17 Tips for Packing Like a Pro

Moving to a new home can be stressful, to say the least. Make it easy on yourself by planning far in advance and making sure you’ve covered all the bases.

  1. Plan ahead by organizing and budgeting. Develop a master “to do” list so you won’t forget something critical on moving day, and create an estimate of moving costs. (A moving calculator is available at REALTOR.com)
  2. Sort and get rid of things you no longer want or need. Have a garage sale, donate to a charity, or recycle.
  3. But don’t throw out everything. If your inclination is to just toss it, you’re probably right. However, it’s possible to go overboard in the heat of the moment. Ask yourself how frequently you use an item and how you’d feel if you no longer had it. That will eliminate regrets after the move.
  4. Pack similar items together. Put toys with toys, kitchen utensils with kitchen utensils. It will make your life easier when it’s time to unpack.
  5. Decide what, if anything, you plan to move on your own. Precious items such as family photos, valuable breakables, or must-haves during the move should probably stay with you. Don’t forget to keep a “necessities” bag with tissues, snacks, and other items you’ll need that day.
  6. Remember, most movers won’t take plants. If you don’t want to leave them behind, you should plan on moving them yourself.
  7. Use the right box for the item. Loose items are prone to breakage.
  8. Put heavy items in small boxes so they’re easier to lift. Keep the weight of each box under 50 pounds, if possible.
  9. Don’t over-pack boxes. It increases the likelihood that items inside the box will break.
  10. Wrap every fragile item separately and pad bottom and sides of boxes. If necessary, purchase bubble-wrap or other packing materials from moving stores.
  11. Label every box on all sides. You never know how they’ll be stacked and you don’t want to have to move other boxes aside to find out what’s there.
  12. Use color-coded labels to indicate which room each item should go in. Color-code a floor plan for your new house to help movers.
  13. Keep your moving documents together in a file. Include important phone numbers, driver’s name, and moving van number. Also keep your address book handy.
  14. Print out a map and directions for movers. Make several copies, and highlight the route. Include your cell phone number on the map. You don’t want movers to get lost! Also make copies for friends or family who are lending a hand on moving day.
  15. Back up your computer files before moving your computer. Keep the backup in a safe place, preferably at an off-site location.
  16. Inspect each box and all furniture for damage as soon as it arrives.
  17. Make arrangements for small children and pets. Moving can be stressful and emotional. Kids can help organize their things and pack boxes ahead of time, but, if possible, it might be best to spare them from the moving-day madness.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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Tips for Finding the Perfect Neighborhood

Your neighborhood has a big impact on your lifestyle. Follow these steps to find the perfect community to call home.

  • Is it close to your favorite spots? Make a list of the activities — movies, health club, church, etc. — you engage in regularly and stores you visit frequently. See how far you would have to travel from each neighborhood you’re considering to engage in your most common activities.
  • Check out the school district. This is especially important if you have children, but it also can affect resale value. The Department of Education in your town can probably provide information on test scores, class size, percentage of students who attend college, and special enrichment programs. If you have school-age children, visit schools in the neighborhoods you’re considering. Also, check out www.schoolmatters.com.
  • Find out if the neighborhood is safe. Ask the police department for neighborhood crime statistics. Consider not only the number of crimes but also the type — such as burglaries or armed robberies — and the trend of increasing or decreasing crime. Also, is crime centered in only one part of the neighborhood, such as near a retail area?
  • Determine if the neighborhood is economically stable. Check with your local city economic development office to see if income and property values in the neighborhood are stable or rising. What is the percentage of homes to apartments? Apartments don’t necessarily diminish value, but do mean a more transient population. Do you see vacant businesses or homes that have been for sale for months?
  • See if you’ll make money. Ask a local REALTOR® or call the local REALTOR® association to get information about price appreciation in the neighborhood. Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, this information may give you a sense of how good of an investment your home will be. A REALTOR® or the government planning agency also may be able to tell you about planned developments or other changes in the neighborhood — like a new school or highway — that might affect value.
  • Make personal observations. Once you’ve narrowed your focus to two or three neighborhoods, go there and walk around. Are homes tidy and well maintained? Are streets quiet? How does it feel? Pick a warm day if you can and chat with people working or playing outside.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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What is Appraised Value?

  • Appraisals provide an objective opinion of value, but it’s not an exact science so appraisals may differ.
  • For buying and selling purposes, appraisals are usually based on market value — what the property could probably be sold for. Other types of value include insurance value, replacement value, and assessed value for property tax purposes.
  • Appraised value is not a constant number. Changes in market conditions can dramatically alter appraised value.
  • Appraised value doesn’t take into account special considerations, like the need to sell rapidly.
  • Lenders usually use either the appraised value or the sale price, whichever is less, to determine the amount of the mortgage they will offer.

Used with permission from Kim Daugherty, Real Estate Checklists and Systems, www.realestatechecklists.com

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5 Factors That Decide Your Credit Score

Credit scores range between 300 and 850, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage. The following factors affect your score:

  1. Your payment history. Did you pay your credit card obligations on time? If they were late, then how late? Bankruptcy filing, liens, and collection activity also impact your history.
  2. How much you owe. If you owe a great deal of money on numerous accounts, it can indicate that you are overextended. However, it’s a good thing if you have a good proportion of balances to total credit limits.
  3. The length of your credit history. In general, the longer you have had accounts opened, the better. The average consumer’s oldest obligation is 14 years old, indicating that he or she has been managing credit for some time, according to Fair Isaac Corp., and only one in 20 consumers have credit histories shorter than 2 years.
  4. How much new credit you have. New credit, either installment payments or new credit cards, are considered more risky, even if you pay them promptly.
  5. The types of credit you use. Generally, it’s desirable to have more than one type of credit — installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage, for example.

For more on evaluating and understanding your credit score, visit www.myfico.com.

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5 Feng Shui Concepts to Help a Home Sell

To put the best face on a listing and appeal to buyers who follow feng shui principles, keep these tips in mind.

  1. Pay special attention to the front door, which is considered the “mouth of chi” (chi is the “life force” of all things) and one of the most powerful aspects of the entire property. Abundance, blessings, opportunities, and good fortune enter through the front door. It’s also the first impression buyers have of how well the sellers have taken care of the rest of the property. Make sure the area around the front door is swept clean, free of cobwebs and clutter. Make sure all lighting is straight and properly hung. Better yet, light the path leading up to the front door to create an inviting atmosphere.
  2. Chi energy can be flushed away wherever there are drains in the home. To keep the good forces of a home in, always keep the toilet seats down and close the doors to bathrooms.
  3. The master bed should be in a place of honor, power, and protection, which is farthest from and facing toward the entryway of the room. It’s even better if you can place the bed diagonally in the farthest corner. Paint the room in colors that promote serenity, relaxation, and romance, such as soft tones of green, blue, and lavender.
  4. The dining room symbolizes the energy and power of family togetherness. Make sure the table is clear and uncluttered during showings. Use an attractive tablecloth to enhance the look of the table while also softening sharp corners.
  5. The windows are considered to be the eyes of the home. Getting the windows professionally cleaned will make the home sparkle and ensure that the view will be optimally displayed.

Source: Sell Your Home Faster With Feng Shui, by Holly Ziegler (Dragon Chi Publications, 2001)

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Pros and Cons of Going Condo

Condominiums and townhouses offer an affordable option to single-family homes in many markets, and they’re ideal for those who appreciate a maintenance-free lifestyle. But before you buy, make sure you do your legwork. These are some of the important elements to consider:

  • Storage. Some condos have storage lockers, but usually there are no attics or basements to hold extra belongings.
  • Outdoor space. Yards and outdoor areas are usually smaller in condos, so if you like to garden or entertain outdoors, this may not be a good fit. However, if you dread yard work, this may be the perfect option for you.
  • Amenities. Many condo properties have swimming pools, fitness centers, and other facilities that would be very expensive in a single-family home.
  • Maintenance. Many condos have onsite maintenance personnel to care for common areas, do repairs in your unit, and let in workers when you’re not home — good news if you like to travel.
  • Security. Keyed entries and even doormen are common in many condos. You’re also closer to other people in case of an emergency.
  • Reserve funds and association fees. Although fees generally help pay for amenities and provide savings for future repairs, you will have to pay the fees decided by the condo board, whether or not you’re interested in the amenity.
  • Resale. The ease of selling your unit may be dependent on what else is for sale in your building, since units are usually fairly similar.
  • Condo rules. Although you have a vote, the rules of the condo association can affect your ability to use your property. For example, some condos prohibit home-based businesses. Others prohibit pets, or don’t allow owners to rent out their units. Read the covenants, restrictions, and bylaws of the condo carefully before you make an offer.
  • Neighbors. You’re much closer to your neighbors in a condo or town home. If possible, try to meet your closest prospective neighbors.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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Tips for Pricing Your Home

  • Consider comparables. What have other homes in your neighborhood sold for recently? How do they compare to yours in terms of size, upkeep, and amenities?
  • Consider competition. How many other houses are for sale in your area? Are you competing against new homes?
  • Consider your contingencies. Do you have special concerns that would affect the price you’ll receive? For example, do you want to be able to move in four months?
  • Get an appraisal. For a few hundred dollars, a qualified appraiser can give you an estimate of your home’s value. Be sure to ask for a market-value appraisal. To locate appraisers in your area, contact The Appraisal Institute or ask your REALTOR® for some recommendations.
  • Ask a lender. Since most buyers will need a mortgage, it’s important that a home’s sale price be in line with a lender’s estimate of its value.
  • Be accurate. Studies show that homes priced more than 3 percent over the correct price take longer to sell.
  • Know what you’ll take. It’s critical to know what price you’ll accept before beginning a negotiation with a buyer.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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