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Preparing to Sell Your Home? The Best 5 Projects to Do Now

Buyers will simply flock to your home if you tackle these value adds.

 

 

Planning on selling your home soon? Take an objective look around your home from a buyer’s perspective. What would stop you from making an offer? What do you need to do to put your home’s best face forward?

Here are some  projects to jump on now in order for your home to be in tip-top shape for a spring sale:

#1 Update Your Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is important,” says Steve Modica, sales associate and property manager at HomeXpress Realty Inc. in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla.

  • Make sure the bushes are all trimmed.
  • Re-mulch or replace stone walkways and paths.
  • Remove any dead plants and trees, and aerate your lawn so it will be lush.
  • Pressure wash the driveway, the front walk, and the exterior of your home.
  • If need be, have the exterior of the house painted.
  • At the very least, apply a fresh coat of paint on the front door.
  • #2 Get a Home Inspection

    The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® says 77% of homebuyers have an inspection done before completing a home purchase. To avoid nasty surprises once you’re in the process of selling your home, have your own inspection done, and make any repairs before you list the home. 

    You should know that if the inspection does discover any flaws, even if you fix them, you will have to disclose them. But that’s still amuch better strategy than letting the buyer find flaws, which gives them bargaining leverage. 

    #3 Replace Flooring and Paint Walls

    Determine if your carpets need replacing or just a deep, professional cleaning. If they need to go, consider if hardwood or another flooring material might be more appealing to buyers.

    You’ll also want to inspect interior rooms for dirty or scuffed walls that need a fresh coat of paint. “Paint the whole wall, don’t just do touch-up repair work, because it never looks as good,” says Modica. Also, if you have eccentric or loud wall colors, now is the perfect time to update to a more neutral palette. Stagers recommend beiges, light grays, and off-whites.

    #4 Tackle the Basement, Attic, and GarageOften overlooked, these storage meccas can become a catch-all for junk. Get down and dirty in these hot spots and organize them from top to bottom. Install shelving, pegboards for tools, and hanging brackets for bicycles and other large sporting equipment. Your goal is to pitch the junk, sell what you no longer need, and categorize the rest. 

    “Donate or recycle clothes and bedding you don’t use anymore in order to free up storage space in your closets, basement, and garage,” says Amy Bly, a home stager at Great Impressions Home Staging in Montville, N.J. These areas should look roomy, well-organized, and clean. ​

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#5 Consult a Stager

Buyers need to picture themselves living in the house, and they may have trouble doing that if all your personal effects are on display. In order to accomplish that, a professional stager can create a plan for you.

Bly spends about two hours walking through a property assessing curb appeal, interior flow, closets, bookcases, media cabinets, flooring, and more.

“I give homeowners a multi-page, room-by-room form they can use to take notes on my recommendations,” says Bly. She typically recommends things like neutralizing out-of-date decor, removing old furnishings and carpeting, and updating light fixtures. She also suggests the type of shower curtains, towels, bedding, and pillows to display for an upscale look.

Getting a jump on these fall projects will give you a leg up on selling in the spring. Today’s buyers are savvier than ever before, so when you’re ready, have a friend or relative drop by for a tour and point out anything you may have overlooked.

Related: Best Projects for Return on Investment

 

 

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8 Time-Saving Meal Prep Ideas Nutritionists Actually Use

Food hacks for busy people.

JULIA NAFTULIN 
January 11, 2018

If you're trying to clean up your diet, preparing your own meals is key. But when you come home exhausted after a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is dice onions or wait around for a chicken to roast.  

 

Chop a bunch of veggies

 

If you're prepping meals just for yourself or one other person, it shouldn't take more than an hour to wash, peel, and chop all the vegetables you'll need for the entire week ahead. Julie Upton, RD, suggests prepping enough greens for four to five days, so you'll have them to toss into a stir-fry, throw in a sheet pan, or even munch raw.

Don't love the idea of breaking out a cutting board and dirtying up your kitchen counter? "Buy pre-chopped veggies to make a quick meal," suggests Brooke Alpert, RD, author of The Diet Detox. Sure the pre-cut kind are more expensive, but if it helps you eat healthier, it may be worth the extra cash.

 

Cook one or two protein sources

 

Pan-fry chicken breasts, grill salmon fillets, or hard-boil a half-dozen eggs at once, and you'll have versatile, high-quality protein that can last the entire workweek. Upton has a trick for prepping a large serving of chicken: "I will Instant Pot a whole chicken, then I'll use the cooked chicken during the week for various dishes like soup or casseroles." 

Vegans and vegetarians can steal this hack too by cooking a big pot of lentils, chickpeas, or beans all at once, with an eye toward adding them to veggie-based dishes all week long.

Pack food in storage containers

 

Pick up food storage containers in varying sizes, so you have places to separate and stash pre-made veggies, sauces, protein, and other items. The containers will help them stay fresh too. "I also like to use rectangular glass meal prep containers, so they can be refrigerated, and then baked, and/or microwaved straight from refrigerator," says Sharon Palmer, RDN.

For some foods, plastic bags work just as well. Katherine Brooking, MS, RD, suggests storing your prepared veggies in plastic baggies in the proper proportions for the meals you plan to eat. "I put them in an air-tight baggie with a date so I can just grab and use during the week."

Keep measuring cups nearby

 

Once you have containers filled with a week's worth of food, it can be hard to eyeball the proper serving size for one meal. Cynthia Sass, MPH, Health's contributing nutrition editor, suggests leaving clean measuring cups in the fridge on top of your food containers.

"I can just scoop them out in the right proportions," Sass says. "I aim for two cups of veggies, a half cup of cooked pulses (beans, lentils, chickpeas), or a half cup of wild salmon salad, and a half cup of cooked starch (sweet potato, quinoa, brown rice, purple potato)."

Double up on servings

 

When whipping up dinner for her family, Upton makes extra servings of vegetables, grains, and chicken to use as ingredients for future meals. It's a no-brainer way to keep your prep time minimal yet always have ingredients ready for a quick, fresh dish the next night. "For example, extra veggies become fillers for frittatas," she says. 

Keep measuring cups nearby

 

Once you have containers filled with a week's worth of food, it can be hard to eyeball the proper serving size for one meal. Cynthia Sass, MPH, Health's contributing nutrition editor, suggests leaving clean measuring cups in the fridge on top of your food containers.

"I can just scoop them out in the right proportions," Sass says. "I aim for two cups of veggies, a half cup of cooked pulses (beans, lentils, chickpeas), or a half cup of wild salmon salad, and a half cup of cooked starch (sweet potato, quinoa, brown rice, purple potato)."

Double up on servings

 

When whipping up dinner for her family, Upton makes extra servings of vegetables, grains, and chicken to use as ingredients for future meals. It's a no-brainer way to keep your prep time minimal yet always have ingredients ready for a quick, fresh dish the next night. "For example, extra veggies become fillers for frittatas," she says. 

To get our best food and nutrition tips delivered to you inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter

Rely on a few versatile recipes

 

"The secret to meal prep is finding a basic recipe that you really enjoy and that works in a few different ways," says Palmer. She likes to make a large batch of turmeric rice, then top it with different veggies and protein throughout the week. Tweaking the same simple yet delicious recipe keeps your meals fresh and satisfying, but they do away with the stress of making a new dish every night. Palmer suggests stocking up on whole grains, kale, or pasta, which work well as the bases of many hearty, healthy dinners.

How to Move Your Valuables: 6 Tips from Realtor.com

by realtor.com

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How to Move Your Valuables: 6 Tips for Protecting Your Most Precious Stuff

 | Jan 8, 2018

Nothing can take away the thrill of finally moving into a new home quite as quickly as discovering that something you love was damaged in the process. What's even worse? If it's something you love that's also very expensive to repair or replace.

Accidents happen, and you can't control everything that occurs after you put your precious belongings on the moving truck. But you can take some safeguards to protect your stuff before the big day—and make sure that the watercolor painting you bought in Italy or your grandmother’s vintage vanity isn't irreparably damaged in the process.

To keep the good vibes rolling from the moment you set foot into your new place until every last knickknack is unpacked, follow this valuable advice from pros on protecting your valuables. You'll be glad you did.

1. Determine what's valuable to you

Sure, when you think of valuable items, you probably think of the fanciest things you own. But Christine Daves, a certified professional organizer and owner of the Twin Cities–based Think Organized, wants you to expand your definition of "valuable."

She considers items such as little ones’ favorite stuffed animals as precious when she’s organizing a client’s move.

“Kids are already going through such a big change," Daves says. "If they have a specific teddy bear or something, it’s a valuable item if they need it to sleep."

You should also pay special attention to necessities like prescription medications and important documents while relocating, she says. Replacing them can be a costly and stressful process—an emergency doctor’s appointment in a new city in order to refill a lost prescription won’t be cheap or easy.

2. Take an inventory—with photos

Once you've determined what's valuable, make sure you write it all down and take photos of each item—even the paperwork and the pills. It's tedious, we know, but you'll be grateful for the visual proof in case something goes wrong (we'll get to that in a bit).

3. Pack conspicuously

The No. 1 rule of packing is to label your boxes clearly. But when it comes to packing valuable items, Daves cautions against marking them in an obvious way.

“Don’t label a box 'My Gold Jewelry,'" she says. "You want to think that everyone is honest and all of that, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Another pro tip: Pack valuables in small boxes, advises Jon Daly, a mover with Matt’s Moving in Minneapolis.

“Big boxes are meant to be filled with a lot of goods," he explains. "Keep valuables by themselves in smaller boxes so they can go on the top of the load.”

And, of course, you should hit up a moving supply store to buy packing materials, Daly says. They’ll have everything you’ll need—from bubble wrap to specialized boxes—to keep your precious items safe.

4. Keep your small valuables with you

That said, your best bet for protecting your valuables is to keep them off the moving truck entirely. That means transporting them to your new home in your car, or shoving them into your carry-on luggage if you’re flying. (Try to avoid checking these items, as they could disappear somewhere between Point A and Point B.)

In fact, Daves recommends keeping valuables on your person as much as you can while en route to your new digs—even if you’re just stopping in a restaurant for a bite to eat. Toss your precious jewelry and your expensive compact camera into a backpack that you can grab and take with you as you stop, instead of leaving it in the car, no matter how concealed it seems.

5. Leave the big or extra-special items to the pros

What about those bigger valuables that you can’t transport yourself? (For example, that dining table that’s been passed down in your family for generations or the organic mattress your splurged on last year.)

If it fits in a box, go ahead and mark on all sides of the package that the contents need special care. Make sure to note any breakable items on the inventory, too, and tell the movers when they show up, Daly recommends. And don't forget about moving insurance.

That said, your highly valuable and precious items should be packed by professional packing or crating companies—which you might need to hire in addition to your moving company.

Daves recalls a client who once had to move a Steinway grand piano. “For things like that, there is absolutely no reason to go cheap," she says. "Hire the professionals.”

Whom do you call? Start by contacting the store where the item was purchased. It can recommend a company that specializes in crating such pieces.

“If it’s something like a statue, I might look up a museum services company," she says. "They’ll build beautiful crates that are specific to what you have.”

Yes, it'll cost some bucks. But dishing out the cash for packing professionals also takes the responsibility off of you.

“That’s one of the bonuses of having a moving company or [professional] third party pack your items—they’re liable for anything that gets damaged inside,” Daly says.

6. Check your stuff before you let the movers go

Unfortunately, all the planning in the world can’t stop accidents from happening—furniture gets scraped, boxes get dropped, antique crystal gets shattered. The key is to arm yourself against those scenarios with diligence and protections at every step of the moving process.

Once your belongings have been delivered to the final destination, make sure to do a final walk-through before the movers close up the truck and drive off into the sunset.

We know: Moving is utterly exhausting, and you might be tempted to just skip it, sign on the dotted line, and be done. But if you find damage in the unpacking process that you didn’t note on your final walk-through, Daly says, you’ll be hard-pressed to get your moving company to take responsibility for it.

Take thorough notes and photos of any damage you discover. Don’t stop with just photographing the damage—make sure you snap a few pictures of the packaging and boxes, too.

“The idea is that someone can look at your documents and get an idea of what happened or what went wrong” when it comes to filing an insurance claim, Daves says.

Remember those notes and photos you took before the move? They'll come in handy now. Use them to bolster your claim that something went wrong—and that it wasn't your fault.

 
Cinnamon Janzer is a journalist and writer based in Minneapolis. Her work has appeared in Fast Company, USA Today, New York magazine, and more. You can read more about her at www.cinnamon-janzer.com.
 

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Here’s What to Eat for Lunch If You’re Trying to Slim Down, According to a Nutritionist

Whether you prep ahead or grab take-out, these energizing options will help you power through your day.

CYNTHIA SASS, MPH, RD 
January 08, 2018

 

Breakfast gets all the glory as the most important meal. But lunch plays a key role in your day too, especially for anyone trying to slim down. If your midday meals are too skimpy, you may overeat at dinner; while too-heavy lunches can make you sleepy and sluggish—not the ideal mindset for your ongoing weight-loss efforts. Below are five options that strike just the right balance, to help you power through your afternoon and drop pounds healthfully. Each contains plenty of nutrient-rich veggies, lean protein, and beneficial fat, along with a small portion of good carbs (enough to energize you but not enough to keep you from losing weight). 

If you're all about efficiency ...

 

One of the simplest strategies I recommend is making a double portion of dinner, and packing the leftovers for lunch the next day. Include two baseball-sized portions of green veggies, prepped with EVOO and seasonings. (Think leafy greens dressed with EVOO, balsamic, and herbs; or EVOO and herb sautéed or oven-roasted spinach, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, green beans, or zucchini.) Add a portion of cooked lean protein, such as a half cup of pulses, like lentils or beans, or three ounces of poultry or seafood. And include a half cup of a nutrient-rich starch, such as yam, sweet potato, skin-on fingerlings, quinoa, brown, or wild rice. To keep it interesting, change up the combos, herbs, and spices while maintaining the same overall proportions.

If you're into meal prepping ...

 

You can’t go wrong with a simple stir-fry. In a medium pan over low heat, sauté a quarter cup of minced yellow onion in one-third cup of low-sodium vegetable broth until translucent. Add a cup of broccoli and a half cup each of chopped red bell pepper and shredded purple cabbage. Stir in a teaspoon of minced garlic, a quarter teaspoon of fresh grated ginger, one-eighth teaspoon each of crushed red pepper and black pepper, and sauté until veggies are slightly tender. Add a serving of cooked lean protein to heat through, such as three ounces of chopped chicken breast or a half cup of black-eyed peas. Serve over a half cup of cooked brown or wild rice, and garnish with a quarter cup of sliced almonds.

If you appreciate an Insta-worthy meal...

 

It’s true that we eat with our eyes as well as our stomachs. Many of my clients say that beautifully crafted meals help them stay on track with healthy eating, and feel more satiated. One trend that hasn’t fizzled out is mason jar salads: Fill the bottom with a half cup of oven-roasted sweet potato or purple potato. Add layers of dark leafy greens, alternating with sliced grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, and yellow bell pepper; and top with three ounces of canned wild salmon or a half cup of cooked red lentils. Just before you’re ready to eat, top the salad with a dressing made from two tablespoons of tahini, thinned with one and a half tablespoons of water, and seasoned with a teaspoon each of fresh lemon juice and minced garlic, and one-eighth teaspoon each of sea salt and cayenne pepper. Post your Instagram pic, then dive in.

If you're grabbing takeout ...

 

It's a common misconception that sushi is a healthy and slimming lunch. The truth is, sushi rolls are generally packed with white rice, and include a scant amount of protein and veggies. A better Japanese takeout option is a salad with ginger dressing, three ounces of sashimi or seared tuna, a side of avocado, and small side of brown rice. Craving Mexican? Order an entree salad (no fried shell), made from a base of greens and grilled veggies, dressed with pico de gallo, topped with black beans, chicken or fish (or just beans for a veg option), and sliced avocado or guacamole.

If you prefer to graze...

No time to sit down to an actual meal? Nibble on finger foods that add up a balanced lunch. Include a few handfuls of raw veggies (like sliced cucumber, red bell pepper or celery) with a quarter cup of olive tapenade or guacamole, or a few tablespoons of seasoned tahini or almond butter for dipping. For protein, include a half cup of oven-roasted chickpeas, a few hard-boiled eggs, or three ounces of chilled, sliced grilled chicken breast. Round it out with a serving (about three cups) of popped popcorn. Munch away at your leisure.

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.

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Just Moved? 7 Tips for Making Your New Community Feel Like Home

 | Nov 15, 2017

 

Moving into a new house involves more than arranging furniture and getting your kids acclimated to a different school. To feel truly comfortable and settled in another city or state, you'll want to make connections with neighbors and community members.

Sure, it can feel awkward extending a hand to introduce yourself. But if you dive right in, you'll soon get beyond the "new guy" label and feel welcome.

 

 
 

Here are seven ways to settle in after a move and make your new community feel like you've been there for years.

1. Network before you move

It's much easier to go from one friend to two than it is to start from zero, points out Ali Wenzke, a blogger at the Art of Happy Moving.

"Reach out to your network of friends to see if anyone knows someone in your new city ... and then reach out via email and maybe meet up for coffee" once you're there, she suggests.

If you hit it off, great. But if you don't, at least you've met someone who can possibly steer you toward fun things to do in the area—where you can meet your new BFF.

2. Host an open house after you move in

Throwing a party for a bunch of strangers may be the last thing you feel like doing, but it's a great way to meet a ton of new people in one shot. Plus, your neighbors are probably dying to see the inside of the place you just bought.

Make your open house casual and easy by scheduling it for a few hours on a quiet Sunday afternoon and offering simple fare (think beer, chips, apple cider, and brownies). Your new neighbors will have a chance to meet you, and you'll get to hear some news about the community.

3. Venture outside

Still dealing with a ton of cardboard and packing peanuts? Rather than work in the garage, take your box cutter out to the lawn or driveway and break down your boxes outside. Bagging recyclables and tying up cardboard bundles are more fun when you can take a break to chat with passers-by.

Or do a little gardening such as potting hardy mums, raking leaves, or planting bulbs. Time these tasks for when people are picking up kids at the bus stop, and you'll create an easy meet-and-greet opportunity.

4. Hit the local shops

Sure, you'll shop at Target and the other big-box stores for new throw pillows, but make an effort to patronize the smaller shops in town, too. And do the same at restaurants—because who wants to cook after days of unpacking?

Frequent a couple of cafes or diners and get to know the servers and owner by name, suggests David Meek, a broker at Keller Williams Arizona Realty. "Restaurateurs are well-networked members of their community," he points out.

5. Grab the dog's leash

Your pup might be able to run out the back door to exercise, but you can also use it to your advantage when it comes to meeting new people.

"Dogs allow you to make quick and smooth introductions to other pet owners," Meek says. "Plus you'll meet more community members if you hang out at the local dog run."

6. Join a group

Love to fish? Or is pottery your jam? Indulging in a hobby might not be top of mind right after a big move, but now's the time to make yourself have a little fun. Try a site such as Meetup.com to find folks with similar interests.

In Phoenix, "hiking is really popular here and there are hundreds of Meetups on the trails for singles, seniors, and beginners," Meek says.

Michael Kelczewski, a Delaware- and Pennnsylvania-based Realtor® with Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby's International, is a fan of the social network Nextdoor.com. "And many homeowners associations have websites and Facebook groups you can join," he adds.

Or sign up for your local CSA, or community-supported agriculture, suggests Jill Ginsberg, a licensed salesperson with Bohemia Realty in New York City. "You'll get to meet new people and support local farmers at the same time," she adds.

7. Stuff some mailboxes

Theresa Jones, a Realtor at Berkshire Hathaway in San Diego who's moved a half-dozen times in the past decade, suggests putting together a fun letter or postcard.

"Write a little bit about your family in the note and then leave it in your new neighbors' mailboxes," she says. You'll spread the news of your arrival and inform people of your contact info.

Or bake a batch of your house specialty and share it, suggests Lorrie Cozzens, communications manager at Help-U-Sell Real Estate. "Pick up inexpensive containers and make little gifts to drop off as you introduce yourself," she says.

 

big sky subtlety from Homes by Design Magazine

by Homes by Design Magazine

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Home By Design

big sky subtlety

A Montana Ranch Makes a Big Impact with Subtle Details

WRITTEN BY BLAKE MILLER

PHOTOGRAPHY BY BENJAMIN BENSCHNEIDER PHOTOGRAPHY

For Lisa Kanning, it’s all about the details. And when it came to her clients’ sprawling Montana alpine ranch situated on 160 acres, creating interest beyond the breathtaking setting was of the utmost importance. “I love to design a home so that when someone walks into a room, it takes them a few minutes to really take it all in,” says the Brooklyn-based designer. “I want them to notice little details every single time they enter that space; things that they didn’t recognize before. It’s all about creating this new experience every time you’re in that room.”

Which was exactly the approach Kanning took when creating the interiors for the 10,000-square-foot modern mountain home located in the ultra-exclusive Yellowstone Club, a 13,600-acre private residential community. Anchored by a statement piece, each room seamlessly works in tandem with another but still maintains its own personality. “I love to add one prominent item in each space and then build around it with smaller, textural details,” explains Kanning, who was inspired by the sleek, modern interiors of New York’s Gramercy Park Hotel for this particular project.

The foyer sets the tone for Kanning’s subtle aesthetic with a rug inset into the Montana moss stone flooring. “It immediately defines that space when you walk in,” she says. An adjacent mudroom boasts floor-to-ceiling cowhide panels on the wall complemented by rustic, hammered metal hooks that serve as extra character but also functional design. Though the home is modern in context, with its clean lines in the furnishings and accessories, Kanning didn’t want to detract from the organic elements that are the foundation for the home’s design. To highlight the earthy details, Kanning showcased them in a more modern way. In the media room, logs were cut in one-inch-thick circles and then hung on the wall in lieu of a traditional wall covering. Though it’s not subtle in its appearance, the wall feels natural amongst the more modern elements in the room and creates that textural detail that Kanning strives for in her projects.

 

While Kanning loves to adhere details to the walls of a home—especially in this home where organic textures such as cowhide, leather, and white birch adorn the blank spaces— she never forgets to address the ceilings. “The ceiling is one of the most under-utilized design elements in a home,” she says. Which is exactly why nearly every ceiling in this home boasts an oftentimes subtle design detail. Locally sourced, reclaimed wood beams run throughout several of the rooms; however, it’s in the empty spaces that Kanning put her magic to work by adding wall coverings and textured paneling to create interest. In the game room, a modern woven leather vinyl complements the rustic wood beams while in the lounge area, which functions as the casual entertaining and dining area of the home, Kanning added an ultra-suede wall covering to the ceiling. This choice immediately softens the space and creates a warmer, more comfortable place to relax with friends.

In addition to the details, it was important to Kanning that the home age well with her clients. With children grown and out of the house, the clients wanted it to be a home that was not trendy but suitable for their lifestyle as they age. By mixing those organic textures and finishes with more modern surfaces such as slate-gray concrete counters and minimally detailed cabinetry in the kitchen with more contemporary light fixtures throughout, the resulting product is an interior that transcends time. “It’s truly one of those aesthetics that can grow with a homeowner over the years,” says Kanning.

While the main house is now complete, the homeowners continue to expand on their land—a helipad, horse barn, and fishing shack to name a few of the additions. “These clients are so savvy and knew exactly what they wanted,” says Kanning. Lucky for them, their designer knew how to implement the look they wanted without it feeling over-the-top trendy. “We really just had the same vision from the very beginning,” says Kanning, “which made this process so enjoyable.”

Big Sky Subtlety

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Happy Valentines Day!

by JoAnn Gadkowski Team

Happy Valentines Day from the JoAnn Gadkowski Team.

Image result for hearts and houses

We LOVE where we live!

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5 Reasons It'll Pay to Sell Your Home Early in 2018

 | 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.
 

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How to Price Your Home Like the Savviest Sellers

4 things canny home sellers do when pricing their homes.

Home pricing is more of a science than an art, but many homeowners price with their heartstrings instead of cold, hard data. 

Smart sellers know that crunching the numbers is always the better route to an accurate home price. Here’s how they do it.

#1 They Avoid Overpricing

Homeowners often think that it’s OK to overprice at first, because — who knows? — maybe you’ll just get what you’re asking for. Although you can certainly lower an inflated price later, you’ll sacrifice a lot in the process.

Just ask Candace Talmadge. She originally listed her Lancaster, Texas, home for $129,000, but “eventually had to accept the market reality” and chop $4,000 off the price.

The home’s location proved challenging: Buyers were either turned off by the area — a lower-income neighborhood south of Dallas — or unable to afford the home. 

“Sellers have to keep in mind the location,” says Talmadge. “Who are going to be the likely buyers?”

The most obvious pitfall: A house that remains on the market for months can prevent you from moving into your dream home. Already purchased that next home? You might saddle yourself with two mortgages.

“You lose a lot of time and money if you don’t price it right,” says Norma Newgent, an agent with Area Pro Realty in Tampa, Fla.

And worse: Continually lowering the price could turn off potential buyers who might start wondering just what is wrong with your home.

“Buyers are smart and educated,” says Lisa Hjorten of Marketplace Sotheby’s International Realty in Redmond, Wash. “You’re probably going to lose them.”

#2 They Don't Expect Dollar-for-Dollar Returns

It’s easy for homeowners to stumble into two common traps:

  1. Conflating actual value with sentimental value — how much they assume their home’s worth because they lived there and loved the time they spent there.
  2. Assuming renovations should result in a dollar-for-dollar increase in the selling price — or more.

“Many homeowners think, ‘Of course my home is worth a bazillion dollars,’” says Newgent. If they put in a few thousand dollars worth of new flooring, for example, they might overestimate the upgrade’s impact on the home’s value into the tens of thousands.

Talmadge’s Texas home came with a built-in renovation trap: It was already the nicest home in the area, making it harder to sell. Major additions had inflated the square footage — and the price, according to one appraiser — without accounting for the surrounding neighborhood. That created a disconnect for buyers: Wealthier ones who might be interested in the upgraded home disliked the neighborhood, and less affluent buyers couldn’t afford the asking price.

“Don’t buy the nicest home on the block” is common real estate advice for this reason.

That’s not to say that renovations aren’t worth it. You want to enjoy your home while you’re in it, right? Smart renovations make your home more comfortable and functional but should typically reflect the neighborhood. A REALTOR® can help you understand what certain upgrades can recoup when you sell and which appeal to buyers.

Another culprit for many a mispriced home is online tools, like Zillow’s “Zestimate,” that prescribe an estimated market value based on local data.

The estimate is often wildly inaccurate. A Virginia-area real estate company, McEnearney & Associates, has compared actual sold prices with predicted online estimates for several hundred homes in the area for the past few years and concluded the predictions failed half of the time.

#3 They Use Comparable Sales (also Known as "Comps")

The best pricing strategy? Consult a real estate agent, who will use something called comps (also known as “comparable sales”) to determine the appropriate listing price. They’re not just looking at your neighbors; they’re seeking out near-identical homes with similar floor plans, square footage, and amenities that sold in the last few months.

Once they’ve assembled a list of similar homes (and the real prices buyers paid), they can make an accurate estimate of what you can expect to receive for your home. If a three-bedroom bungalow with granite countertops and a walk-out basement down the block sold for $359,000, expecting more from your own three-bedroom bungalow with granite countertops and a walk-out basement is a pipe dream.

After crunching the data, they’ll work with you to determine a fair price that’ll entice buyers. The number might be less than you hope and expect, but listing your home correctly — not idealistically — is a sure way to avoid the aches and pains of a long, drawn-out listing that just won’t sell.

#4 They Adjust the Price When Needed

Once your home is on the market, you’ll start accumulating another set of data that will serve as the ultimate price test: how buyers react.

Agent Hjorten says there’s an easy way to tell if you’ve priced too high: “If we have no showings, it’s way too high. Lots of showings and no offer means you’ve marketed well — but it’s overpriced once people get inside.”

Talmadge didn’t struggle with showings. She says a number of people were interested in the home, but not enough at the price. In the end, Talmadge sold her home for $125,000, with a $5,000 seller’s assist, a discount on the cost of the home applied directly to closing costs.

“It all boils down to location, location, location. In [another] neighborhood, our house might well have sold for well over $130,000,” Talmadge says.

When it comes to finding a buyer, pricing your home according to data — and the right data, at that — is crucial to making the sale.

is a writer and editor with a focus on home improvement and design. Previously, she worked as a web editor for “House Beautiful,” “ELLE Decor,” and “Veranda.”

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