Thursday, November 20, 2014

5 Steps to Stunning Curb Appeal

This home for sale in Washington has plenty of curb appeal
Ethan Roberts is a real estate writer, editor and investor. He’s a frequent contributor to, and his work has been featured on and He’s been investing in real estate since 1995 and has been a Realtor since 1998. He also teaches classes on investing in residential real estate.

Whether your goal is to to sell your own primary residence or to flip a great foreclosure, the shortcut to a fast sale at top dollar begins with creating great “curb appeal” for the home.

What exactly is “curb appeal”? It’s that vital first (and long-lasting) impression that prospective buyers get when they step out of their car and see your home for the first time. Since today that first view is often on the Internet rather than at the actual curbside, you’ll not only want to enhance the home’s look but also make sure you take great photos of it.

When I teach people how to create great curb appeal, I don’t just stop with the exterior of the home. Improving the interior, which I’ll cover in part 2 of this article, is just as important.

Here are five important changes to make that will create great exterior curb appeal and improve the chances of selling your home fast and for a top price:

1. Paint the exterior.
Nothing gives a home a better look and returns a great value on an appraisal than a fresh coat of paint. Select a color that’s warm, but somewhat neutral for the exterior walls. A dark color will make the home look smaller, so keep it light. I usually paint my homes beige, and then offset that with white for the trim and garage door. The front door and shutters can add some color to really make the home “pop” upon first impression.

2. Pressure wash.
Before you paint, buy or rent a pressure washer (or hire someone to do it), and remove all of the dirt and green mold (which is harmless, by the way) off the exterior of the home. You should also pressure wash the driveway, walkway to the front door, and sidewalks and curbs. Your home will look sparkling fresh and clean for just a few hours of effort. Safety tip: Watch out for spider webs, wasps, or bees around the soffits of your home as you’re pressure washing. Hire a professional pest control company first if your home has an abundance of hives or nests.

3. Improve that landscaping.
Make sure the lawn is mowed and edged once a week while your home is on the market. Brown patches or empty spots should be filled with fresh sod, or put grass seed down a month before you list the home for sale. Bushes should be neatly trimmed, leaves raked and bagged, dead branches removed from trees, and weeds pulled from beds and walkways. Adding red Cyprus mulch around flowerbeds brings some nice color to the home. If too many bushes are hiding your home from view, consider removing some of them. A nice pot of small, colorful flowers by the front door or planted in a window box is a great touch as well.

4. Spruce up the front door.
Make sure you pressure wash and paint the front door along with the rest of the home. Paint the door a colorful accent color like red, burgundy, black, brown, or green. It should match the shutters if you have them. You can also add a kick plate or doorknocker in silver, black, or white to enhance the look of the door. An old, worn out doorbell is very easy and inexpensive to change. If your door still looks old and worn after painting it, consider buying a new one. Realtors know that buyers do take notice of a front door’s appearance in evaluating the condition of your home.

5. Surprise those buyers.
You can add miscellaneous items around the front that will elicit comments of pleasant surprise from those who view your home. For example, add a small filtered pond with goldfish, a row of solar lights, or a wrought iron bench under a tree to enhance the curb appeal. But don’t add too many items or your home may look cluttered and produce the opposite effect of what you intended.

Many of these home improvements are easy and inexpensive for an investor or homeowner to do, and should add equal or more value to the appraisal than what you spend. Be sure to let the buyer’s appraiser know all of the improvements you made so they will be considered toward evaluating your sales price.

Are you giving buyers the right first impression of your home online? Make sure you show off your curb appeal by including the photos every house hunter wants to see in your listing.

This information was originally published on Auction.comLLC, the nation's leading online real estate marketplace.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

10 Tips for a Smooth Home Inspection

Huge price reductions, expensive closing conditions and retracted offers are a seller's nightmare. Luckily, FSBO sellers may be able to prevent surprises and stumbling blocks to negotiations by receiving a certified home pre-inspection. Not only can sellers avoid costly issues, they can speed up their home sale by preparing their home for the inspection ahead of time with a home inspection checklist and the following tips from Certified Master Inspector David Selman. The inspection will go smoother, with fewer concerns to delay closing.

1. Confirm that the water, electrical and gas services are turned on, and that gas pilot lights are lit.

2. Make sure your pets won't hinder the inspection. Ideally, they should be removed from the premises or secured outside.

3. Replace burned-out light bulbs to avoid a "light is inoperable" report that may suggest an electrical problem.

4. Test smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors, and replace dead batteries.

5. Clean or replace dirty HVAC air filters. They should fit securely.

6. Move stored items, debris and wood from the foundation. These may be cited as conducive conditions for termites.

7. Remove items blocking access to HVAC equipment, electrical service panels, water heaters, the attic and crawlspace.

8. Unlock any locked areas that your home inspector must access, such as the attic door or hatch, electrical service panel, the door to the basement and any exterior gates.

9. Trim tree limbs so that they're at least 10 feet from the roof. Trim any shrubs that are too close to the house and can hide pests or hold moisture against the exterior. If necessary, hire a professional.

10. Repair or replace any broken or missing items, such as doorknobs, locks and latches, windowpanes and screens, gutters and downspouts, and chimney caps.

When it comes to preparing a home for inspection during the colder months, while most people winterize exterior hose bibs during cold months, hose bibs should be accessible and uncovered long enough for the inspection. Additionally, homeowners with a pool should make sure that pool equipment including cleaners and sweepers are running while the home inspector is present. Most importantly, those that sell by owner must remember that a home inspector is not qualified to negotiate or mediate between buyer and seller, especially when it concerns repair requests.

Checking these areas before your home inspection is an investment in selling your property and everyone involved in the home sale, including your home inspector, will thank you!

This information was originally published on Selman Home Inspections. This has been republished for additional education purposes. This article is not affiliated with any links or products that appear on the same pages. Read more about our editorial policy.

Friday, November 7, 2014

5 Ways to Be a DIY Home Seller

No home sale is easy, but the tools and resources available online have made it easier for homeowners to sell by owner. Sue Kocher, who sold her home in Brilliant, Ohio using said, "It was easy to follow the whole process and to find out a wealth of information. We utilized the reports, loved how easy to use the site was for selling our home. Everything was so easy and informative. I have already suggested it to a friend who is going to sell their house." Successful sellers know how to navigate the real estate process and avoid the most common mistakes FSBO sellers make.

1. Set the Right Price
Determining the right price for your home is an essential part of any home sale. While it's important not to over price your home and discourage buyers, you don't have to undercut your sale price to compensate either. Agents will have you believe that you can't do it on your own, but you can conduct your own Comparative Market Analysis. sellers get within 97% of their asking price—just like agents do.

2. Prepare Properly
Before you put your home on the market you'll want to make sure it's ready for it's close-up. It's time to take care of any lingering repairs both big and small with a focus on home improvements that increase home sales.

Once your repairs and improvements have been addressed, staging your home will be essential to making sure your home looks its best for listing photos and viewings. Start by decluttering and depersonalizing to give your home the open spaces buyers crave.

3. Get Active in Your Marketing
Creating a professional listing ad and marketing your home for sale has never been easier for those who want to sell on their own. It all starts with taking the photos that every house hunter wants to see and writing a description of your home that will attract buyers.

Buyers look for potential homes across a number of real estate and classified ad websites as well as on social media. Yard signs, property flyers and inclusion on your local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) provide additional attention for your listing. Consider all these tools when creating your advertising strategy and give your home sale more exposure.

4. Be Objective in Negotiation
Negotiating your home sale doesn't have to be an intimidating process. Begin by getting to your bottom line: know how much you need to sell your home for to make the sale beneficial. And stay on top of the state of the real estate market as you begin negotiations. Knowing the type of market you are in—if prices in your area are increasing or if mortgage rates are fluctuating—will help you negotiate and accept an offer.

5. Manage the Sale through Closing
The closing process can move quickly once a contract has been signed, which is why knowing what to expect of the process in advance can help you feel prepared. Hiring a title company or settlement agent will be necessary to help you facilitate the closing. These professionals will work with your real estate attorney to make sure that you have completed all of the necessary forms for your home sale. Once the closing date is set, it's time to hire the movers and prepare to move into a new home.

Both first-time and experienced sellers can find the resources they need for a successful DIY home sale in our by owner seller's guide.

Monday, November 3, 2014

5 Most Popular Homes for Sale by Owner in October

While the most popular properties on our website in October encompassed listings across the Midwest, Northeast and the South, it was clear that newly built or remodeled homes drew the most attention from house hunters. When these sellers went to write a listing ad, they made sure to highlight how recently their home had been constructed or renovated as an important selling point.

1. 200 Oak Glen Ct, Seneca, SC 29672
Price: $420,000
Highlights: Built in 2009, this 4,100 square foot home includes 5 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, a formal dining room, gourmet kitchen with stainless steel appliances, bar and breakfast nook, a spacious great room with a rock fireplace television insert and a 17-seat custom home theater. After being featured as our Home of the Week in the first week of October, this listing was viewed over 100,000 times.

2. 212 Bayou View Dr, Charenton, LA 70523
Price: $278,000
Highlights: Another Home of the Week featured listing, this Louisiana 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home built in 2007 is located directly on the Bayou Teche and as a result the landscaping is lush and stunning. The home also features an in ground pool, jetted bathtub, 2-car garage and great modern interiors.

3. 612 E. Washington St, Morton, IL 61550
Price: $164,700
Highlights: Although this home was originally built in 1938 it has seen extensive remodeling including a newly finished lower level, brand new street, curbs and driveway approach, updated large bathroom and a Nest thermostat. 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 1,336 square feet of living space and a quarter acre lot with a spacious back yard are just a few of the reasons house hunters in Illinois flocked to this listing.

4.15 Michigan Avenue, Massapequa, NY 11758
Price: $699,000
Highlights: This 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom home in Massapequa Woods was expanded and renovated in 2013 to include many modern amenities that are drawing in home searchers. An open floor plan for the living and dining room area, custom built walk-in closet in the master bedroom and 10 zone radiant heating with separate thermostats throughout in 2,400 square feet of living space definitely impressed this month.

5. 31 Old Rd, Ringwood, NJ 07456
Price: $324,000
Highlights: This energy efficient home was built in 2012 by a green builder and the best members of his crew to be enjoyed by family and friends. Within its 1,200 square feet, this home features 3 bedrooms, high-end appliances from Viking, Samsung and Bosch, designer windows, large covered front porch, covered built in sandbox and fire pit and easy access to New York City.

Sellers have used social media to put their listings in front of more potential buyers and increase the awareness of their home sale. If you would like to get additional exposure for your listing, send an email to and tell us why your home has what it takes to be our #HomeOfTheWeek.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Most Desirable Features for Home Buyers Revealed

This Houston, TX home for sale has
the features Southern homebuyers are searching for.
What features make home buyers willing to pay more? Is energy-efficiency important to house hunters? Will living in a gated community attract more buyers or keep them away? Joel Cone of looks at the buyer preferences that are shaping the market.

Whether it is a new or existing home, for buyers in the post-Great Recession market, real estate is still first and foremost about location. After that, the buyer’s individual (or family) dynamics kick in when it comes to the home features they prefer. And with the help of modern technology, buyer preferences have definitely changed.

While crime rates, shopping malls and restaurants, local entertainment or places of worship may be part of the equation in determining where a buyer wants to live, the layout and features being offered on the interior are playing a greater role than ever before.

Due to the advent of the internet and cable television, buyers have numerous resources available to help in their home buying decision. From interior design and real estate websites, to real estate-oriented television shows on both major and cable networks such as HGTV, home buyers can do more research on their own before ever beginning their home search.

“Buyers are smarter now because of the internet and all these television shows. They walk into a property after watching shows like Kitchen Crashers last night and see a lot of these things already done,” said Realtor Brandon Carey with Ascent Real Estate in San Diego, Calif. “Now it’s a trigger in their mind that it’s the right property for them. If these homes already have these items taken care of, that’s a no brainer for them.”

The proliferation of these websites and television shows is making buyers smarter about the products that are being used in homes. Because of that information, certain things they like stick out to them. Things like the type of flooring, cabinets and countertops that were used in the kitchen.

In San Diego in particular, Carey and his design people are noticing a trend towards open floorplans, clean lines, and the popularity of the color gray at the moment. Particularly home remodelers and investors who flip homes are using a lot of gray these days in kitchens and in bathrooms, he noted.

Two of the nation’s largest real estate organizations – the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders – conducted surveys on buyer preferences that were released last year. Here are some highlights from their respective results.

Based on a survey of homebuyers between 2010 and 2012, the National Association of Realtors’ 2013 Home Features Survey reported:
  • The typical home purchased was 1,860 square-feet and was built in 1996
  • The average home bought had three bedrooms and two full bathrooms
  • Repeat buyers, buyers of new homes, married couples and families with children typically bought larger homes
  • First-time buyers and single women tended to buy older homes
  • Slightly more than half of the homes purchased were single level
  • Single women placed higher importance on single-level homes, while single men wanted finished basements
  • More than three-quarters of all buyers purchased a home with a garage
  • Among 33 home features surveyed, central air conditioning was the most important feature to most buyers, followed by a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, a home that was cable-, satellite- and/or internet-ready, and an en-suite master bathroom
  • New kitchen appliances were more important to single men and married couples than to other buyers
From a regional perspective, the study showed that:
  • Southerners tend to buy newer homes and place higher importance on central air conditioning
  • Garages were more important to new home buyers, Midwesterners and suburbanites
  • Basements were more popular among buyers in the Midwest and Northeast
  • Northeastern buyers also valued hardwood floors more than buyers in other regions of the country
  • Buyers in the Northeast put more value on homes with a dining room than a living room
A majority of buyers were willing to spend more money on a home in order to have:
  • Central air conditioning
  • New kitchen appliances
  • A walk-in closet
Buyers placed the highest dollar value on:
  • Waterfront homes
  • Homes that were less than five years old
Rooms that buyers were willing to pay the most for:
  • A basement
  • An in-law suite
Most important rooms for buyers to have in a home:
  • Laundry room
  • Den/study/home office/library
Ninety-seven percent of recent buyers were satisfied with their home purchase, the study noted.

“Most satisfied homeowners still said they would like more or larger closets and storage space. In addition, nearly half of recent buyers would prefer a larger kitchen, and two out of five would prefer a larger home overall,” said NAR Vice President of Research Paul Bishop.

Within three months of a home purchase, 53 percent of buyers undertook a home improvement project, the report added.

As for the homebuilders, the NAHB conducted its 2012 survey in two phases: the first phase used screening questions to identify recent home buyers who purchased in the past three years as well as home buyers looking to buy in the next three years. The second phase consisted of a detailed questionnaire given to those two identified groups of home buyers.

Here’s some of the highlights of the NAHB findings reported in 2013:
  • Just over half of all home buyers would like to buy a new home
  • Buyers expected to pay about $203,900 for their next home
  • Buyers want a home with an average 2,226 square-feet
  • For 25 percent of the buyers the size of the lot was not important
  • Nearly half wanted three bedrooms with 32 percent wanting four
  • More than half of the buyers surveyed wanted a single-level home
  • Two-thirds of the buyers wanted a full or partial basement
  • Nearly half of the buyers who wanted a two-story home wanted the master bedroom on the second floor, and the washer and dryer on the first floor
  • Living space and the number of rooms was important to about two-thirds of buyers
  • Buyers tended to focus on the quality and appearance of components such as doors, cabinets, countertops
  • Quality and brand name was important for appliances
The study showed that when it came to the most desirable features in a home, buyers were most interested in two themes in their homes:
  • Energy efficiency – energy star-rated appliances and windows
  • Organization and storage – particularly a laundry room and garage storage
Among the most unwanted features were:
  • Being located in a gated community
  • Being located in a golf community
  • A two story family room
  • Wet bar and wine cooler
  • Ceramic tile countertops
Accessibility features found most desirable by buyers were:
  • Full bath on the main floor
  • Doorways at least 3 feet wide
  • An entrance without steps
  • Lower kitchen cabinets
Half of all home buyers want amenities such as electronic systems and technology features included in the base price. As for technology features, few buyers have them but many want them in their next home.

Although the majority of buyers are concerned about the environment, most are not willing to pay more for a “greener” house.

Among the many demographics in the survey race and ethnicity can play a significant role in how a buyer evaluates the features of a particular home.

After controlling for age, income and household type, the survey showed:
  • Hispanics and African Americans want more bedrooms
  • Among the four ethnic groups studied (White, Hispanic, African American and Asian) all would be satisfied with up to 2½ baths
  • Most buyers in all four groups want high ceilings on the first floor
  • They also want the washer and dryer on the first floor
  • Two car garages are the most popular parking option
“Both the NAR and NAHB survey results point to home buyers looking for homes built after 1995 with three bedrooms and two bathrooms in 1,500 square-feet of space or larger. Thus it comes as no surprise that these are the types of properties real estate investors are seeking in order to either flip or buy and hold as rental properties,” said Rick Sharga, Executive Vice President at

Whether it is an existing home or a new home a buyer is interested in purchasing, the availability of newer materials and designs, as well as technology give today’s home buyers more choices than ever before. And they have definite opinions on what features they would prefer to have included in their next home.

What features do you desire most in a new home?

Joel Cone is a freelance writer based in south Orange County, California. For nearly a quarter century Joel's career — both as a journalist and as a marketing communications specialist — has focused on the residential and commercial real estate industries, as well as the legal community. After a decade as a staff writer for the Daily Journal Corp. group of newspapers, Joel was a regular contributor to California Real Estate magazine for the California Association of Realtors; was the original Orange County reporter for; wrote executive profiles for OC Metro magazine; and has been published in a number of real estate-related publications.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The End of Distressed Home Sales Means a New Stage for the Housing Recovery

Are we entering into a new phase of the housing recovery? While mixed signals in the number of foreclosures have been shown to be a positive indicator for the market, overall distressed sales are shrinking. Matthew Schreck of examines whether these decreases are will speed up improvement or if we're in for a slower recovery.

The current state of the U.S. housing market recovery is that of moderating home price growth, halting and slow demand growth for both new and existing-homes, and increasing housing inventory. Looking at the big picture, we still expect demand and prices to continue recovering in a rocky fashion, but the shift away from the previous stage of rapid price growth amid very limited inventory is a critical reflection of just who’s driving the housing market.

In the early stages of recovery, it was institutions and wholesale buyers doing most of the investing, buying foreclosures and distressed homes on the cheap, only to see prices increase while the newly acquired investment homes remained off the market, limiting available housing inventory. This process occurred very quickly in non-judicial foreclosure states like Arizona and California, where lenders do not need to go to court in order to foreclose on a home. Non-judicial states are where institutional housing investors typically look to capitalize, since judicial foreclosure states take much longer to work through the process. This part of the recovery is quickly coming to a close though, as distressed sales are shrinking, per the graph below, and price growth is leveling off. The fact that existing-home inventories are making considerable upward progress, up nearly 6% from a year ago, also evidences the fact that the housing market is normalizing and moving away from distressed sales, home flipping and quick profits, and towards more traditional home buyers and non-distressed purchases.

Recent reports from housing data firm RealtyTrac depict declines in home flipping and institutional investor share of sales that all line up with the shifting narrative. Home flips, defined as incidents where a home is purchased and re-sold within twelve months, declined to 4.6% of all sales in the second quarter, down from 6.2% a year ago. Institutional investor sales also dropped, to about 4.7% of second quarter sales, down 60 bps from a year ago.

With these trends developing, the onus will even more heavily on typical home buyers to drive housing demand forward. This prospect is mildly disconcerting since, as we’ve mentioned in prior blogs, despite the more accelerated job growth we have seen recently, weak wage growth could continue to hold back demand. It also remains to be seen whether there will be further waves of institutional sales on the horizon, or if companies like Blackstone are content to become America’s largest landlords. The fact that a majority of housing-bust-related distress has cleared the market is undoubtedly a positive one, since it creates a more liquid market. However, we could be in store for a much slower recovery in prices and demand as more traditional buyers dictate the market.​

This information was originally published on, LLC, the nation's leading online real estate marketplace. Buyers interested in purchasing distressed sales for investment or homeownership can search foreclosures in their area.