Checklist: For a Better Home Showing

  • Remove clutter. Clear off counters and pack unnecessary decorative items. Put extra furniture in storage, and remove out-of-season items. Don’t forget to clean out the garage, too.
  • Let it shine. Cleaning windows and screens will help bring more light into your home. Replace burnt bulbs, and consider higher wattage in low-light areas. Clean the walls or brush on a fresh coat of bright, neutral paint. Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones and show off your view.
  • Keep it clean. A deep clean before listing your home will make upkeep easier. Consider hiring a cleaning service to help.
  • Maximize comfort. In summer, shut A/C vents on the first floor so more air will get upstairs. Reverse the process in winter.
  • Perform a sniff test. Clean carpeting and drapes to eliminate odors. Open the windows to air out the house. Consider potpourri or scented candles and diffusers. For quick fixes in the kitchen, cotton balls soaked in vanilla extract or orange juice can instantly make the fridge a nicer-smelling place. Boil lemon juice in your microwave, then add it to your dishwasher to eliminate odors. You can also run lemon rinds through the garbage disposal for a similar effect.
  • Take care of minor repairs. Sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, or a dripping faucet may seem trivial, but they’ll give buyers the impression that the house isn’t well-maintained.
  • Tidy up outdoors. Cut the grass, rake the leaves, add new mulch, trim the bushes, edge the walkways, and clean the gutters. A pot of bright flowers near the entryway adds great curb appeal.
  • Set the scene. A bright afghan or new accent pillows easily jazz up a dull room. Pretty dishes or a simple centerpiece on the tables can help buyers picture themselves living there. Try staging a chess game in progress. If you have a fireplace, lay fresh logs or a basket of flowers there.
  • Make the bath luxurious. Make sure your personal toiletry items are out of sight, along with old towels and toothbrushes. Add a new shower curtain and fancy guest soaps.
  • Send the pets to the neighbors. If that’s not possible, crate or confine them to one room, and let the real estate practitioner know where they’ll be to eliminate surprises.
  • Lock up valuables and medication. Agents can’t watch everyone all the time.
  • Head out. It can be awkward for everyone if you’re home at the time of a showing.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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How To Buy in a Tight Market

Increase your chances of getting your dream house in a competitive housing market.

Get prequalified for a mortgage.

You’ll be able to make a firm commitment to buy and your offer will be more desirable to the seller.

Stay in close contact with your real estate agent.

Your agent will be on the lookout for the newest listings that meet your criteria. Be ready to see a house as soon as it goes on the market — if it’s a great home, it will go fast.

Scout out new listings yourself.

Browse sources such as realtor.com and local real estate listing sites. Set up alerts for the neighborhoods and characteristics you’re looking for. Drive through your target neighborhoods, and if you see a home you like for-sale, send the address and listing agent’s name to your agent, who can schedule a showing for you.

Be ready to make a decision.

Spend plenty of time in advance deciding what you can afford and must have in a home so you won’t hesitate when you have the chance to make an offer.

Bid competitively.

Your first inclination may be to start out offering something less than the absolute highest price you can afford, but if you go too low in a tight market, you will likely lose out.

Keep contingencies to a minimum.

Restrictions such as needing to sell your home before you move can make your offer unappealing. Remember that, if the market is tight, you’ll probably be able to sell your house rapidly. You can also talk to your lender about getting a bridge loan to cover both mortgages for a short period.

But don’t get caught in a buying frenzy.

Just because there’s competition for a home doesn’t mean you should buy it. And even though you want to make your offer attractive, don’t neglect inspections that help ensure the house is a sound investment.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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How to Prepare for House-Hunting

Know that there’s no “right” time to buy.

If you find the perfect home now, don’t risk losing it because you’re trying to guess where the housing market and interest rates are going. Those factors usually don’t change fast enough to make a difference in an individual home’s price.
Don’t ask for too many opinions.

It’s natural to want reassurance for such a big decision, but too many ideas from too many people will make it much harder to make a decision. Focus on the wants and needs of the people who will actually be living in the home.
Accept that no house is ever perfect.

If it’s in the right location, the yard may be a bit smaller than you had hoped. The kitchen may be perfect, but the roof needs repair. Make a list of your top priorities and focus in on things that are most important to you. Let the minor ones go. Also, accept that a little buyer’s remorse is inevitable and will most likely pass.
Don’t try to be a killer negotiator.

Negotiation is definitely a part of the real estate process, but trying to “win” by getting an extra-low price or refusing to budge may cost you the home you love.
Remember your home doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Don’t get so caught up in the physical aspects of the house itself that you forget about important issues such as noise level, access to amenities, and other aspects that also have a big impact on your quality of life.
Plan ahead.

Don’t wait until you’ve found a home to get approved for a mortgage, investigate insurance, or consider a moving schedule. Being prepared will make your bid more attractive to sellers.
Choose a home first because you love it; then think about appreciation.

A home is still considered a great investment, but its most important role is as a comfortable, safe place to live.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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How to Clean When Your Home is For Sale

Executing a deep clean before putting your home on the market will not only help it shine, but it will make tidiness easier to maintain between showings. Here are some power-cleaning tips to try.

Clean windows make a huge difference.

Remove window screens and place them outside on a tarp or other clean, waterproof surface. Use a garden hose, an all-purpose cleaner, and a soft brush to gently clean the screens. You don’t need anything special to polish up window glass; just mix a solution of one part white vinegar to eight parts water, plus a drop or two of dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle. Wipe with newspaper to avoid streaks. (Washing on a cloudy day also reduces streaking.)

The fridge is the most common source of kitchen smells.

Check the drip tray underneath your refrigerator and wash out any standing water from defrosting. Scrub the inside of the fridge with a baking soda and water solution. Activated charcoal in the fridge can help keep odors at bay.

Think outside the house.

It’s amazing the difference a sparkling entryway makes to your home’s curb appeal. Wipe down your front door, give the doormat a good shake/vacuum, and make sure dust and dirt haven’t collected on outdoor furniture. Use a pressure washer to give your driveway and garage floor a good cleaning. The acidity in dark cola drinks can help remove oil, rust, and grease stains, along with a little elbow grease.

Target the Bathroom.

For tile floors, apply your usual cleaner and then run a wet/dry vac, which will suck contaminants out of the grout. Pour a quarter cup each of baking soda and vinegar down the drains, leaving the concoction overnight, then flush with boiling water. Clean soap scum and mildew from plastic shower curtains by tossing them into your washer on the gentle cycle in cold water, with detergent and ½ cup vinegar (if mildew is present, add ½ cup of bleach instead of vinegar). Put a couple of large towels into the machine to act as scrubbers. Allow the curtain to drip-dry on the rod.

Make your bed better.

Vacuum mattresses and box springs, and then rotate and flip over. Do the same for removable furniture cushions. This is also a great time to wash or dry-clean the dust ruffle and mattress pad. Add new loft to a lumpy comforter by having two people vigorously shake the quilt up and down to redistribute stuffing.

Wash the walls.

Grease, smoke, and dust can adhere to walls and make even the best decorating look dingy. Resist the temptation to spot-clean since it will make the rest of the wall look dirtier. Mop walls using a general-purpose cleaner diluted with hot water. Start at the top corner of the wall to avoid drips. Don’t press too hard, and rinse the mop head frequently in clean water. Use melamine foam cleaner to erase scuffs and stains.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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