loan.
- List of Needs & Wants: Make 2 lists. The first should include items you must have (i.e., the number of bedrooms you need for the size of your family, a one-story house if accessibility is a factor, etc.). The second list is your wishes, things you would like to have (pool, den, etc.) but that are not absolutely necessary. Realistically for first-time buyers, you probably will not get everything on your wish list, but it will keep you on track for what you are looking for.
- Representation by a Professional: Consider hiring your own real estate agent, one who is working for you, the buyer, not the seller.
- Focus & Organization: In a convenient location, keep handy the items that will assist you in maximizing your home search efforts. Such items may include:
- One or more detailed maps with your areas of interest highlighted.
- A file of the properties that your agent has shown to you, along with ads you have cut out from the newspaper.
- Paper and pen, for taking notes as you search.
- Instant or video camera to help refresh your memory on individual properties, especially if you are attending a series of showings.
- Location: Look at a potential property as if you are the seller. Would a prospective buyer find it attractive based on school district, crime rate, proximity to positive (shopping, parks, freeway access) and negative (abandoned properties, garbage dump, source of noise) features of the area?
- Visualize the house empty & with your decor: Are the rooms laid out to fit your needs? Is there enough light?
- Be Objective: Instead of thinking with your heart when you find a home, think with your head. Does this home really meet your needs? There are many houses on the market, so don’t make a hurried decision that you may regret later.
- Be Thorough: A few extra dollars well spent now may save you big expenses in the long run. Don’t forget such essentials as:
- Include inspection & mortgage contingencies in your written offer.
- Have the property inspected by a professional inspector.
- Request a second walk-through to take place within 24 hours of closing.
- You want to check to see that no changes have been made that were not agreed on (i.e., a nice chandelier that you assumed came with the sale having been replaced by a cheap ceiling light).
- All the above may seem rather overwhelming. That is why having a professional represent you and keep track of all the details for you is highly recommended. Please email me or call me directly to discuss any of these matters in further detail.
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How to Negotiate with Sellers
Buying a home is one of the most important purchases most people will make. In order to make the right decision the first time, potential buyers need to be prepared. Consider the following before starting negotiations:
- Be prepared Research the housing market in the target area. Once you have information about the general area, focus on the particular property and seller. Look for answers to questions such as:
- Why is the homeowner selling? (If they’re moving because they find the area undesirable, you might want to consider this issue.)
- How long has the home been on the market? (If it has been on the market for a long time, perhaps there are negative facts about the property that you need to know.)
- How much did the seller pay for the home compared to the current asking price? (If the seller paid more, find out why. Was it a general real estate trend, or did property values in that particular neighborhood go down?)
- What is the seller’s time frame for selling and moving? Does it fit within your needs?
- Are there any defects in the home or problems with the surrounding neighborhood? (For example, is the roof so old that it will likely leak during the next storm? Is there a new construction project in the area that will lead to major traffic congestion?)
As the potential buyer, you want the advantage. While you want answers to all your questions to the seller, reveal very little about your circumstances. Do not give the seller personal information such as your income, the maximum you are able to pay for a down payment or the home, or when you want to move. Make sure that your agent knows not to reveal any such information to the seller or his/her agent.
Also, do not let the seller see how much you want the property. If you appear desperate or overly enthusiastic, the seller then has the stronger bargaining position. When meeting with the seller or listing agent, keep your emotions in check.
- Establish a Timeline
Find out if the seller needs to have the sale closed sooner rather than later. If the seller is feeling pressured to sell, use that to your advantage in negotiating. Even if you, the buyer, are the one with the deadline for purchasing a home, don’t let yourself be rushed into making concessions or a purchase you may regret later.
Fortunately for buyers, there are a variety of mortgages to choose from. It is in your best interest to investigate each of them to determine which is the best for your situation. You probably won’t qualify for all of them. In fact, you may only qualify for one. But if you do qualify for more than one, you may save yourself money (and worry) in the long run if you do your homework before signing on the dotted line.
Consider a fixed rate mortgage if either of the following describes you:
- You plan on living in your new home for many years, and/or
- You are not a risk-taker and prefer the stability of knowing how much your payment will be each month.Since most home loans are for a period of 30 years, if you want a payment you can count on for that long of a period of time, a fixed rate mortgage may be what works best for you. Once your loan amount and interest rate are calculated and locked in, a fixed rate mortgage will guarantee that you will have the same payment over the life of the loan. Making extra payments to principal will allow you to pay your loan off sooner.
This may not always be the best choice, however. If interest rates are very high at the time you take out your loan, with a fixed rate mortgage you’ll be stuck with that high interest for the life of the loan (unless you choose to refinance). Conversely, if interest rates are very low, you’ll come out the winner with interest rates that will stay low no matter how high interest rates go in the future.
The following are the advantages and disadvantages of the varying lengths and terms of fixed-rate mortgages:
- Pay off the loan in half the time of a 30-year loan.
- Equity builds up more quickly than in a 30-year loan.
- Payments are higher (which may be a problem if you lose your job or become unable to work).
- Pay off the loan in 2/3 the time of a 30-year loan.
- The overall interest paid is considerably less than for a 30-year loan.
- The most common choice, especially for first-time homebuyers, as it’s the easiest of the fixed-rate loans to qualify for.
- Monthly payments are lower than for 15-year and 20-year loans. This can prove especially helpful if you do not have a lot of “padding” between the amount you can afford to spend and the monthly payment for your desired property.
- More desirable if you plan on staying in the same home for years, since equity builds more slowly than for shorter-term loans.
- For income tax purposes, this term provides the maximum interest deduction.
If you are more comfortable in taking a risk with your money or if interest rates are very high at the time you take out your loan, an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) may be the solution for you. You might also choose this type of loan if your planned ownership of the property is short-term or if you expect your income to increase to cover any potential rise in the interest rate.
Generally, the interest rate when you take out your loan will be lower than a fixed-rate mortgage. Please note that this is true initially, not necessarily long-term.
Since an ARM rate rises and falls depending on the prevailing interest rate, your mortgage payment will rise and fall accordingly. If your income is not sufficient to cover the highest possible payments, then this option is not for you. On the positive side, the lower initial payments will allow you to qualify for a larger loan than if you choose a fixed-rate. The downside is that your payments will increase if/when the rates go up.
Typically, ARM interest rates are tied to a specific financial index (such as Certificate of Deposit index, Treasury or T-Bill rate, Cost of Funds-Indexed Arms or COFi, or LIBOR [London Interbank Offered Rate]) and your payment will be based on the index your lender uses plus a margin, generally of two to three points. Get the formula used by your lender in writing and make sure you understand what it means.
Fortunately, the amount an ARM can increase is limited. There are “caps” on how much your lender can increase your rate, both for a period of one year and for the life of the loan. Plan ahead, and have your lender calculate what the maximum payment would be if your rate went to the highest amount allowed by the cap for your particular mortgage. If you are not confident you’ll be able to pay that amount on a monthly basis, perhaps you should reconsider this type of loan.
If neither the fixed-rate or the adjustable-rate mortgage seems like the best option, perhaps the convertible ARM will be right for you. This alternative combines the initial advantage of an ARM with a fixed rate after a predetermined number of years. Obviously, this type of mortgage has more advantages when the initial interest rate is low and the future rate is not guaranteed.
Another mortgage option available to some people is a government loan, providing that you meet the qualifications for these loans.
- VA Loans: Veterans may qualify for a loan from the Veterans Administration. There is a limit on the amount you can borrow, so this option works best for those buying a lower priced home.
- FHA Loans: The Federal Housing Association offers loans to lower-income Americans. Look for the phrase “FHA approved” when looking at ads for homes.
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With the advent of the Internet, much of this information is readily available online. Once you have educated yourself sufficiently about real estate loans, all it takes is the time and energy to sift through online resources to find the information you need.
Bank Rate Monitor (http://www.bankrate.com)
When comparing loans, make sure that you’re comparing loans of the same type. For example, you find that “Loan A” for a 30-year loan has a much lower interest rate than “Loan B” (also for 30 years). Upon further inspection, you find that “Loan A” is technically an adjustable rate mortgage. Its payment is based on a 30-year amortization, but becomes due through either payment or refinancing at the end of 5 or 7 years. These are frequently referred to as a 5-year or 7-year fixed-rate mortgage. While both said “30-year”, they are not the same type of loan.
Ask the lender for a statement detailing all fees associated with the loan. Factors such as “points” (loan fee), interest rate and “garbage fees” (extra fees which some lenders charge) can vary greatly from one lender to another.
If you do not have the time or experience to “do it yourself,” look for a qualified mortgage broker that can assist in finding the right mortgage for you. Ask friends and associates who have refinanced or purchased recently if they have a broker they can recommend. You’ll want to find a broker who is energetic, flexible and knowledgeable about finance and loans and someone who has your best interests in mind.
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You will be asked for a down payment on the home you are purchasing. You can choose to put down as much or as little as you want (depending on your mortgage), but remember, the more you put down toward the total price of your home, the less time it will take you to pay off and the less your mortgage payments will be every month.
During this period of purchasing your home, you are going to need an escrow or settlement company to act as an independent third party so that you know when and who to give your money to get the deed to your new home. The escrow or settlement company will hold your deposit and coordinate much of the activity that goes on during the escrow period. This deposit check may also be held by an attorney or in the broker’s trust account. Make sure that there are sufficient funds in your account to cover this check.
The deposit check will be cashed. Assuming the sale goes through, this money will be applied to the purchase price of the home. If for any reason the sale is not consummated, you may be entitled to receive all of your deposit back, less standard cancellation fees. In certain instances, the seller may be able to retain this money as liquidated damages. Prior to executing a purchase contract, it would be wise to speak with your counsel regarding whether or not it is your best interest to have a liquidated damages clause as part of the contract.
The period that you are “in escrow” is often 30 days, but may be longer or shorter. During this time, each item specified in the contract must be completed satisfactorily. By the time you have opened escrow, you have come to an agreement with the seller on the closing date and the contingencies. Each contract is different, but most include the following:
- Inspection contingency: this should be completed as soon as possible after the contract to purchase is signed as unsatisfactory results of the inspection may mean that you will want to cancel the contract.
- Financing contingency: once the contract is signed, you have a period of time to secure funding. If, for any reason, you are unable to secure funding during the period of time granted to you by the contract (and the seller will not provide a written extension of time), you must decide whether you want to remove the contingency and take your chances on getting a loan. You may choose to cancel the purchase contract.
- A requirement that the seller must provide marketable title.
Secure homeowner’s insurance. This will probably be required before you can close the sale. Due to such requirements as special fire and earthquake insurance, obtaining this insurance may require a lengthy period of time. It would be in your best interest to apply for insurance as soon as possible after the contract is signed.
Schedule the final walk-through inspection. At this time, you should make sure that the property is exactly as the contract says it should be. What you thought to be a “permanently attached” chandelier that would come with the property might have been removed by the seller and replaced with a different fixture entirely.
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Avoid Common Buyer Errors
Shopping for a new home is an emotional experience. It is, however, also a business transaction, and must be treated as such. Three of the most devastating things that can go wrong are:
- Paying too much
- Losing a dream home to another buyer
- Buying the wrong home
When you have a systematic plan before you shop, you’ll be sure to avoid these costly errors. Here are some tips on making the most of your home purchase:
Get the information you need
What price do you offer a seller? Is the seller’s asking price too high? Is it a deal? Your own research is important, as is the assistance of a Realtor®. A professional Realtor® can offer an unbiased opinion on the value of a home, based on many factors and a great deal of information. Without knowledge of the market, your offer could be too much. Or worse, you could miss out on a great buying opportunity. Hire the right person and trust that person to represent your interests.
Buy YOUR home
What do you need and want in a home? Sounds simple, but clearly identifying your needs and bringing an objective view to home shopping leaves you in a much better position. How much space do you really need? Too small and you may feel like you live in constant clutter. Too big and maintenance may become too daunting. Outline all of your priorities, and work on finding not just a great home, but a great home for you.
Check the title
Before you sign any document, be sure the property you are considering is free of all encumbrances. As a part of his or her services, a Realtor® can supply you with a copy of the title to ensure there are no liens, debts, undisclosed owners, leases or easements against the title.
Update the survey
Before the purchase is completed, an updated survey is essential. This report will indicate boundaries and structural changes (additions to the house, a new swimming pool, neighbor’s new fence which is extending a boundary line, etc.), and will guarantee that you are indeed getting what you pay for.
Minimize the unexpected
For $300 – $500, a professional inspector will conduct a thorough inspection of the home. Their expertise can mean the difference between uncovering major flaws before or after you own a home. Make the final contract subject to the report’s findings.
It only takes a few days to get financing pre-approval. When you are shopping for a home, this gives you more power. A seller is more likely to consider an offer from a serious buyer.
Remember additional costs
Besides the funds for the purchase of a home, you’ll need funds for items such as loan fees, insurance, legal fees, surveys, inspections, etc.
Take a deep breath
Before you sign, ensure that all documentation clearly reflects your understanding and conditions of the transaction. Has anything been forgotten? Don’t rush. You could lose money, financing, or even the sale if you attempt to push things through too hastily.
But do you need it?
Various house toys weigh in.
Of course a basement waterfall and grotto is a practical and useful addition to any home. That’s pretty much the only thing standing between you and the lifestyle you’ve always dreamed about, right? But who’s going to clean it?
It’s easy to fall in love with certain features of a home, but to find out that those same features, in the long run, are your least favorite. Here are a few common ‘extras’ and a quick assessment of their relative values.
1. In-floor Heating
Also referred to as radiant heat, in-floor heating is a brand new invention. Well, except that the Romans did it a couple thousand years ago by channeling hot air under the floors of their villas. And Frank Lloyd Wright did it in the thirties with hot water, but other than that . . .
For: In-floor heat comes in two primary forms: hot water heat and electric heat, and there are many advantages. The dramatic energy savings promised shouldn’t prompt you to ask for a decrease in salary just yet, since the more popular hot water radiant heat usually requires a second hot water heater and won’t shave too much off of your bill, but there are some notably appealing elements to in-floor heat in general. Radiant heat is just that – even and consistent, without the up-and-down temperature shifts associated with most conventional heating systems. It’s also silent and invisible, with no bulky radiators or even register vents ruining the feng of your shui. Radiant heat also won’t dry the air, and won’t have you hopping about looking for your slippers on a cold morning.
Against: In-floor heating systems are still considered a luxury, and can add a fair bit to the value of a home. They are new, and potential long-term issues have not been entirely worked out. A handful of people also are leery about the prospect of piping a significant amount of water throughout their cherished home for fear of potential leakage. All relatively minor concerns.
Assessment: Find someone with in-floor heating who doesn’t love it. I dare you.
2. Backyard Pool
It’s the quintessential luxury item that announces once and for all that you are a big dog, even in parts of the country like this one where it can only be used about ten minutes per year. It is the swimming pool. From pools that are little more than big pits of standing water to jewel-encrusted infinity pools that usually adjoin large bodies of water, pools were once the thing. Are they still?
For: A 2004 4-state NAR study found that having a pool increased property values from 8 to 15%. The idea of kicking back all summer with a piña colada, sitting next to the lapping water with friends can be quite attractive. And rightfully so.
Against: Safety issues have not been blown out of proportion by the media. Pool deaths happen all the time, there’s no getting around that fact. Pools are expensive to maintain, even without hiring a pool cleaner, and are a lot of work. As beautiful as a pool can be when it is maintained properly, it can be an eyesore if it is not. A pool tends to negate having any significant usable space for a backyard. Am I missing anything?
Assessment: The issues involved with owning a pool can be overcome, and many people enjoy having a pool very much. You just have to want one really badly for it to be worthwhile.
3. Dream Kitchen
Kitchens do cool things these days. Appliances paneled to look like cabinets, an extra tap above the stove for filling large pots of water, $15,000 pounded-copper range hoods, and 460 different countertop materials . . .
For: Kitchens are finally being designed with maximum utility in mind. When shopping for a home, focus on the kitchen – it is where you will likely spend a great deal of your time, and the room in which every party tends to congregate. Before you fall in love with that Kohler faucet, however, analyze the kitchen’s layout from a purely utilitarian standpoint. Is the magic triangle of sink-stove-fridge arranged conveniently? Are cabinets and other storage in logical places? Is there sufficient light? And most importantly, is this a space you will feel comfortable and happy in? Don’t underestimate the importance of a functional and attractive kitchen.
Against: Be careful not to fall in love with the impermanent fixtures in a kitchen. While those glass-front, backlit uppers may brilliantly display the seller’s Royal Daulton bone china, will your mixed collection of garage sale Melmac have the same effect? Likewise, if your idea of cooking is heating up last night’s pizza, perhaps space would be better used elsewhere.
Assessment: The kitchen is the hub of virtually any home. Don’t underestimate its importance.
4. Activity Rooms
This is an overly broad categorization, of course, but activity rooms like workshops, games rooms, and exercise rooms tend to hold common appeal – and common drawbacks.
For: Having the right setup for a particular activity can be inspiring. Having a single power tool in each room of your house and each corner of the garage and shed is not exactly the ideal situation for building that crib you started on for your daughter and are determined to finish before the birth of you granddaughter. Likewise, if you have the latest elliptical trainer and weight set in a room next to your bedroom with a 12 foot plasma TV facing it, perhaps you will find that six-pack after all.
Against: If you can’t make a dovetail joint, all of the tools in the world will not give you that knowledge. If you haven’t lifted anything heavier than a handful of pork rinds in the last decade, a workout room will likely soon become just a TV room with uncomfortable seating. Unreasonable expectations usually develop into unreasonable decisions.
Assessment: Your home should inspire you and will, to a certain extent, dictate your lifestyle. Be rational in your decisions, however, and aim for versatility rather than rooms that are locked in to a particular use that may not be as useful in the future.
The Bottom Line
With all of your dream home features, try to let reason prevail (or at least get a word in edgewise). You may absolutely worship the tumbled marble rainforest shower with the heated towel rack, but it will be of little comfort every morning and night when you are cursing the home’s lack of closet space. It is often the most boring attributes of a home that will give you the most pleasure.
Now, off to luxuriate in my rainforest shower. I had to take out the bedroom to install it, but that’s okay, I don’t mind sleeping in the kitchen . . .
FIVE ESSENTIALS FOR FIRST TIME HOME BUYERS
1. Don’t go on Blind Dates
Don’t be set up. Assess in great detail what you are looking for in a home. The more strict and structured you make your needs/wants list beforehand, the less likely you are to be blinded when you view a house.
You may get excited by the glass tile tub surround but don’t overlook the fact that one of your requirements was an attached garage. That tile is pretty, but it’s not going to keep your car warm and dry all winter long!
Set strict priorities and you are far more likely to get a house that you can have a long-term relationship with.
2. Don’t go Alone
Having a real estate professional on your side will help you during every stage of the home buying process. From getting advance notice of newly listed properties, skilled negotiation, and help with paperwork, having someone on your side is extremely important.
3. Buy a Lifestyle as well as a House
Owning a home is a major life adjustment. Not only do you have to keep in consideration the layout of the house itself, but you will need to consider the surrounding areas as well. Things such as the locations of schools, churches, doctors, parks and anything else you consider important to your lifestyle should be taken into account.
You will not spend every minute of your time in your home and therefore you need to look at the overall picture when purchasing a house.
4. Your House Will Also Own You
Buy within your means.
When you get pre-approved for a mortgage, focus on seeing that number as a maximum.
Getting pre-approved for an amount slightly higher than you were considering spending in the first place can be very tempting with the new options that a higher price range opens up.
Buying even a little out of your means can make a big impact on your finances for years to come. Particularly as a new homeowner, you may be surprised by the increase in utilities, and the burden of expenses like property taxes and maintenance.
Don’t over-extend yourself.
Remember: “House-Broken” can happen to people, not just pets!
5. Have Fun!
Despite the potential drawbacks, buying your first house is an exciting, enjoyable, life-changing event!
Owning your own home can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on your finances, your lifestyle, and your well-being.
Enjoy shopping for a home and making plans about redecorating, landscaping, and planning rooms.
You only get to buy your first house once, so don’t forget to enjoy the ride!
How to get the RIGHT HOME at the RIGHT PRICE
Whether you are buying your first home or your fifth, the process of buying a home can be an emotional, time-consuming venture. Feeling that, in the end, you made the right decision and got a good deal can make all the difference.
As with most major decisions, the amount of work and research you undertake before you start shopping can have a dramatic effect on how well you do in the end.
#1 Do you really need that backyard tennis court?
Everyone can picture their ideal home. If you haven’t thoroughly prepared yourself prior to viewing houses, chances are that you will find what you think is your ideal home, and will wind up paying too much for it. It is essential to treat the buying process in a slightly detached manner. Those who fall in love with houses usually pay too much.
That’s why it’s recommended that you develop a list of needs and one of wants. When looking at houses, make sure that they cover all of your needs – things like adequate space, a good neighborhood, perhaps a garage – and then have fun with items on your wants list. Treating the process in a regimented manner will help you to make a rational, informed decision.
#2 Get pre-approved
Visit your lending institution prior to shopping. Be sure to get a mortgage commitment in writing. Being pre-approved gives you a solid price range, and lets your Realtor® and potential sellers know that you are serious and not just a browser.
#3 Get the right people behind you
Buying a home is a complicated process, with many people involved. Having the right people on your side can make a big difference. An experienced, dedicated, and knowledgeable Realtor® can put a team of advocates, including lenders, lawyers, home inspectors and movers, on your side immediately.
The more you share with your Realtor®, the better he or she will be able to represent you. Letting your representative know exactly what you’re looking for, in terms of needs/wants, price range, and location, can eliminate unnecessary trips to unsuitable homes and that focus can help ensure that you wind up in the right home.
#5 Location, location, location
It’s still true. The desirability and resale value of your home depend on location more than any other factor. People want a desirable community that includes character, quality of schools, access to work, major transportation arteries, recreational facilities, etc.
On your viewing trips, take a careful look and ask the following questions: How does this home compare to others in the neighborhood? Are yards fenced? Are there many children playing in the streets? Are the front and back yards and the exteriors of the homes properly maintained? The less expensive houses in a better area tend to appreciate faster than the most expensive houses in a less desirable area. Additional factors that affect the property value of a home include traffic, sounds, smells, zoning bylaws, and many others. Be objective. Be sure you are completely satisfied with the neighborhood. If you choose a neighborhood with problems, you likely won’t get as much as you hoped with it comes time to sell.
#6 Use your Realtor’s® knowledge
Your Realtor® is trained in all aspects of real estate, including understanding supply and demand, economics, and the neighborhoods of the city in which they practice. A professional Realtor® can do much of the work for you, by reviewing your needs, reviewing available properties, and making an informed match. A comprehensive knowledge of the available homes in your neighborhood is one of your Realtor’s® strongest assets. With the aid of computerized systems, a Realtor® is notified within hours when a home becomes available.
#7 Pay attention to red flags
When evaluating a home, be sure you know the difference between acceptable and unacceptable problems. Cosmetic items like peeling paint, worn carpeting, or unattractive wallpaper can be easily remedied, and can be used as negotiation items, as there will be costs involved in updating the home.
Major problems, however, are clearly red flags. Look for items such as major foundation cracks, water damage, outdated electrical systems, and inadequate plumbing. These items could be too expensive to remedy to make the home a worthwhile investment.
#8 Hire a home inspector
A home inspection is an inexpensive way to gain peace of mind, and guard your pocket book. A proper inspection will cover all areas of the house including foundation, electrical, heating, plumbing, floors, walls, ceilings, attic, roof, siding and trim, porches, patios, decks, garage and drainage. A professional inspector can give you an objective view of the property, with a written report, indicating the present condition and items that will need repair.
#9 Be cautious with fixer-uppers
Sometimes, a fixer-upper can be purchased below market value, and once sufficient repairs are made, can be sold at a significant profit. However, not all fixer-uppers will bring in the profits you might expect.
Consumers often overestimate their level of dedication to doing extensive renovation work, and underestimate the costs associated with such work. A wall that needs to be replaced can often lead to the discovery of faulty plumbing, electrical, or other major undertakings. Your Realtor® and home inspector are your best allies when it comes to cost-benefit analyses.
#10 Consider your future needs
A move can be a major undertaking. Take a good look at your current lifestyle and consider the future. Will you need extra space for a home office, a child, or perhaps a child moving back home? Perhaps it may be easier and less expensive if you purchase a home that can meet these needs now, rather than moving up to a larger home a few years down the road.
#11 Proceed quickly
When you’re ready to buy, act. Good properties sell. This is especially true given the current state of most real estate markets. However, when you work with a Realtor®, you have access to the latest technology. As part of the MLS and Agent Handshake networks, a Realtor® has access to properties within hours of when they are listed.
Technology works to your advantage. Many Realtors® now have personalized websites which allow you to sign on as a client, and receive notification of new listings via email. You save time and effort, and you can view only those homes that come closest to meeting your needs.
#12 Clarify relationships
In any real estate transaction, be very clear about who is working for whom, and what the relationship represents. Unless otherwise stated, an agent represents the seller in transactions for the sale of a home. This agent, as part of his or her fiduciary duty, must ensure that the seller’s (and not your) position is represented throughout the entire process. Get a buyer’s agent on your side, or ensure that someone is acting in your best interests.
#13 Ask for a written CMA
A Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) is an analysis of comparable homes in a given neighborhood. It shows you the sale prices of comparable homes in the neighborhood, along with asking prices of other homes in the area currently on the market. A Realtor® can request this report for any home and neighborhood. Ask for this report in writing. With this valuable document, you’ll have solid, reliable information about how fairly a home is priced compared to its real market value.
#14 Know the seller
Understanding a seller’s reasons for moving could work to your advantage during negotiations. For instance, a seller who has been transferred to another city may be more motivated to sell than someone who is still shopping for a new home. A vacant house, or a house that has been on the market for several months and has been reduced in price, could also provide the opportunity for lucrative negotiations
#15 Keep it impersonal
Conversely, information could be used to your detriment. Information about your mortgage, size of down payment, move-in deadline, or circumstances for buying could be used to the seller’s benefit in negotiations. While you want your Realtor® to know these details, maintain your poker face and keep your cards hidden with the sellers and their agents.
#16 Measure twice, sign once
While you definitely want to move quickly once you’ve made the decision to purchase, you don’t want to cave in to pressure for a quick close. Someone who is trying to pressure you into buying a home is likely doing so for a reason. Make sure the reasons for you to buy a home are your reasons, not theirs.
#17 Exercise your negotiating skills
Even if you prefer not to haggle, it’s worth it, especially when it’s your home and one of your biggest investments. Most people expect to haggle over the price. There is always room for negotiation, and your Realtor® should be a professional negotiator.
#18 Avoid bidding wars
In some cases, the seller’s Realtor® may use scare tactics to rush the sale or increase the price. Falling for this trap could cost you money. If there is another buyer, or some other reason this pressure is being applied, whoever wins also loses because they tend to overpay. Let reason be your guide, not passion.
#19 Get it in writing
Legally, sellers must disclose all known material defects of a property. Ask for this in writing. Also be sure to consider the ramifications of these defects. Will they be costly down the road? Are they “serious” defects?
#20 Be aware of hidden costs
While Realtors® often tempt first-time buyers with rent/mortgage comparisons, there is more to a home than simply the mortgage. You will be responsible for other items including mortgage insurance, appraisal fees, legal fees, inspection fees, transfer taxes, title insurance, inspections, property tax, increased bills, etc. Your Realtor® can give you a good idea of the costs associated with buying a home that are beyond its final negotiated price.
Logistic items to consider
1. Short Term Accommodation
2. Air Travel
3. Land Transportation
4. Household goods
5. Furniture (Storage and purchasing)
6. Vehicle purchase
8. Spousal Recruitment
9. Migration & Visa Assistance
_ Be ruthless! Go through each room and decide what to get rid of.
_ Start planning a yard sale or contact your local charities.
_ Find out whether your employer is paying for any moving expenses if any
_ Contact moving companies for estimates and information.
_ Make an inventory of everything to be moved
_ Open a bank account in your new location and change currency if necessary
_ Cancel all newspapers and services at your previous location
_ Contact a real estate agent in your new location so they can begin searching for your new home or rental property
_ Cancel or transfer mobile and telephone numbers
_ Make sure your passport is valid
_ Collect everything you have loaned out and return everything you have borrowed
_ Start pulling together medical and dental records
_ Schedule disconnection of utilities at your old home and connection at your new one
_ Make hotel and airline reservations if you need them
_ Get children’s school records
_ Find a cleaning service that will do a final cleaning of your home
_ Transfer or close bank accounts at previous location
_ Remove all jewelry and other valuables to a safety deposit box or other safe place to prevent loss during the move.
_ Check into storage options for those items you cannot move immediately and may need to store temporarily
_ Make back-up copies of important files on your computer before packing it up
_ Separate cartons and luggage you need for personal travel
_ Pack a special box with essentials you’ll need for the first few days (Make sure this box is marked ”Do not move”)
_ If you have children or pets, arrange for someone to look after them during the move
_ Pack cleaning materials and tools separately
_ Arrange for you mail to be forwarded
_ Make a final check of the entire house (basement, closets, shelves, every room)
Secrets of Stagers
13 Ways to Make Your Home Look Like a Million Bucks
By Leah Hennen, special to HGTV.com
Ever walk into a Sunday open house or a model home and notice how…well, inhumanly perfect it looks? If so, chances are the property is "staged"–in real estate parlance, dressed with paint, furniture arrangements, art and accessories that are all carefully designed to highlight the home’s strengths, downplay its weaknesses, and appeal to the greatest possible pool of prospective buyers. Whether you’re designing to sell or designing to dwell, here’s how the home-staging pros get that "I have to have it!" look–and how their tips and tricks can make your own humble abode look like a million bucks.
1. Make an Entrance
You know the saying: You never have a second chance to make a first impression. "The outside of your home is the first thing guests see," points out Christopher Breining, owner of HomeStagers, Inc., (www.HomeStagersInc.com) in San Francisco. And like it or not, it speaks volumes about what’s inside–and about its owner. A quart of glossy paint in a bold, cheerful color for the front door, new hardware (or a little elbow grease applied to clean and polish the existing knocker, lockset, porch light, house numbers, and mailbox), a fresh coir or seagrass mat, and a trio of seasonal potted plants on the landing will dramatically brighten and refresh your home’s entry and make visitors feel welcome, Breining says. Bonus: This small investment pays personal dividends, too, giving you an emotional boost and a dose of house-pride with each homecoming.
A welcoming entry, such as this one designed by Pamela Berstler, helps to set the tone for the rest of the house.
2. Conquer Clutter
Admit it: You have too much stuff. "The most important thing most people can do to improve their home is to clear out, clean up, and get rid of clutter," says Lisa LaPorta, cast designer on HGTV’s hit Designed to Sell and owner of Lisa LaPorta Design in Los Angeles. Be ruthless as you go about purging your belongings. If you haven’t used it in three months, stagers say, box it up and store it away; if you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it. And make a house rule that for every new item that comes in, an old one has to leave. Any mixed feelings you have about tossing life’s accumulated detritus will quickly be replaced with a sense of relief and appreciation of your Zen-like new surroundings.
Sound daunting? Take it one room at a time. If your bookshelves are bursting at the seams, for instance, "clear them off and start over," suggests Michelle Yackel, owner of Divine Redesigns in Atlanta. "It’s okay to have empty space around your books and knickknacks." Inexpensive baskets make great hiding places for unsightly paperbacks, and add texture and visual interest. Books stacked vertically serve as pedestals to show off prized pottery or other objects d’art. You can even remove the dust covers from hardbacks and group them by color, turning a busy jumble into a decorative addition to the room.
If you simply can’t part with your collection of Architectural Digest or your kids won’t let you anywhere near their 300 carefully assembled Lego creations, it’s time to get creative about storage and organization. Retailers like the Container Store and Target sell handy rolling bins designed to slip under a bed and house everything from household supplies to kids’ toys. And if you can’t get rid of it and can’t hide it, flaunt it with style: "Places like IKEA sell colorful and inexpensive fabric, cardboard, or melamine magazine holders. Lined up on a shelf, they look a lot cleaner than stacks of magazines everywhere and add a unified visual element to the room," says Michael Friedes, owner of Nest Home Design in Oakland, California.
3. Make "Less is More" Your Mantra
Don’t forget, too, that a cluttered look can also come from too much furniture. "People tend to line their walls with furniture–one piece after another," laments Christopher Breining. When professional fluffers descend on a home being prepped for market, they often whisk away as much as half of the owner’s furnishings–and the house looks miles better (not to mention bigger) for it. You don’t have to whittle that drastically, but take a hard look at what you have and ask yourself what you can live without. "You really only need two pieces of furniture per wall: A bed and a nightstand, say, or a dresser and a chair," Breining advises. Another rule of thumb: If you don’t use it regularly, lose it. While you’re doing this sometimes-painful pruning, remind yourself that every square foot you free up is prime real estate.
4. Float Furniture
If your couches are clinging to your walls, you’re not alone–it’s a typical decorating mistake, stagers say. "There’s a common belief that rooms will feel larger and be easier to use if all the furniture is pushed up against the walls, but it’s simply not true," says Lisa LaPorta. Instead, furnish your space: Float furniture away from walls, reposition it into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so that the traffic flow in the room is obvious–in most cases, this means keeping the perimeters clear. "When you place furniture in a room, envision a figure-eight or the letter H in the middle, with clear pathways around it," LaPorta suggests. Not only will this make the space more user-friendly, it will open up the room and make it seem larger.
If you’re nervous about doing something that can seem a bit radical, "Try an area rug on an angle first, then move the couch and see how it looks. But just try it," Christopher Breining implores. If the new arrangement doesn’t strike your fancy, you can always put things back the way they were. But chances are, you won’t want to.
5. Mix It Up
You’d never consider donning the same clothes for days on end, would you? So why force your home to endure the same tired decor year after year? "We get used to our surroundings, but they can become stale and stagnant. If a chair has been in the same spot for five years, move it!" admonishes Barb Schwarz, owner of StagedHomes in Seattle, Washington, and Concord, California, and coauthor of Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money (John Wiley & Sons). Think of your digs as a nesting superstore, with the added bonus that everything in it is free. Give yourself permission to move furniture, artwork and accessories between rooms on a whim. Just because you bought that armchair for the living room, for instance, doesn’t mean it won’t look great anchoring a sitting area in your bedroom. Or try perching that little-used dining room table in front of a pretty window, top it with buffet lamps and other accessories, and press it into service as a beautiful writing desk or library table. And as for that now-empty dining room? Flank an ottoman or cocktail table with a loveseat and comfy chairs for an instant conversation nook. "When you move things to new spots, you appreciate them again–and give your house a whole new look for nothing," Schwarz says.
6. Rediscover "Lost" Spaces
"A big part of what stagers do is create fantasy spaces: An exercise room, a meditation space, an art studio, a family game room," says Linda Russell, owner of HouseDressing in Montclair, New Jersey. "We take that unused space on the third floor or in the basement and turn it into something you’ve always dreamed about having." So if you have a room that currently serves only to gather junk, repurpose it into something that will add to the value–and your enjoyment–of your home. Move those boxes to a rented storage space (or better yet, have a yard sale or donate their contents to charity) and get to work creating the space you yearn for. The simple addition of a comfortable armchair, a small table, and a lamp in a stairwell nook will transform it into a cozy reading spot, Russell suggests. Or drape fabric on the walls of your basement, lay inexpensive rubber padding or a carpet remnant on the floor, and toss in a few cushy pillows. Voila! Your new meditation room or yoga studio.
7. Let the Sun Shine In
"We almost always take off old, heavy drapery and put something light, airy, and gauzy in its place," says Russell. This ushers in natural light and makes a previously closed-in space seem larger. Simple sheers on a tension rod are great for screening an unattractive view and providing a bit of privacy but still letting in lots of light and visually enlarging a room. If you have lovely vistas from a set of windows, try doing away with treatments altogether. If privacy is paramount, top-down, bottom-up Roman shades will block the neighbors’ view of your bathtub but still let you gaze at the sky while you soak. Lisa LaPorta favors bamboo or parchment shades and simple curtain panels made from fine cotton twill or translucent linen – all of which let light stream in during the day, provide privacy at night, and add touchable texture to a room. Or consider investing in Christopher Breining’s favorite window treatments: Sheer fabric shades with built-in blinds (Hunter Douglas offers several options). "They look great and offer so much versatility," he says.
Other window-treatment tips: If windows are narrow, extend curtain rods a foot or so on each side to suggest width. If your ceilings are low, hang rods right at the ceiling line and consider window treatments with vertical stripes to create the illusion of height.
8. Light the Way
One of the things that make staged homes look so warm and welcoming is great lighting design. As it turns out, many of our own homes are improperly lit–either we have too few fixtures, or our lighting is too dim or too harsh (or all of the above). To remedy the problem and make your home more inviting, increase the wattage in your lamps and fixtures (aim for a total of 100 watts for every 50 square feet). Then install dimmers so you can vary light levels according to your mood and the time of day. This is a relatively simple project for a do-it-yourselfer, or you can hire an electrician for a couple of hours to do several at once. (And while you’re at it, be sure to replace those dingy, almond-colored light-switch covers with crisp white ones. New covers cost less than a buck apiece and are a quick, easy update.)
Don’t depend on just one or two fixtures per room, either. It’s just as important to layer lighting as it is to have sufficient wattage, Breining points out. So go for ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, undercabinet, or reading), and accent (table and wall) lighting. "A combination of overhead, floor, table, and accent lighting creates great ambience," the San Francisco stager says. "Having lights on different planes provides good illumination and makes the room interesting." One thing that’s always in Breining’s bag of tricks: uplights. "You can buy one for as little as $5 at home-improvement stores and hide it behind a potted plant–it creates incredible drama." Another hint: Place mirrors, silver or glass bowls, or other reflective objects near lamps to bounce light around the room and make it glow even more.
9. Make a Splash with Color
"Painting is the cheapest, easiest way to give your home a new look," says Designed to Sell’s Lisa LaPorta. Even if you were weaned on off-white walls, take a chance and test out a quart of paint in a warm, neutral hue (you can always paint over it if you don’t like the effect). These days, the definition of "neutral" extends way beyond beige– from warm tans and honeys to soft blue-greens.
Even deeper shades–long verboten for interiors–are enjoying a renaissance. "Don’t shy away from dark colors in a powder room, dining room, or bedroom," says Oakland stager Michael Friedes. "A deep tone on the walls can make the space more intimate, dramatic, and cozy–and surprisingly, it can even make a small room seem bigger because there’s no delineation of the corners."
How to start? With a pillow, textile, or piece of art you love, LaPorta suggests. "The background color is often great for walls, and you can pull out the other colors for accents around the room." You could also try painting an accent wall to draw attention to a dramatic fireplace or a lovely set of windows. Either paint the wall a contrasting–but still complementary–color (such as a rich red flanked by taupe walls) or a more intense version of the paint used in the rest of the room (say, a deep butterscotch that will play off the soft camel walls surrounding it). If you have built-in bookcases or niches, experiment with painting the insides a color that will make them pop–a soft sage green to set off the white pottery displayed within, perhaps.
If you’re too timid to whip out the paintbrushes, add punch with richly colored accessories, pillows, and throws, LaPorta says. Bonus: When seasons change or you’re ready for something new, these couldn’t be simpler to switch out. Designer Lori Dennis used calming blue punctuated with crisp white in this restful bedroom.
10. Paint It Black
Using white-painted furniture is a tried-and-true tactic for freshening a room, but don’t forget its opposite: A coat of satiny black paint can revive tired furnishings and lend a chic, dramatic flair to just about any space. "Painting an old piece black immediately updates it," says Michael Friedes. "We use black in staging all the time. It’s a great punctuation–it has a graphic quality, provides contrast, and makes a real impact." And not only does black work with every other hue, it makes the colors surrounding it pop and melds with most any décor, from vintage to ethnic to modern. They key, as always, is moderation: Use black as an accent in picture frames, lampshades, accessories, and small pieces of furniture. "The big black leather couch of the ’80s is black gone awry," Friedes warns.
Designer Andreas Charalambous uses a black table and frames to add sophistication to this corridor.
11. Make Your Art Sing
If your home is like most, art is hung in a high line encircling each room. Big mistake: Placing your pictures, paintings, and prints in such stereotypical spots can render them almost invisible. "Art displayed creatively makes the art stand out more and shows off your space," Friedes says.
So break up that line and vary the patterning and grouping by hanging a row of art diagonally–with each piece staggered a bit higher or lower than the next (great for directing the eye toward an architectural feature like a window or arched doorway), triangularly–with one picture above, one below, and one beside (a nice accent for a table-and-chair vignette), or in a vertical line (perfect for accentuating a high ceiling). "Hang pictures on different planes so that your eye goes up and down as it travels around the room–it creates interest on your walls," says Friedes. Try hanging things a bit lower than you’re used to, as well, so that wall art relates to furniture groupings rather than floating (and getting lost) in its own space. Display your art creatively, as seen in this bedroom designed by Robert Noble.
12. Accessorize with Flair
Now that you have your furniture placed, your rooms dappled with color, and your art hung, it’s time to layer in accessories for the finishing touch. When it comes to eye-pleasing accessorizing, three is the magic number–though one and five work well, too. And rather than setting your trio of accessories out in a row, imagine a triangle and place one object at each point. Scale is important, too, so in your group of three, be sure to vary items by height and width, with the largest at the back and the smallest in front. "On a side table, for instance, you might have a lamp, a plant or flower arrangement, and a book or a small box," Barb Schwarz explains. For impact, group accessories by color, shape, texture, or some other unifying element, stagers suggest. Another hint, courtesy of Monclair stager Linda Russell: The eye naturally "reads" the room from left to right, so putting a striking object in the far right corner will automatically draw your gaze there and make the room seem bigger.
Mixing the right accessories, as designer Phyllis Harbinger does here, can make a room all the more inviting.
13. Bring the Outdoors In
Staged homes are almost always graced with bountiful fresh flowers and pricey orchid arrangements, but you can get a similar effect simply by raiding your yard. "Take clippings of branches or twigs and put them in a large vase in the corner of a room to add height– it’s a great structural piece that doesn’t cost anything," says Michelle Yackel, the Atlanta stager. It’s also an easy way to incorporate seasonal greenery. Budding magnolia clippings or unfurling fern fronds herald the arrival of spring, summer blooms add splashes of cheerful color, blazing fall foliage warms up your decor on chilly autumn days, holly branches heavy with berries look smashing in winter, and airy feather-grass plumes add elegance and texture any time of year.
Above all, "Get creative! Don’t be scared to try something different," Yackel says. Indeed, just about every stager has tales of home sellers who, upon seeing their once-tired abodes transformed, were so blown away by the results that they decided to stay put. Who knows–you, too, may just find that you love your "new" home so much you’ll never want to give it up. Designer Ann Morris adds color and style with a well-placed floral arrangement.
Six Simple Things You Can Do to Ensure a Smooth Home Purchase
Buying a home can be an emotional, time-consuming, and complex process. There are a few things that you can do to help make the process go as smooth as possible:
1. Check your credit.
Before you apply for a home loan, regardless of your credit, it’s a smart idea to obtain a copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus and review the information. If there are errors or things that need to be addressed, it’s easier to address them before you have found a house, than after you have found a house and are trying to close your loan.
If you know that there are a few blemishes on your credit, let your lender know what they are, why they are there, and why you are a still good credit risk. Lenders look at your credit to determine how likely you will pay back the loan. If you had extenuating circumstances – like a loss of a job or medical bills – let them know so that they understand that it is not likely to happen again in the future.
2. Get approved before you buy.
An approval means that a lender has reviewed your credit history, verified your assets and employment, and has approved your loan before you have found a home to purchase. As long as the home appraises for at least the purchase price, the loan should close.
Getting approved also gives you an advantage over other buyers. Your firm approval makes it easier for you to negotiate on the price of a home, than a person who is not approved or is pre-qualified.
While getting pre-qualified may sound official, it is really just getting an idea of what you can afford. Its having a person plug in a few numbers that you give them – your monthly income and your monthly debt – and getting an approximate payment calculated. From the payment, the calculator can approximate the house price range that you can afford. No information is verified. Because your assets, income or credit is not verified, a pre-qualification has little value when purchasing a home.
3. Find a great buyer’s agent.
Traditionally real estate agents represent the sellers in a transaction. When you are not working with a buyer’s agent, they are less likely to negotiate the best price or contingencies for you.
A buyer’s agent’s job and fiduciary responsibility (meaning legal duty) is to you, the buyer. Before working with an agent, establish if they are a buyer’s agent or a seller’s agent. After spending a lot of time with a Realtor, it’s natural to feel like you’re a team. But if they are not negotiating for you, then they are not on your team.
4. Learn about the neighborhood.
Often times the house you find may be in a neighborhood that you’re not familiar with, which is ok. It just means that you’ll have to do a little more research. If you find a house that you like, ask for a list of the neighborhood properties that sold in the last year. How does your home rank? Is it at the top of the price range? If so, it might be hard to resell. Is it average or on the low end? If so, great – as the other home prices go up in value, they will pull your home’s value up as well. Check out the schools – are they sought after? A good school district means your neighborhood will always be valued by families which is a great reassurance to purchase, not to mention the value-add if you have school-age children.
Next, contact the police station and obtain crime statistics? Are they acceptable to you? Sometimes, if they won’t give them to you, it could be a cause for alarm.
Talk to the neighbors. The more people you talk to, the better sense you will get of who makes up the neighborhood and how they will effect your time spent in it.
Check out the location of the shopping, police and fire stations, schools, and air traffic overhead. These are all things that might affect your property value or quality of your life.
5. Protect Yourself.
Ask your Realtor for a copy of the documents you will be asked to sign if you decide to buy the house. Read them ahead of time so that you’ll understand the questions that you will be asked, the things you need to know, and the decisions you will need to make.
6. Have reasonable expectations.
There is a lot of money at stake. No house is perfect. Understanding and remembering these two statements will help diffuse the negotiation stage, the inspection stage and the closing stage.
Emotions are high for both buyers and sellers. – The seller may have loving memories and years of sweat equity in the house. Maybe they are being relocated and don’t want to go. Understanding their motivations for selling will help you appreciate their situation and predicament during these emotional times.
There is a lot of money at stake for all the parties involved (and that includes the realtors) – Just remember that market value (the value of a home) is the price that a willing buyer and a willing seller can agree to. If you can not agree on a price, ask yourself: Is there something you missed? Are there comparables that support the price that they want? Are there motivations that might factor into the price they are demanding? In the end, does it matter? What is the house worth to you today and what do you think you can reasonably sell it for based on the amount of time you plan to spend in it? Think about the answers to those questions before you make your move.
No house is perfect – Always get an inspection. It might be a few hundred dollars, but it’s worth it. It’s the inspector’s job to find any problems with the house that could cost you thousands to repair down the road. Some inspectors have a tendency to over play the importance of their role and the items that they find. Get objective opinions that you trust before making a decision on an inspection report. Likewise, if an inspector says a foundation is cracked but its nothing to worry about – get a second opinion. Ask a handyman for an idea of how much repairs will cost and how complicated they are. The home buying process is an emotional, complex and time-consuming process, but it is worth it. Nothing compares to owning your own home in a neighborhood that you chose.
Staging tips and Tricks
First impressions make a significant impact on a buyer’s decision-making process!
Once your home goes on the market, it becomes a product. Home Styling or Staging simply allows you to highlight the best of your home and de-emphasize its flaws. It’s not about decorating, but actually turning your home into a model, to appeal to the broadest range of prospective buyers. The goal is to make people feel like they could live there, and the best way to do this is to "neutralize" the surroundings.
Try out these helpful styling tips taken from Setting the Stage – REALTOR® Magazine Online. They’ve compiled the best tips from stagers and real estate pros—things you can do for little or no expense—to put a home in prime showing shape.
- Clear out closets and clutter—sellers can give away or pack up toys, linens, and small kitchen appliances to store offsite. Buyers are also forgiving of storage boxes neatly tucked away in a garage or basement.
- Focus most on the most visible areas—the foyer, kitchen, living room, master bedroom, and family room.
- De-personalize the home by removing photos, mementos, and dated items.
- Use plants in colorful pots or inexpensive wicker baskets to fill in empty spaces.
- Look to home catalogs for little details on beautifying the home. For instance, group books, pictures, and objects that are appealingly on bookcases.
- Try angling one or two pieces of furniture slightly and move furniture 4 inches to 6 inches from the wall to create more interesting room spaces.
- Put away large collections— porcelains, plates, and so on.
- Remove valuables, prescription medicine, collectibles, and breakables.
- Trim trees, prune shrubs, and make sure the lawn is mowed and watered regularly.
- In summer, turn on the sprinklers for five minutes, 30 minutes before the open house. It makes the lawn and driveway sparkle.
- Refrain from cooking anything that leaves a distinctive odor, such as fish, garlic, or cabbage.
- Hire a professional service to clean the home, including the carpets and the windows.
- Set the dining room table with attractive linens, dishes, and stemware.
- Arrange fresh or silk flowers throughout the home.
- Light a fire in the fireplace in fall and winter.
- A mirror in a pretty frame can make a small room feel more open.
- Use as much natural light as possible. Add extra lamps in dark rooms or corners.
- Make functional repairs—fix dripping faucets, sticking doors, and broken fences.
- Bring in another pair of eyes—even if it’s not a professional stylist. The person may see problems you and have missed.
Thinking About Buying Your First Home?
Thinking about purchasing a home of your own? Keep these critical considerations in mind:
How long you plan to live in the home.
If you purchase a home and get a job transfer or decide to move after only a short time, you may end up paying money in order to sell it. The value of your home may not have appreciated enough to cover the costs that you paid to buy the home and the costs that it would take you to sell your home.
Some say that you should refrain from borrowing as much as you qualify for because it is wiser not to stretch your financial boundaries. The other school of thought says you should stretch to buy as much home as you can afford, because with regular pay raises and increased earning potential, the big payment today will seem like less of a payment tomorrow. This is a decision only you can make. Are you in a position where you expect to make more money soon? Would you rather be conservative and fairly certain that you can make your payment without stretching financially? Make sure that whatever you do, it’s within your comfort zone.
To determine how much home you can afford, talk to a lender or go online and use a "home affordability" calculator. Good calculators will give you a range of what you may qualify for. Then call a lender. While some may say that the "28/36" rule applies, in today’s home mortgage market, lenders are making loans customized to a particular person’s situation. The "28/36" rule means that your monthly housing costs can’t exceed 28 percent of your income and your total debt load can’t exceed 36 percent of your total monthly income. Depending on your assets, credit history, job potential and other factors, lenders can push the ratios up to 40-60% or higher. While we’re not advocating you purchase a home utilizing the higher ratios, it’s important for you to know your options.
Where the money for the transaction will come from.
The ongoing costs of home ownership.