High-Quality Photography Tips for Online Home Listings

When you list your home for sale, you want to attract the best possible offers. High-quality photography can help your home get noticed.

When it comes to searching for homes online, buyers don’t want to waste time on properties that won’t meet their criteria. High-quality photography is an essential part of a successful online home listing that will help your house to stand out.

It is a proven fact that online home listings that have high-quality photos attract more interest from buyers than the listings that do not. Making a great first impression on homebuyers with online home listings is important. Online home listings are typically the first place that potential buyers search for homes.

Before deciding which open houses to attend or properties to inquire about, the majority of buyers will use online home listings to try to figure out what is wrong with a property. By ensuring that your listings have great photography, you won’t have to worry about your home being ignored by buyers online.

Here are some tips for taking great photos of your home for online home listings.

Stage Your Home

The first step to taking high-quality photos of your home involves staging your home. Your real estate agent will likely recommend tips on how to improve the look of your home for photography purposes. This may involve redoing the floors, painting the walls and changing the furniture in each room. You should also pay attention to the minor details, such as a vase of flowers for the living room or kitchen to make your home look inviting and welcoming.

After you have made improvements to the interior of the home, don’t forget about the exterior. Plant some new shrubs and flowers. Pull up the weeds and mow the lawn. Clean up any clutter that is around your home. Once these improvements have been made, you will be ready to start the process of taking photos of your home.

Invest in a Quality Camera

Photographers understand the benefits of investing in a high-quality camera. A better quality camera can capture the details of a home and can take high-resolution shots that take advantage of the natural light that is available.

”A cell-phone camera won’t cut it if you want quality shots, but top-of-the-line equipment isn’t a necessity either,” says Shannon Petrie of FrontDoor.com. “Any point-and-shoot digital camera with five megapixels or more will produce good photos. If you’re willing to fork over more cash, a digital SLR offers more settings and allows you to use a variety of lenses. A tripod is also a good investment for taking sharp photos.”

By getting the right equipment, you can ensure that you get the best shots the first time. Make sure to take lots of pictures so you can go back and edit them to find the best ones later on.

Use Natural Lighting

Natural lighting is important when you are photographing a home. Before you take photos of the interior of your home, make sure that you open up the windows to let as much natural light in as possible. Consider taking photos at different times of the day, in the morning or afternoon so that you can see how the light works best in photos of your home.

Using natural light not only makes it easier to capture all of the elements of your home, you will also give buyers a realistic view of what it would be like to live in your home. Natural lighting can really bring out the beautiful elements of a home and will allow them to shine.

Choose Angles Carefully

Angles are important when it comes to photography. “When photographing a room it almost always looks better if the shot is taken from the doorway looking into the room,” says Valorie L. Ford, Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty 0225179163. “Exterior pictures of single-family homes look better if shot from an angle instead of directly from the front. This allows viewers to see the depth of the home instead of a “flat” 2-dimensional view of the front.”

Start by taking photos of your home from different angles so that you can go back to compare the photos later to see which angles capture the essence of your home in the best possible way. You should also make sure that your photos exclude any objects that obstruct the view of the home. The main goal of every shot should always be to display the best elements of your home.

Hire a Professional

Your real estate agent will typically hire someone to handle the photography on your behalf. If you are unsure as to who will be photographing your home, check with your real estate agent. Some agents may choose to do the photographs themselves.

You can check the quality of the photography that the real estate agent produces by simply reviewing other home listings that are available on the agent’s website. If you choose to hire a photographer yourself, the costs may be around several hundred dollars. However, the benefits of working with an agent cannot be discounted.

Working with a professional will ensure that the photos are professionally edited using software programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, to apply advanced photo-enhancing software techniques. Since your focus should be on doing all of the tasks that are required to sell your home, leaving the photography up to an expert can save you time and money.

Outdoor Landscaping Upgrades That Make Financial Sense

Outdoor landscaping upgrades are important if you are planning to sell your home. However, you want to make sure that you spend your landscaping budget wisely.

When you decide to sell your home, your real estate agent will likely advise you to upgrade the exterior of your home. An outdoor landscaping project is a great way to improve the curb appeal of your home. Understanding which upgrades add the most value to your home and will resonate with buyers will help you to select upgrades that make financial sense.

Landscaping projects can dramatically improve the look of your home. If you are planning upgrades in order to increase the value of your home, you must be more selective about the types of upgrades that you make.

You also want to make sure that the outdoor upgrades will appeal to a wide-range of buyers if you decide to sell your home at a later date. “Studies in Canada and the U.S. show that landscaping can add anywhere from 4% – 15% to the value of your home,” says Denis Flanagan, landscaping expert and Director of Public Relations for Landscape Ontario. “Improving your home’s curb appeal also increases the likelihood that potential buyers will come take a look at your property. People judge a home from the curb. Professional landscaping helps create a good first impression of your property, and it may even give you a (h)edge over the Joneses’.”

Pay attention to the upgrades that your neighbors have made. A landscaping project that looks out of place in your neighborhood may drag down the values of other homes in your neighborhood.

Here are suggested outdoor landscaping projects that make financial sense for you to pursue.

Structures

Structures, such as patios and footpaths, can be hit or miss when it comes to adding to a home’s value. Fortunately, there are many options for these types of investments so that you can find an option that is financially feasible. When you install structures as part of a landscaping upgrade, you must plan carefully to ensure that the structure does not take up too much of the outdoor landscape.

Most buyers want homes that offer plenty of greenery. By installing a patio that replaces too much of the yard with concrete or stone, you could actually lower the value of your home. You should pay close attention to the other homes in your area before making such additions to ensure that a new patio won’t detract from the value of your home relative to other homes in the area.

In addition, the structures should also match the architectural style of your home. By seeking out professional contractors, you can determine the exact costs that will be associated with the additions. You should also speak with your real estate agent to determine if such upgrades will actually add to the value of your home.

Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lighting is one of the most prominent features of the exterior of a home. Outdoor lighting can raise the value of a home significantly because it also acts as a security system for the home. If you plan to install outdoor lighting, focus on highlighting the front of the home. You can also install lights near trees to add a dramatic look at nighttime.

However, you should choose lighting hues carefully. Soft-lighting in colors other than white works best so that the lighting doesn’t look harsh at nighttime. You can also use outdoor lighting to outline footpaths to maximize safety for guests when they visit your home.

Plant Trees

Planting trees not only helps to improve the value of your property. Trees are also healthy for the environment because they reduce CO2 levels. By planting trees so that they can provide shade to your home, you also help to save on your energy bills. However, not just any trees will do. You want to make sure that the trees that you plant on your property are young and healthy. This will ensure that they mature well and will not simply become an expensive removal task for the next homeowner.

Do Maintenance Work

Not all upgrades mean adding something to the property. In fact, in certain instances, you may want to remove something from your property. This is a wise decision, especially if the previous homeowners have ignored the landscaping maintenance aspects of the home. “First, eliminate all the obstructions created by plants, such as overgrown bushes blocking the windows or tree roots disrupting paved passages. Pay special attention to large, old trees that may present a hazard during a storm – some of them might have to go,” says Elena Meadowcroft, writer for realestate.com.

By doing maintenance work on your property, you can improve the curb appeal of your home. Homebuyers that are looking for homes in your area will likely prefer your well-maintained landscaped home over others in the area that offer less curb appeal once you have made the changes.

Planning

If the goal of your landscaping project is to increase the value of your home, it is essential that you plan ahead. Many homeowners make the mistake of doing landscaping projects gradually, which can result in an uncoordinated look after several years of impromptu projects.

Hiring a professional landscaping company can help you to plan better for future upgrades to the outdoor space around your home so that you don’t make such mistakes. At the end of the day, a landscaping project that adds the most value to a home is one that looks professionally done and offers an attractive look year-round.

How to Set Up an Open House for the Best Results

An open house event is an essential part of attracting buyers to your home. Figuring out how to set a successful open house can help you to get offers quickly.

Staging your home is only the first step to setting up a successful open house. There are many important aspects that you must take care of to get the best results from your open house. Here’s how you can set up an open house for the best results while working with your real estate agent.

An open house is a major event for any homeowner that is trying to sell. If you are considering hosting an open house for your home, you should work with your real estate agent closely to develop a plan. Open houses require careful planning to be successful. You may have to plan ahead to make sure that you, your family and your pets are out of the home during the time in which your home is being shown.

You may also be asked by your real estate agent to take other preparatory steps, including staging your home and removing your personal items. These tasks can require significant time. which is why it is so important to get organized and have a plan.

You should also expect that the open house will become the talk of the neighborhood and nosy neighbors may even come by to check it out. Hosting an open house is a lot of work, but at the end of the day you just might end up with great offers on your home as the results of working with your real estate agent to put on an open house.

Attract Prospective Buyers

Open houses are designed to attract potential buyers and are one of the top tools that real estate agents use to generate offers for your home. A well-planned open house that is organized and executed on schedule can help to guarantee a successful sale of your home.

“It’s a great tool to create a sense of urgency,” says broker-owner Martin Kalisker, e-PRO®. “It creates sort of a feeding frenzy. If your clients are interested and see that other people are interested too, it gets them off the fence.”

As you plan your open house, talk to your real estate agent and find out what you need to do to prepare. In some cases, you may simply be asked to leave the home while professional home stagers get it ready to be shown. If you are on a budget, your real estate agent may recommend that you do a thorough cleaning followed by the removal of your personal effects.

Don’t Forget About Signage

An open house is not only intended to showcase the home, the goal is to get serious inquiries from buyers. Your real estate agent will create flyers, brochures and other giveaways to buyers to keep them interested in your home and the agency after they leave.

Prominent signage is also important for advertising the open house to neighbors in the area. By creating the right signage, your real estate agent can help to attract plenty of interest in your home and will let others know that your home is available for sale so that the word spreads.

Create a Neutral Appearance

Home staging is all about the buyer. When buyers come to your home they want to envision themselves living in your home. Therefore, home staging that creates a neutral appearance is highly recommended for appealing to potential homebuyers. This can be done by painting the walls neutral colors and updating the furniture so that it is modern, yet minimal.

By creating a neutral appearance in your home, you can also increase the number of buyers that might be interested in making serious offers on your home. It is difficult to imagine that the your personal effects may turn-off a potential buyer from your home. However, the threat is there and you want to do everything possible to eliminate minute factors, such as the décor, that could potentially sway the opinion of a potential buyer.

Leave During the Open House

Leaving during an open house is standard practice. If you have selected a real estate agent to represent your property, you should have confidence that the real estate agent can sell your property to potential buyers.

“Very rarely does it work out for the buyers and sellers to meet in advance,” says Joan Pratt, real estate broker with RE/MAX Professionals in Castle Pines, Colo. And from a practical standpoint, “when buyers are walking through an open house, they want some anonymity. And with the homeowners there, they can’t speak freely. And they can’t speak to each other.”

Buyers are seldom interested in meeting the homeowner. By interfering in this delicate process, you could cause your home to lose potential buyers. You may also come across to your real estate agent as a difficult seller to work with, which is not something that works in your favor.

If you have concerns about buyers rifling through your personal things while you are away, talk with your real estate agent about how you can reduce this risk. By removing as many of your personal items from your home before putting your home on the market, you won’t have to worry about this at all.

When Should You Sell Your Home If You Are Planning to Move?

As a home seller, you might be unsure as to the best time to sell your home if you are planning a move. Deciding when to put your home on the market in advance can help you to plan your move more easily and can enable you to be successful in the sale of your old home.

If you are planning to move in order to rent or buy a new home and sell the old one, you have to be prepared to deal with a complicated situation that could take months to resolve. Working with a qualified real estate agent can help ease the burden of the process. However, it is also up to you to do the research in advance so that you know what you’ll be getting into.

There is no one perfect time to sell your home when you are planning to move. When you sell your home will depend on your own unique circumstances and financial situation. However, taking the time to consider selling your home in advance can help you to discover when the right time is to sell.

While you may think that you don’t need to contact a real estate agent until you are ready to make the move, contacting an agent at least several months before you make a decision to move is your best bet. A real estate agent can help you to work through the process of making your move possible. The first step is to start with research.

Start With Research

The first step of the process should be to research the local market conditions and gather as much data as possible on your own. By involving an agent, you can obtain guidance on whether the current market will allow you to sell at the true market value. In addition, an agent will also be able to guide you in creating a successful marketing plan for your home that is designed to help your home sell quickly.

Unless, there is a major factor that impacts the timing of the sale, such as debt, you should opt to sell your home at a time when favorable market conditions are available for the sale. Your real estate agent may actually recommend that you wait on the sale and rent out home instead in order to get the best possible returns on the sale of your home.

Consider Your Expenses

Determining how the money from the sale will be spent will play a major decision on when you should sell. As a person with significant debts or one that is looking for better options in another city, the timing of your sale can have a big impact on your future.

If you plan to buy a new home in a new area, work with a real estate agent in order to determine just how much money will be needed for a down payment on a new property. As a homeowner, you should really think carefully as to whether buying a new home is in your best interest. For retirees, this picture may depend significantly on your expenses and if you can afford to meet your obligations.

Jane Bryant Quinn of AARP suggests several options for retirees. “You can use part or all of it to buy another house or condo, with or without a mortgage. That pot of money is now tied up. You could tap it at some point in the future, by taking a home equity loan or reverse mortgage, but that probably isn’t your plan.” says Quinn. “Alternatively, you can put the proceeds into a mix of bank accounts and mutual funds and tap those savings and investments for rent.”

As advice for all home sellers, you should also plan for temporary housing in the event that your home sells quickly so that you have a place to go. If the selling market in your area is quite competitive, you may want to have your Realtor negotiate with the buyer in order to obtain a longer escrow. This option will give you more time to find a place to move to.

Rising Rents

If you are selling your home in order to rent, it is important to keep in mind that rental prices may be on the rise in your new desired location. If you want to ensure that you are not priced out of the market before you can sell your home and free up funds for rent, you should discuss your situation with a real estate agent.

Rising rents can also have the reverse impact and actually make it easier for you to sell your property. High rents mean that buyers may reconsider renting and instead want to move in home ownership. “Every time there’s an increase, it triggers the decision processes on whether [renters] should go into the market and buy. Getting more buyers into the market, especially first-timers, can help sellers feel more comfortable about their prospects. “It allows others to move up the chain in the market,” says Budge Huskey, president, and CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate.

Plan Carefully

Regardless of the manner in which you do it, selling a home when you are planning to move is stressful. However, working with a real estate agent to develop a solid plan that gives you months to prepare for the sale is the best way to ensure that you are not scrambling to get things in order when the time comes.

 

The Hidden Costs of Flipping Homes

With countless TV shows providing a glamorous look into the world of flipping homes, it’s no surprise that more and more people are showing interest in this portion of the real estate world. However, do the benefits of flipping a home outweigh the sometimes hidden costs that trip up novice flippers? To answer this question, here’s an in-depth look at the subject from some of the most knowledgeable members of the online realty community.

Embracing your entrepreneurial spirit and taking a stab at a spot in the world of real estate can be the start of something truly exciting. Unfortunately, getting in over your head by trying to flip a home that’s not worth the work can negate these good vibes and leave you taking a major financial hit if you’re not careful.

Ever wondered what it’s like to flip homes and chase the substantial profits that come with this approach? While there’s plenty of excitement and potential found within this system, there’s also just as much risk. Before you reach out to your realtor and start picking up real estate assets to add to your portfolio, take a moment to delve into this cost-benefit analysis of the home-flipping process.

What Exactly Constitutes Flipping a Home?

If you’re especially new to this concept, it’s important to lay the groundwork with a strong understanding of what goes into flipping homes. As Lisa Smith of Investopedia explains, the goal of house flipping is to purchase a home at a cost that’s below its market value, then turn around and sell this selection for a profit.

Made popular in the early 2000s, flipping houses has become a cultural phenomenon of sorts with large swathes of the Internet and TV shows turning this process into a media sensation. In some cases, home renovations and upgrades also enter the picture as a way to add value to the property and make it more enticing for potential buyers.

Understanding Where Flippers Fall Short

With this simple goal of getting more out of the home than what you put into it leading the way, flipping homes should be a pretty straightforward affair, right? Unfortunately, this dangerous line of thought has grounded the dreams of plenty of homebuyers before they ever even had a chance to get off the ground.

In their look at the hidden costs and shortcomings of new house-flippers, ABC News’ Kinga Janik and Lauren Effron point out there are a few recurring themes that continue to plague these members of the real estate community. At the top of the list is failing to get the home inspected.

By skipping the part of the process where an expert comes in and gives the home a thorough review, you open yourself up to a variety of unexpected risk and potential expense. This in turn makes staying on budget unnecessarily difficult. Additionally, failing to get the right permits and licenses to fix up these issues continues the theme of getting tripped up by home-flipping paperwork and can easily put you in hot water with your local government.

From a bigger picture perspective, failing to research the neighborhood and the contractors who handle the necessary renovations and upgrades also serves as a stumbling point for many flippers. It might not seem like that big of a deal initially, but ending up with a property that’s otherwise fine – but ultimately undesirable thanks to a rough neighborhood – or a contractor who takes the money and run, constitutes a catastrophic failure that could have been avoided with a little research and foresight.

Is It Still worth the Risk?

At this point, it’s safe to say that flipping homes is, in fact, a risky proposition for the uninitiated. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth considering if you understand what it takes to be successful. As the team over at First Bank note, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort needed to flip a home the right way, you can expect to be handsomely rewarded for your hard work.

Successfully flipped homes serve as an excellent source of revenue – from both a short and long-term perspective. If you’re able to stay on budget, selling a renovated home can net a substantial one-time gain at closing. For those that are open to the idea of renting out the home, this property can serve as a steady stream of income that continues to pay you back for taking on the upfront costs and risks that come with flipping properties.

Outside of the financial boons that come with this process, these experts also point out that flipping homes can be a rewarding and enriching endeavor. Whether you’re a new retiree who wants to try something different or an energetic, “hands-on” type of person who’s looking for a new challenge, seeing this home transform into a valuable asset provides a sense of achievement that only comes from working hard toward – and capturing – a lofty goal.

Building a Winning Strategy

Now that you understand that flipping homes does come with a series of costs and concerns that might not always be readily apparent, but that the process can be rewarding on many levels, it’s time to talk about how you can build a winning strategy. According to William Bronchick, J.D., of the investing news source CRE Online, it all starts with properly evaluating the situation in front of you.

Is it better to flip the home in question “as is,” or should you renovate and upgrade the property before putting it out on the market? Securing the help of a real estate agent who understands the nuances of the local real estate community can help make these and other vital questions far more manageable as you acclimate yourself to the home-flipping scene.

From here, connecting with licensed and bonded contractors ensures that you steer clear of illegal practices and scams. Aside from keeping you on the straight and narrow, building these relationships now could set you up for more favorable arrangements and reduced pricing down the road; something that’s definitely worthwhile if you intend to regularly flip homes on a budget.

By putting everything you’ve learned here to good use, there’s nothing that can stand in your way as you begin to evaluate and purchase “flip worthy” homes. All that’s left now is to get out in your community or connect with your agent and start looking for the next great real estate opportunity in your area.

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Putting Safety First During a Home Sale

Selling or buying a home is an exciting, nerve-wracking, and important time, all rolled into one. Unfortunately, too many members of the marketplace end up making this event more stressful by failing to give safe practices their due. In an effort to keep you firmly out of this category, let’s reach out to some leading experts from around the real estate market and hear what they have to say about keeping everyone involved in a sale safe and secure.

Does something seem too good to be true with a potential new home? Is the other person involved in the process acting oddly? While these questions might seem over-the-top at first glance, the truth of the matter is that you can never be too cautious when dealing with others during the sale or purchase of a home.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re ready to go see an available home or entertain a potential buyer at your house. While there’s usually nothing to worry about when it comes to dealing with other people, you can never do too much to avoid interacting with the small minority of the population that doesn’t have your best interests at heart. With this in mind, here are some essential tips and considerations that can help keep you and your family protected during this pivotal point in your lives.

Meet and Greet in a Public Place

At the top of the list of safety tips to consider when heading into a sale, according to the Police Department of Criminal Prevention in Mesa, Arizona, is meeting and greeting with the other parties in a public place. Whether this means reaching out to your realtor in his or her office, or meeting with a buyer or seller at an agreed upon open location, sticking to areas that are full of other people and activity is a great way to avoid finding yourself in an unsavory or potentially harmful situation.

Once you’ve met up with the other parties involved, don’t hesitate to perform a “check-up from the neck up.” Aside from serving as a funny saying, this concept represents the notion that if something doesn’t seem right with the person you’re working with, don’t be afraid to call off the viewing of the home. Your instincts are an invaluable asset, so listening to them and avoiding a situation that just doesn’t feel safe is perfectly acceptable when it comes to dealing with strangers.

Leave a “Paper Trail”

In addition to strategically planning out your initial meetings with others, it’s also a good idea to leave a paper trail whenever you’re heading out to browse through home listings. Offering up a schedule or agenda to friends and family members, as well as carrying multiple forms of identification, ensures that at least one person knows where you are at all times in case something goes wrong.

If you really want to go the extra mile on this front as the seller of a property, requesting that any interested parties in your home have preapproval from a lending agency helps keep these viewers relegated to only the most serious of potential buyers.

Take Time to Assess the Situation

As far as searching for a new home goes, Lew Sichelman of the Los Angeles Times suggests spending a few minutes to assess the situation before rushing in headfirst. Exciting though it make be to explore a new home, dealing with all of the unknowns that come with this process naturally carries a certain amount of risk.

For instance, if you’re looking to purchase an abandoned or vacant home, structural damage, squatters, wild animals, and a variety of other issues could pose a threat to you and anyone else who joins you on this trip. While the odds of dealing with these problems are far less likely in a traditional home-purchasing situation, it still never hurts to spend a few moments assessing the situation for any safety risks or hazards.

Never Travel Alone

Speaking of heading out to view available properties, it’s also a good idea to bring along a friend, family member, or your trusted realtor when setting out on this path. Having a second set of eyes and ears available to you during this time can ensure that you properly audit the situation for any potential threats or concerns. Additionally, having someone else with you during this time can serve as a strong deterrent for any illicit or underhanded tactics committed by less than savory individuals.

Protect Your Home During a Showing

For those of you who aren’t looking to buy a home, but rather sell your current property, the experts over at the National Association of Realtors’ Realtor magazine point out that there’s still plenty of concerns worthy of consideration before you rush into entertaining strangers in your home. Specifically, the open house and home-showing portions of the process stand out as major areas of concern.

Having unknown individuals in your home is always a risk, but participating in an event like an open house exacerbates the issue. To help safeguard your property, always lock away “high interest” items – like jewelry and electronics – before a viewing. This process takes just a few minutes and makes a world of difference when dealing with large groups of people.

In terms of handling visitors, a good rule of thumb is to always stick to a schedule. Much like the paper trail discussed earlier, only entertaining visitors who set an appointment to see your home ensures that unexpected “drop-ins” don’t become an issue.

Keeping Your Head on Straight

Unfortunately, there’s nothing that you can do to completely erase the risks that come with interacting with strangers during the buying and selling of a home. It’s an issue that plagues any industry built upon connecting with others – not just the real estate world. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re completely out of options for protecting and safeguarding yourself during these times.

By putting what you’ve learned here to good use – including partnering up for home visits and stowing away your valuables during an open house – and remaining vigilant throughout the process, there’s no reason that you and your family can’t find an outcome that’s just right for your needs.

 

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Don’t Let Your Pet Sabotage Your Home Sale

Is your property lingering on the market? Your pet could be the reason why you haven’t received an offer.

Not everyone loves animals. Some people are afraid. Others feel uncomfortable being in a house with someone else’s pets. And, then there are potentially the odors or other damage left by your pet. If your home is still for sale, take an objective look at your pet. Could Fido or Fluffy be the reason why?

You love your pet, of course, but when you put your house on the market, your pet can be a detriment. Before you event list your home, you will need to take extra steps to eliminate any odor or damage, including stains on the carpet and scratches on the door, caused by your pet.  Showing your home will also require extra efforts. In fact, you may want to temporarily relocate him while your home is on the market.

That’s not to mention what a pet can do to your home’s value. An otherwise impeccable house could sell for significantly less if buyers detect pet odors, damage, or even pet hair. To get top dollar, you’ll want to banish all signs of Fido and Fluffy.

It’s not impossible to sell your property when you own a pet (or two) and still get full market value, though. Here are some issues you’ll need to address before and while your home is on the market.

Understanding The Problem With Fido

Some people don’t feel the same way about animals that you do. They may not have grown up with pets, or they may feel nervous around them. For rational or irrational reasons, they may be outright terrified of your pet (especially if you have a pet boa constrictor). And then, let’s face it: your pet isn’t their pet. They can’t see him through your eyes and have a hard time overlooking his flaws.

Your pet poses another problem: over the years, he may have caused damage, such as claw marks on the back door or window and stains on the carpet. He may also have left odors in the house, especially if he is not entirely housebroken. (Cat urine is one of the most difficult odors to remove from a home.)  Left unaddressed, these odors and damages will have a negative impact and may prompt the buyer to question the condition of the home.

To Relocate Or Not: The Debate

As a pet owner, you have two options when you put your house on the market. First, you can relocate your pet and have him either live temporarily with a trusted relative or friend or at a boarding kennel for the duration of the sales process. This gives you an opportunity to fumigate and repair the home. You also won’t have to worry about hiding evidence of your pets before a showing because they won’t be there.

Your second option is to keep him in the house and work around him. Whether they get top dollar for their home can depend largely on how successful they are at hiding evidence of their pet. Expect to spend extra time vacuuming, cleaning, and hiding bowls and toys before showings. Also, you’ll have to make arrangements for your pet during the showing. Locking your animal in a back room or garage won’t cut it.

Of course, relocation may not always be practical. Moves can be just as stressful for pets as they are for their humans, and some have significant separation anxiety. A new home, even a temporary one, may be detrimental, especially for older animals. Before you commit to either option, consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action.

 

Hiding The Evidence

Buyers want to be able to picture themselves living in your house, but that’s hard to do when they see your personal items—and those belonging to your pet— in the house. And, of course, they don’t want to smell evidence of your pet’s housebreaking escapades or see the damages he’s caused.

The first step is to address the damages. For stains on the floor or carpeting, hire a professional to clean the damaged area. If the stains do not entirely disappear, replace the damaged flooring. Similarly, sand and repaint scratched surfaces, such as interior and exterior doors, or replace them. Don’t overlook your personal items. If the couch has claw marks or shows other evidence of your pet, discard or at least remove it.

Next, address any odors. If a thorough cleaning doesn’t remove pet odors, consider fumigating. With cat urine, you may even have to paint over walls with Kilz paint or remove affected drywall and flooring to eliminate the odor.

Finally, put away any unnecessary pet items, such as extra toys, and store any photos of your pet. You want your home to look as pet-free as possible.

Preparing For A Showing

Items you need on a daily basis for your pet—water bowl, food bowl, kennel, bedding, a favorite toy—will need to be stored before you invite the buyer to walk through your home. If you have a cat, hide the litter box; if you have a dog that uses dog potty pads, dispose of them before the buyer arrives, and pick up any outdoor waste.

For the actual showing, remove your pet. If you own a dog, you could take him for a walk while the buyer is at your home. Or, you could arrange to send him to a doggie day care for the day. Cats may not require removal if they usually hide when you have guests, but if they like to socialize, you’ll need to make similar arrangements.

Avoid leaving your pet locked in the garage or backroom, though. Doing so makes that part of the house inaccessible and can make a negative impression.

While You Are At Work

What do you do when you are at work? Some realtors give little notice before arriving to show the house. You can leave your pet crated during the day, just in case a buyer wants to see your house while you’re at work, although that isn’t necessarily an optimal solution since he might whine, bark, or otherwise make visitors uncomfortable. Instead, consider requiring 24-hour notice before a showing to give you enough time to make arrangements for your pet while you are at work.

 

Sources: National Association of Realtors (www.realtor.org)

 

 

 

3 Ways to Make Your Living Room More Functional

Whether you have a large open floor plan or a small cozy space, having a living room that you can function in is so important. What can you do to better utilize your space?

The living room is the main space in your home where people gather. It’s a high traffic room and it has a lot of jobs. Creating a space that meets the needs of your family, but is also beautiful and desirable to be in, is no easy task. You might find yourself wondering where to even start, but with a few simple tricks, you’ll be headed in the right direction.

Here are three significant ways you can create more functional space in your living room right now:

Aim to Simplify

These days, with life spinning so fast in so many different directions, it’s easy for our home to become a drop zone for so many things. We accumulate sports equipment, hobby related accessories, kids toys, pet supplies, and the list goes on. Somehow, in the midst of all these bits and pieces, the parts we really love about our home can get lost. The number one thing you can do to create a more functional living room is to start by de-cluttering. Start by grabbing four boxes labeled:

  • Keep
  • Donate
  • Recycle
  • Trash

Go through your living room and do your best to purge those excess items. Think creatively and remember that by letting some things go, you are making way to really highlight the things in your home that really do matter to you. Consider pairing down on things you have in excess, for instance, limit your throw pillows, don’t pack your bookshelves to the max, and try not to overwhelm your mantle with knickknacks. Colleen Madsen of 365 Less Things suggests, “There is no need to make things difficult by trying to organize the hardest things first. Most likely, it will simply deter you from the task altogether. Instead, start with the easy stuff and then as you strengthen your will to reduce, the harder decisions will become easier.” De-cluttering might seem like a daunting task, but it is worth it in the long run. Having less clutter is actually healthier for you and it helps promote a more peaceful environment. Who doesn’t want a living room that ushers in peace?

Once you have simplified the extra stuff around your home, you can then really focus on the statement pieces that you want to showcase. Turn your attention to pieces that open up and add light to your living room. Mirrors offer a great way to add dimension to an otherwise boring space. Laura Gaskill suggests, “Placing a full-length mirror between two windows tricks the eye into thinking there is another window there and helps maximize natural light. Casually propping a full-length mirror against the wall brings a relaxed mood to the room.” Focus your energy on finding pieces that inspire you, draw out simplicity, and take up minimal space.

Designate Space Wisely

Creating functionality in your living room is so much more than arranging furniture, it’s about developing an environment that works and flows with your family’s lifestyle. Instead of just placing your furniture where it fits or the best angle toward the TV, really consider the design and formation of your living room. Try to designate areas with certain jobs in mind. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • a distinct sitting area
  • a reading nook
  • a play area
  • a home office corner
  • an entertainment space

Elaine Song from styleathome.com advises, “Divide your living space by designating areas for certain activities. It will allow for better organization of furniture and necessities. Whether it’s a games area with a table and proper storage for board games and toys or a TV area with seating and media storage for music and movies, your space will feel less cluttered.” If you find yourself debating over what to do with your sofa, consider what Designer Laura Casey has to say, “People often ask me my opinion on using sectional sofas. Under the right conditions, they can be functional and look great. I think their best use is in rooms with high ceilings or lots of windows and upholstered in a lighter color. Getting room and upholstery proportions correct can be a challenge. If you’ve got a smaller sized room with low ceilings you are better off choosing a mix of a sofa and chairs to help break up the space.” The living room is the place that family gathers, with specifically designated areas, giving everyone a corner of their own.

Use Furniture Creatively

One of the main reasons to use furniture creatively, is that it is a great way to incorporate sentimental family pieces into your everyday life. Jan Porter of Isle Designs, brings over 35 years of Design experience to the table, she shared some helpful advice about how she uses pieces creatively within her own home, “I tend to use pieces that have a multi functional purpose. One of my family heirlooms, an antique cedar chest from the 1800’s not only doubles as storage, but it is used as my coffee table as well.” Another wonderful reason to use furniture creatively is that it can offer double-duty. Some benches have wonderful storage capabilities and they also make a great window seat.

Many new sectional sofas come with ample storage inside, and the chaise lounge portion can double as a daybed. If your living room is on the smaller side, consider using a bookshelf as an entertainment storage center/room divider. You can place TV remotes and controllers in lined baskets, store games in decorative boxes, and reserve one shelf for your favorite go to books. By using double-duty furniture, you not only create more space, but you develop a room that everyone in your family feels some sense of ownership to.

Trees for Springtime Planting

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” — Chinese proverb

Spring is the ideal time to introduce new trees to your home environment. The gentle warmth of sunny spring days encourages the roots to spread out and grow while spring rains bring needed moisture. By planting in spring, new trees have several months to establish strong roots before the mercury plummets and winter returns.

Trees provide spring flowers, cooling shade in summer, a brilliant splash of bold color in autumn and visual interest in winter. Trees can be used to hide an unsightly view, planted as a windbreak to reduce cold winds and lower heating bills, to define property boundaries, provide essential shelter and food for wildlife, control erosion in unstable soil, and help reduce carbon in the earth’s atmosphere.

Adding elegant, eye-catching trees to the home landscape is one of the fastest ways to add beauty and value to your property. The Arbor Day Foundation advises, “In one study, 83% of realtors believe that mature trees have a ‘strong or moderate impact’ on the salability of homes listed for under $150,000; on homes over $250,000, this perception increases to 98%.”

In the mid-west, homeowners especially appreciate the shade on hot summer days. The United States Department of Agriculture advises, “The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.” The United States Forest Service notes, “Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20–50 percent in energy used for heating.”

Planting trees is an investment in your property that should not be taken lightly. Selecting the right trees that will flourish in your location can greatly affect the valuation of the property. The Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers state, “A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000.”

When considering planting trees to beautify your home, the advice and services of a knowledge landscape contractor is crucial. Your landscape contractor will recommend the best trees for your site and situation; taking into consideration the height and width of the tree at maturity, the architectural style of the home and the location of underground utilities, septic or sewer systems, irrigation or sprinkler systems and water lines that serve pools, fountains or other water features.

Tree planting should be part of a long-term landscape plan for your property that factors in terrain, soil conditions, drainage and available light. Other considerations, when selecting the right trees for your home landscape, are longevity, ease of maintenance, resistance to disease and tolerance of extremes in climatic conditions.

When adding trees to their home landscape, most homeowners prefer an “instant” landscaped-look that can only be accomplished by planting large-landscape-size trees. Although the homeowner can plant small potted trees themselves, it will be years before the tree has an impact on the visual appearance of the landscape.

By engaging the services of a professional landscape contractor with experience and the right equipment, trees up to 8 inches in diameter can be planted; saving labor, planting time and years and years of maintenance of a juvenile tree. Planting a developed, larger tree also eliminates the risk of mower or edger damage that often occurs on smaller, younger trees.

Talk to your landscape designer or contractor. There are hundreds of different species of trees that do well in United States Hardiness Zones 4 through 8. Your choice of ornamental trees is only limited by your imagination. Choose trees based on personal preference, adaptability to your local growing conditions and the limitations of your budget. Popular choices include:

Oak

The official United States national tree, the mighty oak is one of the most planted trees in mid-west landscapes, both urban and rural. Oaks are prized for their sturdy growth, majestic size, and grand presence. A broad-crowned classic, the Northern Red Oak tree (Quercus rubra), is a winner in any spacious yard or open landscape. A deciduous tree that grows to a stately height of 50 feet high, the Northern Red Oak develops a full, broad canopy up to 60 feet wide at maturity. On sunny days, the graceful canopy is a beautiful spot under which to dine or relax.

Exhibiting fresh glossy green color in springtime, cooling shade during the hottest days of summer, brilliant fire red fall foliage and winter interest, the Northern Red Oak is strong and hardy to withstand the cold and winds of winter. Native to the mid-west, the Northern Red Oak is tolerant of pollution and withstands the rigors of the city well. Fast growing and hardy in United States Planting Zones 4 through 7, the Northern Red Oak tree prefers nutrient rich, well-drained, acidic soil.

Maple

If you are looking to add a brilliant splash of color to your fall landscape, look no further than the mighty maple tree.

Everyone’s favorite, the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharinum) is a dependable choice for adding breathtaking fall color. Grown throughout the mid-west, the Sugar Maple turns vivid shades of red and orange in autumn. Fast growing, Sugar Maples develop attractive grey bark as they mature. The drought tolerant and disease resistant Sugar Maple reaches a height of 45-55 feet at maturity and develops a round canopy 30 to 50 feet wide.

Trident maple (Acer buergerapum), Hedge maple (Acer campastre), Paperback maple (Acer griseum), Japanese maple (Acer plamatun), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), and Norway maple (Acer platanpides) all offer vibrant fall color, grow from 30 to 50 feet tall and adapt to most soil conditions.

Considered one of the best of the hybrid maples, the Freeman maple tree (Acer x freeman) is best known for its magnificent display of brilliant red-orange fall foliage. At maturity, the Freeman Maple tree grows 75 to 80 feet tall and from 40 to 50 feet wide and will fare well when planted in an open area with plenty of sun and moist, well-drained, pH-neutral soil.

Another fast-growing hybrid maple, “Autumn Blaze” matures to a height of 50 to 65 feet and forms a dense oval crown 40 to 50 wide.

Because of specific cultural requirements, maple trees are only dug by nurseries in the spring and may only be planted in the spring.

Zelkova

The “Green Vase” zelkova tree (Zelkova serrate “Green Vase”) is prized for strong upright arching branches that give the tree a pleasing symmetrical shape. Adding height and vertical interest to the landscape, the “Green Vase” tree reaches a height of 60 to 70 feet tall at maturity and presents a cone-shaped canopy that is 40 to 50 feet wide. The ornamental tree prefers full sun but will tolerate some shade. Hardy in United States Planting Zones 5 through 8, the Green Vase tree tolerates pollution, drought, and strong winds, making it an excellent tree for street-side planting in urban areas. Disease resistant and fast growing, the Green Vase tolerates most types of soil.

 

Important Considerations for Condo Buyers in Their 20’s and 30’s

Looking to purchase a condo? You will want to consider the pros and cons before signing on the dotted line.

Condos are very popular home choices for first-time homebuyers, and for good reason! Purchasing a condo can give you all the convenience of living in an apartment while also receiving all of the benefits of being a property owner.

Many young professionals in their 20’s and 30’s choose to purchase a condo instead of a home because they simply don’t want to deal with maintaining the exterior of a larger, stand-alone home. Mowing the lawn, raking leaves, and shoveling snow are some of the many responsibilities that come along with home ownership. Choosing a condo instead of a house eliminates these worries and guarantees that the exterior of the property investment you have made will be well cared for no matter what.

If you are considering a condo for your first (or second or eighth) home, let’s go over some of the most important considerations you should pay attention to before purchasing a condo.

Is your family growing?

One of the most common reasons people sell their first property is because they need more space. Starter homes can quickly lose their appeal and livability once a baby enters the picture, and the same is true of the picturesque single-bedroom condo that warmed your heart with its cozy atmosphere and grown up décor.

It’s best to plan ahead if you anticipate your family growing in the near future. Often you can find properties that have several rooms and maybe even a second bathroom, which will be a necessary luxury once you and your partner expand your brood. Larger units typically can command a higher resale price as well, leaving you in great shape to turn a profit if the time does come to seek out a new home down the road.

Do you own pets?

Are you currently a pet owner? Or do you plan on owning a pet in the near future? Many condominium complexes have strict rules regarding pets, and the last thing you want is to be forced into parting with your beloved puppy or cat because the building that you just signed papers for will not let them through the door.

Pat Gregory, a Realtor with Re/Max, explains why it’s so important to read the condominium bylaws.

“Every condominium complex has covenants and bylaws that govern permitted use of the units and surrounding common areas. For instance, some complexes will only allow pets under a certain size and weight.”

If you have always dreamed of rescuing a cute puppy down at the local animal shelter, or if you are on a waiting list for one of the kittens your friend’s cat just had, you may want to reconsider your condo plan. At the very least, be up front with the property manager or realtor that is in charge of the property listing and ask hard questions about what pet scenarios would or would not be allowed.

Another thing to consider if you find a condo for sale that welcomes pets is whether or not the outdoor space available to you and your furry friend will be enough for them to receive ample exercise.

Do you mind paying association fees?

For some, condos are easy and convenient because all of the exterior maintenance is handled by the association. However, this easy lifestyle comes at a price. These are called home owners association fees, or HOA fees.

Fes can be minimal or they can reach upwards of several hundred dollars every month adding up to thousands of dollars every year. These fees are in addition to your mortgage, taxes, insurance, and utilities and they cover the condominium complexes expenses such as trash, lawn maintenance, and daily up keep of the common areas. If you are looking at a unit that has access to a community pool, gym, or recreation area, expect to be on the high end of the fee scale.

June Fletcher of the Wall Street Journal cautions potential homebuyers, saying: “Buyers need to question the association board about dues payments, and have their inspectors examine common elements before committing to a purchase. It’s also important to review the financial documents that every buyer has a right to inspect before closing.”

At the end of the day, many young homebuyers love that all of the condo’s exterior maintenance is taken care of by the association, while others view HOA fees as an unnecessary expense and they don’t mind doing basic home maintenance themselves. Both points of view are valid, just be sure to evaluate your lifestyle to determine what is right for you.

What are your hobbies?

Do you like working on cars? Racing dirt bikes? Gardening? Depending on your areas of interest, the condo life will either be a dream come true or a dream killer. Your neighbors might not react too kindly if you and your friends are parked outside working on your hot rods at all hours of the night, or if your collection of garden gnomes begins working its way into their territory. On the other hand, many condo dwellers love to garden and may even share in a community plot.

Take stock of your interests and determine whether or not the condo you are interested in will allow those hobbies to flourish. If so, you can move ahead in confidence knowing that your friends and neighbors will be encouraging you in your endeavors. If not…well, you might want to keep on searching for a home that will be a perfect fit for you.

Do you value privacy?

A few of the downsides to communal living are shared walls, tight parking spaces, and community yard space. If you yearn for wide-open spaces and the freedom to live in solitude, you may find your neighbors grating on your nerves before long.

Condominium life is best suited for people who love interacting with others and relish the thought of minimal upkeep paired with a great opportunity to build owner equity. These properties offer the ultimate convenience for young professionals that are just getting started in their careers, as well as for tight-knit families on the go that are looking for a fun, relaxed lifestyle.