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Why Isn’t Your House Selling?

There’s nothing more disappointing when you’re selling your home than to have another open house go by with no bites or someone coming to see your house and not making any sort of offer.

There are lots of reasons why a house might not sell, and if you’re in a hurry to make a deal and get out, there are some things you need to consider to figure out the reasons your home remains on the market.

Here are some of the typical reasons a house might not sell.

This is normally the most logical reason why a house isn’t selling. The price is either not comparable with others in the area or is just too high considering what might need to be done once someone moves in. This is also an easy fix—though one that might hurt the most. Lower the price and see what happens. You might even create a bidding war and get the amount closer to what you originally hoped.

Does the roof have shingles that need replacing? Are the appliances old and falling apart? If your house has clear, visible problems, chances are people are going to be wary about making an offer. It makes sense to spend a little money and make the repairs needed to have your house looking good.

Bad Curb Appeal
Speaking of “looking good,” people can be turned off quickly. If the first impression they have is of a yard that’s cluttered with leaves or a driveway loaded with junk, you’re probably sending the wrong message. Clean it up and make their first impression a favorable one.

Bad Photos
With the advancements in mobile cameras and the price of professional digital cameras dropping, there’s no reason to ever have blurry or bad photos of your home on marketing materials. Photos should be the best representation of the room as possible, meaning clean, spacious and lots of light.

Inspection Problems
If you’ve had people interested, only to see the deal fall apart during the inspection part of the negotiations, then the things they are finding are probably going to keep others disinterested as well. Fix any major issues and ensure that the inspection brings back a solid report.

Factors That Could Unexpectedly Impact Your Real Estate Appraisal

Although everything in your home is essential, there are certain things that the appraiser will be looking for that don’t include the home’s position, square footage and the number of rooms in the house.

Close-up Of A Man’s Hand Filling Real Estate Appraisal Form At Home

We will look at other factors involved in the house appraisal or valuation, and many of these are dictated by the market, so it will be worth trying to meet the criteria for buying a house!
1. The Floor Plan is Dark and Does Not Flow
Older-style houses were traditionally closed-off with lots of rooms, so it may be worth knocking down a few walls and opening your home up if you are doing a renovation. Homebuyers now favor an open layout for easy living. This is especially true if you have the perfect aspect of a South-facing back garden. Letting in the light could prove financially beneficial during the appraisal process.
When you knock down walls, it can be a fantastic transformation in an older home. In many cases, you move what real estate appraisers refer to as functional obsolescence. For example, walking through a dining room to get to a bedroom is not ideal.
By removing walls, you can often change the lighting patterns and the home’s flow, creating a much more desirable floor plan today’s buyers will appreciate.
If your home doesn’t need a floor plan change, there are other ways to create the illusion of light, including:
– Painting your walls a bright color or even a bright white
– Using strategic mirrors to reflect the light
– Erecting some large seascapes or other artwork reflective of light
– Arranging furniture to create an excellent open flow
Doing these things can make the home look that much more appealing to not only homebuyers but also an appraiser.
2. The Condition of Your Driveway
Before getting the appraiser in, you may have to give your driveway a quick makeover. The driveway is the first thing visitors to your home will see, so if it is asphalt, even it out to get rid of cracks. Getting a driveway seal coat can go a long way toward improving the appearance.
3. Any Strange Odors Coming From Inside
There may be a cracked sewage pipe under your house—and if there is, fix it. Get a plumber in to have a look. Mold can also smell terrible, so check for it.
If you have to deodorize under the floor in your house, start with a few bags of garden lime to neutralize the odor. Throw open the windows and burn incense (sandalwood) when no one is there.
4. Outdoor Shed and Outbuildings
If your outdoor shed looks ramshackle and unpainted, get it repaired and painted before the appraiser comes over. A wooden shed will look nice painted cream with green trim and a green roof. The main thing is that it is made to look neat and clean.
You don’t want the shed to impact negatively on your property sale. Plant a small garden bed along the side of it, with a few seasonal flowers.
5. Unsightly Neighbors
When appraisal time comes, no one wants a bad neighbor. If your neighbor never mows the lawn, get the contractor in to do your yard and offer them a free mow at the same time. It will be worth it to ensure the appraiser doesn’t downgrade your property.
Get any overhanging branches cut back and generally tidy up the yard. Make sure that their rubbish bin has been taken inside.
6. A House With a Terrible Past
It’s better to not buy a house where a recent murder has occurred, as you can’t do much about the past. The appraiser could take this into account.
Final Thoughts on Factors That Impact Your Appraisal
Chat to your real estate agent about what else you should do to get more ideas on what impacts a house appraisal.

Tips for Buying Your First Home

It’s always an adventure when you’re ready to go house hunting. It’s even more exciting when you are ready to venture out in search of your first home. Whether you’re moving out of your parent’s house or you have been renting a place and are ready to finally own your own place, you’re taking a big step in life. Take some helpful tips about buying your first home to have a positive experience:

Copy space of home and life concept. Small model home on green grass with sunlight abstract background. Vintage tone filter effect color style.

Know Your Budget
Far too many people make the mistake of buying a home that is beyond their means. This only adds stress to their lives and can even lead to moving out if the mortgage is too much to handle. Sit down and work out your budget. Look at all of your monthly expenses and remember that you’ll want to continue to set aside savings for a rainy day. Once you see how much is left for a mortgage payment, give yourself some wiggle room.
Choose Where You Want to Live
If you’re going to take the plunge as a first-time homebuyer, be strategic about your search. What area calls to you? A great price or a beautiful home will not be enough if you’re unhappy with the location. Consider the school district if you have children and think about access to your favorite stores. Figure out if you want neighbors nearby or if you would prefer your own space. Perhaps most importantly, decide if you’re comfortable with the quality of the surrounding area you’re moving to. This will help you to trim down your list of potential homes.
Make a List of Essentials
No two homebuyers are alike. You should pick a home that fits your needs. Take into consideration how many bedrooms you need, the number of bathrooms and if the home has a garage or parking structure. You may prefer a spacious backyard or not care about that at all. If you are going to have children, you’ll need a house with enough room to accommodate an expanding family. Bring your checklist with you when you go to an open house or speak with a REALTOR®. If you don’t find what you want, keep looking.
Learn About Your Financing Options
Don’t jump at the first mortgage you see…do your homework. Your credit union may have an irresistible promotion. You could go the traditional route with a mortgage through your local bank or other mortgage brokers. You may also qualify for a variety of loan programs, including loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs, USDA loans for homes in rural settings or FHA loans. Look at the interest rate and whether or not the rate will be fixed. Don’t sign on the dotted line until you are completely satisfied.
Being prepared will help you to make the most of being a first-time homebuyer. Team up with a real estate agent you can trust and lay it all out on the line before you begin your quest. Being selective will help you to find the right home sooner.

6 Security Tips for Your New Home

Buying and moving into a new home is exciting, but it also requires a lot of attention to detail, from closing the deal to figuring out the logistics of getting all your belongings from point A to point B. Amid all the excitement, planning and unpacking, many new homeowners overlook one essential factor: the security of their new house.

If you’re moving, consider these six tips from the home security experts at ADT to help keep your family and your property safe and secure:

Change the Locks. You never know who lived in your property before you moved in. Do yourself a favor and change the locks regardless of the situation.

Transfer or Invest in a Security System. There’s no better way to ensure your home is secure 24/7 than installing a home security system. Burglar-proof your house by adding video surveillance and motion sensors for complete security. If there’s already a security system in the house, have it properly looked over and reactivated. If you’d like to bring the security system that you’re currently using to your new house, consider relocation services.

Install Indoor and Outdoor Lighting. Don’t stand out as the “new neighbor” by being the only dim house on the street at night. Keep your family protected by making your house look occupied at all times using light automation.

Keep Your Outside Area in Excellent Condition. Did you know burglars see the exterior of your property as a bullseye? If your lawn is unkempt or you have large shrubbery, burglars will see that as an invitation to break in.

Talk With the Neighbors. Having trusted neighbors can immediately make living in a new place much safer. They may be able to help keep your house look occupied while you’re away by simply picking up the newspaper, shoveling your walkway, etc.

Remind Your Kids to Be Cautious. Moving to a new neighborhood means a lot of unfamiliar faces for you and your family. Make sure your children are aware that they should never let a stranger into the house, leave the garage door up when they come in or go exploring too far until you’re more familiar with the area.

By taking care of these security measures when moving, you can turn your focus to truly enjoying your new, safe home.

How to Save for a Down Payment If You’re Currently Renting

If you are renting an apartment but want to buy your own home, you’ll have to save enough money for a down payment first. The amount will depend on the price of your dream home and the terms of your mortgage, but it’ll most likely be several thousand dollars more than you currently have in your bank account. Saving money for a down payment while putting a significant percentage of your monthly income toward rent can feel daunting, but you can do it if you make some strategic decisions and commitments.

Figure out How Much You Need
If you have a pretty good idea of where you want to live and the size and features you want in your future home, you can look at recent sale prices and come up with a ballpark estimate of how much you’ll need for a down payment. Having a target can help you stay on track.

See Where Your Money Goes & Look for Ways to Cut Expenses
Keep track of every dollar you spend for two or three months. Knowing where your money goes can help you identify areas where you can make changes to save. For example, you may be surprised at how much you spend on things like eating out and entertainment.

If you live in an area where rental costs are high, consider relocating. You might have a longer daily commute, but cutting your rent bill could give you hundreds of extra dollars each month to put toward your down payment. If moving isn’t an option, consider getting a roommate to share expenses.

Utility bills can fluctuate from month to month as your usage changes with the season. If possible, find an apartment with some or all utilities included. The rent payment may be higher, but paying the same amount each month can make budgeting easier. If you can’t find an apartment with utilities included, look for ways to use less electricity and water.

Increase Income & Reduce Debt
You can earn additional income by taking on a part-time job. Whether you capitalize on an in-demand skill that you have or look for odd jobs or a freelancing gig, every extra dollar can bring you closer to your down payment goal.

If you have credit card balances, high interest rates can cause you to pay thousands of dollars extra. Paying off your debt means that money could go toward a down payment instead. Eliminating credit card debt can also raise your credit score and help you get a mortgage with a lower interest rate.

Focus on a Goal & Create a Strategy
Saving money for a down payment can be tough if you’re paying to rent a home, but it can be done. Set a goal, figure out where your money is currently going each month and then look for changes you can make to reduce your living expenses. A multi-pronged approach can help you reach your goal faster.

Touring an Open House? Here are 8 Things to Look For

When you’re searching for your dream house, you’ll likely spend a good chunk of time touring open houses—and while you may have a list of ‘must-haves’ or ‘no-no’s’ in mind, it’s easy to be distracted by color and/or other cosmetic touches that keep you from noticing more critical factors. Experienced real estate agents know what to look for. But if you’re touring on your own, here are eight things you should definitely be alert to.

  • Signs of Water Damage – They may not be obvious, so look for water marks on the ceilings or brown water marks on the walls. If there’s carpeting in the basement, be sure it is dry and be wary of a musty odor.
  • Foundation Cracks – While these, too, may not be obvious, check for misaligned doors or windows, sticking doors or sloping floors, which may be signs the house is not solidly anchored.
  • Too Many Stairs – They may not bother you now, while you are young and healthy, but will Grandma be able to handle them—and will you when you are her age?
  • Closet Space – Picture your things fitting into the existing closets. If you think perhaps there is not enough space, you’re probably right.
  • Storage Space – Where will you store your holiday ornaments, camping gear and out-of-season sports equipment? Think not just about closet space for clothes, but about space to store all your extras.
  • Water Pressure – Lackadaisical water pressure can be a big issue in the kitchen or the shower. Turn on the taps full blast for a minute to see how the water runs. 
  • Natural Light – If you’re touring the home in bright daylight with all the lights on, try turning the lights off to get a better idea about natural light. 
  • An Aging Roof – A home inspector will note it, but why wait until mid-transaction to realize you may need to budget for replacement? Check for an abundance of damaged or missing shingles, or signs of water damage in the attic.

Escrow: The Nuts and Bolts

To some home buyers and sellers, and perhaps to some less experienced real estate agents, the escrow process is something of a mysterious experience where a lot of money and documents change hands until a property is magically turned over to the new owner during a projected ‘close of escrow.’

In fact, at its essence, escrow is a clearing house – a neutral third party whose job it is to carry out all the written instructions agreed upon by buyer, seller, and lender, and hold in trust the buyer’s earnest money and other applicable funds and documents until conditions are met and the transaction can be completed.

But the escrow process has many moving parts, and having a reputable, approachable escrow officer can help demystify the experience and keep things moving toward a timely closing.

Here is what you and your clients can expect from your escrow officer

  • We receive and hold the buyer’s funds in a non-interest trust account
  • We review and comply with all agreements of the sale as detailed in the purchase contract and joint escrow instructions
  • We manage preparation of the grant deed (for seller’s signature) and the estimated closing statement and any other documents needed to clear title
  • We receive loan documents from the buyer’s lender and prepare estimated closing statements 
  • We order evidence of insurance from the buyer’s insurance agent and send the signed loan documents and all lender-required items to the new lender for funding
  • We submit original documents required to clear title to the title company for recording at the close of escrow
  • We ensure that escrow is in receipt of all funds necessary to pay the seller their proceeds and that the seller has sufficient equity in the property to cover all agreed upon costs, lien payoffs, and/or invoices
  • We make sure all required paperwork is in escrow to provide the buyer with clear title to the property
  • We ensure that all conditions agreed upon by the buyer and seller, and in writing through escrow, have been satisfied

When all escrow instructions have been carried out, the closing can take place. At this time, all outstanding funds and fees are collected and paid, including title insurance premiums, real estate commissions and termite inspections. Title to the property is then transferred to the new owner, title insurance is issued, and it’s time to turn over the keys.

Should You Sell Your Home and Downsize When Your Kids Are in College?

If all of your kids have gone to college or moved out, you may be looking at their empty bedrooms and thinking about downsizing. There are some distinct advantages to doing that, as well as downsides to consider.

Downsizing Can Save You Money
There may be no need to have a large house if your kids are rarely there and one or more bedrooms just sit empty the majority of the time. A large house can mean high bills for utilities, maintenance, property taxes and insurance, not to mention a steep monthly mortgage payment. 

Downsizing to a smaller home may allow you to significantly reduce your living expenses and give you more money to save for retirement or to use for traveling and other priorities. It can also give you an opportunity to enjoy a simpler and less stressful lifestyle. You’ll be able to spend less time on cleaning and maintenance, and have more free time to devote to hobbies. 

You Can Still Have a Place for Your Kids to Stay
Moving to a smaller house doesn’t mean that your kids will have to stay at a hotel if they want to visit. You can buy a home with a guest bedroom, or you can set up a family room, home office or hobby room with a sofa bed or space for an air mattress for times when your children come home during breaks.

Moving to a Smaller House Isn’t the Only Way to Save Money
If you’re looking to cut your living expenses, downsizing isn’t your only option. Room rentals are in high demand. You may be able to rent out one or more unoccupied bedrooms on a monthly basis. Or, if you live in an area that sees a lot of tourist traffic, you may earn more money by renting out rooms for shorter periods of time.

If You Move, You’ll Need to Let Some Things Go
If you decide to downsize, that will mean that you’ll need to get rid of some of your possessions. It may be a good idea to have your kids go through the house and make a list of things that they would like to have. Then you can figure out what to do with the rest. You may decide to have a yard sale, donate some items to charity and discard others. 

Don’t try to cram everything into a smaller house, and don’t rent a storage unit so you can avoid getting rid of things. If your goal is to save money, a monthly storage unit rental fee will reduce your overall savings.

Think About Your Goals and Dreams
While your kids were growing up, you likely focused on their needs and put your own long-term aspirations on the back burner. Now that they’ve moved out, you have an opportunity to figure out what you want your future to look like and to make your dreams a reality.

What to Look Out for When Buying an Old House

Are you planning to purchase an old home? This could be a very smart real estate move, as old houses tend to cost less than modern builds. Additionally, if you’re the type of person who appreciates the nostalgic appeal and charm of an older home, then this will be a gratifying choice for you.

 Although older houses bring undeniable historical character and uniqueness, there are a few things you need to be aware of before buying one. Here is a list of important things to look for when buying an old house to avoid running into trouble:
Harmful Building Materials
The very first thing you should check before buying or moving into an old house is the presence of harmful building materials. Generally, houses built before 1978 are known to contain lead-based paints and asbestos. These chemicals pose a danger to both children and adults. Therefore, if you find the house to have these chemicals, you need to hire a professional to remove them before you settle in.
Foundation Issues
The foundation of a home plays an important role in its overall stability—it’s what the entire structure sits upon. Many old houses tend to have foundation issues due to tear and wear, seismic waves, wet soil or tree root activity. In order to make the house livable, you need to hire a structural engineer to inspect and repair any damages or cracks. Experts can assess the situation and ensure the foundation is properly restored.
Roof Issues
The roof is another common problem among old houses. If a house is very old, the roof shingles likely have depreciated and become less effective. Depending on the roof type the house has, its quality and efficacy can deteriorate based on weather, maintenance and quality of installation. Consider reaching out to professionals in your area to get an estimate on repair or replacement.
Electrical Connectivity
Unlike modern homes, older ones usually have old electrical connectivity, which cannot withstand modern usage and appliances such as HVAC systems, computers and televisions, to name a few. Therefore, you need to ensure that the connection is updated before you finally move in. Among the areas to pay attention to are knob and tube wiring. These kinds of wiring were common in the early 1900s and are likely to be no longer effective.
Moving into an old house can be a great decision. It brings a piece of history, uniqueness and classic proposition to your life. If you’re determined to own an older home, though, you need to take your time and check on the things mentioned above. Doing this will help you get a house worth your money and ultimately protect your investment!

Tips for a Better Work-at-Home Experience

More people are working from home these days than ever before, and many will have the option to continue to do so even when the pandemic is over. There are perks, for sure, including no long commutes, spending less on gas and work clothes, and lunches out.

But working from home comes with challenges, chiefly from changes in routine, the absence of socialization and/or household noise and distractions. Psychologists suggest five ways to make the most of your transition and set boundaries between your work and home life,

  • Have a Designated Space to Work – The kitchen table is not ideal and your bed should never be your desk. Whether it’s a whole room or a corner in your living room, a designated workspace can help get your head in gear before you even get seated.
  • Monitor Your Screen Time – Zoom fatigue is real, optometrists say, and too much screen time strains your eyes. In addition, the blue light emanating from digital screens can wreak havoc on your eyes and skin. Dermatologists advise putting on sunscreen before you start your day at the computer. 
  • Plan Your Workday – While the average workday runs from 8-10 hours, studies show that most people are at their most productive for 5-6 hours a day. To stay at your most productive, organize your day by taking occasional breaks from the computer to do tasks that require less brain power, such as making phone calls, organizing paperwork or just relaxing with a snack.
  • Change Up Your Routine – Following the same routine every day becomes boring and dulls your energy. Rearrange the office furniture to change the view from your workspace. Fix yourself a hearty breakfast now and then instead of rolling out of bed and going straight to work. Make that trip to the coffee shop and bring back your favorite cup of joe. Take a longer afternoon break and read or listen to music. 
  • Separate Work and Home Life – Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is important. Clock out on time and start enjoying your after-hours time with family or friends. Resist the temptation to check your work email at night or finish that report. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.