Tag Archives: home

DIY Staging Tips

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In last week’s blog post, we covered a few tips on how to prep your house prior to listing it for sale.  We discussed improving curb appeal and light remodeling to make the home more universally appealing.  To that effort, we also mentioned the importance of de-cluttering, de-personalizing and cleanliness.  So now that the house is neutral and clean, how does one dress each space to additionally enhance a buyer’s impression of the house?  This is where the art of staging comes into play.  Should you want to take a crack at staging your house, here are some few helpful tips to consider.

Furniture Grouping

Roll up your sleeves and start moving furniture. There’s a common belief that rooms feel larger if the furniture is pushed up against the walls, but it actually isn’t true.  Reconfigure your sitting areas by floating furniture away from the walls.  Reposition sofas and chairs into groupings that look conducive to conversations. Not only will this make the room feel more inviting, but it will open up the space and the area will appear larger.  Give yourself permission to remove furniture items entirely if the room requires more breathing room for better traffic flow.

Accessorize

Style your dining room table as if you’re expecting a dinner party.  Bring some greenery indoors as flowers and plants instantly add vibrancy and life into any room.  Place pleasant, non-controversial artwork or photography that befit the style of your home on walls that seem too bare.  Dress each bed with complementary linens and pillows for a comfortable, lived-in look.  For the master bedroom, remember to tow a gender neutral line when selecting bedding and accessories.

Home Lighting

Do not forget to consider lighting.  The first thing a real estate agent does when showing a home is to turn on all the lights, regardless of the time of day.  So at some point, mimic a showing and turn on all the lights in the house to give yourself the buyer’s perspective.  What you want is to make sure that your home looks warm, inviting and well-lit.  As it turns out, most homes are improperly lighted. To remedy the problem, increase the wattage in your lamps and fixtures. Aim for a total of 100 watts for each 50 square feet.  Make sure you have all three types of lighting in the house: ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, under-cabinet or reading) and accent (table, floor or wall lamps).

Make Awkward Spaces Functional

One way to really add value to a house via staging is by creating a purpose for an otherwise awkward space.  The area under the staircase can sometimes fit a small desk for a quaint office nook.  Transforming a blank space into a practical area gives the house a feature that is memorable to the buyer.  It also gives the impression that the house is bigger and thoughtfully functional.  If you have an awkward space, check out interior design websites like Houzz for inspiration on how to give it a quick transformation.

Make Every Room Count

Most of us have a room in the house that is a “hobby room” which is a euphemism for “dumping ground.”  As part of the decluttering process, make sure the room is thoroughly cleansed and all unnecessary items are removed.  Then, give the room a purpose.  Would potential buyers want to see a guest bedroom?  Or an additional kid’s room?  Making a real room out of what was your junk room will have a big payoff on buyer impression.

The goal of staging is to breathe new life into the house, giving it universal appeal.  Chances are, while living in the house, you’ve made it work very specifically for yourself over the years.  Staging removes some of the specificity and quirkiness.  When well done, it gives buyers an idea of how to use every space well and maximizes the home’s potential for positive impressions.  Staging is immensely valuable tool in selling a house.

Prepping a House For Sale

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If you are getting ready to put your house on the market, consider a few of these tips to help maximize appeal and improve how well your house shows to prospective buyers.

1)   Enhance curb appeal.

When a house goes on the market, generally the owners have expended some thought and energy towards making the interior of the home look immaculate.  But, you only get one opportunity to make a positive first impression, so do not let the exterior of your home go untouched:

  • Power wash the house!  A quick power wash takes years of dirt off of the house, making a huge immediate difference.  Get the siding back to a vibrant state and have the windows sparkle.
  • Make sure your house number is clean and easy to read.  Visitors dislike not being able to identify the house quickly as it makes the house not feel welcoming.
  • Consider a handful of new landscaping to impress upon visitors.  Fresh greenery really enhances the appeal of the home and gives the impression that the home is well attended to.  And don’t forget to prune back overgrowth.
  • Create a welcoming front door and porch area.  This can be a simply a new door mat, a coat of vibrant paint on the front door, or a casual patio set that creates an inviting seating area.

Many of these exterior improvements can set the tone for the rest of the showing, impressing upon buyers the feeling of a cared-for home, one of steady maintenance and quality upkeep.

2)   Make obvious repairs.

Now is a good time to attend to the small repairs that have accumulated over the years of living comfortably.  Broken window pane, cracked deck tiles, non-functioning light fixtures – addressing the visually-obvious issues beforehand helps touring buyers stay focused on the big picture of whether the house is a good fit for their needs.  Removing these detracting items paves the way for a smooth and favorable showing.

3)   De-clutter and depersonalize.

Buyers want to envision their belongings in the home they are touring. Help them see that vision by removing personal effects such as framed photos, tchotchkes, extra items of furniture, and toys.  The idea is to have the house look generic and spacious.  The old adage “less is more” is sage advice to heed.  Hire a cleaning crew to deep clean the house and have every surface return to near-original glory.  Keep in mind that people during showings may check out the closets and cluttered closets imply lack of storage, so definitely make a pass at organizing and filtering through your closet spaces.

4)   Neutralize.

The teal accent wall highlighting the dining room might be too bold for some buyers.  If you are going to make some light redecorating changes, consider going neutral in the choices you make.  A neutral palette is generally received as welcoming and will appeal to the majority of the people walking through the house.  Complementing color can be added through linens and bedding and décor items.

Once the house has been prepped, then the discussion can progress to furniture staging.  Stay tuned next week and we will provide some staging advice.

Boosting Your Credit

 

Credit report on a digital tablet

Several blog posts ago, we covered what you ought to do in anticipation of an imminent home purchase.  One of the “must do’s” was to check your credit as your credit score is a critical factor a lender considers in their underwriting process that goes into determining the details of your loan package.

For that reason, it’s incredibly relevant for you to check your credit report and score with the three credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Each bureau will yield different credit scores so it’s pertinent to cover all three.  Upon receipt of your reports and scores, carefully review them and see if there are ways to improve your credit profile as often times the reports will include incorrect information and errors.

Boost Your Credit Score

Here are a couple of actionable steps to take that can boost your score over time:

1)   Pay your bills on time and in full when possible.

2)   Don’t open new lines of credit.

3)   Try to reduce your credit card debt to 25% or less of your credit line on each card.

4)   Don’t close your credit card accounts because then you’ll be using more of your overall credit limit.

5)   If you have an old credit card that you haven’t used in awhile, use it and then pay the bill in full to show that you can responsibly handle credit.

6)   Bring your over-the-limit and past-due accounts up-to-date.

7)   If you have any collections or judgments against you, pay them off as quickly as possible.

A reputable lender can suggest specific actions on how to deal with errors in reporting so it’s smart to develop a relationship with a lender early in the home buying process.  Additionally, lenders can tell you what minimum credit score is required for a particular loan program.

While lenders look at many factors when evaluating you for a mortgage loan, including your debt-to-income ratio, your income and assets, how much your down payment will be and your job history, your credit score is a vital determinant toward a favorable loan package.  Therefore improving your credit profile is clearly in your best interest during the months before beginning a serious home search.

The Pre-Buying Don’ts

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In our last blog installment, we discussed some pre-buying do’s.  Equally important to your home buying preparatory work are several pre-buying don’ts:

1)   Don’t Go Credit-Crazy

As previously mentioned in the “do’s” post, it’s smart to monitor your credit in the months leading up to a home purchase.  With every new line of credit opening, your credit score gets dinged.  So if a creditor solicits you for another amazing credit card with major perks, don’t bite during this crucial time.  Avoid any financial transactions that require inquiry into your credit health.

2)   Don’t Get Behind on Bills

Having a late payment hit your credit report before closing can impact your ability to get the loan you need.  Payment history comprise about a third of your credit health.  Many banks require 12 consecutive months of on-time payments to qualify for a loan in the first place.  A 30-day late blemish could cause lenders to rethink your loan application all together.

3)   Don’t Switch Jobs

Any change in employment is a significant risk from a lender’s perspective.  Lenders desire clients with stable, reliable income and generally will ask you to provide a picture of income stability during the underwriting process, as stability equates to the less likelihood of default in the their eyes.  During this crucial time of financial scrutiny, don’t switch jobs, don’t go entrepreneurial and become self-employed, and certainly don’t quit your job.

4)   Don’t Buy Anything Major

Don’t buy a car or truck or any other form of transportation that you have to finance.  Buying one increases your debt-to-income ratio and that’s something loan officers don’t want to see.  Additionally, don’t buy furniture or major appliances before buying your new house.  Like financing a car, charging big-ticket items negatively impacts your financial standing.  Keep yourself in good graces with your lending institution by minimizing your large expenditures.

The process of purchasing a home can be long and complicated.  From the moment you decide to become a homeowner until you close on your dream house, you want to provide a clean bill of credit so that your home gets financed favorably. Even if you have good credit at the beginning of the journey, there are ways to blemish your qualifications and make lenders think twice.  Being fiscally absentminded or slightly irresponsible with your credit health could cost you down the line.

 

Getting Ready to Buy? A Few Do’s.

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You’ve been flirting with the market for months, touring open houses on the weekend and logging in late night hours on Redfin or Zillow.  You’ve pinpointed the ideal neighborhood that suits you best and have toured the schools in the district.  You are ready to take the plunge and buy.  What next?  A few do’s:

1)   Get a Realtor

A seasoned real estate agent can provide you with valuable insights on homes and neighborhoods during the search portion of your house hunt.  And even with the proliferation of online real estate search engines, when the time comes to write an offer, you will need an experienced real estate professional on your side to navigate the negotiations, escrow and closing process with you.  Over the years, the laws for home buying have become increasingly complex and the process is filled with many moving parts.  Ask your trusted friends for quality agent referrals and find yourself a good teammate.

2)   Get Preapproved for a Loan

Consulting a mortgage lender will help you get a clear picture of your purchasing power so make this step at the top of your list of to do’s.   Understanding what you can afford from a lending perspective helps define your house search so you don’t waste time looking at homes you cannot afford.  Plus, often the market moves fast on well-priced homes, so having a pre-approval letter in hand lines you up at the front of starting block.

3)   Make A Checklist of “Must Haves” in a House

No two houses are the same and no house is ever 100% perfect, but having a checklist for your ideal home is useful so you are efficient in your house hunt.  A house can always be redecorated to perfection but it’s a bigger headache if your new house is missing that home office you had hoped to have.

4)   Check Your Credit

Your credit score helps lending institutions determine the rate and terms they can offer you on the loan.  If your credit is high, meaning that your credit history indicates that you are fiscally responsible, lenders will see you as a low-risk investment and offer you a lower rate on your loan with good conditions.  If your score is low, lenders will think you are a riskier investment and charge you with higher interest rates to take on the perceived risk.  Get your credit scores from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the three major credit agencies, so you can see how you stack up in terms of investment risk and see if you have time to improve your credit health.

Stay tuned next week for a list of pre-buying don’ts.

Neighborhood Due Diligence

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The iconic adage in real estate has been and always will be “location, location, location.”  A house can always be remodeled and redecorated to suit your personal taste.  But, the neighborhood within which your home resides, will profoundly impact your lifestyle and how you enjoy your home in the years to come.

Within Newport Beach and other similar markets across the country, each neighborhood has its own unique personality and vibe.  If you are like most buyers, your home search frequently starts with neighborhood selection above all else.  So what makes a neighborhood appealing?  And what due diligence should one perform to identify the neighborhood of choice?  Here are a couple of ways you can be proactive in the hunt for the ideal neighborhood:

1)   Check on the schools.

Even if you don’t have children, buying a home in a good school district can pay off at the time of resale.  If you are looking for a home for your school-aged family, go to the school district’s website for more information.  Also, check out www.GreatSchools.org for ratings and see how neighborhood schools’ rank in comparison to each other.

2)   Test your commute & visit the neighborhood at different times of the day.

If living close to work is important, then make sure you drive around potential neighborhoods at different times of day to get a sense of traffic patterns and potential commute delays.  Similarly, visit the area on a weekday, weeknight, and weekends to see how quiet or active the community will be.

3)   Check crime reports.

Local police stations can generally provide statistics on crime within a certain zip code.  Or find this info online at www.crimereports.com.  For further peace of mind, check the Family Watchdog website at www.familywatchdog.us for registered sex offenders in the area.

4)   Talk to neighbors.

No one can give you a more accurate idea of how vibrant and thriving a community can be than someone who already lives there.  Make a list of things that are important to you and when you get a chance to talk to someone, ask them if the community has a swim team, neighborhood events and gatherings, and security measures.  Other important topics to vet with current neighborhood residents could be HOA dues and board involvement, potential community improvements on the horizon, and more.

5)   Discover neighborhood amenities.

Some people desire a neighborhood that is walkable to restaurants and stores.  Others really value the proximity to public parks and recreation spaces.  Walk and drive around different neighborhoods and identify where you’ll be doing your grocery shopping or picking up dinner.  These little amenities really impact how you will function day to day within your household.

Once you’ve honed in on the neighborhood you want to live in, then the fun part begins… looking for the perfect house.  Happy house hunting!

Tips on Touring A Home

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I recently read an astonishing statistic that on average potential buyers spend 17 minutes in a home before making an offer on it.  While I can’t verify how researchers arrived at this statistic, that number is shocking for two reasons; 1) It’s an extremely short amount of time to spend deciding on what is the biggest purchase of your life, but also 2) it’s truthfully not all that surprising.  In my experience, typical showings tend to last around 30 minutes.  If a house isn’t the right fit, often times the showing ends after a few quick minutes.

So if indeed, all it takes is anywhere between 17 to 30 minutes to determine if a house is right for you, here are a few tips on how to spend that time as efficiently as possible.

1)  Use all your senses and bring a camera!

Touring a house is first and foremost a visual activity.  Your eyes are busy taking in all the pros and cons, but often distracted by some of home’s charming features.  You might be so busy falling in love with the large Carrera marble countertops that you didn’t really take in the condition of the cabinets.  Open a drawer or two.  Turn on the faucet to gauge water pressure.  Does the floorboard creak or feel soft when you walk?  Does the house smell musty?  Can you hear street noise when all the windows are closed?  Use all your senses to get a full picture of what it might be like to live in the house.  Because that smell might be an indication of a hidden water issue.  And I have often heard about people moving into a house only to find unacceptable street noise after the fact.  You simply cannot rely on just your eyes to take everything in.  Which leads me to my next point: bring a camera.  There’s just no way after a day of looking at houses you will remember the color of the laundry room wallpaper in house number #2.

2)  Spend the most time in the kitchen and bathrooms.

The most expensive room to renovate is the kitchen, followed by bathrooms.  While most homebuyers draw the greatest impression of a house from its kitchen, people tend to overlook the bathrooms.  Additionally, both these rooms have running water and plumbing to contend with so make sure you are diligent in your assessment of their current condition.  Look under the sinks for signs of leakage or old plumbing.  Again, turn on the water and check for good pressure, clear run-off, and appropriate water temperature.  And finally, be honest with yourself about how these rooms look.  Your bedroom can be transformed with a coat of paint.  A kitchen or bathroom remodel is substantially more.  So if you aren’t in love with the cabinet style or the countertops, admit to yourself that you will likely want to change it in the near future, and factor that into your decision-making process.

3)  Go outside.

Guess what else is really expensive to tear out and redo?  Backyard and front yards.  Prospective buyers not surprisingly spend most of their time at a home tour indoors, surveying its finishes, floorplan and features.  But do not conclude your showing without spending a significant amount of time taking in your outdoor space.  Are there cracks on the hardscape that need to be addressed?  What condition is the hot tub or pool?  Does the backyard get enough sun?  If so, what time of day?  Is your fence in good condition?  And, don’t forget to look out at your neighbors and the immediate neighborhood.  What condition are the houses on your street?  Who might your neighbors be?  How busy is the street in front?  Don’t miss out on these critical cues of a property’s shortcomings.

4)  Bring a tape measure.

Do the due diligence and measure the rooms that matter to you and also a few major appliance openings to make sure that your existing furniture and appliances will fit.  Generally, washers and dryers don’t convey with the house.  If your current washer and dryer don’t fit the openings, and do not assume they will, a brand new pair of laundry machines will become additional expenditures that you didn’t anticipate.  Think about how annoyed you might become upon move in to find that your furniture doesn’t fit well or your TV is too small for the built-in opening.  While I’m not suggesting that the size of your furniture and appliances be deal-breakers should you love the house, it’s just important to be aware of these potential costs up front as it will improve your satisfaction with the overall home purchase.  Nothing dampens the excitement of moving into a new house as much as a growing list of unforeseen expenses.

5)  Go back for a few more showings!

If upon first impression, you make an emotional connection to a house, make sure you request additional showings, especially at different times of the day.  Today’s market isn’t moving at a pace where you wouldn’t have time to squeeze in a few more looks.  Chances are, after your first tour, you won’t remember several important details and you’ll have new questions about the home.

Happy house hunting!