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Organize Your “Little Clutter”

Sometimes one of the most difficult de-cluttering challenges is what to do with all those ‘little’ items that just seem to accumulate and create a mess. Try some of these ideas and use them as a stepping off point of thinking up some of your own creative solutions.

* Pick a drawer or cabinet/closet shelf and use one or more of these options to hold thumbtacks, paper clips, rubber bands, buttons, spare birthday candles, salt & pepper and sugar/sweetener packets, etc.

(1) A 6 or 12 count cupcake/muffin tin…if you want to be able to remove the items in total for use in other areas put cupcake wrappers or silicone inserts into the tincups first. Then you can lift out the entire paper cup, carry it to where you are working and then return it to the cupcake tin when finished.  This will also work for holding rings, chains and bracelets. You can spray paint the tin in whatever color matches your decor and it now becomes more than just a storage bin but adds to your overall look.

(2) Use an egg carton in the same manner as the muffin tin BUT cut out the inserts on one side of the open carton so that you have individual spaces on one side and an open flat surface on the other which can now accommodate scissors, letter openers, straws, nail files, etc.

(3) Apothecary jars, pickle jars, and other clear jars allow you to use various sizes and see what you have in them.

(4) Pick up pretty glasses at yard sales for .05 or .10 cents each and create a lovely visual display for your counter or cabinet when opened.  Another great buy at yard sales (or in your own overstuffed basement) are vases and candle jars in all sizes, shapes and colors that will match your decor….if the candle jars still have pieces of a scented candle in them, take a blunt knife and chop them up. This will reactivate the scent and become pretty and add a lovely aroma to your area.

(5) For less than $1 you can purchase small terra cotta clay pots for starting plants from seeds.  These can hold any number of small items in a very decorative manner and can be used in their natural state or painted with different colors or designs.  Simple, easy and very personalized to your own decor and styles.  You can also use the small size to hold qtips in the bathroom and a medium size to hold cotton balls. Again, they can be painted or decoupaged to match your personal decor giving you a completely finished and synergistic look.

(6) Need stylish office materials but don’t like the high costs in your office supply stores? Find a bathroom set at your favorite dollar store or discount retailer (like Target, Walmart or Kmart) that matches your office colors or adds a decorating splash of design. Use the toothbrush holder as a pen holder and the soap dish to hold staples, paper clips, thumbtacks or rubber bands.  Finish off your look with the matching waste basket. You now have a cohesive look and more money left to be just as creative in another space.

The key to creating a personal and very stylized look for a minimal cost is to think outside the box and use items meant for one thing as something completely different.  It is fun, can be turned into a family project and will be a source of pleasure every time you look at what you have created and realize that you’ve been financially responsible….so important in these economic times!

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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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Considering Multiple Offers (or even just one)!

Receiving multiple offers (or even just one) on your home is a problem that every home seller wants to have. Sure, it’s certainly something to celebrate. But before you kick back and pop open the champagne, you have a decision to make. Going for the most money may seem like the obvious choice, but it’s not necessarily that easy. While it’s natural to be attracted to the offer with the highest price, it’s important to realize that the highest offer isn’t always the best offer. You might choose to accept a lower offer from a buyer who is better qualified or an offer with more appealing conditions.There are three important factors to consider when dealing with multiple offers or again just one.

Amount Offered

Of course the amount of the offer is important when deciding which buyer to choose, but you should also look at other aspects involved in the offer price, such as which potential buyer will be putting more money into the down payment. If you had two offers with the exact same price, the cash down payment amount might just be your deciding factor. BUT keep in mind just because someone doesn’t have as much to put down does not necessarily mean they are not as strong a buyer. So considering a few more factors will help you make your best choice.

Buyers’ Financial Status

When doing business with someone it is necessary to know about financial status, and even though selling your home can be a personal, emotional experience, it is also the ultimate business transaction. You have the right to find out if the potential buyers are in good financial standing. Don’t be afraid to put right in your ad that you are only interested in pre-qualified or pre-approved buyers with documentation. In today’s marketplace, particularly if your home is in a high desire area, most serious buyers know this is a valuable tool when negotiating against other competing buyers. It’s also good to decide before you ever put your home out into the marketplace, what types of financing you’ll accept. Of course, accepting all types (Conventional, FHA and VA). The condition of your home may play a factor in that decision since FHA and VA inspections may be more challenging than one with conventional financing. So it’s a good idea to find out if they will be seeking a loan, and, if so, what kind of loan.

Contingencies

The final factor to consider when deciding which offer to accept is whether there are any contingencies involved. Does the buyer need to sell a home in order to close? Maybe there are other issues, such as inspections, that would hold up the sale for an extended period of time. Make sure you have all the information so you can weigh your options.

It may sound simple, but deciding which offer best suits your needs can be complicated. It’s never a bad idea to sit down and actually write out all of the elements involved in the sale and decide what is most important to you. Then create a list using those elements to compare the potential buyers. That way you can look at all of the significant factors involved, including the total amount offered for the property, the amount of the down payment, the closing date, any contingencies involved, the buyers’ financial standing and how much extra money a particular deal may cost you after inspections. (If your home needs a lot of repairs, you might want to sell it As Is with those repair estimates reflected in your asking price.) Creating a comparison list will help give you a straightforward comparison of the potential buyers and will show you their pros and cons.

BEWARE: Don’t get overconfident or underconfident and blow the deal or regret what you’ve accepted after the fact. Take your time (don’t allow buyers or their agents to rush you) and consider each offer seriously. If you don’t feel emotionally able to make the decision on your own, have a trusted friend or your attorney walk through each offer with you. Listen to their opinion and why they are offering it. Then you decide what is best for you. Now, proceed with confidence into the next part of your life journey!

 

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Lack Storage Space and Money? Let Your Creativity Flow and Your Funds Stay in Your Wallet!

Trying to get your home ready for showings but a little overwhelmed by your need to still maintain your cleaning supplies and every day tools but don’t have a lot of extra spaces to add shelves or cabinets without creating more cluttered areas? Don’t have a lot of money to spend on storage units either? 

Look no further than the back of your linen closet or laundry closet door.  Purchase an inexpensive over the door plastic shoe bag and start filling it up. Not only does everything stay neater, they are more easily accessible when you need them and can be completely hidden away by simply closing the door. Storage doesn’t have to be expensive, free standing or cumbersome shelving units. Be creative and re-purpose items to fit your needs. And when prospective buyers are viewing your home, they’ll see this as a great idea and not that you lack storage space. Remember sometimes you just have to rethink and repurpose instead of reaching into your pocketbook!

 

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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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PREPARE – ORGANIZE – PACK – GO!

Let’s face it: a move is a major life event, and it can be stressful. That’s why every bit of prep work counts in reducing last-minute pressure. Think of each completed task as one step towards a smoother transition. A little prep work now  = a little less work later.plan ahead

To make your change as stress-free as possible, it’s a good idea to begin thinking about this process as you are preparing to put your home on the market and doing some decluttering. Once sold, continue your purging and preparing steps at least two months before your actual move date. Here are some specific ways you can plan ahead:

1. Do some “spring” (or summer, fall or winter) cleaning: Go through storage areas in particular, and pay attention to all those cluttered closets. Examine the garage and your basement. With every found item, ask yourself if it’s worth packing: if it isn’t, get rid of it. Create three categories: keep, sell or donate. You might not believe this but creating a trash category may give you the best sensation of being ready to move on!

2. The SELL pile–Hold a garage sale: Take everything you put into your sell pile and give every item a price tag. Hold a garage sale and pocket the proceeds-think of it as a moving fund that will help with supplies and miscellaneous needs. Selling some higher ticket items along with your ‘stuff’ items. Then consider hosting an “estate sale” vs yard or garage sale. Advertise on estate sale websites and on craigslist. People come with more cash on hand to estate sales than to the others. So what you’re still alive! It’s still all your “estate”.

3. The DONATE pileGive to a good charity: Anything you don’t sell, add to your donate pile and give it to charity.

4. The KEEP pile-Prepare to pack: This is what you’re bringing with you to your new home. Examine everything and get a good feel for just how much you need to transport.

5. Plan your strategy: Start thinking now about your moving method. Will you hire a mover? Compare prices. Are you asking friends to help? Set up a date now. Will you rent a truck and do everything yourself? Book the rental and begin planning. Create a organizational plan of which items will be going to your new home and which might be going from truck to storage locker until you’re ready to bring that stuff into your home. (ie: if it’s early in the year, you might want to send all your Christmas bins and boxes to storage and not deal with them at the new home at a time when you definitely won’t be using them.  Also, determine ahead of time to take the time to label all your boxes and bins boldly and prominently so you will have no confusion at the other end.

6. Gather supplies: Be ready to pack with all of these necessities. You’ll need plenty of sturdy boxes in various sizes, packing tape, scissors, bubble wrap and markers for labeling. You may decide to purchases specialty items from moving companies; however, a little research and hunting around could save you money. Look around online, ask friends and put the word out that you’re planning to move soon.

7. Put your paperwork in order: Let important people and businesses know about your upcoming change. Consider contacting banks, schools, employers, medical offices, and so on. Alerting them to the new address will be one less thing to do later. You might also want to get “Change of Address” cards. Fill them out now, so you can just drop them in the mail closer to your move date. Get a strong box to transport all your most important papers WITH YOU and not packed away in a moving truck where they can get lost. Consider getting a product like a Neat Desk that allows you to convert all your paper records to digital. You won’t do this with everything BUT there are many items that you do not need the original physical papers as long as you can print from the digital storage file.

Remember that moving can be an emotionally charged event. Being organized can at least eliminate the frustration of losing items and wasting time with regard to the physical event of moving.

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BEWARE OF RENTAL and RENT TO OWN SCAMS!

You’ve probably seen several listings online (often posted on Zillow and Craigslist) that seem “too good to be true” because of how low the rent is or because you can rent to own the property with very little down, low rent and a less than stellar credit score.  They seem too good to be true because most likely they are. These scams have become much more prevalent over the last couple of years and though your head might be screaming “This is a scam” your heart may be saying, “Wow it would be great to live in that neighborhood and maybe it’s true that the owner is building a bridge in Nigeria or has already moved and just wants to know that someone will love the home as much as they did”  and is looking for a perfect renter/buyer. Below are some red flags to look for and hopefully wave you in the other direction!

* They can’t meet you in person and show you the home because they are out of town or out of the country BUT they trust you so as soon as you send funds via wire transfer or Western Union to cover the security deposit and/or first or first and last month’s rent, they will send you the keys. Note: If they send you a long heartfelt email about why they can’t be there or share a sob story, google search the first couple of lines of the email and you may find that it is one that is used over and over again in the scam market. Run!

* Don’t assume because the ad includes a realtor’s name that this is an actual listing. Research the name, agency and phone number to see if they exist and are actively working in the marketplace. Even if you discover that they do exist and are actively working, take the extra very important step to see if the home is listed differently on the realtor’s website. If so, and clearly their listing has been hijacked by a scammer, take a moment and call the agent to let them know so they can handle it on their end and protect their client. Good Karma!

* They will always ask you for your personal and financial information either via the internet, an email or over the phone. SCAM! Hang up or shut down. Never provide any financial information over the phone or online to anyone you don’t know, haven’t met or cannot verify as legitimate.

* If you cannot tour the home with an agent or the owner prior to committing to the rental, take a pass! This is Scam 101!

* If they try to rush you because there are so many others who want the property and it’s first come “with the deposit”, think twice. This might be the case sometimes, but never rush without doing due diligence.

* If you see a home with a big Rent To Own regardless of credit or Rent to Own this home for a few hundred dollars move on to the next listing. These are typically fraudulent. Don’t hesitate to notify the site or even local law enforcement of these scams so as to protect others who might not have read this blog!

KEYS: Be diligent. Do your research. Don’t rush into anything. Decide with your mind and not your feelings. And as always, remember that usually if it seems too good to be true, it is!

 

 

 

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Help Your Teenager Be a Responsible Driver

They go from playing with toy cars to borrowing the car in a blink of an eye. It is just a matter of time before they are hitting the road and causing you to lose sleep worrying about them. Studies show that responsible kids are less likely to be in an accident or get tickets.

Prior to your child getting behind the wheel it is important that parents routinely discuss the responsibility of driving. At the wheel our children need to know that not only can they injure or kill themselves but also innocent people both in their car and in the surrounding traffic.

Insurance companies have our kids down to a science, they know that teenagers with a high grade point average (GPA) and teenage female drivers tend to be better drivers and consequently are rewarded with lower insurance rates. The longer your child stays accident and ticket free, the lower your insurance rate will be. An accountable student will be a safer driver.

Start by being good examples to your children…..don’t do any of things you would not want them to copy as new drivers. Don’t text, talk on the phone, eat, speed, etc.

Set clear ground rules and require your children to agree to them prior to driving on their own. If they know you will hold them accountable for their behavior while driving they will likely be better drivers.

One effective method of accountability is to have them sign a driving contract. See this sample: (Driving Rules Contract). A driving contract clearly lays out what you expect out of them and what will happen if they don’t adhere to the rules. (I had my child read it out loud to me prior to signing it.) Your job as a parent will be to keep it enforced.

We look forward to your comments and how helpful you find it.