For more than 20 years, the benefits of staging a home have been well documented. Numerous studies show that staging helps sell a home faster and for a higher price. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 88 percent of homebuyers start their search online, forming impressions within three seconds of viewing a listing. When a home is well staged, it photographs well and makes the kind of first impression that encourages buyers to take the next step.
Studies also indicate that buyers decide if they’re interested within the first 30 seconds of entering a home. Not only does home staging help to remove potential red flags that can turn buyers off, it helps them begin to imagine living there. Homes that are professionally staged look more “move-in ready” and that makes them far more appealing to potential buyers.
According to the Village Voice, staged homes sell in one-third less time than non-staged homes. Staged homes can also command higher prices than non-staged homes. Data compiled by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development indicate that staged homes sell for approximately 17 percent more than non-staged homes.
A measurable difference in time and money
In a study conducted by the Real Estate Staging Association in 2007, a group of vacant homes that had remained unsold for an average of 131 days were taken off the market, staged, and relisted. The newly staged properties sold, on average, in just 42 days, – which is approximately 68 percent less time on the market.
The study was repeated in 2011, in a more challenging market, and the numbers were even more dramatic. Vacant homes that were previously on the market for an average of 156 days as unstaged properties, when listed again as staged properties, sold after an average of 42 days—an average of 73 percent less time on the market.
Small investments, big potential returns
Staging is a powerful advantage when selling your home, but that’s not the only reason to do it. Staging uncovers problems that need to be addressed, repairs that need to be made, and upgrades that should be undertaken. For a relatively small investment of time and money, you can reap big returns. Staged properties are more inviting, and that inspires the kind of peace-of-mind that gets buyers to sign on the dotted line. In the age of social media, a well-staged home is a home that stands out, gets shared, and sticks in people’s minds.
What’s more, the investment in staging can bring a higher price. According to the National Association of REALTORS, the average staging investment is between one percent and three percent of the home’s asking price, and typically generates a return of eight to ten percent.
In short, less time on the market and higher selling prices make the small cost of staging your home a wise investment.
Interested in learning more? Contact your real estate agent for information about the value of staging and referrals for professional home stagers.
Electing a full sale or a property management situation is a life-changing decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. In choosing whether or not becoming a landlord is right for you, there are a number of factors to consider, but primarily they fall into the following three categories: financial analysis, risk, and goals.
The financial analysis is probably the easiest of the three to perform. You will need to assess if you can afford to rent your house. If you consider the likely rental rate, vacancy rate, maintenance, advertising, and management costs, you can arrive at a budget. It is important to both be detailed in your projections and to have enough reserves to cover cash-flow needs if you’re wrong. The vacancy rate will be determined by the price at which you market the property. Price too high and you’re liable to be left vacant. Should you have applicants, they’ll often be a group that for some reason couldn’t compete for more competitively priced homes. Price too low and you don’t achieve the revenue you should. If you want to try for the higher end of an expected range, understand that the cost may be a vacant month. Any way you slice it, it’s difficult to make up for a vacant month.
Consider the other costs renting out your property could accrue. If you have a landscaped or large yard, you will likely need to hire a yard crew to manage the grounds. Other costs could increase when you rent your home, such as homeowner’s insurance and taxes on your property. Depending on tenant turn-over, you may need to paint and deal with maintenance issues more regularly. Renting your home is a decision you need to make with all the financial information in front of you.
If your analysis points to some negative cash-flow, that doesn’t necessarily mean renting is the wrong option. That answer needs to be weighed against the pros and cons of alternatives. For instance, how does that compare to marketing the property at the price that would actually sell? Moreover, you’ll need to perform additional economic guesswork about what the future holds in terms of appreciation, inflation, etc. to arrive at an expectation of how long the cash drain would exist.
Risk is a bit harder to assess. It’s crucial to understand that if you decide to lease out a home, you are going into business, and every business venture has risks. One of the most obvious ways of mitigating the risk is to hire a management company. By hiring professionals, you decrease your risk and time spent managing the property (and tenants) yourself. However, this increases the cost. As you reduce your risk of litigation, you increase your risk of negative cash-flow, and vice versa… it’s a balancing act, and the risk cannot be eliminated; just managed and minimized.
In considering goals, what do you hope to achieve by renting your property? Are you planning on moving back to your home after a period of time? Will your property investment be a part of your long-term financial planning? Are you relocating or just hoping to wait to sell? These are all great reasons to consider renting your home.
Keep in mind that renting your family home can be emotional. Many homeowners love the unique feel of their homes. It is where their children were raised, and they care more about preserving that feel than maximizing revenue. That’s ok, but it needs to be acknowledged and considered when establishing a correct price and preparing a cash flow analysis. Some owners are so attached to their homes that it may be better for them to “tear off the band-aid quickly” and sell. The alternative of slowly watching over the years as the property becomes an investment instead of a home to them may prove to be more painful than any financial benefit can offset.
Before reaching a conclusion, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the landlord-tenant-law specific to your state (and in some cases, separate relevant ordinances in the city and/or county that your property lies within) and to do some market research (i.e. tour other available similar rentals to see if your financial assumptions are in line with the reality of the competition across the street). If you are overwhelmed by this process, or will be living out of the region, seek counsel with a property management professional. Gaining experience the hard way can be costly. With proper preparation, however, the rewards will be worth it.
Are you thinking about selling your home? Making home updates is usually a part of the process. Windermere Real Estate agent, Julie Hall,shares her expert tips on what home updates will yield the best return on investment, and they may surprise you.
Whether you’re starting a family, moving for your job, getting ready to retire or embarking on a new chapter in your life, when your home no longer suits your current situation, it’s time to think about selling it. Although this can be a bit complicated, with the help of your agent, you can minimize the hassles, get the best possible price, and shorten the distance between “For Sale” and “Sold”.
Price it right
If you want to get the best possible price for your home and minimize the time it stays on market, you need to price it correctly from the beginning. Your agent can give you a clear picture of your particular market and can provide you with a comparative market analysis (CMA). A CMA contains detailed information on comparable homes in your area, including square footage, date built, number of bedrooms, lot size and more. It lists pending sales and houses sold in your area in the past six months, along with their actual sale prices.
By comparing your home to similar homes in your neighborhood and reviewing their list prices and actual selling prices, your agent can help you arrive at a fact-based assessment of your home’s market price.
Prepping your house for sale
You want to make a positive first impression when you list your home for sale. Here are some tips on how to enhance your home’s best features:
Work on your curb appeal
Get rid of moss on your roof. Power wash your front walk, porch, deck and patio. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, weed the flowerbeds and add spots of color with container plants. Clean all the windows inside and out and repair them if they don’t open and close easily.
Refresh, repair and repaint
This goes for interiors and exteriors. If you see peeling paint, add a fresh coat. If your living room is bright lime green, consider painting it a more neutral shade. Make necessary repairs. You don’t want to turn off a buyer with a dripping faucet, a broken doorbell, a clogged downspout or a cracked windowpane.
Deep-clean, from floor to ceiling
Clean rugs, drapes and blinds and steam-clean carpeting. Get rid of any stains or odors. Make sure kitchen appliances, cupboards and counters are spotless and that bathrooms shine.
Declutter and depersonalize
Clean, light-filled, expansive rooms sell houses. So be sure to downsize clutter everywhere in your home, including cupboards, closets and counters. You might also consider storing some furniture or personal items to make rooms look more spacious. Take advantage of views and natural light by keeping drapes and blinds open.
Make an impact on the market
If you want to sell your home, you need to go where the buyers are, and today they’re on the Internet. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, in 2012 90 percent of homebuyers used the Internet as an information source, and for 41 percent of homebuyers it was the first step in the home-buying process.
By working with your agent, you can list your home on Windermere.com and other relevant websites. He or she will put together a listing with attractive photos, an appealing description and all the information a potential buyer needs. Your agent will also market your house, which may include advertising, direct mail and open houses.
Show your house
After you’ve taken care of all the repairs and cleaning tasks outlined above, your home is ready for its close-up: an open house. It’s actually best for you and your family to leave when potential buyers are present so they can ask your agent questions. But before you go, you might want to:
- Take your pets with you
- Open the shades and turn on the lights
- Light a fire in the gas fireplace
- Bake cookies
- Keep money, valuables and prescription drugs out of sight
Be flexible in negotiating
If you get offers below your asking price, there are a number of strategies you can try in your counteroffer. You could ask for full price and throw in major appliances that were not originally included in the asking price, offer to pay some of the buyer’s fees, or pay for the inspection. You could also counter with a lower price and not include the appliances. If you receive multiple offers, you can simply make a full-price counter.
Your agent can suggest other strategies as well and help you negotiate the final price.
If your house doesn’t sell or you’ve received only lowball offers, ask your agent to find out what these prospective buyers are saying about your house. It might reveal something you can consider changing to make your house more appealing in the future.
Breeze through your inspection
When a buyer makes an offer on your home, it’s usually contingent on a professional inspection. A standard inspection includes heating and cooling, interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; and the foundation, basement and visible structure. The inspector will be looking for cracks in cement walls, water stains and wood rot.
You can always opt for having an inspection done prior to putting your house on the market, so you can address any potential problems in advance. Your agent can give you several recommendations for qualified inspectors in your area.
Close with confidence
Whether this is your first time or your tenth, your agent can help guide you though the complex process of selling a home. Moreover, he or she can answer any questions you may have about legal documents, settlement costs and the status of your sale.
Your agent’s expertise, resources and extensive network also work for you when you’re buying your next house. Even if you’re moving out of the area, your agent can refer you to a professional agent in your new community.
By June Griffiths
Are you thinking about downsizing but don’t know how to make the tricky transition work? How do you buy a new place before you sell your current home?
You are not alone as many homeowners have the same concerns. They want to embrace a new lifestyle, take advantage of our ever-increasing values, and lock in a smaller home or condo in an area that they covet.
Below are some creative solutions that may help you make your dreams come true too. Keep in mind that everyone’s financial profile is different. One option might not work for you while another one will. It might even be a combination of a few of these.
Here are a few ideas:
HELOC – Home Equity Line of Credit. If you have enough equity in your current home, you may be able to get a HELOC to get a down payment for a conventional loan or to buy the new property outright.
Bridge Loan – These loans can bridge the gap between buying and selling. You can typically borrow up to 65% of the equity in your home with a maximum loan of $500,000.
Margin Loan – most individuals can borrow up to 50% of the balance in their liquid investment accounts (retirement accounts cannot be used). These loans are generally cheaper than a bridge loan and have no major tax implications.
IRA Rollover – Most retirement funds allow a 60-day rollover of funds. It’s very important to know that these funds must be replaced into the retirement account within 60 days or you may incur significant penalties and taxes.
Making a move, whether you are buying a larger home or downsizing out of your now empty nest, is a big decision. You’ll want the best professionals to help you. Ask your real estate agent to put you in touch with a lender who will help evaluate your financial situation and customize the best options for you.
As the old saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. If you’re selling your home, it’s true, except that there are several impressions to be made, and each one might have its own effect on the unique tastes of a prospective buyer. I’ve worked with scores of buyers, witnessed hundreds of showings, and I can summarize that experience down to this: a tidy and well maintained home, priced right, listed with professional photographs, enhanced curb appeal and onsite visual appeal will sell fastest. We all know first impressions are very important, but the lasting impressions are the ones that sell your home. It’s not easy, but if you can detach a little and look at your home from a buyer’s perspective, the answers to selling it quickly may become obvious to you.
The very first impression your home will make is through its web presence, whether on Windermere.com, the MLS, Craigslist or any multitude of websites. Fair or not, the price is typically the very first thing people look at, and it will be the measurement by which your home is judged. You can always adjust to the right price later, but the impact is lost. It will take something dramatic to get a buyer to reassess the way they feel about the value of your home.
Closely following price are the listing photos. According to this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, professional photos will not only impact your first impressions, it may also make a difference in the final selling price. Great photos might even overcome those initial price objections. Does the exterior photo capture your home at its hi-res best? Does the accompanying text enhance or distract? Online, your home has only a few seconds to capture the home buyer’s attention. If it doesn’t, they’ll click the “Back” button and resume their search. The goal is to have buyers excitedly calling their agents to arrange a showing.
Another old saying is “Location, location, location,” and sure enough, the first live impression of your home is the location. Forget this one; you can’t move your home. There’s not much you can do about location, right? Actually, there is one thing you can do: price it right from the start.
Let’s move on to the first time a buyer sees your home as they pull to the curb out front. Go stand out at the curb and look at it the way you would if you were shopping for a home. Sometimes, a couple hours of labor and $100 worth of beauty bark can be worth thousands in the sales price. I’ve had buyers choose not to get out of the car when we pulled up to a home that they had once been excited to see.
Likewise, I’ve had buyers say they’ve seen enough simply by peaking into the front door. The nose trumps the eyes when it comes to the first impression when entering the house. Buyers get more caught up in the details. Once the home shopper is inside, it’s easy for them to get distracted and focus on something that seems to have nothing to do with the structure they will be buying, from a dirty dish in the sink to a teenager’s bedroom that’s been decorated in posters and/or melodrama. Do everything you can to set a positive lasting impression. The buyer may look at dozens of homes. What is your strategy to convince them to make an offer on yours?
Guest post by Eric Johnson, Director of Education
When it comes time to sell a home, most people want the property to sell quickly for the highest possible return. Setting the correct listing price is the most important step in reaching this goal. Price a property too low and it might sell quickly, but you could pocket less profit. Set it too high and you run the risk of pricing yourself out of the market.
Why overpricing a home is risky
Some sellers want to list their home at an inflated value, believing that they can always lower the price down the road if needed. But this can be a risky strategy. New listings generally get the greatest exposure in the first two-to-four weeks on the market, so setting a realistic price from day one is critical. If a home is priced too high, your strongest pool of prospective buyers is eliminated because they think it’s out of their price range. Conversely, buyers who can afford it will compare it to other homes that have been fairly priced and decide that they can get more home for their money elsewhere.
Once it has been decided to reduce the price, you’ve unnecessarily lost time and money. Your strongest prospective buyers may have found another home, while the over-inflated price could result in a negative impression among agents and buyers who are still in the market. Not to mention, reengaging buyers after those first critical few weeks can be very challenging. As the saying goes, “time is money”; so the longer a home is on the market, the lower the selling price will likely be in relation to the initial listing price.
Setting a home price too high has other costs
When a home languishes on the market, the seller loses in a number of ways. Each month the home goes unsold, is another month of costs to the owner in mortgage payments, taxes, and maintenance—expenses that are not recovered when the home is sold. Furthermore, until the house is sold, the owner is on hold and can’t move forward with whatever plans prompted the decision to sell. If the seller is still living in the home, it can also be fatiguing to keep the property in ready-to-show condition month after month.
How to set the right price for a home
It’s not easy to be objective about your own home. That’s why it’s best to have a real estate professional work with you to set a reasonable price. According to a study done by the National Association of REALTORS®, homes that were sold using a real estate agent netted an average of $25,000 more than those without agent representation.
There are a number of factors that your agent will consider when determining a sales price for your home. Here’s a quick overview.
- Comparable sales. One of the best guides to pricing your home is knowing what recent buyers were willing to pay for similar homes in your area. So, one of the first things your agent will do is prepare a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). A CMA is a written analysis of houses in the community that are currently for sale, homes that have recently sold, and homes that were offered for sale but did not sell. While no two homes are identical, the report highlights only homes that most resemble yours. The CMA will include details about these properties, such as the number of bedrooms and baths, square footage, noteworthy amenities—and the listing price and sale price. The report will also include the Days on Market (DOM) for each property, which is the number of days it took to sell the home once it was listed. The CMA helps determine a price range that will be appropriate for your home.
- Unique property features. Since no two homes are exactly alike, looking at comparable sales is just one part of the equation. Many properties have distinctive features that add to their overall value when it comes to pricing. The importance buyers place on different features can vary by region, but examples might include a particularly pleasing view, artisan-quality interior detailing, outdoor entertaining space, or exceptional landscaping.
- Current market conditions. The real estate market is constantly fluctuating, and those cycles have a direct impact on pricing. Here are some of the market conditions an agent may consider when evaluating how to price a home:
- Are home prices trending up or down?
- How quickly are homes selling?
- Is the inventory of homes on the market tight or plentiful?
- Are interest rates attractive?
- How is the overall economy performing? Is the local job market strong or in decline?
- Current market conditions. The real estate market is constantly fluctuating, and those cycles have a direct impact on pricing. Here are some of the market conditions an agent may consider when evaluating how to price a home:
Other factors that can impact pricing include the condition of the home, seasonal influences (i.e. summer versus winter), condition of surrounding neighborhood, local amenities, and how quickly the seller needs to move.
There are a lot of factors that go into setting a home’s sales price, but it’s by far the most critical step in the overall selling process. The best course of action is to look to your real estate agent for guidance; they have the experience and market knowledge that will help you achieve your goals and reach a desired outcome that best fits your individual needs.
DIY Home Staging Tips:
With a little time, effort and imagination, you can stage your home to showcase its best features, sell it faster and get top dollar.
Clean up, pare down, and toss out: By simply getting rid of excess furniture and clutter, you can make any room look larger and more inviting.
Make it professional, not personal: Remove family photos, mementos and other personal items from the space. This not only eliminates clutter, it helps potential home buyers envision their lives in the space.
Re-purpose rooms: Do you have a “junk” room? You can transform a liability into an asset by turning an underused space into a reading nook, a craft room, a yoga studio or a home gym. Just clean it up, add a coat of paint, some furniture and the right accessories.
Lighten up: Light, airy rooms look bigger and more welcoming. You can create a pleasing effect by using the right wattage bulbs and multiple light sources. The right window treatments can also have a big impact. Choose fabrics that are light and gauzy, rather than dark and heavy.
Try a little color: Paint is the cheapest, easiest way to update your home. Stick with warm, natural hues, but try darker colors for accent walls and to highlight special features. You can give old furniture new life with a coat of shiny black paint—and freshen up the front door with a bold, cheerful color.
Add some decorative touches: Art, accessories, plants and flowers breathe life into a home. Make rooms more inviting with accessories that are carefully grouped, especially in threes. Pay attention to scale, texture and color. Bring the outdoors in with plants and flowers.
When it comes to looking for a home most people start on the internet. The photos in your property listing can make a powerful first impression. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, professional photos can increase home views up to 61%. Make sure your home is “ready for its close-up” by following these simple guidelines before the photographer shows up.
For exterior photography:
· Make sure no cars are parked in front of your house or in your driveway.
· Sidewalks and streets should be cropped out
· There should be up-close and angled shots, as well as long shorts that emphasize space.
· Clear away or trim vegetation blocking the front door or path to the door.
· Make sure lawns are mowed, hedges clipped, etc.
· Remove evidence of pets.
· Put away children’s toys.
· If you are selling a condo or town home, such amenities as tennis courts, a gym, a garden patio or clubhouse should be photographed.
For interior photography:
· Make sure your house is spotless, windows are clean and rooms are decluttered.
· Repair all visible damage, e.g., bad water stains, gouges, chipped paint.
· Drapes and blinds should be open and lights on.
· Remove trash cans, close toilet seats.
· Use floral arrangements in kitchens and dining rooms.
· Make sure that interesting details and attractive features—e.g., wood floors, a carved mantel, marble counter-tops and ornamental tile backslashes, etc. – are photographed.