Creating Summer Buyer Attraction

Creating Summer Buyer AttractionSummer is a great time to invest in outdoor upgrades and indoor options that make your home appealing to buyers. After months indoors, homebuyers respond quickly to outdoor amenities when scoping out homes to buy. Creating outdoor living areas and highlighting outdoor views give potential new owners the impression of both expanded space and bright, fresh access to nature.

Establish an inviting entry

Make sure your entry is bright and enticing. Set flowerpots to either side of the entryway. Make sure the door itself is clean of fingerprints and grime, or freshly painted a cheery color. Provide a doormat so guests do not track debris into your home.

Bring the outdoors in

In the winter, homeowners often cover windows with heavy drapes to keep out the chill air and drafts. When showing your home in the summer, remove heavy draperies so potential buyers can clearly see the outdoor views. Clean off fingerprints and smudges from windows and window frames and dust vertical or horizontal blinds and set them to allow both light and views.

Add colorful summer-weight throw cushions to living areas and beds, and add flowers to both your bed and bath areas. A bowl of bright seasonal fruits completes a summery look to your kitchen table.

Store away quilts and afghans. Clean ashes from your fireplace and clean the soot from fireplace glass to remove the last vestiges of winter. Set a floral arrangement or plant on the hearth. Use light, fresh scented beads or reed diffusers instead of candles. Use the same scent throughout the house to avoid competing odors.

Keep your home cool but not cold. If you have air-conditioning, make sure to set it to cool your home in plenty of time before your potential buyers arrive. If you use fans to move your home’s air, make sure they are dust free and running quietly. Be sure attic fans and other cooling devices operate correctly.

Extend the living area

Showing your home in the summer means potential buyers will check out the outdoors much more thoroughly than in the winter months. Set up seating areas, hammocks, picnic tables, or other patio furnishings to display the full range of your property. Add planters and box gardens with bright, colorful flowers. Keep the lawn and landscaping trimmed and neat. Take care of pests like wasps and ants that might scare a potential buyer away. Take care to trim bushes away from windows and doorways.

Make sure the exterior of the house is clean and fresh. Clean mold off vinyl siding and moss off brick and stone exteriors. Clear gutters and downspouts and make sure they attach to the structure correctly. Wash windows and screens, and touch up paint on doors, window frames, and trim.

Make sure to organize tools, hoses, and other yard and garden clutter. Protect visitors to your home from tripping over lawn toys or the garden hoe. Remember that buyers want to check out every nook and cranny, so keep garden sheds and storage areas accessible and organized.

Summer buyers want to know they can use the entire property for their own summer fun. If you need more suggestions on how to prepare your property for a summer sale, contact us today.

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9 Ways to Celebrate Independence in Your New Home

9 Ways to Celebrate Independence in Your New HomeNo matter when you close on your new home, there’s probably a holiday just around the corner giving you the perfect opportunity to host a party in your new digs. With Independence Day coming up, here are some ideas for celebrating your independence from landlords and rent, while showcasing your new place.

  • Hang a Flag
    There’s no better way to celebrate the nation’s independence than hanging a flag. Take care to follow the correct instructions for displaying the flat. You can find complete instructions for hanging the flag here. If you plan to install a flagpole, contact your neighborhood association or community clerk’s office so that you follow any regulations, rules, or ordinances regarding pole location, height, and other considerations.
  • Combine colored flowers
    Fill your planters and container gardens with mixtures of red, white, and blue flowers. Create a mixture of blue ageratum or lobelia, white alyssum, petunias or heliotrope and red salvia, geraniums or snapdragons.
  • Door decorations
    Create a wreath of miniature flags to grace your entryway. Hang bunting or create a bow of red and white striped or blue-starred fabric and add colorful wooden start, flower picks, or garlands.
  • Centerpieces
    Set up picnic or card tables on the patio and cover them with patriotic colors. Make a centerpiece of a small red or white painted bucket filled with blue floral stones and small flags, sparklers (if allowed in your location), and pinwheels.Alternatively, if your party extends into the evening, place lanterns with red, white, and blue candles on each table. You can hang lanterns from planter poles or on chains from trees too. If mosquitos are a problem in your area, use citronella candles in patriotic holders to keep the pests away from your visitors and provide a pleasant scent and candlelight ambience.
  • Slake your thirst
    If you’re ambitious, create red, white, and blue-layered drinks for the kids and try these patriotic cocktails for your more mature guests. Create frozen treats or sorbet from pureed strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries, or put guests to work churning old-fashioned ice cream.
  • Stay cool
    Make sure to provide shade for your guests. If you don’t have a covered porch, set up umbrellas or a gazebo, and give everyone a celebratory hand fan to keep cool.For the kids, consider setting up a mister. Children love to play in them and parents don’t need to worry about accidental drowning. In addition, a mister can cool the surrounding temperature by several degrees.
  • Yard games
    What’s a patriotic celebration without a little friendly competition? Yard games such as lawn darts, horseshoes, croquet, corn hole, bocce, and badminton are easy to set up and fun for all ages.
  • Simplify your menu
    Sometimes we forget that the cook wants to celebrate too. So simplify your menu to items you can make ahead, serve finger foods, or pre-smoke the ribs and them throw them on the barbecue for a quick reheat just before serving time. Cupcakes in ice cream cones, layered Jell-O, fruit skewers, or individual strawberry-blueberry trifle make dessert time easy.
  • Set tour schedules
    Your guests are going to want to see your new home. Remember that you cannot keep an eye on the grill and give a tour at the same time. So, set specific tour times when you can easily leave the yard and inform your guests that you’ll happily show them around at those times. Remember to provide towels or doormats if your guests might be wet (from playing games or keeping cool), keep your tour quick, and move everyone back outside when you’re ready to move to the other activities.

We can help you get into your new home to celebrate the next big holiday, so give us a call today.

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Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic

Rearranging furnituresOkay, so it’s not the Titanic. It’s your new house and you can’t seem to make your older furniture fit. Buying new furniture is out of the questions, so how do you make your round pegs fit into those square holes?

Make a plan

Literally … make a floor plan. This can be a rough sketch, or a sophisticated layout, but having a floor plan helps you visualize your options. You can find some useful tools on the Internet to create a basic layout and add virtual furniture. Here is a list of programs to choose from with different options.

Create a couple of options. Since a floor plan doesn’t give you a sense of height, you may need to try taller or shorter pieces in various locations to see what works for you.

Have an open mind

When your new space is a different shape from your old space, you need to change how you think about space. Often, we place our seating furniture against one wall and our entertainment center opposite and fit everything else in-between. Consider different groupings for different purposes. Do you watch TV with a large group of friends, or just the two of you at the end of the day? If it’s just the two of you, group your favorite seating with your entertainment area and move other seating to the opposite end of the room as a conversation area.

Empty the room

When the movers place everything in the room, the extra boxes, bunched up furniture and general clutter hampers your ability to visualize arrangement options. Move as many boxes and furniture out of the room as possible and bring them in one at a time as you form your arrangement.

Place large pieces first

Set your sofas, cabinets, large storage pieces and tables first. Try the different options from your plans to see which one feels right. Don’t be afraid to use a large shelf as a room divider. If your new living room is much longer than your old one, you may find it cozier to split it up. Group a couple of chairs near a window for reading or set two sofas back to back … one for watching television and one for conversation.

On a side note: wait to hang pictures and wall ornaments until you’re satisfied with the basic furniture arrangement—it saves repairing holes in the walls.

Don’t hug the walls

Free up your options by moving furniture away from the walls. There is no rule stating that the sofa must be against a wall. Bring your seating toward the center of the room anchored by a rug, coffee table or trunk. Check out these images for ideas.

Try again…

Once you’ve set up an arrangement, try it for a week or so. Adjust your smaller pieces—lamps, side tables, smaller bookshelves and artwork—to compliment the larger pieces. If it feels crowded after a week, consider removing a piece. If it seems off-balanced, try placing larger pieces opposite of each other. If it feels empty, consider a piece of furniture or décor to fill the void … then start shopping. But don’t buy until you’re sure it’s what you want. After a few months, you may change your mind or feelings about the arrangement.

Therapy

For those of you that love to rearrange furniture—you know who you are—your spouse or significant other (or friend you always call to help you move things) will thank you for using the planning tools and ideas ahead of time.

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Is Your House the Right Investment to Fund Retirement?

Is Your House the Right Investment to Fund Retirement?For many people, your home is your largest asset. Like your parents, and grandparents before them, you expect your home—in some way—to fund your retirement. For some of you, that means selling the home near retirement and using the funds to purchase a smaller home with money left over to live on. For others, you plan to live in your paid-off home until you die. Some of you aren’t sure how it all works; you just know that home ownership is supposed to be a great investment.

Is it an asset?

When listing your assets and liabilities, most of you list your home’s value as an asset. But for retirement purposes, you need to rethink that idea. If you use your home as an asset, then you must have some other place to live for free during retirement (living with your kids?) once you sell it to retrieve the money invested in it: the money you’ll use to pay medical bills, travel, expenses, vacations, etc. There is much more to consider when thinking about your home as a retirement investment.

Location

Is your home in the place you think you’ll live during your retirement years? You may think so when you buy it, but as your children move to other cities, or your bodies rebel against harsh winters or sweltering summers, you may need to consider different locations for retirement. An option is to purchase a vacation home in the area you think you’ll retire. Then, as the time comes, you can sell your primary home and live in the vacation home.

Equity

Often, you think your investment equity is the same as the home’s value. If the home isn’t paid off, though, your investment is only what you can sell for less the amount owed. If the plan is to sell your home and reinvest in a retirement condo, for example, after paying off the mortgage and fees and the full amount for the condominium, you may have less left over than you’re planning on.

Reverse Mortgage

Touted as a way to stay in your home during retirement, some of you may opt for a reverse mortgage. While a reverse mortgage offers two advantages (stay in your home and receive an income payment) they do not typically give you access to the full value of your home’s equity. When participating in a reverse mortgage, your estate or your heirs must repay the loan, or forfeit the home upon your death. Before considering a reverse mortgage, make sure your heirs understand they will not inherit your home free and clear. 

Plan now

We can help you plan the right home purchase to meet your needs now and as retirement nears. Contact us and we’ll start working with you today to set your plans in motion.

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Expand Your Space with a Garage Makeover

Expand Your Space with a Garage MakeoverFor most of us, the garage is simply a place to park the car, store suitcases and holiday decorations, or stow those miscellaneous tools we need now and again. With a little careful planning, however, your garage can become a fantastic workspace, play space or man cave that extends the useful area of your home. Try one of these ideas in your garage and reap the benefits of more usable square-footage.

Preparation

Since many garages are unfinished, the first item of business is to add wiring, ventilation, insulation, and a covering for the walls. For a DIYer, here are some tips for getting that done. If you need to hire someone, make sure your contractor has experience in finishing garage spaces. You will want plenty of power outlets on separate breakers for your work tools, ventilation for fumes from paints and chemicals and extra light to make those dark corners visible. Consider adding skylights to increase daylight while keeping utility bills down.

Add a garage door threshold seal to keep rain, snow, dust and small animals out of your space. If your garage space constantly needs sweeping or drying out, you’ll get much less use of it. This simple addition will improve both usability and protection: When water gets under the door, boxes are ruined, tools rust and using power tools is dangerous.

The Basics: Organized Work Space

If you need all of the space to park vehicles, you’ll have to be strategic in designing work and storage areas. Most garages have higher ceilings, so consider going up with your storage. Store bicycles from the ceiling with a lift system. Suitcases, holiday decorations and seasonal clothing stack nicely on a motorized storage platform that easily lifts up out of your way. Tool storage systems, from the basic to the elaborate, can both simplify and expand your tool space. Install cabinets on the walls rather than setting on the floor so that your garage floor is easy to spray out.

Transformation: The Man Cave

For a total transformation, your garage space needs climate control. If your home’s heating and air conditioning system can handle the load, have your contractor extend your vent system into your garage space. If not, consider adding baseboard heat, ceiling fans, and a window or through the wall air-conditioning unit so that your space has year-round accessibility.

Break the space up into zones so that you have a storage area, a work area for crafts and repairs, and an entertainment space with an area rug, a couple of recliners or a sofa, and a big screen TV for game night. You can add a small kitchenette or wet bar, and refrigerator for drinks, snacks and ease of cleanup.

Remember this …

When transforming your garage space into living area, consider the following:

  • If you make the living space permanent, you’ll most likely need a permit. Many municipalities do not allow a complete remodel of garage space into living space.
  • Turning your garage into a permanent room may reduce resale value. Even though your garage makeover is adding living space, lack of a garage in comparison to nearby homes may make it less desirable. We can help you figure that out, so give us a call before you renovate.

 

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5 Ways to Increase Your Credit Score

5 Ways to Increase Your Credit ScoreScorrrrrrrre!!!!!!

Celebrate a World Cup of Your Own

You may not make it to the FIFA World Cup this year in Brazil, but you can still score big by improving your FICO or Vantage credit score.

There’s no way around it, if you want to buy a home with a mortgage, you’ll get a better rate with a higher credit score. Unfortunately, your credit score takes into account several years of your past financial decisions and missteps in addition to your current situation. While there is no easy “fix” to your credit score, practicing these five suggestions can help you move it in the right direction.

Keep Paid-Off Debt on Your Report

While negative debt on your report is bad, paid-off debt is a positive contributor to your credit score. Most of your negative debt falls off after seven years, but keeping positive debt in place can help. If you’ve paid off that line of credit, keep it open (just don’t use it) and when you switch to a different credit card because it has a lower interest rate, keep the old one (again, just don’t use it) so that your “available credit” is higher.

Revolving Credit

Your score reflects how much credit you have versus how much you are using at any given time. The lower the credit usage to credit available, the higher your score. To increase your credit available, pay down your balances. Even if you pay your entire balance off every month, you may appear to have a higher usage to available ratio. Since it is your statement balance that many card issuers report to the credit bureaus, consider paying ahead of the statement date.

Small Balances on Several Cards

When you have several cards in use at once, even if they have small balances, your score reflects the number of credit accounts in addition to the total balance. Pay off the small balances. Use your lowest interest-rate card for most of your purchases.

Avoid Unnecessary Credit Report Dings

When you apply for credit, it may cause a slight dip in your credit. When shopping for the best rate, you may apply for several loans in a short amount of time. According to Bankrate, the FICO scoring system ignores multiple requests for the same type of loan, treating them as one request within a scoring timeframe (typically 30 to 45 days), but with other systems you have only 14 days. In very old systems, student loans in particular may not appear as one request, so avoid applying for student loans when also applying for a mortgage. The Vantage Score model uses a rolling 14-day window for duplicate loan inquiries, so shorten up your shopping time accordingly.

Nuisance Bills

When trying to pull together a down payment for a big-ticket item (car, home, etc.), take care to pay smaller bills that can hurt you later. For example, that library fine or leftover medical bill that ended up in collection and remains unpaid can hurt either your FICO or your Vantage Score, but if you’ve paid them, your Vantage Score does not factor them into your score.

Credit scores move up slowly over time. Start working to improve your credit score immediately so that when you’re ready to shop for that home loan, you’ll already have a great credit score.

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Hosting a Moving Sale

Hosting a Moving SaleYou know you do not want to take all of your old stuff to your new place. Chances are, you are planning to host a sale. Garage sale, yard sale, estate sale, rummage sale … no matter what you call it, here are some things to remember to make your sale a success.

Have a game plan

The success of your sale depends on the amount of advanced planning you put in. Know beforehand what you want to sell, when you need to have it gone and what you will do with the things that do not sell.

Know what to sell

Big-ticket items might sell better on craigslist or another classified site, but if you do decide to sell them at your moving sale, determine in advance the lowest price you will accept. Have heirlooms and items you think might have higher value appraised and perhaps offer them to collectors or dealers through eBay or other auction venues. When people come to a garage sale, they expect to get a great deal. Selling for the same or similar price as discount chains will leave you with as much as you began.

Know when to sell

Many municipalities only allow yard sales on specific weekends throughout the year. That means your sale is competing with the entire city for customers. It also means, however, that your city may be drawing customers from the surrounding area to your sale, and may provide much of the advertising for you. Check with your city clerk’s office before planning your sale to make sure you do not need a permit, and to make sure the day or weekend you have chosen is allowable.

Know your customers

For some of us, a garage or yard sale is a casual pastime if we happen across one on a free Saturday morning. For others, it is their go-to place children’s clothing, summer outdoor toys, and other inexpensive family items. Still others are professional garage-salers.

Professionals include collectors, buyers for auction and antique houses, Amazon or eBay sellers, and flea market space owners. When advertising, be sure to list the important categories so your buyers know to come to you first. Expect professionals to come early (or late to scoop up what’s left), know the price they will pay and be in and out quickly.

Casual buyers browse and may ask many questions. If you have small (or large) appliances for sale, be sure to have an electrical outlet or extension cord available so they can test them.

Note: Some power tools and appliances, such as some air compressors, are designed not to work on extension cords and require direct access to an outlet.

Your neighbors and friends may come for moral support or to get a glimpse of what you have for sale with no thought of purchase in mind. If you can, get them to help you out by holding the fort while you take a restroom break.

Know your prices

Set prices ahead of time. Consult online pricing guides like this one from Garage Sales Tracker. Mark every item. Many browsers will pick up an item of interest only to set it down if they do not see a price.

Know your setup

Arrange your area so that exiting traffic flows past you. This helps you handle sales while keeping a watchful eye on potential thieves. Make sure there is plenty of room between tables so shoppers can continue to move toward the items drawing their interest. Hang adult clothing if possible and group by gender and size. Determine in advance if you will allow shoppers to try on clothing and set up a makeshift dressing room. Do not invite strangers into your home to try on clothing.

Know what you need in advance

Have plenty of cash on hand to make change. Many an impulse sale is lost due to lack of change for a large bill. Have a bag or cashbox to keep money out of site and assign someone to keep an eye on it at all times. Consider having snacks available (inexpensive cookies and ice water or powdered lemonade is fine) to encourage visitors to stick around for a few minutes.

Have a free pile

Items you intend to give away or take to a charity might just be the draw you need to get a customer to stop by, so place a large sign in front of the free stuff and set it out toward the front of your driveway or sale area. These items may also keep children occupied while their parents shop.

Plan the cleanup

Just like the home makeover shows do, have a designated charity scheduled to pickup the leftovers when the sale is over, or have a friend or family member with a pickup ready to take them to the donation center. When the sale is done you will not have to store those items, you can move on to packing your boxes and planning your move.

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Are there Holes in Your Homeowner's Insurance?

Are there Holes in Your Homeowner's Insurance?

You bought your new house, put in new carpet and just had your custom-made sofa delivered when you find the drainage pipes have backed up. Your in-laws will be here tomorrow, so you call your homeowner’s insurance agent only to find out your policy does not cover sewer.

Say what?

Many homeowners are surprised to learn that their insurance does not cover everything. In fact, it may not cover several things that you assume it does.

Flooding

Your home can experience flooding from several sources. Flooding from heavy rains, tropical storms, or hurricanes is not covered by most policies, but in 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that offers coverage to homeowners, renters, and business owners if their community participates in the program. Community participation means that the municipality adopts and enforces ordinances aimed at reducing flooding and that meet or exceed FEMA requirements.

NFIP does not cover flooding from sewer backup, seepage, or hydrostatic pressure (water pressure from saturated soil) unless caused by a federally defined flood.

Mold

Hiding behind drywall and ceilings, or lurking under floorboards, mold comes in over a thousand varieties and poses health risks. Even policies that cover mold only cover mold from specific sources, and typically have $10,000 limits. The cost to remove and repair damage from mold can easily top that amount.

Sewer Backup

Aging sewer systems and backed-up storm drains can allow sewerage to backup into your home. Unless you have an extra endorsement that specifically covers sewer backup, you are on your own for the cleanup and repairs.

Sinkholes and Earthquakes

A sinkhole is when water erodes the rock underground allowing the surface to collapse into the hole. If the sinkhole happens under your home, the damage to your home is major. In most states, sinkhole damage is considered the same as other earth movement (earthquakes) and is excluded from most insurance policies. Earthquake or ground-movement policies are additional.

Termites

Over time, termites destroy support beams, walls, and other wooden parts of your home. Nationwide, damage from termites amounts to more than $5 billion in damage to homes and other structures. Homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover termite damage.

Pets

Many insurance companies will not cover certain breeds in the standard coverage. While some may charge higher premiums for them, others may not cover them at all. If you pet bites or injures a guest (or stranger) on your property, you may be on the hook for medical bills and liability in case of a lawsuit.

Toys

The high accident risk from trampolines means many insurance companies will not cover injuries of a family member or guest. Some companies will not insure you at all if you have a trampoline on your property.

War

Most insurance policies exclude acts of war.

Nuclear Plant Accidents

While your homeowners insurance will not cover a nuclear plant accident, a 1957 law compensates people in the United States from damage or injuries after an accident at a nuclear plant. But the coverage does not pay your mortgage while your home is unlivable.

Take time to discuss all of your insurance needs with your insurance agent. Make sure you fully understand the coverages and exclusions and carefully determine the extra coverage you may need in your situation. Begin immediately to set aside an emergency fund to cover incidents—like backed-up sewer lines—that your homeowners policy excludes.

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