Ready, Set, Sell!

Thinking about putting your house on the market but not sure what to do to prepare your home?  Then you’re in the right place!  A quick Google search will give you hundreds of articles and websites with advice on how to prepare your house for the market.  It’s definitely not rocket science, yet there are some things that people don’t think about when preparing their house for sale.  Although there’s no golden ticket that guarantees a quick sale for maximum price, hopefully I’ll be able to pass along a nugget or two from my years of experience that will help you get ready to sell your home.

It’s a daunting task, no doubt, to even begin thinking about putting your home on the market.  I always tell clients that you have to think of it as transitioning from being a home owner to home seller while your house is on the market.  Yes, you still live there (unless you move out before your home is sold), but most of the time you have to modify the way you live in your home.  For example, if your habit is to leave the day’s dirty dishes in the sink or in the dishwasher until after dinner, you may want to re-think that habit and put dirty dishes in the sink and run the dishwasher, then empty it promptly!  Maybe you have a habit of leaving laundry on the bedroom floor or by the washing machine.  Again, you’ll be better off if you wash, dry, and put them away promptly!  If you’re not used to consistently cleaning and/or putting things away, it will definitely be an adjustment.  However, giving attention to the details of your home’s appearance will pay big rewards!

It’s in your best interest to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and look at your home with an objective eye as much as possible.  Try to imagine walking into your home as a buyer.  What would you see?  What would your impression be?  A clean home not only makes a good first impression, but puts the buyer at ease as they tour your home.  They leave with the impression that if the seller has kept the home clean and well-maintained, then they have likely addressed any issues that have come up during their ownership.

That brings me to my next point.  Are there any nagging issues that you keep telling yourself you’ll get to?  Does the kitchen or bathroom sinks drip or have leaks?  Do the toilets flush properly?  Does the roof leak?  Are there stains in the carpet?  Are the appliances working normally?  When was the last time the oven was cleaned?  Is any of the outside trim rotting or in need of paint?  There are a lot of things to consider when preparing to market your home.  Walking around the outside and inside of your home while seeing it through the eyes of a buyer, will help you recognize what needs to be addressed.

8 Things to do Before Listing Your Home

Make repairs ahead of listing your home.  Making minor repairs and updates will get  you a better return on your investment than doing major projects. A long list of repairs often turns off potential buyers.  Do as many repairs as you can yourself and hire a professional to do the rest.  Just a note here, waiting to do repairs after the home inspection will require licensed contractors so if there’s something you can repair correctly now, do it before you list the house.

Clean and tidy up!  Thoroughly cleaning and tidying up the inside and outside of your house will pay off with a higher sales price, potentially competing bids, and shorter time on the market.  Sparkling kitchen and bathrooms make the most impact along with shiny floors and vacuumed carpets.  Remember to clean up the yards, decks, and porches; consider power washing the deck, siding, and porch.  Fresh flowers inside and out welcome buyers.

Let your light shine.  Make the most of the light in your home.   Clean drapes or consider replacing heavy drapes with shear curtains.  Clean windows, change lampshades, increase light bulb wattage, and consider turning on lights, open shades, blinds, and curtains to let in more natural light for showings.

Clean out the closets.  Storage space is a premium asset.  Reduce your closets by half and organize what’s left. You’re moving, so go ahead and begin packing items you don’t use regularly!

Depersonalize your home.  The less personal items you have in your home, the more a buyer will visualize themselves living in it. Put a third of your things in storage including
family photos, memorabilia collections, and keepsakes. Think about it — you’ll be ahead of the game when you accept an offer and you’ve already packed up lots of stuff! Also, consider having your home professionally staged to maximize it’s full potential.

Care and plan for your fur-babies.  Our pets are family members but unfortunately, PetProtectionnot all buyers see them that way.  Buyers don’t want to see pet food, litter boxes, or find fur on their clothing after they leave your house.  Also, have a strategy for your fur-babies during showings and open houses for the safety and comfort of your pets and the buyers.

Small touches that make a big impact.  Replace worn or outdated doorknobs, cabinet hardware, switch plates and light fixtures.  Buy new towels for the bathrooms (keep the ones you use regularly out of sight), and replace old shower curtains with updated new curtains and liners.

You only get one chance to make a great first impression.  I’ve had buyers decide not to even go inside a house once we got there because of the condition or look of the outside.  You can typically get a 100% return on the money you put towards curb appeal. Spruce up the exterior with fresh flowers, trimmed bushes, clean walkways, and a new welcome mat. Pay attention to your entryway too. Replace your coats and keys with an uncluttered table with fresh flowers.

If you’re still wanting more tips about getting your house ready to sell, read this article about 10 best kept secrets here!

Consider doing these low-cost upgrades to your home:

  • Install a new mailbox
  • Upgrade outdoor lighting
  • Replace old doormats
  • Plant annual flowers
  • Buy new pillows for sofas
  • Display lightly scented potpourri or candles
  • Replace torn window screens
  • Polish or replace your old address plaque
  • Fix or replace leaky or outdated faucets
  • Buy organizational systems to reduce clutter
  • Re-caulk sinks and bathtubs
  • Place centerpieces on large counters and tables

The right touches and improvements can excite buyers.  Showcasing your home’s finest features and presenting them in the best light possible will optimize your home’s time on the market.

Joyce Wilson | RE/MAX Regency | Warrenton VA | Licensed in VA

From Raw Land to a Home — Beginning the Journey

Raw land, what does that mean?  In real estate terms, raw land is land that is undisturbed or in its natural state.  There are no improvements on the land, soil testing hasn’t been done…there hasn’t been any clearing, grading, digging or cleaning…it is raw!

The nice thing about “raw land” is that it is like a canvas waiting to be painted!  Let your imagination run wild!  What kind of home would look best in its setting?  Is it a wooded lot, or cleared? Are there features on the lot that need to be accentuated, such as a stream, or pond, or view?  Naturally, along with the daydreaming, you have to sprinkle in a dose or two (or more) of reality.  That part isn’t fun, but you do need to know what you can afford and what will meet the needs of your family.  My last blog addressed getting approved for a mortgage, so you can read that if you are trying to figure out what you can afford.  This post is really an introduction to the journey of building a house.  american-dream-alamyIt is an exciting time full of possibilities and dreams.  It’s often said that owning a home is the “American Dream”.  If that is true, than building your own home is the ultimate “American Dream”, right?

Let’s assume you are ready to buy a lot and begin the building process. How exciting is that?! But WAIT! There are many things to consider and research when you begin this journey….

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Things to consider….
  • Size, location, and cost
  • Does it have covenants, restrictions, an HOA, or a road maintenance agreement?
  • Is it part of an easement or does it have road frontage?
  • Does it already have a well and septic permit?  If so, how many bedrooms does it perc for?  Can it be a gravity drain field or does it need to be an alternative system?
  • Can you connect to a town water source?
  • Will the lay of the lot allow for a walk-out basement (if that’s important to you)?

These are questions you and/or your agent (I’m making a huge assumption here that you have a real estate agent!!!) can find out, but depending on the answers, may have an impact on the cost to build, or whether you can build what you want or can afford on that particular lot.  There’s much to consider when buying land to build or even buying a resale home.  This is a BIG investment, so it’s very important to do your research, know what you want and need, and be ready to go when you’ve determined that you’ve found the right lot.

Once you’ve found that perfect lot, the next step in the journey of building a home is to find a contractor to build that dream home for you!  Sometimes finding the lot and the builder are accomplished in the same step.  For instance, you may find a lot that is listed by a builder and the listing indicates they will “build to suit” or something along those lines.  Conversely, you may actually know a builder, or be referred to a builder who has lots they own and will either build one of their house plans on one of their lots for you or use a house plan you have found.  Often a builder will build what is called a “spec” home (a house plan or plans they build over and over on different lots) and you may write a contract on it at any point in the building process.  The earlier you get under contract, the more choices you may have in making selections on upgrades or colors etc.

contractor

Buying a spec home can be through a small, local builder who builds on their own lots, or a large developer who builds subdivisions and usually has a model home that you can tour. Another option (as if there aren’t enough already) is to build a truly custom home — from hiring an architect to design a custom home to hiring a builder that specializes in constructing custom homes; which is really another category altogether!  Your experience may be a mixture of any of these possibilities because there are so many options when it comes to how you walk out this journey.  Choosing the builder is an important step along the journey.  I’m a big believer in networking and getting referrals for people you want to work with.  The important take-away here is to find a builder you can trust and build good rapport with, because it will be a long process to go from raw land to your new home!  This blog will focus on the experience of working with a small local builder since that is who we are!

OK, so whew….now you have your lot and you have a builder!  You probably also have a mortgage lender that is experienced and savvy enough to put all this together for you!!  You’re doing great!!  The very next thing you’ll do is choose a house plan.  This is one of the fun parts!  You may choose to pick a plan from the millions and zillions that are online, or in a book (does anyone look at books anymore?) or your builder may have certain plans he uses and already has priced out with the options and upgrades all printed up and ready for you to look at and drool over!  No matter how you go about it, a house plan needs to be selected and an estimate prepared.  Most of the time, you will have a budget (an amount you’ve been pre-approved for by your lender) and it will include the cost of the land.  This will narrow down the millions of house plan choices to a few that fit into your budget!

house plans

The house plans the builder may have will already be priced with or without a lot so you can see what the price will be if he builds on your lot or if you do a package deal with the house and one of the builder’s lots.  If you bring a house plan to him, he will have to calculate the cost to build that home.

Now that you have the lot, the builder, and the house plan, you are well on your way to realizing your “American Dream”!  Come back and visit this blog again to see the next steps on the journey from raw land to your home in an upcoming post!

journey steps

Joyce Wilson | RE/MAX Regency | Warrenton, VA | Licensed in VA

I Want to Buy a Home — Now What?

Welcome to my blog!  This is a new experience for me, but I hope you’ll find my posts informative and useful.  I’ve been a licensed Realtor since 2001 (yikes–trying not to feel old!) and have had the pleasure of helping hundreds of clients buy, sell, lease, and rent properties.  My husband and I have also recently embarked on the adventure of building spec homes!  I’m combining both of these areas, real estate and new construction, and blogging about each of them.  I’ll be posting stories and pics of our first spec home along the way!  I’d love to be able to pass on my experiences and knowledge to anyone interested in the craziness of real estate! Please feel free to let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d find interesting or want to know more about and I’ll do my best to write about it!

What’s this blog about anyway?

My idea for this blog is to have information related to real estate; specifically issues that relate to buyers, sellers, and new construction.  I think we can all agree that buying or selling a house can be really scary and intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before.  And if you’re thinking about building your own house–wow, that’ll ramp up the stress even more!  Hopefully, I can reduce the stress and fear level a bit and give you practical tips to help the process go smoothly; whether you’re in the middle of it now, are thinking about jumping into the world of home ownership, or considering selling your home in the future.

So you’ve decided to buy a house, now what?

Today, I want to talk about the first step in the path of home ownership.  You’ve decided you’re tired of renting or living with your parents or for whatever reason, you want to buy a home.  It might be a single family home, a condo, or townhouse — whatever type of home you want, you just know NOW is the time!

The first thing I ask every buyer is, “have you spoken with a lender to get pre-approved for a mortgage?”.  The answers vary; some have gotten pre-approved online (which I would not recommend), some have spoken with a lender who they may or may not even remember their name, and many have not and maybe didn’t even think about this crucial step.

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Any realtor worth their salt, will be able to refer you to a competent mortgage loan officer that they have most likely referred many clients to in the past and have confidence in their abilities and knowledge.   Unless you have a trusted relationship with a mortgage loan officer, I recommend that you reach out to the person your realtor referred you to.

You may ask, why do I need to do that first?  I really want to get started looking at all the pretty houses I see online!!  Well, looking at houses is the fun part, but it’s vitally important that you know how much you can afford and how much your payment will be BEFORE you go looking at houses.  I always tell my clients that I don’t want to show them a house that ends up being out of their price range and then every house they see after that, that is in their price range won’t compare and they’ll be disappointed every time. Knowledge is power, right?  Once you know what your qualified for and what your payment will be, you can confidently begin house hunting and feel good about what you are seeing and the choices you have!

On the other end of the spectrum, you may actually qualify for more than what you feel comfortable spending!  Great problem to have!!  Part of the financing step is to nail down how much you qualify for, how much you want to spend or can spend monthly, how much down payment you’ll need and lastly how much your closing costs will be!  Whew, that’s a lot to consider!  If you do qualify for me than you were expecting, you need to make sure you are comfortable with how much you’re spending and how much your payment will be.  This is something you definitely want to discuss with your lender so that they know what your limits are if you qualify for more than you want to spend!

Another reason to be pre-approved before beginning your new home search, is you will be ready to submit an offer as soon as you find your dream home!  You won’t have to delay submitting an offer because you still need to get your financing lined up!  If you are well prepared you don’t risk losing out on a home to another purchaser because you weren’t ready! Lastly, you definitely don’t want to be disappointed to discover that you actually can’t afford that home you have just fallen in love with!

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Check out some other great tips for new buyers here! 

My goal today is to let buyers know the first step in the home-buying process is to simply contact a local, trusted, loan officer and get pre-approved for your mortgage!  Remember—knowledge is power!

Action Steps!  Let’s get Started!!

Contact me for a lender referral to get you started on the path to home-ownership!!  I’ve got great lenders in the northern Virginia and New River Valley areas of Virginia that are ready to help you get started!  They’ll be contributing to future posts!

Thanks for sticking with me and reading to the end of my very first blog post!  I hope it’s been beneficial!  Feel free to comment or share!

 

Joyce Wilson | RE/MAX Regency | Warrenton, VA | Licensed in VA