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If you don’t have much time or money to spend there are still lots of fast, finance-friendly DIY projects to enhance your home.
By Holly Amaya | Jan 10, 2018
It's been nearly a decade since the Great Recession delivered the worst housing crash in modern memory. But these days, the fallout feels squarely in the rearview mirror. Markets have bounced back with fervor, and confidence is skyrocketing: From Charlotte, NC, to Stockton, CA—and everywhere in between—homes are flying off the market at record prices, and buyers are still clamoring to get in the game
One thing is clear: It's a great time to be a seller.
"We’ve seen two or three years of what could be considered unsustainable levels of price appreciation, as well as an inventory shortage that resulted in a record low number of homes for sale across the country," says Javier Vivas, director of economic research for realtor.com®.
In other words: Today's buyers are exhausted. And in many cases that means they're willing to sacrifice to get a toehold in the market.
Sounds like the stuff of seller's dreams, right? But know this: If you plan to sell in 2018—and you want to unload your home quickly and for maximum money—your window of opportunity may be rapidly narrowing. Here's why you should get moving ASAP.
1. Rates are still historically low, drawing buyers into the market
We may not be enjoying the rock-bottom interest rates of yore, but by historical standards, today's 30-year mortgage rates—hovering just above 4%—are still low. And experts agree mortgage credit will remain relatively cheap for most of the year.
That means the getting's still good for buyers—and, subsequently, for sellers looking to unload their homes.
But rates are on the rise, and it's been widely predicted that they'll reach 5% before year's end. Buyers know that the longer they wait to buy, the more expensive it will be.
Roughly translated, that means you'd be wise to list your home earlier in the year, before more rate hikes kick in. Not only will you capture the market of buyers scurrying to close a deal, but if you're buying after you sell, you'll also benefit from those lower rates.
2. Inventory remains tight—and demand high
Simply put, there are more buyers than available homes—particularly in red-hot markets where land is scarce and it isn't cheap to build.
And the housing shortage will likely get worse before it gets better: Realtor.com data predict inventory will remain tight in the first part of this year, reaching a 4% year-over-year decline by March.
Sellers, that means this is your opportunity to be wooed. Buyers, their choices limited, are going to great lengths (and making some major concessions) to win the house, says Katie Griswold, a Realtor® with Pacific Sotheby's in Southern California.
"We're in a very favorable seller's market," she says. "We're seeing bidding wars—which push up prices—and buyers are submitting offers with very pro-seller terms, like forgoing the repair request or waiving the appraisal contingency."
And cash investors are in the mix, too, accounting for 22% of all home sales transactions in November 2017 (up from 20% in October), according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Those cash buyers are snapping up homes in an already tight market and keeping some first-time buyers at bay (sorry, buyers!). But if you're selling, you stand a better shot at an all-cash offer—one you just might be crazy to refuse.
Of course, there's a catch: Inventory levels are predicted to begin rising in the fourth quarter, marking the first inventory gain since 2015 and setting the stage for more dramatic housing gains to come. So if you're thinking of selling, start preparing now in order to walk away with a sweet paycheck.
3. Home prices are still increasing
From coast to coast, home prices continue to rise—which translates to more money in your pocket when you sell.
But the gains are predicted to be more moderate than in years past. Realtor.com data suggest a 3.2% increase year over year, after finishing 2017 with a 5.5% year-over-year increase.
Bottom line: You still stand to make a pretty profit if you sell this year, but the earlier you can list, the better off you'll be.
4. People have more money in their pocket
Record levels of consumer confidence, low unemployment, and stock market surges are setting the stage for high home buyer turnout in 2018. For the first time since the 1960s, the Fed has projected that the unemployment rate will drop below 4%, and the domestic stock market is enjoying a nearly unprecedented rally.
The housing market is already reflecting this boom: Existing-home sales soared 5.6% in November 2017 (the most recent month for which data are available) and reached their strongest pace in almost 11 years, according to the NAR.
"Incomes are growing and people are finding better and more stable jobs," Vivas says. Buyers "are feeling pretty good about (their) finances."
And thanks to the GOP tax legislation, which nearly doubles the standard deduction, we'll see fewer people itemizing, says National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist Robert Dietz.
"The income effect of that is that most people are getting a tax cut—which should help (buyer) demand," Dietz says.
All of these factors combined mean more buyers could be on the hunt, with more money in their pockets to shell out on a home for sale—possibly yours!
5. Millennials are ready to commit
Millennials, often crippled by student debt, have been especially hampered by rising interest rates and high home prices.
But the aforementioned conditions are ripe in 2018 for these first-time buyers to take the plunge, and experts predict that millennials will make up a vital part of the buyer pool over the coming year: Millennials could account for 43% of home buyers taking out a mortgage in 2018 (a 3% year-over-year increase), according to realtor.com data.
"As people move into their 30s, they're looking to move from renting to homeownership," Dietz says. "And we predict that trend will continue even more this year."
More home buyers flooding the market can only mean good things for sellers—at all price points.
Based in San Diego, Holly Amaya is a writer, lawyer, and communications strategist. She writes about real estate, legal, lifestyle, motherhood, and career issues. Follow @hollyamaya
Home staging offers a distinct advantage for sellers: a speedy sale.
Sixty-two percent of sellers’ agents believe staging a home cuts down the time it spends on-market, with the majority believing it “greatly” reduces the window, according to the new 2017 Profile of Home Staging from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Seventy-seven percent of buyers’ agents believe staging a home helps buyers envision themselves living in it, and 40 percent believe it prompts buyers who first saw the home online to visit it in person.
Staging can also have a positive effect on home value. Thirty-one percent of buyers’ agents and 29 percent of sellers’ agents believe it adds anywhere from 1 to 5 percent, while 13 percent of buyers’ agents believe 6 to 10 percent and 21 percent of sellers’ agents believe 8 to 10 percent. The cost of staging is often fronted by the seller or sellers’ agent.
Buyers’ agents caution, however, that staging is only beneficial if the home is staged to appeal to general, not specific, preferences. Most buyers’ and sellers’ agents believe the living room is a key space to stage, as well as the kitchen, the master bedroom and the yard. They also believe decluttering, depersonalizing and a deep clean—beyond staging—are essential for a show-ready home.
Thirty-eight percent of sellers’ agents stage all of their listings before placing them on the market, while 14 percent only stage listings that require it. A near-even 37 percent do not stage their listings at all.
“REALTORS® know how important it is for buyers to be able to picture themselves living in a home and, according to NAR’s most recent report, staging a home makes that process much easier for potential buyers,” says NAR President Bill Brown. “While all real estate is local, and many factors play into what a home is worth and how much buyers are willing to pay for it, staging can be the extra step sellers take to help sell their home more quickly and for a higher dollar value.”
For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.
Getting your property in "Show-Ready" shape is one of the many pre-marketing services we provide to our clients and is included in our fees, which are paid at closing. For more information, Call/Text Jennie (925) 997-1493 or email email@example.com.
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Selling your house is a big undertaking whether you’re single or have 3 kids under 3, but the time and effort you make to prepare it will pay back in cold hard cash. Today I’ve got home selling advice for all the parents out there:
One of the most important discussions you need to have with your REALTOR before you list your house for sale is about your ideal Buyer. If your ideal Buyer has children (for example, you’re in a good school district, have a finished basement, have 3 or more bedrooms and a kid-friendly backyard), then by all means, showcasing the playroom and your daughter’s doll collection is A-OK. But if your target Buyer is single or a couple, then recognize that kid rooms will be a turn-off. Remember the cardinal rule of selling: you want prospective Buyers to see themselves living in your space. I can’t tell you how many condos I’ve shown to single clients who got freaked out by the crib and changing table in the den.
While you’re taking the time to de-clutter your space, don’t forget that no Buyer wants to see disorganized piles of toys and books, random Legos and your kids artwork on the refrigerator. Take the time to select a few toys for your child to play with during the listing period, and put the rest in storage. Reduce the amount of baby and kid stuff to the bare essentials and empty that diaper genie!
We always suggest our Seller clients leave their house or condo during a showing because it’s uncomfortable for a Buyer to go through a house while the Seller is home (and the last thing you want a Buyer to feel while in your house is uncomfortable)! That’s even more important if you have kids. I’ll never forget the time a naked 2-year old ran around us during the entire showing, or the time a 6 year-old gave us repeated “gifts” of fruit in tissue paper (that the parents made us open!). Take the kids for a walk or send them to a sitter’s.
One of the easiest ways to sell your home quickly and for the most amount of money is to make it easy for people to see it – and that means making it available to see when people are not at work. Too often, I see Sellers restricting showings to before 6:30 or 7 PM because the kids go to bed. When you do that, you eliminate 75% of the Buyers. If your kids are early to bed, consider taking them to Grandma’s during the first week of the listing.
There’s no question that having kids complicates the sale of a house. All the more reason to make sure you’re priced right and working with an agent who’ll be able to guide you through the process to sell your home quickly. As always, we’d be happy to chat about your home and a selling plan that takes into account the realities of your life.
If you’re in the process of buying or selling a condo or house in the Bay Area, you’re likely taking the opportunity to purge: that lamp that doesn’t match your new couch, the lidless Tupperware, the random textiles you brought back from your trip to Asia ten years ago and those clothes that you were sure you’d eventually fit back into. You don’t have to be a diagnosed hoarder to collect “stuff” – and moving is the perfect time to get rid of it once and for all. Here are our favorite places to help you part ways with the stuff you don’t want to pack:
Goodwill takes clothing, household items, collectibles, textiles, books and more. Goodwill uses the money raised from re-selling your donations to help create jobs for people in our community including the young, the old, new Canadians and people with disabilities. You can find Goodwill locations throughout the city.
Habitat for Humanity Restores
You can donate construction supplies, furnishings, home decor, cabinetry and appliances at one of the various Restores in the Bay Area. Money raised through re-selling goes directly to fund new home projects. Click here to find a Habitat for Humanity Restore.
Freecycle is an online community that allows people to re-home stuff they don’t want.
1-800 Got Junk
If you have a lot of stuff, get in touch with 1-800-GOT-JUNK. They take all the stuff each city doesn’t want to take, from mattresses and furniture, to old appliances, construction debris and more. They provide same-day service and a 2-hour pick-up window (Rogers could learn a thing or two from them). Costs vary depending on what you have, but they’re an honest bunch (at least in our experience).
The Good ‘ol Curb
OK, I’m sure we’re not really supposed to do this, but try putting some random item on your front lawn with a free sign and watch how fast it disappears. It’s like people are just randomly driving up and down your streets looking for free stuff. If it doesn’t work, you’ll have to drag it back in and all your neighbors will know the random things you own, but hey, it can be quick and almost painless (and you’ll be surprised at what people will take).
If you don’t want to host and advertise your own garage sale, consider joining friends or convince your neighbors to do a street sale. You won’t likely make a ton of money, but it can be a fun way to meet your neighbors and get of all that stuff.
Craigslist and Kijiji
I love selling stuff I don’t want on Craigslist and Kijiji. You’ll be inundated with people wanting whatever crap you’re trying to get rid of, so don’t post your phone number on the ad (trust me, you’ll regret it). Expect that people will want to haggle and many won’t show up to actually pick up their item.
Really want to get rid of something FAST? Post the item in the “Free” section. If you’ve already left it on your front lawn, start the post with “CURB ALERT”…then start your stopwatch. Again, don’t ever post your phone number as we’ve sometimes received such a flood of people desperate for that thing you wanted to throw away it filled our inboxes instantly.
One of the fastest ways to part with a couch or dining table you don’t want is to simply post it on Facebook. You’ll be amazed at how fast your friends want your crap.
This list of where to donate/sell and get rid of your unwanted items is by no means all-inclusive. If you have a place that you love to donate to, please share it in the comments below.
Day 1: Change light bulbs and update light fixtures. It’s easy to forget about all the bulbs that have burned out over the years, but you want your home to be as bright as possible. Lighting makes an incredible difference to how a home looks to potential Buyers. If you have dated light fixtures (it’s OK, a lot of us do), take a quick trip to IKEA or Home Depot and pick up some modern ones.
Day 2: Prep the paperwork: Buyers and agents are going to ask a lot of questions, so start digging out the paperwork now: utility bills, tax bills, renovation details, warranties, mortgage details, survey and rental contracts.
Day 3: Get some boxes and duct tape. A big part of the adventure you’re about to embark on involves reducing clutter, and while Costco and the LCBO might be cheap options for boxes, it sure isn’t convenient. An investment under $100 will get you proper packing supplies and reduce your stress. If you’re going to be moving a lot of stuff out of your house for the sale, consider renting a POD storage locker – you fill up at your house, it gets carted away, stored and delivered to your new home when you move in!
Day 4: Make an extra set of keys. Prospective Buyers and their agents will need to access your home, so you’ll need an extra set of keys. It’s worth the $3 not to have to open the lockbox every time you want to come home.
Day 5: Tackle the bathrooms. Remove all the toiletries you have on display (nobody wants to know you use Head & Shoulders). Invest in some new white towels (and no, you don’t get to use them). Visit Winners or Homesense for affordable accessories: soap dish, toothbrush holder, etc. If your toilet seat, shower curtain or bath matt are gross (be honest with yourself), replace them. Consider replacing the toilet paper holder and towel rack/hooks too.
Day 6: Spruce up the kitchen. The kitchen is one of the rooms Buyers are most attracted to so if you’re looking to skip a room, this shouldn’t be it. Remove your blender/George Foreman Grill/Kitchen Aid mixer/toaster/bread machine from the counters – you want the counters to be as clear as possible. Clean inside all the cupboards (and yes, I mean remove everything and wipe them out). Don’t cram all your dishes and food back in – again, you want to convey to Buyers that your kitchen has enough storage for the Buyer’s stuff. Clean inside the fridge (and remove the magnets, photos, and reminders). Turn on your self-cleaning oven (probably for the first time). Consider investing in some fresh flowers and a beautiful bowl with some fresh fruit in it.
Day 7: Next up: the bedrooms. The bedrooms should be inviting, and that means more cleaning and decluttering and investing in a few props. If you don’t already have one, invest in a neutral-colored duvet cover and some new fancy pillows. Straighten the bookshelves. Remove personal photos, knick-knacks, and personal grooming products. Clean out the closets. Consider getting an area rug if the floors are cold. If you’ve jammed in a dresser or armoire that doesn’t really fit into the space (condo owners, I’m looking at you), consider storing it offsite. If you’ve converted two of your three bedrooms into offices, convert at least one of them back to a bedroom.
Day 8: Tackle the living room. Clean the sofa and chairs and invest in some new throw pillows. Consider getting an area rug to bring the room together. Hide the magazine rack and all the clutter that has accumulated. Hide the wires from your TV/stereo/speakers.
Day 9: Make your dining room look like a place someone might actually want to eat in. Remove the kids’ homework and the piles of stuff that have accumulated on the dining room table. Clean up the hutch. If your dining chairs have seen better days, consider getting them reupholstered. Invest in a new tablecloth to hide an old table.
Day 10: De-clutter, organize and clean your home. If your home is anything like ours, this is going to take more than one day. You’ll need to invest the time to make it look as spacious and clean as possible.
Day 11: Tackle what you can’t see: closets and storage areas. Much as I’d love to say that you can cram all the stuff you don’t want on display in your closets, the truth of the matter is that Buyers will open your closets. They’ll look in your cupboards. And they’ll judge you. The last thing you want is for Buyers to think there isn’t enough storage in your home, so take the time to pack away what you don’t need in the immediate future.
Day 12: Store vs. donate vs. throw away. It’s a pain (and expensive) to store all the stuff you don’t really need. Check out this blog we wrote with the advice of where to throw out/donate/sell all the stuff you’ve collected.
Day 13: The entrance. Remember that most Buyers will have an emotional reaction to your home within 15 seconds of entering it, so what they experience at the entrance is CRITICAL. You want your entrance to be clean, de-cluttered and inviting. And no, you won’t really wear all your shoes and coats while your house or condo is for sale, so be disciplined and store things away. If you don’t have a hall closet, don’t pile 15 coats on a coat rack – that’s just drawing attention to your lack of a closet.
Day 14: Get rid of all the things that make your home yours. Ouch, I know it hurts to read that. You want your house or condo to appeal to as many Buyers as possible, and that will only happen if they can picture their own stuff in your house. Get rid of all the family photos, the collections and the souvenirs from your trip to Asia. Walk through every room in your house and pretend you’re a Buyer. If what you see helps people get to know you as you, remove it.
Day 15: Hire a REALTOR If you haven’t already hired someone, today is the day. A REALTOR will likely need two weeks to schedule and prepare the marketing. An experienced listing agent will also guide you through the home preparation and staging process, so you don’t have to do it alone.
Day 16: Paint touch-ups and re-painting A fresh coat of paint is one of the cheapest ways to freshen up your home. Bold colors are bound to be a turn-off to some Buyers, so to appeal to the most people possible take the time to re-paint that red bedroom and blue bathroom. (Tip: light colors will help small rooms look bigger). Don’t forget about baseboards and ceilings – they might need some paint too.
Day 17: Make a list of all the little stuff that you’ve been avoiding repairing including the leaky faucet, the picture holes in the wall, etc. and get it done once and for all. If you aren’t handy yourself, bring in a handyman to take care of it (we know some good ones, we can help).
Day 18: Get the windows cleaned. I know, you probably don’t even think about cleaning your windows, but rain and construction can really make your windows dirty. We know a few great Professional Window Cleaners for affordable window cleaning.
Day 19: The front yard Curb appeal matters and will significantly impact people’s first impression of your house. Stand on your street and take in your front yard: what do you see? At minimum, clean the scuff marks off the front door and touch-up the chipped paint or give it a fresh coat. And if your front door has seen better days, consider investing in a new one. If you have a front porch, make it look inviting (and not just a receptacle for more of your stuff). Invest in some seasonal plants. Clean up the garden. A lot of Buyers will see your home at night, so make sure that your outdoor lighting is showing off your home.
Day 20: The backyard What you can accomplish in the backyard will, of course, depend on what time of year you sell. If you’re selling in the spring/summer: clean up the gardens, trim the trees, cut the grass, stain the deck and clean the patio furniture and BBQ. If it’s winter: do your best to make it look presentable. If you have a garage: tidy it up and fix any peeling paint and the sagging roof.
Day 21: Get the carpets cleaned. Unless your carpets are brand new, you’ll want to have them steam cleaned (or do it yourself). You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes.
Day 22: Don’t forget about the floors. You’ll need more than a Swiffer to get into all the corners and cracks. If your floors are scratched, there are some great products out there to make them look almost-brand-new.
Day 23: The walls and doors. If your walls and doors are scuffed, buy some Magic Erasers and go to town. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. If your art needs an update, now’s the time to do it too.
Day 24: The final clean. By now you’re probably exhausted..sorry about that. While you can do this final step yourself, we always like to bring in professional cleaners who will make sure to clean all the spots you don’t: the baseboards, inside the lights, the fridge, etc. We think this step is so important that we actually pay for it for our Sellers.
Day 25: Make plans for the dog/cat/ferret/hedgehog. I love my dogs too, but prospective Buyers won’t appreciate the barking/jumping/submissive peeing. Make a plan to get your pets out of the house: Doggie daycare? Grandma and Grandpa? Multiple walks?
Day 26: Make plans for the kids and the kids stuff. No Buyer wants to look at all your kids’ toys, finger painting works of art or dirty diapers, so put it all away and make a plan to keep it concealed. Make sure to check out our blog on Selling Advice for Parents for more tips.
Day 27: Make your house smell good. If you’re a dog owner, wash any couches, beds, and surfaces where the dogs sleep. You may not smell him anymore, but Buyers will. Tuck the litter box away (and clean it twice a day while your home is on the market). Use Febreeze on EVERYTHING. Consider lighting some candles (but avoid strong air fresheners).
Day 28: Get a pre-listing home inspection (for houses) or order the status certificate (for condos). It’s not fun to find out what’s wrong with your house or condo at the negotiating table, so arm yourself with the information before you list your home. You can either fix the problems before you list your home, or factor it into your asking price and expectations. (we pay for home inspections and status certificates for our Sellers, ’cause we’re awesome like that).
Day 29: Photography. When your house or condo is de-cluttered, cleaned and ready for prime time, it’s time for the photographer to work his magic. This will happen a few days before you list your home for sale, and may include a virtual tour or video. Make sure to tell your REALTOR the times when the light is best – that’ll make a big difference in the photos.
Day 30: The final once-over. You’ve worked hard, and now it’s time to step back and admire your work. How does it look? Do you see anything that might distract or turn off a Buyer? Take one final walk through all the rooms and adjust as necessary.
Going green is great for the environment, but that's not the only benefit. When you make green upgrades in your home, it can also lead to some major savings.