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Existing-Home Sales Dipped 7.7% in November

Friday, December 23rd, 2022

Data Content via the National Association of Realtors:

WASHINGTON (December 21, 2022) – Existing-home sales declined for the tenth month in a row in November, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. All four major U.S. regions recorded month-over-month and year-over-year declines.

Total existing-home sales,1 https://www.nar.realtor/existing-home-sales – completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – waned 7.7% from October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.09 million in November. Year-over-year, sales dwindled by 35.4% (down from 6.33 million in November 2021).

“In essence, the residential real estate market was frozen in November, resembling the sales activity seen during the COVID-19 economic lockdowns in 2020,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “The principal factor was the rapid increase in mortgage rates, which hurt housing affordability and reduced incentives for homeowners to list their homes. Plus, available housing inventory remains near historic lows.”

Total housing inventory2 registered at the end of November was 1.14 million units, which was down 6.6% from October, but up 2.7% from one year ago (1.11 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 3.3-month supply at the current sales pace, which was identical to October, but up from 2.1 months in November 2021.

The median existing-home price3 for all housing types in November was $370,700, an increase of 3.5% from November 2021 ($358,200), as prices rose in all regions. This marks 129 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, the longest-running streak on record.

Properties typically remained on the market for 24 days in November, up from 21 days in October and 18 days in November 2021. Sixty-one percent of homes sold in November 2022 were on the market for less than a month.

First-time buyers were responsible for 28% of sales in November, which was unchanged from October, but up from 26% in November 2021. NAR’s 2022 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released last month4 – found that the annual share of first-time buyers was 26%, the lowest since NAR began tracking the data.

All-cash sales accounted for 26% of transactions in November – identical to October and up from 24% in November 2021.

Individual investors or second-home buyers, who make up many cash sales, purchased 14% of homes in November, down from 16% in October and 15% in November 2021.

Distressed sales5 – foreclosures and short sales – represented 2% of sales in November, virtually unchanged from last month and one year ago.

According to Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage(link is external) averaged 6.31% as of December 15. That’s down from 6.33% last week, but up from 3.12% one year ago.

“The market may be thawing since mortgage rates have fallen for five straight weeks,” Yun added. “The average monthly mortgage payment is now almost $200 less than it was several weeks ago when interest rates reached their peak for this year.”

Realtor.com®’s Market Trends Report(link is external) in November shows that the largest year-over-year median list price growth occurred in Milwaukee (+38.1%), Memphis (+26.9%) and Miami (+24.8%). Phoenix reported the highest increase in the share of homes that had prices reduced compared to last year (+28.4 percentage points), followed by Austin (+23.8 percentage points) and Denver (+21.0 percentage points).

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales declined to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.65 million in November, down 7.6% from 3.95 million in October and 35.2% from one year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $376,700 in November, up 3.2% from November 2021.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 440,000 units in November, down 8.3% from October and 37.1% from the previous year. The median existing condo price was $321,600 in November, an annual increase of 5.8%.

“For most of this year, prospective home buyers have faced the dual challenges of elevated mortgage rates and limited housing inventory,” said NAR President Kenny Parcell, a REALTOR® from Spanish Fork, Utah, and broker-owner of Equity Real Estate Utah. “Consumers can rely on REALTORS® to provide informed guidance on changing market conditions and trusted expertise throughout all steps of the home buying process.”

Regional Breakdown

Existing-home sales in the Northeast decreased 7.0% from October to an annual rate of 530,000 in November, down 28.4% from November 2021. The median price in the Northeast was $394,700, an increase of 3.5% from the prior year.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest retreated 5.6% from the previous month to an annual rate of 1.02 million in November, falling 30.6% from one year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $268,600, up 3.9% from November 2021.

In the South, existing-home sales dwindled 7.1% in November from October to an annual rate of 1.84 million, a 35.0% decrease from the previous year. The median price in the South was $340,100, an increase of 4.4% from this time last year.

Existing-home sales in the West fell 12.5% from October to an annual rate of 700,000 in November, down 45.7% from one year ago. The median price in the West was $569,800, a 2.0% increase from November 2021.

“The West region experienced the largest decline in home sales and the smallest increase in home prices compared to the other regions of the country,” Yun said.

The National Association of REALTORS® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.5 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. The term REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.

# # #

For local information, please contact the local association of REALTORS® for data from local multiple listing services (MLS). Local MLS data is the most accurate source of sales and price information in specific areas, although there may be differences in reporting methodology.

NOTE: NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index for November is scheduled for release on December 28, and Existing-Home Sales for December will be released on January 20, 2023. Release times are 10 a.m. Eastern.

1 Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings from Multiple Listing Services. Changes in sales trends outside of MLSs are not captured in the monthly series. NAR benchmarks home sales periodically using other sources to assess overall home sales trends, including sales not reported by MLSs.

Existing-home sales, based on closings, differ from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing-home sales, which account for more than 90% of total home sales, are based on a much larger data sample – about 40% of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.

The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.

Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when monthly collection of condo data began. Prior to this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales prior to 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.

2 Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (prior to 1999, single-family sales accounted for more than 90% of transactions and condos were measured only on a quarterly basis).

3 The median price is where half sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical of market conditions than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions. The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if additional data is received.

The national median condo/co-op price often is higher than the median single-family home price because condos are concentrated in higher-cost housing markets. However, in a given area, single-family homes typically sell for more than condos as seen in NAR’s quarterly metro area price reports.

4 Survey results represent owner-occupants and differ from separately reported monthly findings from NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, which include all types of buyers. The annual study only represents primary residence purchases, and does not include investor and vacation home buyers. Results include both new and existing homes.

5 Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), days on market, first-time buyers, all-cash transactions and investors are from a monthly survey for the NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, posted at nar.realtor.

VA Loans Can Help Veterans Achieve Their Dream of Homeownership

Thursday, November 10th, 2022

Courtesy: Keeping Current Matters

For over 78 years, Veterans Affairs (VA) home loans have provided millions of veterans with the opportunity to purchase homes of their own. If you or a loved one have served, it’s important to understand this program and its benefits.

Here are some things you should know about VA loans before you start the homebuying process.

What Are VA Loans?

VA home loans provide a pathway to homeownership for those who have served our nation. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs describes the program like this:

“VA helps Servicemembers, Veterans, and eligible surviving spouses become homeowners. As part of our mission to serve you, we provide a home loan guaranty benefit and other housing-related programs to help you buy, build, repair, retain, or adapt a home for your own personal occupancy.”

Top Benefits of the VA Home Loan Program

In addition to helping eligible buyers achieve their homeownership dreams, VA loans have several other great benefits for buyers who qualify. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs:

  • Qualified borrowers can often purchase a home with no down payment.
  • Many other loans with down payments under 20% require Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). VA Loans do not require PMI, which means veterans can save on their monthly housing costs.
  • VA-Backed Loans often offer competitive terms and mortgage interest rates.

A recent article from Veterans United sums up just how impactful this loan option can be:

“For the vast majority of military borrowers, VA loans represent the most powerful lending program on the market. These flexible, $0-down payment mortgages have helped more than 24 million service members become homeowners since 1944.”

John Bell, Acting Executive Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Loan Guaranty Service, also explains why this program is so powerful:

“It provides early ownership for many people that would not have that opportunity to begin with. Since there’s no down payment, it allows people to hold their wealth and it gives them the ability to have long term financial security by being able to own a house and let that equity grow.”

Bottom Line

Homeownership is the American Dream. Our veterans sacrifice so much in service of our nation, and one way we can honor and thank them is to ensure they have the best information about the benefits of VA home loans. Thank you for your service.

6 Tasks That Every Smart Homeowner Does in October

Wednesday, October 12th, 2022

Courtesy: Houselogic

The temps are starting to drop, and the smell of wood smoke is in the air. That’s when veteran homeowners know it’s time to do these six things if they want to avoid trouble or overspending.

#1 Buy Appliances

Whisper to them. Do a rain dance. Whatever it takes to get your old appliances to wait until fall to go on the fritz. Manufacturers bring out their latest models during the fall, and store owners offer big sales on appliances they want to move out — like last year’s most popular dishwasher. So September, October, and November are great months to buy.

But October is right in the middle, when there’s still plenty of selection and retailers might be more willing to haggle.

Refrigerators are the exception because new models don’t come out until spring.

#2 Switch the Direction of Ceiling Fans

Most have a switch to allow the ceiling fan blades to rotate either clockwise or counterclockwise. One way pushes air down to create a nice breeze, and the other sucks air up, helping to distribute the heat. Think counterclockwise when it’s warm and clockwise when it’s cool.

#3 Clean Windows

Daylight is about to dwindle so why not get as much of it as you can? Clean off all the bugs, dust, and grime from your windows while the weather is still warm enough to do so. For streak-free windows, combine ¼-cup of white vinegar with ¼ to ½ teaspoon of eco-friendly dish detergent and 2 cups of water.

If window cleaning isn’t a DIY job at your home, schedule a professional window cleaner (who, unlike most of us, is able to do it even when temperatures plummet) before the end of the month. The closer it gets to the holidays, the busier they get. Bright sunshine on winter’s darkest days makes it totally worthwhile.

#4 Schedule a Heating Unit Checkup

To ensure your family will be able to feel their toes all winter, schedule early in the month for your heating unit to be serviced. As temperatures drop, service companies get busier.

Whether you hire your heating company’s technician or a contractor to do it, they’ll clean soot and corrosion from the combustion chamber, replace filters, and check the whole system for leaks, clogs, and damage. Nothing pairs with a pending blizzard better than the assurance that you’ll be weathering the storm with warm air piping through the vents and cocoa in hand.

#5 Get a Chimney Sweep to Inspect the Fireplace

It’s time to dust off and sweep the chimney! Best to hire someone who knows wood-burning fireplaces. A professional chimney sweep will ensure your wood-burning fireplace burns more efficiently and will help prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning during the winter. So, yeah, it’s pretty important.

Tip: If you don’t already have a chimney cap, this is also the time to add one to stop wild outdoor critters from crawling down it — and (yikes!) into your house.

#6 Insulate Exposed Pipes

If you’ve ever dealt with a burst pipe, you know it’s a sad, wet disaster worth preventing. To avoid the stressful (not to mention, expensive) ordeal, prep your home’s exposed pipes with foam or heat tape — choosing which one will work best with your climate. Remember: The most at-risk pipes are often those in unheated areas such as an attics, crawl spaces, and garages, so secure those first.


Three Things Buyers Can Do in Today’s Housing Market

Friday, September 23rd, 2022

Courtesy: Keeping Current Matters

It’s clear the 2022 housing market has been defined by rising mortgage rates. With rates on the rise, it’s also become more costly to purchase a home. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR):

“Compared to one year ago, the monthly mortgage payment rose to $1,944 from $1,265, an increase of 53.7%.”

If you’re thinking of buying a home or have been trying to recently, that’s a big increase in a monthly mortgage payment – and it may be causing you to press pause on your plans. This jump is making homes less affordable, especially compared to the last two years when mortgage rates were at historic lows.

The good news is you can navigate today’s housing market and this rising rate environment with a few simple tips. Here are three things you may want to consider to help make your homeownership goals a reality.

1. Expand Your Search Area and Criteria
If you’ve been looking for a home in the city center or a specific area that’s starting to feel out of your price range, you may want to try looking a little further out in a location that could be more affordable. Expanding your search location or re-prioritizing the items on your wish list can open up opportunities you haven’t considered, and that could help you afford more of what you need (and want) in a home. As CNET notes:

“Area growth is likely to keep pace with the market, which means that the outskirts of town might be hopping within five years. Consider stepping out of your ideal location by searching in the nearby cities. You may find better prices and more square footage.”

2. Explore Alternative Financing Options
Working with a trusted lender to learn about the different loan types and options is essential too. According to Nerd Wallet:

“A variety of mortgages are available with varying down payment and eligibility requirements.”

Experts know how to point you in the right direction when it comes to exploring ways to find the best home loan for your situation. With rising mortgage rates making it more costly to finance a home today, there may be an ideal option out there your loan officer can introduce you to. This could make a home purchase more affordable and within your financial reach over the life of your loan.

3. Look for Grants, Gift Funds, and Down Payment Assistance
There are also many options available when it comes to securing the funding you need to purchase a home. One valuable resource to explore is downpaymentresource.com. Searching for specific down payment assistance options available in your local community could be a game changer when it comes to taking your first step toward homeownership. As NAR indicates:

“Many local governments and non-profit organizations offer down-payment assistance grants and loans, targeted to area borrowers and often with specific borrower requirements.”

Plus, there are programs and special benefits for individuals working in certain professions or with unique statuses, including teachers, doctors and nurses, and veterans.

Ultimately, that means there are many federal, state, and local programs available for you to explore. The best way to do that is to connect with a local real estate professional and your lender to learn more about what’s available in your area.

Bottom Line
If you’ve been searching for a home and have found yourself stepping out of the process because you’re worried about rising costs, connect with a trusted real estate expert. Having a team of local advisors on your side may be just what you need to guide your search in a new and more affordable direction.

How to Get Your House Ready for Back to School

Thursday, August 18th, 2022

Use storage hacks for a more organized home — and chill family life.

Courtesy: houselogic

It’s a given. When your kids go back to school, your schedule and family life get more hectic. But you can prep for the school year crush by fine-tuning how you organize your home, including storage and space use. Here are some ingenious but simple storage hacks for getting an organized home that will make going back to school easier.

#1 Organize Your Kids’ Bedroom Closets and Drawers

back to school home organization kids bedroom and drawers young girl looking into messy closet
Image: Digital Vision/Getty

Help your kids get dressed in the morning by organizing their clothes. Arrange the clothes in see-through bins and on hangers so they can find what they want to wear and get dressed in a hurry. That way, your child won’t waste valuable time rummaging around for matching socks or their favorite shirt.

Pro tip: Label the drawers, bins, and closet organizers with the type of clothing that goes in them. If your child knows which drawer is for socks and which bin is for T-shirts, they can stash their clothes in the right places so an organized closet will stay that way.

#2 Add Places to Store Books

back to school home organization mother and daughter with curly brown hair and a purple tutu picking books from shelf
Image: Inti St Clair/Getty

Make sure your child has a place to store textbooks, library books, and their own books. Install shelves that are low enough for them to reach. If they already have shelves in their rooms, organize them just like you did their closet so they can find the books they need, fast. You don’t want them to miss the bus because they’re looking for their math book.

Pro tip: Put library books in a separate bin on a low shelf so your child remembers to return them on time.

#3 Create a Dedicated Space for Homework

back to school home organization teenager room with a sleek white desk and chair with a tablet and flowers on the wall
Image: Liudmila Chernetska/Getty

Create a homework station where your children can study and work on their book reports. For younger kids who need parental supervision, set up a space in the kitchen or living area so you can make sure they stay on task. For older ones who can manage homework without mom and dad, set up a study space in their rooms. Make sure they have a table or desk, a comfy chair, bins to organize school supplies, good lighting, and no distractions.

Pro tip: Keep phones and video games away from the study space (easier said than done).

#4 Set Up an Organized Drop Zone in Your Entryway

back to school home organization drop zone two backpacks and jackets hanging on a wall rack by the entry door
Image: DonNichols/Getty

You know the drill. Your kids come home from school and throw everything from backpacks to sneakers on the floor when they step in the door. To keep your entryway from looking like a tornado went through, turn it into an organized drop zone. Create storage space for backpacks, shoes, sports equipment, hats, coats, and other gear. Put up cubbies for shoes, shelves for books, and hooks for jackets, backpacks, and tote bags. You’ll declutter the space and ramp up efficiency.

Pro tip: Put baskets or bins on the floor or on low shelves by the entrance to catch the socks, toys, papers, and other paraphernalia that doesn’t make it onto a hanger or into a cubby.

#5 Create a Back-to-School Communications Command Center

That’s a fancy way of saying you need a space where you can coordinate class and work schedules, homework assignments, school activities, and reading lists. The center can be as simple as a calendar and whiteboard on a kitchen wall. Or you can make it more functional by adding hanging bins for folders, a message board, or a small table or desk where you can put an inbox, a bill holder, and a supply of envelopes and pens.

Pro tip: Get a large whiteboard with a calendar template that lets you customize each month and write down all your school-related appointments in one place.

#6 Get the Kids’ Bathrooms in Order

back to school organization kids bathroom your girl with backpack standing on a stool while brushing her teeth at the sink
Image: MoMo Productions/Getty

Make it easier for your kids to get out the door in the morning by arranging their bathroom for maximum efficiency. Sort their bathroom essentials by category — toothbrushes, hairbrushes, towels, shampoos, and soaps. Organize them in cabinets, drawers, or bins. You want to make items easy to find so your kids can brush their teeth and hair and wash their face fast.

Pro tip: Help younger children stay organized by labeling storage areas with the type of grooming supplies they hold, like “Hair,” “Teeth,” and “Bath.”

#7 Set Up a Back-to-School Breakfast Station

back to school home organization 7 year old girl sets the table for breakfast
Image: vgajic/Getty

Feeding children as they rush out the door to school is tough. Make it simpler by setting up a spot in the kitchen with easy-to-prepare food so your kids can eat on the run. Put out airtight containers of cereal, bowls, packets of instant oatmeal, and fruit in a basket. Make sure milk, yogurt, and other healthy breakfast foods are in easy reach in the fridge.

Pro tip: Use hotel breakfast bars as your inspo. Kids love picking their own meal from an array of food, so copy that look on the kitchen counter.

#8 Make a Snack Drawer

back to school organization young female student in a uniform making a sandwich for lunch box part of morning routine for school
Image: ake1150sb/Getty

Kids are hungry when they come home from school. Set up an area where they can get their own snacks. Put bins in the fridge that have healthy snacks just for them. Think fruit, yogurt, string cheese, nuts, hummus and celery sticks, and cherry tomatoes. If you make healthy food as accessible and ready to eat as junk food, your kids might choose an apple instead of a bag of chips.

Pro tip: Use clear bins so the kids can see what’s in them and so you know when you’re running low on snacks.

A few back-to-school hiccups are probably inevitable. But with some simple hacks for an organized home, the transition can be a whole lot easier.

Expert Housing Market Forecasts for the Second Half of the Year

Friday, July 22nd, 2022

Courtesy: Keeping Current Matters

The housing market is at a turning point, and if you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, that may leave you wondering: is it still a good time to buy a home? Should I make a move this year? To help answer those questions, let’s turn to the experts for projections on what the second half of the year holds for residential real estate.

Where Mortgage Rates Will Go Depends on Inflation

While one of the big questions on all buyers’ minds is where will mortgage rates go in the months ahead, no one has a crystal ball to know exactly what’ll happen in the future. What housing market experts know for sure is that the record-low mortgage rates during the pandemic were an outlier, not the norm.

This year, rates have climbed over 2% due to the Federal Reserve’s response to rising inflation. If inflation continues to rise, it’s likely that mortgage rates will respond. Greg McBride, Chief Financial Analyst at Bankrate, explains it well:

“Until inflation peaks, mortgage rates won’t either. Without improvement on the inflation front, we don’t know where the interest rate ceiling will be.”

Whether you’re buying your first home or selling your current house to make a move, today’s mortgage rate is an important factor to consider. When rates rise, they impact affordability and your purchasing power. That’s why it’s crucial to work with a team of professionals, so you have expert advice to help you make an informed decision about your best move.

The Supply of Homes for Sale Projected To Continue Increasing

This year, particularly this spring, the number of homes for sale has grown. That’s partly due to more homeowners listing their houses, but also because higher mortgage rates have helped ease the intensity of buyer demand. Moderating buyer demand slows down the pace of home sales, which in turn helps inventory rise.

Experts say that growth will continue. Recently, realtor.com updated their 2022 inventory forecast. In the latest release, they increased their projections for inventory gains dramatically, going from a 0.3% increase at the beginning of the year to a 15.0% jump by the end of 2022 (see graph below):

Expert Housing Market Forecasts for the Second Half of the Year | Keeping Current Matters

More homes to choose from is great news if you’re craving more options for your home search – just know that there isn’t a sudden surplus of inventory on the horizon. Housing supply is still low, so you’ll need to partner with an agent to stay on top of what’s available in your market and move fast when you find the one. It’s not going to be easy to find a home, but it certainly won’t be as difficult as it has been over the past two years.

Home Price Forecasts Call for Ongoing Appreciation

Due to the imbalance between the number of homes for sale and the number of buyers looking to make a purchase, the pandemic led to record-breaking increases in home prices. According to CoreLogic, homes appreciated by 15% in 2021, and they’ve continued to rise this year.

Even though housing supply is increasing today, there are still more buyers than there are homes for sale, and that’s maintaining the upward pressure on home prices. That’s why experts are not calling for prices to decline, rather they’re forecasting they’ll continue to climb, just at a more moderate pace this year. On average, homes are projected to appreciate by about 8.5% in 2022 (see graph below):

Expert Housing Market Forecasts for the Second Half of the Year | Keeping Current Matters

Selma Hepp, Deputy Chief Economist at CoreLogic, explains why the housing market will see deceleration, but not depreciation, in prices:

“The current home price growth rate is unsustainable, and higher mortgage rates coupled with more inventory will lead to slower home price growth but unlikely declines in home prices.

For current homeowners looking to sell, know your home’s value isn’t projected to fall, but waiting to make your purchase does mean your next home could cost more as home prices continue to appreciate. That’s why, if you’re thinking about buying your first home or you’re ready to make a move, it may make sense to do so now before prices climb higher. But rest assured, once you buy a home, that price appreciation will help grow the value of your investment.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re a homebuyer or seller, you need to know what’s happening in the housing market, so you can make the most informed decision possible. Connect with a real estate advisor to discuss your goals and what lies ahead, so you can determine the best plan for your move.

How Homeownership Impacts You

Tuesday, June 7th, 2022

Courtesy: Keeping Current Matters

June is National Homeownership Month, and it’s the perfect time to reflect on how impactful owning a home can truly be. When you purchase a house, it becomes more than just a space you occupy. It’s your stake in the community, an investment, and a place you can put your stamp on.

If you’re thinking about buying a home this year, here are some of the benefits you’ll experience when you do.

The Emotional Benefits of Homeownership

Because it’s a place that’s uniquely yours, owning a home can give you a sense of pride and happiness in several ways.

Your Home Can Reflect Your Tastes and Personality

Investopedia puts it like this:

“One often-cited benefit of homeownership is the knowledge that you own your little corner of the world.

That knowledge can lead to a powerful, emotional connection to the place where you live. But so can the realization that your home will grow with you. Because it’s yours, you have the freedom to make updates to it as your needs and tastes change. As Logan Mohtashami, Lead Analyst for HousingWire, says:

“The psychology is that this is yours and you’re going to make it as good as possible because you’re in for a long time, . . . “

And that can create a greater sense of ownership, pride, and connection with your home and your community.

It Can Enhance Your Neighborhood and Civic Engagement

Homeownership can lead you to get even more involved with your local area. After all, you’re putting your roots down in a location and will want to do what you can to help improve it, much like your home. In a recent report, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) says:

Living in one place for a longer amount of time creates and [sic] obvious sense of community pride, which may lead to more investment in said community.”

The Financial Benefits of Homeownership

When you choose to become a homeowner, you’re making a financial decision as well. That’s because your home is also an investment.

It Can Help You Feel Financially Stable

Homeownership is truly one of the best ways to improve your long-term financial position. Not only will you have a predictable monthly housing expense that can benefit your budget in the short term, but you’ll also gain equity as your home appreciates in value and you make your monthly mortgage payment. As Freddie Mac says:

“Building equity through your monthly principal payments and appreciation is a critical part of homeownership that can help you create financial stability.”

It Can Grow Your Wealth

Because of your growing equity, you can build your net worth as a homeowner. And when you compare the difference in net worth between a renter and a homeowner, it’s clear that owning a home truly offers a great way to build your long-term financial position.

According to the latest data from NAR, the median household net worth of a homeowner is roughly $300,000, while the median net worth of renters is only about $8,000. That means a homeowner’s net worth is nearly 40 times that of a renter.

Bottom Line

Homeownership is truly a way to find greater satisfaction and happiness and to build financial freedom. If National Homeownership Month has you dreaming about purchasing a home, contact a local real estate professional to begin the process today.

Are There More Homes Coming to the Market?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022

Courtesy: Keeping Current Matters

According to a recent survey from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), one of the top challenges buyers face in today’s housing market is finding a home that meets their needs. That’s largely because the inventory of homes for sale is so low today.

If you’re looking to buy a home, you may have noticed this yourself. But there is good news. Recent data shows more sellers are listing their houses this season, which may give you more options for your home search.

Early Signs Inventory May Be Growing

The latest data from realtor.com shows the number of listings coming onto the market, known in the industry as “new listings,” has increased since the start of the year (see graph below):

Are There More Homes Coming to the Market? | Keeping Current Matters

This indicates more sellers are listing their homes for sale each month this year. And according to realtor.com, this growth is expected to continue. Their research finds the majority of potential sellers plan to list their homes over the next six months. Realtor.com says:

“. . . markets may see a noticeable bump in the number of homes for sale as we move through spring and into summer. A majority of homeowners planning to sell this year indicated that they aim to list in the next six months, with almost 10% having already placed their properties on the market.”

Homes Are Still Selling Quickly

But while new listings are increasing, it’s important to know they’re also selling quickly. The latest Realtors Confidence Index from NAR shows the median days on market for recently sold homes since the beginning of the year (see chart below). The time on market has decreased month-over-month. That means homes are selling even faster than they did the previous month.

Are There More Homes Coming to the Market? | Keeping Current Matters

What That Means for You

While a low-inventory market is difficult to navigate as a buyer, there is hope. The growing number of new listings and the expectation more sellers will list their homes in the coming months is great news if you’ve had a hard time finding a home that fits your needs. Just remember, those new listings are going fast. That means you’ll want to keep your foot on the gas and be ready to act if you find a home you love this season.

Your agent can help you stay on top of the latest listings in your area so you can find the home that’s right for you and submit your strongest offer as quickly as possible.

Bottom Line

If you’ve been having a hard time finding your dream home, stick with your search. More options are coming to market and your ideal home could be one of them. Partner with a real estate professional to stay up to date on the latest listings in your market, so you can be ready to move fast when you find the one that’s right for you.

4 Smart Home Devices: Which Are Right for Your Home?

Friday, April 8th, 2022

Courtesy: House Logic

Smart home devices can be clever choices for your home and your budget.

When you’re not home, little doubts can plague you. Did I lock the door? Did I leave a key for the housekeeper? Is the AC still on full blast? Smart home devices can resolve those questions and ease your mind. They can also make your home more comfortable and convenient, and save you money.

Once the exclusive domain of the super-rich and alpha geeks, smart home devices have become more common, user friendly, and affordable. You can equip your home with some basic smart devices like a smart thermostat, smart lighting, and smart door locks for $1,000 or less. You can run these devices with your smartphone or tablet. And in many cases, you can install them yourself; no electrical engineering degree required.

Here’s what you need to know to get started in choosing the right smart home devices for your home and your budget.

What Are My Smart Home Goals?
Start by deciding what you want to accomplish, and that will lead you to a relevant device. If you want more security, consider a smart door lock. Are you looking for more comfort and convenience? Check out smart lights that come on right before you get home from work. Want to save money? A smart thermostat that uses artificial intelligence to control the temperature in your house may be the way to go. Do you crave a cool, high-tech gadget that’s downright Jetsons-esque? Go for a smart appliance like a fridge that can stream cooking videos.

Do I Need a Hub?
You don’t necessarily need a hub. In the early days of smart home tech you needed a dedicated device that tied all your smart home devices together. Back then, hubs were problematic, because not all devices were compatible with them, and their software needed to be updated regularly. Those old hubs are near relics now. These days, you can run your smart home devices through an app on your phone or tablet. Wi-Fi and the cloud have been game changers in smart home technology because they enable many devices to network together regardless of the make and the brand.

Many homeowners use a voice assistant like Siri or Alexa as a de facto home hub by tying all their smart home devices to it. Once you do that, you can control your devices with a single unit. If you tie your smart home door lock and smart home appliances to your voice assistant, you can say, “Siri, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and unlock the door,” and consider it done.

“Voice assistants have made so much more possible in the area of smart home devices,” says John Carey, vice president of Designer Appliances, a New Jersey retailer that specializes in smart appliances. “They can work with so many different products.”

Do I Need a Wi-Fi Connection?
You can run your devices by connecting them to a hot spot device, like a MIPS (Microprocessor without Interlocked Pipelined Stages), which lets you tap into a cell phone signal. A MIPS is basically a little computer that hooks your smart devices to the cloud via a cell phone network. You can also run smart devices through a hot spot on your phone or tablet. But you’ll get the best experience with Wi-Fi hooked up to the internet, Carey says.

Can Smart Homes Get Hacked?
Although smart homes can be hacked, the damage a hacker can do is limited, says Christy Roth, director of offer management, home and distribution software for Schneider Electric in Nashville, Tenn. “Hackers can’t get to your bank account through your smart refrigerator,” she says. “But they could see what’s in your refrigerator or turn it off.”

Although appliances can be at risk, homeowners are typically more concerned about risk tied to devices like smart locks and cameras. Carey says you’re better safe than sorry when it comes to security with smart home devices and appliances. “We recommend people set up a guest network that’s separate from their main network and connect all their smart devices to that. That way hackers can’t get on your network and onto your computer, where you store sensitive information.”

4 Smart Home Device Categories
Here’s a quick primer on four of the most popular smart home devices and some pros and cons for each.

1. Smart thermostats — They’re the top-selling smart home device. Around 33 million households in the United States had one as of 2020. “They’re the most natural place to start if you want to get into smart home tech,” Roth says. Smart thermostats let you create programmable temperature settings based on your schedule, the weather, and your own needs. Many smart thermostats incorporate artificial intelligence technology to learn your schedule and adjust heating and cooling according to when you’re home. They’ll turn off the AC while you’re at work and turn it on 30 minutes before you get home from work each day. “They definitely pay for themselves with energy savings,” Carey says.


Smart home thermostats reduce the use of heating and cooling systems when nobody is home. If your HVAC runs less, your utility bill will be lower.
They alert you when it’s time to change the filter and can tell you when your last maintenance check was, saving you costly repairs.


They can be complex to operate. “Setting up the profiles for vacation and sleep isn’t easy, so people can end up ignoring them or overriding them,” Roth says. “And the AI can annoy some people so that they override it. That defeats the purpose of having them.”
Some require professional installation.

2. Smart lighting — This includes smart lightbulbs or smart switches. Both can be controlled remotely, via your smartphone when you’re miles away or with a voice assistant when you’re at home. You can program them to turn on or off at certain times and control their brightness.


Smart bulbs are simple to set up; you can screw them into a light fixture yourself.
They are easy to scale up; buy more to enlarge your smart lighting system.
They let you use whatever bulb you want because the switch is hooked to the cloud, not the bulb.


You can’t get smart bulbs to fit every fixture.
They don’t work well in fixtures tied to dimmer switches.
They require rewiring to install. You’ll need to call a pro.

3. Smart appliances — Anything that runs on electricity is game for joining the Internet of Things, the ever-growing network of connected devices that talk to one another via the cloud. So, you can get smart microwaves that let you download cooking instructions for frozen food, smart ovens you can preheat before you get home, and smart refrigerators that alert you when food hits its expiration date. “Our biggest seller is smart washing machines,” Carey says. “They’ll alert you when your laundry is done, so you can get it into the drier before it sours.”


They look cool. What’s not to love about a refrigerator with a touchscreen that lets you see inside the fridge without opening it?
They can cut your electric bill. Some smart appliances can calculate energy rates and schedule themselves to run during off-peak hours when electricity rates are lower.


They’re expensive to buy and repair.
If your internet goes down, your smart appliances become dumb ones.

4. Smart door locks — They let you lock and unlock your house with the tap of a finger or a voice command. No keys required. Smart locks enable remote access, so you can unlock a door to let in a guest while you’re at work. Some locks allow you to monitor entry and exit logs in real time, so you can see if the kids got home from school or if the dog walker arrived on time. Some allow you to set up entry codes that work for only a certain period of time, so you can control who has access to your house.


You don’t have to dig in your purse or pockets for keys.
You can see who comes and goes at your house.
Instead of giving out house keys to everyone who needs to get into your home, you can set a code for the cleaning person or the dog walker that only they use.


They run on batteries. If the battery goes dead, you’re locked out.
If the power goes out or your Wi-Fi goes down, you won’t be able to operate the lock remotely.
Like all smart tech, smart locks can be hacked. But they have a system that will notify you or the police of an unauthorized entry.
Smart devices are a smart investment as long as they add comfort, convenience, or savings that you value. You’ll be more likely to get what works for you after exploring the most popular options and their pros and cons.

This Spring Presents Sellers with a Golden Opportunity

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

Courtesy: Keeping Current Matters

If you’re thinking of selling your house this year, timing is crucial. After all, you’ll want to balance getting the most out of the sale of your current home and making the best investment when you buy your next one.

If that’s the case, you should know – you may be able to get the best of both worlds today. Here are four reasons why this spring may be your golden window of opportunity.

1. The Number of Homes on the Market Is Still Low
Today’s limited supply of houses for sale is putting sellers in the driver’s seat. There are far more buyers in the market today than there are homes available. That means purchasers are eagerly waiting for your house.

Listing your house now makes it the center of attention. And if you work with a real estate professional to price your house correctly, you can expect it to sell quickly and likely get multiple strong offers this season.

2. Your Equity Is Growing in Record Amounts
According to the most recent Homeowner Equity Insight report from CoreLogic, homeowners are sitting on record amounts of equity thanks to recent home price appreciation. The report finds that the average homeowner has gained $55,300 in equity over the past year.

That much equity can open doors for you to make a move. If you’ve been holding off on selling because you’re worried about how rising prices will impact your next home search, rest assured your equity can help fuel your move. It may be just what you need to cover a large portion – if not all – of the down payment on your next home.

3. Mortgage Rates Are Increasing
While its true mortgage rates have already been climbing this year, current mortgage rates are still below what they’ve been in recent decades. In the 2000s, the average mortgage rate was 6.27%. In the 1990s, the average rate was 8.12%.

For context, the current average 30-year fixed mortgage rate, according to Freddie Mac, is 3.85%. And while recent global uncertainty caused rates to dip slightly in the near-term, experts project rates will rise in the months ahead. Doug Duncan, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at Fannie Mae, says:

“For homebuyers, we believe that borrowing costs will likely rise with the increase in mortgage rates….”

When that happens, it’ll cost you more to purchase your next home. That’s why it’s important to act now if you’re ready to sell. Work with a trusted advisor to kickstart the process so you can take key steps to making your next purchase before rates climb further.

4. Home Prices Are Climbing Too
Home prices have been skyrocketing in recent years because of the imbalance of supply and demand. And as long as that imbalance continues, so will the rise in home values.

What does that mean for you? If you’re selling so you can move into the home of your dreams or downsize into something that better suits your current needs, you have an opportunity to get ahead of the curve by leveraging your growing equity and purchasing your next home before prices climb higher.

And, once you make your purchase, you can find peace of mind in knowing ongoing home price appreciation is growing the value of your new investment.

Bottom Line
If you want to win when you sell and when you buy, this spring could be your golden opportunity. Get connected with a local real estate professional so you have the insights you need to take advantage of today’s incredible sellers’ market.


More People Are Planning To Buy a Home Soon

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022

Courtesy: Keeping Current Matters

While some homeowners may be tempted to hold off until spring to list their houses, you should know – homebuyers aren’t waiting. Demand is high today as more people are trying to beat rising mortgage rates. As a result, eager buyers are entering the market or moving their plans up so they can make their purchases as soon as possible.

The most recent Consumer Confidence Survey finds that, of those surveyed, the percentage of people planning to buy over the next six months has increased substantially since last fall (see graph below):

More People Are Planning To Buy a Home Soon | Keeping Current Matters


As the graph shows, the number of consumers fast-tracking their plans to purchase a home has crept up over the past three months. That indicates many buyers are evaluating their strategy and realizing they should act sooner rather than later. And for homeowners planning to sell, it’s a signal that now may be the time to list.

While more people are moving their plans up, others are actively putting theirs in motion. Time on the market is a great indication that homebuyers are motivated and moving quickly. According to a recent realtor.com report, the average home sold faster this January than any January on record.

Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, notes:

“Homes sold at a record-fast January pace, suggesting that buyers are more active than usual for this time of year.”

What Does That Mean for You?
Homebuyers are rethinking their strategies and moving their plans forward. Others are making their moves today. That means demand for your house isn’t just increasing – it’s high right now.

And because there are so few homes available for determined purchasers to choose from, if you’re planning to sell your house this year, doing so sooner means you can take advantage of high buyer demand before more houses are listed in your neighborhood. Why is this important? Because as more houses are put up for sale, buyers will have more options. But until then, your house will be in the spotlight.

Bottom Line
With so many buyers eager to make a purchase, you could benefit from listing your house soon. To understand how strong buyer demand is in your area, connect with a local real estate advisor and start making your plans today.

Sellers: Don’t Wait Until Spring To Make Your Move

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

Courtesy: At Keeping Current Matters

As you plan out your goals for the year, moving up to your dream home may top the list. But, how do you know when to make your move? You want to time it just right so you can get the most out of the sale of your current house. You also want to know you’re making a good investment when you buy your new home. What you may not realize is, that opportunity to get the best of both worlds is already here.

You don’t want to wait until spring to spring into action. The current market conditions make this winter an ideal time to move. Here’s why.

1. The Number of Homes on the Market Is Still Low

Today’s limited supply of houses for sale is putting sellers in the driver’s seat. There are far more buyers in the market than there are homes available, and that means buyers are eagerly waiting for your house. Listing your house now makes it the center of attention. As a seller, that means when it’s priced correctly, you can expect it to sell quickly and get multiple strong offers this season. Just remember, experts project more inventory will come to market as we move through the winter months. The realtor.com 2022 forecast says this:

“After years of declining, the inventory of homes for sale is finally expected to rebound from all-time lows.”

Selling now may help you maximize the return on your investment before your house has to face more competition from other sellers.

2. Your Equity Is Growing in Record Amounts

Current homeowners are sitting on record amounts of equity thanks to today’s home price appreciation. According to the latest report from CoreLogic, the average homeowner gained $56,700 in equity over the past 12 months.

That much equity can open doors for you to make a move. If you’ve been holding off on selling because you’re worried about how rising prices will impact your own home search, rest assured your equity can help fuel your next move. It may be just what you need to cover a large portion – if not all – of the down payment on your next purchase.

3. While Rising, Mortgage Rates Are Still Historically Low

In January of last year, mortgage rates hit the lowest point ever recorded. Today, rates are starting to rise, but that doesn’t mean you’ve missed out on locking in a low rate. Current mortgage rates are still far below what they’ve been in recent decades:

  • In the 2000s, the average mortgage rate was 6.27%
  • In the 1990s, the average rate was 8.12%

Even with mortgage rates rising above 3%, they’re still worth taking advantage of. You just want to do so sooner rather than later. Experts are projecting rates will continue to rise throughout this year, and when they do, it’ll cost you more to purchase your next home.

4. Home Prices Are Going To Keep Rising with Time

According to industry leaders, home prices will also continue appreciating this year. While experts are forecasting more moderate home price growth than last year, it’s important to note prices will still be moving in an upward direction throughout 2022.

What does that mean for you? If you’re selling so you can move into a bigger home or downsize to the home of your dreams, you want to consider moving now before rates and prices rise further. If you’re ready, you have an opportunity to get ahead of the curve by purchasing your next home before rates and prices climb higher.

Bottom Line

If you’re considering selling to move up or downsize, this may be your moment, especially with today’s low mortgage rates and limited inventory. Reach out to a local real estate professional today to get set up for homebuying success this year.


6 Nontraditional Holiday Decorating Trends

Friday, December 10th, 2021

Courtesy: Realtor Magazine

From touches of nostalgia to weaving in vibrant colors, here’s how homeowners are adding elegance and festive cheer to their homes this year.

Festive holiday decor doesn’t have to be limited to the traditional red-and-green motif. In fact, the latest trends trade in the traditional holiday accents for more subtle decor that blends into a home’s existing style. Here are a few trending holiday looks this year:

1. Metallics with blue. Metallics continue to be a huge holiday decorating trend. Silver and gold are popular colors for shiny ornaments and accessories. Gold-on-silver can add warmth and depth to a space and is easily paired with nontraditional holiday colors, such as light blues and navy.

Photo by Robin LaMonte

2. Textured layers of white. Farmhouse-style interiors adorned with white holiday decorations are trending: Online searches for “farmhouse Christmas ideas” have surged 400% over the last five years, according to Google Trends. Soft whites paired with textured whites, along with burlap, natural wood tones, and black accents, are helping to create a festive farmhouse feel.

Photo by Linen & Flax Home

3. Nostalgic displays. Neon signs are trending in home design—including holiday decorating. Searches for custom or personalized neon signs have jumped 228% this year, according to design site Etsy. One of the most popular neon signs reads “Merry Christmas” in a retro-inspired script, according to PureWow.com, a lifestyles digital media company. Vintage 1950s-style glass ornaments, often in bright pastels like blue and pink, are also gaining traction along with tabletop ceramic Christmas trees. These decorating comebacks have happened in recent years as more homeowners reach for nostalgic holiday displays from previous generations.

4. Giant outdoor ornaments. Lawn ornaments are another hot trend this holiday season. These ornaments may be black-and-white striped or in colors like reds, greens, or even golds. They can add a decorative touch to the front stoop, day or night.

Holiday Ornaments
Photo credit: Gardinroad.com

5. Decorated greens. House plants, which homeowners have gravitated toward since the start of the pandemic, can become festive decor, too. Drape them in thin wire lights or garland to dress them up for the holidays. Also, greenery in its simplest form—just a row of it—is being draped over the fireplace mantle for a modern holiday style.

Photo by Linen & Flax Home

6. Elegant outdoor displays. A trend that never goes out of style: a home wrapped in the warm glow of white lights. Kelly Fitzsimmons, owner of Chicago-based Light Up Your Holidays, a design firm, factors a home’s architecture into her designs to show the property in its best light—literally. She recommends focusing on decorating only one area of the exterior. For example, decorate all your bushes and put a wreath in one window above the bushes, she suggests. You also can decorate your entire porch and consider creating a vignette and a cohesive display. Your efforts will have a bigger impact than simply throwing decorations on a tree.

Outdoor Lighting
Photo courtesy: Kelly Fitzsimmons, Light Up Your Holidays


What’s Happening with Home Prices?

Tuesday, November 16th, 2021

What’s Happening with Home Prices?

Courtesy: Keeping Current Matters

Many people have questions about home prices right now. How much have prices risen over the past 12 months? What’s happening with home values right now? What’s projected for next year? Here’s a look at the answers to all three of these questions.

How much have home values appreciated over the last 12 months?

According to the latest Home Price Index from CoreLogic, home values have increased by 18.1% compared to this time last year. Additionally, prices have gone up at an accelerated pace for each of the last eight months (see graph below):What’s Happening with Home Prices? | Keeping Current MattersThe increase in the rate of appreciation that’s shown by CoreLogic coincides with data from the other two main home price indices: the FHFA Home Price Index and the S&P Case Shiller Index.

The last year has shown tremendous home price appreciation, which is resulting in a major gain in wealth for homeowners through rising equity.

What’s happening with home prices right now?

All three indices mentioned above also show that while appreciation is in the high double digits right now, that price acceleration is beginning to level off (see graph below):What’s Happening with Home Prices? | Keeping Current MattersYear-over-year appreciation is still close to 20%, but it’s clearly plateauing at that rate. Many experts believe it will drop below 15% by the end of the year.

Keep in mind, that doesn’t mean home values will depreciate. It means the rate of appreciation will slow, yet stay well above the 25-year average of 5.1%.

What about next year?

The recent surge in prices is the result of heavy buyer demand and a shortage of homes available for sale. Most experts believe that as more housing inventory comes to market (both new construction and existing homes), the supply and demand for housing will come more into balance. That balance will bring a lower rate of appreciation in 2022. Here’s a look at home price forecasts from six major entities, and they all project future appreciation:

  1. Fannie Mae
  2. Freddie Mac
  3. Mortgage Bankers Association
  4. Home Price Expectation Survey
  5. Zelman & Associates
  6. National Association of Realtors

What’s Happening with Home Prices? | Keeping Current MattersWhile the projected rate of appreciation varies among the experts, due to things like supply chain challenges, virus variants, and more, it’s clear that home values will continue to appreciate next year.

Bottom Line

There have been historic levels of home price appreciation over the last year. That pace will slow as we finish 2021 and enter into 2022. Prices will still rise in value, just at a much more moderate pace, which is good news for the housing market.

3 Ways to Extend Your Outdoor Living Season

Monday, October 11th, 2021

3 Ways to Extend Your Outdoor Living Season


Courtesy: Houselogic

Make an outdoor living area comfy long after the sun sets or the leaves turn with outdoor lighting, a patio heater, and a glowing firepit or portable fireplace.

Light the Deck or Patio

The sun sets sooner on your outdoor living space in the fall, but that shouldn’t limit the hours you use your deck or patio. Adding low-voltage or solar outdoor lighting fixtures lets you party or relax well after dark.

With both lighting types, you can:

  • Light deck railings and stairs
  • Define the patio perimeter
  • Illuminate the edges of paths and walkways
  • Draw attention to a planter or tree

Other fixtures light up dining tables, grill surfaces, and even underwater in swimming pools.

Low-voltage fixtures clip onto a safe, 12-volt cable connected to a transformer, which plugs into a GFCI-protected 120-volt electrical outlet. A timer or light-sensitive control automatically turns lights on and off.

For a pool area, a kit with eight LED step lights and 12 hardscape lights, plus wiring, a transformer, and installation, would cost about $3,000.

Solar outdoor lighting fixtures don’t need cables and transformers. They simply turn themselves on automatically after dark. Each standalone fixture stakes into the ground or secures to a deck or exterior surface. You’ll save energy, as a sunlight-charged battery powers the bulb. Solar light fixtures cost $188 to $231 for six lights, with installation ranging from $167 to $271.

Solar technology has improved over time. The lights generally include LED bulbs, which emit a large amount of light for their size and the amount of energy used. With about an eight-hour charge from the sun, solar lights can illuminate all evening. That said, the amount of sunlight around your house will greatly affect how the lights perform. Outside solar lights can last three or four years, and the LEDs,10 to 15 years.

Get Glowing with a Firepit, Portable Fireplace, or Smokeless Firepit

Bring a cozy glow and a stylish focal point to your outdoor living area with a firepit or portable fireplace. Irresistible for gathering, warming up, and roasting marshmallows, firepits and portable fireplaces come in a variety of materials, sizes, and styles. You’ll also find options for fueling your fire with wood, propane, gas, or gel cans.

Check local fire codes first to find out if your community allows the use of a firepit or portable fireplace on the patio or lawn. (Never use a fire feature on a wood deck.)

A firepit is an open bowl, dish, or pan that varies in size from 24 inches across to about 40 inches. A firepit may come on a stand (some with wheels) or nestle into a tiled tabletop. Select a model with screening to contain flyaway sparks. A wood-burning firepit typically costs $500 to $1,300 including installation, and a gas firepit ranges from $900 to $3,800 including installation.

A portable outdoor fireplace ($104-$498) features a chimney to vent smoke up and away from people. Some portable fireplaces offer 360-degree views of the fire.

A smokeless firepit, or smokeless stove, is a popular choice. Despite the name, they aren’t entirely smokeless, but they generate less ash than a wood-burning firepit. The price ranges from $90 to $600.

Warm Up with a Patio Heater

Boost the warmth of your outdoor living area by as much as 15-25 degrees in the fall or spring with the addition of a portable patio heater. You’ll find three basic models:

1. Freestanding units resemble large floor lamps. Set them anywhere on your patio that will accommodate their 7-8 foot height. Some models include wheels for mobility. Expect to pay from $153 to $887, depending on heat output and fuel source.

2. A tabletop patio heater rests on a table, bench, or garden wall. These compact units typically produce less heat than tall, freestanding models. Prices range from $72 to $148.

3. Ceiling- or wall-mount patio heaters free up floor and table space, and typically emit heat via a halogen lamp. Prices vary from $112 to $866.

Make your selection based on how much outdoor living area you want to heat and whether you want a model powered by electricity or natural gas (each requiring a connection) or with a propane tank, which allows mobility.

What Buyers and Sellers Need To Know About the Appraisal Gap

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Courtesy: Keeping Current Matters

It’s economy 101 – when supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally rise. That’s what’s happening in today’s housing market. Home prices are appreciating at near-historic rates, and that’s creating some challenges when it comes to home appraisals.

In recent months, it’s become increasingly common for an appraisal to come in below the contract price on the house. Shawn Telford, Chief Appraiser for CoreLogic, explains it like this:

Recently, we observed buyers paying prices above listing price and higher than the market data available to appraisers can support. This difference is known as ‘the appraisal gap . . . .’”

Why does an appraisal gap happen?

Basically, with the heightened buyer demand, purchasers are often willing to pay over asking to secure the home of their dreams. If you’ve ever toured a house you’ve fallen in love with, you understand. Once you start to picture yourself and your furniture in the rooms, you want to do everything you can to land the property, including putting in a high offer to try to beat out other would-be buyers.

When the appraiser comes in, they look at things a bit more objectively. Their job is to assess the inherent value of the home, so they’re going to study the facts. Dustin Harris, Appraiser Coach, drives this point home:

It’s important for everyone to understand that the appraiser’s job in the end is to remain that unbiased third party, to truly tell the client what that home is worth in the current market, regardless of what decisions have been made on the price side of things.”

In simple terms, while homebuyers may be willing to pay more, appraisers are there to assess the market value of the home. Their goal is to make sure the lender isn’t loaning more money than the home is worth. It’s objective, rather than emotional.

In a highly competitive market like today’s, having a discrepancy between the two numbers isn’t unusual. Here’s a look at the increasing rate of appraisal gaps, according to data from  CoreLogic (see graph below):What Buyers and Sellers Need To Know About the Appraisal Gap | Keeping Current Matters

What does this mean for you?

Ultimately, knowledge is power. The best thing you can do is understand an appraisal gap may impact your transaction if you’re buying or selling. If you do encounter an appraisal below your contract price, know that in today’s sellers’ market, the most common approach is for the seller to ask the buyer to make up the difference in price. Buyers, be prepared to bring extra money to the table if you really want the home.

Above all else, lean on your real estate agent. Whether you’re a buyer or seller, your trusted advisor is your ally if you come up against an appraisal gap. We’ll help you understand your options and handle any additional negotiations that need to happen.

Bottom Line

In today’s real estate market, it’s important to stay informed on the latest trends. Work with a real estate professional to help you navigate an appraisal gap to get the best possible outcome.

What Do Experts See on the Horizon for the Second Half of the Year?

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

Courtesy: Keeping Current Matters

As we move into the latter half of the year, questions about what’s to come are top of mind for buyers and sellers. Near record-low mortgage rates coupled with rising home price appreciation kicked off a robust housing market in the first half of 2021, but what does the forecast tell us about what’s on the horizon?

Mortgage Rates Will Likely Increase, but Remain Low

Many experts are projecting a rise in interest rates. The latest Quarterly Forecast from Freddie Mac states:
“We forecast that mortgage rates will continue to rise through the end of next year. We estimate the 30-year fixed mortgage rate will average 3.4% in the fourth quarter of 2021, rising to 3.8% in the fourth quarter of 2022.”

However, even as mortgage rates rise, the anticipated increase is expected to be modest at most, and still well below historical averages. Rates remaining low is good news for homebuyers who are looking to maximize their purchasing power. The same report from Freddie Mac goes on to say:

“While higher mortgage rates will help slow the pace of home sales and moderate house price growth, we expect overall housing market activity will remain robust. Our forecast has total home sales, the sum of new and existing home sales, at 7.1 million in 2021….”

Home Price Appreciation Will Continue, but Price Growth Will Likely Slow. 

Joe Seydl, Senior Markets Economist at J.P. Morgan, projects home prices to continue rising as well, indicating buyers interested in purchasing a home should do so sooner rather than later. Waiting for rates or home prices to fall may not be wise:

“Homebuyers—interest rates are still historically low, though they are inching up. Housing prices have spiked during the last six-to-nine months, but we don’t expect them to fall soon, and we believe they are more likely to keep rising. If you are looking to purchase a new home, conditions now may be better than 12 months hence.”

Other experts remain optimistic about home prices, too. The graph below highlights 2021 home price forecasts from multiple industry leaders:

Inventory Remains a Challenge, but There’s Reason To Be Optimistic. 

Home prices are rising, but they should moderate as more housing inventory comes to market. George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, notes there are signs that we may see the current inventory challenges lessen, slowing the fast-paced home price appreciation and creating more choices for buyers:

“We have seen more new listings this year compared with 2020 in 11 of the last 13 weeks. The influx of new sellers over the last couple of months has been especially helpful in slowing price gains.”

New home starts are also showing signs of improvement, which further bolsters hopes of more options coming to market. Robert Dietz, Chief Economist at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), writes:

“As an indicator of the economic impact of housing, there are now 652,000 single-family homes under construction. This is 28% higher than a year ago.”

Finally, while it may not fundamentally change the market conditions we’re currently experiencing, another reason to be optimistic more homes might come to market: our improving economy. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, notes:

“A growing economy in the summer months has multiple implications for the housing market. Growing consumer confidence, a stronger labor market, and higher wages bode well for housing demand. While a growing economy and improving public health conditions may also spur hesitant existing owners to list their homes for sale, it’s unlikely to significantly ease the super sellers’ market conditions.”

Bottom Line
As we look at the forecast for prices, interest rates, inventory, and home sales, experts remain optimistic about what’s on the horizon for the second half of 2021. Contact your trusted real estate advisor to discuss how to navigate the market together in the coming months.

Sharp Homeowners Know June Is the Best Time to Do These 5 Things

Friday, June 4th, 2021

Courtesy: Houselogic

Could it really be summer?!

Tackle these five summer maintenance tasks during June’s longer days and better weather — and save yourself time and money this winter.

#1 Update Outdoor Lighting

In June, winter nights are probably the last thing on your mind. But early summer is the perfect time to plan for those “OMG it’s only 4:30, and it’s already dark ” moments by adding or updating landscape lighting. The most energy-efficient, easy-to-install option is solar lighting, but it won’t perform as well on dark or snowy days. For light no matter the weather, install electric.

LED bulbs last up to five times longer and also use less energy than comparable bulbs.

#2 Clean Your House’s Siding

With a bit of preventative maintenance, your home’s siding will stay clean and trouble-free for up to 50 years. Fifty years! Clean it this month with a soft cloth or a long-handled, soft-bristled brush to guarantee that longevity.

Start at the bottom of the house and work up, rinsing completely before it dries. That’s how you avoid streaks.

#3 Focus on Your Foundation

There’s no better time for inspecting your foundation than warm, dry June. Eyeball it for crumbling mortar, cracks in the stucco, or persistently damp spots (especially under faucets). Then call a pro to fix any outstanding issues now, before it becomes an emergency later.

#4 Seal Your Driveway Asphalt

Your driveway takes a daily beating. Weather, sunlight, cars, bikes, and foot traffic – all of these deteriorate the asphalt. Help it last by sealing it. Tip: The temperature must be 50 degrees or higher for the sealer to stick, making June a good month for this easy, cost-effective job.

#5 Buy Tools

Thanks to Father’s Day, June is the month everyone can get a deal on tools, tool bags, and that multitool you’ve had your eye on. If it’s time to replace a bunch of tools, or you’re starting from scratch, look for package deals that offer several at once. These can pack a savings wallop, offering 30% off or more over buying the tools individually.


Your House Could Be the Oasis in an Inventory Desert

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

Courtesy: Keeping Current Matters

Homebuyers are flooding the housing market right now to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates. Many have a sense of urgency to find a home soon since experts forecast a steady rise in both rates and home prices this year and next. As a result, buyer demand greatly outweighs the current housing supply. Here’s how the shortage of houses for sale sets yours up to be the oasis in an inventory desert.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), today’s housing inventory sits at an incredibly low 2.1-month supply, far below the 6-month mark for a neutral market. Inventory of single-family homes a year ago was already very low, and as you can see in the graph below, this year’s levels are even lower:

Due to these market conditions, today’s buyers frequently enter fierce bidding wars while trying to purchase a home. This in turn drives up home prices and gives sellers incredible leverage in the negotiation process, two big wins if you’re going to sell your house this year.

Bottom Line

In such a hot market, it can feel as though the supply of homes has virtually dried up, leaving buyers to wander in an inventory desert. That’s why there’s never been a better time to sell. To a parched buyer needing to secure a home as soon as possible, your house could be a true oasis.

5 Reasons to Sell Your House This Spring

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

By: Keeping Current Matters

When selling a house, most homeowners hope for a quick and profitable transaction that puts them in a position to make a great move. If you’re waiting for the best time to win as a seller, the market is calling your name this spring. Here are five reasons why this is the perfect time to sell your house if you’re ready.

1. There’s high demand from homebuyers.

Buyer demand is strong right now, and buyers are active in the market. ShowingTime, which tracks the average number of buyer showings on residential properties, recently announced that buyer showings are up 51.5% compared to this time last year. Daniil Cherkasskiy, Chief Analytics Officer at ShowingTime, notes:

“As anticipated, demand for real estate remains elevated and continues to be affected by low levels of inventory…On average, each home is getting 50 percent or more requests this year compared to January of last year. As we head into the busy season, it’s likely we’ll push into even more extreme territory until the supply starts catching up with demand.”

When your house is positioned to get a ton of attention from competitive buyers, you’re in the best spot possible as the seller.

2. There aren’t enough houses for sale.

Purchaser demand is so high, the market is running out of available houses for sale. Recently, realtor.com reported:

“Nationally, the inventory of homes for sale in February decreased by 48.6% over the past year, a higher rate of decline compared to the 42.6% drop in January. This amounted to 496,000 fewer homes for sale compared to February of last year.”

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) also reveals that, while home sales are skyrocketing, the inventory of existing homes for sale is continuing to drop dramatically. Houses are essentially selling as fast as they’re hitting the market – in fact, NAR reports that the average house is on the market for only 21 days.

It’s this imbalance between high buyer demand and a low supply of houses for sale that gives sellers such an advantage. A seller will always negotiate the best deal when demand is high and supply is low. That’s exactly what’s happening in the real estate market today.

3. You have a lot of leverage in today’s market.

Clearly, many more people are interested in buying than selling this spring, creating the ultimate sellers’ market. When this happens, homeowners in a position to sell have the upper hand in negotiations.

According to NAR, agents are reporting an average of 3.7 offers per house and an increase in bidding wars. As a seller, this means the ball is in your court – so much so that you can use your leverage to negotiate the best possible contract. Demand is there, and now is the perfect time to sell for the most favorable terms.

4. It’s a great way to use your home equity.

According to the latest data from CoreLogic, as of the third quarter of 2020, the average homeowner gained $17,000 in equity over the past year, and that number continues to grow as home values appreciate. Equity is a type of forced savings that grows during your time as a homeowner and can be put toward bigger goals like buying your next dream home.

Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, notes:

“As homeowners gain equity in their homes, they are more likely to consider using that equity to purchase a larger or more attractive home – the wealth effect of rising equity. In today’s housing market, fast rising demand against the limited supply of homes for sale has resulted in continued house price appreciation.”

5. It’s a chance to find a home that meets your needs.

So much has changed over the past year, including what many of us need in a home. Spending extra time where we currently live is enabling many of us to re-evaluate homeownership and what we find most important in a home.

Whether it’s a house that has the features suited to working remotely, space for virtual or hybrid schooling, a home gym or theater, or something else, selling this spring gives you a chance to make a move and find the home of your dreams.

Bottom Line

Today’s housing market belongs to the sellers. If you’ve considered making a move but have been waiting for the right market conditions, your wait may be over. Contact a real estate professional so you’ll be positioned to win when you sell your house this spring.

Your Questions Answered: Our Best Tips for Working With Agents and Lenders

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

Save the headache and find your perfect home buying collaborator.

You’ve been boosting your credit score, saving up for a down payment, and creating your dream home wish list for months. You’re basically ready to move into your perfect new home, right? Not really. The buying process can be complicated, and even if you’ve seen 400 episodes of “House Hunters,” you’re probably not an expert.

That’s where your real estate agent comes in. They’re like a personal mentor to guide you through one of the biggest financial decisions of your life.

HouseLogic teamed up with REALTOR® Dale Chumbley of Camas, Wash., during a Q&A on Facebook, to answer your questions about how to work with agents and lenders. For the entire conversation, visit HouseLogic’s Facebook page.

#1 When to Reach Out to an Agent

Q: It’s probably unrealistic to think you can buy a home entirely online, but when and how does a real estate agent come into the process?

A: We know that almost all buyers now start their home search online. Listing sites are a great way to get familiar with the general marketplace and what’s going on in it, but you really need a local agent to understand the idiosyncrasies of any given neighborhood. Someone who’s working every day in the market you’re considering can help you decipher some of the nuances you don’t get when you browse online and direct you to the right area for all your home needs. 

Once you have a general sense of your home wish list, start reaching out to agents and having conversations about what you’re looking for. The best way a buyer can find an agent is through the recommendation of a trusted resource. Ask your friends and family who they have worked with in a particular area, and try to interview a few agents so you can find the right fit. 

Look them up online to read their reviews and get a feel for their level of business. And make sure you work with someone who you enjoy spending time with. Finding the right partner early in your buying journey can save you a lot of hassle later on down the road.

#2 How An Agent Helps You

Q: What sorts of things can real estate agents help with that most people don’t know about?

A: A good real estate agent is with you far beyond the actual transaction. 

During the transaction itself, agents help you organize inspectors, contractors, and anything else that’s needed for the logistics of the home buy. They also can put you in touch with a great lender from the beginning.

After closing, your agent can continue to be your resource for any repair work you might need or help answer any general questions you may have about home improvement ROI, financing, and more.

A great agent should be a mentor and resource, so make sure you have someone by your side who can help guide you through your whole home ownership journey.

#3 How To Switch Agents

Q: Is it possible to switch agents without making anyone feel badly or causing problems?

A: If  it’s not working out, and you’re under a buyer-broker contract, you’d need to work out the legalities of closing out that formal agreement with your current agent before moving on to someone new. 

If you aren’t under contract and the relationship isn’t working for you, speak up. Have a heart-to-heart with your agent, and clearly explain what you need and why you feel you aren’t getting it.

[Whether you’re under a contract or not,] share your honest feedback, and give your agent a chance to get back on track. 

#4 How to Decide Between an Online vs. Real-Life Lender

Q: You can get a loan online or from a bank in person. What do you think is the best approach, and why?

A: From my experience, the real-life mortgage broker tends to be the best. Having the ability to sit down face-to-face and have a conversation about your overall financial goals and how real estate plays into them is very important. An expert lender who can help you navigate the whole buying process makes for a better, less stressful experience all the way around. 

I also believe you have a better competitive advantage when working with someone you have an in-person relationship with and that you can reach whenever you need to. There’s nothing worse than wanting to write an offer on the weekend and not being able to get a lender letter until Monday when your online loan officer is back in the office.

As for the loan, I’d recommend sticking with a mainstream mortgage broker or trusted bank. Keep in mind, if something appears “too good to be true,” it often is. If you have a red-flag feeling, listen to your gut.

#5 The Loan Process

Q: The loan process can seem a little scary. Should buyers expect their mortgage lender to help them through all the financial and paperwork details, or are they on their own? What should buyers get together in terms of finances before even reaching out to a lender?

A: The loan process can definitely feel overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. But if you have a lender who has strong experience and with whom you have a good relationship, they can absolutely guide you through all the finer points of the loan process and make it as smooth and painless as possible. 

You should try to meet with mortgage lenders as soon as possible. People often think they need to have everything exactly in order before connecting with a lender, but you really want to allow the lender to help you get ready. They can give you the road map to buying success as they evaluate your financial information, step by step.

Even though it’s a major commitment, I think buying a home shouldn’t be a scary or daunting project. If you have positive relationships with your agent and lender, the journey can and should go smoothly. (And be fun!)

#6 How to Choose the Loan

Q: If you’ve been pre-approved by, say, three different mortgage lenders that offer pretty similar loan terms, what’s the biggest differentiating factor when selecting a final lender?

A: In selecting your final choice for lender, you want to make sure you choose someone you feel comfortable with and who is competent to help all the way through the process. I would also lean on the expertise of your agent and who they have a relationship with; that can help streamline communication between all the parties involved in the transaction.

#7 Deciding on the Loan Terms

Q: If you’re more confident about the monthly payments on a 30-year mortgage over a 15-year, but you’re not planning to stay in your next home for decades, how do you know which type of loan to pick?

A: This is where having a lender that can help you look at your overall financial situation becomes critical, and it can be another major difference between an in-person relationship and one you’ve made online.

Particularly if you’re a first-time home buyer, you need that person who can walk you through each step of the financial process and explain the pros and cons of all the different loan types to help you make your best educated decision.

#8 Getting an Attorney Depends on Which State You’re In

Q: How important is a real estate attorney? If I’m considering employing one for my home purchase, at what point in the buying process should I reach out?

A: [Whether to use a] real estate attorneys varies from area to area. In some parts of the country it’s standard practice to employ one, but where I’m from a real estate attorney is never brought into the home buying process unless there’s an actual legal issue. 

I would make sure to talk to your agent and ask them if it’s something you should be doing where you live. 

At the end of the day, both agents and lenders are there to make you feel comfortable, confident, and prepared over the course of your home buying journey. Trust your instincts, and be honest about your needs and financial situation; the right partners will guide you to the perfect fit.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Staging Your Home: How to Make Buyers Fall in Love

Monday, January 27th, 2020

By: HouseLogic

With these tips and tricks, your house will be swoon-worthy in no time.

All the world’s a stage, said the Bard.

That includes your house. Which is for sale. And thus needs to look bee-yoo-tee-ful.

Staging entails hiring experts with a flair for interior design. They re-imagine your living space and give your house a makeover (with temporary decor and furnishings) so that it gets “oohs” and “aahs” from the buying masses.

Great staging isn’t an insurance policy — there’s no guarantee it will bring in more money when you sell your home — but it’s an important marketing tool. It presents your house in a flattering light and helps you compete at a favorable price. (In that sense, staging is like dressing your house for the price you want, and not the price you have.)

Staging also leads to eye-catching listing photos, which are especially valuable given that most home buyers begin their search by scrolling through listings online.

So, are you thinking about hiring stagers for your home? Here’s what to consider.

Staging Really Does Help. Like, a Lot.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. A recent survey from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® revealed that:

  • 77% of buyers’ agents said staging makes it easier for their buyer to visualize the property as their future home. It’s like helping the buyer dream it so they can achieve it — and so you and your agent can make the sale.
  • 39% of sellers’ agents said staging a home greatly decreases the amount of time a house is on the market. For you, time saved could mean moving into your new house even sooner.
  • 21% of sellers’ agents said staging a home increases its dollar value between 6% and 10%. Simply put, that may lead to more money in your pocket.

Before You Stage, Budget Accordingly

Many listings agents offer staging services to clients as part of their services. If you want to use someone you find yourself, you typically will have to pay out of pocket.

Staging costs vary depending on where you live and how many rooms you’re staging. On average, home sellers pay between $302 and $1,358 for staging, according to HomeAdvisor.com. If your house is empty because you’ve already moved, you might also have additional expenses for renting furniture and other homey decorations to make it look lived-in.

Many stagers offer consultations for as low as $150, Fixr.com reports. Using the advice you learn during the consultation to try DIY staging may be your best option if you’re on a tight budget. Listen for tips on how to use the furniture and decor you already have to show off your home’s best assets.

For the Best Results, Declutter

Spoiler alert: No buyer wants to walk into a messy house.

So, take time to clean and declutter your home. Organize everyday household items into crates and keep them out of sight. Stow away seasonal decorations (that means no Christmas in July). Make time for — or invest in — a whole-house cleaning, including carpet shampooing. Change light bulbs, finally make those minor repairs, and add a fresh coat of paint to any room that needs it.

Also worth considering? Removing personal items from view, such as copious family photos, artwork, or religious keepsakes. The concern is not that home buyers will be offended by you or your lifestyle. The goal is to neutralize the space and help home buyers imagine themselves living there. (But don’t go overboard. You don’t want rooms to feel sterile, either.)

Yes, we did just tell you to clean out your closets. So where are you supposed to put all this stuff? If you don’t have a discrete place to tuck things away, consider renting a storage unit.

To Find the Right Stager for Your Home, Ask Questions

If your agent doesn’t offer staging services, he or she can likely recommend local stagers for you to work with. Before you hire a stager, it’s best to interview at least three candidates in person. You’ll want to get a sense of how much they charge — and whether they have good taste.

To do your due diligence, here are 10 questions to ask prospective stagers:

  1. On average, how many days were your staged homes on the market last year? Experience is important, but it’s not the only factor to consider when vetting stagers. You want someone who stages homes that sell — ideally within 30 days, because that’s when agents often recommend making a price reduction if your house is still on the market.
  2. What price range do you typically work in? Staging luxury homes is a totally different ball game than staging starter homes. Find someone who specializes in homes near your listing price.
  3. What styles of homes do you usually stage? Staging different types of homes also requires different skill sets (think of a penthouse versus a bungalow, for instance). Look for someone with experience working in homes similar to yours.
  4. What formal training have you received? A number of staging organizations, such as the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) and the International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP), offer certification or accreditation. Training from these associations can distinguish professional stagers from beginners.
  5. Do you have insurance? Your home could get damaged when the stager moves furniture in and out. Find someone with business insurance so that you’re protected.
  6. Can I see your portfolio? One of the best ways to judge a stager’s skills is to look at their work. Ask to see photos from the person’s three most recently staged homes.
  7. Do you select the accessories, furniture, and paint for the homes you stage, or do you collaborate with other experts? Some stagers work independently, while others collaborate with other vendors. Make sure you know everyone who will be involved in staging your home, so you don’t have surprise guests rearranging your living room.
  8. What are your rates? Some stagers charge a fee for decorating services, plus a monthly fee for renting furniture, while others charge a flat fee per room for the duration of the listing. Ask about how a stager determines costs before you commit to working with him or her.
  9. What’s your availability? If you’re on a tight timetable, make sure the stager can get your house ready by the date you want to put your house on the market.
  10. Can you provide contacts for past clients? Get in touch with two or three people who have worked with the stager before. Ask how the stager’s services helped with the sale of their homes, and what they might have done differently.

Focus On the Rooms That Count the Most

You don’t have to stage your whole house to make buyers swoon.

Staging the rooms where people tend to spend the most time usually makes the biggest impression on buyers. Start with the living room, followed by the master bedroom and the kitchen.

Keep in mind that you’re not going for an HGTV-worthy overhaul: Even small touches, like putting fluffy towels in the bathroom or replacing shabby throw pillows in the family room, can make your home that much more attractive.

Oh, and BTW: Stage Your Yard, Too

Your house has to look its best — inside and outside. After all, buyers form their first impression when they pull up in front of your home. It’s no surprise, then, that curb appeal — how your home looks from the exterior — can increase your home’s sales value up to 17%, a Texas Tech University study found.

If you’ve never had your yard professionally landscaped, now may be the time to do it. Landscaped homes have a sales price advantage ranging from 5.5% to 12.7%, according to research by Alex Niemiera, a horticulturist at Virginia Tech. That would mean an extra $16,500 to $38,100 in value on a $300,000 home.

Professional landscaping, however, can cost a lot. You’re aiming for polish, not a new garden of Versailles. If budget is a concern, start with these DIY improvements:

  • Plant blooming flowers and fresh greenery. Even if it’s winter, you can add colorful winter blooms and seasonal touches such as garland or lights.
  • Mow the grass.
  • Reseed bare patches of lawn and add fresh sod, as needed.

Then move on to these easy upgrades to your home’s exterior:

  • Wash the front windows.
  • Power wash siding and walkways.
  • Repaint or stain porches and stairs, as needed.
  • Make sure house numbers are easy to see, visible, and pretty.
  • Make sure important outdoor features such as the front door, porch, and sidewalks and paths are well lit. (If not, install new fixtures or lighting.)

Even basic upgrades — like laying fresh mulch, changing porch lights, or installing a new mailbox — can help a buyer fall in love at first sight.

Just wait ’til they come inside and see what else you’ve done with the place.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Holiday Lights Safety Checklist for Worry-Free Decorating

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

By: Pat Curry

Don’t keep them up too long!

Lights, inside and out, are a beautiful part of the holiday season.

But before you deck the halls, run through this holiday lights safety checklist to keep your holidays merry and bright.

#1 Inspect Light Strings

Discard any that are damaged. Frayed or cracked electrical cords or broken sockets are leading fire hazards.

#2 Replace Burned-Out Bulbs Promptly

Empty sockets can cause the entire string to overheat.

#3 Make Sure Outdoor Lighting Is UL-Rated for Exterior Use

Exterior lights, unlike those used inside the house, need to be weather-resistant. The same goes for any extension cords used outdoors.

#4 Don’t Attach Light Strings with Nails or Staples

They can cut through the wire insulation and create a fire hazard. Only use UL-approved hangers.

#5 Take Exterior Lights Down Within 90 Days

The longer they stay up, the more likely they are to suffer damage from weather and critters chewing on them.

#6 Store Lights Safely

Tangled lights can lead to damaged cords and broken sockets. After the holidays, coil each string loosely around a stiff piece of cardboard, wrap it in paper or fabric to protect the bulbs, and store in a sturdy container until next year.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

How to Clean Up After Thanksgiving in Half the Time

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

The Pilgrims were on to something when they planned a Thanksgiving potluck; here are other good ideas that’ll simplify your T-Day kitchen cleanup.

Want something to be thankful for?

Check out these tips that’ll make your Thanksgiving kitchen cleanup faster and easier — and will give you more time to enjoy family and friends.

Plan a Potluck

The first Thanksgiving was a potluck; so let your guests share the fun and bring dishes to share. Then make sure they take home their serving bowls and platters, which will cut down on dishes to wash and put away.

Set Up a Soaking Station

Soak pots and pans as soon as you transfer food to platters. But instead of filling the sink with soaking pots, designate a small trashcan as the soaking spot. Fill it will soapy water and dirty pots, and hide it under a sink or in a mudroom. That way, your sink is free throughout the evening to clean as you go and rinse dishes on the way to the dishwasher.

Triple-Duty Cookware

Cut down on cleanup by selecting cookware that can go from oven to table to freezer. Or, serve food in edible containers, such as bread bowls or hollowed-out winter squash, which you can either consume or compost.

Empty Fridge

Start your holiday with a clean slate, which will make the inevitable mess less daunting than piling clutter onto clutter. Before beginning Thanksgiving prep, pick up depressing home clutter and organize your fridge to make room for ingredients and leftovers.

If possible, designate a shelf for Thanksgiving food, which should be empty when you start your meal, then filled with leftovers when you’re finished. In a week, clean out that shelf again. Make soup from leftover meat and veggies, and then freeze. Compost wilted greens. Toss old dairy products.

Prepare Roasting Pans

You won’t have to clean what you don’t get dirty. So line your turkey roasting pans with heavy-duty aluminum foil, or cook the bird in a bag. Pour drippings into a pot to make gravy, then throw away the liner.

Line Garbage Cans

Double- or triple-line garbage cans, which saves time when the cleaning campaign begins. After you toss a trash bag, there’s another waiting for action.

Stop Stains

Don’t let stains on carpet or rings on furniture set. While wine stains are still wet, dab with go-to cleaner hydrogen peroxide mixed with a few drops of dish detergent; blot with a clean cloth. Get rid of water stains on wood furniture with a dab of white toothpaste (not gel). Rub in the direction of the grain.

Pump Up the Music

Up-tempo music will give you a second wind for cleaning. So turn off the soothing dinner tunes and get rocking with a cleaning playlist.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

4 Simple Tasks to Do in Fall for an Awesome Lawn in Spring

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Fall is the most crucial time for your lawn.

Although spring lawn care gets all the attention, fall lawn care is the make-it or break-it season for grass.

“I’m already thinking about next year,” says John Dillon, who takes care of New York City’s Central Park, which features 200 acres of lawn in the middle of Manhattan. “The grass I grow this fall is what will be there next spring.”

Fall lawn care is no walk in the park. It’s hard work, and Dillon guides you through the four basic steps.

#1 Aerate
Aeration gives your lawn a breather in autumn and provides room for new grass to spread without competition from spring weeds. Aeration tools pull up plugs of grass and soil, breaking up compacted turf. That allows water, oxygen, and nutrients to reach roots, and gives seeds room to sprout.

If kids frequently play on your lawn, plan to aerate twice a year — fall and spring. If your lawn is just for show, then aerate once a year — and maybe even once every other year.

A hand-aerating tool ($20), which looks like a pitchfork with hollow tines, is labor-intensive and meant for unplugging small sections of grass. Gas-powered aerating machines (rental, $20/hour) are about the size of a big lawn mower, and are good for working entire lawns. Bring some muscle when you pick up your rental: Aerating machines are heavy and can be hard to lift into your truck or SUV.

Depending on the size of your property, professional aeration costs about $150.

#2 Seed
Fall, when the soil temperature is about 55 degrees, is the best time to seed your lawn because turf roots grow vigorously in fall and winter. If you want a lush lawn, don’t cheap out on the seed.

Bags of inexpensive seed ($35 for 15 pounds) often contain hollow husks, weed seed, and annual rye grass seed, which grows until the first frost then drops dead. Splurge on the good stuff ($55 for 15 pounds of Kentucky Bluegrass seed), which resists drought, disease, and insects.

Water your new seed every day for 10 to 20 days until it germinates.

#3 Fertilize
A late fall fertilization — before the first frost — helps your grass survive a harsh winter and encourages it to grow green and lush in spring. Make your last fertilization of the year count by choosing a product high (10% to 15%) in phosphorous, which is critical for root growth, Dillon says.

Note: Some states are banning phosphorous-rich fertilizers, which are harmful to the watershed. In those places, look for nitrogen-rich fertilizers, which promote shoot and root growth. Check with your local extension service to see what regulations apply in your area.

#4 Mulch
Instead of raking leaves, run over them a couple of times with your mower to grind them into mulch. The shredded leaves protect grass from winter wind and desiccation. An added bonus — shredded leaves decompose into yummy organic matter to feed grass roots.

A mulching blade ($10) that attaches to your mower will grind the leaves even finer.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

10 Tricks for Hosting an Open House That Make Buyers Say “OMG, Wow!”

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Here’s what you can do to get your home ready for its big reveal.

Few words get home buyers more excited than these two: open house.

An open house is their opportunity to give your house a whirl. To wiggle the light switches. To admire the crown molding. To, y’know, awkwardly ask to use the bathroom. (Which, by the way, savvy buyers will totally do — because they’ll want to test how the water pressure holds up when they give the toilet a flush.)

For you, seller, an open house is a chance to throw open the doors. To dazzle buyers with the big reveal. To make someone fall head over heels for your charming abode.

These tricks can help you make your open house a massive hit.

1. Time It Right

Your agent will typically hold an open house for two to three hours between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, when buyers have time and flexibility away from their jobs. To maximize your foot traffic, avoid having your open house during holidays, big community events (marathon days, for example), or unofficial “holidays” like Super Bowl Sunday.

2. Let Your Agent Take the Lead

In your own personal Open House Show, your real estate agent has two roles. To you, they are the director, giving you instructions on how to prepare for open house day, and what to do during the event. To buyers, your agent is the host. They will welcome viewers, introduce your home’s impressive features, and take questions from the audience.

Your job is to make your house look like a million bucks — or more like $300,000, depending on your price range.

The job of your agent, an expert on your local real estate market and what makes buyers tick, is to take care of the rest. That will include:

  • Staging your home, or recommending a reputable stager that you can hire
  • Hosting the open house
  • Communicating with home buyers and buyers’ agents
  • Receiving feedback during the open house and communicating that feedback to you

Your agent will also recommend that, actually, you should probably leave while they show off your house to strangers, who will look under your sinks and peek into your closets. Why should you heed that advice? Because it makes good business sense for you.

  1. A homeowner’s presence can make it awkward for the buyer. Buyers want to make assessments on their own, without worrying about how the seller might react or try to influence them.
  2. Buyers may have trouble picturing themselves living in the house when the owner is right there, say, serving lemonade in the kitchen.
  3. Sometimes sellers say too much. You might point out something that you think is a nice feature or amenity of your home, when it’s something that might turn off a buyer. (That busy arcade bar down the block may have been your favorite place to meet friends and play Pac-Man during weekends, but it could be a deal breaker for a buyer looking for a peaceful block.) You might blurt out something that could tip your negotiating hand, like how motivated you are to sell (soon!), or that you always wanted to update the retro kitchen — but just never got around to it.

The last things you want buyers to think after the open house is, “This place needs work,” or “This seller is desperate — I have the upper hand.” So, let your agent take the lead. This won’t be their first rodeo. They know the nuanced ways to show your home in its best light so that buyers will oooh and ahhh. They also know how to strategically answer questions from buyers to help set you up for success later, during negotiation.

Your agent can also stage a broker’s open house on your behalf. Unlike standard open houses — where buyers can stop by — at broker’s open houses, only real estate agents and other industry professionals are invited to attend. Generally, a broker’s open is held within the first few days of a house being put on the market. Complimentary lunch is often served as an incentive to get more people to show up.

There are two main benefits of having a broker’s open house:

  1. It gives your listing more exposure.
  2. It allows you to get feedback from real estate agents on your home.

If your house “shows well,” as they say in the industry, the agents who toured your home may recommend it to one (or more) of their buyer clients. If your home doesn’t get rave reviews, your agent will relay that feedback to you, and may suggest improvements before the next open house, such as staging certain rooms.

3. Try Some Simple Staging

You want your home to look its best while it’s on the market — especially during the open house. Many agents say the best way to primp your home for its big day is to stage it.

Depending on what your agent recommends, staging may involve renting new furniture or decor for certain rooms in your home. There are also some easy staging tricks you can try on the day of your open house. Consider displaying a bouquet of fresh flowers in the entryway, setting your dining room table to make it look inviting, or turning on your outdoor sprinklers shortly before visitors arrive to make your lawn sparkle.

4. Clean Like Crazy

When your home is on the market, you need to keep it in showing shape — not only for the open house, but also for any scheduled showings with buyers. Even though you’ve already (hopefully) cleaned and organized your home for its listing photos, there’s a good chance you’ve let clutter or dust pile up again, especially if you have children or pets.

Make sure appliances, windows, and mirrors are fingerprint-free. Clean and organize your closets, cabinets, and under the sinks (during the open house, buyers are allowed to be nosy). Clear every bit of clutter and get rid of it or put it in storage.

Don’t have the bandwidth to do a deep clean? Hire a house cleaning service to do the work for you. A professional cleaning service costs around $115 to $230 on average. If you’re not sure about which service to hire, ask your agent to recommend cleaners.

5. Do a Smell Check

If buyers get a whiff of something funky, they’re going to run — not walk — out of your open house. A week prior to the open house, ask your agent or a neighbor to do an honest, no-holds-barred smell check. Some possible smell solutions:

  • If your house has the aroma of your beloved pet(s), deep clean the carpets, relocate the litter box, and take steps to eliminate all olfactory traces of Fluffy.
  • If the basement is dank and musty, buy a dehumidifier to remove air moisture and run a fan to circulate the air.
  • If the kitchen drain stinks, drop in a cup of baking soda, then two cups of white vinegar. Enjoy the bubbling, then let the mixture sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Finally run hot water for 15 to 30 seconds to flush the odor.

6. Put Your Pictures (and Valuables) Away

You want your home to feel cozy and inviting, but not like someone specific (you, for example) is living there. Personal belongings such as family photos, awards, and religious art can distract home buyers and make it harder for them to imagine themselves living in your home. You don’t have to go overboard — the idea isn’t to eliminate every trace of yourself — but consider temporarily hiding some pictures and personal effects out of sight during the open house.

There’s a safety element to stowing your personal belongings, too: Though your agent will be at the open house, you’re inviting strangers into your home.

  • Securely store checkbooks, jewelry, prescription medications, family heirlooms, and other valuables.
  • Alert your neighbors to your open house date — as a courtesy, but also to ask that they let you know if they notice any suspicious activity, in the unlikely event suspicious activity occurs.
  • Make sure your agent signs visitors in and asks them to show I.D., so that you have a record of who was in your house. (Bonus: With the sign-in sheet, your agent can follow up with buyers to find out if anyone is interested in making an offer.)
  • Lock windows and doors after the open house.

We’re not suggesting that visitors have any intention other than potentially buying your home. It’s just a good idea, generally speaking, to keep your home secure.

7. Let the Light In

Light doesn’t only (literally) brighten up your space. It also makes rooms look and feel larger. On open house day, open all curtains and blinds to let natural light in. (And in the week before the open house, make sure curtains and blinds are squeaky clean.)

Replace every single burnt-out light bulb in and outside the home — buyers should see a working light every time they flip a switch.

8. Give Your House Some Extra Curb Appeal

Buyers will judge your house on its outsides. So make last-minute improvements to turn up your home’s curb appeal. Cut the grass, prune the trees, and trim the shrubs. Touch up porch fixtures and furniture with a little paint. Heck, paint the whole porch, if your budget allows. Plant new shrubs or set out potted flowers.

Small, relatively low-budget outdoor enhancements will make your home look all the more enticing to buyers — and can add some last-minute value to its price.

9. Draw Attention to Your Home’s Best Features

After your agent signs in and welcomes buyers to your home, they typically will have some time to wander around on their own. Even though you won’t be there, you can still draw visitors’ attention to features in your home that you’d like to highlight.

Prior to the open house, post (friendly, aesthetically pleasing) signs around the house with calls to action such as, “look down, new hardwood floors,” or “gas fireplace, push this button.” Buyers will likely appreciate the help, and that they’re working with a conscientious seller.

10. Serve Refreshments

Serving warm cookies or freshly baked brownies at an open house is one of the oldest tricks in the book. That’s because it works: Buyers love being greeted with a sweet treat and a cold or warm beverage depending on the time of year. Refreshments also give people a reason to stay longer: No one will rush off because they’re hungry or thirsty.

Your agent may even have relationships with a local cafe or bakery, which might offer snacks for free advertising at the open house.

What to Do During and After the Open House

Once you’ve done everything you can to make your house look and feel amazing to buyers — and your agent is on site to assume their hosting duties — the time during your open house is yours to enjoy. Go to the park, get a three-course lunch, do whatever you like as long as you’re free to take calls.

Your agent may need to get in touch with questions, so make sure you’re available and have good cell phone reception. (A movie, for example, is not a great activity for you during the open house for that reason.)

After the open house ends, your agent will share with you what questions buyers asked and any comments they overheard by visitors. Buyers’ remarks will likely run the gamut, including some that could be negative. (“Why is the closet such a mess,” for example.)

The important thing is to stay open to buyers’ feedback, and to follow your agent’s advice about how to respond. Based on buyers’ reactions, your agent may recommend that you make certain repairs, do some painting, or invest in additional staging before your next open house. Whatever they advise, it’s not personal — it’s just the business of selling your home.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Your Questions Answered: Our Best Tips for Working With Agents and Lenders

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

Save the headache and find your perfect home buying collaborator.

You’ve been boosting your credit score, saving up for a down payment, and creating your dream home wish list for months. You’re basically ready to move into your perfect new home, right? Not really. The buying process can be complicated, and even if you’ve seen 400 episodes of “House Hunters,” you’re probably not an expert.

That’s where your real estate agent comes in. They’re like a personal mentor to guide you through one of the biggest financial decisions of your life.

HouseLogic teamed up with REALTOR® Dale Chumbley of Camas, Wash., during a Q&A on Facebook, to answer your questions about how to work with agents and lenders.

#1 When to Reach Out to an Agent

Q: It’s probably unrealistic to think you can buy a home entirely online, but when and how does a real estate agent come into the process?

A: We know that almost all buyers now start their home search online. Listing sites are a great way to get familiar with the general marketplace and what’s going on in it, but you really need a local agent to understand the idiosyncrasies of any given neighborhood. Someone who’s working every day in the market you’re considering can help you decipher some of the nuances you don’t get when you browse online and direct you to the right area for all your home needs.

Once you have a general sense of your home wish list, start reaching out to agents and having conversations about what you’re looking for. The best way a buyer can find an agent is through the recommendation of a trusted resource. Ask your friends and family who they have worked with in a particular area, and try to interview a few agents so you can find the right fit.

Look them up online to read their reviews and get a feel for their level of business. And make sure you work with someone who you enjoy spending time with. Finding the right partner early in your buying journey can save you a lot of hassle later on down the road.

#2 How An Agent Helps You

Q: What sorts of things can real estate agents help with that most people don’t know about?

A: A good real estate agent is with you far beyond the actual transaction.

During the transaction itself, agents help you organize inspectors, contractors, and anything else that’s needed for the logistics of the home buy. They also can put you in touch with a great lender from the beginning.

After closing, your agent can continue to be your resource for any repair work you might need or help answer any general questions you may have about home improvement ROI, financing, and more.

A great agent should be a mentor and resource, so make sure you have someone by your side who can help guide you through your whole home ownership journey.

#3 How To Switch Agents

Q: Is it possible to switch agents without making anyone feel badly or causing problems?

A: Ifit’s not working out, and you’re under a buyer-broker contract, you’d need to work out the legalities of closing out that formal agreement with your current agent before moving on to someone new.

If you aren’t under contract and the relationship isn’t working for you, speak up. Have a heart-to-heart with your agent, and clearly explain what you need and why you feel you aren’t getting it.

[Whether you’re under a contract or not,] share your honest feedback, and give your agent a chance to get back on track.

#4 How to Decide Between an Online vs. Real-Life Lender

Q: You can get a loan online or from a bank in person. What do you think is the best approach, and why?

A: From my experience, the real-life mortgage broker tends to be the best. Having the ability to sit down face-to-face and have a conversation about your overall financial goals and how real estate plays into them is very important. An expert lender who can help you navigate the whole buying process makes for a better, less stressful experience all the way around.

I also believe you have a better competitive advantage when working with someone you have an in-person relationship with and that you can reach whenever you need to. There’s nothing worse than wanting to write an offer on the weekend and not being able to get a lender letter until Monday when your online loan officer is back in the office.

As for the loan, I’d recommend sticking with a mainstream mortgage broker or trusted bank. Keep in mind, if something appears “too good to be true,” it often is. If you have a red-flag feeling, listen to your gut.

#5 The Loan Process

Q: The loan process can seem a little scary. Should buyers expect their mortgage lender to help them through all the financial and paperwork details, or are they on their own? What should buyers get together in terms of finances before even reaching out to a lender?

A: The loan process can definitely feel overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. But if you have a lender who has strong experience and with whom you have a good relationship, they can absolutely guide you through all the finer points of the loan process and make it as smooth and painless as possible.

You should try to meet with mortgage lenders as soon as possible. People often think they need to have everything exactly in order before connecting with a lender, but you really want to allow the lender to help you get ready. They can give you the road map to buying success as they evaluate your financial information, step by step.

Even though it’s a major commitment, I think buying a home shouldn’t be a scary or daunting project. If you have positive relationships with your agent and lender, the journey can and should go smoothly. (And be fun!)

#6 How to Choose the Loan

Q: If you’ve been pre-approved by, say, three different mortgage lenders that offer pretty similar loan terms, what’s the biggest differentiating factor when selecting a final lender?

A: In selecting your final choice for lender, you want to make sure you choose someone you feel comfortable with and who is competent to help all the way through the process. I would also lean on the expertise of your agent and who they have a relationship with; that can help streamline communication between all the parties involved in the transaction.

#7 Deciding on the Loan Terms

Q: If you’re more confident about the monthly payments on a 30-year mortgage over a 15-year, but you’re not planning to stay in your next home for decades, how do you know which type of loan to pick?

A: This is where having a lender that can help you look at your overall financial situation becomes critical, and it can be another major difference between an in-person relationship and one you’ve made online.

Particularly if you’re a first-time home buyer, you need that person who can walk you through each step of the financial process and explain the pros and cons of all the different loan types to help you make your best educated decision.

#8 Getting an Attorney Depends on Which State You’re In

Q: How important is a real estate attorney? If I’m considering employing one for my home purchase, at what point in the buying process should I reach out?

A: [Whether to use a] real estate attorneys varies from area to area. In some parts of the country it’s standard practice to employ one, but where I’m from a real estate attorney is never brought into the home buying process unless there’s an actual legal issue.

I would make sure to talk to your agent and ask them if it’s something you should be doing where you live.

At the end of the day, both agents and lenders are there to make you feel comfortable, confident, and prepared over the course of your home buying journey. Trust your instincts, and be honest about your needs and financial situation; the right partners will guide you to the perfect fit.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

8 Tips for Adding Curb Appeal and Value to Your Home

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

By: Pat Curry

A good washing, and a bit of color are two low-cost ways.

Homes with high curb appeal command higher prices and take less time to sell.

But which projects pump up curb appeal most? Here are financially smart ways to boost your home’s equity.

#1 Wash Your House’s Face

Before you scrape any paint or plant more azaleas, wash the dirt, mildew, and general grunge off the outside of your house. REALTORS® say washing a house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to the sale prices of some houses.

A bucket of soapy water and a long-handled, soft-bristled brush can remove the dust and dirt that have splashed onto your wood, vinyl, metal, stucco, brick, and fiber cement siding. Power washers can reveal the true color of your flagstone walkways.

Wash your windows inside and out, swipe cobwebs from eaves, and hose down downspouts. Don’t forget your garage door, which was once bright white. If you can’t spray off the dirt, scrub it off with a solution of 1/2 cup trisodium phosphate — TSP, available at grocery stores, hardware stores, and home improvement centers — dissolved in 1 gallon of water.

You and a friend can make your house sparkle in a few weekends. A professional cleaning crew will cost hundreds — depending on the size of the house and number of windows — but will finish in a couple of days.

#2 Freshen the Paint Job

The most commonly offered curb appeal advice from real estate pros and appraisers is to give the exterior of your home a good paint job. Buyers will instantly notice it, and appraisers will value it.
Of course, painting is an expensive and time-consuming facelift. To paint a 3,000-square-foot home, figure on spending $375 to $600 on paint; $1,500 to $3,000 on labor.

Your best bet is to match the paint you already have: Scrape off a little and ask your local paint store to match it. Resist the urge to make a statement with color. An appraiser will mark down the value of a house that’s painted a wildly different color from its competition.

#3 Fix Up the Roof

The condition of your roof is one of the first things buyers notice and appraisers assess. Missing, curled, or faded shingles add nothing to the look or value of your house. If your neighbors have maintained or replaced their roofs, yours will look especially shabby.

You can pay for roof repairs now, or pay for them later in a lower appraisal; appraisers will mark down the value by the cost of the repair. According to the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of REALTORS®, the national median cost of a new asphalt shingle roof is about $7,500. And if you install a new one, you’ll get that back — plus a bit more. A  new roof has an ROI of 109%.

Some tired roofs look a lot better after you remove 25 years of dirt, moss, lichens, and algae. Don’t try cleaning your roof yourself: call a professional with the right tools and technique to clean it without damaging it. A 2,000-square-foot roof will take a day and $400 to $600 to clean professionally.

#4 Neaten the Yard

A well-manicured lawn, fresh mulch, and pruned shrubs boost the curb appeal of any home.

Replace overgrown bushes with leafy plants and colorful annuals. Surround bushes and trees with dark or reddish-brown bark mulch, which gives a rich feel to the yard. Put a crisp edge on garden beds, pull weeds and invasive vines, and plant a few geraniums in pots.

Green up your grass with lawn food and water. Cover bare spots with seeds and sod, get rid of crab grass, and mow regularly. If you’re selling anytime soon, any work you do now will reap benefits in your home’s selling price, usually 100% or more according to the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of REALTORS®.

#5 Add a Color Splash

Even a little color attracts and pleases the eye of would-be buyers.

Plant a tulip border in the fall that will bloom in the spring. Dig a flowerbed by the mailbox and plant some pansies. Place a brightly colored bench or Adirondack chair on the front porch. Get a little daring, and paint the front door red or blue.

Beautiful colors enhance curb appeal and help your house to sell faster.

#6 Glam Up Your Mailbox

An upscale mailbox, architectural house numbers, or address plaques can make your house stand out.

High-style die cast aluminum mailboxes range from $100 to $350. You can pick up a handsome, hand-painted mailbox for about $50. If you don’t buy new, at least give your old mailbox a facelift with paint and new house numbers.

These days, your local home improvement center or hardware stores has an impressive selection of decorative numbers. Architectural address plaques, which you tack to the house or plant in the yard, typically range from $80 to $200. Brass house numbers range from $3 to $11 each, depending on size and style.

#7 Add a Fence

A picket fence with a garden gate to frame the yard is an asset. Not only does it add visual punch to your property, appraisers will give extra value to a fence in good condition, although it has more impact in a family-oriented neighborhood than an upscale retirement community.

Expect to pay $2,000 to $3,500 for a professionally installed gated picket fence 3 feet high and 100 feet long.

If you already have a fence, make sure it’s clean and in good condition. Replace broken gates and tighten loose latches.

#8 Keep Up With Maintenance

Nothing looks worse from the curb — and sets off subconscious alarms — like hanging gutters, missing bricks from the front steps, or peeling paint. Not only can these deferred maintenance items damage your home, but they can decrease the value of your house by 10%.

Here are some maintenance chores that will dramatically help the look of your house:

  • Refasten sagging gutters.
  • Repoint bricks that have lost their mortar.
  • Reseal cracked asphalt.
  • Straighten shutters.
  • Replace cracked windows.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

A Must-Read Guide On How To Sell Your House

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

By: Leanne Potts

Selling your house can feel overwhelming in multiple ways. You’re pulling up roots and leaving all that’s familiar — and making a huge financial decision at the same time. Knowing how to sell your home takes some studying up. The more you know, the easier the big decisions will be.

Information is power, so we’ll answer your questions about how to sell your home.

Research the Market

Do some homework on what’s going on with the housing market in your area. Go to a property listing site, like realtor.com®, and see what homes are selling for in your neighborhood, and how long they’re sitting on the market before being sold.

Check mortgage rates. Note who some of the top agents are for the neighborhood or types of properties you’re interested in. Ultimately, the best way to select an agent? Get recommendations from friends and family.

Hire an Agent

Yes, you need an agent. Selling a house involves some strategy and know-how. An agent knows how to sell your house. He or she will help you set a price, market it, and make repairs, guiding you through the inspection, negotiating with buyers, and helping you navigate the closing.

They’ll also help you plan your timeline, and a really good one will help you through the emotional parts of selling a home you’ve loved.

Find the right agent by interviewing the ones — at least three — you learned about through research and recommendations. Go with one who knows the specific ins and outs of your market, the lowdown that’s not online.

The one who knows things like why that nice two-story down the block sold for $20,000 less than the asking price and why the house two neighborhoods over got $20,000 over. A knowledgeable agent will have information and experience.

Price Your Home to Sell

Go ahead and look at those sites that give home value estimates for a general idea on pricing when deciding how to sell your house. But don’t stop there. There are a lot of factors specific to your home that an algorithm won’t pick up on, but your human real estate agent will.

An agent has access to data you don’t. They can do a thing for you called a comparative market analysis, also known as running comps, that checks the price of houses similar to yours that have sold in the in past 90 days. It’s like taking the pulse of the market within a couple of miles of your house.

The agent will give you a market value for your house, and then it’s up to you, with your agent’s guidance, to set the price. And the price needs to be right.

If it’s too high, your house will sit on the market too long, which wastes your time and can raise a red flag to buyers. If your price is too low, you’ll miss out on all that value you worked hard to build in your home.

Your agent may have tips on setting the price so that it stays within certain search parameters on listing sites. Let your agent be your guide on setting a price.

Prepare the House

Time to get your house looking its best. When selling your home, you want to make it look like someone else’s dream home.

Repair everything you know of that’s broken. Fix the little things, like the toilet that runs, the closet doors that don’t shut all the way, the hole in the fence. Fix the big things, too, like a leaky roof or a malfunctioning HVAC.

Home buyers may not notice the windows are sticking and the wiring is outdated, but an inspector will. Head off problems now. Get a pro out to check any major systems you suspect could have an issue.

Clean up as if company was coming. Hire a cleaning service to do a deep clean — the kind where they scrub the baseboards and toekicks and vacuum behind the refrigerator. Power wash the house and driveway. Make sure your landscape is spiffy, too: boxwoods trimmed, lawn mowed, flower beds weeded. Curb appeal matters.

Declutter. Tidying up is the way to sell your house. You need to bust the clutter and make your house look Insta-perfect. Clear the kitchen counters, pack up most of your books and all of your knickknacks and take them to a storage unit or donate them to charity. Cull your clothes and donate the ones you haven’t worn in more than a year. Clean out the garage, tidy up the laundry room, organize the pantry.

All this tidiness and organization signal to potential buyers that your house has been well cared for — and has plenty of room for all their clutter.

Depersonalize your space. Take you out of your home. Box up family photos, your great-grandma’s heirloom quilt, your son’s Matchbox car collection. It sounds sad, but it’s how to sell your house.

You want buyers to be able to see themselves and their things in the house. They can’t do that if it feels like your house. Look at this as the first step in packing up to leave. Consider renting a storage unit for the stuff until you move.

Stage your house. This is one step beyond the decluttering, depersonalizing, and cleaning. This is when you set up your house to show off its assets and downplay its weaknesses. It usually means moving furniture and making your house look as perfect as a photo in a shiny décor magazine.

Staged houses can sell faster and at a higher price. Staging a home is key if you’ve moved out and the house is empty. A professional stager will bring in décor and make your house look as if it’s lived in by the tidiest, most tasteful minimalists in the world.

Some agents have stager they work with, or do it themselves. You can also hire a pro yourself, someone with top-flight design and décor skills.

Paint the interior of your house, especially walls that are an unusual color. You adore the Yves Klein blue in the bonus room. Buyers might not. This isn’t a criticism of your taste. It’s just part of depersonalizing your house, all part of how to sell a house. Pick a nice, neutral tone, like gray or beige.

Paint the outside of your house, too, if there’s any flaking or worn paint, or if you painted the exterior an unconventional shade that might turn off buyers.

Market Your Home

Ready, set, market. Once your house hits the MLS listings, it’s time to drive buyers to you. Your real estate agent will handle this, but here’s what you need to know.

Photos. This seems a no-brainer in a digital world, but plenty of sellers forget to prioritize the quality of their photography. Make sure photos are well-lit, in focus, and high resolution so they don’t pixelate on tablets and smartphones.

Your agent may very well offer a professional photographer as part of his or her services to you. If not, consider hiring a professional photographer, especially if you’re in a high-end home or a market where you’re hustling for buyers.

A good album of photos includes:

  • The exterior of your house from the front. Move your cars and the kids’ toys out of the driveway so all a potential buyer sees is your house.
  • Every interior room, and with the drapes open and the lights on. Bright is beautiful. Be sure to move trash cans, litter boxes, laundry baskets full of clothes and other banal evidence of humans out of the photos.
  • The yard and local amenities like the nearby park, the neighborhood pool, and clubhouse.

Got a luxe house or a huge piece of property near water or mountains and wondering, “How to sell my house?” Get drone photography done to show off the surrounding area. Another option for luxury properties: a night photo of the front of the house lit by the landscape lighting.

Virtual tours are becoming the norm. Buyers swoon over them, because a virtual tour takes them by the hand and leads them through the house. You’ll need to hire an outside company to create one. Your agent should be able to connect you with a business who does virtual tours. Again, some agents offer this as part of their listing services.

Signage — like the classic For Sale sign — are basics for selling your home. There should be a sign in your front yard, with your agent’s contact info on it. Especially during open houses, you should expect signs on busy streets nearby with an arrow pointing the way to your house.  If you’re deep in a winding subdivision, you may need more signs directing folks to your house. If your home is part of a homeowners association, be sure to see if the HOA is OK with agent signs.

Direct mail still works. Your agent will probably set up the mass mailing of an oversized, full-color postcard to people in the area and to area agents who may have buyers looking to move to your neighborhood.

E-flyers are effective. Your agent can combine multiple photos of your house in an e-flyer and email it to neighbors, clients on his mailing list, and other agents in the area as well as out-of-town brokers.

Ads in those paper real estate magazines distributed for free, and digital ads on sites for newspapers and listing sites really do help spread the word.

Social media is how to sell your house in the 21st century. Your agent will likely post your listing to her various social channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. If not, ask for it. Instagram, for instance, draws more than 1 billion sets of eyeballs each month. Ask your agent, if she can put videos out on social media, not just photos, because videos get more engagement than photos.

And put your listing on your social channels, too.

Word of mouth is old-fashioned, but works. Tell your friends, acquaintances, and co-workers your house is for sale. Your agent should be working her network, too.

Property listing sites will pick up your house listing once your agent puts it on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service.) There’s a gaggle of them, from individual agency sites to biggies like realtor.com®.

Showcase Your House

Throwing open the doors and inviting the public to come tour your house is one of the most effective marketing tools out there. Here’s how to sell your home by pulling off a good showing.

Your agent will:

  • Schedule an open house for a weekend. ​
  • Socialize the open house by tweeting about it, posting it on Facebook, putting it on Instagram, and posting it on a neighborhood site like NextDoor. You can help by adding the news to your channels as well.
  • Send out e-flyers, run digital ads on local web sites, or go analog with print ads in local newspapers and fliers tacked up at the neighborhood pool and local businesses.
  • Put up plenty of signage all over the neighborhood on the day of the open house,and maybe even attach balloons to each sign. There should be a sign with an arrow pointing the way to your house every few blocks on routes from major streets to your house. Getting attention is how to sell a home.
  • Set out fliers and brochures with info on the home that visitors can take with them.

You should:

  • Clean again. You decluttered, depersonalized, fixed, and fussed over the place when you listed it. Take another pass, especially if you’ve been living in the house. Hire a housecleaning service to give it the once-over.
  • Make special preparations, like moving the cars out of the driveway and away from your house so the open house attendees focus on your house and have a place to park. Open the blinds and drapes to let in the light and turn on the interior lights. Your agent will likely serve refreshments.
  • Make sure your house smells fresh, but go easy on air fresheners. Some people are allergic to them, and heavy use of them may make shoppers wonder what smell you’re trying to hide.
  • Send pets away. Let them go on a playdate with a pal, or board them for a few hours. You don’t want them distracting visitors from the house. Hide their toys, bowls, and beds, too, to stave off smells.
  • Vacate the house during the open. ​Prospective buyers will be more open in terms of feedback if you’re not in attendance. Let your agent handle it.

Close the Deal

Offers. By this point, you’re probably getting offers on the house from buyers. An offer will specify a price, the down payment amount, the deposit amount, the terms, the date you’ll have to move out, and any contingencies. When you get an offer, you have three options:

  1. You can accept it as is.
  2. You can reject it.
  3. You can reject it and counter it with an offer of your own.

Counteroffers usually hinge on four things:

  1. Price
  2. Terms
  3. Occupancy (when you move out, and buyers move in)
  4. Contingencies (special conditions)

Note, it’s rare to reject an offer with no counteroffer. That kills the deal, and it’s not how to sell your home. Counteroffers are the most common outcome. Your agent will help you craft the counteroffer and then negotiate with the prospective buyers.

Negotiations can be stressful and at times, fraught. The buyers want the best deal they can get. You want the most money you can get from the biggest asset you have. Emotions can run high, so let your agent do the heavy lifting of communicating with the buyers and reaching an agreement.

Closing the sale. You’ve accepted the buyer’s offer. Woo hoo! Now your agent will help you negotiate the sale’s final phase. This means seeing you through the inspection, negotiating any repair requests that may arise from the inspection, and dealing with last-minute snags.

Inspection. This is when a buyer’s housing inspector examines the house to look for problems, like windows that stick, wiring that’s not up to code, or mold. When they find a problem, the buyer will usually ask you to make repairs or knock money off the price they’ve offered so they can make repairs themselves. Your real estate agent is an expert on how to negotiate these types of requests.

Closing day. Finally! This is it, when you sign the papers, get a check, and hand over the house keys. This is how you sell a house. It’s a thrilling moment, and one that’s a little sad, too. But you did it. You sold your house!

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

The Ins and Outs of Setting a Price for Your Home

Friday, April 26th, 2019

By: HouseLogic

Everything has value. Especially your home.

And when it comes to selling your home, assigning a price to that value is complicated. You made memories there. You’ve got a major financial interest in the place, too.

Buyers think of value, but they’re more concerned with price. And your home’s price is one of its most attractive — or unattractive — features. The right price can attract buyers, quickly. The wrong price may mean the house sits on the market, which can create the vibe among buyers that there’s something wrong it. (If the home buying process is Instagram, think of a wrongly priced home as a photo that isn’t getting any likes.)

It’s your agent’s job, as the real estate expert — mining his or her expertise and knowledge of the market — to determine the best price for your home. But it’s your house. You need to have your own idea of how much your property is worth. Here’s how to get it.    

Work With Your Agent

This is crucial. Your agent brings the right mix of industry expertise and knowledge of your local market to the table. 

To understand whether your agent is pricing your home properly, read through each of the steps below. Use what you learn about your home’s fair market price to evaluate any price your agent recommends.

Throughout the pricing process, a good agent will:

  • Listen to your needs
  • Take into account your research
  • Use his or her knowledge of the local market to help you pick the best asking price 

You’re a team. It’s in both of your interests to price your home correctly — a timely, profitable sale is win for everyone.   

And Yeah, You Should Also Check the Internet

Pricing a home is both art and science. To understand what will inform your agent’s pricing decisions — and to be prepared to bring your own educated input to the conversation — start with a pricing research phase.

This includes taking advantage of online estimating tools — but only to an extent. Property websites like realtor.com® and Redfin enable you to plug in your home’s address to see approximately how much your house is worth. They base their estimates on your home’s square footage and real estate data they’ve collected, such as recent home sales in your local market.

But those results are estimates based on generalized factors, not your unique situation. If at any point the price you see in an online calculator doesn’t align with what your agent suggests, prioritize the agent’s advice. 

Online estimators also have a reputation among real estate professionals for misleading buyers and sellers alike with less-than-optimal pricing information. But as a starting point, they have their utility.   

Know Your Local History

What your home’s listing price should be largely depends on what similar homes, or “comps,” recently sold for in your area. To price your home, your agent will run the average sales prices of at least three comps to assess your home’s value.

What constitutes a comp? A number of factors, including a home’s: 

  • Age 
  • Location
  • Square footage 
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms 

Agents will look into the difference between each comp’s listing price, and the price it sold for. He or she will consider price reductions and why they happened, if relevant. All the while, your agent will also rely on inside knowledge of housing stock and the local market. That nuanced understanding is invaluable, particularly when measuring the unique aspects of your home with raw data about comps.

When selecting comps, agents generally look for properties that sold within a one-mile radius of your home, and in the past 90 days. They find these homes using the multiple listing service (MLS), a regional database of homes that agents pay dues to access.

Size Up the Competition

In addition to recently sold homes, your agent will also look at properties that are currently for sale in your area. These listings will be your competition. But because listing photos don’t always tell the full story, a good agent will check out these homes in person to see what condition they’re in and to assess how your home sizes up.

You can do the same. For additional perspective, you can also get in touch with your local association of REALTORS®. Ask if they have information to offer about your neighborhood and the local market.

Understand the Market You’re In

The housing market where you live can greatly impact your pricing strategy. 

If you’re in a seller’s market, where demand from buyers outpaces the number of homes for sale, you may be able to price your home slightly higher than market value.

But if you’re in a buyer’s market, where buyers have the advantage, you may have to price your home slightly below market value to get people interested. 

You can see local market trends by checking the online resource realtor.com®. It offers charts that display important housing market data, such as a city’s average listing price, median sales price, and average days a home is on market. It’s a lot of information. At any point, you can ask your agent to help you make sense of how your local market will influence your home’s price.

Put Your Feelings Aside

As previously mentioned, many sellers think their home is worth more than it is. Why? Because memories. Because sentiment. Because pride.

But you have to stay objective when assessing your home’s value. Buyers, after all, won’t know your home’s personal history. What makes your home special to you may not be something that entices them. Read: They may want to convert that craft room you worked so hard to perfect into a man cave.

The lesson: As much as possible, set aside your emotional attachment to your home. It will make it easier to accept your agent’s realistic, clear-eyed calculation of its price.

Remember: It’s All Relative

As you and your agent are talking price, the local market may throw you a curveball or two.

In some markets, for example, it could make sense to price your home slightly below its fair market value to spark a bidding war. 

Of course, there’s no guarantee a pricing strategy such as this will pay off. Similarly, there’s no one-size-fits-all playbook. Your home should be priced for its own local, or even hyper-local, market. Period. Confer with your agent before you decide to try any market-specific pricing tactics.

Be Savvy With the Dollar Amount

Pricing your home requires careful attention. In some cases, fair market value may not be precisely what you should list it for — and the reasons can be subtle. 

For example, if comps show that your home is worth $410,000, setting that as your asking price can backfire — the reason is that buyers who are looking online for properties under $400,000 won’t see your home in search results in that case. This explains why many agents use the “99” pricing strategy and, for example, list $400,000 homes for $399,000. The idea is to maximize exposure.

Have a Heart-to-Heart With Your Partner

Not the sole decision maker in your household? Talk to your partner about your home’s price before it’s listed. You can use this worksheet as a guide for that discussion.

The reason isn’t just to foster the kind of open communication that’s important to any relationship. It’s that if you’re not on the same page about price or the other things that are important to you about sale, each subsequent step of the selling process will be impacted by that tension. 

Keep Your Head in the Game

You’ve considered your agent’s advice, and the two of you have agreed on the right price for your home. Hey, champ! Your house is on the market.

Even after the listing date, price should be an ongoing discussion between you and your agent. Markets are fluid, so it’s possible that you’ll have to make tweaks. 

In any case, it’s important to to stay in continuous dialogue with your agent, the MVP of Team Sell Your House. Together, keep your eyes on the price.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Spring Cleaning Guide

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Make spring cleaning less of a chore by following these smarter–and mostly greener–tips for this annual rite of homeownership.

Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition. After a long winter, you throw open the windows, let in fresh air, and scrub down the house. But modern spring cleaning presents challenges your grandmother never imagined. Today’s homes are bigger, and the choice of cleaning supplies seemingly endless.

While you’ll need to devote a day or two to this annual maintenance project, make it less of a chore by picking the right tools and methods. And by taking an environmentally friendly approach, you can also protect the well being of your family. Give this space-by-space cleaning guide a whirl this spring—or during any season, for that matter, when grime and clutter become unbearable.


When it’s time to get down and dirty, many people start with the bathroom. Allen Rathey, founder of The Housekeeping Channel, says removing mineral deposits, rust, and such from toilets doesn’t have to mean chemical warfare. Don rubber gloves and use a pumice stone to erase stubborn stains. If you want more scouring power, Rathey recommends mixing baking soda with acidic vinegar. The concoction is just as effective as conventional cleaners, and there are no toxic fumes to inhale. This approach works equally well on tub and shower stains.

Buy your supplies in bulk to save. A 64-ounce bottle of vinegar costs about $4; a 12-pound bag of baking soda, about $7. Both items can be used throughout the house. For just $1 you can mix equal parts vinegar and water in a 32-ounce spray bottle to make a terrific all-purpose surface cleaner. That’s about $4 cheaper than buying a spray cleaner at the store.

Spring cleaning is the perfect time to extract dirt from porous grouted surfaces. For tile floors use your usual cleaner, but don’t mop. Instead, run a wet/dry vac, which will suck contaminants out of the grout. Mopping drives the grime into the grout rather than removing it. According to Rathey, grout can harbor stinky bacteria that leave a bad odor in the bathroom. This technique is more time-consuming than mopping, but it’s worthwhile to do at least once a year.


The kitchen can be a tough room to clean because there’s usually so much stuff in it, says Justin Klosky, founder and creative director of The OCD Experience, an organizational service. Before you break out the broom, go through your cabinets and drawers, and put together a box of items to donate and a box of items to store somewhere besides the kitchen. Clear your countertops of everything except items you use nearly every day.

After you’ve de-cluttered, you can get to work cleaning. Cloud Conrad, vice president of marketing for cleaning company Maid Brigade, says one tool you shouldn’t overlook is an all-purpose microfiber cloth (about $5). These aren’t run-of-the-mill dusting rags. Microfiber is a densely woven synthetic fabric that picks up dirt and greasy deposits without chemicals thanks to its unique composition. You should be able to clean surfaces like countertops, sinks, and stoves with warm water, a microfiber cloth, and a bit of elbow grease, Conrad says.

Since you prepare your food in the kitchen, consider using green commercial products for surfaces, or make your own vinegar/water spray. Conventional cleaners may remove dirt, but they can also harbor some nasty substances you don’t want in your PB&J. Microfiber, vinegar, and baking soda will clean and disinfect almost every kitchen surface at a fraction of the price. Don’t neglect once-a-year chores like vacuuming refrigerator coils (unplug your fridge first), and tossing out expired food from the back of the pantry.


Since bedrooms are such individual spaces, there’s a lot of diversity in what needs to happen. Most homeowners should at least rotate and flip innerspring mattresses, and store out-of-season sheets and clothing. Also go through your closet, and donate or Freecycleitems you haven’t worn in the last 12 months. For carpets and mattresses, consider using a professional cleaning service. Figure a typical mattress will cost about $70-$90 to clean, a bargain considering how much time you spend in bed.

Even if you’re getting your carpet professionally cleaned, you still need to break out the vacuum, says Leslie Reichert, owner of The Cleaning Coach. Use the hose attachment to get to the hidden particles along baseboards, under your bed, and in your curtains, favorite environments of dust mites. If you have a large-capacity dryer, throw curtains in on high heat for good measure to kill the little pests.

Living area

Another surface you should consider getting professionally cleaned is living room upholstery. It can be tricky to know exactly how to deep-clean different types of fabrics, says Rathey, especially if there are stains you can’t quite identify. Costs vary widely depending on the size of the furniture piece and the quality and state of its covering, but a typical sofa might run $70 to $90.

Microfiber cloths are great to use in the living area as well. Make sure you have cloths for each area of the house, though, so you’re not cross-contaminating bathroom, kitchen, and living areas. Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe down windows, wood, mirrors, the tops of bookshelves, ceiling fan blades, and even the plastic housing of electronics for a quick, chemical-free clean.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Keeping Your House Clean with Dogs While It’s on the Market

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

By: Leanne Potts

Oof. Houses that smell or look like pets have lived in them are just harder to sell.

Here’s how to de-dog your house before putting it on the market — and how to keep it that way while you sell.

#1 Steam Clean Everything Fabric

“Job number one is to take care of the soft surfaces in your house,” says Melissa Maker, star of an eponymous YouTube channel and owner of a Toronto cleaning service. “They hold odors and hair like nothing else.”

This includes carpets, rugs, upholstered furniture, and even the drapes, she says. Pets rub against drapes, getting oils, odors, and fur on the fabric. Send curtains out for a professional cleaning.

#2 Groom Your Pet

Get your pet groomed by a pro before you list your house. You can do it yourself, but a pro can get more hair and dander off than you can — plus, all that gunk is better off in the groomer’s drain than yours.

Brush your furry friend regularly (outside, preferably) while your house is on the market. Any hair you get off on a brush is hair that won’t end up on your sofa or in your rugs.

#3 Clean Tile-Floor Grout

Tile resists dog stains, but grout is porous and sucks them up like a sponge. “I had a cat who had an accident on a tile floor, and the pee seeped into the grout,” Maker says. Steam clean grout to lift old smells and stains. If your grout is really cruddy, hire a pro to chip out the old grout and put in new — or DIY it if you have the skills.

#4 Get an Air Purifier Tower

To you, it smells like home. But your HVAC has been circulating the same hair and dander again and again (especially in hot and cold weather when the windows are closed).

Add an air purifier tower with a HEPA filter; it pulls hair and dander out of the air before they even reach your HVAC.

Most air ducts don’t need to be cleaned, especially if you change filters regularly. But if dander and fur seem to be taking over, hire a duct-cleaning company before putting your home on the market.

#5 Use Enzymatic Cleaners

They’re the special forces of odor busters. Enzymatic cleaners are made of beneficial bacteria that eat stains and odors. They’re formulated to stamp out a specific type of stain, so a cleanser that targets urine won’t be the same as one for vomit.

“They’re cultivated for a specific mess,” Maker says. Apply them liberally to stains regardless of how old they are, before listing your house.

#6 Get Rid of Scratch Marks

Pet toenails leave telltale marks on doors and walls. For walls and doors made of synthetic materials, you’ll just need to paint over the marks. For a wooden door, use wood-filler pen can fill in the scratches. For hardwood floors, rub out small scratches with steel wool or fine sandpaper followed by mineral spirits, wood filler, and polyurethane. For major damage, refinishing the hardwood is a good investment with a stellar 100% ROI.

#7 Absorb Odors With Charcoal

Charcoal pulls moisture and odors out of the air. You can get inconspicuous little bags of it to hang in places your pets love most. Or, just strategically stash some charcoal briquettes around the house.

Just be sure to get the ones that aren’t presoaked with lighter fluid.

#8 Spot Clean Furniture Daily

If you’re like many pet owners, trying to keep your dog off the couch completely isn’t worth the effort. Instead, cover your freshly-cleaned furniture with throws or pet covers, and wash them at least once a week. Vacuum rugs and carpets every day. Pet smells sink in fast.

For quick hair removal before a showing, wipe down the couch with rubber gloves. The hair comes right off.

#9 Get a Sniff Test

You’ve scrubbed everything, and you think your house smells like a dog has never set foot in the door. Get a second opinion as to whether the odors are gone, Maker says. “You may be noseblind. Ask your agent to walk through and give you an honest opinion.”

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Tax Deductions for Homeowners: How the New Tax Law Affects Mortgage Interest

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

By: Leanne Potts

Tax changes for 2019 change the landscape for homeowners.

Tax season is upon us once again, and to make it even more interesting this year, the tax code has changed — along with the rules about tax deductions for homeowners. The biggest change? Many homeowners who used to write off their property taxes and the interest they pay their mortgage will no longer be able to.

Stay calm. This doesn’t automatically mean your taxes are going up. Here’s a roundup of the rules that will affect homeowners — and how big of a change to expect.

Standard Deduction: Big Change

The standard deduction, that amount everyone gets, whether they have actual deductions or not, nearly doubled under the new law. It’s now $24,000 for married, joint-filing couples (up from $13,000). It’s $18,000 for heads of household (up from $9,550). And $12,000 for singles (up from $6,500).

Many more people will now get a better deal taking the standard than they would with their itemizable write-offs.

For perspective, the number of homeowners who will be able to deduct their mortgage interest under the new rules will fall from around 32 million to about 14 million, the federal government says. That’s about a 56% drop.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll pay more taxes,” says Evan Liddiard, a CPA and director of federal tax policy for the National Association of REALTORS® in Washington, D.C. “It just means that they’ll no longer get a tax incentive for buying or owning a home.”

So will you be able to itemize, or will you be in standard deduction land? This calculator can give you an estimate.

If the answer is standard deduction, you’ll be pleased to know that tax forms are easier when you don’t itemize, says Liddiard. Find instructions for IRS Form 1040 here.

Mortgage Interest Deduction: Incremental Change

The new law caps the mortgage interest you can write off at loan amounts of no more than $750,000. However, if your loan was in place by Dec. 14, 2017, the loan is grandfathered, and the old $1 million maximum amount still applies. Since most people don’t have a mortgage larger than $750,000, they won’t be affected by the cap.

But if you live in a pricey place (like San Francisco, where the median housing price is well over a million bucks), or you just have a seriously expensive house, the new federal tax laws mean you’re not going to be able to write off interest paid on debt over the $750,000 cap.

State and Local Tax Deduction: Degree of Change Varies by Location

The state and local taxes you pay — like income, sales, and property taxes — are still itemizable write-offs. That’s called the SALT deduction in CPA lingo. But. The tax changes for 2019 (that’s tax year 2018) mean you can’t deduct more than $10,000 for all your state and local taxes combined, whether you’re single or married. (It’s $5,000 per person if you’re married but filing separately.)

The SALT cap is bad news for people in areas with high taxes. The majority of homeowners in around 20 states have been writing off more than $10,000 in SALT each year, so they’ll lose some of this deduction. “This is going to hurt people in high-tax areas like New York and California,” says Lisa Greene-Lewis, CPA and expert for TurboTax in California. New Yorkers, for example, were taking SALT deductions around $22,000 a household.

Rental Property Deduction: No Change

The news is happier if you’re a landlord. There continue to be no limits on the amount of mortgage debt interest or state and local taxes you can write off on rental property. And you can keep writing off operating expenses like depreciation, insurance, lawn care, and utilities on Schedule E.

Home Equity Loans: Big Change

You can continue to write off the interest on a home equity or second mortgage loan (if you itemize), but only if you used the proceeds to substantially better your home and only if the total, combined with your first mortgage, doesn’t go over the $750,000 cap ($1 million for loans in existence on Dec. 15, 2017). If you used the equity loan to pay medical expenses, take a cruise, or anything other than home improvements, that interest is no longer tax deductible.

Here’s a big FYI: The new rules don’t grandfather in old home equity loans if the proceeds were used for something other than substantial home improvement. If you took one out five years ago to, say, pay your child’s college tuition, you have to stop writing off that interest. 

4 Tips for Navigating the New Tax Law

1. Single people may get more tax benefits from buying a house, Liddiard says. “They can often reach [and potentially exceed] the standard deduction more quickly.” You can check how much you’re likely to owe or get back under the new law on this tax calculator.

2. Student loan debt is deductible, up to $2,500 if you’re repaying, whether you itemize or not.

3. Charitable deductions and some medical expenses remain itemizable. If you’re generous or have had a big year for medical bills, these, added to your mortgage interest, may be enough to bump you over the standard deduction hump and into the write-off zone.

4. If your mortgage is over the $750,000 cappay it down faster so you don’t eat the interest. You can add a little to the principal each month, or make a 13th payment each year.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Resolution: Put Your House on a Diet

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

By: HouseLogic

Follow these six tips to get your home trim and clutter-free in the new year.

Every January, millions of people pledge to lose weight by hitting the gym or going on a diet. But like our bodies, our homes also accumulate excess baggage. So this New Year, why not put your house on a diet? Here are six tips to help your home lose its “love handles” of old clothes, obsolete gadgets, furniture and more. Now you and your house can both meet your weight-loss goals this year.


You might not be able to think of 27 things in your house you no longer use, but if you get a box and don’t stop until you find them, you’ll clear up space and have something to donate to a local charity. FlyLady, who learned this tip from Suze Orman, adds this advice: “As soon as you finish filling the box, take it to the car. You are less tempted to rescue the items.” You can also do this again for a 54-Fling Boogie, and send 27 more items directly to the trash.


If your home is on the obese side of the spectrum, it calls for extreme measures. A Bagster acts just like a dumpster but with the portability of a large shopping bag. Just fill the container with all of the items you’re ready to let go of, schedule a pickup, and before you know it, you’ll have shaved some serious weight off your home.


If you’ve been loath to help your home lose that extra baggage because you don’t know what to do with the items, Oprah has the answer. She gives a comprehensive, state-by-state list of where to get rid of anything from furniture to that old pair of golf clubs. Plus, you get to help a local charity.


Did your kids skip town but leave their clutter? When children go to college or move out, their old stuff can add some serious heft to your home. It’s best to get them to come clean it out themselves—they know what items are significant, and which ones aren’t. But if they moved across the country, and home visits are too precious to waste cleaning, you can do the deed virtually. Just take photos of their items, upload them into a shareable album, and have them choose what gets sent to them and what gets pitched.


A few days of piled-up mail can easily put a few extra pounds on your kitchen table. Household advisor FlyLady says to combat the daily onslaught, deal with the paperwork the moment it comes into the house with a garbage can and calendar at your side. Then always put the bills in the same place, and set one or two days a month to tackle them.


It’s hard to let go of books you’ve read, but bookshelves can only hold so many. Put them to a new use—as shelves! This simple DIY project actually uses your old books as a storage solution. With this, you’ll clear out your place and–just like with your own diet–you’ll probably impress your friends.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

7 Important Repairs to Make Before Selling A House

Monday, December 10th, 2018

By: Jamie Wiebe

As a smart seller, you’ll want your home in tip-top shape — but you don’t want to eat into your profits by overspending on home improvements. You won’t be around to enjoy them anyway. The key is to focus on the most important repairs to make before selling a house to ensure every dollar you spend supports a higher asking price.

“Smaller and less expensive updates in combination with good staging will have a great return,” says Colorado Springs agent Susanna Haynie. But how do you know what things to do before putting your house on the market? Prioritize these updates — and consider letting the rest go.

#1 The Most Important Repair to Make Before Selling: Fix Damaged Flooring

Scratched-up wood flooring; ratty, outdated carpeting; and tired linoleum make your home feel sad. Buyers might take one step inside and scratch the property from their list. Want to know how to increase the value of your home? Install new flooring.

“Replace what’s worn out,” says Haynie. “Buyers don’t want to deal with replacing carpet, and giving an allowance is generally not attractive enough. Spring for new, neutral carpeting or flooring.”

If your home already has hardwood floors, refinishing does the job. Expect to spend about $3,000 on the project — and recoup 100% of the cost, according to the “National Association of REALTORS® Remodeling Impact Report.”

Consider swapping any old flooring for new hardwood. This project costs more at around $5,500, but you could recoup more than 90% of that at resale. If that’s not in the budget, any flooring update makes an enormous difference.

#2 Fix Water Stains

You’ve learned to live with the results of a long-fixed plumbing snafu, but for buyers, a water stain suggests there could be a dozen pesky problems hidden beneath the surface. That’s why this is one of the things to do before putting your house on the market.

“No buyer wants to buy a money pit,” says Haynie.

First, make sure the problem is fixed: Bring in a plumber to look for leaky piping or poor yard drainage if your basement is damp. Diverting rainwater from your foundation may cost as little as $800, and repairing a leaking pipe costs approximately $300.

As for the repair work, replacing a water-stained ceiling runs about $670, and drywall costs around $1.50 per square foot.

All are cheaper than a lost sale.

#3 Repair Torn Window Screens

So super inexpensive — and even DIY-able. You can purchase a window screen frame repair kit from a home improvement store for $10 to $15.

Considering the simplicity of this repair, making the fix is always worth it — and so are other small but highly visible issues. When you’re debating how to increase the value of your home, nix any small problems, snags, or ugly spots that might make buyers scrunch up their brows.

#4 Update Grout

Is your grout yellowing or cracked? Buyers will notice. New grout, on the other hand, can make old floors look like they came straight from the showroom.

“The best return-on-investment projects before selling a home involve making a home look like new,” says Malibu, Calif.-based agent Shelton Wilder. She recently sold a home above asking price after a complete re-grout.

This is another small fix with a big impact: Simple bathroom re-grouting may cost just $1 to $2 per square foot, increasing to $10 per square foot for more complicated jobs. And if you’re handy, you can save even more DIY-ing it.

#5 Resuscitate a Dying Lawn

Nothing says, “This one’s gonna take some work” like a brown, patchy, weedy lawn.

Fixing the problem doesn’t cost a ton of money — and you’ll get it all back (and then some!) once you sell. Hiring a lawn care service to apply fertilizer and weed control will cost about $375. Once you sell the home, that comparatively cheap fix could recoup $1,000. That’s an unbeatable 267% return on investment.

#6 Erase Pet Damage

Did your (sort of) darling kitten scratch your bedroom door? Fix the damage before listing your home. Otherwise, buyers may consider the scuffs a canary in the coal mine.

”If you have pet damage, buyers will [then] look for pet stains on the floor,” says Haynie.

Refinishing a door costs between $100 and $215 (or less, if you’re willing to DIY). Replacing pet-damaged carpeting or hardwood may be a bigger job than buffing out some scuffs — but it’s worth the cash.

#7 Revive an Outdated Kitchen

A full kitchen renovation is rarely worth it when it comes time to sell — even though buyers love a fresh look. “Kitchens are still one of the most important features for buyers,” says Haynie.

The problem is, this $65,000 upgrade isn’t something that buyers will pay you back for. Sellers recoup about 62% of a full-on kitchen renovation. If you’re updating the space just for your sale, focus on low-cost, high-impact projects instead.

“Updating the kitchen doesn’t need to be expensive,” says Wilder. “Painting wood cabinets, updating hardware, or installing new countertops or appliances could be enough.”

Setting up your home for selling success doesn’t have to be expensive. Focus on the most important repairs to make before selling a house by picking projects that do more than look pretty. Choose updates that get your home in selling shape and justify a higher asking price.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

6 Simple Steps to Prep Your Home for Holiday Guests

Monday, November 26th, 2018

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Hosting has its shares of anxieties, especially if you’re striving to make your home welcoming.

How do you know everyone will feel comfortable?

And will you ever get a chance to relax yourself?

You will if you focus on what’s really necessary. Here’s a list of steps to get your home ready — and take the stress out of hosting.

#1 Declutter

The day before guests arrive is no time to pull apart junk drawers and clean out linen closets.

Declutter your home, especially the guest rooms and public areas — foyer, kitchen, living room, den, and dining room. Remove anything unnecessary from countertops, coffee tables, and ottomans; if it’s out of sight, keep it out of mind, for now.

If you run short of time, bag up the clutter and store it in car trunks, basements, and out-of-the-way closets. Sort and arrange after your guests depart.

#2 Add Night Lights

Even though you can navigate your home blindfolded, your guests can’t. Make sure outside lights are working so they don’t trip on the way to your door. Put motion-activated night lights in hallways, bathrooms, and bedrooms to ensure safe passage after the sun sets.

#3 Make Space in the Entryway

Your home’s foyer is the first place guests see, so make a good first impression.

  • Place a small rug or welcome mat at the entrance to protect floors from mud and snow. 
  • Clear out shoes, umbrellas, and other clutter.
  • Add extra hooks to walls so guests can hang coats and hats.
  • Add a storage bench where guests can remove boots and shoes.

#4 Add a Coffee Station and Extra Stools

Your kitchen is command central during the holidays, so make sure it’s clean and ready for guests and extra helpers.

  • Move your coffee station into a family room so guests don’t crowd the kitchen when you’re trying to fix meals.
  • If you like to visit while you’re cooking, place extra stools and chairs around the perimeter of your kitchen so guests can set a spell.

#5 Create Extra Sleeping Space

If you’ve got a guest room, replace the ceiling fixture with a ceiling fan and light combo, which helps guests customize their room temperature without fiddling with the thermostat for the entire house. 

To carve sleeping space out of public areas, buy a folding screen or rolling bookcase, which will provide privacy for sleepers. Fold or roll it away in the morning.

#6 Make Extra Bathroom Supplies Easy to Find

Bring toilet paper, towels, and toiletries out of hiding, and place them on open shelves so guests can find them easily.

If you don’t have enough wall space for shelves, place these items in open baskets around the bathroom.

Also, outfit each tub with a bath mat (to avoid falls) and each toilet with a plunger (to avoid embarrassment).

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

A Fall Checklist of 10 Things You Gotta Do Before Winter Sets In

Friday, October 12th, 2018

By: John Riha

Such as look for roof leaks before the first winter snow. Preventative maintenance is key.

When the last of summer’s heat is a faint memory, and you’re pulling out your hoodies more than your shorts, it’s time to tackle a few simple chores that’ll make winter more pleasant and prevent some nasty surprises next spring.

This fall checklist helps:

#1 Clean and Stow Your Mower

If you’re not familiar with fuel stabilizer, get to know it. If your mower sits for months with gas in its tank, the gas will slowly deteriorate, which can damage internal engine parts. Fuel stabilizer ($10 for a 10-ounce bottle) prevents gas from degrading.Add stabilizer to your gasoline can to keep spare gas in good condition over the winter, and top off your mower tank with stabilized gas before you put it away for the winter. Run the mower for five minutes to make sure the stabilizer reaches the carburetor.

Another lawn mower care method is to run your mower dry before stowing it.

1. When the mower is cool, remove the spark plug and pour a capful of engine oil into the spark plug hole.

2. Pull the starter cord a couple of times to distribute the oil, which keeps pistons lubricated and ensures an easy start come spring.

3. Turn the mower on its side and clean out accumulated grass and gunk from the mower deck.

#2 Remove Garden Hoses From Faucets

Remove garden hoses from outdoor faucets. Leaving hoses attached can cause water to back up in the faucets and in the plumbing pipes just inside your exterior walls. If freezing temps hit, that water could freeze, expand, and crack the faucet or pipes. Make this an early fall priority so a sudden cold snap doesn’t sneak up and cause damage.

Turn off any shutoff valves on water supply lines that lead to exterior faucets. That way, you’ll guard against minor leaks that may let water enter the faucet. 

While you’re at it, drain garden hoses and store them in a shed or garage.

#3 Drain Your Sprinkler System

Time to drain your irrigation system. Even buried irrigation lines can freeze, leading to busted pipes and broken sprinkler heads.

  1. Turn off the water to the system at the main valve. 
  2. Shut off the automatic controller.
  3. Open drain valves to remove water from the system.
  4. Remove any above-ground sprinkler heads and shake the water out of them, then replace.

If you don’t have drain valves, then hire an irrigation pro to blow out the systems pipes with compressed air. A pro is worth the $75 to $150 charge to make sure the job is done right, and to ensure you don’t have busted pipes and sprinkler head repairs to make in the spring.

#4 Seal Air Leaks

Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk ($5 for a 12-ounce tube) and make a journey around  your home’s exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive — and most important — of your fall maintenance jobs. You’ll also seal air leaks that waste energy.

Pick a nice day when temps are above 50 degrees so caulk flows easily.

#5 De-Gunk Your Gutters

Clogged rain gutters can cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts.

If you find colored grit from asphalt roof shingles in your gutters, beware. That sand-like grit helps protect shingles from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Look closely for other signs of roof damage (#5, below); it may be time for a roofing replacement.

Your downspouts should extend at least 5 feet away from your house to prevent foundation problems. If they don’t, add downspout extensions; $10 to $20 each.

#6 Eyeball Your Roof

If you have a steep roof or a multistory house, stay safe and use binoculars to inspect your roof from the ground.

Look for warning signs: Shingles that are buckled, cracked, or missing; rust spots on flashing. Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately.

Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath. Call in a pro roofer for a $50 to $100 eval.

A plumbing vent stack usually is flashed with a rubber collar — called a boot — that may crack or loosen over time. They’ll wear out before your roof does, so make sure they’re in good shape. A pro roofer will charge $75 to $150 to replace a boot, depending on how steep your roof is.

#7 Direct Your Drainage

Take a close look at the soil around your foundation and make sure it slopes away from your house at least 6 vertical inches over 10 feet. That way, you’ll keep water from soaking the soils around your foundation, which could lead to cracks and leaks.

Be sure soil doesn’t touch your siding.

#8 Check Your Furnace

Schedule an appointment with a heating and cooling pro to get your heating system checked and tuned up for the coming heating season. You’ll pay $50 to $100 for a checkup.

An annual maintenance contract ensures you’re at the top of the list for checks and shaves 20% off the cost of a single visit.

Change your furnace filters, too. This is a job you should do every two months anyway, but if you haven’t, now’s the time. If your HVAC includes a built-in humidifier, make sure the contractor replaces that filter.

#9 Prune Plants

Late fall is the best time to prune plants and trees — when the summer growth cycle is over. Your goal is to keep limbs and branches at least 3 feet from your house so moisture won’t drip onto roofing and siding, and to prevent damage to your house exterior during high winds.

For advice on pruning specific plants in your region, check with your state extension service.

#10 Give Your Fireplace a Once-Over

To make sure your fireplace is safe, grab a flashlight and look up inside your fireplace flue to make sure the damper opens and closes properly. Open the damper and look up into the flue to make sure it’s free of birds’ nests, branches and leaves, or other obstructions. You should see daylight at the top of the chimney.

Check the firebox for cracked or missing bricks and mortar. If you spot any damage, order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. An inspection costs $79 to $500.

You fireplace flue should be cleaned of creosote buildup every other year. A professional chimney sweep will charge $150 to $250 for the service.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Make an Offer Like a Boss

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

By: HouseLogic

Ah, the offer!

Cinematically speaking, this is the iconic moment — we’d forgive you if you imagined, say, putting a hand on your agent’s shoulder and whispering (in your best Vito Corleone) that you’re going to make them an offer they can’t refuse.

In reality, it’s not that simple (or dramatic). Your offer marks the beginning of a back-and-forth between you and the seller, typically with real estate agents advising you both.

The more intentional you are about your offer, the better your chances of making a successful bid. Follow these 10 steps, and you’ll be well prepared — that’s a true story. (“The Godfather” again. We couldn’t resist.)

#1 Know Your Limits

Your agent will help you craft a winning offer. You can trust your agent’s advice on price, contingencies, and other terms of the deal: It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. The more collaborative you are with your agent, the more quickly you’ll be able to move.

But ultimately, it’s you who decides what the offer will be — and you who knows what your financial and lifestyle limits are. Buying a home means mixing strong emotions with business savvy, so now is also a good time to reflect on your “musts.”

  • Have a top limit to your offer price because you’re also saving for retirement and love beach vacations? Stick to it. 
  • Want a vegetable garden or to paint your home’s exterior purple? Make sure your homeowners association rules permit it. 
  • Besides reading HOA rules, find out how much the HOA has in reserves to cover common area repairs. You don’t want to be slapped unexpectedly with a special assessment. 
  • Want a dog-friendly community? Make sure there are no pet weight limits or preventing you from cohabitating with your (extra-large) canine bestie.

#2 Learn to Speak “Contract”

Essentially, an offer is a contract. The documents and wording vary across the country.

In the spirit of due diligence, take time to review sample offer forms before you’ve found a house (LawDepot.com has purchase agreements for each state). If you’re high-maintenance, a real estate attorney can explain the documents to you so you’re familiar with their vocabulary when you’re ready to pull the trigger on an offer with your agent. Your agent will have offer forms for your state. 

#3 Set Your Price

Homes always have a listing price. Think of it as the seller’s opening bid in your negotiation to buy a home.

As the buyer, your offer will include an offer price. This is the first thing home sellers look at when they receive a bid.

Your agent will help you determine whether the seller’s listing price is fair by running comps (or comparables), a process that involves comparing the house you’re bidding on to similar properties that recently sold in the neighborhood.

Several factors can also affect your bargaining position and offer price. For example, if the home has been sitting on the market for a while, or you’re in a buyer’s market where supply exceeds demand, the seller may be willing to accept an offer that’s below the list price. Or if the seller has already received another offer on the home, that may impact the price you’re willing to offer. Your agent will help you understand the context here.

#4 Figure Out Your Down Payment

To get a mortgage, you have to make a down payment on your loan. For conventional loans (as opposed to government loans), making a 20% down payment enables borrowers to avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), a monthly premium that protects the lender in case the borrower defaults on the loan.

But 20% isn’t always feasible — or even necessary. In fact, the median down payment was 10% in 2017, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Your lender will help you determine what the best down payment amount is for your finances. Depending on the type of loan you get, you may even be able to put down as little as 0% on your mortgage.

You might qualify for one of the more than 2,400 down payment assistance programs nationwide. Many of them make funds available to households earning as much as 175% of area median income. In other words, middle-income households. And the savings can be substantial: Home buyers who use down payment assistance programs save an average of $17,766 over the life of their loan, according to real estate resource RealtyTrac. Find out more about down payment assistance programs in your state.

You can use an online mortgage calculator to see how different down payments would affect your mortgage premiums and how much you’ll pay in interest.

#5 Show the Seller You’re Serious: Make a Deposit

An EMD — short for earnest money deposit — is the sum of money you put down as evidence to the seller that you’re serious (read: earnest) about buying the house. If the seller accepts your offer, the earnest money will go toward your down payment at closing. However, if you try to back out of the deal, you might have to forfeit the cash to the seller.

A standard EMD is 1% to 3% of the sales price of the home (so, that would be $2,000 to $6,000 on a $200,000 loan). But depending on how hot the market is where you live, you may want to put down more earnest money to compete with other offers. 

In most cases, the title company is responsible for holding the earnest money in an escrow account. In the event the deal falls through, the title company will disperse the funds appropriately based on the terms of the sales contract. Title companies also check for defects or liens on a seller’s title to make sure it can be transferred cleanly to you.

#6 Review the Contingency Plans

Most real estate offers include contingencies — provisions that must be met before the transaction can go through, or the buyer is entitled to walk away from the deal with their EMD.

For example, if an offer says, “This contract is contingent upon a home inspection,” the buyer has a set number of days after the offer is accepted to do an inspection of the property with a licensed or certified home inspector.

If something is wrong with the house, the buyer can request the seller to make repairs. But most repairs are negotiable; the seller may agree to some, but say no to others. Or the seller can offer a price reduction, or a credit at closing, based on the cost of the repairs. This is where your real estate agent can offer real value and counsel on what you should ask the seller to fix.

Just remember to keep your eye on the big picture. If you and the seller are bickering over a $500 repair to the hardwood floors, keep in mind that’s a drop in the bucket in relation to the size of the bid.

In addition to the aforementioned home inspection contingency, other common contingencies include:

  • financing contingency, which gives home buyers a specified amount of time to get a loan that will cover the mortgage.
  • An appraisal contingency, where a third-party appraiser hired by the lender evaluates the fair-market value of the home to ensure the home is worth enough money to serve as collateral for the value of the mortgage.
  • clear title contingency, where the buyer’s title company verifies that the seller is the sole owner of the property and can legally convey ownership to the buyer.
  • home sale contingency, where the transaction is dependent on the sale of the buyer’s current home.

Although contingencies can offer protection to buyers, they can also make offers less appealing to the seller because they give buyers legal ways to back out of the sale without any financial repercussions. So, if you’re going up against multiple offers, making an offer with fewer contingencies can potentially give you an edge over the competition.

In other words: A chill offer is an attractive offer. But keep in mind you have to be comfortable with the risks that come with this strategy. If you don’t have a financing contingency, for example, and you can’t get a mortgage, you’d likely lose your earnest money deposit since you’re on the hook. (An outcome that’s decidedly un-chill for you.)

#7 Read the Fine Print About the Property

The sales contract states key information about the property, such as the address, tax ID, and the types of utilities: public water or private well, gas or electric heating, and so on. It also includes a section that specifies what personal property and fixtures the seller agrees to leave behind, like appliances, lighting fixtures, and window shades. The seller provides prospective buyers with a list of these items before they submit an offer. This can be another area of negotiation.

Carefully reviewing the property description also helps you know, for example, if the seller plans to take that unattached kitchen island with them when they move. (Stranger things have happened.)

#8 Make a Date to Settle

The sales contract you submit to the seller must include a proposed settlement date, which confirms when the transaction will be finalized. The clock starts as soon as the purchase agreement is signed. If you don’t close on time, the party that’s responsible for the delay may have to pay the other party compensation in the form of “penalty interest” at a predetermined rate.

A 30- to 60-day settlement period is common because it gives the typical home buyer time to complete a title search and obtain mortgage approval, but settlement periods can vary. Some sellers, for example, prefer a longer period so they have more time to move or look for their next house. Being flexible, with respect to the closing date, could give you more negotiating power in another area of the deal.

One thing that’s the same no matter where you live is that you’ll have a three-day period prior to settlement to review the Closing Disclosure, or CD — a five-page form that states your final loan terms and closing costs.

Once the sales contract is signed, the parties can change the settlement date if they both sign an addendum specifying the new day.

#9 Write a Fan Letter to the Seller

Want to make a truly compelling offer? Pull on the seller’s heartstrings by attaching a personal letter to the bid documents. Tell a compelling story about your family and your connection to the area. Get deep about your roots.

Also, sincere flattery can go a long way. Compliment the seller on how their kitchen renovation looks Apartment Therapy–worthy, for instance, or how the succulents in their landscaping remind you of a resort in Palm Springs.

Your agent can help you gather background on the sellers (e.g., are they crazy about their labradoodle, like you are about yours? Did they run a small business from the home, like you dream of doing?). And you should — of course — refer to information you gleaned during the open house or private showing. Use this intel to write a message that really speaks to the seller, and it may very well seal the deal.

#10 Brace Yourself for a Counteroffer

If you’re making a lowball bid or going up against multiple offers, the seller may decide to make you a counteroffer — a purchase agreement with new terms, such as a higher sales price or fewer contingencies.

At that point, it’s up to you to accept the new contract, make your own counteroffer to the sellers, or walk away.

Don’t panic: The next part of our guide walks you through the counteroffer process, and it offers strategies to give you more negotiating power.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

“I Need 20% Down” and Other Home-Buying Myths About Mortgages

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

By: Kelley Walters

Tips for shopping around for a mortgage — even if you think you don’t qualify.

Think you’re not ready to unlock home ownership yet? That the financial hurdles are too high? You may be short-changing yourself. Many of the things renters believe about home-buying are myths.

Here’s the real deal.

Myth: I Have to Put Down 20%. 

Saving 20% of the price of a home in many places isn’t just a challenge; it’s a roadblock. And it’s not a must-do. Roughly 60% of home buyers put down less than 6%. How can you become part of the less-than-20 club?

  • FHA Loans: The Federal Housing Association (FHA) is an old friend to first-time buyers and others who are ready to become homeowners with less than a 20% down payment. If you qualify, you may be able to get a loan with as little as 3.5% down.
  • DownpaymentResource.com and NeighborWorks: Some local and state agencies sponsor down-payment assistance programs that help prospective home buyers in different ways. Follow the links to find out if any are available near you.
  • VA, USDA, and Navy Federal Credit Union loans: Three government-related lenders offer mortgages with as little as zero down. The VA is for veterans and family members; the USDA is for buyers in qualifying locations (typically rural); and Navy Federal Credit Union is for the military, family members, and some government employees.
  • Gift Funds: Sixteen percent of buyers ask friends or relatives to help jump-start their home ownership with a gift. Talk to your lender first, though. There may be limits to the amount of gifted funds they’ll accept, and they may require your benefactor to sign some paperwork.

Myth: My Low Credit Score Means I Can’t Buy a Home

So, your credit could use a tune-up. That doesn’t mean you have to forgo your home-buying dreams. Here are some options for those with a less-than-stellar credit score.

  • FHA loan: With a credit score of 500, you can apply for an FHA loan, but you’ll need a 10% down payment to offset the risk. If your score is a tick better (580), you can participate in their down-payment assistance program, requiring only 3.5%.
  • A higher down payment: On the off-chance you have enough cash on hand to put down more than 20%, the higher down payment can help those with lower credit scores be less risky for lenders.
  • A co-signer. Find someone with better credit to co-sign the loan – but understand that if you don’t make the payments, the cosigner will be financially responsible (and their credit will also suffer).
  • Check your credit report. Maybe your credit isn’t that low after all. Order a copy of your report from all three reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). If you find inaccurate or old information, ask the agencies to correct it. (You can order a free report from each of the bureaus once a year at annualcreditreport.com.

Myth: I Can’t Afford the Agent’s Commission

Here’s one you can immediately mark off your worry list. The seller pays all commissions, not the buyer.

This is one of many reasons to contract with a buyer’s agent. The seller’s agent doesn’t work for you, and you need a pro in your corner.

Myth: My Bank Will Give Me the Best Mortgage

There are a lot of positive things to say about working with your local bank, but assuming they’ll give you the best mortgage is a mistake.

Banks are only one type of home-loan lender. Others include credit unions and mortgage companies. Mortgage rates aren’t the same across the board, so contact several institutions to ensure you’re getting the best price.

Or, if you prefer to let the lenders come to you, consider getting a loan through a mortgage broker. Brokers have access to several lenders, and they’ll shop their market, getting you a wider selection of loans. But unless you contract with one, brokers aren’t obligated to find the best deal for you. So you’ll want to shop around for a broker, just as you would for a lender.

Myth: I Was Pre-Approved. I Got The Loan!

Well . . . no. Don’t order that couch from West Elm or pack away your tax documents just yet.

You don’t get the loan until:

(a) The seller accepts your offer

(b) Your lender approves the loan (which you’ll need those tax docs for)

(c) You sign the loan papers 

Between (a) and (c), the lender will have the home appraised to ensure its value is in line with the purchase price, check your credit again, and ask you for more documents than you ever knew existed.

So what does “pre-approved” mean for a loan? It tells sellers you’re eligible for a loan and shows them you’re a serious, qualified buyer. This gives them confidence in your offer, increasing your chances of (a), (b), and (c) actually happening.

Myth: The Interest Rate Is What Matters Most

A low interest rate is important, but it’s not the only thing to consider. When shopping around for a loan, check the annual percentage rate (APR). It includes all loan costs, such as origination and processing fees that can vary widely from lender to lender, in addition to the interest rate.

One loan may have a lower interest rate, but the up-front fees cost more than you’d save in interest. The APR lets you compare apples to apples.

Before you sign the loan, your lender will give you a loan estimate, a line-by-line estimate of fees. You’ll find the APR there. Use that rate to compare the loans you’re considering.

How about that? You may be closer to home ownership than you thought. Happy house hunting!

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

6 Ways to Lose at Negotiating a House Price

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

By: Leanne Potts

Real estate negotiation tips so you can buy your dream home — and not overpay.

You’ve looked at enough houses to fill an entire season of House Hunters and finally picked one to buy. Now you’re ready to make an offer.

Your agent can help guide you through this nail-biting phase of negotiating a house price, but ultimately, you call the shots. Here’s how to negotiate like a boss.

#1: Thinking House Price is All That Matters

That house with a price point $15k below your budget? It may seem like a deal — until you add on the costs of maintenance and replacing the aging appliances.

Planning on repainting, remodeling, or landscaping, too? Suddenly the price looks a whole lot higher.

When developing your offer, calculate in the costs that will go above and beyond a mortgage payment. Then you can negotiate with an eye on the total cost of owning the house, not just the sticker price.

On the flip side, the price may not be all that matters to the seller, either.

She may have to start a job on the other side of the country in a month and value a quick closing. Or she may be looking to rent from you for a bit after the sale until her next home is ready. Sometimes being accommodating is negotiation gold.

#2: Refusing to Back Down on Small Repairs

Before you draw a line in the negotiation sand over, say, a deck with some rotten boards, ask yourself if it’s worth losing the house over a repair that would cost less than a thousand dollars.

Say the house price is $250,000, which makes that deck repair less than half of one percent of the cost of the house. There’s a lot of emotional energy at this point in the process, so give yourself a break rather than dickering over it.

A house negotiation is not about winning for the sake of winning. It’s about getting the house you want at a fair price on good terms.

#3: Waiving Formalities Because You’re So in Love With the House

Don’t be so blinded by house love that you do something silly like skip some of the formalities of home buying, such as the home inspection or the appraisal, in an effort to close the deal.

Those steps, and others like a termite or septic inspection, are known as contingencies. They’re there to protect you from ending up with a six-figure money pit.

Imagine how quickly the house-honeymoon would end if you found a termite colony or that the identical house across the street sold for much less?

Besides, if you’re taking out a mortgage, your lender won’t let you skip an appraisal because they don’t want to loan money on a house that isn’t worth the loan amount. So even if you want to make it easy for the seller, your lender may stop you.

There are other ways to sweeten your offer and get that house:

  • Pay some of the seller’s closing costs.
  • Offer a fast close.

If this is your first house, speed is an ace up your sleeve because you can move faster than someone who can’t buy a new house until they sell the old one (another type of contingency).

And remember, while there’s a lot of emotion tied up in choosing a house, it’s still a business deal.

 #4: Getting Hung Up On a Few Grand

You offered $198,000. The seller won’t budge from $200,000.

Before you walk away, consider this: Two grand is a lot of money, but in the house-buying world it’s not so much. At an interest rate of 4%, with 20% down on a 30-year mortgage, that additional $2,000 will add just $8 a month to your payment.

If you can swing it — maybe you can cut a small thing out of your budget each month — it could be worth it. 

#5: Folding Because the Inspection Turned Up Issues

A good home inspection is going to turn up something. Usually several somethings. That’s good. It means the inspector is doing their job. It’s a rare day when a home passes inspection with no problem at all.

Plus, many things that turn up on an inspection are easily handled. You can ask the seller to do the repairs or knock some off the price so you can pay for repairs.

And while some problems may seem scary at first, like a roof leak or plumbing problem, they’re almost always fixable and negotiable.

#6: Offering Less Because the Decor is Hideous

The faux-Tiffany swag lamp and trippy orange-and-brown wallpaper make your eyes itch. So you’re planning on offering less — way less.

Before you do that, know the market. If it’s a seller’s market, your offer may be seen as an insult especially if the home’s in good shape. And just like that, you’ve lost your dream home.

When you’re ready to make that offer, look past the little stuff that you can easily change, and focus your negotiations on what matters, like the location and the bones of the house.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Patio Shade Ideas Under $300

Friday, July 6th, 2018

By: Jan Soults Walker

Not all shady deals are bad. These patio shade projects are each under $300.

If you hop-skip like a rookie firewalker across your sun-drenched patio, then patio shade projects are probably a hot priority.

But there’s no reason to get burned on price; you’ll find plenty of low-cost shade-giving options to cool your tootsies.

If you’re looking for shade beyond the typical market umbrellas ($45) and freestanding gazebo kits (starting at $200 at home improvement centers), check out these other easy, affordable patio shade projects — all for under $300:

Tall Order: Vertical Trellis

Even if you have overhead shade, low morning or late afternoon light can make your patio uncomfortably hot in summer. Filter low-flying rays with a vertical trellis for growing leafy climbing plants. 

The taller the trellis (60 inches or more), the more time you enjoy in the shade. Plus, an attractive trellis adds structure, lush greenery, and home privacy to your outdoor getaway.

Trellises can be made of weather-resistant wood, metal, PVC, or a combination of materials. Build one from scratch in just a few hours for less than $100 using vertical posts and cross members that plants grip and climb.

Or, make a simple frame and add pre-made garden lattice, $20 for a 4-by-8-foot sheet.

Trellises also come in kits ($40-$250 and up) or ready-made ($15-$200 and up). In an hour or less, you’ll be ready to set the trellis in the ground.

For plants, choose climbing leafy or flowering vines, such as English ivy, golden hop, morning glory, clematis, bougainvillea, or roses. Prices range from $10 to $40 and up for climbers.

Or, start veggie climbers from seed ($1 or less per packet), such as pole beans or sweet peas, and harvest the rewards later.

Patio-Dwelling Trees

Add leafy shade by planting a sapling or ornamental tree in a container. A small (6-10 feet tall) tree will still throw plenty of shade — Japanese maples and dwarf red buckeyes are favorites. You’ll pay $40-$100 for a young tree. 

Select a container large enough to stabilize the tree so wind won’t blow it over. Add a wheeled base for shade mobility. Fill out with these other ideas for container gardening. 

A potted tree requires more care than one in the yard. Feed it monthly during the growing season and water regularly (once or twice a day in dry weather). As your trees grow, transplant them to larger pots. Winter over container trees indoors — anywhere with ample light and temperatures that won’t drop below 40 degrees.

Potted citrus trees are a beautiful, bountiful option. A lemon tree loves a sunny patio while offering shade and juicy fruits for squeezing. Other fruit-bearing trees include fig and semi-dwarf apple trees.

A potted palm transports your patio to the tropics with wide fronds for dappled shade and an island feel. Chinese windmill, or chusan palm (Trachycarpus), for example, can grow up to 7 feet tall in a container.

Sailing in the Shade

Shade sails are triangular or square pieces of high-strength nylon that you suspend over your patio, adding color, pattern, and plenty of shade. The sails require connections to posts, trees, or rigid structural members of your house, such as exposed rafter ends. 

A sail with 11-foot sides starts at $40. More expensive shade sails ($170 and up) include hardware (turnbuckles, eye bolts, and cable) for sturdy, wind-resistant installations. 

As a frugal alternative, make your own shade sail using a canvas drop cloth ($15 for a 6-ounce, 9-by-12-foot piece). Install grommets ($10 for a kit) at the corners and loop clothesline ($5 for 50 feet) through the grommets.

Shade From the Islands

Mix up a mai tai and enjoy a cool respite beneath these tropically inspired patio shade projects:

Top an existing structure, such as a pergola, with reed or bamboo fencing. A 6-by-16-foot roll of bamboo fencing starts at $22. Secure the fencing with galvanized staples or roofing nails.

Thatch panels ($200 for a 12 pack of 4-by-4-foot panels) are typically made from palm fronds cut into strips. Staple or nail the panels to the top of an existing pergola or awning frame for tiki-hut charm.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Summer at the Coast

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Summer is finally here and with it comes so many fun events and activities! We talked with our broker staff and came up with a list of some of their favorite things to do this season. From the river to the coast, Wilmington to Carolina Beach, young to old – there’s something for everyone! Check it out!

Fourth Friday Art Walk in downtown Wilmington

4th Friday of each month 6:00pm – 9:00pm
The Arts Council of Wilmington & NHC is pleased to coordinates these self-guided tours. They are held from 6:00-9:00 p.m. on the fourth Friday of each month.

Wilmington Farmers Market at Tidal Creek

Saturdays weekly from 8:00am-1:00pm
This is a produce only market from local vendors. Tidal Creek Coop is dedicated to providing an alternative grocery shopping experience where you will find food grown and sold with integrity.

Airlie Garden Concert Series

Every 1st and 3rd Friday from 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Airlie’s 2018 Summer Concert Series begins May 18th and runs every 1st and 3rd Friday through September 21st. Concerts are from 6pm-8pm each scheduled evening, and are open to the general public.

Downtown Sundown

Every Friday 6:30pm-10:00pm
The Downtown Sundown Concert Series is a free, family friendly event that attracts both local residents and out of town visitors. 

Movies at the Lake

Every Sunday 8:45pm Free Outdoor movies Sundays through Labor Day Weekend September 2, 2018. Grab your kids, blankets and beach chairs and head to Carolina Beach Lake Park to enjoy an outdoor movie on a ‘gigantic’ screen. Movie goers can purchase cotton candy, popcorn, candy, soft drinks and much more. You can also bring your own food and beverages.

Live Music at the Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar

Every Thursday 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Enjoy live music every Thursday from 7-9pm while watching the sunset and waves crashing. Check the link for schedule of bands!

Kilwins Ice Cream and the Riverwalk

Grab a cone and enjoy the scenic walk along the river. Stop in some of the stores along the way. You won’t be disappointed!

Fort Fisher Aquarium

Rainy day at the beach? Check out the aquarium at Fort Fisher! Pet a stingray, watch the daily dive shows, visit the albino alligator, wonder at baby sea turtles and much, much more!

Capt’n Bills

Who doesn’t love a little beach volleyball! Whether you’re there to play or just grabbing some food and drink to watch – it’s always a fun time!

Hugh MacRae Park – Splash Pad

If you have children – this is the perfect place to spend an afternoon and cool off!

Jungle Rapids, Museums, River Cruises and MORE!

Other fun family activities can be found through the link below.

What Not to Do as a New Homeowner

Friday, May 18th, 2018

By: John Riha

Avoid these easy-to-prevent mistakes that could cost you big time.

You’ve finally settled into your new home.

You’re hanging pictures and pinning ideas for your favorite bath.

But in all your excitement, are you missing something? Now that you’re a bonafide homeowner are there things you should know that you don’t?

Probably so. Here are six mistakes new homeowners often make, and why they’re critically important to avoid.

#1 Not Knowing Where the Main Water Shutoff Valve Is

Water from a burst or broken plumbing pipe can spew dozens of gallons into your home’s interior in a matter of minutes, soaking everything in sight — including drywall, flooring, and valuables. In fact, water damage is one of the most common of all household insurance claims.

Quick-twitch reaction is needed to stave off a major bummer. Before disaster hits, find your water shutoff valve, which will be located where a water main enters your house. Make sure everyone knows where it’s located and how to close the valve. A little penetrating oil on the valve stem makes sure it’ll work when you need it to.

#2 Not Calling 811 Before Digging a Hole

Ah, spring! You’re so ready to dig into your new yard and plant bushes and build that fence. But don’t — not until you’ve dialed 811, the national dig-safely hotline. The hotline will contact all your local utilities who will then come to your property — often within a day — to mark the location of underground pipes, cables, and wires.

This free service keeps you safe and helps avoid costly repairs. In many states, calling 811 is the law, so you’ll also avoid fines.

#3 Not Checking the Slope of Foundation Soil

The ground around your foundation should slope away from your house at least 6 inches over 10 feet. Why? To make sure that water from rain and melting snow doesn’t soak the soil around your foundation walls, building up pressure that can cause leaks and crack your foundation, leading to mega-expensive repairs.

This kind of water damage doesn’t happen overnight — it’s accumulative — so the sooner you get after it, the better (and smarter) you’ll be. While you’re at it, make sure downspouts extend at least 5 feet away from your house.

#4 Not Knowing the Depth of Attic Insulation

This goes hand-in-hand with not knowing where your attic access is located, so let’s start there. Find the ceiling hatch, typically a square area framed with molding in a hallway or closet ceiling. Push the hatch cover straight up. Get a ladder and check out the depth of the insulation. If you can see the tops of joists, you definitely don’t have enough.

The recommended insulation for most attics is about R-38 or 10 to 14 inches deep, depending on the type of insulation you choose. BTW, is your hatch insulated, too? Use 4-inch-thick foam board glued to the top.

#5 Carelessly Drilling into Walls

Hanging shelves, closet systems, and artwork means drilling into your walls — but do you know what’s back there? Hidden inside your walls are plumbing pipes, ductwork, wires, and cables.

You can check for some stuff with a stud sensor — a $25 battery-operated tool that detects changes in density to sniff out studs, cables, and ducts.

But stud sensors aren’t foolproof. Protect yourself by drilling only 1¼ inches deep max — enough to clear drywall and plaster but not deep enough to reach most wires and pipes.

Household wiring runs horizontally from outlet to outlet about 8 inches to 2 feet from the floor, so that’s a no-drill zone. Stay clear of vertical locations above and below wall switches — wiring runs along studs to reach switches.

#6 Cutting Down a Tree

The risk isn’t worth it. Even small trees can fall awkwardly, damaging your house, property, or your neighbor’s property. In some locales, you have to obtain a permit first. Cutting down a tree is an art that’s best left to a professional tree service.

Plus, trees help preserve property values and provide shade that cuts energy bills. So think twice before going all Paul Bunyan.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

What Every Seller Needs to Know About Closing

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

By: HouseLogic

Walk-throughs, closing costs, and other items to check off your list before the big finish!

Closing time. The end of the road. The last hurrah — and hurrahs are in order.

If you’re here, then you’ve found a buyer, negotiated home repairs, and are ready to move out — and on. But before you can make this sale official (and get paid!), you still have a few items to cross off your list.

Here, we’ve laid out everything you need to know to have a successful settlement.

Closing Is the Final Step

Closing, or “settlement,” is when both parties sign the final ownership and insurance paperwork, and the buyer becomes the legal owner of the home.

Typically, closing day takes place about four to six weeks after you signed a purchase and sale agreement. During this window, the buyer’s purchasing funds are held in escrow until all contingencies, like the home inspection contingency and appraisal contingency, are met.

Your agent will be able to answer questions and offer support through closing. Here’s what to expect from the process, start to finish.

Before You Close, You’ll Have a Final Walk-Through

Most sales contracts give the buyer one last chance to do a walk-through of the home within 24 hours of settlement. This is their chance to check that the property is in good condition, and to make sure the agreed-upon repairs were completed.

In most cases, no problems arise at this stage of the transaction. (If something is amiss, your agent can walk you through it.) The final walk-through mostly gives buyers peace of mind knowing that you, the seller, have adhered to the conditions of the sales contract and home inspection-related repairs.

Follow These Steps to Prepare for the Final Walk-Through

To help ensure that the walk-through goes smoothly, take these six steps ahead of time to prepare:

Step #1: Clean house. Your home should be spotless for the final walk-through. Assuming the buyer is taking ownership on closing day, you should be fully moved out at this point. But moving can be messy. After purging, packing, and moving, you may want to do one more deep cleaning.

Step #2: Leave owner’s manuals and warranties. Make the buyer’s life easier by providing all manuals and warranties you have for home appliances. Print physical copies and put these documents in one place for the new owner. If you have receipts from contractors for repairs, leave them with the manuals.

Step #3: Provide a vendor list. Give the buyer contact information for home contractors or maintenance companies that you’ve used in the past. These vendors are familiar with your home, and the new owner will appreciate having a list of servicers they can trust will take good care of their new home.

Step #4: Check for forgotten items. Do one more check throughout the home to make sure you’re not leaving anything behind. One exception: You may want to leave unused or leftover paint cans in the colors currently in use within the home — but confirm with the buyer first.

Step #5: Turn off water shut-off valves. The last thing you want before closing is a flood. With the buyer’s permission, turn off your house’s main shutoff valve 24 hours before closing.

Step #6: Lock up. Until settlement is complete, you’re legally responsible for the home — meaning you’d be liable if there’s a break-in before closing. So, the day before settlement make sure to close window coverings and lock the entry doors. If a house looks un-lived in, it’s a welcome sign to burglars. It’s a good idea to leave a porch light on, or to set an interior light to turn on and off with a timer.

If the final walk-through reveals an issue with the house, don’t panic. The standard protocol is for the buyer’s agent to immediately alert the listing agent that there’s a problem. Then, both parties work together to solve it. Typically, either the closing gets delayed or there’s additional negotiation, such as monetary deduction of the sales price. In other words: There are options, and your agent can help you through this.

Up Next: The “Closing Disclosure”

Let’s assume the final walk-through is smooth sailing. (Woo-hoo!) What happens next?

You’ll get info about your closing costs from the title company.

Meanwhile, the buyer’s mortgage lender must provide the buyer with a Closing Disclosure, or CD, three business days before settlement. This is a formal statement of the buyer’s final loan terms and closing costs. As the loan borrower, the buyer is entitled to a three-day review period to see if there are any significant discrepancies between their CD and Loan Estimate (LE) — a document buyers receive when they apply for a loan. The LE outlines the approximate fees the buyer would need to pay.

In most cases, there are no major differences between the CD and LE. However, if certain closing costs differ by 10% or more between the estimate and the disclosure, the buyer’s loan has to go back to the mortgage lender so that cost differences can be reviewed. If that happens, closing is usually delayed until the issue is resolved.

Expect to See These People at the Closing

The closing typically takes place at the title company, attorney’s office, or the buyer’s or seller’s agent’s real estate office. (Unless you live in a state that allows for electronic closings — eClosings — with remote notaries. In that case, the involved parties can opt to sign documents digitally.)

The list of legally mandated attendees will depend on your state, but usually you’ll be joined by:

  • Your agent
  • The buyer
  • The buyer’s agent
  • A title company representative
  • The loan officer
  • Any real estate attorneys involved with the transaction

Remember to Budget for Closing Costs

Closing costs can vary widely by location, but you’ll generally pay closing costs of 5% to 10% of the home’s sales price. So, on a $300,000 home, you can expect to pay anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 in closing costs. In most cases, these costs are deducted from your proceeds at closing.

Closing costs for sellers typically include:

The commission for the listing agent and buyer’s agent
Transfer taxes or recording fees
Loan payoff costs
Unpaid homeowner association dues
Homeowner association dues included up to the settlement date
Prorated property taxes
Escrow, title, or attorney fees

Be Sure to Bring These Things to Closing

At the closing you should have:

A government-issued photo ID
A copy of the ratified sales contract
House keys, garage remotes, mailbox keys, gate keys, and any pool keys
A cashier’s check, or proof of wire transfer, if your closing costs are not being deducted from the sales price. (Yes, it’s OK to use a cashier’s check — especially if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of a wire transfer, which can take time to clear. With a cashier’s check, you’re guaranteed the money you need for settlement will be there at closing.)

Don’t Forget to Dot These I’s and Cross These T’s

Before you rush off to pick out paint samples for your new place, remember to do these two steps that are often overlooked by sellers:

Transfer utilities. Don’t want to pay for the new owner’s utility bills? Coordinate with the buyer so that utilities — including not only gas and electric but also water and cable — are transferred to the buyer on closing day

Change your address. You obviously want your mail to be sent to your new home. Setting up a forwarding address will also ensure that you can be reached if there are any post-closing matters. You can file a change of address with the U.S. Postal Service here.

Finally: Celebrate!

At last, your home is officially sold. Congratulations! Give yourself a pat on the back — and then start settling into your new phase of life.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Here’s How You’ll Know You’ve Found the Right Agent

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

For every journey, there is a guide. To explore the West, Lewis and Clark had Sacagawea. To navigate his magical powers, Harry Potter had Dumbledore. And to discover our best lives, America has Oprah.

Then there’s the all-too-real journey of buying a home. For that, you have an Oprah of your own: your real estate agent — a licensed professional who’s familiar with local home values and neighborhood perks, understands real estate trends, can write an offer on your behalf, and who negotiates with home sellers so you don’t have to. 

Think of your agent as a therapist/consultant for your home search. A collaborator. A co-conspirator. A mentor. Someone who amps up your confidence and counsels you through big decisions (teamwork makes the dream work, after all). And, someone who wants you to find a house you can be happy in because they’re invested in your happiness. 

If the housing market doesn’t line up with your needs and budget, your agent will go back to the drawing board with you. They interpret raw housing data through the filter of your unique search, then tell you what’s important and why. They help you map the path to your goal, and connect you with trusted experts who can get you into your dream home. (Cue selfie of you drinking wine in your new living room. First like on Instagram? Probably your agent.)

That’s a lot of responsibility. And a lot of pressure. There’s obviously a lot at stake: money and time, of course, but also your happiness. So reach out to an agent sooner in the process rather than later, and you’ll be on the fast track to picking out paint swatches for your new kitchen.

Agents, Brokers, and REALTORS®: What’s the Difference?

“Agent” is a catchall phrase that is used, in casual conversation, to describe the three types of professionals who buy and sell real estate: agents, brokers, and REALTORS®.

No, they’re not really the same. Yes, you should care about what makes them different. Here’s a breakdown:

real estate agent is a licensed professional who helps people buy, sell, rent, or invest in homes. To become an agent, a person must take pre-licensing training from a certified institution (these vary from state to state) and pass their state’s real estate licensing exam. Once they have their license, an agent must affiliate themselves with a real estate brokerage. 

Some agents specialize in representing buyers, some specialize in representing sellers. Some do both. An agent who represents both the buyer and the seller in the same real estate transaction is called a dual agent. By law, a dual agent must disclose dual agency to both parties. (If an agent is seeing other people, you obviously need to know.)

real estate broker is a professional who has additional education beyond the agent level, as required by state law, and who has passed a broker’s exam. In some cases, brokers also have more years of experience than agents. The biggest difference between a broker and an agent is that a broker may work independently. An agent must be overseen by a broker. 

REALTOR® is a broker or agent who belongs to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), the largest trade group in the country. (Full disclosure: NAR publishes HouseLogic.com). A REALTOR® commits to following a strict Code of Ethics intended to protect buyers and sellers; for example, REALTORS® pledge themselves to protect and promote the interests of their client. Agents and brokers who are not NAR members can’t call themselves REALTORS®. There are more than 1 million REALTORS® in the United States. You can use realtor.com®’s Find a REALTOR® tool to connect with one in your area.

In most cases, using an agent, broker, or REALTOR® won’t cost you a penny because the seller typically pays both the listing agent and buyer’s agent’s commissions. However, some buyers’ agents request a representation fee from the buyer. That’s rare.

The Best Agent for You Depends on … You

Before you seriously partner with anyone, you’ll probably survey family, friends, and trusted acquaintances for at least some input. Finding a real estate agent is no different: A great starting point is to ask your inner circle and neighbors for recommendations. According to recent NAR research, 52% of buyers 36 and younger found their real estate agent through a referral.

Then there’s the internet.

Each of the major property listing websites — realtor.com®, Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia — has an agent-finder tool that lets you search for agents in your area. These property sites also collect reviews and ratings from an agent’s past clients, which gives you insight into an agent’s reputation. Keep in mind, though, that the sites vary in their policies about whether agents can edit or remove reviews. (Like with Yelp, use your own discretion.)

The sites also show an agent’s sales history, so you can see how many homes a person has sold. In general, it’s best to choose an agent who has a large number of sales under his or her belt (a sign they’re committed to real estate work). Perhaps even more important: an agent who has sold homes at the price point and in the neighborhood where you’re looking to buy — a sign they understand the local market.

Whatever you do, don’t rely on online listings alone. Always interview prospective agents — at least three — in person. A meet-and-greet will give you the perspective you need on the agent’s personality and style. Is this someone you’ll like working with? Who has a sense of humor? Who has your back? Who communicates in the ways you want to be communicated with? Best to find out in person.

How to Know If An Agent Is Knowledgeable

Once you’ve gathered all the information, listen to your gut: It won’t steer you wrong about who’s the best agent for you.

But, that said, there are a few qualities you’ll want to look for in any agent (your gut would agree):

  • Local expertise. Does this person know their stuff about neighborhood home value trends, shops and restaurants, schools, commute times, and geographic factors such as floodplains? These things are important, especially if you’re looking for a home in a new city or town. If the agent seems lost or like they’re winging it, keep looking.
  • Responsiveness. You’ll have a lot of questions, and will be asked to produce documents at certain steps during the buying process. Think about how available you want your agent to be, and how quickly you want him or her to respond. One way to figure that out? Contact a prospective agent online or by phone and see how long it takes them to reply. If you don’t hear back within a timeframe that works for you, it’s probably best to move on.
  • Reputation. This is when to consult your inner circle again. The agent-finder tool mentioned above can also help. In addition, you’ll want to verify the agent’s license; search “[state] real estate license lookup” to find a resource for your state. If you want to confirm whether an agent is a REALTOR®, you can call NAR at 1-800-874-6500. 

There are a number of professional designations that indicate an agent has obtained additional education beyond their licensing work. An accredited buyer’s representative (ABR®), for instance, is someone who specializes in working with home buyers and has taken a course on buyer-client relationships. You can search the different types of designations here.

Questions to Don’t Be Afraid to Ask a Lot of Questions

Congratulations! You now have a list of agents you like based on their stats, and you’re ready to get to know the finalists. Binge a few episodes of “The Bachelor” for pointers — just kidding, don’t do that.

What to really do: Schedule interviews with the top three agents, at least. During each conversation, your goal is to understand the agent’s experience, personality, and working style. 

Here are 13 questions that will help the vetting:

  1. How many years have you been in the business? Having more experience doesn’t guarantee that someone is a great real estate agent, but a lot of the business is learned on the job. 
  2. How many homes have you sold in the last year? Volume isn’t the most important factor when choosing an agent, but you want someone who is active in the industry. Also, the more transactions an agent has under their belt, the more adept the person should be at solving complicated problems that can crop up during a home sale. Remember: Your transaction is unique.
  3. How will you help me determine my needs and priorities? The agent’s first task is to help you identify your list of “musts” and “wants” — the home features that you need, versus the features that you’d like to have but can live without. 
  4. Is your real estate license in good standing? You can also check with your state’s Real Estate Commission to confirm the agent has no disciplinary actions.
  5. How will you stay in touch with me? Your agent’s communication style should align with yours. If you prefer to be contacted via text when new listings crop up, make sure your agent is able to do that. 
  6. What neighborhoods do you specialize in? You want an agent who’s intimately familiar with the neighborhood(s) you’re interested in. Another way of framing this question is to ask, “How many homes have you sold in this neighborhood in the last year?”
  7. What price range do you typically work in? In addition to being a neighborhood expert, your agent should do a large portion of their business with home buyers in your price range. It’s important because challenges and negotiation strategies can vary based on what type of home you’re buying.
  8. How many other clients are you working with? You want someone who can give you quality, one-on-one customer service when you buy your first home. If the agent seems spread thin, it’s probably because they are.
  9. How are you a good agent for first-time buyers? First-time home buyers face specific challenges. Every buyer has a unique transaction. Good agents can explain what you should expect and how they’re going to help you navigate your special circumstances.
  10. How will you find homes that match my criteria? Seasoned real estate agents don’t just use the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) — a regional database of registered property listings — to help home buyers find homes. They also keep track of listings through colleagues, door-knocking, and canvassing neighborhoods to find the right properties for their buyers. They’ll also work their industry connections. 
  11. Have you ever recommended that a buyer not buy a property? Why? An agent should work in your best interest, which means being honest with you about when to pass on a house that will not meet your needs — even if you’re starry-eyed about it. It’s your choice, obvs, but they should empower you to make a sound decision.
  12. Do you have a list of recommended vendors who can help me get a mortgage, inspect a home, and so on? To buy a home, you’re going to need other important players on your team — specifically a mortgage lender, home inspector, settlement/title company, and attorney. An experienced agent has already developed relationships with reputable pros, and should provide you with several references for each; though it’s ultimately your decision to choose who you want to work with.
  13. Can you provide contact information for your three most recent buyers? Past clients can offer valuable insight into an agent’s skills. Don’t just ask an agent for references, or you’ll get three pre-vetted clients who are guaranteed to sing their praises. Instead, ask for phone numbers and email addresses of the agent’s three most recent buyers. Contact those people directly to learn about their experiences. 

Whew, you made it through the interviews. (Are you thirsty? We could use a glass of water.)

By now, there’s likely one agent left standing. Someone you can trust. Someone who listens. Someone who knows more about real estate than you, but who also really cares about finding your house.

Now that you’ve got a partner in buying a home, it won’t be long before you own it.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®


7 Tips for a Profitable Home Closing

Friday, February 16th, 2018

By: G. M. Filisko

When you’re ready to close on the sale of your home and move to your new home, you may be so close to the finish line that you coast, thinking there’s nothing left for you to do. Not so fast. It’s easy to waste a few dollars here and for mistakes to creep into your closing documents there, all adding up to a bundle of lost profit. Spot money-losing problems with these seven tips.

1.  Take services out of your name.

Avoid a dispute with the buyers after closing over things like fees for the cable service you forgot to discontinue. Contact every utility and service provider to end or transfer service to your new address as of the closing date.

If you’re on an automatic-fill schedule for heating oil or propane, don’t pay for a pre-closing refill that provides free fuel for the new owner. Contact your insurer to terminate coverage on your old home, get coverage on your new home, and ask whether you’re entitled to a refund of prepaid premium.

2.  Spread the word on your change of address.

Provide the post office with your forwarding address two to four weeks before the closing. Also notify credit card companies, publication subscription departments, friends and family, and your financial institutions of your new address.

3.  Manage the movers.

Scrutinize your moving company’s estimate. If you’re making a long-distance move, which is often billed according to weight, note the weight of your property and watch so the movers don’t use excessive padding to boost the weight. Also check with your homeowners insurer about coverage for your move. Usually movers cover only what they pack.

4.  Do the settlement math.

Title company employees are only human, so they can make mistakes. Before your closing, check the math on your closing disclosure and compare it with your loan estimate.

5.  Review charges on your closing docs.

Are all mortgages being paid off, and are the payoff amounts correct? If your real estate agent promised you extras — such as a discounted commission or a home warranty policy — make sure that’s included. Also check whether your real estate agent or title company added fees that weren’t disclosed earlier. If any party suggests leaving items off the docs, consult a lawyer about whether that might expose you to legal risk.

6.  Search for missing credits.

Be sure the settlement company properly credited you for prepaid expenses, such as property taxes and homeowners association fees, if applicable. If you’ve prepaid taxes for the year, you’re entitled to a credit for the time you no longer own the home. Have you been credited for heating oil or propane left in the tank?

7.  Don’t leave money in escrow.

End your home sale closing with nothing unresolved. Make sure the title company releases money already held in escrow for you, and avoid leaving sales proceeds in a new escrow to be dickered over later.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

8 Tips for Finding Your New Home

Monday, January 8th, 2018

By: G. M. Filisko

A solid game plan can help you narrow your homebuying search to find the best home for you.

House hunting is just like any other shopping expedition. If you identify exactly what you want and do some research, you’ll zoom in on the home you want at the best price. These eight tips will guide you through a smart homebuying process.

1.  Know thyself.

Understand the type of home that suits your personality. Do you prefer a new or existing home? A ranch or a multistory home? If you’re leaning toward a fixer-upper, are you truly handy, or will you need to budget for contractors?

2.  Research before you look.

List the features you most want in a home and identify which are necessities and which are extras. Identify three to four neighborhoods you’d like to live in based on commute time, schools, recreation, crime, and price. Then hop onto realtor.com to get a feel for the homes available in your price range in your favorite neighborhoods. Use the results to prioritize your wants and needs so you can add in and weed out properties from the inventory you’d like to view.

3.  Get your finances in order.

Generally, lenders say you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Create a budget so you know how much you’re comfortable spending each month on housing. Don’t wait until you’ve found a home and made an offer to investigate financing. 

Gather your financial records and meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter spelling out how much you’re eligible to borrow. The lender won’t necessarily consider the extra fees you’ll pay when you purchase or your plans to begin a family or purchase a new car, so shop in a price range you’re comfortable with. Also, presenting an offer contingent on financing will make your bid less attractive to sellers.

4.  Set a moving timeline.

Do you have blemishes on your credit that will take time to clear up? If you already own, have you sold your current home? If not, you’ll need to factor in the time needed to sell. If you rent, when is your lease up? Do you expect interest rates to jump anytime soon? All these factors will affect your buying, closing, and moving timelines.

5.  Think long term.

Your future plans may dictate the type of home you’ll buy. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in the home for five to 10 years? With a starter, you may need to adjust your expectations. If you plan to nest, be sure your priority list helps you identify a home you’ll still love years from now.

6.  Work with a REALTOR®.

Ask people you trust for referrals to a real estate professional they trust. Interview agents to determine which have expertise in the neighborhoods and type of homes you’re interested in. Because homebuying triggers many emotions, consider whether an agent’s style meshes with your personality. 

Also ask if the agent specializes in buyer representation. Unlike listing agents, whose first duty is to the seller, buyers’ reps work only for you even though they’re typically paid by the seller. Finally, check whether agents are REALTORS®, which means they’re members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. NAR has been a champion of homeownership rights for more than a century.

7.  Be realistic.

It’s OK to be picky about the home and neighborhood you want, but don’t be close-minded, unrealistic, or blinded by minor imperfections. If you insist on living in a cul-de-sac, you may miss out on great homes on streets that are just as quiet and secluded. 

On the flip side, don’t be so swayed by a “wow” feature that you forget about other issues — like noise levels — that can have a big impact on your quality of life. Use your priority list to evaluate each property, remembering there’s no such thing as the perfect home.

8.  Limit the opinions you solicit.

It’s natural to seek reassurance when making a big financial decision. But you know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. If you need a second opinion, select one or two people. But remain true to your list of wants and needs so the final decision is based on criteria you’ve identified as important.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

9 Tips for Easy Holiday Lighting (That Saves $$, Too!)

Monday, December 4th, 2017

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Christmas lights can be modest displays to show good cheer, or million-bulb light-apaloozas that draw gawkers from near and far. Here are some tips on how to get the most from — and spend the least on — your holiday display.

#1 Safety First

Emergency rooms are filled with homeowners who lose fights with their holiday lights and fall off ladders or suffer electric shocks. To avoid the holiday black and blues, never hang lights solo; instead, work with a partner who holds the ladder. Also, avoid climbing on roofs after rain or snow.

#2 Unpack Carefully

Lights break and glass cuts. So unpack your lights gingerly, looking for and replacing broken bulbs along the way.

#3 Extension Cords Are Your Friends

Splurge on heavy-duty extension cords that are UL-listed for outdoor use. To avoid overloading, only link five strings of lights together before plugging into an extension cord.

#4 LEDs Cost Less to Light

LED Christmas lights use roughly 70% to 90% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. You can safely connect many more LED light strings than incandescents. Downside: Some think they don’t burn as brightly as incandescent bulbs.

#5 Dismantle Lights Sooner Than Later

Sun, wind, rain, and snow all take their toll on Christmas lights. To extend the life of lights, take them down immediately after the holidays. The longer you leave the up, the sooner you’ll have to replace them.

#6 Plan Next Year’s Display on Dec. 26

Shop the after-Christmas sales to get the best prices on lights and blowups that you can proudly display next year. Stock up on your favorite lights so you’ll have spares when you need them (and after they’re discontinued).

#7 Permanent Attachments Save Time

If you know you’ll always hang lights from eaves, install permanent light clips ($13 for 75 clips) that will save you hanging time each year. You’ll get a couple/three years out of the clips before sun eats the plastic.

#8 Find Those Blueprints

Instead of guessing how many light strings you’ll need, or measuring with a tape, dig up your house blueprints or house location drawings (probably with your closing papers) and use those measurements as a guide.

#9 Store Them in a Ball

It sounds counter-intuitive, but the best way to store lights is to ball them up. Wrap five times in one direction, then turn the ball 90 degrees and repeat. Store your light balls in cardboard boxes, rather than in plastic bags: Cardboard absorbs residual moisture and extends the life of your lights.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Thinking “Local” to “Global”

Friday, November 10th, 2017

By Tony Harrington, ABR, AHWD, ALHS, CIPS

When I think back to my first experiences with the terms “global” and international,” I think back to a quote from the famous Yogi Berra, “You couldn’t know what you didn’t know, but now you know.” This is true for my first experiences with the terms “global” and “international.”

In 2016 alone, NAR found that more than $153 billion of international money flowed into the U.S. for residential purchase. In North Carolina, there are great opportunities to attract a piece of this investment. NC REALTORS® is now working to grow programs to help REALTORS® with this effort, and I am proud to be a part of the vision.

Two years ago, I was excited to be asked by 2016 NC REALTORS® President Kim Dawson to be on the newly formed NC REALTORS® Economic Development Committee. This group included business leaders from across the state with various levels of expertise and experience. As the committee evolved, we realized quickly that there was a need for additional education for brokers across the state. Connecting commercial and residential agents with economic development partnerships, local and state government agencies, as well as federal organizations, was needed to create a “network” of communication to effectively draw global business and transactions to our state.

During a meeting of the Committee during NC REALTORS® Legislative Meetings in June 2017, NC REALTORS® CEO Andrea Bushnell spoke to the group about the need for creating a “global” program. Internally, I thought this was a great idea, and then she looked at me and said, “Tony, would you chair this initiative?” You have all been there. You smile and say, Why of course, while inside you are saying, WHAT? What is global? Where do I even begin?

As the broker/owner of a firm who was comfortable in my area of the state, I did not really branch out of my comfort zone. Unfortunately, this is the case for most brokers. They do not participate much in their local or state organizations – not to mention with their local politicians and chambers. Most just sell real estate, and that is good enough for them. I was fortunate to have a mentor pull me out of that zone and show me that there is a much bigger picture! Due to that guidance, I knew I had to dive in headfirst.

The leadership at the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and Isabel Villa-Garcia at NC REALTORS® were my first connections to develop a plan to lay the groundwork for our program. Quickly, I knew that if I was to understand and promote such a program, I needed to live by experience. I signed up to take NAR courses to better understand what was being offered. The first course I took was “At Home with Diversity,” an NAR certification program designed to present a picture of the changing face of the real estate industry. The curriculum encompasses topics of diversity, inclusion, fair housing, and risk reduction.

Through this course, I realized global brokers who conduct international transactions need further education and experience through in-depth training tools and knowledge. The pinnacle of this education is the Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) program offered by NAR Global Programs. After taking the five-day course in Annapolis, Md., I changed my business model.

I originally attended with the intention of observing the program and realized quickly the benefit of putting the knowledge to use. This course was dynamic, covering everything from transactions to global cultures, currencies, money transfers, and so much more. The CIPS instructor was well versed and had strong knowledge of international processes with relatable stories and examples. With the coursework completed, I submitted my application for the designation. Once accepted, CIPS designees instantly join a tight-knit network of over 2,800 international property professionals around the world. These referral partners can help you do business in over 50 countries. 

Know your market, find out what attracts people to your region, educate yourself, find a mentor and go global! Needless to say, I have gone from thinking “local” to “global.” 

I now know what I didn’t know.

Stay tuned for exciting announcements in the coming year, as we roll out the program, NC REALTORS® Global Network, online and around the state. 

Tony Harrington is the Broker/Owner & Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser with The Property Shop of the Carolinas in Wilmington, N.C

Tony holds the designations of ABR, AHWD, ALHS, CIPS




6 Halloween Must-Do’s to Keep Little Trick-or-Treaters Safe

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

By: Oliver Marks

Everyone loves a good scare on Halloween — as long as it’s just a trick.

To help you avoid any real-life scares — such as falls, fires, and traffic accidents — around your property this All Hallows Eve, play it safe while you’re setting up your Halloween lights and decorations. 

Here are seven simple precautions recommended by John Pettibone, curator of Hammond Castle, a Gloucester, Mass., mansion that draws thousands to its renowned 20-room haunted house every Halloween season.

#1 Increase Wattage of Outdoor Lights

Providing plenty of illumination ensures that your visitors can see where they’re walking, helping to avoid missteps and falls. Pettibone suggests using the highest wattage bulbs your outdoor lighting fixtures can safely take (check the label on the socket), and adding landscape lights every few feet along your front walk. 

“We use the solar-powered kind because there’s no wiring needed,” he says. “Just push them into the ground, let them soak up the sun during the day, and they’ll light up the walk after dark.”

#2 Use Friction Tape on Steps

If you have a concrete stoop, which can get slippery when wet, apply friction tape ($16 for a 60-foot roll of 1-inch-wide tape) to ensure stable footing, says Pettibone. He also stocks up on chemical ice melt ($20 for a 50-lb. bag) just in case of an early freeze.

Also, be sure to clear your walk, steps, and stoop of any obstructions that could trip youngsters focused more on tricks and treats than watching where they’re going. That means moving potted mums and jack o’lanterns out of the way, and hammering down any nail heads protruding out of your steps.

#3 Tighten the Railings

If your porch railings are wobbly or broken, family members and friends may know not to lean too heavily on them, but Halloween visitors won’t. So hire a contractor or handyman to fix the problem. It’ll make your home safer for guests all year round. Because more strangers come to your front door this night than the rest of the year combined, now is the time to take care of it.

#4 Eliminate Fire Hazards

Don’t put real candles into your carved pumpkins or paper lanterns. “That’s a fire waiting to happen,” says Pettibone. Instead, pick up a bulk pack of LED-bulb faux candles, which emit a yellowish, flickering, battery-powered light that looks amazingly similar to the real thing — without the danger.

#5 Use Caution Tape to Prop Open Storm Door

In addition to spooky items like cotton cobwebs and half-buried skeletons, consider a few safety-related scene-setters. Pettibone suggests propping open the screen or storm door so it doesn’t get in the way when there’s a big group of kids congregated on your stoop.

“We use yellow caution tape to tie open the door,” he says. “You can order it online and it works well with the Halloween theme.” A 1,000-ft. roll of 3-inch-wide caution tape is about $8.

You’ll also want a working doorbell, so if yours is broken, either hire an electrician or handyman to fix it — or install a wireless doorbell in its place.

#6 Clear the Curb of Cars, Obstacles

Four times as many child pedestrians get killed on Halloween night than a normal night. So limit the danger as much as you can by clearing parked cars off the curb to allow better visibility and placing a reflective “watch for children sign” at the edge of the road. For for high-traffic roads in Halloween-intensive neighborhoods, consider posting an adult in the street with a hand-held traffic control light to help maintain safety.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

The Property Shop Adds 3 New Brokers to the Team

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

The Property Shop of the Carolinas is pleased to announce the addition of 3 new brokers; Tyler Berry, Jason Worthy and Jeff Ramsay. Each of these individuals bring a diverse level of experience and knowledge to the team.

Jason Worthy is passionate about helping others achieve their goals and has invested much of his time in becoming a certified Accredited Buyers Representative. He prides himself on putting your needs first and building lasting relationships with everyone he works with. He services Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender County.

Tyler Berry has held a diverse career over the past 14 years and this background gives him the unique ability to help find ideally suited properties and buyers for his clients. He takes the time to thoroughly understand his client’s needs to ensure that whether buying or selling a home, it’s an effortlessly enjoyable experience. Tyler specializes in the Carolina Beach and Kure Beach areas.

Jeff is a life-long Wilmingtonian and has over 30 years of family real estate experience. Jeff also owns his own local landscaping business which has allowed him to really engage with the community and make great connections.

This growth allows The Property Shop to continue to provide the same, high-level, quality service that our clients have come to expect. To learn more or contact one of these brokers, please reach out to us through the information below.

Garage Organization Ideas Under $50

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

By: Jan Soults Walker

If clutter is leaving little room for cars, get organized with these smart, budget-friendly garage storage solutions.

If you’ve got a garage, most likely you’ve got waaayyyy more than cars in there. It’s the catch-all place to keep stuff (mostly) out of sight and out of mind.

Put order to the chaos and protect your car’s paint job with simple storage systems and organizing hacks for everything from sports equipment to tools.

Bikes, Skates, and Other Wheels

Hoist bicycles to the rafterswith a rope-and-pulley system (starting around $40) that makes it easy to raise the bike and lock safely in place. When you’re ready to ride, release the lock and lower your bike to the garage floor. You’ll need an hour or two and basic tools to secure the pair of pulleys to ceiling joists and thread the ropes. (Similar hoists are available for kayaks or small boats; starting around $25.)

Use a specially designed wall rack to hang helmets and skateboards together; starting around $20. Secure this one to wall joists in less than an hour.

Keep scooters and bikes out of the waywith tool hooks installed on a length of 1-by-6-inch lumber. You’ll pay $3 for each pair of vinyl-coated screw-in tool hooks and $1 per foot for lumber. You’ll need only an hour or two to secure the lumber to wall joists and screw the hooks into place along the board.

Sporting Goods

Bring together balls and bats on a convenient wire rack equipped with hangers that hold gloves too; starting around $35.

Stash two pairs of snow skis, poles, and bootsin one handy steel ski rack; $45. Securing this rack to wall studs helps it hold the weight of the equipment. If you can’t position it on studs, use wall anchors for a secure installation. You can do the task with or without anchors in an hour or two.

Stow your fishing rods by suspending two wire shelves from your garage ceilingabout 5 feet apart, then threading the rods through the openings. Use shelves left over from a project or purchase a 4-foot-by-16-inch vinyl-coated wire shelf for less than $9, and saw it in half crosswise (or clip with bolt cutters) to make two 2-foot shelves. Snip additional wires where you need wider slots to accept pole handles or reels.


Hang wrenches and bungee cords using an ordinary vinyl-coated wire tie-and-belt rack, available at big box stores; $8.

Hang metal toolson a magnetized rail, keeping items in view and easy to retrieve; starting around $30. Simply screw the rail to wall studs to safely hold the weight of the tools (it’s an idea you may be drawn to.)

Cushion and protect toolsby padding your toolbox drawers with a soft, non-slip liner.The open-weave design keeps moisture away and prevents tools from rolling around. Enough material to line eight average-size drawers is $15. Just cut the liner to length to fit and slip it into the drawer.

Organize small items — such as pencils, box cutters, and tape measures — by stashing them in electrical junction boxes; about $2 each (free if you have spares). Purchase a variety of sizes and shapes and secure them to studs or pegboard.

Yard and Garden Gear

Transform an old filing cabinet into storage bins for various yard tools. Remove the drawers, turn it on its backside, and use a couple afternoons to apply paint and pegboard sides. Less than $25.

Mount heavy tools, long-handled implements, and ladders on long steel rails with extruded holes high on the garage wall and secured to studs. Add hooks and pegs on the rail to hang big tools. Two 48-inch rails sell for $22.

Secure a wooden pallet to wall studs to create a pocket for holding long-handled garden tools. To find free wooden pallets, check with local businesses as well as online classifieds, such as Craigslist. Cost: Free.

Use a can rack to keep bottles of fertilizers, repellents, and lubricants upright and easy to retrieve. Rack ($15) prevents cans and bottles from tumbling off shelves.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®


Understanding Real Estate Representation

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

By: G. M. Filisko  on HouseLogic

Whether you’re buying or selling, it’s important to choose representation that meets your needs in the transaction.

You have choices when selecting representation in a real estate transaction. Here are five tips for understanding which type of legal relationship with a real estate professional, called an agency relationship, will best protect you when you buy or sell a home.

1. Buyer’s Agency

When you’re buying a home, you can hire an agent who represents only you, called an exclusive buyer’s representative or agent. A buyer’s agent works in your best interest and owes you a fiduciary duty. You can pay your buyer’s agent yourself, or ask the seller, or the seller’s agent, to pay your agent a share of their sales commission.

If you’re selling your home and hiring an agent to list it exclusively, you’ve hired a selling representative–an agent who owes fiduciary duties to you. Typically, you pay a selling agent a commission at closing. Selling agents usually offer or agree to pay a portion of their sales commission to the buyer’s agent. If your seller’s agent brings in a buyer, your agent keeps the entire commission.

2. Subagency

When you purchase a home, the agent you can opt to work with may not be your agent at all, but instead may be a subagent of the seller. In general, a subagent represents and acts in the best interest of the sellers and sellers’ agent.

If your agent is acting as a subagent, you can expect to be treated honestly, but the subagent owes loyalty to the sellers and their agent and can’t put your interests above those of the sellers. In a few states, agents aren’t permitted to act as subagents.

Never tell a subagent anything you don’t want the sellers to know. Maybe you offered $150,000 for a home but are willing to go up to $160,000. That’s the type of information subagents would be required to pass on to their clients, the sellers.

3. Disclosed Dual Agency

In many states, agents and companies can represent both parties in a home sale as long as that relationship is fully disclosed. It’s called disclosed dual agency. Because dual agents represent both parties, they can’t be protective of and loyal to only you. Dual agents don’t owe all the traditional fiduciary duties to clients. Instead, they owe limited fiduciary duties to each party.

Why would you agree to dual agency? Suppose you want to buy a house that’s listed for sale by the same real estate brokerage where your buyer’s agent works. In that case, the real estate brokerage would be representing both you and the seller and you’d both have to agree to that.

Because there’s a potential for conflicts of interest with dual agency, all parties must give their informed consent. In many states, that consent must be in writing.

4. Designated Agency

A form of disclosed dual agency, “designated agency” allows two different agents within a single firm to represent the buyer and seller in the same transaction. To avoid conflicts that can arise with dual agency, some managing brokers designate or appoint agents in their company to represent only sellers, or only buyers. But that isn’t required for designated agency. A designated, or appointed, agent will give you full representation and represent your best interests.

5. Nonagency Relationship

In some states, you can choose not to be represented by an agent. That’s referred to as nonagency or working with a transaction broker or facilitator. In general, in nonagency representation, the real estate professional you work with owes you fewer duties than a traditional agency relationship. And those duties vary from state to state. Ask the person you’re working with to explain what he or she will and won’t do for you.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

How to Keep Your House Cool Without AC

Friday, June 9th, 2017

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Want summer comfort but hate the AC? Follow these tips on how to keep your house cool without frosty air conditioning.

You don’t have to switch on the air conditioner to get a big chill this summer.

These tips will help you keep your house cool without AC, which will save energy (and avoid AC wars with your family.

Block That Sun!

When sunlight enters your house, it turns into heat. You’ll keep your house cooler if you reduce solar heat gain by keeping sunlight out.

Close the drapes: Line them with light-colored fabric that reflects the sun, and close them during the hottest part of the day. Let them pillow onto the floor to block air movement.

Add awnings: Install them on south- and west-facing windows to reduce solar heat gain by up to 77%, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Make your own by tacking up sheets outside your windows and draping the ends over a railing or lawn chair.

Install shutters: Interior and exterior shutters not only reduce heat gain and loss, but they also add security and protect against bad weather. Interior shutters with adjustable slats let you control how much sun you let in.

Apply high-reflectivity window film: Install energy-saving window films on east- and west-facing windows, which will keep you cool in summer, but let in warming sun in the winter. Mirror-like films are more effective than colored transparent films.

Open Those Windows

Be sure to open windows when the outside temperature is lower than the inside. Cool air helps lower the temps of everything — walls, floors, furniture — that will absorb heat as temps rise, helping inside air say cooler longer.

To create cross-ventilation, open windows on opposite sides of the house. Good ventilation helps reduce VOCs and prevents mold.


  • Fix Energy-Sucking Windows for Good
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Fire Up Fans

Portable fans: At night, place fans in open windows to move cool air. In the day, put fans where you feel their cooling breezes (moving air evaporates perspiration and lowers your body temperature). To get extra cool, place glasses or bowls of ice water in front of fans, which will chill the moving air.

Ceiling fans: For maximum cooling effect, make sure ceiling fans spin in the direction that pushes air down, rather than sucks it up. Be sure to turn off fans when you’re not in the room, because fan motors give off heat, too.

Whole house fans: A whole-house fan ($1,000 to $1,600, including install) exhausts hot inside air out through roof vents. Make sure your windows are open when you run a whole-house fan.

Power Down Appliances

You’ll save money and reduce heat output by turning off appliances you’re not using, particularly your computer and television. Powering down multiple appliances is easier if you connect them to the same power strip.

Don’t use heat- and steam-generating appliances — ranges, ovens, washers, dryers — during the hottest part of the day. In fact, take advantage of the heat by drying clothes outside on a line.

Plant Trees and Vines

These green house-coolers shade your home’s exterior and keep sunlight out of windows. Plant them by west-facing walls, where the sun is strongest.

Deciduous trees, which leaf out in spring and drop leaves in fall, are best because they provide shade in summer, then let in sun when temperatures drop in autumn. Select trees that are native to your area, which have a better chance of surviving. When planting, determine the height, canopy width, and root spread of the mature tree and plant accordingly.

Climbing vines, such as ivy and Virginia creeper, also are good outside insulators. To prevent vine rootlets or tendrils from compromising your siding, grow them on trellises or wires about 6 inches away from the house.

Speaking of shade, here are smart, inexpensive ideas for shading your patio.

Want more tips for staying cool this summer? Substitute CFL and LED bulbs for hotter incandescent lights.

Also, try insulating your garage door to prevent heat buildup.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

7 No-No’s When Applying for a Mortgage

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Applying for a home mortgage can be an exciting time! It can also be a stressful time if you run into snags with your loan approval. The process involves inspecting factors such as your credit, income, debt and assets. Because of this, there are several actions you should avoid during the time your loan is being processed.

Whether it’s your first time or tenth, these 7 tips can make or break your loan approval.

  1. Do not quit or change your job. A stable and consistent source of income is important to lenders. If you start a new job you may not have a pay stub yet for proof of income.
  2. Do not buy a car or any other big ticket items. As much as those new wheels are calling your name, wait until after closing on your home. It’s best to minimize your financial obligations when asking a lender for money.
  3. Do not use your credit cards to excess or for large amounts. Increasing your debt will not look good when applying for a loan.
  4. Do not originate inquiries into your credit. A record is kept for each inquiry and can affect your credit.
  5. Do not change bank accounts. Changing banks will only complicate things. Maintain consistency from initial application until closing on your home.
  6. Do not co-sign a loan for anyone else. Simply put, their debt becomes yours.
  7. Do not omit any debts or other liabilities from your application. These are required on the application for a reason and it is in your best interest to be up front about all necessary information. On top of that, misrepresenting this information can be considered mortgage fraud and there could be consequences.

If you anticipate any big changes during the process, make sure to talk them over with your REALTOR® or loan provider. Bottom line, if you’re not sure, ask. It’s better to be safe than sorry.



Staying Informed on Flood Insurance

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

“On September 30, just six months from today, the National Flood Insurance Program will expire.” – National Associate of REALTORS®.

Stay informed on the latest updates for flood insurance! This is important information to learn and understand, especially for those who reside or own property in the coastal region. Ask one of our experienced REALTORS® for more information.

Read more here:

The Property Shop Increases It’s Footprint…Yet Again

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

 The Property Shop increases its footprint of residential real estate services to the Raleigh-Durham market.

“We are pleased to have aligned ourselves with Mark Steward and the Mark Steward Team with The Triangle Real Estate Group in our States Capital City.  Mr. Steward and team will not only be working with us in the Coastal Region but will be our contact and Brokerage team for our clients moving to that area.  Mark understands both markets having homes in these locations. The Mark Steward Team is comprised of Mark Steward, Jackson Cort, Marketing Manager and Kate Peacock Business Development Manager and our States 78th Miss North Carolina. With this alliance we will be able to offer our clients an extensive network of real estate professionals from the Capital to the Coast.”  Tony Harrington, Broker/Owner

The Property Shop is a full service residential real estate and appraisal firm serving New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick, Duplin, Onslow, Sampson and now Wake & Durham Counties.


5 Important Reasons to Use a REALTOR®

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Thinking of buying or selling a property? Thinking of doing it alone? Think again. While you can go solo on this venture, there are many reasons why you shouldn’t. Hiring a REALTOR® is the best decision you can make and here’s why.

1. Experience, experience, experience
This is their job. Day in and day out, it’s what they do. In addition to what they learn in the field, they also take many courses to further educate themselves. On top of that, there are dozens of forms, disclosures, contracts and other documents that are required for buying or selling a home. REALTORS® have the expertise to help you prepare these forms accurately to ensure you get the best deal.
2. Amazing Search Skills
By now, you’ve most likely looked online and think you have a pretty good grasp on what is available. But guess what? REALTORS® have even more access. A REALTOR® can find properties that you can’t and those that may be coming on the market soon. They also have access to see the history of all properties and documents that aren’t available to you.
3. Pricing It Right
A REALTOR® can provide you with a Comparable Market Analysis for a home that gives you a realistic price point. You may think you know exactly what your home is worth, but there are a lot of different moving pieces that can affect the value. A REALTOR® will provide you with the perfect price point to help your home sell quickly and for a fair amount.
4. Marketing
Your REALTOR® knows when and where to market you property. Through research on the area and contacts in the industry, they can provide you with a level of marketing that cannot be achieved alone. In addition, they have access to the amazing search system mentioned above. This allows other REALTORS® to see your property and pass along to potential buyers. There is a huge market that cannot be reached without the help of a REALTOR®.
5. Negotiating
Negotiations. This is make or break it time and a very important part of the process. Your REALTOR® knows how to negotiate anything from the price to repairs to closing costs and more. They know when to push for more, how to word requests, and when to ask for something different. The main objective will always be to get you the best deal.
While there are many other reasons you should use a REALTOR®, these 5 alone will make a huge difference in your home buying or selling experience. If you’re interested in learning more, give us a call today and we’ll talk you through the process with no commitment.

10 Tips to Stage Your Home to Sell

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Staging your home can make all the difference when deciding to put your house on the market. It has the potential to fast-track your sale and/or increase the perceived value. You may think that staging is expensive, and it can be, so we pulled together 10 ideas you can do yourself for little to no cost.


  1. De-clutter! This is absolutely number one. Removing the clutter from your house will change the appearance immediately. And an added bonus, it will help you get a head start on packing.
  2. Add fresh flowers and candles. This will make your home appear welcoming and homey. Make sure to use scents that are light and fresh, nothing overpowering.
  3. Open all the blinds and turn on all the lights. This will make your home appear brighter and more appealing.
  4. Touch up or re-paint rooms. Having a fresh coat of paint in a neutral or light color will make the home look new and allow the potential owner to start with a blank slate. It will also cover up the years of scuffs, oily hands and random spots that could cause concern for some home-buyers.
  5. Throw Pillows. Add some decorative throw pillows to your beds and couches.


  1. Rake and mow your yard. Whatever the season, make sure your yard is kept up. It its spring or summer, keep a freshly cut lawn. If it’s fall or winter, rake up the leaves.
  2. Add flowers. Whether you plant flowers out front, or add potted entry-way plants, these little touches can really brighten up the entrance to your home.
  3. Power wash or touchup. Washing off that slight green tint or touching up paint on a few spots will help tremendously. Although a seemingly simple task for the next homeowner, seeing the grime could be a turnoff for a potential buyer.
  4. Exterior lights. Make sure all your outdoor lights are working in case buyers come by at later hours. If you don’t have any, make an effort to add a couple.
  5. Show the Potential. Have a porch, backyard or deck? Add some rocking chairs or patio furniture. Let the buyer envision themselves relaxing or entertaining company.

By making the extra effort through one of all of the tasks above, you could truly make a huge difference in how fast and for how much your house sells. Take action today!

2017 Cape Fear REALTORS® Inauguration

Friday, January 20th, 2017

Following a strong year for The Property Shop, we were excited to welcome a new year at the 2017 Cape Fear REALTORS® Inauguration where several of our brokers received recognition.
After diligently serving on the board herself, Patrice Willetts had the honor of installing the new president and the 2017 Board of Directors. Along with the other inductees, she proudly introduced two of our very own, Tony Harrington and Jamie Lynn Crist. Tony, our Broker in Charge, and Jamie Lynn are an inspiration to as all through their dedication to the industry and to our community.
In addition, following in the footsteps of Michael Turnage and Tony Harrington in 2016, Jamie Lynn Crist and Danica Fletcher both were accepted into the 2017 Leadership Academy. The Leadership Academy is a very selective and distinguished course where students learn new skills while fine-tuning others in order to become the best leaders possible.

We’re so proud of everything our brokers have accomplished this year and look forward to an even better year in 2017!

We’re Growing!

Friday, October 28th, 2016

We are pleased to announce the addition of 5 new brokers; Tom Craigg, CB Johnson, Danica Fletcher, Ilene Meyers and Lisa Tomak. Each of these individuals brings a diverse level of experience and knowledge to the team. This growth allows The Property Shop to continue to provide the same, high-level, quality service that our clients have come to expect.

Tom Craigg comes to the team with over 20 years’ experience in new home sales. Originally from Jacksonville, NC, he has been calling Wilmington home since 1982. As a real estate investor himself, he brings a wealth of knowledge on the buying and selling of homes and is eager to share this information with his clients.

CB Johnson served for five years as an Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps before beginning his real estate career.  He has been a full time REALTOR® in Wilmington for 12 years. Along with his commitment to his clients, CB has taught a variety of real estate classes. His wealth of knowledge on the industry helps him excel as he focuses on representing homeowners that are selling their property as well as anyone seeking to purchase a home.

Danica Fletcher entered into the field when she decided to apply her insurance industry experience to real estate. By pairing her knowledge for Urban Planning with client contact and satisfaction, she has built a successful career as a REALTOR®. She enjoys all aspects of real estate from helping first time home buyers find that perfect first home to listing residential property for seasoned clients.

Ilene Meyers hails from Brooklyn, New York and has 20 years of experience in the airline industry. In addition, she is a former Estate & Trust Specialist for Charles Schwab and a financial software trainer for the State of North Carolina. Her extensive experience with customers and finances combined with her enthusiastic attitude allow her to offer superior service to her clients.

Lisa Tomak relocated to Wilmington from Michigan. She has over 25 years’ experience in customer service, including retail management, marketing and home improvement sales. In addition, Lisa is very involved with the community and volunteers with organizations such as  Junior Achievement, Project Charlie and Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Lisa is eager to help make your home buying or selling dreams become a reality.

Feel free to contact us or any of these brokers to learn more!

Tony Harrington Running for WRAR Board of Directors

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

My name is Tony Harrington and I would be honored to serve you as a Director with the Wilmington Regional Association of REALTORS®. While serving, I look forward to offering my diverse perspective to enhance the real estate industry with WRAR. Some of my experiences include:

  • 20 Years as REALTOR® including both Raleigh- Durham and Wilmington/Coastal Markets
  • Proud Owner, Broker in Charge & Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser with The Property Shop of the Carolinas
  • Appointed to serve on the 2016 NCAR Economic Development Committee
  • RPAC Sterling R®
  • Class of 2016 Leadership Academy with WRAR
  • Member of WRAR Appraisal Council
  • Member of Rotary International
  • President of the National McCoy Pottery Collectors Society
  • Previous Career with Piedmont & American Airlines as a manager of flight crew training & Manager of International Flight bases.We should be extremely thankful for the exceptional leadership we have at WRAR from the Staff to the Board of Directors. I look forward to the opportunity to continue pursuing the direction our association has already forged. One of the key issues in today’s market is envisioning the future with changes in technology and ease of access to information for our buyers and sellers. Working to keep WRAR in the forefront of the industry and up to date in tools and education, to you as a member, is my promise. I’m asking for your vote, and confidence to represent you on The Wilmington Regional Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors.

Voting will open soon here!

2 Reasons to Say GOODBYE to Zillow

Friday, June 10th, 2016

2 Reasons to Say GOODBYE to Zillow

Why to Use Your Local REALTOR®

It’s about time, time to say goodbye to Zillow!  As REALTORS® we often cringe when we hear that our clients and customers are referencing Zillow when making their real estate decisions.  Why do we cringe?  We’re cringing because Zillow is not looking for your best interests and readily admits to not being accurate!

  1. Zillow claims they improved pricing accuracy, but how accurate will it really be?

In a Housingwire article released June 8, 2016, Zillow touts that they are improving the accuracy of their estimates to be within 6% of the actual value of the property from the previous 8%.  You may be thinking, that doesn’t sound too bad, I’m sure REALTORS® have similar pricing statistics, but consider that the 6% value is only for 50% of the properties on Zillow!  That means you have a 50/50 chance of not having a home value anywhere close to what Zillow projects.  This also means you may need to lower the price of your home multiple times before it sells, possibly resulting in a lower price than you would have gotten with proper pricing from your REALTOR®.  It also means Zillow may be pricing your home lower than your home should sell for, causing you to sell for dramatically less than if you had gotten an accurate price point from your REALTOR®.

Check out the article here.

  1. Zillow just paid $130 Million to settle a lawsuit with REALTOR.com operator MOVE.

RIS Media recently reported that on Monday June 6th, 2016 that Zillow has just settled a case with MOVE for $130 Million.  The lawsuit alleges that two executives from Move were hired by Zillow, bringing with them the trade secrets that realtor.com has used which helped Zillow to acquire Trulia.  It is important to note that Zillow only came out with their updated price evaluations after the settlement.

Read the full story here.

Ultimately, our goal as REALTORS® is to know the market better than any electronic data can.  We collect additional information about each property to truly find accurate data to price your home just right, then you are able to get top dollar in the right time frame.

Put your trust into your local REALTOR®, request your free Comparable Market Analysis here.

11 Spring Activities in Wilmington

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

As given by The Property Shop

As spring grows ever nearer, we’re called from our winter hibernation to experience the warm sun on our faces and re-discover our world as is morphs into green splendor!

Without question, each Property Shop Broker will tell you that their favorite spring time activity is selling and buying homes with each of their clients.  When the Brokers at The Property Shop aren’t out showing homes, writing contracts and generally working like crazy, they get some time to enjoy all that our area offers.  We were able to pry a few of their favorite spring time Wilmington Area Activities from them.

So, seize the day and go re-discover your community with these fun activities recommended by The Property Shop, then let us know if they make your top ten list!

  1. A fast stop at ABC

    Spring is one of the busiest times of the year for Real Estate! When Tony (Owner/Broker in Charge) of The Property Shop sees some down time in sight, he heads to the ABC store to stock up on essentials “wink, wink”! Find your nearest store here!  Looking for the perfect Coastal Spring Drink to try out?  Check out a great recipe for Southern Sweet Tea here! Once liquid libations are in hand, it’s time for some quiet time enjoying the scenery in Landfall,one of the premier Wilmington NC Communities. Sweet Tea Spring Activities in Wilmington

  2. Shopping at the Cotton Exchange

    Start any weekend off with a walk along the downtown boardwalk. Take some time to let history waft over yourself as you explore historic downtown.  While you enjoy the sights and sounds of the Cape Fear River and you may just find yourself at the Walk of Fame outside of the Cotton Exchange.

  3. Brunch at Jester’s

    Looking for the best brunch in town? Erika says that Jesters Café  is an absolute MUST!  After you are stuffed from a great breakfast take the water taxi to the Historic USS North Carolina Battleship .  Even if you have been to the battleship before, it’s worth another visit.  New information and exhibits are on display this year.

  4. Walk on Kure Beach 

    For Hugh, a stroll on Kure Beach late Sunday morning can’t be beat! Hugh votes Kure Beach #1 for walking because of the free parking, perfect walking conditions (it’s less sloped than Wrightsville Beach) and the Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar.  Hugh recommends that you kick back while on the pier at the Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar and enjoy a beer or Bloody Mary while listening to the waves crash all around you, the atmosphere can’t be beat!Kure Spring Activities in Wilmington

  5. Heirloom Gardening 
  6. One of Patrice’s greatest springtime activities is heirloom gardening. Tending to plants that have been passed down through her family for multiple generations brings Patrice peace of mind and joyful memories!  This may seem out of reach for many of you from lack of heirloom plants to a black thumb, but have no fear the New Hanover County Arboretum is here!  For a small fee they can help you discover the tips and tricks to heirloom gardening, teach you the history of different plant varieties and decipher where to buy the right plants.
  7. Golfing at Pine Valley 

    Little compares to the quiet stillness broken by the crisp crack of a perfect swing connecting with ball at Pine Valley Country Club. Ken can often be found enjoying a competitive game of golf throughout the spring season!  Want to join him or find a challenging course near you?  Our Coastal North Carolina Area has some of the best golf around, find your course here.

  8. Dockside Dining 

    Scott likes to eat, so spring time must mean that he will be eating outside on the ICW at his beloved Dockside! Drive out, walk in, or boat over and enjoy the fresh spring air and beautiful scenery!

  9. Easter Egg Hunt at Hugh Macrae

    Spring time is not complete for Allyson without a trip to Hugh Macrae Park for the Annual Easter Egg Hunt! Taking place this Friday, check it out and tag us in your Instagram twitter and facebook pictures!  Not able to make it for the Easter Egg Hunt?  Hugh Macrae is a great place to walk a loop, spend time with your kids at the playground, take in a game of tennis or baseball, bring your pups to the dog park or canter with your horse in the arena.  There is something for everyone!

  10. Azalea Festival

    If you haven’t been lately, it’s time to head to the Azalea Festival get your tickets here! Michael’s favorite part of the festival are what else but the Azaleas!  Kicking off on April 6th and lasting through the 10th, you can enjoy one of Wilmington’s most popular claims to fame from flowers, concerts, and street fairs to parades and a tour of homes!Spring Wilmington NC Landfall Real Estate

  11. Boating

    Spring time means that it is the start of the boating season! Shari loves spending time boating up and down the ICW with her family.  What’s that you say, you don’t have a boat to join in the fun with Shari?  No problem, rent one with on your own or with your personal Capitan!  While you’re at it, head to Dockside and see Scott or take an adventure down the Cape Fear River to downtown and find Ed & Erika enjoying the shopping and food!

  12. Paddle boarding

    Sarah, the Office Manager, can often be found paddle boarding around the Wrightsville Beach area and recommends it to everyone! Wrightsville SUP is a great place to head out from and convenient if you need to rent a paddle board or need some lessons before you feel sea worthy.

Without a doubt, we LOVE where we live and had a hard time limiting our list to just a few spring activities in Wilmington!  If you’re ready to make your claim on this unique city with an abundance of activities for everyone, give The Property Shop a call today for your slice of Wilmington, NC Real Estate!

8 Reasons to use a Boutique Real Estate Firm

Friday, February 12th, 2016

What is a Boutique Real Estate Firm?

Many may consider a “boutique” firm to cater to high end only, or possibly too small to break into the competitive real estate market.  In reality, these firms are extremely specialized businesses with a culture centered on customer service and professionalism.  As a client of a Boutique Real Estate Firm, you can expect above average representation in any transaction from a quaint condo unit to sprawling estate and everything in between.  You will rest assured knowing that not only your Broker but the entire office is working to assist you for a smooth and skilled transaction. 

The Property Shop Real Estate 2

How is a boutique firm similar to a large real estate company?

In an age of technology where bigger is often better and instant gratification is expected, a Boutique Real Estate Firm, like The Property Shop in Wilmington North Carolina, stands among the best.

  • Boutique Firms offer the same Multiple Listing Service (MLS) representation as larger companies. Meaning, all companies have the same access level to the same properties whether representing a buyer or a seller.
  • Online marketing offerings at larger companies and Boutique Firms are equal. Your property will be represented on major home buying and selling sites like REALTOR.com, Homes.com Zillow and Trulia and many others.
  • Much of the technology that REALTORS® provide their clients are provided through the MLS system. This technology is available to both large companies and boutique firms.
  • Large Real Estate companies have high quality marketing products, just like a boutique firm. Often, boutique firms are able to specialize their marketing even more than larger firms.

The Property Shop Real Estate

So, why is a Boutique Real Estate Firm Best?

  1. Quality of Quantity.

Boutique firms know that each client has different needs.  Instead of focusing on the number of homes they purchase or sell, the boutique firm can concentrate on Customer Service.  The boutique firm knows that your opinion has a more significant impact than at a larger company, and will strive for your satisfaction.

  1. Support from their office.

The small close-knit group that a Boutique Firm creates helps to facilitate the needs of each broker and therefore each need of their clients.  By choosing a boutique firm you can guarantee that the entire office is dedicated to your best interest.

  1. Established and Top-Tier Agents.

The owner or hiring manager is working to cultivate a small and professional environment, which means only the best and most driven will be selected.  At a boutique firm, you can expect each broker to be proficient and dedicated to each client

4.  Vigilant about cultivating the culture and brand of the firm.

Unlike a larger company, a Boutique firm has something to prove and doesn’t have a large brand name to use as a source of their worth.  Your boutique firm is eager to show their ability to complete with a larger firm.

5.  Innovation and customization happen more quickly.

Large companies have more “red tape” and company regulations that restrict the ability of your broker to be innovative.  A boutique firm offers instant communication with the company owner, allowing for quick and cutting edge customization in marketing your home.  Most marketing is done in house, so your broker won’t need to wait for weeks before your home is represented in the market place.

  1. Boutique firms care about the rights of buyers and sellers more than building a business empire.

Many boutique real estate firms have strong options regarding the rights of their clients, rights of other REALTORS® and their small business.  Their primary cause is not to build a business empire, but to be sure their community thrives through home ownership.  The Property Shop brokers can be found sitting on local REALTOR® boards, state REALTOR® boards and National REALTOR® boards protecting and promoting your private property rights.

  1. Your community comes first.

Your community is your boutique firm’s community.  Your boutique firm will typically be committed to an economically sound, beautiful and welcoming community because their business only does well if the community does well.  Property Shop Brokers will be found volunteering their time at various organizations throughout the area.

  1. Your Transaction is always with your agent.

With a focus on customer satisfaction, your broker will not give your contract to a closing coordinator.  Closing coordinator are typically used by larger companies so a broker can begin work with their next client.  Our brokers will see your transaction through from the beginning to the end.  No paperwork or important information will be lost in the shuffle, so you can be assure that you are well represented throughout the entire process.



Friday, January 29th, 2016

This informative video from the North Carolina Association of REALTORS® helps to explain, ” Why Use a REALTOR ®” for your Real Estate Transactions.  Without the knowledge of your  REALTOR® you risk a poor investment.  Your  REALTOR® can provide you information about the area that you are interested, the best options for upgrades and compare other similar properties to negotiate the best possible price for your investment.


What are you waiting for?  Contact The Property Shop today for your own personalized home purchase subscription or your custom home selling marketing plan!


Property Shop Awards

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

One week ago The Property Shop was honored with awards and recognition at the Wilmington Regional Association of REALTORS® Inauguration.

Patrice Willetts Hall of Fame Wilmington Real Estate WRAROur very own Patrice Willetts was inducted into the Wilmington Regional Association of REALTORS® Hall of Fame for her current and past outstanding service to the organization.  Patrice is an inspiration for each of the brokers in our office for her dedication to the education of others and commitment to each of her clients.  Patrice continues to work diligently to promote and protect private property rights for home owners and facilitate the Real Estate Industry as a whole.  The Property Shop is proud to have her as an invaluable asset to our team!

Tony Harrington Michael Turnage Wilmington Real Estate WRARTony Harrington (owner of The Property Shop) and Michael Turnage both were accepted into the Leadership Academy.  The Leadership Academy is an immense honor that will ensure, upon completion that Tony and Michael are able to better to serve each of their clients and The Property Shop.  We look forward to supporting them as they complete this long and essential process.

Shari Cutting Wilmington Real Estate WrarAlso honored for her dedicated service to WRAR while on the Board of Directors was Shari Cutting of The Property Shop.  Shari’s hard work is an excellent example to our broker staff for her dedication to the Wilmington Regional Association of REALTORS®, her clients and the Real Estate Profession.

Hugh Williams Rising Star The Property Shop Wilmington Real Estate 1Previously privileged to receive the North Carolina Association of REALTORS® “Rising Star Award” was Hugh Williams who diligently served on the WRAR Finance Committee.  The Rising Star Award Recognizes a REALTOR® who has been a REALTOR® for five years or less and who has provided exemplary service to the local Board and exhibits leadership potential.

Allyson Pittman Ed Alexander Wilmington Real Estate WRARAfter all awards were given and recognition’s of service we honored, The Property Shop enjoyed an evening of fun, dancing and celebration!

We look forward to another spectacular year of service, dedication and fun for The Property Shop and each of our brokers!

Patrice Willetts Allyson Pittman Sarah Phillips Wilmington Real Estate Proeprty Shop WRAR

The Internet and Real Estate

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

In 1964, 40 percent of home buyers read newspaper ads to find a home and seven percent drove around looking for an open house. In 2014, 43 percent looked for properties online first.
The world we live in today is a digital one and searching for a home is no different. Buyers now have apps that let them search by location and neighborhoods. Online listings have virtual tours so viewers can look at a bunch of potential homes while narrowing down their search to a select few in the effort to save time. Online searching maximizes the ability to compare and contrast homes on the market by selected features. Most of this is done before a potential home buyer connects with a real estate agent.

Also in 1964, 61 percent of home buyers contacted agents they knew. In 2014, buyers worked with an agent 87 percent of the time to find their home, so trust in a REALTOR® is still king. While the initial process may start online, home buyers turn to the advice from a trusted real estate agent. The difference is that home buyers are entering the process more educated about the market before they speak to a home seller or an agent.

In addition to the home buying process, REALTORS® also utilize technology in their everyday business practices. Staying up to date with new technology is important, but also cited as one of the biggest challenges for firms in the next two years.

Over 90 percent of real estate firms have websites, and the most common feature on their websites were property listings. Along with web use, REALTORS® are also using their mobile devices for a multitude of different activities, with the primary being to communicate with their clients. In the Real Estate in a Digital Age report, we examine the process home buyers go through in the initial online search and how REALTORS® are connecting with customers in the digital space.

A Day in the Life of a Home Buyer

How Home Buyers find a home …
The typical buyer used a mobile device to search for properties online. S/he looked at websites with photos, home listings, and information about the home buying process. S/he then contacted an agent and visited a median of 10 homes over 10 weeks in 2014 before purchasing a home.
The typical home buyers is a Millennial 25-35 years old, married without children living at home, and has a median income of $84,500. They make up the largest group of homebuyers at 68% followed by GenX at 29%

First Step Taken During the Home buying Process;
43% Looked online for properties, 15% Contacted a REALTOR, 12% Looked online for information on the home buying process, 7% Talked with a friend, 6% Contacted a lender, 6% Drove by homes and neighborhoods.

It is an exciting time when you are looking to purchase your first home. It is fun, exhilarating, it can be stressful. As I have mentioned before, always have a TEAM in please to help you with your searches. And yes, your mobile device is part of that team. Your agent will have access to all of the same information as you are finding online. Often times our information is more updated. So keep your agent informed. Utilize all the websites and apps available to you. Your agents website is usually a good place to search. And your agent will also set you up on a client portal with criteria specific to your needs and wants.

Happy House Hunting.

IMG_7201 By: Patrice Willetts

The Property Shop is Hiring!

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Interested in a fun & rewarding career in Real Estate with a team that is here to support you?  We’re Hiring!

The Property Shop of the Carolina’s LLC is looking for a few REALTORS to join our team! Come work for a boutique style firm that offers a highly competitive commission structure.

The Property Shop is proud to provide “Knowledge Based Real Estate”! We put the emphasis on client level service and are experienced in appraisals and marketing. Your support and guidance will come from the entire team, including an approved NCREC Instructor and approved NAR Designation Instructor as well.

After all, it’s what we know that makes the difference!

Contact Tony Harrington today for your confidential interview at 910-612-8669.


Selling My House & Hurricanes

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Weathering a Hurricane When Your House is for Sale:  Top 5 Things to Know Selling in Hurricane

Selling in Hurricane

Selling a home can be stressful, selling in hurricane weather can push someone over the edge!

As the impending Hurricane Joaquin begins to bare down on the east coast, we at The Property Shop are preparing for high winds and heavy rain by utilizing our resources at the American Red Cross from the link below.


While we urge all of our home owners to follow the protocol set out by the American Red Cross, we still always have Real Estate on our minds and have a few additional tips for all of our home sellers!

  1. The FOR SALE sign in your front yard:

Although selling your home may be a high priority, you are not likely to find a buyer in the eye of a hurricane, so be certain to secure all outdoor FOR SALE signs!  Unsecured, the sign can cause unexpected damage to your home or your neighbor’s home.  While you are bringing in your signs, also bring in any garbage cans or exterior items of any kind that could break free during the storm.

  1. Confirm your insurance policy:

Before the storm, be certain to know the exact details of your insurance policy and have your property and possessions well documented.  With proper documentation, if a claim needs to be made, insurance adjusters will be able to provide assistance faster, meaning that your home will be ready for showings faster!

What if I close the day before the hurricane hits?  Insurance is required on the property until the time of the recording, so be certain that your Home Owners Insurance Policy is effective long enough to cover the recording, which a storm may delay.

  1. Out of Town Sellers:

Not all sellers are currently living in the home they are selling.  Designate someone, probably your REALTOR, to walk through the property before the storm to secure and document any issues.  For comprehensive property security during the storm you may need to hire a service to ensure your home is protected as possible during the storm.  Your REALTOR should have the information you may need.  After the storm has passed, have the same designee walk through the property again to let you know of any new issues.

  1.  Coolers, water, ice and more ice:

Few smells are worse than that of rotten food.  Prepare to have power out for multiple days which means that any food you have will begin to rot if not properly taken care of.  Be sure to have enough coolers and ice for your entire food supply, so that when the storm is over your home is ready for showings. You don’t want a potential buyer to turn and run from the stench of your home!

For our owners living on properties will well and septic service, be sure to fill bathtubs with water.  When the power goes out for days at a time you will then have water to flush toilets and rinse off.

  1. Buyers of your home have secured insurance:

If your home is under contract, verify that the buyer of your home has locked in an insurance policy.  If the insurance has not been locked in, the impending hurricane can cause the closing to be delayed, consequently, causing delays with your own move.


While hurricanes can be a source of stress and additional concern, preparedness is the best cure.  Our thoughts and best wishes will be with all as Hurricane Joaquin approaches.

“It’s All About that Base”

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015


I love music, all kinds of music. Megan Trainor’s Grammy Award winning song for Record of The Year is

one of those songs that just catch your attention, makes you smile. “It’s all about that bass, ‘bout that

bass, no treble….” And if you watch her, and really listen to the lyrics, it can take you to another level.

That is what I so enjoy about music. Simply put, there is no One Size Fits All. It depends on my mood,

inspirational level, if I am melancholy or if I am just happy to be alive! Music can get me there.


So what does my opening comment have to do with real estate you might be asking right now? Bottom

line, there is no one size fits all. Housing options are so varied. Purchase a Condo, Townhouse or patio

home with a required homeowner’s association fee and leave the yard and exterior maintenance to

others. Rent right now because you are still in school, working part time, not sure you will still be in this

area in 1 or 2 years. Purchase that dream home you have worked so hard for because “now is the time.”


There is no transaction that I have ever been involved with that was the same as another transaction. As

REALTORS® we must be flexible and understand that there are many layers to a transaction. Sometimes,

lots of Treble! Everyone’s needs are different. Does the buyer have cash to put down? Are we looking at

financing through USDA? (which is limited to certain locations) In real estate, it is not just about that

base….we have treble, we have crescendos, we have flats and sharps. We have it all. To put it in YOUR

musical terms… Love classical, we have it; Hard Rock, got that too. Into the oldies, Show tunes, Gospel,

we have it all.


The choices that pertain to real estate types are wide open and varied. Locations and what that means

to your decision is important. Very important. So are the types of loans that you can apply for. I have

said it often in articles that I write and in presentations that I make, loan products are so varied that

they can make or break your successful transaction. Before you get your heart set on a particular home,

establish a working relationship with your lender. Make sure that the loan you are applying for is the

best fit. Remember….one size fits all does not apply when you are considering a mortgage loan.


I will also offer that one size fits all does not apply when you are choosing a REALTOR® to hire. Yes, I said

hire. As REALTORS® we are hired by our clients to represent them in one of the largest and most

important investments (or sales) they will make. Make sure that the agent you choose is not a one size

fits all agent. (Happily, I can say I do not know too many) Your agent should be flexible and play the song

YOU need to play, in ways that YOU want it played. Follow their guidance, listen to their experience and

knowledge of the market. But at the end of the day, you are maestro, the one who sets the tone for the

direction your needs require. All of the musical terms apply during this transaction. There will be highs,

there will be lows. There will be the melody and there will be the chorus. There will be times that it is all

base, and times treble will contribute.


As you can tell by now, I love music. I think there is always a song or melody playing in my head. I

sincerely hope that you enjoyed my simple analogy between music and real estate. It should be

enjoyable. It should bring value and contentment to your life. Play the music that moves you. And in the

transactions of real estate, think of it this way….there is an orchestra ready to play your song. It is made

up of all different people who have different levels of participation. This is your band, your choir, your

symphony…..your TEAM. As you bring them all together and create your melody, the very best outcome

that you can plan for is the melody that you composed, you envisioned, you hear over and over in your



IMG_7201By:  Patrice Willetts

Navigating a Real Estate Transaction as a Buyer

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Let’s talk about the residential transaction from the Buyer point of view.


First, if you are looking to purchase a home, please hire a REALTOR®. There are so many aspects and

moving parts to a transaction. The hard work begins AFTER you find your dream home and are under

contract. You will have to decide on what is the best loan for your particular needs. Getting prequalified

is a very smart first step. Knowing before you start looking how much you are comfortable with

spending will make your decision so much easier when you find “it.” Provide your REALTOR® with two

lists. One that will list the things you MUST have and another list of your wish list. Must haves include

master bedroom on the first floor, open floor plan, type of siding, the number of bedrooms, what side of

town you want to live on? A wish list could be a fence or pool, things that can be added later.


Now we start looking. As REALTORS® we have the ability to set our clients up on something called a

client portal. We enter specific criteria and a search is automatically generated showing us what is

currently on the market that fits the parameters of the client’s criteria. At first you will get a complete

list of what is currently on the market that fits the criteria. This might be over 100 listings. Following that

initial search, you will receive a message at least once a day with new listings and price reductions. You

will have the opportunity to save or reject each listing. We can then see what you have saved or rejected

and will schedule a time for you to view the ones you like.


You find the property you like and we make an offer. Now the negotiating begins. It really should not be

all that messy. Everyone involved in the transaction knows their job. The buyer is to provide everything

needed for the loan, to do their inspections in a timely manner and to provide the seller with the

necessary repairs that have shown up on any report.


The seller knows that they are to provide clear title, understand the items that showed up on inspection

reports that do need to be addressed (changing the paint color in a room is not a request the seller

should be asked to do) We are looking for items that are not performing the function for which they

were designed.


Both the Buyer and the Seller need to be aware of changes that are coming soon that have the potential

of delaying the closing. Changes to appraiser responsibilities and to lending disclosure requirements are

right around the corner. Please understand, have patience and keep the lines of communication open

with all parties. In my opinion, a transaction that in the past took 30 days will most likely take 45 days.


Ask questions, be an informed consumer. As REALTORS® we want our clients to be well informed, to

understand the ins and outs of this process. This is most likely the largest investment you will make. A

home provides more than just a roof over your head. It is the place that your life takes shape, it is your

safe harbor, it can enhance your financial future. So again, if you have questions, ask! We may not be

able to answer them all but we know the people who can. Your financial advisors are there to lead you

on investments that will enhance your portfolio, county and city zoning staff that will tell you if that

small home based business is allowed in a certain neighborhood, the manager of the Home Owners

Association that will make sure your ideas are within the covenants of the community.


Put your team together, do your due diligence, ask questions when needed…..and then enjoy all that

home ownership provides.


IMG_7201  By: Patrice Willetts

A Big Change in Real Estate

Monday, September 21st, 2015

You Can Always Count on Change

There are so many examples of how things have changed. If you were born in the 50’s you have seen so

many changes. If you are part of the Greatest Generation…WOW have you seen changes. Things that the

Millennials take for granted, Baby Boomers struggle to grasp. How many upgrades to my computer or

cell phone can I ignore before my system is totally obsolete or the computer gurus will refuse to work

on? The home I grew up in had two bedrooms and one bath, a small formal living and dining room and a

small eat in kitchen. There is no such thing as a typical home today. Anything from 2 bedrooms and one

bath; three bedrooms with 2 ½ baths; five bedrooms with 4 ½ baths. A great room or den, a media

room, a FROG (finished room over the garage which can be just an open space finished nicely with

carpet, or it can also have a large closet and a full bath of its own.) You can own the large yard that

surrounds your home, own no land because your property is defined as a condominium, townhome or

patio home. A carport, detached or attached garage which can be one, two, three or even four bays.

As you start to work with your REALTOR® and you want them to have a good understanding of what you

want in a home, defining it might not be as easy as you think. But work together and get started looking.

The best way to define what you want is to let your REALTOR® know what you don’t want. Things seem

to work out when we understand the picture you have in your mind of that perfect place to call home.

One big change that is occurring has nothing to do with style of home, how long it takes to find it, or

what the preferred color pallet is. It has to do with getting your financing lined up and the transactions

successfully closed and recorded. If you have bought a home before and you think you understand the

steps to this part of buying your home… Think again. As of August 1 ( this date may change in order to

allow lenders and lawyers to update the required software) of this year things are changing. If you are

familiar with the term HUD-1, it will now be called the Closing Disclosure Form. This form will contain

the final disclosure that was given to the borrower along with the HUD-1. The final rule has two options

pertaining to who prepares this form. The lender can prepare the form, or the lender and the settlement

agent can prepare it together. There will also be a 3 day rule…A WHAT? This new rule says that the

closing disclosure must be given to the borrower 3 days before closing. There might also be a 3 day

delay if certain changes have to be made, sending the documents back to the underwriter. Those

changes fall into the following categories;

  • Changes to the APR (annual percentage rate) above 1/8 of a percent of the loan;
  • Changing the loan product;
  • Adding of a prepayment penalty to the loan.


Why all these changes? The reasons were established in the Truth and Lending Act and the Real Estate

Settlement Procedures Act; To improve consumer understanding of risk factors, overall costs and

monthly payments; To help the consumer realize that they should compare the different loan products

that are available to them and to avoid costly surprises at the closing table. These new rules apply to

most mortgages EXCEPT Home Equity lines of credit, Reverse Mortgages and Mortgages secured by a

mobile home.


As the consumer, you would be well advised to start the conversation early on with your real estate

team. Your REALTOR® will be educated on these changes as will the lender and the closing attorney.

The lender and the closing attorney are on the front lines of these changes. My personal advice to you if you

are purchasing a home after August 1st is to stay calm if faced with a delays. It is no one’s fault. We are

all facing a learning curve and we are doing our best to understand any impact these new rules will have

on our clients. Your REALTOR®, Lender and Attorney are working hard to best represent your needs.

Buying and selling real property, especially your primary residence, can be an emotional roller coaster

ride at times. Make sure that you are comfortable with the members of your team. Ask questions. And

remember that delays are normal. Prepare for plan B, if a short delay should occur. Your team members

can help you understand the delay and then help you to manage the situation.

By: Patrice Willetts


Changing Real Estate Needs

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Primary Residence, Investment Property.


Own, Rent, Buy, Sell



How important is real estate to your financial picture? If you are like most people, your home is your

biggest investment. An age old dream for so many is to have the opportunity to own their home. Put

down roots, raise a family, make improvements and enjoy your dream. We also have opportunities to

invest in income producing rental property or locations for our businesses. As a REALTOR® for 20 + years

I have had the opportunity to watch the changes to people’s needs and wants. Housing needs are

important to a community. As communities change, as our lifestyles evolve, as our family and/or

financial needs change, our housing choices can change. Consider the young family with one child.

When they were first married they rented an adorable 2 bedroom condo. Making good financial choices

they purchase their first home. They work hard, had their first child and continued to make great

decisions for their financial future. Along comes their second child, and they have outgrown their home.

I’m sure you can see where I am going with this. Fast forward 25 years, their two children are grown and

they are now empty nesters. What to do with this large home with all the bedrooms upstairs. The

marketplace is finding that downsizing is becoming a significant part of consumer needs. Communities

are being designed to provide an environment offering amenities and floor plans that will be attractive

to the young retiree, the empty nester, etc. The residential, primary residence story can be ever

changing. When this young couple was just starting out, they rented first. It is a possibility that an

individual investor owned that 2 bedroom condo. That investor was most likely someone making

investment decisions for their financial future by investing in real estate.


Consider the commercial need. You are a professional and are looking for a location for your growing

business. Do you buy or do you rent? Or maybe you are the investor and you own a professional

building that is just right for a young business to grow. Whether it is for residential or commercial needs,

you should have a team in place that can help you make the best financial decisions. There are ups and

downs to every situation, and you probably have questions. Pull together your financial advisor, who

understands your needs and can council you on strategy, along with your tax advisor who can help you

understand how the tax laws will contribute to the decisions you make.


Personally, I feel that owning your own home is the best way to grow wealth. Is it the only way, no. But

as you decide what your needs are, the direction you should take becomes more clear. The young

couple I talked about earlier will one day face a totally different decision. For different reasons they will

need to sell that large home. A few questions they should consider might be; Is our home in good

condition right now? If we stay here for 10 more years how much will we spend on maintaining and

updating this home? Would it be better to sell now before too much deferred maintenance reduces the

market value?


In my opinion the primary residence investment includes emotion. We will raise our family here and we

will make beautiful memories. And then there is the real estate investment that will bring them a certain

rate of return on their money; a Non-emotional decision where the numbers rule.


As you consult with the members of your financial advisory team, it might be a good idea to include a

REALTOR®. One scenario I will share with you is of a recent widow who had some cash. She was so afraid

of out – living her money. She always said she did not want to be a burden on her children. She was

willing to invest as long as her principal was secure. We were able to work as a team with her financial

advisor and took a percentage of her principal to invest in real estate. She held a first mortgage for a

young couple starting out and she purchased a small condo for rental purposes that a single person

could afford. She felt good about her investments, not only because she now had a monthly income

from her principal, but because she felt she was helping others to get started.


For over twenty years I have been involved in the many aspects of property ownership. I am a firm

believer in Protecting and Promoting Private Property Rights. Whether you are buying a home for

yourself, choosing to invest in rental property, residential or commercial, you have private property

rights. Cities and Counties work to have long range plans for growth and development. Property Rights

and Zoning play a big part in the overall development of an area. A healthy and sustainable community

depends on the wise use of the land. There is a balance that we all should work to achieve. When an

area has as much to offer as we do, there are ample opportunities for investment. Interested in a

second home at the beach? Drive a few hours for that mountain cabin? Not only can you keep these for

your own enjoyment, but you can place them on a vacation rental program, affording you a return on

your investment. Many clients that I work with are downsizing. As we mentioned before, the large

house served its purpose and it is time to move on. Consider the yard work you will not be doing, the

pool you will not be cleaning, the roof you will not be worrying about. But this brings a new set of

Property Rights into play and these rights are defined in the homeowner’s association documents that

will lay out the rules of the development.


Ask all your questions. Understand the issues and learn all you can. Own, rent, buy or sell. At different

times you will have different needs. Investment in residential and commercial real estate just might be

the key to your financial future, no matter if you are just starting out or looking to diversify your




By:  Patrice Willetts

Patrice Willetts on Wilmington Spring Time

Monday, September 21st, 2015


All That is Good!


Spring is almost here. Let me repeat that…SPRING is almost here!! It has been a cold winter here in

Southeastern North Carolina. For those that live in the Northeast, I just cannot begin to imagine living

through so many cold and snowy months. The last I heard, one area received over 100 inches of snow.




As REALTORS® we try to help homeowners who are considering selling their current property what the

environment is for their type of property. One of the most important aspects of our representation of a

seller is to make sure they have a very good understanding of the market and how much interest there

might be in their particular property. Local statistics are very important. Making sure that the

information we use to compare properties is current, relative and is the best comparable out there.

Property condition and price play a very big role in marketability. You cannot just say this is a four

bedroom home with two full baths. You need to walk through the property, consider the condition and

any maintenance issues that might have been overlooked. Or, how well the home has been taken care

of and updated.


I am sure that there are many people who live in the Northeast that are seriously considering next

winter and if they want to still be living where they are now. Ask any REALTOR® right now, and they will

honestly tell you that this time of year is when people who are considering a move, are making

connections, visiting new areas and figuring out how and when to make their move. They have so much

to consider. Jobs, schools, weather (NO SNOW!)


In this part of the state, we have so much to offer. Would you like an oceanfront condo with an indoor

pool? We have that. If your interest is in living in a golf and/or tennis community, we have that also. Do

you love Historical locations? There is so much to offer in Historic Downtown Wilmington. Would you

enjoy a few acres not too far from town, we can do that also. Walkability, parks, recreation

opportunities, University of NC Wilmington and Cape Fear Community College, beaches, theatre, the list

goes on and on.


This time of year is also when people who just need a little vacation are in town. They come for the

Azalea Festival, our early spring, a time to visit family and friends and enjoy some sunshine. Many times,

this is the first time that a move to Wilmington might cross their minds.

I moved here in the early 1980’s. I have seen this area blossom into a very desirable destination. When

those that might be thinking of the Wilmington area in terms of a move call me, I love to show them all

the beautiful parts of town and the things that helped me decide to move here.


So again, Spring is almost here. Get out and ENJOY everything that is good about where we live.


By: Patrice Willetts

NCAR Hall of Fame for Patrice Willetts

Monday, February 16th, 2015

North Carolina Association of REALTORS members honored with Hall of Fame status.  February 13, 2015 NAR will recognize two outstanding REALTOR® leaders at the May Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo in Washington, D.C.  Past President Patrice Willetts and NCAR Director Leigh Brown will represent NCAR in the Class of 2014 NAR RPAC Hall of Fame.

Patrice Willetts has served as 2013 President of NCAR and as 2000 President of her local board, the Wilmington Regional Association of REALTORS®. Patrice’s leadership at NCAR includes numerous committee assignments and many years of service. She has also served nationally on the Land Rights, Property Rights and Environment Committee as well as the Public Policy Committee. She is a graduate of both the NCAR and NAR Leadership Academies. Patrice’s accreditation’s include Senior Residential Specialist, NAR’s Green Designation and Accredited Buyer Representative. Patrice is a broker with The Property Shop in Wilmington, NC.


At The Property Shop of the Carolina’s LLC we are proud to have Patrice as a guiding beacon for all brokers in the office.  Her positive attitude and all around helpfulness make The Property Shop a well educated and experienced firm.  Congratulations from all of us, it’s well deserved!

4 Signals it Might Be Time to Buy vs. Rent Your Home

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Historic HouseTo buy vs. rent

What used to be a given – that you would buy a home as soon as you could afford to – has become an agonizing conundrum for many a would-be home buyer, in the face of the housing market’s big bust and super-slow recovery. Low prices seem to create a wide-open window of opportunity, but they also create the concern that prices will keep falling after closing. And that Catch-22 has hundreds of thousands of buyers-to-be stuck on the fence.

Fortunately, there are handful of life, mortgage and local market signals which indicate that the time *might* be right to hop – scratch that – leap off the fence and into homeownership:
Mortgage rates are going up. Home prices have been low for the last several years, and in fact are currently looking like they’re heading back down to the same levels they were at the depths of the real estate recession. During this same time frame, interest rates have also been low – this one-two punch has created record-high affordability for the last four years running, causing buyers to believe that this window of opportunity won’t be closing anytime soon. While prices don’t look like they’ll be skyrocketing anytime soon, interest rates are another story. Rates have been on a rollercoaster over the past few months, and with inflation and Fed rates set to spike later this year, today’s low interest rates might be as good as they’re going to get for a long time to come. And I mean a very long time – in the next few years, governmental intervention in the mortgage markets is likely to wind down, and that means higher mortgage interest rates are not only inevitable, they’ll probably be here for a long, long time. Mortgage rates on the rise are one signal that now might be the peak of home affordability, and the peak of the opportunity to buy.


Real Estate 101 – What You Should Know

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

1. Don’t buy if you can’t stay put.

If you can’t commit to remaining in one place for at least a few years, then owning is probably not for you, at least not yet. With the transaction costs of buying and selling a home, you may end up losing money if you sell any sooner – even in a rising market. When prices are falling, it’s an even worse proposition.

2. Start by shoring up your credit.

Since you most likely will need to get a mortgage to buy a house, you must make sure your credit history is as clean as possible. A few months before you start house hunting, get copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you discover.

3. Aim for a home you can really afford.

The rule of thumb is that you can buy housing that runs about two-and-one-half times your annual salary. But you’ll do better to use one of many calculators available online to get a better handle on how your income, debts, and expenses affect what you can afford.


Wilmington Cost Of Living

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Cost of Living Wilmington Wrightsville beach Real Estate

3rd Quarter 2010 Cost of Living
Select Southern Cities:

CITY Composite Grocery Housing Utilities Transportation Healthcare Misc. Goods & Services
Wilmington, NC 98.5 103.2 89.3 114.1 96.9 100.1 100.4
Asheville, NC 99.4 101.7 95.4 113.9 95.7 104.6 98.3
Atlanta, GA 93.6 93.4 89.8 85.6 102.0 105.3 95.0
Charlotte, NC 94.1 100.1 81.2 94.8 94.6 110.6 100.9
Charleston, SC 99.8 107.0 96.1 98.2 93.1 103.4 102.8
Raleigh, NC 97.0 102.6 87.9 110.0 95.3 97.6 99.5
Norfolk, VA 110.1 111.6 118.0 109.6 104.2 107.9 105.1
Washington, DC 141.3 107.9 232.0 98.5 105.7 103.1 104.1

The ACCRA Cost of Living Index (see table above) measures the differences in the cost of consumer goods and services between cities, excluding taxes, for a middle-class standard of living. Approximately 300 urban areas in the United States participated in the most recent study. The results are based on the cost of more than 60 items that are priced by area chambers of commerce, economic development groups or similar organizations in each urban area during the same 3-day time frame. Each community is given a composite index in which the average score is 100 (if index numbers are above 100, they are more expensive than the average), derived from six categories. The index does not measure inflation. Instead, it serves as a snapshot of comparative costs between cities during a certain time period. Wilmington’s latest study scores, compared to other southern cities, are shown in the table above.

Salary vs. Cost of Living: What to consider when evaluating a move
Some people won’t consider a move to a smaller city like Wilmington, where salaries may be lower, because they don’t want to lose purchasing power. But oftentimes the opposite is true.
Alternatively, some people are lured to another city for a bigger salary, only to find out that their disposable income—and consequently their quality of life—actually goes down, not up.
Why? Because the cost of living has to be measured versus the difference in salary. Companies in larger cities may offer larger salaries, but they also typically come with a higher cost of living.
If you are considering a move, use the cost of living calculator below to compare the cost of living between Wilmington and another city.
Data compiled and published by The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce

Local Residential Market Off to Promising Start in 2011

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Beach camping2011 is going to be an exciting year for our local real estate market. During the fourth quarter of 2010, our residential market showed significant signs of improvement over year-end 2009. This is an extraordinary sign that the market is stabilizing which will offer many potential homeowners and REALTORS® reason to continue being optimistic heading into the rest of this year.

While analyzing the growth within these six major zip codes in our region – 28403, 28405, 28409, 28411, 28412 and 28451, an average of the zip codes shows:

• Our average sales price had an increase of 3.2% from year-
end 2009.
   • Of the 2,587 sellers in 2010, 28.4% paid some sort of concession toward the purchase of the house.
• Our list to sales price ratio for 2010 was 94.65%, a slight decrease from 95.12% for year-end 2009.
• The average list price of the sold properties was $260,379, up 3.7% from year-end 2009.
   • The average number of days a property remained on the market for 2010 was 123 days, compared to 132 days for year-end 2009.
• The median sold price of $195,000 for 2010 was an increase of 2.7% from year-end 2009.


American Attitudes About Home Ownership

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

According to a NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® survey of 3,793 adults conducted by Harris Interactive and released in January 2011, home owners and renters agree that home ownership benefits individuals and families, strengthens our communities, and is integral to our nation’s economy. Here you’ll find highlights from the research report plus easy ways to share the information.Home Ownership Wilmington Real Estate Among the findings of NAR’s “American Attitudes About Homeownership” survey:

  • The vast majority of both home owners and renters say that owning a home is a smart decision over the long term. Even in today’s challenging economy, 95% of owners and 72% of renters believe that over a period of several years, it makes more sense to own a home.
  • Home owners are much more likely to be satisfied with the quality of their family and community life
    than renters. While more than half of owners (56%) are “very” or “extremely” satisfied with the overall quality of their family life, only about one-third (36%) of renters report the same levels of satisfaction. Also, 43% of home owners are “very” or “extremely” satisfied with their community life, compared with 30% of renters.
  • An overwhelming majority of home owners are happy with their decision to own a home. A full 93% of owners surveyed would buy again. (more…)

4 Tips for Setting the Right Sales Price

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Home with For Sale sign out front.

One of the most common issues that Sellers will face with their REALTOR® is the right sales price for the home that they have taken such pride in over the years.

Sellers think their homes are worth more than their real estate professional recommends, and buyers think these same homes are worth less.

It’s a difficult disconnect that makes selling properties a challenge. Successfully marketing a home requires that the price be set carefully — or it will languish on the market. Among the considerations:

  • How many homes are for sale in the neighborhood? The more homes on the market, the more important it is to list at the lower end of the scale. “I want buyers to ask why is this house priced so competitively,” said NAR President-elect Ron Phipps of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. “I want the answer to be an offer.”
  • Take short sales and foreclosures into consideration when pricing. If the competing properties are in lousy condition, they are less of an issue, but if they are well taken care of, yet priced 25 percent below market, they can be a serious factor.
  • Negotiate decisively. “Buyers are not interested in back-and-forth negotiations these days,” Phipps said. “They are less emotional and more disciplined. They will walk away.” (more…)

Need help with Home Improvement? Don’t get left in a fix.

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Man painting fenceYou may be a do-it-yourselfer with the small stuff, but more complex home improvement usually calls for a pro.  In hiring a contractor, these 6 tips could help ensure you’re happy with the results:

  1. Get referrals from people you know.  Most homeowners find a contractor through friends or family.  Or check online consumer rating sites like Angie’s List. ( www.angieslist.com )
    • Your friends and family are not likely to lead you in the wrong direction and will definitely know who NOT to use!  Other sites can offer reviews to help you make your decision, though be wary as not all reviews are genuine.
  2. Get written bids from three contractors.
    • Competition will help to ensure that you have the best price possible and know all options available for the requested job.
  3. Ask each bidder for a business card.  If it doesn’t say contractor is licensed and insured, don’t be shy about making sure.
    • License and insurance is especially important if the job isn’t completed well or on time.  Their license and insurance help to assure that they will be held accountable for the job they have done.  It is common to find that the least expensive contractor usually does not have the proper license and insurance.  Remember that this is for YOUR protection!
  4. Try to use an experienced local contractor.  Check the firm’s reputation with your Better Business Bureau and/or consumer protection agency. (more…)

Welcome to The Property Shop Blog!

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Welcome to our new website featuring our up to the minute Property Shop blog! Keep an eye out for updates, videos and information on the ever changing real estate market here in the New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick County markets. We look forward to our future interaction and want to be your real estate professionals in your next real estate transaction! Tony