Landscaping Tips That Will Wow Buyers

Your front yard is the red carpet inviting buyers into the beauty that is your home. If it’s rugged, messy and unkempt, buyers will take one look and then keep on driving to the next property on their list. Don’t let that happen by making your front yard luscious and as amazing as the inside of your home.

What areas should you focus on in your front yard? Where do you start? To help you break down the revitalization of your front yard, here are the steps you should take:

1. Cut the grass.

Buyers don’t want to trudge through high grass as though they were in the Amazon or on a safari in Africa. This means the lawn mower needs to be out at least once a week if not every other week, keeping it trimmed and maintained. It also needs to be green so it looks alive and lush. Water so the sun doesn’t dry out the lawn and turn it yellow or brown. A professional landscaper can help maintain a balance of trimming and growth so it looks just right for buyers.

2. Plant more shade trees.

One or two trees in the front yard are all right, but if you want to really add some shade, plant more. Shade trees will detract from the glare of the sun, and it can help decrease the temperature of the house if they’re placed close to windows. It also will help keep the lawn green with moisture. You can plant trees that are shorter and will grow by the time the new owner buys the home, but be sure they’re strong and can handle the climate.

3. Install outdoor lighting.

Outdoor lighting is a good way to both illuminate the house at night and accent parts of your yard. Depending on where you install the lights, your house will look very appealing at night to those buyers who might not have time to do their shopping during the day. Outdoor lighting also helps to illuminate a path like a sidewalk to get from the curb to your front door for easier navigation. It helps to accent the beauty of your landscaping which all together increases the beauty of your home.

4. Consider adding flowers for more color.

If your front yard has a lot of greenery, you should increase the yard appeal by adding more colors. Flowers are a great and simple way to do this, as well as shrubbery with different blooms. Perennials are the best for this because they last for more than a year, which means less maintenance for the seller and the new homeowner. They come in a wide variety of colors and types so the yard can be decorated with any number of them while still requiring less maintenance.

5. Keep everything clean!

In addition to keeping the lawn trimmed, everything else should be clean. Anywhere that can build up dirt or grime – siding, porch, front door, driveway – should be cleaned on a regular basis. Buyers don’t want to see a lot of dirt and mess, and it will detract from them wanting to walk into the house. So take a broom, a power washer and a few hours on the weekend to keep everything sparkling clean. Don’t have a power washer? A professional power washing service can cost as little as $293.

Photos courtesy of DesignMine

WRITTEN BY REALTY TIMES STAFF

7 Important Steps To Help You Buy Your First Home In 2017

Thinking about buying your first home? What an exciting time this is bound to be. And, also, what a (potentially) overwhelming, confusing, and stress-filled time. It can easily veer into scary territory if you’re not prepared and not surrounding yourself with professionals who can help guide you in the right direction.

These seven tips can help you make that dream of homeownership come true in 2017.

1. Work with the right real estate agent

The guy next door or your brother’s girlfriend’s cousin who just got his real estate license may be hungry to get your business, but that doesn’t mean he’s your best bet. An experienced agent quite simply knows things that someone who is brand new probably doesn’t. An experienced agent will also have important relationships in place that may be able to help buyers in every facet of the home purchase, including:

Finding houses that aren’t even listed yet

Finding homes that may be slightly outside of a buyer’s criteria but that are worthy of consideration

Leveraging industry relationships to get you great deals or better terms

Managing appraisals and inspections

Working through every step of the purchase process and handling any issues that pop up along the way

Negotiating a deal that works for both sides


realtymyths.com
2. Don’t be afraid to talk to multiple lenders

Your Realtor will most likely have several lenders they have worked with and can refer you to. You may also want to speak to loved ones and get a referral or two from someone they’ve worked with successfully. Each lender may have a different recommendation and/or knowledge of a special loan that works for you, so it makes sense to look at a few different options.

3. Mind your credit

Many people have no idea what their credit score is, but if you’re thinking about buying a home, knowledge is power. Different loans have different minimum credit score requirements, and it could be that your score doesn’t measure up for the best loan rates, or maybe you need to do some work to qualify for even the most lenient loan.

A good mortgage lender can advise you on your best options to raise your score, from removing any errors on your credit report, to paying any delinquent accounts, to exploring credit repair options. The earlier you learn your score and delve into the details with a qualified lender, the more time you have to address any issues you find.


Total Mortgage
4. Save, save, save

For many people, getting the down payment together is the hardest part of buying a home. And the closing costs can be an unwelcome surprise for those who weren’t expecting to have to come up with even more cash. When you first set out to buy a home, make sure you know how much you have to save. Your lender should be able to give you a pretty good ballpark based on a certain home price. Housing experts recommend adding 5% to that number just to be safe.

Even if you’ve never been a great saver in the past, there are strategies you can use that will help you build the nest egg you need for your down payment and closing costs, including these tips from nerdwallet:

  • Automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings can help to make the process mandatory – and maybe a little less painful.
  • Save raises and bonuses rather than spending them.
  • Set aside tax refunds.
  • Keep the change. At least a couple of banks have variations on this theme. For example, Bank of America allows debit card users to sign up for a service that rounds up purchases to the nearest dollar and puts the change into a linked savings account.
  • Visualize your goal. Slap big, beautiful photos of your dream house on the refrigerator, near your office workspace – and wrap a small one around the primary credit card in your wallet. You might charge less and save more.”

As for where to put that money while you watch it grow, experts recommend that “If the plan is to become a homeowner in the next 12 months, the money should be kept completely liquid. That means you can easily access it at any time,” said CNN Money. “The best way to do that is in a good old-fashioned savings account, Schulte said. Look for one with a higher yield. In today’s low rate environment, that probably means an online-only account like Ally or Synchrony Bank, which currently pay around 1% annually.”

5. Lock in your rate

Rates can be unpredictable. Locking in a rate when you get close to buying, which your lender will undoubtedly recommend, can protect you if rates rise. Many lenders also offer a one-time adjustment in case rates go down.


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6. Stay at your job

Not happy at work and thinking about making a change? If you’re looking to buy a home, you may have to delay that plan. Part of your qualification for a mortgage will be based on your job history. Making a big change just before you buy or during the escrow process will be problematic. Lenders advise buyers to stay the course until after the home closes escrow.

7. Don’t open new credit cards or buy a new car

Your lender will spell out the do’s and don’ts of how to protect your credit when trying to buy a house, but if you haven’t yet talked to anyone and you think you’re getting close to be purchase-ready, that Kohl’s card you take out to save 20% on your $100 bill could cost you. Before you take out any new debt, check with a lender.

WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI

Staging vs. Decorating: What’s the Difference?

Selling your home means selling a lifestyle, but not necessarily your own. In home staging, you’re striving for a look that is fresh and welcoming yet not really taste specific. People with varying tastes need to feel that they can make the home their own if they purchase it.

This is the distinction between decorating your home and staging it to sell. It can be hard to understand at first, but if you don’t know the difference, you might not sell your house as quickly as you like.

Although everyone has different tastes in decor and furnishings, most people want a home that is welcoming, functional, peaceful and organized. Tailor your house so that buyers will describe it in those terms rather than by your style of decorating. Getting rid of clutter and having fewer but larger accessories is a great place to start.

Making sure your home isn’t taste specific doesn’t mean your rooms should be devoid of color. Instead, keep color schemes simple and dose them with an on-trend neutral, like a clean tan, a soft gray or a warm white.

Fresh & Neutral Brentwood Home

If you have a distinctive decorating style — whether it’s Tuscan, shabby chic or modern — you’re going to need to scale it back a bit. If you don’t, your home will appeal to the small percentage of potential buyers who love your chosen style. Staging is about strategic editing and depersonalizing, rather than decorating and personalizing.

Gustavian Bedroom

Dated is dreary. Strive to stage your space with a current and fresh feel. Use updated neutrals on the walls and furnishings that are clean-lined and simple. Punches of color are great; just use them sparingly. A room arranged symmetrically and centered on the architecture reads as peaceful — one of those important aesthetics every buyer is drawn to.

Bauman Photographers

This guest bedroom is full of great staging ideas. It has lots of on-trend design details, but it’s sparse on accessories and other distractions. The color palette is simple, easy on the eyes and would be attractive to both men and women. Most potential buyers would remember this appealing room long after leaving the house.

Interior Repaint by Warline Painting

This clever arrangement draws attention to the unique architecture in the space and illustrates a smart use for the area under the stairs: an office nook. This area is nicely decorated, not staged.

If I were staging this area, I would keep the desk, chair and lamp, remove overly personal items such as family photos, and leave a few pieces of art and an attractive notebook and pen. Simple accessories can help draw attention to a functional space.

If you are updating a kitchen or bath before putting your home on the market, keep the finishes neutral and classic. This is not the time to show off your personal style. You want to broaden your buying audience by appealing to a wide variety of tastes and preferences. This bathroom would definitely appeal to buyers with either traditional or contemporary taste, and could later be personalized with the new homeowner’s preferences for color and accessories.

Refined Rustic Master Bath Remodel: Ambler, PA

Sure, this may not be what normally sits on your countertop, but doesn’t it look better than the usual bills and coupons? Remember, you are selling an idealized lifestyle, not your reality.

The bottom line is that you have to get outside your head and inside the mind of a potential home buyer. It’s very difficult to be objective about your own home, but it’s crucial if you want to sell it.

Cottage and Vine

WRITTEN BY KRISTIE BARNETT, HOUZZ

The Second Rule of Home Staging: Keep It Fresh

The overall goal of home staging is to make your home shine. After paring down to just the essentials, the next staging step is to give your home a light makeover to make it look – and feel – neat, fresh and pleasant.

Buyers don’t expect everything to be new, but they don’t want to be turned off by worn items or unpleasant odors. A good rule of thumb to go by: If it looks old, worn or dirty, then clean or replace it. A clean, fresh-smelling, attractive home tends to sell. Read on for some budget-friendly ways to refresh each room in your home.

Start With the Living Room

As one of the most frequently used rooms, the living room can get a worn, lived-in look pretty fast. Fortunately, it’s also one of the simplest rooms to improve.

First, give your living room a fresh coat of paint – and while you’re at it, paint every room in the home. In the living room, go for a color that is somewhat neutral, like a gray or a bone, that works with your pared-down decor.

Second, consider buying new throw pillows to jazz up that worn sofa. Go for a refreshing, trendy color or something with texture, such as a metallic linen, to bring subtle style to the room.

Next, turn a critical eye to your rug. If it looks dirty or faded, think about replacing it with an inexpensive and neutral jute or sisal rug. The simplicity and texture of these natural fibers always make a room feel cleaner and more serene. Jute and sisal are go-tos for most home stagers because they don’t cost a fortune and do hold up well under heavy foot traffic from an open house.

Olimpic Village Condo

Also, see if you can find a spot for a mirror, a classic trick for adding a light, bright element to any room. Although they may not scream personality, mirrors give a room an expansive, luminous quality that can appeal to a buyer.

Another rule that applies to almost every room is replacing any outdated light fixtures. Look to swap them with simple, neutral and stylish options that can handle high-wattage bulbs.

Finally, replace your knickknacks and accessories with a vase of fresh flowers. Use a medium or small vase so as not to distract from the rest of the room. Simple arrangements like a vase of white tulips or a cluster of peonies make a room fresh and lovely.

Move On to the Kitchen

Kitchens and bathrooms are crucial to the sale – specifically, the sale price – of a home. The more buyers feel they will need to spend on a kitchen renovation, the less they will want to offer for your house. That equation doesn’t mean that you should renovate your entire kitchen. You can make updates that cost far less than a total overhaul.

First, scrutinize your kitchen cabinets. Do they seem dirty or shabby? If so, instead of replacing them, consider the less expensive alternative of painting them. Whether you have them painted white, gray or navy, the new look can give your kitchen renewed life.

Kitchen

Next, whether or not you repaint your cabinets, inspect their hardware. You may want to replace these pieces with more modern or on-trend alternatives. Polished chrome, industrial iron and brushed brass are just some of the stylish options available today. As in the other rooms of the house, give walls a fresh coat of paint and replace any dirty, broken or dated light fixtures with clean, updated versions.

Kitchen

 

Freshen Up the Bathroom

As in the kitchen, you may want to replace any dated or worn fixtures in your bathroom — whether faucets or drawer pulls. Polished chrome is a good choice because it always looks sparkling and new. Brushed brass brings a trendy, elegant look.

Next, go shopping for fluffy white towels to put on your shiny new towel bar. Even if your existing towels are nice and white, purchase new ones for staging. Your towels, though probably lovely, are nonetheless used, and will continue to be used as your house is shown. Buyers don’t want to see anything personal.

Guest bathroom

Also look to replace a chipped mirror or older medicine cabinet. A newer option will go a long way to giving your bathroom a fresh clean look.

Just as in the rest of the house, give any painted walls a fresh coat. If your bathroom cabinets are a bit shabby, consider painting those as well. A dark navy, for example, could look stellar next to the crisp whites of your towels and tub.

white boxes

Speaking of the tub and shower, instead of replacing the tub, go for the much more cost-efficient option of having it professionally reglazed. This is essentially repainting the tub, making it look and feel new. Similarly, have the tile regrouted or pressure-washed. Your bathtub and shower will shine.

Finally, place something in your bathroom that smells fresh. Whether it’s a new bar of soap, a vase of fresh flowers or a reed diffuser, use something that will have a lingering pleasant scent.

Jennifer Backstein

 

Make Your Bedroom Oh So Calm

The bedroom is one of the most personal spaces in the house. But for selling, we don’t want it to feel so personal. An overall guide to staging your bedroom is to think of it as a stylish and serene hotel room that anyone would feel comfortable in. When your potential buyers walk into your bedroom, you don’t want them to think of you, smell anything personal about you or see your personal items left behind.

A good first step in depersonalizing your room is to replace your bedding with crisp white linens. If all white isn’t possible, look for neutrals that give the same effect. You want your bed to look inviting, fresh and comfortable. Opt for a decorative throw pillow to give a hint of color.

BY FRYD 2012

If you have outdated furniture, just as in the kitchen and bathroom, try replacing the drawer pulls with something more modern and with simple lines. Similarly, if you have lampshades that are worn, yellowed or broken, replace them too.

When possible, hang a mirror above the bed or at some other focal point of the room, such as the wall facing the bed. This can help open up the room and reflect whatever natural light you have.

Follow the same steps in the bedroom as in the living room when it comes to the rug: If your bedroom rug looks worn or dated, replace it with sisal or jute. If your bedroom carpeting needs covering up, try placing a thin dhurrie or knit rug atop it. A rug pad can help these types of rugs stay put on top of carpet.

Finally, add a small vase of flowers to a bedside table. This little touch will contribute a pleasant detail to your hotel-like oasis.

WRITTEN BY NEILA DEEN, HOUZZ

8 Things You Should Do Before Moving Into A New House

Moving into a new house? Your task list doesn’t end once you pack up your old place – and we’re not just talking about all the fun unpacking you have ahead of you. There’s a few more things you’re going to want to do before you get in and start living it up.

Change the locks

It doesn’t make you paranoid to want new locks on the doors to your home. It makes you smart. “Who knows how many people have keys to what’s now your home? The fix is easy: ‘It’s usually a minimum charge for a locksmith to come to the house,” said Ron Phipps, principal with Warwick, Rhode Island-based Phipps Realty and past president of the National Association of Realtors, on Bankrate. Phipps’ advice: Don’t just re-key the locks – replace the hardware, too. You get a nice update, plus peace of mind.”

Don’t forget to change your garage door opener code, too.

Do an in-depth tour of the house

Do you know where the water and gas shut-off valves are? How about the electrical box and water heater? Any idea how to use your sprinkler system? Familiarizing yourself with all the ins and outs of the house and making sure key members of the household are also aware can help avoid disasters.

Seal off rooms you don’t use – or won’t be using right away

The first few months in a new home might be a revelation financially – and not in a good way. Between moving costs, new furniture, any renovations that need to be done, and the cost of turning on all your utilities, you’re probably going to want to save a few dollars where you can. Sealing off rooms you won’t be using for a while can help lower your heating and cooling costs.

Meet your neighbors

Your neighbors may be planning to come by once they see that you’ve moved in, but think about beating them to it. You never know where you might make a new best friend (or find one for your kids), and being friendly and outgoing from the get-go establishes good will.


Mindful CommUNITY
At the very least, being able to see a friendly face or two in the neighborhood will help you acclimate – and it won’t hurt to have someone point out the neighborhood gossip, tell you which Starbucks makes the best lattes, and help you find the most traffic-free route to the elementary school.

Join Nextdoor

Need a babysitter, a dog walker, a handyman, or a recommendation for the best Chinese restaurant in your new neighborhood? Nextdoor will help you find it.

Clean your carpets

A thorough cleaning of the home should have been done when the sellers were moving out. In some cases, it’s stipulated in the contract, and a seller who fails to live up to that aspect is “at risk for a lawsuit,” said Realtor.com. But unless specific cleaning tasks are called out, the house may not be as spic-n-span as you want.

Even if the house looks clean and tidy when you move in, they may have skipped the carpets. A good cleaning can extend their life, improve air quality, and remove allergens.


Mallary Carpets
“Little do most of us realize that what we are seeing is only a tiny fraction of the soil that a carpet contains,” said the National Carpet Cleaners Association(NCCA). “The visible grime we notice is only the tip of the iceberg; up to 85 per cent of the dirt the carpet holds is buried deep within the pile. And when you consider that a carpet can eventually trap its own weight or more in soil – as much as 150 pounds for an average-sized living-room – you’ll agree it’s no trivial matter.”

Wipe out drawers and cabinets

This is another oft-ignored task, and one that could be responsible for leaving germs, or at least crumbs, behind.

Change your fire alarm batteries

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recommends that fire alarm batteries get changed twice a year. Since you probably won’t know when the last time this was done, it’s best to change them when you move in. That way you won’t be awakened at 3am by a blaring alarm your third day in the house.

WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI

Home Looking Drab? Boosting Curb Appeal Is Easy And Worth It

Improving the curb appeal of your home will not only bring a smile to your face when you pull up after a long day, but it will leave you smiling all the way to the closing table. Boosting the exterior aesthetic of your home adds to your enjoyment, but also can dramatically improve the value at resale. By focusing on the three main areas of your home’s exterior, you’ll be proud no matter who is driving by.

Improving the driveway, garage, and walkway

In most homes, the driveway and the garage comprise a significant portion of the home’s curb appeal, yet they are often overlooked by homeowners. Ensuring your driveway is in good condition and free of weeds will automatically freshen the exterior — edging your driveway with coordinating stones or pavers can also enhance the appeal.

Also, take some time to inspect your exterior walkway. Is it in good condition? Does it enhance the other exterior features? Upgrading a walkway with pavers or flagstones is relatively inexpensive and can dramatically change the way you feel walking up to your front door.

Garage doors can also set the tone for a home’s appearance. Consider touching up garage door paint or replacing your door altogether. With a wide variety of materials to choose from, a new garage door can transform your home’s exterior. Doors are available in wood, steel, and fiberglass with countless choices in design and color.

Attending to your home’s exterior

A home with siding and paint in good condition that blends well with the neighborhood and surrounding landscape will offer a more serene experience. Even if your paint is in good condition, consider power washing the exterior to remove dirt and grime that can diminish its appeal. Renting a power washer for the weekend is inexpensive but can reap massive rewards in how your home looks and feels.

Small changes to the entryway can have a dramatic impact on visitors. Replace broken or rusted lighting fixtures, update door hardware, and embrace symmetry at the entry point. Even the simple act of repainting your front door with a fresh shade can add tremendous appeal. Installing additional lighting along a walkway or dark areas can also enhance these exterior spaces.

Luscious landscapes

Landscaping is one of the primary ways to make a dramatic impact on how your home looks. Improvements in landscaping are thought to return about 4 to 5 times your investment when it comes to selling your home. To maximize your time and investment, first, assess what of your existing landscape can be used or improved. Trim overgrown bushes, prune trees and refresh mulch or other ground covering. Peeling back the overgrown exterior can attract some unwanted attention to your home — consider purchasing home insurance riders to protect any belongings not covered in your policy.

Adding plant beds to feature climate appropriate plants will help you maintain your landscape with less hassle and will enhance the natural beauty of your lot. Choose annuals to add bright pops of color, either in beds or matching planters at the front of your home.

Lastly, attend to your lawn. Patch dead areas with sod or seed and ensure you are caring for your lawn using recommended methods — mow regularly, use fertilizers and weedicides as needed, and make sure your clean up after any pets. Stubborn bare patches can be transformed into unique flower beds or improved with alternative ground cover, such as ivy, in areas where it is too shady for many types of grass.

With some simple and inexpensive fixes, you can create an exterior that you are not only proud of but that you enjoy spending time in. Not only will this improve your happiness in your home, but it will also reap benefits when you’re ready to move someplace new.

WRITTEN BY MIKKIE MILLS

To Buy Or Not To Buy: Is Now The Time?

The US Census Bureau recently revealed that the US homeownership rate declined to 62.9%, the lowest level reported in 51 years of Census tracking.

This statistic does not signal impending doom. Since 2006, there has been a decline from peak ownership rates which is attributed in part to responsible lending practices and shifting demographic patterns. What is significant about this statistic is that it can give those intent on homeownership the false impression that they are fighting a losing battle.

If you’re on the non-homeowner side of this statistic, does this spell opportunity for you? With the economy and employment gaining strength, and predicted home-buying demographic shifts, homeownership may start an upward swing.

If you don’t own your own home, you know there are reasons why not. Since my work dictates I challenge the best to become better, I ask you, “How sure are you that those reasons are still valid or insurmountable?”

Repeatedly, when I speak to audiences about becoming their own futurist and creating strategies to achieve the future of their choice, I frequently meet people – individuals, couples, families, groups – who did not realize that their future could include homeownership.

Because they did not consider ownership a possibility, they gave up investigating, learning, strategizing, acting, and dreaming to make it happen. So it did not.

Ask any real estate or financial professional, and they won’t hesitate to tell you that home ownership is, rarely if ever, achieved by those who make no effort or take no action in that direction.

Any “short cuts” lie in understanding exactly what effort and action are required for the most direct path to ownership success. That’s what real estate professionals are trained to know all about. They understand how to relay that information to willing buyers and sellers.

Interview real estate professionals until you find one with the right mix of experience and determination to assist you with your ownership goals.

Listen and take notes or record when this professional explains your options and how to achieve your ownership goals. If you ask questions, you will also receive details about various ownership options, including cooperatives, condominiums, and other alternatives available in your area and price range. More questions and you’ll discover how the purchasing process works.

Consider the full range of neighborhoods and communities within your area. Prices tend to go down the further out you go from city center. With good public transit, moving to the suburbs may not require as many sacrifices as you might think.

If you’d like to own your own home, this may be the right time for action.

There are a number of ways to increase your purchasing power and bring real estate ownership within reach. The important thing is not to give up on making an effort before you have explored opportunities available to you in this real estate market:

Interest rates have not risen as dramatically as they are predicted to do in the future. Waiting until rates rise will limit the size of mortgage you qualify for. Mortgage brokers can explain how much you’ll qualify for and how you may be able to improve that level of financing. When you purchase, aim for the longest term you qualify for without seriously compromising purchasing power. That way you’ll have years at a rate you can afford while the mortgage debt is declining.

Debts can reduce the size of mortgage you qualify for, but financial professional advisers can suggest do-able debt-reduction strategies to improve borrowing power.The first step may be reducing the accumulation of new debt by ending discretionary spending like impulse shopping, eating out, and holiday travel.

The real estate you purchase may become a “financial partner” in achieving ownership. For instance, buying a one or two-unit rental income property may raise your qualifying income by some or all of the rent the rental unit or units would bring in. This financial leverage may also be possible in a non-rental property if you can prove you have boarders who will move in with you, pay rent, and share expenses.

Uncertainty abounds, but the economy continues to build momentum and job prospects continue to improve. Untapped income opportunities may exist. When was the last time you explored new employment and education opportunities with your current employer or within your community? Having a job that is “just enough” to keep you going can create inertia that defeats your belief that there’s more out there for you if you persist.

Realtytimes.com contains a rich library of articles to answer your questions and help you explore alternatives. Below are a few from my ongoing column “Decisions & Communities” that reveal the range of opportunities available to those on the path to homeownership:

As you research ownership ideas and opportunities, stay skeptical. Ask for details and persist until you understand exactly what you and others involved will be responsible for. Beware of anyone promising overnight success or cheaper-than-believable housing. Stick with professionals who have verifiable credentials and proven expertise.

Since the downturn, you’ve had years to consider homeownership. Is it time for action before rising interest rates and increasing demographic demand move real estate ownership further out of reach?

WRITTEN BY