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Traveling This Summer? Some Great Home Security Tips!!

Often during the summer, even though your home is on the market, you still do a lot of traveling to weddings, reunions, family picnics and family vacations.  You might only be gone over a weekend or perhaps a week or two.  So what can you do to ensure that your home is secure while you’re away from home? Here’s a few tips.

  • It’s great to put your lights on timers but it’s a mistake to use one that illuminates the same lights at the same times every day. A better choice is using timers that can be set for different times each day and to not all go on at that same time. You want it to appear that you are randomly moving from room to room throughout the day and evening.
  • There are numerous systems with apps now that you can purchase that allow you to control your lights from wherever you are. If you travel a lot, this may be the best way to provide yourself with a stress free trip.
  • Consider a Ring or similar type doorbell/security system. You can keep a constant watch via the camera view in your app and alert the police if you see any suspicious activity around your home. These systems are fairly inexpensive, easy to install and provide priceless sense of peace while gone.
  • Join a neighborhood online group like Nextdoor or Neighbors, an app that is tied into the Ring system so that you will be aware of anything that is happening in your neighborhood while you’re gone. Sometime it can be your neighbors camera that will keep you aware of any issues at or around your home.
  • If you’re road tripping in your own vehicle, see if a neighbor, friend or family member can stop by at different times while you’re gone and pick up your mail or just hang out for short periods of time so there are cars in your driveway while you’re gone. If the live nearby and can leave their car in your driveway overnight once in a while even better!
  • In the past it’s been suggested that you have your mail delivery stopped while you’re gone. This can be an ok idea but keep in mind that you are letting people in the local post office with whom you’re not acquainted know that no one is home. Better to have someone pick up your mail or if it drops through your mail slot, just gather it up when you get home.
  • This may be the most important tip. DO NOT POST on social media that you are heading out to your reunion or someone’s wedding or that you’re anxious to hop on that cruise…..WAIT and when you return you can post that you just got back and what a great time you had. Still get to share but do so wisely!
  • Don’t be afraid to let your local police department know that you’ll be gone and ask if they can periodically patrol your street and keep an eye on your home. They really don’t mind doing so.

With a few well thought out plans, you can enjoy your summer journeys while still marketing your home and feel safe and secure all the while!

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Create Front and Back Curb Appeal

Image result for Homes with Spring LandscapeSome homeowners exert tremendous time, effort and money creating a wonderful first impression for buyers to view as they pull up to their home. That is a good thing. What is not so good, is using your entire budget and effort in the front while ignoring the side and back portions of your home. You may draw them in with your beautiful front yard, flowers and swing under your covered front porch BUT if they walk out your back door to a moldy deck, trash cans, overgrown weeds and a yard that looks like the NFL just practiced there; well, the front yard is no longer at the forefront of their minds.

It is important to create all around curb appeal so that no matter where they are looking, they are excited about what they see. You wouldn’t think of just painting the front of your Image result for Homes with Spring Landscapehome and leaving the sides and back chipped and revealing rotting wood, would you? (Ok, now I know some of you said yes to this, but that would be the wrong answer so please continue on).

Before you head to the garden center or big box store, develop a plan on paper that includes cleaning, painting and planting needs for all exterior portions of your home. If you are not an avid gardener (as many of us are not) ask questions and learn which plants will offer the longest blooming life, most vibrant colors and require the least maintenance (this is at the top of my list!). If you don’t have a lot of yard, create potted plantings. You often see beautifully detailed flower pots on either side of a home’s front entry. Do the same at your side and back entry doors, too.  A simple thing that will yield great rewards!  See your home as a total exterior package and use your budget to maximize the entire picture.

Don’t like to garden or too overwhelmed to attempt it on your own? (I am so with you here) Have a “Curb Appeal Party”. Invite your friends over one Saturday, hand them a hoe, garden shovel, flat of flowers and a hug to say thanks for coming. (Of course they’re going to want food and beverages to go along with that hug!) I guarantee you know a man who would jump at the chance to power wash your deck! (Yes, ladies they do consider that a power tool!) Or, hey, feel the power yourself….it’s not difficult and you see instant results! Very gratifying.  (ps: this should NOT be a surprise curb appeal party….ask so your friends can gracefully bow out if they are not in any way interested….and if they’re not make sure they know that it’s completely ok!)

End the day with a relaxing barbecue sitting on your clean deck amidst your beautiful plantings.  Everyone will feel refreshed and satisfied with the results of their efforts.  Now, here is the key.  Make sure and be ready to reciprocate when they schedule a Curb Appeal Party of their own!

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Is Your Home’s ‘Story’ Costing You the Big Bucks?!

One thing that everyone has experienced in our high tech world is the reality that people’s attention spans are very short…if they don’t like what they see within the first minute or two, they are moving on. This is especially true when shopping online. So, your home has to tell a great story via pictures and details to catch their attention and Keep it longer than 3 minutes. So what is the story your home is telling prospective buyers? Is it bringing you top dollar or costing you a bundle? What is your home’s story?

CLUTTER SAYS:  There’s not a lot of room in this home and very little storage. Keep in mind that what you see as “collectible” others see as clutter. Purge BEFORE you put your home on the market so you don’t lose valuable time fixing this issue too late. Fill and store Clutter-is-OUTbins with the off season clothing, boots, big blankets…whatever you can remove that will make your closets look roomier and storage appear ample.

FULL MIRROR WALL/WASHED OAK CABINETS/BRIGHT BRASS FIXTURES/PSYCHEDELIC WALLPAPER/POPCORN CEILINGS, etc SAY: This home hasn’t been updated for a very long time and so you should get a great deal on the price. These items can actually be updated at reasonable costs so consider doing so BEFORE you hit the market. Disclaimer: If your decor deliberately displays Retro decor, embrace it fully and sell as such which will bring you a great price with the Retro seeking buyer…and they are out there!

DIRTY BASEBOARDS/TRIM/WINDOWSILLS/MESSY ROOMS SAY: If you think this is dirty, wait until you pull out the refrigerator and stove! Even if you are comfortable living in a less than pristine environment, it’s important to market your home to the masses who most often are seeking to not find hidden schmutz after they move in. You can typically hire a cleaning crew to do a “Spring Cleaning” for $250-300. This will be money highly multiplied in its return when you sell.

Keep in mind that you are marketing your home to your buyers not to yourself. If necessary, have a good friend that you trust to be honest help you evaluate what you should consider doing before selling and then do what you can afford prioritizing the items by what will maximize your profit. Then fix and sell!!

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Apply CPR to Your Marketing Plan

Just like a heart that has stopped beating, sometimes you have to jump start…electrify your marketing to bring your listing back to life.  CPR has 3 components: Airway…Breathing…Circulation. Let’s use that same concept to revive your home marketing.

Airway: After your home  has been on the market for awhile, you can feel the air of excitement become blocked by time…other homes that have come on the market at a lower price… your unwillingness to lower your price or accept that the market will not accept your valuation…reduction of showings…and just an overall blockage of results.

Breathing: Breathe new life into your listing by: lowering your price…increasing your marketing… holding a “Fresh to the Market Open House”…being completely available for showings and willing to at least listen to all offers…open to agents showing your home and offer a strong buyer’s agent commission (if you haven’t already done so).

Circulation: Circulate the news that your home price has been lowered, that you’re willing to negotiate, that you are having an amazing Open House (review some great ideas in previous blog posts, etc. Do this via social media such as Facebook and Twitter asking your friends to please share…via flyers on local community boards, in coffee shops and mailed to HR departments of police and fire departments, universities & hospitals…these all bring in new employees all the time who will be looking for housing…bring attention to your sign when other open houses are happening in your neighborhood by adding balloons and attaching flyers.

It’s very easy to become discouraged even fearful when your home is not selling as you’d hoped it would. Take a deep breath, determine a new strategy and perform CPR on your home’s marketing campaign. Then proceed with confidence into your desired future!

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Maximize Your Ad…Maximize Your Results!!

Unlike in days of old when you could tease your buyers with a few photos and, if intrigued, they would come and view your home in person, modern day online shoppers want to walk entirely through your home visually before they take their time to do so physically. You have one chance at a first impression. Here are a few tips to help you maximize on your advertising to effectively intrigue the most potential buyers.

  • Your photos will either encourage your discourage prospective buyers. If you take mediocre photos, consider having them done professionally (offered with both BuyOwner Elite and Premium ads). The reality is, if someone doesn’t like your photos, they aren’t reading your description. They’re moving on to the next home.
  • If you have a 4 bedroom home, unless not possible due to clutter you can’t clear, show all 4 bedrooms. If you only show one, buyers are creating their own reasons why you’re choosing not to show the others ie: too small, bad closet, damaged walls or floors, etc…..none of that may be true…except in the buyer’s mind. Next!
  • Take your time when taking your photos. It’s not ok that the laundry is laying on the floor next to the bed or that dishes are in the sink or you can’t see the daylight through the dirt on your window.  Your friends might not care but if your home looks messy and unkempt in your photo, prospects are probably thinking how much worse it must be behind the refrigerator. Next!
  • Consider eye distractions.  Those pretty towels hanging on the door of your oven look attractive in person BUT in a photo, they’re an ‘eye distraction’. What that means is that when the photo opens, your buyer’s eyes are drawn to the towels instead of your Kitchen.  Unless you’re selling your home fully furnished, your goal is to showcase your spaces, not your stuff. An easy test to know if you need to remove something is to stand in the doorway, turn around and then quickly turn back to your room. If your eye sees something instead of the room, that’s what needs to come out before you take your photo.
  • Capitalize on natural light. Nothing is more enticing than sunlight wafting across a hardwood floor and nothing is harsher than a photo discolored or filtered by the glow from a lamp or overhead light. Abundant natural light is typically a very positive draw with buyers so capitalize on that feature if offered by your home.  Tip: Recessed lighting typically enhances a photo while illuminated lamps do not. Tip: Shoot photos on a partly sunny day so your photos are clear and not hazed over from too much sunshine coming in through the windows.
  • When writing your description, be direct and to the point. The days of cozy, charming cottages and fluff filled adjectives is for the most part, gone. In our fast paced world of short attention spans, people want facts instead of fiction. That doesn’t mean cold and industrial. You can be ‘warm’ without being wordy.
  • Put the buyer in the ad and take yourself out. Ex: “We’ve loved having our whole neighborhood and family over for Thanksgiving  dinners”  vs “You’ll enjoy hosting holiday dinners and parties in your spacious, formal Dining Room.”
  • Choose your words wisely:  Ex: Use the word ‘home’ instead of ‘house’. Though on the surface this might seem minimal, a house is a building,  a home is the place where you want to relax at the end of the day and raise your family.           Ex2: Instead of detailing every upgrade in your Master Bath try “Luxurious en-suite Bath”.  When you’re writing, say the words out loud and you’ll ‘feel’ the difference.  Fact is, unless a buyer is an investor, more homes are purchased emotionally than pragmatically.

When your prospective buyers are looking at your ad, they are asking themselves one main question, “Why should I pay this price, for this home in this location?” The job of your ad is to answer with “this is why, this is why, this is why.” If your home ‘makes sense’ to them they’re coming for a closer look!

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Budget Friendly Updates

So you want to get your home looking fresh and new but don’t have the big bucks to make major changes?  Here are a few ideas to help you look like you spent more than you did and create a market ready home!

  • Can’t afford new kitchen cabinets? Give them a good cleaning with a product like Cabinet Magic, or even try a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to remove the daily dirt, grease and splatters. Top with Old English or Murphy’s Oil. Then replace the cabinet knobs with more updated styles. Before you pay full price at a big box store, try shopping at a  “Restore” store which benefits Habitat for Humanity. However you buy them, count all the drawers and cabinet doors to ensure you buy enough to complete the job.
  • To add a custom feel to your base cabinets, add roll out shelves (available at Container Store, big box stores and online). Easy to Install yourself.
  • Can’t afford to repaint the whole kitchen or baths? Wash the walls. (Again a Magic Eraser is great for easily cleaning grease, oils and dirt from painted walls without scrubbing the paint off). Then clean and paint the door and window trim with semi-gloss paint. Just refreshing the edges will create a freshly painted look.
  • Bathroom updates: Do the same cleaning and trim painting as you did in the kitchen. Then replace the faucets, showerheads, hardware, towel racks and toilet paper holders as needed. Make sure they all match to create a customized renovation. Scrub the tub, toilet and sink so they gleam. If they need to be replaced, do so and then promote as “brand new”.  Can’t afford a new tub? You can get one reglazed for a few hundred dollars.  Again, a stop at a Restore location can help you find some high end materials at a fair price and support Habitat at the same time.
  • A new shower curtain will add a fresh look BUT make sure you replace the outdated, rusty shower rod and curtain hooks. Also, put up fresh, clean matching towels with no ragged edges or stains.
  • Update your light fixtures. There are lots of places where you can find updated versions at a not so upscale price. New fanlights, chandeliers and ceiling lights can take your home from outdated to modern with minimal cost and effort.
  • Now this might seem like an obvious notion, but is often overlooked. Take time to go through your home and clean all your switch plates and outlet covers. Hands leave lots of prints and dirt. A clean white switch plate against a freshly washed wall and trim can do wonders. If they’re too far gone, invest in new ones. It will be worth the minimal cost.
  • Wash your windows. Then clean your curtains, draperies and blinds so your buyer sees only the beautiful sunbeams pouring through.
  • Also clean your rugs or carpets. If they are too far gone and you can’t afford to replace them, consider offering a flooring allowance to your buyers. At least then they can look past how worn they are knowing they will be able to replace them once they purchase your home.

These should give you some great starting points and may inspire you to think of more things you can do that will cost you more in elbow grease than they do in dollars while producing very positive results toward achieving your home selling goals!

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“AS IS” Selling or Buying

First thing to consider is the definition of “As Is”.  This can range all the way from “there was a fire/flood and whatever issues that exist, you’re buying them” to “Some minor issues might come up in an inspection (outside needs to be painted/slight seepage in the basement of an older home/windows need sealing, etc.) and I’m not going to fix them”. It could also be something as simple as that the home has never been updated yet the structure and guts of the home has been very well maintained giving you a great investment opportunity especially if you’re able to perform the updates/repairs yourself.

SELLING: If you choose to sell your home “as is” consider noting in your advertising the nature of the issues and how you’ve taken that into allowance when pricing your home. If you aren’t really sure what the issues might be with an inspection, consider the cost of having one done prior to putting your home on the market and use that to explain your asking price. Don’t be afraid to show comparisons of what other homes have sold for that had similar issues or have sold for more than you’re asking to reflect the deduction you’re making with your price.

Options: (1) Decrease your asking price to reflect the buyer’s cost to make needed repairs.  (2) Offer an allowance to be credited to your buyer at closing. (ie: If you know the exterior needs scraping and painting, get 3 estimates from painters and offer the average cost as an allowance. Use the estimates to justify what you’re offering.

BUYING: Don’t shy away from a property you that meets all your criteria simply because it is being sold “AS IS”. It could just be that the owners can’t afford to or just are choosing not to make the repairs or updates prior to selling and so are using this manner to possibly get out of a bad situation or get a quick sale making this a great opportunity for you. Again, this is especially true if you’re a hands on homeowner with skills to do the repairs yourself. Even if the seller shows you an inspection they had done, you may want to consider bringing in your own inspector just to get another opinion. Even though the seller is not willing to pay for any repairs that come up in an inspection, you can still make your offer contingent on having an inspection done. Once you know what needs to be done, you can calculate your offer + cost of repairs and then decide whether or not you want to proceed.

Whether Selling or Buying, “As Is” can create both positive and negative situations so the key is to educate yourself, have a thorough inspection done, work the numbers and decide if this label benefits you and your home selling/buying goals.

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WRITING AN EFFECTIVE BY OWNER AD

One of the areas of selling on your own that can be somewhat intimidating is writing your ad….what to include…what to leave out….how to describe your home’s features most effectively….oversell or undersell….what will get you the results you desire?

One thing that will help keep you focused in the right direction is to understand the goal of your online ad. When someone is looking at properties online, they’re asking themselves… “Why should I pay that price for that home in that location?” The job of your ad is to answer with “This is why..this is why…this is why”.  Instead of hoping buyers will choose to walk through your home…Inspire them to want to come over NOW!

You only have a few moments to capture a buyer’s interest so your words need to grab their attention.

WORDS MATTER:                                                                                                                                 

Home instead of House:  A house is a building. A home is somewhere you create memories and raise a family. (Includes Townhome instead of Townhouse and using the word home instead of just condo or unit)

Spacious is more enticing than huge.  Freshly painted in neutral tones is enough…avoid “each room has been painted in neutral tones so as to allow you to come in and create your own  special spaces, etc etc etc. Another example of this elongated drone would be “Bonus room can be extra bedroom, den, office, workout room, hobby room, etc”. “Bonus room” is enough.

Be careful not to overuse words. If you say: beautiful this and beautiful that, comfy/cozy, nestled, dream come true, won’t last, must see, etc….Buyer reads: blah blah blah blah.  Be specific and to the point: Finely detailed…Upgraded throughout….Breathtaking views (but only if they really take your breath away!). Fully renovated. Recently updated. New appliances. Short and again to the point. If your photos are strong (and they need to be) then your words are there to validate what they see.

With regard to location it’s important to include things like: Close to  highways, public transportation, shopping, restaurants, nightlife, schools, parks, hospitals….whatever drives people to your area should be emphasized.

There was a time when fluff was effective because the internet wasn’t available to allow buyers to actually walk though your home before they ever arrive. That’s all changed now. Your ad opens…they look at the photos. If they like what they see, they will read what you write BUT only if it isn’t tedious. Remember, you’re writing and ad not a novel.

Note: If writing intimidates your, consider using one of the ByOwner.com Elite options. They include having your ad professionally written!

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PHOTOS vs DESCRIPTION in ONLINE MARKETING

Photos vs Description….Which is Most Important when Creating your Ad Campaign?

Though in the “old” days, sellers would tease potential buyers with flowery words and a couple of photos in order to get them to come walk through their home to “learn more”, those days are gone. We live in a fast food, fast paced, show me what you got society which means you only have moments to capture your audience and cause them to stay on your ad with the potential of then choosing to physically walk through. So, though, words are important, they take second stage to your photos.

PHOTOS: If someone is searching the web looking at multiple sites to find homes that fit their needs and desires, the first few photos they see of your home will determine if they look at the rest and then if they like what they see they will read your description.  Buyers are not interested in being “teased” anymore. If you won’t show them your home online with good, well taken photos, they will move on to another home that will. You could very well lose your buyer because of either a lack of photos or lack of quality photos. If you take only so so photos, you need to consider having your home professionally photographed. The minimal cost of doing so can not only get you your buyer, they can cause you to receive better offers as well.

DESCRIPTION: We’ve all read the buzz words  “cozy” “nestled” “charming”, etc. Though those can be strong adjectives when overused they become costly mush. Again, with the I want it now mentality that exists today, buyers are looking for the description to further detail what they’ve seen in your photos while offering them important information ie: A+ school district….close to highways, shopping and entertainment….walk to the beach…etc. Keep your sentences brief and to the point while still enhancing your photos…..they can see the wood floors but are they hardwood or wood laminate? are the countertops granite or quartz (a hot item these days)….new roof, furnace, a/c…etc.

Clearly both your photos and description add value to your marketing campaign. Take the time to do both well providing your buyers with a great online experience. Before you know it they will be knocking at your door, walking through your home and hopefully choosing to make it their own!

 

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Kids & Cell Phones – Helpful or Harmful

What used to be a rarity has become the norm.  And cell phones are the least of the exception.

Rewind time to a few generations ago and cell phones were a thing of the few.

If you wanted to hang out with your friends after school?  That meant you were pre-planning ahead the night before at the dinner table with your parents.  And if plans changed mid-day at school? Well then you’d best get in line to use the office phone during lunch.

Walking home from school alone without a phone for an emergency? No way to text a quick update to your parents when you arrived safely at your destination? Forgot something and no way to let someone know you need it ASAP? It’s mind-blowing, but somehow we all survived.

The surge in technology has created conveniences a plenty.  And the ease of living is mind-blowing.  However, it’s brought forth a level of freedom that’s seemingly dangerous more often than it’s helpful… especially for kids.

SAFETY is one of the most commonly reported reasons parents buy cell phones for their children.  Ironically, that’s the least common use of a phone owned by a child.  New York Times interviewed experts about this very issue, and child psychologists said there’s not a specific age that fits “all children,” but generally kids are not ready to own a phone until middle school when they start to exercise more independence alone.

So… still thinking about getting your child a cell phone? Here’s some pointers.

Check with your current cell-phone carrier and see what basic plans they have available.  Adding an additional line is always less expensive than starting a new one.  Cell phone al a cart options like pay-as-you-go, calls/texts to a limited set of numbers, prepaid plans, emergency call capabilities, etc. help to create a great child-friendly plan for a reasonable amount.

Some carries even offer parental controls, such as the ability to block numbers if your child is being bullied, to turn the phone off during school hours, or check phone locations so you’ll know if your child has arrived safely at home.  THAT is a good use of technology and money.

What adults unanimously express as a concern, however, is the wide variety of entertainment features.  Smart phones have unlimited access to the Internet, apps, social media platforms, videos, etc.  THAT is where the insurmountable levels of drama and all-consuming addictions come from.  And no matter how much nagging a child gives their parents about “needing a smart phone,” the reality is that the pressure to fit in is immense; no kids wants a “dumbed down” phone or restricted access.  On the contrary though, experts warn against unrestricted freedom for a reason, and generation upon generation will vouch that life is possible without 24/7 access to the web.

Wherever you’re at in your journey of getting your child a phone, make sure you take some time to educate yourself on the pros and cons that will inevitably come with it.

Distractions, dangers, uncertainties, dilemmas, controversy, drama … children (and adults!) battle enough of that these days.  Do your child a favor and show some tough love: don’t let him/her battle the world alone through their phone.