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Hidden Costs of Selling

The average homeowner spends $18,342 in extra or “hidden” costs associated with selling a home. The biggest “hidden” expenses are closing costs, which total $13,357 for the median-valued U.S. home. Getting your house ready for staging and selling can add more costs too. For sellers who hire professional help, they spend $4,985, on average, covering basic projects: Painting, staging, house and carpet cleaning, lawn care and gardening, and local moving costs.  Since real estate transfer tax rates and home values vary so much across the country, closing costs vary considerably market-to-market and city to city.  As part of these closing costs, sellers typically pay real estate agent commissions of 6 percent (shared between the sellers’ and buyers’ agents). 
 

Loan Pre-Qualification

If you are like most, you know that it would be beneficial to just have money handed over your way.  You work hard at what you do and are financially stable.  You know that it is time for you to move into a new place and want to make sure that you have the best opportunities available for you.  The first investigation to make in order to step forward is through a loan pre-qualification.   Loan pre-qualifications will determine if you have the financial ability to invest in real estate in the beginning.  By having the right pre-qualification, you can be guaranteed a specific amount of money and will have the ability to move into the home of your dreams.   The first thing that is determined with loan pre-qualification is how much you make each year from your job.  By finding this, it will allow for lenders to know how much you will be able to put into a loan in relation to other expenses that you may have.  Things such as personal debt and car loans, as well as credit card expenses will be calculated in this figure to show the first step to finding the right loan.   After these specific points have been added up, the time frame in which you will pay your loans will be factored in.  This will give the companies an idea of how much you can pay and how this will relate to the debt and finances that you have coming in and out of your pocket.  This will be defined by using formulas that will relate how much money you are making in relation to how much you can pay to balance out your loan.  Usually, pre-qualification formulas will divide things by factoring in ratios for standards of living.   If you want to make sure that you have the right loan, then becoming pre-qualified is the first step that you will need to take.  This will enable you to move forward with what you want and need for your loan.  By knowing what to expect, you can prepare for the process of getting a loan and can move into the property that you want.
 

Don't Over Renovate for Your Neighborhood

Renovating is not just satisfying but it is also quite beneficial to the value of your home.  Even though it is great watching these house flipping shows on HGTV that max out budgets and create masterpieces in these homes over doing the renovations might not be as "worth it" as you'd like.   Depending on the real estate market, your neighborhood and what buyers are looking for you might want to think about these three things before you start knocking walls down.  1. Understand what your local market is doing because depending on if it is a seller's or buyer's market it can determine whether or not making big renovations will sell or not. Just remember that in a seller's market you can get away with selling a house with less upgrades for more.  You'll want to stick with more practical upgrades like new counters or a new coat of paint.  2.  Don't  price yourself out of your neighborhood's worth.  In older neighborhoods, you don’t want to renovate your house so much that it looks out of place or becomes a target for theft. You want to find a nice balance.  A good rule of thumb: Don’t raise your home’s value any higher than 10 percent of the average cost of homes in your neighborhood. 3.  Where do you start the renovation? Pick renovation projects that give your home the features buyers are looking for most. A lot of buyers look for updated kitchens, master bedrooms and bathrooms. These three spaces alone can sell your home, so consider investing extra money in these areas. Don't forget to make sure you make decisions base on your areas real estate market, your neighborhood and features that appeal to buyers.  If you stay informed, research, and follow the trends, you’ll end up with a beautifully renovated home that will appeal to a large range of buyers.  
 

Life is a Stage - So is Your Home!

What is a home staging?
Home staging prepares a home for sale, and for the dozens of enquiring eyes that will be scouring the property looking for flaws. It creates an image of the perfectly decorated home, in move-in condition. This should be the next step after decluttering, cleaning and repairing your home. The changes may be as small as rearranging furniture to give the illusion of more space, or repainting with more neutral and soothing colors. Home stagers will offer great ideas for perking up a room with accessories and creating a new stylish look for your home  Why stage your home? In this day and age, staging is a must. It can give you the edge that may result in a faster sale or a higher sales price.  First impressions can make or break the sale of the house, and a home that is properly staged helps to maximize your chances of a positive first impression.  Your home will have an advantage over other unstaged homes.  A staged home shows well in web site marketing and video tours, and since the majority of homes are chosen over the internet, this is a vital form of advertising.  Tips for staging your home. -As you go from room to room, there should be a flow to your home. Avoid overly bright or bold colored walls. This may mean repainting some or all of your rooms with more calming, neutral tones. Some people cannot understand that that bright purple wall can be removed with a coat of paint, and these distractions may result in no sales.  -Clean the carpets  Furniture: The most common trick used by stagers is to rearrange furniture to create a more stylish look. During my house sale, my stager suggested I move my dining room table into the living room, creating a living/dining room. This freed up space for my crammed kitchen table and voila, I had a brand new and improved living space.  -Rearranging may also mean reducing the amount of furniture so that a room looks more open. This includes emptying out closets, even if it means putting some things in storage. Consider renting a few pieces of stylish furniture or pieces of art.  -Tidy up your bookcases so that they look pleasing to the eye. This may mean packing away many of your books and keeping out the ones that display well.  -Brighten the house up by cleaning windows, and go with higher wattage light bulbs (just until the home sells). Make sure that the lights are left on before an open house, so the prospective buyers are walk into well-lit rooms and hallways.  -Creative use of fabrics as accent pieces for additional texture and color are very common.  -Remove family pictures, hockey trophies, any traces of everyday family life. You don't want the buyer feeling that they are in someone else's space; they need to imagine their family living in this house.  -Use plug in room fresheners, especially to mask pet and smoking odors. If you can't get rid of a smell, overpower it by providing a distraction such as baking chocolate chip cookies and leaving the tray in the oven.  -Sweep out the furnace room and clean the cobwebs off the furnace. If the furnace looks cleaner, it appears newer.  -Make a list of general repairs, and if you can't complete them, hire a handyman to polish them off.  -Add fresh or silk flowers to many of the rooms.  Kitchen: -Display bowls of colorful fruit. -Apply oil to cabinets to revive their finish. -Modernize your cabinet handles. -Clear everything off the counters, finding homes for small appliances - you'll love the look. -Remove fridge magnets and small area rugs.  -Have a table set for use, complete with place mats, place setting and napkins. Bathroom: -Have a set of thick and luxurious towels reserved only for open houses. -Fill baskets with scented soaps and lotions. -Use a scented plug in air freshener. -Remove the collection of shampoo bottles from the tub, or toothbrushes lying on the counter.  Bedroom: -Clear off your night tables, maybe leaving out an interest looking book.  Outdoors: -Place containers of flowers on the patios, decks and entranceways.  -Set the table with colorful picnic plates -Power wash the outside of the house, patios and walkways. -Freshen up the paint on all porches and doors -Weed the gardens and apply mulch; it makes them look like new.  In order to make your home staging a positive experience make sure you use either a realtor who is skilled at home staging, or a professional home stager. The latter is a trained designer and they understand how to create a mood or illusion for the buyer.  It can be difficult listening to strangers telling you how your home needs to look. You really need to be open minded and trust their expertise. Many people are surprised at how hard it is to separate from their homes; just keep telling yourself, "It's not my home anymore". You'll probably enjoy many of the changes you've made and may reflect these in your new house as well. There is just something about living in a stylish, clean, clutter-free environment.
 

The Best Remodel for Return on Investment

Are you thinking about investing in a home improvement project?  Are you not sure which project to go with?   Sometimes understanding how remodeling affects your home's value can help you choose what and how you do a project.  Whether you’re looking for a DIY project or professional one, these are the best home improvements that can add value to your property. The 4 DIY remodeling projects that have proven to have the best return on investment are : 1) Replacing your siding 2) New modern and up to date kitchen appliances 3) Replacing the kitchen flooring to laminate or hardwood 4)Trim an exterior wall with manufactured stone   The 4 professional-hire remodeling projects that have proven to have the best return on investment are : 1) Updating doors with efficient and modern looks 2) Bathroom remodel 3) Adding more space or converting an attic to more livable space 4) Building or expanding a deck or patio Finding the right project takes time and calculations but with this list, you can pick not only a satisfying remodel but also the most effective one.   
 

Outdoor Showers Aren't Just for the Rich and Famous

Outdoor showers may seem like a luxury that only those with beach houses would be lucky enough to have. But if you have kids and pets that love to play in the yard, or even if really enjoy the outdoors, you may consider the luxury of an outdoor shower for your own home. A simple outdoor shower with cold water actually costs approximately $1,000 or less. An outdoor shower with an enclosure and hot and cold water will run about $4,000-$8,000. Here are four things to consider before you build your own little piece of outdoor bathing heaven. 1) Location :  In most cases, anywhere near the back entrance to your home is a good choice but you'll also want to consider plumbing access (Unless you’re installing the type of shower that attaches to a garden hose).  You'll also want to consider a sunny spot to keep the mildew and mold at bay.  2) Privacy : You want the shower to feel private and far from prying eyes, but you also want to keep the natural feeling.  You can achieve this by building a screen with either plants or building materials, place it in a corner spot, or have a freestanding folding screen.  3)Plumbing:  The simplest and most inexpensive plumbing option is a shower connected to a garden hose, which is then hooked up to an outside faucet.  If you want the luxury of hot water too you’ll need a plumber to install an outdoor hot-water faucet next to the cold one.  4) Drainage : The simplest and most common drainage system is letting the used water drain into your yard but if you don’t have very porous ground in your yard consider attaching the plumbing to your home’s drainage pipes or installing a French drain  With just a little planning and effort, you can install your own outdoor shower and stay cool during the sweltering summer months.
 

Some Tips for DIY Interior Painting

Most everyone knows the basic to DIY painting the house.  They know that it’s important to use drop cloths, painters tape and stir paint thoroughly. But did you know that a golf ball can help maintain paint quality, or that microwaving paint tape can make it more manageable? Here are 9 tips to help you reach even better results when you give your home a facelift this Spring!  1) When you're down to half a can of paint, don't let it dry out by dropping golf balls into the paint can to fill the air space, or place plastic wrap under the lid, seal it tightly and store the paint upside down. 2)If you’re painting new drywall, pick a  water-based primer to hide imperfections and provide an even base before applying color. If you’re painting paneling, water-damaged or smoke-saturated walls, opt for an oil-based primer.  3) To avoid stripes caused by rolling over paint that’s already starting to dry, keep a wet edge by painting the full height of the wall and then moving over slightly so you can overlap the last stroke with the next. 4)Before you start if you drill holes in the stirrer it will help mix the paint more thoroughly by allowing paint flow through the stirrer and aerating it like a whisk.  This will give you more even paint.  5)If you want to add texture to your walls choose a roller with a longer, ¾” nap, which holds more paint. The nap is the fabric material covering the roller, and longer naps create more stippling on your wall because of the way their fibers distribute the paint. Use a shorter-nap roller – between ¼” and ½” nap – for the smoothest finish. 6)If you’re using latex paint, you don't even need to wash your rollers and brushes if you don’t finish your project in one day. Cold temperatures actually keep latex paint from drying quickly so you can simply wrap your rollers or brushes in plastic bags or tin foil and put them in the refrigerator.   Just make sure to let them fully warm back up before using them. 7)  Sometimes a roll of old tape can be difficult to peel without tearing or sticking. If your painter’s tape is doing this, just pop the whole roll in the microwave for 10 seconds. 8)You'll want to know what you're working with before you buy your primer. Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and rub it in a small area across the wall. If the cotton ball has paint residue, the paint is latex. No paint on the cotton ball? You’ll be painting over an oil-based paint and will want to use an oil-based primer before painting. 9) Invest in a paint pen.  These nifty little pens let you soak up some paint color for small touch ups later.  The pen can actually keep the pain inside it fresh for about a year after it is fill.  Just remember to shake before use!  A new coat of paint is a great way to revitalize and improve a room without too much cost.  These DIY tips should get you a high quality result on your next project. Good luck!
 

How to Construct a Letter of Intent

A letter of intent is a common way to express your intentions to purchase a property without having to write a formal, legal binding contract. The letter of intent is presented to a seller in the very preliminary stages of a project. The intentions of a buyer are spelled out clearly and simply so the seller knows exactly how the buyer wants to purchase the property, and under what terms. In my experience, a casual, personal letter to the seller is often the best received way to present your intentions to purchase a property. Some people insist on drafting a formal, multi-page, non-binding contract filled with legal jargon that can often intimidate the seller. A seller wants to easily see how the buyer wants to purchase the property, and determine if he or she can accept the presented terms.  Read on to learn how to construct a letter of intent and what to include. Let's investigate the contents of a letter of intent so you, too, can construct one before putting a property under contract. A letter of intent (LOI) must have five basic elements in its content: 1.    The buyerís name
2.    The property address and description
3.    Your offer which includes:
a.    Purchase price
b.    Down payment
c.    Terms
d.    Conditions
e.    Due diligence time
f.    Closing time
g.    Any other clauses or provisions
h.    When a formal contract will be written up if the LOI is approved
4.    A clause that makes the LOI non-binding
5.    Your signature and a place for the sellerís signature That is about it for the content, believe it or not; it is direct and straightforward without any fluff or nonsense. You are simply covering each detail so the seller knows exactly what the buyer intends to do. Having an informal letter of intent also allows for easy negotiations. There is no filtering through legally written clauses and other such unnecessary information at this stage in the project. When the letter of intent spells out each detail clearly, the seller can come back with alternate terms of which he or she would be more accepting. This negotiation can go back and forth without the rewriting of lengthy pages that either party may misconstrue. If the letter of intent is accepted, then the due diligence period will begin. It will continue until the time agreed upon by both parties in which, at the end of the term, a binding contract is constructed. Terms may change during this time if certain aspects of a property, previously not disclosed, are discovered. For example, there may be soil contamination in which the buyer will not want to purchase the property and will safely option out of the non-binding contract. Or, perhaps the property is in a lot worse condition than originally thought, causing the buyer to negotiate a decreased purchase price. The letter of intent allows for all facts and figures to be verified so that the buyer understands exactly what he or she is getting in the property. If the buyer finds something that he or she can not accept, or something not originally expected, he or she can back out without any recourse or punishment.  Always use a letter of intent to present your preliminary offer to a seller. This will save you writing time, legal fees, and will be easily read and understood by the seller and any other interested parties who must be made aware of your intention to purchase the subject property. Always construct the letter of intent with honest and detailed facts. Nothing must be overlooked as it can cause problems in the future. Be prepared to negotiate terms, and always know what you are willing to accept if you should get a counter offer.  Use this tool as an easy and direct way to purchase a property every time.
 
 

Painting Your Fireplace

Is your fireplace looking a little drab and needs an uplift? Painting over bricks can give a whole new look for your home's living room.  In addition,  shiplap paneling above this fireplace blends beautifully with the painted white brick below. A small wood mantel breaks up the all-white look too!
 

4 Must Haves for the Easiest Cleaned Bathroom

No one I know likes to clean their bathroom.  Do you?  Who does?  Bathrooms are the worst for collecting the yuckiest of grime and germs. Check out these upgrades that’ll give you a fighting chance against germs, dirt, and bacteria while doing a whole-lot-less cleaning.  1. Since dirt and grime love to cling to the gritty grout between tiles, getting rid of it in your bathroom can cancel out a lot of cleaning hassle.  For a material that doesn't need grout try glass or waterproofed real-stone veneer. They come in large sheets — hardly any grout needed.  2. Sensor-operated faucets aren’t just for crowded airport and mall restrooms. They’re growing in popularity in homes, too. If germs are your No. 1 enemy, a sensor faucet is a good choice because without touch, it’s tough for germs to find a foothold. 3.  Traditional toilets feel like they are impossible to get totally clean with every last yucky crevice. Because traditional two-piece toilets have a separate bowl and tank, they have lots of tiny crevices that are hard to really get clean.  Now there is the single one piece toilet model that cuts out the nasty crevices that you can't reach.  4.  Even though this is probably the least "cool" upgrade,  a good exhaust fan is extremely effective at fighting bad micro-organisms.  Not only does it fight mold, mildew, and other nasty micro-organisms, it protects your walls, paint, and trim. 
 

Knowing When Your Ready To Buy

All across the United States, there are millions of people looking to a buy home - either now or in the future.  Over the last few years, lower interest rates have come along, making it more affordable than ever to buy a home.  When most people stop and give it some thought - buying a home makes a lot more sense than renting a home or an apartment. In order to buy a house, you'll need to start saving your money and have enough for the closing costs and a down payment.  Your down payment will normally need to be around 15% of the price or the value of the property - whichever is lower.  To be on the safe side, you should always try to have 20% to put down.  If you aren't able to put 20% down, you'll need to buy some private mortgage insurance, which will cost you more in terms of your monthly payment. In most cases, the closing costs will run you around 5% of the property price.  Before you purchase the home, you should always get an estimate.  An estimate won't be the exact price, although it will be really close.  You should always plan to save up a bit more money than you need, just to be on the safe side.  Itís always best to have more than enough than not enough. You'll know your ready to buy a home when you know exactly how much you can afford, and you're willing to stick with your plan.  When you buy a home and get your monthly mortgage payment, it shouldn't be any more than 25% of your total monthly income.  Although there are lenders out there who will say that you can afford to pay more, you should never let them talk you into doing so - but stick to your budget instead. Keep in mind that there is always more money involved with a home other than the mortgage payment.  You also have to pay for utilities, homeowners insurance, property taxes, and maintenance.  Owning and caring for a home requires a lot of responsibility.  If you've never owned a home before, it can take a bit of time to get used to. Before you fill out any applications, you should always look over your credit report and check for any errors.  Although you may think you don't, you can easily get an error on your credit report and not even realize it.  If you have an error on your credit report, it can cost you a lot of money in interest rates.  An error will decrease your credit score, which will put you in a higher interest bracket and ultimately cost you a lot more money in the end.  Therefore, you should always know your credit before you approach a lender. If you check your credit report early enough, you may leave yourself enough time to fix any problems and get your credit back on track.  Rebuilding credit can take time though, sometimes even years.  You should always plan ahead - and give yourself plenty of time to fix your credit. Buying a home will require a bit of commitment on your behalf.  You should always strive to get the best possible deals, which means knowing your credit and where you stand.  This way, you can get the best interest rates.  You donít want to buy a home with bad credit, simply because you'll pay a lot more money for the home.  If you take the time to fix any credit problems and save up some money - you'll be able to get a much better home for your money.
 

Knowing When You Have the Deal

Knowing exactly what to invest in when dealing with real estate transactions will determine a good or bad deal. When a good deal is made, it means that the seller, buyer and agent all walk away feeling as though they have won or made a bargain.  Having what you want in line is the beginning to making a good deal with all that are involved in the process.     The major component that will make a deal and transaction good is the finances that are involved in it.  This means that the right loan with the specific terms and needs should be applied.  The right interest rate should be a part of this transaction.  You should also have the buyer feeling like they got the home or property for a lower price than other places.  The seller should feel like they made some profit for their next property for this as well.   The finances that affect the deal should also be a good deal in offering upfront fees and better rates.  For example, some lenders or investors will offer prices but have other fees attached that will add onto the loan.  Knowing to look out for these will help you avoid the extra costs that may not be attached to the initial loan.  You can make sure that this part of the deal is good by investigating different lenders and seeing who has the best offer.   Another part of ensuring a good deal comes from the state that the property is in.  The property maintenance performances should be done on the house.  This means cleaning the floors and other places that have gotten dirty over time.  It also means making sure that the property has everything running smoothly in it.  A property manager or inspector will need to move around the property to make sure everything has been maintained.  If it hasn't, the investments need to be made before the final deal to fix these certain areas.   Finding the best deal for your needs will allow for everyone to get a good deal.  Buying and investing in the property that you want without having the wrong types of costs and problems with the maintenance of the home will help you feel content with your decision for a long period of time.  Investigating and knowing what you want is important in determining what types of things to walk into as well as what to avoid.  
 

Keeping Your Home Competitive

In an ideal world, your home would sell the same week that it is listed on the local real estate market, but this is not an ideal world. The question arises, "how do I ensure that my home is competitive?" There are a few basic things that one needs to do to make sure their home gets noticed first, gets viewed first, and logically, sells first. These things are a combination of enhancing the homes's curb appeal and interior detail, plus a few thoughtful touches that make the viewing experience more enjoyable for prospective buyers.  First of all, take a look a your homes's exterior. Now compare that to photos of other listed homes from the same area. Which home would you want to look at first strictly on a visual basis? If it is not your home, you have some work to do. It's hard to look at your home with a detached eye, but it is necessary. Set aside the years of good memories and try to "be the buyer," note any small details that need fixing or a cosmetic touch up and get those done.  Then turn your attention to the inside. Most homes are a bit to cluttered to show off the details of a home's interior. This is not to say that a home is messy, it's just "lived in." Try to minimalize the amount of furniture and "stuff" in your home. If necessary, remove some things and put them in storage. You are going to be moving soon anyway, why not get a head start on it? The more "open" your home feels, the better for showing. Remember to clean off all counters and clean the closets. Buyers are nosey and will open all the closets, cabinets and cupboards to ensure there is enough room for their things. Wouldn't you? Lastly, make sure that your home is welcoming when people come to view it. Keep the temperature warm if it is cold outside, and cool if it is hot. It will probably be necessary to clean the home daily to maintain its pristine condition. Also, little things like pleasant aromas can help people to feel more at home, cinnamon or chocolate chip cookies are very comforting smells. But if you utilize these, make sure there are some snacks available as viewers might get nibbly!
 

Our Beloved Furry Friends

Our furry friends are parts of our family.  Were you aware of all of the potential dangerous plants in a garden for you dog?  Roughly 5 percent of calls made to the organization’s Animal Poison Control Center involved landscaping plants, houseplants and bouquets.   Here is an introductory list of some common toxic plants to avoid, followed by safe alternatives. Don't forget that you'll want to check out the ASPCA website for more extensive details on what is poisonous to our furry four legged friends. 
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