Let’s face it, first impressions matter. We care about how we dress for a job interview, and we spent extra time in front of the mirror before that first date. When it comes to selling a home, first impressions matter, too. Its all about curb appeal!
The term “curb appeal” derives from real estate sales and home design. For years, buyers have formed their first impressions of homes while standing in the street or sitting inside the car, just beyond the curb. Before the advent of text messaging and smartphones, a buyer would get a phone call or fax from their agent about a new listing. The initial drive-by would determine whether or not they would go for an actual showing.
To get that buyer in the door, the seller spent hours, even days, seeding new grass and planting flowers, painting their front door, mulching, weeding and cleaning up the yard. If the home didn’t appeal from the curb, buyers moved on to the next house. Curb appeal was always the single most important piece of the home sale puzzle.
Today, curb appeal still matters — but it matters differently. Almost every buyer forms their first impression from a home’s online photos.
Instead of driving to your home, buyers will scroll through pictures of both the outside and the inside, before ever stepping foot inside. What’s more, they may never come to see it if they don’t like what they see online.
While the exterior of your home should be high on your priority list, it is most valuable only when the buyer walks up or drives by. But they may not ever get that far.
The interior also needs to show your home in its best possible light, because Web appeal has become the new curb appeal. And if your home doesn’t photograph well — either because you didn’t have it professionally shot, didn’t post high-resolution photos, or you haven’t taken the time to prep it — then curb appeal won’t even make a difference.
What sellers should do
Sellers need to spend ample time preparing the inside of their home and getting great photos, so buyers will form the best possible impression.
The downside for sellers is that they have to work so much harder than they did just 15 years ago. In our ever-more-visual society, buyers make immediate judgments about a home within moments of clicking on the new listing on their smartphone.
Sellers only have one chance to make a good impression. The home still needs to look good from the curb — but to get the buyers there in person, it needs to look great on the Web.
Let’s face it, buyers form their first impression of your home based on the online listing. As they say, Web appeal is the new curb appeal. So get ready for your home’s first showing by taking preparation seriously.
If you are serious about selling your home, you have to take your listing photo shoot very seriously. If your photos don’t excite buyers, they may not step foot inside.
You should prepare for your photo shoot as much as you would for an open house or private showing. Work alongside an excellent local real estate agent , and follow these tips to make sure your home looks its best.
Never list your home online without photos
Today’s buyers get email and text alerts when a new home that matches their criteria hits the market. There is nothing more frustrating than to see the desired address come across as an alert, only for the listing to be incomplete.
Buyers (and agents) will punish you for jumping the gun. Will they go back later and look again, once you have the photos up? Maybe — but maybe not.
You’re adding an extra step for them, and it comes across like you don’t have your ducks in a row. That’s not a great way to start out with your future customer.
Clean, declutter, organize and remove
You should spend a good amount of time preparing for your photo shoot. This means that you fluff the pillows, put toilet seats down, put Fido’s bowl and toys away, and ensure the home is in impeccable condition.
A tidy home free of clutter appeals to buyers. Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
People can zoom in, zoom out and play with photos in online listings. They’ll notice everything. If your photos don’t show your home well, it sends a message to the buyer that you don’t care, and that you are not a serious seller.
The buyer is your customer. You have a product for sale. Take the time to present it in the best possible light.
Poor photos won’t cut it
Images that are blurry, poorly lit, or distorted are not going to sell your home.
It’s a good idea to hire a professional photographer who will take high-resolution photos, and even bring extra lighting or equipment to enhance their work. They’ll also take dozens of pictures and work tirelessly to show your home in the right light and from the best angles.
Well-lit photos show off your home’s assets. Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Don’t skimp on the number of photos
When it comes to photos, the more, the merrier. You want to make it easy on buyers to get comfortable with and learn more about your home.
Not only are the listing photos their initial impression, but they serve to help orient the buyer after the first or second showing. Once they have been through the home in person, they are better able to relate to the floor plan and how it flows. Going back to the listing photos allows them to make connections and dig deeper. Encourage them to do so by posting plenty of photos.
Get Ready To Sell- in The Spring Real Estate Market
With spring being the busiest time for real estate, homeowners planning to put their homes on the market shouldn’t wait for flowers to bloom before getting ready to sell. Having a few months to prepare and getting ready, can translate into more money in your pocket.
Here are some things you can do now to get ready for a spring sale:
Clear Away the Clutter
Once your home is on the market you’ll need to keep it as neat as possible. One way to make that easier is to reduce the amount of clutter you have on your shelves and surfaces. Put away items that are regularly on your kitchen sink and completely clear off your kitchen counter-top . Clean off your refrigerator completely and remove all but a handful of family photos, in this case- less is more. Pack away your collections, they may detract attention from buyers looking at your house- you want them to focus on what may be their new home . Pack away most of your books. Go through your closet and pack away or throw away or donate clothes you don’t need, making your closet look bigger and more attractive to potential buyers. While everyone has clutter, buyers want to see a fantasy version of your house, in which they can envision living.
It may seem premature to start packing months in advance of your move, but since you’ll eventually need to do this anyway, you might as well get organized now. You can sort through your storage closets, attic, basement or garage to determine what you want to keep, what to give away and what to sell. Also, now is the time to throw away old furniture that you don’t want to move to your new home. Boxing up items will make your space look larger and neater when it’s time to show your home. You can also get an idea of whether you need to rent a storage facility while your home is on the market.
While you don’t necessarily want to do a major, expensive renovation project before you sell, you can make minor repairs and improvements that will make your home look fresher to buyers. Try things such as replacing the caulk and grout in your bathroom, updating old or rusted ceiling fans and light fixtures, and changing switch plates, doorknobs and other hardware for a clean and neat appearance. Consider painting your front door and trim even if your rooms don’t need new paint. Clean your carpet and hire a professional cleaner to start a baseline and make upkeep easier.
Research Your Market
If you plan to buy another home, an important decision to make is whether to sell your home first or make an offer on a new home before putting yours on the market. A knowledgeable REALTOR can help you evaluate how fast homes are selling in your market and help you estimate how long it will take you to find a home. This decision also depends on your financing, so you may want to consult with a lender to see how you can finance the transition from one home to another if you choose not to sell your home first. Go over the listing paperwork now so you will be able negotiate commission and listing time frames.
Relocating to an Unfamiliar Area? Here’s How to Get Your Bearings
By Patricia-Anne Tom- Realtor.com
Choosing a home in an unfamiliar neighborhood can be nerve-racking, but it’s almost inevitable when moving to a new city—or even across town. There’s a lot at stake: The wrong decision can cost you money and peace of mind.
Here are some tips to guide you in your search.
Mission: Neighborhood reconnaissance
As with any house hunt, you should first figure out your budget and what you would need, want, and like to have in a house and in a neighborhood. But if you’re relocating across the country, your biggest challenge will be doing long-distance recon on your new hometown.
While you can’t gain access to private social networks such as Nextdoor until you verify you have an address in a neighborhood, a little cybersleuthing will reveal insights on day-to-day life and concerns in areas you’re scouting.
Once you know the general area in which you’d like to live, websites such as City-Datacan collect and analyze data from numerous sources to create detailed profiles of U.S. cities, including information from crime rates to weather patterns. Homefacts includes similar information, then drills down further, listing neighborhood statistics such as median home price, homes for sale, and foreclosures.
AreaVibes can help you narrow down a search; after you type a ZIP code or city in which you’d like to live, you can adjust metrics such as amenities, crime, cost of living, and housing prices to compile a list of neighborhoods that match your “livability” needs.
Speaking of lists, Livability regularly develops city rankings for a range of topics, including small towns, college towns, and overall best places to live.
The Chamber of Commerce in many towns will also provide a guide for people who are relocating. Also, look for news on property taxes in recent years—falling property taxes likely mean that communities have had to cut back on public services.
If you have children, you’ll want to read up on local public schools on GreatSchools.org, as well as determine what day care and after-school activities are nearby. Even if you don’t have children, good schools are a major factor in determining home values in a neighborhood.
No neighborhood is perfectly tranquil, but check CrimeReports.com for crime reports and maps to get a sense of where an area falls on the spectrum. You should also visit theNational Sex Offender registry and FamilyWatchdog.us, which will identify registered sex offenders living in the area. NeighborhoodScout.com will consolidate crime, school, and real estate data in one report, as well as compile lists on safe cities and neighborhoods with good schools.
Draw on a professional’s expertise
If there is one time above all when you’d really benefit from working with a real estate agent with deep knowledge of an area, it’s when moving to a new town.
A knowledgable professional should be able to provide recommendations and compile background information on neighborhoods and homes that fit your needs and price range. Come prepared with a neighborhood or neighborhoods you like, and he or she can give you more information or suggest similar alternatives.
Get down with the locals
monkeybusinessimages / iStock
Once you’ve done the research and found a neighborhood you like, drive by several times during the day and at night. Look for the following:
Are there many “for sale” signs on lawns?
Are there any abandoned or boarded-up houses in the vicinity?
Is there a lot of trash on the sidewalks?
Is the neighborhood close to a shopping or business area?
How well are neighborhood parks maintained?
Is street parking restricted after school and during rush hour?
If you have time, try to get a drink in a local bar or a cafe and talk to people there. Apps like Meetup and AroundMe will help you connect with people in a town that have similar interests, as well as help you find the nearest hot spot.
These will be your potential neighbors, so they will provide valuable impressions on whether you’ll be pleased with where you eventually live.
Updated from an earlier version by Herbert J. Cohen
The things we consider to be must-have home features are constantly changing—less than a half-century ago, plush, “can’t see my feet” shag carpeting (in bold colors such as gold, orange, and purple) was all the rage, and kitchen appliances came in coordinating hues. A quarter-century ago there was no HGTV to tell us to knock down a wall to open up the kitchen or swap out bathroom vanities. And just a few years back, tiny homes were just, well, really small homes.
We wondered what home qualities are must-haves right now, what the up-and-comers are, and what’s heading straight for the dustbin of home features history. To find out, our data team dug deep into our millions of listings and sifted out the most commonly used phrases for home features, going back five years.
Voila! Here are the 20 features that are most often touted in our listings. These are the stuff that home dreams are made of—a mixture of classic favorites and rising stars.
At first glance, the results aren’t too surprising. After all, who doesn’t love fireplaces and wood floors? (Well, other than those who prefer carpet, which is No. 3.)
“Rather than a barometer of trends, those are really adoptioncycles,” says Javier Vivas, data analyst at realtor.com®. “It’s more about how long it takes a particular new feature to become prevalent. It’s like car technology: First you see the cutting-edge stuff in luxury cars, then it spreads into the mainstream.”
Listings have gotten ever-more detailed and adorned in recent years, and certain features appear more and more often as selling points. So popularity among listing descriptions is kind of like being listed on the S&P 500—it shows that a feature is no passing trend. For example, granite countertops, once a splurge, are now a go-to feature—they’ve shot up from being mentioned in 8% of listings in 2011 to 13% today.
Got it? Good. Let’s go home shopping! Don’t forget to bring your checkbook.
Fireplace (No. 1)
On a chilly night, nothing competes with snuggling up near a crackling fire—or maybe it’s the hissing, considering that the leading type of fireplace mentioned in 3.2% of our listings is gas. After all, it’s easy to clean and maintain and comes in some cool modern designs. Still, there’s nothing like the charm of a wood-burning fireplace, and its popularity is picking up fast.
And in total, fireplaces—wood-burning, gas, brick, stone, or kiva—are the stars of 23.8% of our listings.
Always popular, the classic elegance of a wood floor continues to gain ground, particularly since last year. Not surprisingly, carpeting’s popularity seems to rise and fall in opposition to wood. It’s made a comeback before, but wood seems to be pulling ahead. In 2015, wood floors appeared in 15% of listing descriptions, 2 percentage points ahead of carpet.
Meanwhile, the tile floor—though never a major contender for the top spot—has slipped from No. 4 in 2011 (when it beat out walk-in closet and open floor plan) to today’s No.10. Still, it will probably hold onto its niche in humid, warm climates such as that of Florida.
Granite counter (No. 4)
Once a rare luxury, granite has become more affordable and is now practically standard for anyone who gives a hoot about kitchen design. It shot to fame quickly over the past five years, making its slick presence felt in 13% of all listings. For those who think all this trendy granite craziness is on the wane, reports of its death, as Mark Twain might (or might not!) have said, are greatly exaggerated—at least according to our listings data.
Stainless-steel appliances (No. 5)
With their elegant and modern appearance fitting into almost any kitchen design, stainless-steel appliances have made their way into more and more households since the 1990s. “Stainless” is now mentioned in 9% of all listings, almost double its share of five years ago.
Open floor plan (No. 6) vs. formal dining room (No. 8)
A house divided? Not these days. Separate living rooms, dining areas, and kitchens have been edged out by the open floor plan, which knocks down or eliminates walls to create a sense of spaciousness and light.
The open floor plan has seen a rapid increase in popularity, and in 2014 it surpassed the formal dining room for the first time. In 2015, an open floor plan is the fifth most popular feature, representing 8% of listings. The much-debated open kitchen, which encompasses the dining as well as the cooking area, also made it onto the list at No. 9.
Walk-in closet (No. 7)
In a time of over-the-top “glam rooms” dedicated to, um, getting ready, the walk-in closet is another feature that has seemingly gone from luxe to a near necessity. Stashing all your clothes in a shallow closet with hangers crammed together and no shelves? How primitive! It’s no wonder 7% of home listings mention walk-in closets as a big selling point.
Chef’s kitchen (No. 16) vs. open kitchen (No. 10)
The kitchen used to be all business—a place to churn out meals, nothing more. Again, we’ll point the finger at TV—not just HGTV, but also the Food Network—for fueling homeowners’ desire for a kitchen worthy of a chef, featuring a center island, a large stove/oven with hood, and granite or marble counters (see No. 3).
And it’s not just for cooking, but also for hanging out while you prepare the meal—especially if you have an open kitchen, touted in 5.7% of listings. We’ll also point out that five of the top 20 home features are kitchen-related.
Garden tub (No. 20)
No, a garden tub is not set amid the lovely and fragrant rose beds so you can bathe in the open air (and get bitten by insects). The term generally refers to a wider and deeper bathtub that usually has steps but no jets. Nice! Providing a relaxing soaking experience with less cost and cleaning difficulty, the garden tub has gained popularity over the years, but it’s still a niche feature.
We’ve talked about features that have made their way into the mainstream, but we also saw a couple that are clearly on their way out:
House with vinyl siding
Vinyl siding was once one of the most popular cladding choices, because it’s affordable, long-lasting, and virtually maintenance-free. But over the years it’s become something of a gauche punch line in some quarters. It’s no wonder its lead has slipped substantially in recent years, while fiber cement is gaining ground, according to PlasticsNews.com.
Oak and cherry cabinets
The last time honey oak cabinets were trending, Monica-gate was a thing, Will Smith was the prince of Bel-Air, and Y2K loomed as the biggest threat the world faced. Yes, the ’90s were particularly friendly to oak cabinetry and cherry wasn’t far behind, popularitywise, but those days are long past. Today you’ll be hard-pressed to find either in listings or in new home construction. But maple cabinets? Welcome to the future!
If you’ve been on the fence about buying a home, 2016 is the year to take the plunge. Mortgage rates have been bouncing around record lows for a while now. But even though they’re likely to start going up, you haven’t missed your chance to get a deal on a house. A number of factors are coming together, making next year a good time to buy, 4 reasons 2016 is the year to buy a home; 1. Home prices will finally calm down
Real estate values have been on the rise for a while, but are likely to slow their pace next year. Prices are expected to rise 3.5%, according to Zillow’s Chief Economist Svenja Gudell.
Buyers who’ve been stuck behind the wave of rising prices may finally get the chance to jump in.
And that could lead to a flood of buyers, said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Realtor.com.
“We have the potential for about six million home sales just through the months of April through September; that is basically impossible to do,” he said.
Related: These are the most expensive housing markets
But not everyone will be in a position to take advantage.
Despite the slowdown, Zillow still expects home values to outpace wage growth, which can make it tough to afford a home, especially for lower-income buyers.
Plus, prices in the country’s hottest markets — like San Francisco, Boston and New York City — aren’t expected to pull back as much next year. 2. More homes will hit the market
The slowdown in home prices will prompt more owners to list their homes, Smoke said, giving buyers more choice.
“Because of the price appreciation they have experienced, you will have more sellers put homes on the market next year,” he said.
Related: How to buy a home without a 20% down payment
The new home market is also expected to grow in the coming year with builders focusing more on starter and middle-range homes, which will also boost inventory and make it easier for buyers.
With more homes on the market, bidding wars will become less common and prices could ease even more. 3. Dirt cheap mortgages could disappear
The Federal Reserve is widely expected to begin increasing interest rates soon, which means the window for record low mortgage rates is closing.
While rates are expected to go up gradually, higher rates push up borrowing costs and monthly mortgage payments.
“You are likely to get the best rate you will possibly see, perhaps in your lifetimes through the majority of next year, but certainly, the earlier the better,” said Smoke. 4. Rents will still hurt
Rent prices are expected to continue to climb in the new year, which means in most cities, buying will be cheaper than renting.
Even though mortgages could get more expensive, buying might still be the better deal.
Interest rates would need to rise to around 6.5% for the cost of buying to equal that of renting on a national level, according to Ralph McLaughlin, housing economist at Trulia.
In a strong market, if a home is priced right and shows well, it should sell within the first six weeks. If it doesn’t, many sellers become frustrated, especially if their agent begins pushing for a price reduction. The seller may think the agent just wants a quick sale, but the agent sincerely wants to help the seller get action. Agents understand that a listing loses momentum and excitement soon after being listed. Buyers will think of a home as stale, tired, or flawed if it sits on the market too long. Agents and buyers alike will view the stale listing as a problem home- and wonder why it has sat and often will be overlooked and not shown. It is important to price your home right for your best financial outcome.
If your home is not generating offers, there are ways to get more action.
Home Condition, Updates and Price
You can’t change your home’s location, but you do have some control over the other two important buyer considerations. If the home is still sitting on the market after a couple of months, and especially if it has had no showings or offers, you need to look at the price and the condition. The most activity a new listing will receive happens in the first two weeks, and sellers are likely to get the best price at that time.
You have two big choices to make if you are ready to sell. The first is to take the home off the market and make some changes, such as more staging, de-cluttering, and altering the look of the kitchens and bathrooms.
If you are unwilling or unable to make the needed changes to the home, the other option is to reduce the price. Even if your house is the absolute best home in the neighborhood but the setting is not private or on a busy road , the only option will be to drop the price.
Make sure you and your agent are on the same page
Your agent is a professional and has experience and knowledge that will benefit you, however, you are the home owner and all decisions are ultimately yours. If you and your agent don’t see eye-to-eye on the pricing or sales strategy prior to listing, it might be time to find another agent. While it is your job to prepare your home for the day it becomes “active” on the listing service and internet, it is the agents job to be completely prepared as well. Your agent should be very clear about the service and timeline you should expect. The agent should research and the homework regarding sold homes prices, days on market for similar homes and the difference in upgrades, updates and condition between your home and others that are on the market now or have recently sold. You should be consulted on when your home will be photographed, what marketing will be done and where it will appear, open houses, brochures, and plans for the sign post. Your agent should diligently follow up will all agents who have showed the house and all interested parties.
Discuss your intentions and plan with your agent upfront, and listen to her feedback. Reducing the listed price may be necessary- but you will have to see firsthand how the market works in your neighborhood. Listen to the feedback your agent is gathering and reporting to you, and take action to address repeated criticisms.
It is so important to work with an agent who is understands the area market and will work with your strategy and can help you adapt to sell your home for the best price.
You’ve found your new home — congrats! But before you dream about settling in and cozying up on your couch for a Netflix binge, you have to actually prep for and execute that big move.
While the process of moving can be exhausting, planning your move doesn’t have to be. Check out these apps to help ease your transition into your new home — and get you closer to that movie night.
Home Inventory Photo Remote
Antsy to start planning your move, but feeling overwhelmed about where to begin? Creating an inventory of the items you intend to take with you is easy with Home Inventory Photo Remote. The app allows you to take photos of your items and then group them by category, collection and even location — keeping you so organized that none of your family members can use the excuse, “I don’t remember where anything goes!”
Once you’re unpacked, the information you’ve gathered in the app will serve as an inventory of your possessions should the unexpected happen and you have to file an insurance claim.
The My Move app lets you read moving company reviews, complete a moving checklist for every step of the process, calculate the weight of the items you plan to take with you, and more. Perfect for calculating potential costs, My Move helps you plan your move on your own terms — and your budget.
Moving Checklist Pro
If you’re just looking for a thorough moving checklist, Moving Checklist Pro comes with a list of 200+ common household moving items, and you can add your own, too. Creating your own custom lists — such as schools to research, services to cancel or items to return — ensures that you’ll never forget a thing. And if you find that this app doesn’t quite meet your needs, Jimbl Software Labs will even refund your purchase.
Once your moving itinerary is planned and you’re on the road, Gogobot is a must to download. Referred to as “a Pandora for travel” by TechCrunch and named “one of the best free apps for travel” by Mom Aboard, Gogobot offers you personalized recommendations on where to eat, play and stay wherever you are on your moving journey.
Moving can be a pain, but these apps can make it a bit less of a headache. No need to wait until you have a moving date to try, though. Download a few of our favorite moving help apps today and see which one best meets your moving need.
The single most important factor to consider when selling a house is pricing the house correctly; it’s choosing the right list price: how much your house is worth. Over pricing the house will cause it to sit on the market and lose the freshness of the home’s appeal after the first two to three weeks of showings. After a month on the market, demand and interest can wane and after that a listing can become stale to potential buyers. It is a tough concept, because no one wants to chance leaving money on the table, but pricing the home just below fair market value will often cause a seller to receive multiple offers, which will then drive up the price to market price or above. Pricing is all about supply and demand. It’s part art and part science. Beware of the realtor that advises a list price way above the range of sold home prices in your neighborhood, choosing to list with that agent may be setting you up for the delay or even failure to sell your home.
Pricing your home to sell may not be as simple as you think. Looking at what similar homes in your immediate neighborhood that have sold for in the past 6 months to a year will give you some, but not all of the data you will need to calculate the list price. It is important to compare apples to apples when looking at the comparable recently sold homes. Compare and consider not just how many bedrooms or bathrooms, but also is the basement finished, is the yard nicely landscaped, how many garage spaces are offered? Look at homes’ sizes (square feet), style, condition and if updates and renovations have been done. A good real estate professional will format all of the information for you and help you to make the comparisons to come to the right listing price that will get you the most money possible for your home sale.
Using a real estate professional can save you money in the end by helping in pricing your home to sell quickly and for the best sale price. A good agent will assess what improvements should be made prior to putting your house on the market. Many times the first step is to de-clutter; when selling your home, the less-is-more concept is the way to go. Your agent should be honest and direct in telling you what needs painting and repair or replacing before making your listing “active on the market”. You only have one chance to make a good impression, and that goes for the list price and your homes presentation.
Clean It Up: It can be hard tosee that your home needs de-cluttering or painting when you live in it day after day. Ask for help in getting an honest opinion from your real estate professional about what needs to be done to prepare your home for sale. A good agent will be honest, even though it can be a tough talk for sellers. Don’t be offended when you are told; the front door needs painting and the kids winter sporting equipment needs to be stored. The more you can do to present your home in the best possible way before it goes on the market, the better the outcome.
Price it right: It’s natural to be emotionally attached to your home, especially if you’ve lived there a long time. But allowing this affection to obscure the realities of the home’s market value is a serious mistake. Pricing the property at or below comparable homes in the area, even if the price point is less than what you think your home is worth will result in selling your home and getting the most money for the sale. Scout the competition; sellers might price a home too high because they’re simply unaware of the dynamics of their real-estate market. To sell your home, it’s essential to have a firm grasp on the conditions in your area. Sellers should study the pricing trends and sales data in their local market. Overpricing a home because of an emotional attachment only makes selling it that much more difficult.
Leave: It’s important for sellers to be away from the home during open houses (and take your pets with you). If a seller remains at home during an open house, buyers will be distracted from really looking at the house and come away with uneasy feeling, and that is the feeling they will associate with the house. Trust that you have prepped the house for sale and your agent will represent your interests well.
Be Objective: Don’t take negotiations personally. Buyers may demand concessions such as price reductions or help with closing costs, it’s important that sellers consider the terms just another part of a business transaction. Even if you think a buyer’s offer is offensive or absurd, don’t dismiss it out of hand. Your goal is to sell your home, counter-offer every offer that is presented to you.
301-437-8722/ 202-364-1700 Real Estate Professional Licensed in Maryland, Virginia & Washington, DC