5 Easy Tips To Prepare Your Home For The Spring Market!

The Spring Market is almost here! That means that many are getting their homes ready to list and sell. Spring is a great time to sell your property as Buyers are out in full force. But, there is some stiff competition out there. Your home needs to stand out among the rest, and should yield the best return on your investment. Here are some simple tips and tricks that you can do NOW (while it’s cold outside and you’re stuck at home) to get your property ready for sale:

1. Pack It Up!

It may seem a little crazy to start packing before you even list your home for sale, but this is a great first step in the inevitable staging of your home. Start to pack those knick-knacks and unnecessary items in your home and de-clutter your spaces. I’m not telling you to pack up all your dishes and eat off of paper plates until you move, but do try to make your spaces as free of extras as possible. Keep the essentials only. Remember, a Buyer wants to envision your home as their own. Help them realize that by going as bare as possible with your rooms. If you have a garage, use that as your temporary storage space, but start in the center. Keep a pathway around the walls of your garage for inspection purposes. It also helps with a Buyer’s mind frame to see boxes in the garage. It show that you’re ready to vacate! If you don’t plan on taking items to your new home, now is a great time to donate to your local thrift or charity.

2. Clean It Up!

Now is the perfect time for a DEEP clean. Even if you keep a pristine home, there are always some areas that can use some extra attention. If cleaning isn’t “your thing”, consider hiring a service. Many cleaning businesses offer one-time deep cleans. Then, consider keeping them on for maintenance cleaning until your home sells. If you’d rather clean yourself, here are some tips: Clean windows, bathroom mirrors, porcelain, stoves and stainless steel with a great product called “Dirtex”. It was recommended to me by a builder, and now I use it all the time. You can pick it up at the hardware store (It can even get paint out of carpet!). For a general multi-surface cleaner, fill a spray bottle with half white vinegar, half water and 2 drops of dawn dish soap. This can even freshen upholstery. Pay attention to areas in your wet rooms like behind the toilet, around faucets, behind and under appliances, and the backs of counters. Use your vacuum attachments to clean vents, ceiling corners, ceiling fans, crown moulding, baseboards, and the tops of doors and art frames. Nothing looks or smells better than a truly clean home!

3. Fix It Up!

There are many easy DIY projects that you can do yourself that make a big difference in the appearance of your home. With a basic tool kit, you can accomplish a lot of minor fix-ups and repairs around the house. If your doorknobs have seen better days, consider switching them out with new ones. It’s and easy project, and only requires a screwdriver. Just make sure you match your hinges, or replace those as well. Paint your front door and trim. A fresh coat makes a great first impression! Consider painting interior trim as well. Replace old, rusted or dated light fixtures and ceiling fans. A ladder, screwdriver and electrical tape are usually all you need. Make sure all your lightbulbs work! Dead or missing bulbs make a bad impression (No tools required!). Install under-cabinet lighting in your kitchen. There are many plug-in LED kits available. It’s an easy and inexpensive project, but makes a BIG impact in your kitchen. Switch out old or dated cabinet pulls with new ones. All you need is a screwdriver. Replace dirty or cracked switch and outlet plates. Only a screwdriver is needed. Re-caulk your shower/tub and backsplashes. Fresh caulk in the bathroom and kitchen is an easy project and looks fantastic! No one wants to see dingy, moldy seams in your wet rooms. Make sure your grout is clean too!

4. Straighten It Up!

Buyers are snoopers. They will open your refrigerator, medicine cabinets, drawers, closets and anything else they can get into. Make sure your refrigerator is clean and organized, and your other appliances are clean on the inside (again, Dirtex!). Organize your closets and keep them as spare as possible. Pack up any clothing you’re not going to use anytime soon. Straighten out the drawers in your kitchen and make sure that the inside of your cabinets are nice and neat. Clean cabinet shelves or line them. Buyers don’t want to think about putting their dishes on sticky, dirty shelves! I’ve seen it MANY times! Clean out your pantry and consider donating unwanted food to your local food bank or shelter. Now is also the time to find a place to hide valuable jewelry, prescription medication and other small valuables that could potentially walk out of your house. Consider a small, portable safe if necessary. Remember, anything that is able to be opened in your home WILL BE!

5. Call Me Up!

It’s never too early to consult with YOUR Realtor (That’s me!). Even if you’re not planning to list immediately, there are still a great many things we can strategize. I can make suggestions, help with planning, and view your home with fresh eyes. And, a consultation is complimentary! That way, when the time comes to list your property, you will be prepared. When you’re ready, we will professionally stage and photograph your property. If you have many of these items completed, you will avoid rushing to get your property showroom-ready before going live to market. I’m happy to come over! CALL ME!

Please note: If you don’t live in Northern Virginia, and you are considering selling your home, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I can interview and refer you to a QUALIFIED Realtor anywhere in the country! I’m happy to help!

5 Easy Tips For A Warm Home In The Winter Months

Winter months mean low temperatures and high energy bills! Sometimes, even with the heat at full blast, our homes can be chilly and drafty. Here are some tips to keep your home warm and cozy inside when it’s cold and blustery outside (and hopefully save you a few bucks on your bills!):

1. Go Don Drape-r on your windows!

The windows in your home are great for letting light in, but not so great with keeping the heat in. Even the best windows have to let some air in and out at the seams. Otherwise, they would break. A great way to keep in that expensive heat is to invest in some thick drapes. Keep them open during the day to let natural light warm up your home, and close them at night to keep that precious heat from escaping easily. If new drapes aren’t in the budget, tack up some spare blankets at sunset on those especially drafty windows or doors.

2. Shut it!

If you have rooms in your home that are not being used regularly, shut the door. Keeping doors closed prevents cold air from moving around the house easily and can keep the areas that you’re using warmer. In turn, don’t be afraid to shut yourself IN at night! Your bedroom will stay warmer with the door shut. Even the radiant heat generated from your body will be more contained in a smaller space and not wasted traveling around the house. If you have a ceiling fan, be sure to reverse it for the winter months, and turn it on low. This will keep the rising heat from being trapped in the ceiling and will circulate it back down to you.

3. It’s Flue Season.

If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace in your home, you undoubtedly love using it in the evenings when it’s frigid. But, while you are warm and toasty next to a crackling fire sipping your Merlot, the fireplace is drawing cold air through the rest of your house, up and out your chimney. In fact, a roaring fire can pull 20,000 cubic feet of your warm air out of your home per hour. So, use your fireplace sparingly and be sure to close the flue when it is not in use. An open flue in the wintertime can let out as much warm air as a wide-open 48 inch window. Spreading and lighting some candles around the house is a great way to generate heat and achieve that romantic glow without the need of opening a flue.

4. Can I Vent About Something?

You may have inadvertently covered your vents with furniture or rugs, or may have even closed them. If your home has a heating system which pushes air through vents, go around your house and make sure they are open and clear of obstacles. If your bathroom has venting fans installed in the ceiling, use them sparingly. Vent fans draw warm air up and out of your house replacing it with cold air from the outside. Make sure they are turned off when not in use. If your home has radiant heat, put some sheets of kitchen tin foil behind them. This will reflect the heat out toward you instead of just letting it rise to the ceiling.

5. Get Baked!

Now that I have your attention… using your oven in the winter serves dual purpose! Avoiding your oven in the summer is the exact reason you should use it more in the winter. It heats up the whole house! So, start making your casseroles, roasting your chickens and baking your cakes. Not only is cooking at home much less expensive than eating out, the energy generated from your oven feeds your family and warms your home!

Please note: This tip does not apply to my dear friend, Robert, who uses his oven as liquor storage. Robert, you should probably just eat out.

5 Tips For Selling Your Home In Autumn

Autumn is a great time to sell! Many Buyers are fatigued from their possible home search in the summer, and are happy to house hunt in the cooler temperatures. Others have more time to search after the kids start school. And, for some, the timing is perfect depending on their current living situation. With a well-priced, well-staged, and well-photographed home, you can yield a fantastic return on your home sale! With me as your Listing Agent, you already receive professional staging and photography. But, here are some tips to be ahead of the game and set yourself up for success to attract the perfect Buyer for you home:

1. Clean Up That Yard!

199541e1443447298o7818The moment a Buyer drives up to your home, they are deciding whether or not they want to enter it. A yard full of fallen leaves looks unkempt and gives a bad first impression. Make sure that your yard is raked and grass is trimmed. Attend to your flower beds and bushes, and remove any dead or wilting leftovers from the spring and summer months. A well manicured yard, no matter how big or small, is inviting and shows the Buyer that you care about and maintain your entire property.

2. Pressure Wash Your Exterior

pressure-washerThe summer months are dirty months! With rain, wind, dust and bugs, your exterior can look unsightly once the leaves start to fall from the trees and your entire home is exposed. Pressure washing is an inexpensive way to freshen your siding, windows, sidewalks and steps. If you can, attend to your roof and gutters as well. A sparkling exterior also makes your home shine against your neighbors who may have been neglectful. Clean sidewalks and steps also deter dirt and dust from being tracked into your home by visiting Buyers. It’s important to take care of this before the freezing temperatures set in. You don’t want Buyers ice skating toward your front door!

3. Keep It Light, Keep It Bright

Pacific-evening-elevation-all-lit-up-2-e1434220152792As the autumn months fade into winter, the days get shorter and the skies get darker. Make sure that once your listing is live, you leave ALL your lights on during the day while you are away, and any time you have a scheduled appointment for a visit. Keep curtains drawn and blinds open. Allow as much light as possible to flood every corner of your home. Creating a cheerful, warm atmosphere is especially attractive when the weather starts to turn colder and darker. Use as much indirect lighting as possible to create a warm depth of space. Go through your home in the evening, assess any dark areas and light it up. Your return on investment should outweigh the cost of a slightly higher energy bill.

4. Please, Don’t Go Smell Crazy!

20091118-no-pumpkin-pieThis tip is for any time of year, but especially in the fall. Internet listings do not come with “smell-o-vision”, and every home smells different. Many Realtors and Stagers will tell you to fill your home with the smells of autumn like pumpkin spice and apple cinnamon (especially if they think you need to cover up a nasty smell that you are not aware of). I wholeheartedly DISAGREE. You never know what is going to turn off a potential Buyer. But, I can tell you as an experienced Agent: If they don’t like the way your house smells, they will most likely not buy it! I can’t tell you how many times I have entered a home that has way too many scent plugins installed, and the client wants to leave before they’ve even seen the rest of the house. Too much smell, good or bad, can be stomach churning. It also creates distrust with the Buyer thinking you are trying to cover up a bad smell. Not everyone likes pumpkin or apples or lavender. I would hate to see you lose a potential Buyer because your house smells like a pie they hate. The best smelling house is a clean house. Shampoo your carpets, mop your floors, sanitize your wet rooms, clean your windows and change your air filters. Nothing, NOTHING makes a house smell better than being clean!

5. Keep Your Cool and Don’t Sweat It

hot-tempMany people try to balance the blustery cold weather by cranking up the heat in their home, but that can be a mistake. When Buyers come to your home on a cold day, they will be bundled up in sweaters, coats and scarves. As you will not be present as a good host to take their coats, they will be viewing your home fully clothed for the elements. Psychologically, most people won’t shed their winter gear in a strange home without the host present! If your inside temp is in the tropics range, they will quickly become hot and uncomfortable! By the time they reach your upper levels where most of the heat has traveled, they will probably be ready to get back outside for some relief and may cut their tour short. Keep your home at a comfortable 72 degrees when you’re not home, and don’t forget to compensate for fireplaces. If your home has drastically uneven temperatures between floors, consider some extra insulation in the attic or a baseboard heater with a thermostat in your basement. Let your Buyers see your home in comfort, and not worry about taking extra clothing on and off during their tour.

The Ballad of The FSBO – A Cautionary Tale

static1.squarespaceI got permission from a friend of mine to share her story. She said, “Let some good come from it!”. So, hopefully this will save you or someone you know from making a big mistake!

So…what the heck is a “FSBO”? It stands for “For Sale By Owner”, pronounced “Fizzbow”. This means that the owner(s) are selling thier home without engaging the services of a Realtor. Now, I get it, I love to save money too. Especially on big ticket items. I will shop around until I find the best deal! But there are some things in life that you definitely want to spend the money on. And it this case, it cost this couple A LOT more money than choosing a Realtor to sell their home. Anyway, on with the story…

My friend, we’ll call her “Sally”, sent me a desperate text asking for HELP! Her in-laws just sold their house by themselves and didn’t tell anyone, not even their kids. To make matters worse, they sold it for about $50,000 less than what it was worth. What could they do? Naturally, my first question was: “Did they have a Realtor?” “No”, she replied, “They sold it themselves, and they signed a contract. Is there any way to get out of it?”

*Sigh…* the only answer we can give as Realtors is “It depends on the terms of the contract”. Now, a lot of people think that Realtors, just because we deal with legal and binding contracts on a daily basis, are lawyers. But in reality, we are expressly forbidden from giving legal advice! The only person that can interpret the language of the contract and advise a client IS an attorney! More $$. See where I’m going here? Needless to say, they did NOT get out of their contract.

To make matters worse for poor Sally and her in-laws, she told me just this morning that she and her husband were on their way to a different state to help her in-laws find a short-term rental apartment because there was no Post Settlement Occupancy Agreement (or as you may have heard it called, “rent-back”) in the contract, and their closing date was before their new home would be available. You guessed it, more $$$.

So, trying to save on professional expenses for a licensed Realtor cost them tens of thousands of dollars! Of course, this is not ALWAYS the case with FSBO’s, but it DOES happen more than you think! Let’s go through the scenario and see how this could have been avoided with the help of a Realtor:

Price: Sally’s in-laws most likely determined their asking price by looking at an estimate from one of the consumer real estate websites. You know the ones I’m talking about (I won’t name names as I don’t want a team of lawyers at my doorstep!). What most people don’t know is that number can be a computer generated algorithm and can be VASTLY different from the true market value! A Realtor would have run comps in the neighborhood, suggested a fair price for the home and shown all of that data to the clients to support that price. Furthermore, a Realtor would have populated the home in the MLS system, marketed and advertised the listing, and depending on their offered services, staged and professionally photographed the home.

The contract: A Realtor, upon receiving an offer, would have vetted the Buyer’s financing by contacting their Lender, negotiated pricing, explained all terms of the offer to the clients, explained the rights and responsibilities of each party per the terms, helped the clients decide if this was an offer that they wanted, and would have negotiated a “rent-back” for the Sellers.

So, why didn’t Sally’s in-laws hire a Realtor? That’s a good question. I didn’t ask. Usually, it’s to save money by not paying professional expenses. In Virginia, the Seller offers commission to both the Listing and Buying Agent. Yes, we do have to make a living! But, a good Realtor EARNS it. We work very hard for our clients! Another reason is that some people just don’t like Realtors! There is a big misconception out there that we are sleazy money-grubbing snakes that only care about ourselves and try to empty your pockets. And, yes, there are some people out there that are like that! But most of us, like me, truly care about our clients and want the best outcome for them! One of the terms of our license is to put our clients’ needs above our own. That is something that I, and many of my colleagues, take very seriously. I do this because I want to help people through one of the biggest financial and emotional decisions of their life! I run my business honestly and with integrity, and many others do as well.

“But, Scott, how do I tell the good Realtors from the others?”

My Darlings, that’s why you have me! Did you know that I can interview and refer a qualified Realtor for you ANYWHERE in the country? I can! I do it all the time! It’s my absolute pleasure to that for you or anyone you know that’s looking to buy, sell or rent a home!

So, the moral of the story: Don’t end up like Sally’s in-laws, tens of thousands in the hole. If you live in Northern Virginia, call me! If you don’t, CALL ME! I’m here for you!