Your no-nonsense real estate guide
Even after the mild winter we just experienced in the Midwest, it’s important to check your home to ensure it’s ready for the warmer spring and summer months.
First, check your home's air conditioning unit before you start using it more frequently. For less than $200, you can hire a professional to tune your system and make it run most efficiently. Additionally, make a note to check the filters yourself every month, and replace them if necessary. New filters help lower energy costs and prevent any damage to your equipment. If you’re serious about saving money on cooling and heating, invest in a programmable thermostat with a lock to prevent tampering.
Next, check your gutters for any debris that may have accumulated over the winter. To accomplish this, either set aside time during the weekend or hire a professional to do the job. Pricing can depend on the size of your house, so get an estimate first to secure a price you’re comfortable with.
Spring is also a great time to have your roof inspected and repaired if needed, as snow storms may cause leaks from damaged shingles or seals.
While spring cleaning the inside of your house is likely on your list, you should also consider pressure washing the outside of your home to get rid of dirt and other stains. You can hire professionals to do the job or save money by renting a pressure washer and making it a do-it-yourself project.
Last, these mild-weathered months are a great time to repair any cracks or holes in your driveway or sidewalks. Concrete repair kits can be relatively cheap, but you may need help from a professional if you are working with asphalt.
It is natural to feel nostalgic and even sad about selling your home, especially if you’ve lived in it a long time. However, once you’ve made the decision to sell, it’s important that you remain as objective as possible during the home selling process. Follow these tips as a guide when selling your home.
Sellers commonly overprice their home due to their own emotional attachments. It’s important to focus on the facts when setting the price with your REALTOR®, and to introduce your home to the market at a competitive price. Remember, if you purchased your home at the height of the market, you are unlikely to get a similar offer.
If possible, refrain from being present when the home is shown to potential buyers. Many homeowners become sensitive when they hear firsthand feedback from buyers, and this sensitivity could hinder the sale.
Last, it’s important to be realistic about the offers you’ll receive. The longer your home sits on the market, the lower you should expect offers to be. It may be easy to get excited when your property attracts potential buyers once hitting the market, and it’s even easier to feel upset when the attention dies down. While you may feel pressured to wait for a better offer, it’s important to compare each offer closely to your asking price when making a decision.
After your offer has been accepted on a property, there are still crucial steps to undergo before you can celebrate buying your new home. Follow these tips to ensure a successful walk-through of your new home.
First, make sure all the appliances are properly working. Turn on the dishwasher and stove, run the microwave, check the ice machine and the temperature of the fridge and flip on the garbage disposal to make sure there aren’t any home improvement projects for you to begin on move-in day.
Run the faucets in the kitchen and bathrooms to check for leaks. Additionally, flush the toilets in your soon-to-be home, as plumbing issues can be expensive.
Check the electricity by turning on all of the light switches to make sure everything is wired correctly. You may also want to bring a tester for the electrical plug outlets to be sure they all work properly.
Check your home's heating and cooling systems to avoid costly repairs during any season. Test each window and sliding door to make sure they open, shut and lock properly. You may also want to make sure there is weather-stripping to keep heat or air inside your home.
Before you leave the home, ask the seller for all manuals for appliances and the contact information of contractors who have previously worked on the property.
If you are looking to make your home more eco-friendly, a great place to start is in your kitchen. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has created a guide to help you make your kitchen use energy and resources efficiently.
First, you can install windows and skylights in the kitchen to help clear vapors and toxins. The USGBC reports that these changes are the most energy-efficient way to clear the air.
While you’ll restrict use of the exhaust fan by using windows to move the air, you can invest in a higher efficiency exhaust fan that offers different speed options. For even more ventilation, you may choose a high-efficiency ceiling fan to help circulate air; in addition to using less energy, they are usually quieter than exhaust fans.
To lessen use of electricity, relocate your favorite kitchen work space to be near a window or under a skylight. For times when you must use lighting, upgrade to compact fluorescent bulbs or LED lighting - each are much more efficient than standard bulbs.
If your plumbing fixtures were installed before 1992, you should look into replacing them. Dated fixtures may use more water, whereas low flow models have gained popularity and are available for reasonable prices.
When it comes to your appliances, the USGBC suggests replacing oversized models with compact and high-efficiency models. Inefficient refrigerators are especially dangerous, and can account for nearly 15 percent of your home's energy demand.
Many homes on the market may be advertised as short sales or foreclosures, which can mean a low price for you as a buyer. Understanding the difference between a foreclosure and short sale could prove helpful when trying to buy a home.
If a home is in foreclosure, the seller's lender has taken title of the home and is selling it directly. If a home is being sold for less than what the current seller owes on the property, and they do not have funds to make up the difference at closing, the sale is considered a short sale.
The challenges of purchasing a foreclosure or short sale vary as well. First, foreclosures often end up in disrepair after sitting vacant throughout the foreclosure process.
Meanwhile, the main difficulty of purchasing a short sale is that it is a time-consuming process. After a homebuyer has come to an agreement with the seller, the lenders then have to approve the sale before closing. When there is only one mortgage, experts say lenders take on average two months for approval, while if there is more than one mortgage with different lenders, the approval can often take up to four months or longer.
Experts say that lenders like no-contingency offers and closing terms that are flexible. Buyers are advised against a short sale if they have a home to sell before closing on a short-sale purchase or have to be in a new residence before a specific time.
While you have certainly heard about the importance of curb appeal, you may not know that houseplants are an easy way to update your home’s décor when you’re preparing it to sell.
One simple and inexpensive way to dress up your home is to buy a variety of supermarket flowers and put them in a decorative or funky pot with moss to conceal moisture. These low-maintenance additions should be placed in the sunlight during morning and removed during the afternoon when the sunlight is too strong, if possible.
If you’re looking for unique plants, consider including succulents such as cacti and aloe. These types of plants require direct sunlight and their soil will dry between waterings.
To fill up an empty corner or awkward wall space, you can consider adding a large tree whose planter is on wheels. Then, if you have to move the plant, you can easily do so without spilling soil. Most trees need only moderate light.
Another low-maintenance option to consider is topiaries. Topiaries don't need direct sunlight and can survive almost anywhere in your home. These plants are also aesthetically pleasing and don’t require daily watering.