Useful tips for buying and selling your home and the latest real estate market info!

Friday, December 18, 2015

10 Ways to Impress Buyers

When your house is on the market, you want every advantage you can get to bring that buyer and sell your house! Here is a list of 10 ways to impress buyers that not every seller is doing. The more items from this list that you do, the more you'll stand out.

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  1. Make your house spotless.     -- Go the extra mile when it comes to cleaning. Not just simple vacuuming and dusting. Scour every inch of your house. Leave nothing for the buyer to clean up after they buy! 
  2. Offer a home warranty.          -- Whether you personally like or use warranties, it's just a small added plus to put a would-be buyer's mind at ease. Who wouldn't want assurance that if the refrigerator breaks a month after moving in, it's covered? 
  3. Include appliances with the house.    -- Speaking of refrigerators, including all appliances with the house will be one less thing the buyers will have to worry about or purchase after they move in. Many first-time home buyers don't have appliances to move with them. So by including them in the sale of your house, you'll be that much more attractive!
  4. Well-done, neutral paint in all rooms.   -- Neutral doesn't have to mean beige. And while it's true some buyers will love the purple or bright pink paint on the wall, that group is much smaller than the pool of buyers who prefer neutral shades. It means they won't have to paint upon moving in. Again, taking a task off their plate, which is always a point scored for your house! 
  5. Well-manicured lawn and landscaping.   -- Of course this is season-dependent. You're of course not going to plant flowers in the winter. But spring and summer? You betcha! You don't have to spend a fortune...just get some inexpensive annuals, or some interesting green plants. Or, if you don't have a flower bed in the front of your house at all, use containers to brighten the space and attract the buyer's eye as they pull into your driveway! Most of all though, keep the weeds to a minimum (meaning zero, if possible) and the grass cut. 
  6. Fence in that yard.            -- Have a backyard? Consider putting a fence up. Or, better yet, offer to put a fence up upon an accepted offer. That way you're not out the money up front, and end up with a buyer who doesn't care about a fence. But I've known many buyers who must have a fence, whether it's for pets or children, and who were turned off by an otherwise great house because they didn't want to deal with the expense and hassle of putting in a fence themselves. Instead, they chose a home that was already fenced. 
  7. Smell that? No? Perfect!     -- Absolutely eliminate any and all unpleasant odors from your house! Hire a professional company if necessary to get rid of smoke or pet smells. The last thing you want is for a buyer to walk into the home and instantly turn around and walk out because the smell is overwhelming. I've seen it happen! A buyer walked into an older home, was only inside two minutes, and walked right back out. The musty smell was enough to turn this buyer off. You can also add pleasant smells, such as air fresheners or freshly baked cookies. But since it's hard to predict what smells will appeal to what people, it's at least safe to be odor-free. 
  8. Outdoor living space.         -- These days outdoor living space is almost as valuable and important and what's inside! Many buyers are looking for decks and patios. If you have one, great! Just make sure it's in good condition! Make any repairs necessary. Apply a fresh coat of stain or sealant. Consider staging it with outdoor furniture that's bright and inviting (you can take this furniture with you or leave it with the house). 
  9. Closets                  -- Every buyer is looking for huge closets. So yours are on the small side? You can at least make them appear larger by not having them crammed with tons of stuff! You're moving anyway, so go ahead and pack up at least half your clothes (and possibly other belongings...see #10). Make sure your closets are neat and organized. Buyers will be looking in them. 
  10. Stuff, stuff, and more stuff         -- Buyers don't want to walk into a house that's full of clutter. Even if to you it is valuable collectibles or treasured a buyer, it's just "stuff." As with your clothes, go ahead and pack up most of your "stuff." Store it in the garage, or even better, off-site (a relative's basement, a storage unit, etc.). Just keep a few things around to provide some sort of decoration and interest. Your realtor can help you pare down and choose which things to keep and which to pack up. Remember, at this point you're trying to appeal to buyers...not display all your favorite things.  

These are just 10 things you can do to impress buyers that walk through your front door. There's more, of course, and certainly, you don't even have to follow all of these suggestions. Just try to think like a buyer. You've been living in your house for however long now. You're used to the smells. You like the pictures on the walls, the paint colors, and the stuff you've chosen to display. But will a buyer? Or will a buyer be turned off enough to walk out and not put in an offer?

Sure, you can't please everyone. And there's no point in trying to do that. But you do want to appeal to the largest possible group you can. And the list above will help you do that.

Best of luck selling your house quickly and for the largest possible profit!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Home Warranty - To Offer One or Not?

Home Warranties. They are a big thing these days. Everyone wants assurance that what they're spending so much money on is protected. If you're selling your home, should you put up the money to offer a home warranty to buyers? I think so.

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Of course your decision to offer a home warranty is entirely up to you. Your agent may or may not suggest or encourage it.

Offering a home warranty won't turn buyers away. But not offering one just might.

Yes, it's an additional cost. Generally under $500. Many sellers don't want to pay that, because it's not a guarantee that you will sell your house. But it will put a potential buyer's mind at ease.

To you, the Seller, what a home warranty means is simply that you (if you so choose) pay the fee for the home warranty and that's it. You're not on the hook for the cost of any repairs after the sale of your home. The warranty will cover it.

What a home warranty means for you, the Buyer, is if anything does break (that's covered under the warranty...usually this means appliances) within the first year of the purchase of the house, all you have to pay is the deductible, and the rest of the cost of the repair, or cost to replace the appliance, will be covered.

I offered a home warranty when I sold my last home. I also got a home warranty (paid for by the sellers) of the home I purchased. And I had to use it! Not long after moving in, the washing machine broke. I called the approved repair company (the home warranty company will have a list of approved vendors), they came out and assessed the washing machine. I paid the deductible (which I think was around $50 or $100) and I got a brand new washing machine. The one that came with the house was so old it would've cost more to repair it than to replace, but that is a decision that's at the discretion of the repair company.

Discuss with your realtor whether or not to offer a home warranty to your potential buyer. Or, if you're the buyer, you can put "home warranty" as something you want included in the the expense of the seller. Of course it's all a negotiation, as is everything in real estate. And home warranties are just another negotiating tool.

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Home Inspection

You've got an offer on your house. Congratulations! The hard part's over...right? Wrong!

Many sellers -- mostly first-time sellers because anyone who's sold a house before knows better -- assume that once they get an offer on their house, it's a done deal. The only thing left is to pack up and hand over the keys.

Ah...but there's one major step in between. The inspection.

                                 Image result for home inspection

The inspection, and inspection report, can, and does, kill a deal. Unfortunately there's no way around this one.

Seller: First of all, after you get an accepted offer on your house, the next thing the buyer (or buyer's agent) will likely do is schedule a third-party inspection of your home and property. You will need to leave the house for this, just as you would an open house or any other showing. The buyer, buyer's agent, and inspector, will scour every last inch of the house, generally taking one to three hours. The inspector will point out things he/she notices that are a concern and write up a detailed report.

The buyer, along with their agent, will study the report and decide what, if anything, they want to ask you, the seller, to fix or otherwise address before the sale is completed. They can ask for as many things as they want. That doesn't mean you as the seller have to fix a single one of them. However, your response to their request may very well kill the deal.

After the buyer and their agent compile the list of things they want addressed, they will send an Inspection Response to you or your agent. The ball is then in your court. As I said before, it's totally up to you if you will accommodate the buyer's requests, or if you will counter back with an offer to fix some, but not all, of them.

Here's the bottom line: Mr. and Ms. Seller...Would you buy a house with x, y, and z "wrong" with it?

It's important to look at your own house objectively. Look at it like you did when you bought it. Or if you were considering buying it today. What would you want corrected before you forked over any money and moved in? Put yourself in the buyer's shoes. This will help immensely.

Buyers: Now is not the time to get too greedy. The inspection report will likely list a plethora of items that range from very minor to big, red flag concerns. Focus on the big concerns. There is no house that will be perfect. I heard someone compare it to relationships. You're never going to find a perfect house, free of quirks and flaws. You're looking for the perfect house for you, with quirks and flaws that you can live with.

So keep that in mind. What can you live with? And what can't you live with? If you truly love this house, you will probably have to compromise on something. I wouldn't want you to lose a perfect-for-you house over a few cracked window seals or a non-functioning dishwasher.

It's also wise, as the buyer, to put yourself in the seller's shoes. Imagine you're trying to sell your house. You've possibly already put some money into it -- to fix or replace some things or to paint or make updates. How much money are you likely to pour in now, at the eleventh hour, just to hand over the keys?

It's a balancing act for sure. Neither the buyer nor seller want to pay any more money than they have to. And both want the best deal they can possibly get. Now is a good time to lean on your agent for guidance and support. After all, they're not as emotionally invested in this house as you are. They can guide you in regards to how to handle the inspection (what to ask to have fixed, if you're the buyer), and the inspection response (what to spend the money on and fix, if you're the seller).

But bottom line, it's your decision -- Mr. and Ms. Buyer and Seller. I urge you to keep the big picture in mind. You're buying and selling a house. Appliances can be fixed or purchased. Other repairs can be made in time. So you hate the wallpaper that's in every room but the sellers refuse to take it down? Is that really worth losing the house over?

One more tip, for the seller... Get an inspection yourself before you put your house on the market!

This is something few sellers do, because there is a cost to it. But if you want to go into listing your house with your eyes wide open, knowing what the buyers will find out eventually anyway, this might be something you want to consider doing.

This way you'll get the list of concerns the inspector notices and can choose to fix, or not fix, any or all of them upfront. It'll save you headaches and anxiety down the line. That's not to say when the buyer hires their own, different, inspector, he or she might not find additional things...but those should be minimal.

Don't let the inspection ruin your home buying, or home selling, experience. Use it for what it's intended. To know what you're buying and to address major concerns ahead of time.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Market Report

Indiana Real Estate Market Report, as compiled through October 2015:

For the entire state of Indiana, the median sales price increased 3.2% over the past year.
Number of new listings increased 0.6% over the past year, but the total inventory of homes for sale actually decreased 8.8%
On average, sellers are getting about 94% of their list price in the sale of their home.

Marion county, however, increased across the board! 
There were 10.7% more closed home sales so far this year.
And the median sales price increased 4.3% so far this year.                 (Source:

What does this mean for you...the buyer or seller? 

Now is a great time to put your home on the market! Buyers are out there, eager for nice homes in good condition! And your chance of making it to closing are greater than in the recent past, since the buyers that are looking, are for the most part, serious about buying.

Sellers: If you price your house right (look at comparable sales yourself and/or discuss with your realtor), you stand a great chance of selling for your asking price, or very close to it! 

Contact me today to discuss your options and get a free market analysis on your current home! 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Exterior House Colors

Are you in the market for new siding? Or needing to repaint the exterior of your home? Think twice about the color you choose!

YELLOW is a popular house color these days. It is a great backdrop for plants, flowers, and other landscaping. It's also bright and cheery -- great qualities and feelings you'd like to evoke, whether you'll be coming home to that house for some time yet, or looking to sell soon.

If you do choose to go with yellow for the exterior of your home, your next decision will be what accent color(s) to use for things like shutters, the front door, or porch accessories. Browns, grays, and taupes make excellent pairings with yellow! Your home will look sophisticated and eye-catching!

If yellow is really not your color, blues and grays have also repeatedly ranked in the top for exterior home colors. Green is growing in interest as well.

Whatever color you choose, lighter shades will make your home look larger, while darker, deeper tones will make your home look more cozy.

Each person has a different preference when it comes to exterior home colors. Don't assume everyone wants a large home, or at least a large-looking home, and opt for lighter shades. Some people (I'm one of them) actually prefer the smaller, cozier, more "cottage-like" homes. I know my eye is always drawn to the more quaint houses, always in darker color tones, and often surrounded by trees or other foliage.

Regardless of color, when putting your home on the market, it's essential that it looks neat and well-done. No peeling paint here! You're not going to appeal to every buyer no matter what color you choose. But if your house has peeling paint or a damaged exterior (be it siding, brick, or stone), would-be buyers will see that right away and see an expense or a project that they'll have to deal with. That is precisely what you want to avoid in order to sell your house quickly and for top dollar.

          Image result for yellow house             Image result for house painted green

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Landscaping Trends

When a potential buyer pulls up to your house, they will obviously see the outside first. And poor, unkempt landscaping may cause them to keep right on driving... even if the inside is immaculate.

In order not to lose a buyer before they even step foot inside, do the following:

  1. Keep grass neatly mowed in the spring and summer.
  2. Keep snow shoveled in the winter.
  3. Keep leaves raked in the fall.
  4. Make sure any flower beds are free of dead plants and at the very least, clean. 
  5. Trim back tree branches growing too close to the house. 
  6. Pull all weeds...and keep pulling them as they come up!
  7. If your budget permits, put down fresh mulch and even plant some brightly colored annuals. 

                                          Image result for front of house that you've done the basics, here are some trends in landscaping that you may want to consider, whether you're thinking of selling your house or not:

  • Edible plants! More and more people are growing their own food. Whether it's as basic as a tomato plant or raspberry vine, or more involved, this could be a unique selling feature of your home. 
  • Opt for flowers that have a pleasant scent, instead of odorless ones. People have strong associations with smells, and the lilac bush next to your front walkway may trigger a fond memory for a potential buyer and sway them to seeing your house as the perfect home for them!
  • With plants, don't assume they're all green so they're all the same. Look for plants with variegated foliage. It will provide an added interest to an otherwise "all green" landscape.
  • Think containers! Plants and flowers aren't the only way to brighten up a landscape. The containers they are in can be a nice added feature to draw the buyer's eye. 
  • Xeriscaping. Have you heard of it? More homeowners these days are favoring landscapes that uses more plants, mulch, and rock, as opposed to just grass. I did this at my previous home and loved it! It meant less grass to mow and was more of a striking visual feature. 
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When you make the decision to put your house on the market, remember to pay some attention to the outside. It's definitely true that curb appeal can make or break a sale!