Saturday, July 31, 2010

Casting Out Clutter....Sell Your Home for TOP DOLLAR.....FAST!!!

Did you ever wonder why some homes sit on the market unsold for what seems like forever?

The most important factors that determine whether a house will sell quickly happen in the time before the house ever goes on the market.

Did you know that homes that sell quickly almost always sell for more money than homes that sit on the market for several months?
It’s true, and the most important factor in selling quickly for top dollar is pricing your home at the optimal price.
Love those toy trains from your childhood? Totally attached to your collection of moose stuff? Dedicated to your college fraternity memorabilia? Take a deep breath and a long gaze – then box ‘em up and ship them out to a storage facility or at least to a hidden spot under your bed. For no matter how much sentiment these personal items hold for you, these little treasures are nothing but CLUTTER to prospective buyers.

Clearing clutter from your home accomplishes two things; it makes areas of the house easier to clean and it neutralizes the space so prospective buyers can picture their own treasured items there. So, if you begin cringing as you read the following suggestions, repeat this mantra after me: Space sells.

Many folks find it easier to begin with clearing out the garage, an area where unwanted items often land. Throw away worthless items you can do without and store important items in a warehouse or friend’s garage. As you collect “disposable” items from your house decluttering, organize them neatly in your garage in preparation for a garage sale.

Many home sales experts recommend removing half your furniture from the house. This is a good time to repeat, “Space sells.”

Accent tables, extra chairs, and cabinets that hold huge collections are good choices for removal. For example, a dining room table with chairs should be kept in the room while a corner china cabinet or curio shelf would be removed. Bedrooms should contain just one double or queen-size bed or two twin beds. Extra beds should be stored. Take an inventory of those items you can do without for awhile. Make a note of where you plan to put each item when it’s removed. Store it, sell it or give it away.

Depersonalize space. Remove your teenage daughter’s poster of Orlando Bloom from her bedroom, your husband’s stuffed deer head from the study, and any partisan items like bumper stickers, books or magazines from the family room. All spaces should be neutral zones so potential buyers can picture their own belongings in each room. Remind your family members that they can have these items back as soon as the house sells!

Just as it’s good to remember that space sells, it’s also important to remember The Rule of Three. Step one of the rule: Take everything off the kitchen counter, bathroom vanity, table tops and mantles and wipe them clean.

Step two: Return only THREE items to each space. Yes, ONLY three. As for the leftover items – store them, sell them or give them away.

Keep in mind that nothing is sacred when a house is on the market. Anything that can be opened in any room – closets, drawers, cabinets, shower curtains, pantry doors – will be explored by potential buyers. Clean out and organize closets, drawers and the pantry. Keep the shower spotless and remove shampoo and conditioner bottles or any other personal care items.

In the bedroom, remove half the clothes from each closet, put shoes on a rack and hang purses and Whew! Now that you’ve decluttered your house, what do you do with the items that you no longer need but are still usable? You have several options. If you donate them to a charity, you may be able to receive an income tax deduction for the value amount. An added bonus: Often these organizations will pick up donations so you can spend your time elsewhere

You can always sell unwanted items through consignment shops, classified ads, garage sales, tag sales or an auction. It might be nice to have a little extra cash to help pay moving expenses. But if you can’t bear to part with these unnecessary treasures, self-storage may be the right answer for you. Rented storage units are particularly convenient places to keep furniture, seasonal sports gear, holiday decorations, and patio furniture.

If clearing clutter seems like an overwhelming task, just remember two things. First, reducing clutter makes each room easier to clean. There are fewer objects to move when dusting and vacuuming. And don’t forget what’s down the road: The move. The more you clean out or box up, the easier it will be to prepare to move after your house sells. Since you’ll have more important things to do at that time, doesn’t it make sense to get it done before your buyer looks at the house?

belts on pegs or organizers. Don’t forget to recycle all those newspapers you have stashed in the hall closet. Leave no cabinet door unopened or unclean.

In her book, Simple Steps You Can Take to Sell Your Home Faster And for More Money in Any Market, Ilyce R. Glink suggests creating a “clutter collector” in areas where papers and writing utensils seem to collect.

Glink’s clutter collector is a large, flat storage box that’s kept where mail and schoolwork seem to end up each day. Keep all receipts, old phone messages, pens and pencils, children’s artwork, permission slips and other miscellaneous papers in the box. Just before a potential buyer is scheduled to arrive for a showing, store the cutter collector underneath a bed.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Part 3"How to Sell Your Home for TOP DOLLAR....Fast Intro" The Secret of Curb Appeal

The huge, dark gray house was more than unkempt; with a crumbling front wall, missing shingles, thigh-high grass, broken window panes, and household items scattered in the yard it looked sickly. THIS was Pam’s dream house?

“Ummmm, Pam, with all due respect,” I said with my usual candor, “This place looks like it should have a black cloud and thunderbolt over it.” She sighed.

“But it was cheap, really cheap. You just have to look past the rundown condition and see the potential. How else could I afford a house this size?”

Though Pam, an artist with an incredible eye, was able to look into the future and see what the house could be after cleaning and repair, I was more like the average home buyer – extremely dubious. If I had been the one looking to buy a house, I wouldn’t have stepped a foot on that property. I wouldn’t have even slowed down the car.

Pam did get the house for about half the price of similar homes in comparable neighborhoods, which means the seller made 50% less on the sale because he was unwilling to do the repairs necessary to improve its curb appeal. It also took him over two years to find a buyer.

“Curb appeal” is real estate talk for the initial appearance, and the impression it makes, of the house as seen from the road. It’s what the buyer sees and feels as she parks her car across the street, crosses the road, strolls up the front walkway and pauses to knock on the door. Curb appeal includes the overall neighborhood, the house’s location on the block, condition of landscaping, the overall look of the house, and attention to details.

A house needn’t sport a cloud and thunderbolt look for prospective buyers to bypass it for another one. Sometimes little irritants – weeds, peeling paint, or tacky lawn ornaments – can create enough doubt to make them go elsewhere.
Luckily, most of the little irritants can be corrected with a little time, a bit of money and an open mind.

Most real estate experts agree that the most important steps to take in preparing a house for listing include fixing the driveway, landscaping the yard, painting the exterior, and painting or replacing the front door.

Improving the appearance of the driveway can be as easy and inexpensive as cleaning up oil spills, pressure washing to remove mildew or moving extra cars to another location.

For those with little spare time, it may be worth the money to hire a maintenance service to shape up your yard and keep it maintained as long as your house is on the market.

Add some color with a flowerbed or two of various annuals. A newly mowed and edged lawn accented with flowers makes a good first impression. The yard should look clean and green...with a few splashes of color.
Of course, once the lawn is golf course quality, you don’t want to spoil the effect with a cluttered yard. Neatly trim bushes and hedges so they accent the yard. Keep leaves raked and walkways swept daily. Trash cans, hoses, yard tools and toys should be stored in the garage or a shed. And while lawn ornaments – pink flamingos, elves, concrete geese or a statue of David – may make your life brighter, someone else might find them offensive. Put them in storage.
Want the most dramatic improvement in appearance for the best value? Paint the exterior of your house, including trim, window frames, shutters, gutters and downspouts, mailbox and front door. Opt for neutral shades of white, light gray, or pale beige, which are more universal.

If the existing paint on the outer walls is in good shape, consider touching up everything else in the list. This will make the house look brighter.

The front door is the transition area. At its best, it carries the pleasant look of the lawn – and the opinion of the buyer – over the threshold of the house. At worst, it undoes everything you achieved with the lawn and casts a pallor on the rest of the house. The buyer won’t miss the entryway, so the seller must not overlook it. Pressure clean the front steps, railings, and door. Clean out light fixtures, replace burnt-out bulbs and fix the broken doorbell. If the door is solid and in good working condition, give it a fresh coat of paint. If it’s damaged, cheaply made or otherwise unsightly, invest in a new, hardwood door. When this is done, add the final touch to the threshold: A brand-new doormat. After all, with all the work you just finished doing to spruce up the place, you want buyers to feel welcome.
By the way, Pam’s place now looks like a European country house, complete with shadow boxes, a wrought iron gate and English gardens. But the very first thing she did was paint the exterior...soft beige.

Want Top Dollar For Your Home? Read our 12 part series"How to Sell Your Home for Top Dollar....FAST!

What you do in the months before you put your house on the market will determine how long your house will take to sell, how much money you’ll get for your house, and how easy (or difficult) your selling experience will be.

There are some simple things you can and should be doing right now to make sure you’ll get the highest price in the least amount of time.

If you’re going to sell your house in the next six to 12 months, a “Room-by-Room Review” will show you the very best things you could do to prepare your house for sale, and get the highest return on your investment.
We’ll also point out things you shouldn’t do…things that you won’t get your money back on.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Light is for the Living

First impressions are the most important. Experience shows that for every $100 in repairs that your home needs, a buyer will deduct $300 to $500 from their offer. Thoroughly clean and prepare your home before you put it on the market if you want top dollar.

Professor Von Helsing approaches the house with trepidation – the lone light is from the moon and even that scarcely illuminates the entry way. He wonders what horrors are hidden in the shadows...A potential buyer for Count Dracula’s castle might also question what is tucked in the dark corners and hallways of the eerie abode.

Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, and old Hollywood horror-movie directors understood the impact proper lighting has on a situation. A multitude of horrible, dirty, dangerous, unsightly, disgusting surprises can be lurking about, waiting for the most opportune time to make their presence known.

But while Von Helsing overcame his fears and entered the castle despite them, potential homebuyers may not make it past the unlit foyer, no matter how attractive it is. If buyers can’t SEE it, they can’t love it. Even worse, they can fear the unseen (and quite possibly insignificant) qualities, and become uneasy in a home that may be just perfect for them.

Lighting can be a relatively inexpensive but effective way to highlight the positive qualities of your home or downplay areas that are less attractive.
The most desirable and inexpensive lighting is natural sunlight. The easiest way to capitalize on this natural resource is to show your home during the daytime when the sun is shining brightly, throwing open blinds or shades, decluttering windowsills, and washing panes to allow light inside. This is also a good time to move Aunt Gerties’s antique walnut wardrobe away from the window. To do its job, light needs to enter a room unhindered.

Unless your window overlooks a neighbor’s collection of rusting cars or a grimy, graffiti-ridden wall of the building next door, it’s good to keep curtains open when showing your home. It makes the room look bigger and more inviting. If the view is less than attractive, hang sheer curtains over the window that will allow some light in while subtly distracting the buyer’s attention from the unsightly scene.
If the house is dark with few or very narrow windows, take heart. A trip to your local home improvement store can lighten things up quickly. Even naturally lit houses can benefit from the addition of appropriate electric lighting.

Begin by slowly walking through your house, taking special care to flip all switches and look at each light fixture and lamp. Are there burnt-out bulbs that need to be replaced? Keep a list of all the size bulbs you need to purchase.

Lighting can minimize a room’s idiosyncrasies, creating optical illusions that make a room seem wider, a ceiling higher or hallway longer. Long, narrow hallways, common in today’s condominiums, can be transformed from wasted space to an art gallery with the addition of track lighting to illuminate artistic treasures. Is there a room that feels like the ceiling and floor are gradually closing in on you? By avoiding hanging fixtures and using those that throw light up a wall, such as floor can lights, one can make ceilings feel higher.

But if your ceiling has cracks or other blemishes, light that flows down to the floor moves the eye in that direction, distracting a potential buyer’s attention away from a negative feature. On the other hand, bowing walls of older houses require lighting that moves straight from floor to ceiling without hitting the wall. Here, the lamps or fixtures must be placed away from the wall and face the ceiling.

Often one can take fixtures already used in the house and move them to more appropriate areas. Life’s little horrors, real or imaginary, tend to disappear when rooms are lit properly.

Have a particularly small room? A mirrored wall will look double the size that it did when it was only painted. If the mirrored wall is across from a window, the natural light will be reflected and the room will seem brighter.
It’s important to remember that it isn’t enough to just have the proper light fixtures. You need to use them. Even during the day, lights should be on in every room of the house, including hallways, closets, bathrooms, on the stove, in the oven and under hanging cabinets. At night, be prepared for an evening buyer drive-by with lamps illuminated in rooms with windows that face the street. After all, folks need to know that Dracula isn’t lurking in the shadows.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Buyers Bathroom

What you do in the months before you put your house on the market will determine how long your house will take to sell, how much money you’ll get for your house, and how easy (or difficult) your selling experience will be.

There are some simple things that you can and should be doing right now to make sure you’ll get the highest price in the least time.

When a house is on the market, it becomes less the owner’s home and more of a display item. Nowhere is this more important to remember than in the bathroom. Buyers don’t want to see the seller’s personal hygiene items, moldy remnants of steamy showers or a soap scum-covered collection of empty shampoo bottles. They want to be confident that this most private of rooms is well maintained and sanitized. The trick to make the area seem less, well...private.
Preparing a bathroom for touring potential buyers is a four step process: clean, repair, sanitize and spruce.

Every surface that can hold something – vanity, toilet tank, shower window, floor – should be divested of as many objects as possible. The same thing applies for anything that can be opened – medicine cabinet, drawers, and linen closets.

Cleaning begins with throwing out any expired medication, make-up that hasn’t been used in a year, nearly empty containers, and any other useless objects found while emptying cabinets and drawers.

The process continues with wiping each shelf, drawer, and cabinet door. When everything is out from under the sink, take the time to check the faucets and pipes for leaks.

If faucets leak, washers probably need to be changed. In some cases, the faucets may be corroded and need to be replaced. If this is the case, opt for an inexpensive and very plain model. Fill the sink with water. If it drains from the sink slowly, pour in some drain clog remover and see if this helps. If not, call a plumber. When everything is clean and in working condition, neatly return items to the cabinet under the sink, using containers for small objects like bath toys, sponges or cleaners.
While the top of the toilet tank is bare, lift up the top and check the water level and condition of the inner mechanisms. Flush the toilet. Does the water refill to the correct level? Does the water shut off when it reaches this level? If not, then the inside mechanism with the seat and stopper at the bottom of the tank will need to be replaced.
This is quite easy and inexpensive to do yourself. Parts are available at your local hardware or home improvement store.
Folks will notice a filthy shower. So, spend some time here. Remove personal items – cleanser, shampoo and conditioner, shave cream, razor, body sponges – from the shower/tub area.
When the shower and bathtub have been overhauled, top off your repairs with a new, crisp shower curtain or liner in a neutral color.
Take a good look at the ceiling and walls. Do you see any mold, mildew, fingerprints or grime? If so, scrub it with bleach. Cracking or curling paint should be scraped and repainted in a neutral color.
A rule of thumb: Place only three items on the vanity area. Many real estate experts suggest these include potpourri, a new or clean, filled soap dispenser, and a plant. It’s a good idea to keep the toilet tank top cleared as prospective buyers and inspectors may want to peek inside it.
After the big clean-up and repair job in the bathroom, it’s important to maintain the fresh smell and appearance each day the house is on the market. The space should be kept uncluttered, clean and sanitized. It should reflect well on the house of which it is a part and offer few glimpses of the personalities who currently live there.
At this point, a homeowner enters the sprucing-up stage. After cleaning every nook and cranny in the bathroom, it’s time to add the finishing touches. All dirty towels and wash cloths, bath mats and robes should be removed. A clean set of towels should be displayed before the house is shown. Trash baskets should be emptied and floors wiped daily. All personal grooming items – tooth brushes, make-up, combs and brushes, hair dryers, perfume, etc. – should be tucked away, preferably in a container and stored in a drawer or cabinet.