The paperwork required from home sellers has become rather complex, a good agent will help you navigate your home sale. Seller disclosure statements and jurisdictional forms include and inform of any known defects to the home as well as airports, new roads and forest protection areas as well as actual taxes, future estimated taxes and a range of environmental concerns. To protect yourself from liability, it is important to fill out these forms thoroughly and accurately. Your realtor will help you to navigate the correct forms and required paperwork.
Find the right realtor
In the maze of forms, financing, inspections, marketing, pricing, and negotiating, it makes sense to work with a professional who knows the community, has experience with the process and who you can trust to navigate your home sale.
Price it right- from the start
Several factors, including market conditions, your home’s condition and recent neighborhood home sales will determine how you should price your home. In other words, home selling is part art, part science, part marketing, and part negotiation. A house that starts out over priced takes longer to sell and likely sells for less. Your real estate agent will supply you will the latest stats and help you to price your home right.
Plan your move
UNCLUTTER! (and pack) Cleaning out closets, the basement, and the attic, you will have less to do once the home is under contract. Your agent will share resources for junk haulers, and charity organizations for donations .
Market your house for maximum exposure
Your Realtor should share a marketing plan with you, the more you know about the process of selling your home the easier it is to support your Realtor’s efforts. The photo’s and brochures, internet and print ad should be in place before the big launch of making your house active on the market.
Repair, Prepare, and Move
Your Realtor will help you stage your home- which sometimes means removing furniture, and will suggest landscaping and other improvements. She will also help you find great licensed contractors, a mover and other professionals you may need to facilitate the moving process.
Negotiate the offer
Whether you have one offer or several to consider, your agent will help you bottom line the offer and present your options to you- accept, counter-offer or reject.
Your Realtor will help you with finding great licensed contractors, movers, and finally — find you a great new house!!!
Find out as much as you can about the home buying process and the specific property in which you have interest- how long has the home has been on the market, are there other interested buyers, are there other offers on the table currently, and is there a specific day the sellers will review the offers.
Your agent should send you the last six months of recent sales data to review and compare. These “comps” tell about the most recent market and what current buyers/sellers have agreed on for a sale price. Compare the comps with the subject property; square feet, renovations of kitchen, bathrooms, age of systems (HVAC, water heater, septic) roof, windows, and landscaping. The location in the area or neighborhood also will be a factor in determining the property value, a home on a side street or cul-de-sac may be more appealing than one on a busy road or next to commercial space.
Also review the pending sales (homes under contract, but not yet settled) and see if your agent can uncover some information about those transactions. You want to ask about the number of offers they received or a ballpark selling price. The pending sales represent the most up-to-date market statistics. Your agent’s opinion of the home’s value and any other relevant factors can all factor into your offer price.
Call your lender
Your lender should be one of your first contacts in the home buying process to make sure you are are looking in the right price range. Let her know you plan to make an offer on the home. Not only will you need a pre-approval letter with your offer, but you will want an update on mortgage rates and products, since these change daily.
From the time you applied for pre-approval until now, there could have been a massive shift in rates or a new product that could benefit you. For all you know, you can afford more, or that bonus you received last month could mean a higher down payment and qualifying for a better product.
In addition to price and financing, you will need to decide on terms including the settlement date, the settlement company, how much of a earnest money deposit you will put down and any contingencies you will include in the offer to purchase/contract.
Contingencies are the details that have to be satisfied before you and the seller are locked into the commitment to transfer of the property ownership. Each contingency gives you an opportunity to do and inspections, ask for/negotiate repairs, secure financing or void the contract- the seller can also void the contract in some cases. You will need to decide which, if any, contingencies you will include: home inspection, radon inspection, appraisal, financing, home sale, and others.
How long many days will you take for your inspections? Do you want to close quickly or take a longer time? Will you need an appraisal and loan contingency? How long should that be?
The terms of your offer can make or break your deal. If the seller wants a quick close, and you can do it, give it to them. If you are competing with a cash offer, make your offer as stream-lined and with the least amount of contingencies you are comfortable with.
Make the offer!
Once you decide to move forward, do it. Waiting to see what happens in terms of a price reduction or if anyone else if interested is only working against your own best interest. Offer less if you perceive the property to be over- priced instead of waiting for a reduction and certainly don’t wait for the competition.
There are 4 components to an offer;
the contract – with offer price, contingencies, settlement company, financing arrangements and settlement date.
lender letter -stating you are qualified for the purchase price
financial information sheet – a document supplied by your agent detailing your financial situation- and ability to purchase (brag sheet).
earnest money deposit check – customarily 2%-3% of the purchase price- (although it can be more or less).
While you should give your best effort for the home you want, there will be other homes if that one gets away. Make certain you are immediately notified when a home comes on the market in your preferred neighborhoods by having your agent set up an automatic email from the MRIS for you, so you don’t miss anything. Have faith that another great home will come along in the future and- and be ready!
Owning a home can be a big expense, but the good news is some of your expenses are actually tax deductible. Read on to see how you can maximize homeownership write-offs on your tax return. (Note that this information is valid for tax year 2015 only.)
You can deduct all of the mortgage interest (not principal) payments you make on your home, up to a $1-million loan for a couple filing jointly. This applies to your home equity line of credit (on a loan up $100,000) and second mortgage as well.
If you own a second home, such as a vacation cottage or mobile home, you can deduct the mortgage interest for it as well, so long as you reside there for the longer of 14 days per year or 10 percent of the time it is rented out.
Mortgage points and insurance
In addition to the mortgage interest, you can also deduct the points you pay on your mortgage for your main home in the year you pay them, as well as points paid for a home equity loan. Points paid for refinancing your home mortgage generally have to be amortized over the length of the loan.
You can also deduct any premiums paid for private mortgage insurance (PMI) on your loan if you earned less than $109,000 in 2015 and the policy was taken out after 2006.
As strange as it sounds, you can deduct taxes on your taxes! Your property taxes are a deductible expense. Keep your property tax bills and proof of payment.
If you have some sort of home-based business, you may be entitled to a home office deduction on your taxes. There are several hoops to jump through to qualify for the deduction, the two biggest being that your home must be your primary place of business, and that you use the office space only for work. (The IRS spells out the rules for claiming the home office deduction in Publication 587.)
There are two ways to calculate your deduction. Under the simplified option, you can deduct $5 per square foot of your home office’s area, up to a maximum 300 square feet.
The more complex (but often more advantageous) option involves dividing the square footage of your office by the total square footage of your home; this yields the “business percentage” of your home. You then multiply allowable home costs — namely mortgage interest and utilities — by the business percentage to arrive at the deductible amounts.
If you implemented energy-efficient improvements to your home, you can get a credit of up to 10 percent of the cost of those improvements, to a maximum of $500. This covers expenses like new windows and doors, insulation, and high-efficiency heating and cooling systems. You could also get a credit for 30 percent of the cost of renewable energy systems, like solar power.
There could also be state tax credits for these items as well which you can stack on top of your federal credit.
Medical home improvements
If you have a medical condition that necessitates home improvements, such as adding a stair lift because you have arthritis or an air filter because your spouse suffers from allergies, you may be able to write off some of these costs as part of your medical deduction.
However, you can deduct only that portion of your medical costs that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (7.5 percent if you are 65 or older).
And in most cases, you can deduct only the difference between the cost of the equipment and the increase in value to the home from this improvement. Some improvements (such widening doorways to accommodate a wheelchair) add no marketable value to the home but are fully deductible if you meet certain income requirements.
If you sold your home in the last year, you could be eligible for some tax savings resulting from that transaction. The costs of your real estate agent’s fees, advertising, and title insurance are deductible expenses. You can also deduct improvements you made to the home in order to sell it, but only if you have a taxable capital gain from the sale.
If your home was damaged by weather, fire, theft, or another disaster, you’ve suffered a casualty loss, a portion of which may be deductible. If your loss was greater than 10 percent of your income and was not covered by insurance, you can deduct the loss. You’ll need to be able to document the value of what was lost, however.
INTERIOR DESIGN TRENDS YOU MIGHT WANT TO STAY AWAY FROM
TRENDS YOU MIGHT WANT TO STAY AWAY FROM
We all want our homes to be updated and inclusive of the latest trends. But not all of them are right for everyone. We cautioned last year against open shelving in the kitchen and a few other trends that might not be right for everyone. We’ve added a few more this year.
Vanity with no storage
The hottest look in bathrooms right now is the pedestal sink with an industrial metal base. The look is upscale, hotel spa-like, simple. But the function leaves a little to be desired. If you need more storage than the ZERO shelves, drawers, and cabinets this bathroom vanity provides, this might not be the look for you.
For us, few things are as alluring as an all-marble kitchen. A huge countertop sheathed in Carrara or Calacatta is better than…well, lots of things. But there goes that function issue again. Marble requires diligence. If you’re not meticulously clean and constantly attentive to things like your kid’s juice cup or your wine glass, you could end up wishing you’d gone with quartz.
“How do you live? Are you the type of homeowner who picks up after yourself after each use in the kitchen? Or are you a busy on-the-go homeowner, where a kitchen counter wouldn’t get wiped down until the next morning?,” asked Houzz. “Acid from substances such as red wine, marinara sauce, blueberries and even lemons can tarnish the look of the marble if left to sit overnight.”
It’s beautiful, it’s bold, and it’s bound to be out of style and/or irritating the heck out of you (and/or causing seizures, depending on the strobing effect of the geometric pattern you chose) in short order. Yes, we love a good graphic pattern. On the walls even, if done right. But a choice that’s so bold can end up haunting you. Unlike paint, wallpaper isn’t a quick fix that can be changed in a couple of hours. If you’ve never spent days tearing away little pieces of paper from a wall that doesn’t want to let it go, just trust us: It’s. No. Fun.
Are brass fixtures chic and new (again) after years of chrome domination? Yes. Does that mean they will be embraced by the greater public and dominate the fixture market again? Who knows. If you’re looking to add a little sparkle to your kitchen or bathroom and don’t mind spending a little money on something that may only be a permanent change, go for it! If your goal is to make smart updates so you can list your home for sale, this might not be the place to spend the money- especially if you’re in a more conservative or traditional real estate market.
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.
The buyers final walk-through in real estate was designed so that the buyer can confirm the home is in the same condition as when they made their offer and had the home inspected. Its also an opportunity to make sure the seller has actually vacated.
From time to time, a buyer and seller will have negotiated any number of fixes during escrow. The walk-through gives the buyer a chance to make sure all the agreed-upon work has been done to specifications, and that everything is in working order.
Sometimes, buyers are so excited to close that they quickly whisk through the walk-through without taking time to inspect the property. This can lead to small issues once the buyers take ownership. On the other hand, the final walk-through can raise both positive and negative emotions during this final part of the sale process.
It’s smart to take the buyers final walk-through seriously. Don’t see it as simply checking a box. You should run all the faucets and check for leaks. Flush the toilet bowls, open every window and close it and make sure the appliances work.
Here are some tips for buyers to help complete a smooth and effective walk-through.
Don’t do the walk-through the day of closing
A walk-through can uncover repairs that need to be made, but that you didn’t know about before. If you do the walk-through the same day as the closing, there may not be time to get problems remedied.
It’s not uncommon for two walk-throughs to happen. The first identifies some issues for the buyer, and the second makes sure those issues were addressed.
The alternative is to push the closing back to address the issues. The problem here is that your lender may not have approved a delayed closing. It’s better to hammer out any issues in advance.
Use your mobile phone to check the outlets
Plug a phone into all of the outlets to make sure the electricity works. You want to avoid moving in all your stuff, only to realize some outlets don’t work, and you lack light in a bedroom.
Bring your phone and charger to the walk-through and test all the outlets. It’s quick and easy.
Be on the lookout for the sellers’ leftover belongings
Sellers are notorious for leaving junk behind, so take the time to check the garage and attic, and under the deck. The sellers may just assume you want their old paint cans or a propane tank for a future grill.
In fact, they should leave the place completely empty. Some left-behind items, such as the paint, can be toxic or require special provisions for disposal. For example, one seller left behind all kinds of used oil that needed to go to a certain, state-approved car repair shop to be disposed of properly. These unwanted items become yours after you close.
Be emotionally prepared for a surprise
Buyers often fall in love with a home that’s full of furniture, art and belongings. They see it as a home, and remember a warm feeling.
Fast-forward to the close of escrow and you’re faced with an empty home, which can feel cold, sterile or hollow.
Buyers are often surprised by how they feel entering an empty home. Not only is it absent any furniture and “stuff,” but sometimes an empty home shows its imperfections, too.
The sun may have slightly bleached floors, showing the outline of a rug. There may be carpet stains or holes in the wall from a flat-screen TV or paintings. An empty home tends to show poorly, so prepare yourself before the walk-through.
The journey toward homeownership is often a long one, filled with lots of excitement and ups and downs. The final walk-through is one of the very last steps of what could be a multiple-year process.
Consider the walk-through in advance and prepare for it mentally, emotionally and physically. Know what you want to look for, have a checklist, and keep your emotions and feelings in check. Doing so will make for a smooth ride to the close of escrow.
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Factors to Consider When Pricing Your Home to Sell
Do your research, choose your listing price, and watch the buyers line up.
Unlike the cost of a gallon of milk or a flat-screen television, a home’s price can be hard to pin down. It’s complicated because each home is unique, and has its own story to tell.
When it comes to pricing your home to sell, the only thing to do is to look at the recent sales and active listings of similar homes in your area. Combine this research with the inside market knowledge of a local real estate agent, and you can confidently choose your list price.
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when determining how much to ask for your house.
Make sure to look at recent comps
Markets change fast, so it’s best to find comparable sales within the past three months. If you go back too far, you will see homes where a deal might have been made many months before it closed.
Real estate markets can turn on a dime, so a deal put together more than six months ago isn’t applicable. Pending sales are your best indicator of the current market’s conditions.
Understand that fixtures and finishes matter
Let’s face it, buyers prefer a tastefully home renovated home with neutral finishes and fixtures over an unrenovated home, one stuck in the ’80s, or one with outlandish decorations.
When looking at comparable houses online, you must be objective. If your home isn’t updated, it’s not going to sell for as much.
Here’s the good news: The amount of money it would cost to upgrade your house is probably a lot less than the difference in value. Be open to making some small changes before listing.
No two homes are alike
The 2,000-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 2-bath home with two-car parking on a quarter acre down the street just closed for $500,000. That means your home — also a 2,000-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 2-bath house with two-car parking on a quarter acre — is also worth $500,000, right?
Not so fast. What you don’t realize is that the other home’s three bedrooms are not all on the top floor, and that the home lacks an en-suite master bathroom, its kitchen is closed off from the living areas, and the layout is choppy.
Buyers pay more for better floor plans and flow. Your home, with an open concept kitchen/living area and three bedrooms all near each other, is much more valuable.
Small nuances in the market will affect price
Understand that each comparable home requires some serious research before calling it a “comp.” A house down the block may seem like it’s the same location as yours, but it could be in a different school or tax district, which will affect its value.
A smaller home may have sold for 20 percent more than yours, but maybe it was on a double lot that could be split, which makes it more valuable to a builder or developer.
If you see a nearby home with a price that seems off the mark, there must be a reason. Dig deeper to uncover what it is, and realize that the home may not, in fact, be a comparable one.
Go see homes for sale
Rarely does anyone decide to sell overnight. Once you realize a sale is in your future, get out and see what’s in your market. Check out open houses nearby to see the interiors for yourself.
Homes you see in January will likely be pending or closed by the time you list in April. Or they may still be on the market, which is an indication of poor pricing.
Check out the different floor plans, finishes and fixtures of nearby homes for sale, and consider whether each is more or less valuable than yours.
The best seller is the informed one. So don’t rely solely on your agent’s word about a particular house, or the market in general.
Use your agent as a resource
The earlier you bring a local real estate agent into the fold, the better. Top agents tour properties regularly, and know their market inside and out. They can likely explain the seemingly inexplicable, and offer tips to help make your home more valuable.
A good agent has the inside knowledge on pending homes sales and their finger on the pulse of the market 24/7. But remember to research independently, and never rely solely on the advice of your agent.
There are few better workhorses than the right kitchen island. It’s beautiful, simple, and full of storage possibilities. Offering features from scratchproof counters for chopping to hooks, rods, and bins for stowing, the kitchen island is an invaluable addition to any home.
Best of all, there’s an island option for every style and budget. Here are a few of the best.
If you’re looking for a creative sink solution, consider installing it in the kitchen island. This setup provides a central spot to wash your hands, drain pasta, scrub dishes or rinse produce.
Kitchen islands usually evoke visions of huge, solid, and largely immobile countertops reserved for spacious kitchens. However, tiny islands are slowly gaining momentum and becoming popular for their mobility, slim size, and ease of access.
Take a look at islands on casters, which can be positioned where they’re most needed, then tucked in a corner or underneath a counter when not in use.
Kitchen islands are great for creating an extra sitting area, especially if your kitchen or dining room lacks the space for an actual table.
Choose an extra-long kitchen island with overhang to allow for a few bar stools or tall chairs. Add some festive placemats and a few dining accessories to create a unique tablescape, and clear it all away when you need some extra workspace.
One of the best ways kitchen islands add to a space is by providing unique storage options. In a room so full of doors and hardware, adding small baskets, hooks, and rods can be a fun way to stow your utensils, linens, or knickknacks. Even better, you can switch out the textures and finishes to match your favorite seasonal decor.
While kitchen islands are most often used as giant cutting boards, they’ve come full circle in design and function, and have proven to be a great way to add substance and style to any kitchen design. Take a look at your space, define your personal style, and determine your needs to find your perfect island oasis.
Spring might be the most popular time to buy a home, but there’s a real case to be made for fall: It’s cooler, so you’ll have less competition at the open houses. Because it’s considered the off-season, you’re more likely to get (or make) a deal. And, with the season’s variable weather, you can get a good idea of what the home’s like in hot and cool times alike.
After all, you’re buying a home that will fit your needs in every season—even if you can only scope it out duringone.
That means you need to look for things “that aren’t as noticeable in the fall as they might be in the winter or summer months,” says Realtor® Andrea Davitt of Lauer Realty Group in Madison, WI.
Want to make sure that amazing autumnal escape continues to be fantastic year-round? Keep these six things in mind.
1. Check out the air conditioner
First: Does the place even have an air conditioner? This might be easy to spot if you’re house hunting during unseasonably warm temps. But if the weather’s already turned, heed this: The air might be cool now, but it won’t be forever. And with summer nine (long!) months away, it’s easy to forget to check.
If the home does have AC, you’ll want to give the unit a thorough inspection. Your inspector will likely examine the system to make sure it’s functioning, but it never hurts to run a few tests yourself—or even call an HVAC specialist.
Davitt recommends first checking to see if the AC’s filter has been recently changed. Then try turning down the thermostat and see if the unit runs. Meanwhile, make sure air is blowing through all the vents—it’s better to find blockages now, with time to fix them, than at the beginning of summer when sweat’s starting to pool. Check out the outdoor condenser, listening for any strange sounds, and make sure the condensation line in the evaporator coil—likely found in the furnace—is flowing smoothly. Last, examine the ductwork, looking for any rusting or poor fittings.
2. How’s the drainage?
Gutters are the obvious thing to check, Davitt says. In the interlude between the rainy and snowy seasons, don’t forget to check the drainage. In the yard, look for areas where water is accumulating in small puddles, which could indicate a leak in buried pipes or grading problems that need to be addressed before the rainy season.
If it looks like the sewer might be clogged, bring out a professional sewer inspector to do a camera inspection of the line. That can reveal problems that could cause a backup—as well as a world’s worth of annoyances later. Better to know before you buy.
3. Note the surroundings
What’s nearby? Look across the street, behind you, and next door. Are there bulldozers and cranes? Empty lots awaiting brand spankin’ new homes? Ask your neighbors about seasonal street construction nearby—there’s nothing worse than having a peaceful, quiet home all winter until work begins with a literal bang in the spring.
Double up on the investigative work if you’re near a large intersection, or if your home is directly connected to a major road. Going door to door is not only a good way to meet your future neighbors—it’s also a novel way to find out what seasonal surprises lay ahead.
4. Look for slopes
How steep is your driveway? Sure, it’s easy to navigate now—but will it be when it’s covered in ice?
A less-than-ideal driveway shouldn’t automatically disqualify a home, but it’s better to know in advance if late-winter parking is going to be a challenge.
Similarly, Davitt recommends checking out the landscaping’s pitch around your new home’s exterior. Are there any steep hills that might cause water runoff and flooding? What about the area around your basement? If land slopes toward your basement, it could indicate potential flooding.
5. Check out standing water
At the end of the summer, we’re all just happy that the mosquitoes have died or moved on to bother poor souls elsewhere. But they’ll be back—and you should know in advance where they’ll be hanging out.
“We’ll look for anything that holds standing water,” Davitt says.
Most of these are movable: trash cans, buckets, birdbaths. But if your home is located on a lake or small pond, there’s not a whole lot you can do besides prepare yourself mentally and invest in bug spray and citronella.
If you’re buying in fall or winter, when bugs are hiding, keep in mind the potential ramifications of living on the water.
6. Examine the windows
If the windows in your potential home are older (or don’t even open), you’ll want to replace them immediately—otherwise you risk wasting energy or even breaking them in a freeze.
But if winter is coming quickly, there might not be time. In those cases, Davitt recommends putting plastic over the windows until you’re in a position to replace them.
Will you need storm windows? Find out in advance.
“If you’ve only lived in an apartment, you don’t know you have to change out your screens,” Davitt says.
That can be an added expense and stressor, and one that’s better to know in advance.
Don’t let fall’s peaceful, chilly weather lull you into a false sense of security. When you’re buying a home, examine everything that can go wrong—even if the rainy winter or spring seem far away.
By Jamie Wiebe Realtor.com
Tracy Tkac Evers & Co Real Estate 301-437-8722
301-437-8722/ 202-364-1700 Real Estate Professional Licensed in Maryland, Virginia & Washington, DC