Bugs that eat our homes — what you need to know

Powdery stuff on the floor near the wall. Tiny mud tubes on the wall. One- to two-inch round holes near the eaves, deck and siding.

While easily overlooked, these are all signs of a wood-destroying pest infestation in and around your home. Overlook the signs at your own peril, as the damage caused by these tiny insects is expensive to repair.

And, it’s seldom covered by homeowner insurance policies

In fact, U.S. homeowners spend more than $5 billion a year to repair termite damage alone, according to Orkin, the pest-control company.

But, termites are just one of the many types of pest who feast on the wood that holds up your home. Get to know them, and the symptoms of an infestation, to stop the damage before it eats your pocketbook.

Termites 

The most common wood-destroying pest, it is present in every state, except Alaska. And, if that news isn’t bad enough, consider this:

There is more than one type of termite

While there are more than 2,000 different species, the three subcategories of termites most commonly found in our homes include subterranean, dampwood and drywood termites.

And, each type has a preferred type of wood

If you suspect termites in your attic, they are most likely of the drywood variety, as they enjoy dining on wood with little moisture content.

Decayed woods are attractive to dampwood termites and subterranean termites aren’t picky, but they seem to prefer softwoods, such as pine, fir and spruce.

How much do termites eat?

The experts at Orkin say that the amount of wood a termite colony can eat depends on which type of termite is dining, the size of the colony and a few other factors. They warn that the Formosan termite is the most voracious.

They live in large colonies and “can cause extensive damage to a home in less than six months,” under ideal conditions. They prefer warm, humid climates (hello Hawaii!).

The damage they do

Termites eat wood. But, don’t assume your home is safe if it was constructed of other materials.

According to pest control experts, termites can go right through metal siding. Plaster poses no problem for them, either.

Once inside, they’ll infest anything made of wood, from your furniture to cabinetry, floors and ceilings. They’ll weaken the home’s structure, the stairs, the outside deck and more.

And, they do this without leaving obvious traces of their existence. If you know what to look for, however, you can act quickly.

Signs of a termite infestation

You’ll need to look closely for signs of a termite infestation. “Termite damage sometimes appears similar to water damage,” say the pros at Orkin.

Don’t assume that the buckling of your wood floor is from moisture intrusion because it just may be termites causing it. Mold- and mildew-like odors may also indicate a termite infestation.

Look for tiny mud tunnels near the home’s foundation – a sure sign of a subterranean termite colony nearby. Other signs to look for include:

  • Tiny wings on window sills and floors, near the wall.
  • Cracked paint.
  • Wood that gives a hollow sound when tapped on.

Termite Prevention

We look at homes every day and we see a lot of “termite attractants,” both inside and out. One of the most common is the woodpile pushed up against the home. Other common termite invitations include:

  • Allowing the sprinkler to hit the side of the home.
  • Cracks in foundation walls.
  • Attaching wood trellises or wooden planters to exterior walls.
  • Insufficient ventilation in crawl spaces.
  • Blocked foundation vents.
  • Shrubbery planted too close to the home’s foundation.
  • Gutters filled with leaves and other organic debris.

The cure

Termite eradication isn’t a DIY project – it requires the services of a pest control professional.

“There are two general categories of termite treatment,” according to the experts in the entomology department at the University of Kentucky.

  • Liquid termaticides – Applied to the soil, they keep the little critters from entering the home. They also kill those termites who have already moved in, since they can’t get back outside without crossing the liquid’s barrier.
  • Bait – “Termite baits consist of paper, cardboard, or other palatable food, combined with a slow-acting substance lethal to termites,” say the pros at the University of Kentucky. The bait material is placed in a plastic tube, underground, or inside, over the mud tubes.

Reach out to us if you plan on selling your home and suspect you may have a termite problem. We’re happy to refer you to a professional for additional advice.

3 Things to Consider Before Shopping for a New Home

The homebuying process is one that is full of decisions. Do you want a house or a condo? Should you shop for a new or an existing home?

If you settle on a newly-built home, a whole new set of decisions enters the picture.

Before you hop in the car to visit new home communities, however, there  are a few things you should do to protect yourself during the purchase process.

Lay the foundation properly, and you’ll make it to closing with nary a hitch.

1. Get Clear on your Finances

Walking into a new-home purchase without knowing how much you can afford to spend on a house puts you at the mercy of the builder and/or his lender.

Since buying this home may be the biggest financial decision of your life, you owe it to yourself to go into the process with as much knowledge as possible.

See a lender before viewing even one home. Find out how much you can spend and then stick to that price range when shopping for a home.

Then, compare lender quotes before making a final commitment. Sometimes the builder’s preferred lender offers the best deal – but not always. Get the cost of each loan from every lender you speak with.

Find more information on how to shop for a mortgage from the Federal Trade Commission.

2. Choose a Community

New home communities offer various amenities. Many are managed by a homeowners association, which takes on some of the outdoor maintenance chores, such as snow removal.

But, they also come with an added monthly fee, so consider the fee’s impact on your budget.

Then, make a list of features you desire in a new community. Some of the criteria you may choose include:

  • Proximity to schools.
  • Outdoor recreational opportunities
  • An area with lots of children or, on the other hand, few kids.
  • Your commute time to work.

Once you know your budget, and what you’re looking for in a neighborhood, it’s easier to narrow down where to shop.

3. Research the Builder

There are a number of ways to do this, but starting with the Better Business Bureau is a good first step. Check for complaints against the builder and the company.

Ask your agent what he or she knows about the builder and the homes he/she builds.

Find out what other communities the builder has helped developed and visit one or two of them.

Stop and chat with any residents you come across to find out if there are any common problems with the home.

When you visit the communities on your list you’ll be greeted by a real estate agent. If you find a home you like it’s only natural to assume the whole process will be streamlined if you use this agent for the purchase.

Not a wise decision, and here’s why: that agent represents the builder.

Just as you wouldn’t dream of hiring your soon-to-be former spouse’s attorney in divorce proceedings, so should you never use the builder’s agent in a new-home purchase.

Buyer’s representation costs you nothing – the seller (the builder in the case of new homes) pays all real estate fees. So there is really no reason not to hire your own representation for such an important investment.

Ask the builder for a walk-through of the new-home buying process—find out the schedule, the number of inspections that will be performed and get a features sheet list.

Arm yourself with as much information as possible and the process will go smoothly.

Tips on buying new hardware for your cabinets

The best and quickest way to revitalize a room is with paint. It’s amazing what fresh paint can do. But, don’t stop there – especially if you’re thinking of selling your home.

Simply changing the hardware on kitchen and bathroom cabinetry will complement those freshly-painted walls and make the room look complete.

Best of all, it’s inexpensive and there are a multitude of choices in color, finish and shape.

What to look for when shopping

What style is the room? Especially in the kitchen, keep the style of the hardware the same as the style of the room.

For instance, in a contemporary kitchen you’ll want hardware that is minimally ornamental – streamlined and simple. If you have stainless steel appliances, consider a similar finish for the knobs and pulls.

Is the hardware comfortable to use? Don’t be shy – grab them as if they were connected to a drawer or cupboard to ensure they’re the right size for you and comfortable to use.

Keep proportion in mind. Tiny knobs on a large cupboard won’t cut it.

“A good rule of thumb for traditional or transitional style pulls is that they should be about one-third of the length of the cabinet drawer,” suggests the experts at Meridian Homes, and “more contemporary designs call for longer pulls that are at least two-thirds of the length of the drawer or cabinet door.”

They go on to say that if drawers measure more than 18 inches in width, you may one to use more than one knob or pull.

Finish is as important as style. There are so many finishes from which to choose, it may be as challenging as choosing the style of hardware.

As mentioned earlier, stainless steel is ideal for most contemporary kitchens while brass or pewter is better suited to traditional rooms. Get an idea of the many hardware finishes at theknobbery.com.

Where to shop

Yes, the big-box department stores typically carry a large assortment of cabinetry hardware, but if you’re looking for something different, there are many other options, online. I

n fact, you can shop those big box home improvement stores online as well. Lowe’s and Home Depot both carry cabinet hardware.

Knob Depot

We love this site for the sheer simplicity of its search function. You won’t have to scroll through page after page of hardware because you can narrow your search by a number of criteria. Search by room, by finish, diameter and more. Start your search at knobdepot.com.

Jet

Jet.com offers an interesting and eclectic selection of knobs and pulls. Not the least expensive of the bunch, but if you’re looking for something specific, you may find it here.

Hayneedle

We love the Velocity Cabinet Knob (and the price too!) but Hayneedle has many other styles from which to choose. Prices run from quite reasonable to rather expensive. We also like that we can narrow the search according to shape, finish and size. Check out the knobs and pulls at hayneedle.com.

Wayfair

If you have money to burn, check out the high-end hardware at wayfair.com. For a smidge more than $253, you can purchase a beveled-glass knob (screw not included!) and, for much less (but still pricey) Mother of Pearl or Swarovski crystal beauties. At the lowest end of the price scale you’ll find basic plastic and wood knobs for as low as $1.29.

On a tight budget?

While we can’t vouch for the quality, there are many discount dealers online. Check out Knobs4Less.com, Overstock.com, Discount Home Furnishings and Ikea. Read the reviews from people who’ve purchased items to get an idea of quality.

You may also locate unique hardware on the items for sale at the Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore near you.

5 Tips for the Best Home Showings

OK, truth time: There’s nothing more disruptive to home life than to have your home on the market.

Chasing the kids around, nagging at them to pick up their clothes and toys, ensuring the dishes don’t pile up in the sink and the dirty laundry is tucked away, out of sight.

And, if you have pets, it’s even more challenging

Yes, it’s stressful to have to keep the home clean all the time. But, presentation is everything when it comes down to getting the most money possible for it.

Consider the following tips to help buyers see your home for the gem that it is.

1. Get rid of the stink

 We’ve all walked into someone else’s home and smelled it – the stale cigarette odor, what they had for dinner last night or the über stinky cat box.

The problem, however, is that we are so acclimated to our own homes that we typically can’t determine if they stink or not. If you have kids, pets and smokers in the house, however, it’s a safe bet that it does.

Cigar and cigarette smoke is the most difficult to get rid of, but check out our blog post, here, for some tips.

Cooking odors tend to cling to anything upholstered, so clean and deodorize the carpets, wash the curtains, bring in a pro to dry-clean the furniture and clean the filter in the range hood.

Pet owners need to ensure that the cat box is cleaned daily and the dog is bathed frequently while the home is on the market.

Other tips to consider include:

  • Washing indoor trash containers thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Then, take the trash out before showings.
  • Bathrooms can get pretty rank, so Better Homes & Gardens suggests filling a decorative dish with cotton balls that you’ve dabbed with essential oils.
  • Fill decorative containers with potpourri and place them randomly throughout the home.

2. Mask the noise

Have you ever lived close to an airport or, even worse, railroad tracks? The noise may have been deafening for the first month or two. Then, you got used to it.

Potential buyers touring your home are in the early stages of noise sensitivity and they will most definitely hear the neighbor’s annoying, yappy dog.

If noise pollution is a problem in your neighborhood, mask it. Here are some tips:

  • Set the computer up to play a sound effects loop (rainfall and babbling water are soothing).
  • Leave music playing, softly, during showings.
  • Purchase a white noise machine.

3. Lighten up

There’s a reason that real estate agents tell their clients to open all the window coverings and turn on all the lights before showings. Light and bright rooms are far more appealing than those that are dark. Consider the following as well:

  • Use higher wattage light bulbs while the home is on the market.
  • Don’t forget the closet lights – turn those on as well.
  • Use a lighter-weight fabric for drapes during the marketing period.

4. Sell the lifestyle

Model home decorators know exactly who they are trying to appeal to and sell that potential buyer on the lifestyle the home offers.

You can do the same with some strategic staging.

  • A vignette in home staging is a small grouping of several objects. Vignettes can help convey the story of your home and the lifestyle it provides. Set the dining room table, create a front porch or deck vignette with a table and chairs and potted plants (like this one at suchthespot.com). Get more ideas on Pinterest.
  • Fresh flowers throughout the home will help add color and freshen the air.
  • Stage the kitchen and bathroom to make them more appealing. Rid the counters of clutter and glam it up with new towels and rugs.

5. Guard your privacy

Homeowners are told to skedaddle before home showings and open houses. Before you go, lock up valuables or take them with you. This includes jewelry, cash, small, high-value collectibles, weapons and prescription drugs.

Home showings are critical to the sale of your home. Doing all you can to make the home appear ready to move into will make yours the queen of the neighborhood real estate market.

Stop saving for the down payment and get help with it

Despite having decent credit, a good job and the ability to pay for a home every month, the dream of buying a home is somewhat elusive for those with little to no cash to put down.

This is why our younger generation isn’t buying homes at the rate that previous generations did.

With student loan debt weighing them down, there is little money left at the end of the month to set aside for the down payment on a home.

And, sadly, most lenders require you to have some skin in the game before they’ll lend you money for that home.

Thankfully, there is help – both state and municipal agencies offer down payment and closing cost assistance to homebuyers across the country.

While it will take some work on your part, you can get around saving that huge chunk of cash known as the down payment.

Down payment assistance programs

Down payment assistance comes in the forms of grants (that don’t have to be repaid) and loans — some at no interest or very low interest and some don’t have to be repaid until you sell the home.

State Housing Finance Agencies (HFA) offer many opportunities so check into yours first. You can find a list online at ncsha.org.

Counties and cities also offer down payment assistance programs as do certain non-profit agencies and employers. In fact, some of the larger labor unions, such as the Culinary Workers Union, offer assistance.

Then, there are special programs for teachers and first responders. See HUD’s Good Neighbor Next Door program for information on these programs.

Find state and local government programs on HUD’s website, here.

No down payment loans

1. If you are a current member of the military, a veteran or a surviving spouse, look into the VA Loan.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t actually grant loans; they guarantee the repayment of a portion of the loan should the borrower default.

The loan is granted by a private lender but not all lenders participate in the program so you may have to shop around for one. We are happy to refer you to a lender that participates

The VA-backed mortgage requires no down payment and there is no requirement to purchase private mortgage insurance, which will make your monthly payment lower than with a conventional loan.

There is, however, a funding fee but it can be wrapped into the loan amount, so you won’t have to come out-of-pocket for it.

2. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers the Rural Development home loan program which also requires no down payment.

They offer two different loan programs. The first is very much like the VA loan in that it offers the lender a government-backed guarantee.

The second program is a direct loan from the USDA and it’s for low-income borrowers.

These loans are for homes in rural areas and you can learn if a home you are interested in qualifies by using the USDA website’s eligibility tool.

Low down payment loans

FHA

Yes, FHA is popular for its low down-payment requirement, but when they changed the mortgage insurance requirement, the loan program became a lot less popular.

Today, the Mortgage Insurance Premium for the FHA loan sticks with it for the life of the loan.

If you need a low-down payment loan, however, this may be your program of choice. You’ll pay either 3.5 or 10 percent of the loan amount, depending on your credit score and lender requirements.

Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac

The HomeReady® loan from Fannie Mae actually offers a lower down payment requirement than the FHA program – 3 percent. You will also have the option of cancelling the PMI when your equity in the home reaches 20 percent.

This loan is best for low-to-moderate income borrowers with credit scores of 680 or more. You do not need to be a first-time homebuyer to qualify.

Home Possible®, Freddie Mac’s low-down payment program, offers down payment options as low as 3 percent. Learn more about this program online at freddiemac.com.

We are happy to share with you our information on no-to-low down payment loans. Give us a call.

3 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Moving Company

Whether it’s a long-distance move or you’re relocating within the same city, finding the right movers isn’t easy. Long-distance moves, however, add a whole new dimension to the search.

Although the internet is great for finding where to have dinner on a Friday night, it’s not the place to find a moving company. In fact, moving pros say that the best movers are those who are referred by others.

“Nearly all of the victims that contact us found their moving company on the Internet,” cautions the experts at MovingScam.com.

To avoid becoming a victim of moving fraud, keep the following tips in mind:

  • If the company won’t send a representative to your home to give you a quote based on an onsite inspection, don’t consider using it.
  • Find a moving company that has at least a 10-year history in the business.
  • Avoid hiring a moving broker. This is a company that will sub-contract your job to another.
  • Don’t hire a company whose representative fails to give you the legally-required pamphlet entitled “Your Rights and Responsibilities when you Move.”
  • Never pay a deposit upfront.
  • Don’t pay for the move until you’ve checked all of your belongings.

Once you’ve rounded up several movers who sound good, get the following information:

1. Ask for the company’s US DOT number

Believe it or not, there are hundreds of moving companies who lack something as basic as a license to transport belongings from one state to another. Those that are licensed will show up online, at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website.

Enter the company’s DOT number at the website and you can learn if its license and insurance coverages are current, the company’s size, safety record and crash information.

If your move will be within your current state, contact the state office which oversees moving companies. You can find a list of these at the FMCSA website.

2. How much will the company cover

Get very clear on the valuation coverage the company offers. This represents the amount the company will pay if your belongings are lost or damaged while in its care.

Interstate movers are required to offer two types of valuation coverage, Full Value Protection and Released Value Protection.

It’s important to understand the difference between the two and you’ll find an explanation on the FMCSA’s website.

Check your homeowners insurance policy to determine if your household items are protected under it during a move.

If not, you may want to look into purchasing third-party liability insurance, especially if you’ll be moving high-value items.

3. Ask for an itemized list of all fees

Insist on receiving a breakdown of all of the moving company’s charges, including surcharges for taking apart furniture, packing and unpacking and other miscellaneous charges.

If there are any charges you don’t understand, insist on a full explanation.

Don’t sign the contract until you understand everything in it, you’ve ensured the price is what you agreed to, the pickup and delivery dates are clearly listed, there are no blank spots and the representative has signed it.

The National Association of REALTORS suggests choosing from among the movers who are certified by the American Moving and Storage Association.

Selling your home? There’s a form (or 100) for that!

Didn’t they tell us years ago that we’d be a “paperless society” in the near future? Somebody forgot to tell the real estate industry. There must be a form for every single step in the selling process.

In all fairness, real estate is fully in the 21st century, with online document signing and other tech wizardry.

Still, the amount of paperwork you’ll sign, whether digitally or in hard form, from listing to close, is amazing. One thing is for sure, you’ll never, ever forget how to sign your name after this!

While every form I put in front of you for your signature is important, I thought we’d take a look at those that most of my selling clients have questions about.

Is it an addendum or an amendment – and why should I care?

Even some real estate professionals get confused over the difference between an addendum and an amendment.

An addendum is something that is added to the purchase agreement (the contract) before it becomes officially valid (known as “ratification”).

If you were performing a short sale, for instance, we would provide the buyer with a short sale addendum before we accept their offer. Although a separate form, it will become part of the contract.

An amendment, on the other hand, is something that is added to the contract after it is signed and accepted. It is an addition to, or change in, the contract.

Amendments are not uncommon and they are used for everything from a request for payment for repairs (after the home inspection results come in) to changing the closing date.

It’s easy to remember the difference if you think about our Constitution

All those constitutional amendments we know and love were items added AFTER the Constitution was ratified, right? They aren’t called Constitutional addendums, but amendments.

Addendums are separate forms that are part of the contract before it is ratified and amendments come after it’s ratified.

Contingency release form

A contingency is, simply, a condition. Think of the buyer as saying “I will buy your home if X comes to pass by THIS DATE.”

The “X” can be anything from loan approval to acceptable home inspection results to the home appraising for the agreed-upon sale price.

There is always a date attached to a contingency; a time limit under which the contingency must be removed or the buyer is in violation of the contract’s terms.

There are seller contingencies too. The most common has to do with supplying the buyer with the homeowner association documents by a certain date.

There is a form that will officially acknowledge that a contingency has been performed and the buyer or seller is released from the responsibility to perform.

Disclosure Statements

Although at first blush they may not seem like it, disclosures are your friend.

By law you must disclose certain things about your home to the buyer. That one is the most important disclosure. There are, however, others that you’ll need to understand.

I’ll give you an agency disclosure, for instance. This form simply discloses (makes known) our relationship and discloses to both you and the buyer that I am working for you.

The buyer’s agent will also submit an agency disclosure telling us that he or she represents the buyer.

The most important disclosure, as mentioned above, is the property condition disclosure. This is typically filled out by the homeowner when the home is listed.

It details just about everything that could be wrong with the home, the neighbors and the neighborhood.

You are required to disclose everything you know about the home that may materially affect the home’s value and the buyer’s enjoyment of the home.

Yappy dog next door? Disclose it.

Teenagers playing loud music on the weekend? Disclose it.

Formerly leaky roof that you patched? Disclose it.

It may seem you are sabotaging your sale by telling the buyers negative things about the house and the neighborhood, but you are actually protecting yourself from costly litigation in the future.

If you have any questions about disclosure requirements in our state, please ask. I’m happy to walk you through them.

NOTE: Never sign any forms during the listing and sale process that you don’t understand.

Although I am not an attorney and cannot give you legal advice, I can explain the meaning of each form that I put in front of you for your signature.

And, you are always welcome to run everything by your lawyer.

Now, let’s get that home sold!

How to start a neighborhood watch program

Even the safest cities have crime. If this is of concern to you, consider starting a Neighborhood Watch program in your neighborhood.

What it is

A Neighborhood Watch program is made up of a group of people who live in the same neighborhood who have the same goal: Make the neighborhood safe by helping local police to reduce crime.

The groups meet regularly to decide on goals and members are each assigned responsibilities. The Department of Justice refers to Neighborhood Watch groups as “homeland security on a local level.”

A little history

The National Neighborhood Watch program is a product of the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) and dates back to 1972.

NSA feels that the program not only allows “citizens to help in the fight against crime, it is also an opportunity for communities to bond through service,” by lending their neighbors a hand in the fight against neighborhood crime.

In 2002, the NSA and USAFreedom Corps, Citizen Corps and the Justice Department came together to launch USAonWatch. Calling it a “revitalized” Neighborhood Watch program, it expands the role of these groups by empowering “citizens to become active in homeland security efforts through participation in Neighborhood Watch groups.”

Success stories

When implemented correctly, Neighborhood Watch programs are quite successful. The devil, however, is in the details when it comes to implementation.

A 2008 report by the U.S. Department of Justice (which is a huge backer of the program, by the way) finds that only 5 percent of the watch programs actually reduce crime in a neighborhood.

But, there is anecdotal evidence of the program’s success from across the country. In 2010, for instance, a town in Georgia was experiencing a series of auto break-ins. The neighborhood watch programs put out an alert for residents to keep their eyes open for suspicious activity and, within days, the perpetrator was arrested.

In 2012, Las Vegas Metro representatives issued a statement claiming that residential burglaries, auto burglaries and auto thefts declined by 30 percent and they gave the credit for that to the valley’s 625 Neighborhood Watch programs.

How to do it right

So, if you’re aim is to set one of these programs in motion in your neighborhood and hope that it’s successful, do it right from the beginning.

Expect for it to be slow going at the start, but it will pick up steam as more neighbors decide to get involved. It’s not a hands-off endeavor but, if it works, it is immensely worthwhile.

The steps to take to form a Neighborhood Watch Group

1.Talk to and recruit your neighbors — Tell them of your plans and how it will benefit them.

2.Contact the local police department — Schedule a meeting of interested neighbors and issue an invitation to a police department representative to attend. NSA claims that this is one of the most important steps because “Neighborhood Watch is a cooperative effort” between citizens and law enforcement.

If you can’t get a police department representative to attend the first meeting, open it to discussions of concerns in the neighborhood and the creation of an agenda on how you’ll meet these concerns.

The NSA has numerous resources on its website to help. You’ll find them at nnw.org.

3. Determine how you’ll communicate with one another — Find a communication method that works for the group, whether that is through regular meetings, on social media, via text messaging or a combination of several.

Call your local police department if you’d like more information on how you can work with them. They’re happy to send you a Neighborhood Watch start-up packet and provide whatever other assistance you need to start your program.

The 3 Most Common Home Pricing Mistakes

Have you ever lived in a neighborhood where one of the homes for sale seems to sit for an especially long time with fewer and fewer people viewing it?

It’s a nice enough home, right? Lots of curb appeal and you’ve seen the interior and it’s delightful.

So, why isn’t it selling?

In a word?

Overpriced

Even worse, if it was originally overpriced and has experienced a series of price reductions, the home is stigmatized.

What this means is that homebuyers think that there is something wrong with the home and most of them won’t even bother to look at it.

So, if you’re considering selling your home and want to “experiment” with pricing, beware of these 3 common home pricing mistakes.

1. Pricing too high out of the gate

It’s common knowledge in the real estate industry that overpriced homes take longer to sell.

Now, don’t take that to mean that eventually you’ll get your price, because if you’re overpriced, you won’t

In fact, plan on making 5 percent less than your listing price if the home sits on the market for two months with no offers.

At today’s national average home price, 5 percent represents more than $14,000. Unless you overpriced the house by that much, that’s a loss that has to hurt.

But, this is even worse

According to a March 2012 study performed by MIT’s Center for eBusiness, homes that remained on the market substantially longer than average suffered a $32,000 reduction in the eventual sales price.

If this isn’t enough to show you the importance of pricing the home appropriately when it goes on the market, I don’t know what is.

The first lesson in pricing real estate is, that to realize the most money you can from the sale of your home, price it right.

2. Relying on online home price estimates

Admit it, you’ve checked your home’s Zestimate at Zillow.com, right?

Unfortunately, many homeowners do just that and don’t understand that there is simply no way anyone can make an accurate estimate of market value without having seen the home.

Furthermore, since sites such as this don’t have access to all of the MLS listings and, most significantly, the sold listings (which is what market value is based on), their algorithm is faulty.

The company admits that their “median error rate” is about 8 percent, according to Kenneth R. Harney in the L.A. Times.

Harney goes on to remind us that 8 percent is the national error rate and, because all real estate is local, the rate varies by region. “In Somerset County, Md., the rate is an astounding 42%,” he continues.

Never rely on a website’s estimate of your home’s value

The only way to truly know how much your home is worth is to have it professionally appraised. The second best way is to ask a real estate agent to compile a comparative market analysis (CMA).

Since agents use many of the same techniques as appraisers, they typically match or come quite close to the appraised value of a home. 

3. Basing your price on your neighbor’s asking price

When you consider putting your house on the market, it’s only natural to want to know what your neighbors are asking for their homes.

Keep in mind, however, that this figure represents what your neighbor hopes to get for his or her home, not its actual market value.

The true market value of a home is based on what buyers actually paid for nearby homes, similar to yours.

I like to think of list price as “fantasyland” and sales price as reality

To that end, I try to dissuade my home-selling clients from basing the price of their home on some pie-in-the-sky figure that may not reflect reality.

Determining the value of a home includes far more than checking sales prices. I am happy to show you – at no obligation — what I do to determine the current value of homes and to provide you, free of charge, an analysis of your home’s value. Call me any time.

3 things that make homebuyers giddy

It’s a fact that how your home looks from the curb will either repel or compel buyers. So, once you’ve got that out of the way, what else entices home shoppers to decide to make an offer on a home?

It’s a combination of things, really. But, overall, emotions rule the day. Appeal to someone’s emotions and they may just return the love.

Let’s take a look at some easy fixes you can perform that will ensure that once those buyers step foot in your home, they won’t want to leave.

1. What happens when they open the front door?

When the buyer’s agent unlocks the front door and his or her clients step through, what do they see? Hopefully, it’s an entryway – something that allows a transition from the outdoors to the living spaces.

If your home lacks such a feature, create one. Depending on the size of the area, this could mean merely adding a rug or runner or placing a console table, hutch or other piece of furniture in the area to define it. You can find some gorgeous ideas for entryways at architectureartdesigns.com and design ideas for small spaces at PotteryBarn.com.

2. Those little extras

Door knobs, drawer and cabinet hardware, faucets and even light fixture covers may not seem like a big deal, but they all go into making a room feel put together. Update them and you’ll have buyers loving what they see.

And the bonus is that these fixes are inexpensive. Sure, you can spend a couple hundred dollars on a new faucet, but you don’t need to. Home improvement stores carry many attractive models, in a variety of finishes, for less than $100.

Then, coordinate that finish with new cabinetry hardware to pull the room together. These can be as inexpensive as a few dollars each and are guaranteed to delight buyers.

3. The Bathroom

Home sellers haven’t gotten the message that bathrooms are second in importance to kitchens in the minds of homebuyers.

Look at listings of homes for sale and you’ll find photos of bathrooms full of kids’ toys, toiletries covering the countertops, ratty shower curtains, stained toilets and dirty bathtubs.

The best way to tackle a nasty bathroom is to remove everything visible. This means chucking all those toiletries, the blow dryer and curling iron, towels, rugs and shower curtain into a box and removing them from the bathroom.

Consider replacing the shower curtain and picking up some coordinating rugs and towels. Neatly store the toiletries and appliances out of sight. “Neatly” is the operative word because homebuyers do take a peek into drawers and cupboards to get an idea of how much storage a room has.

Then, follow the above advice about replacing the hardware on the cupboards and drawers and purchasing a new faucet for the sink. If the tub is visible through the door or curtain, consider buying a matching faucet and showerhead as well.

One trick that pleases buyers is to replace that sheet mirror with something more decorative. Or, create a frame for the monstrosity. HGTV has some gorgeous tips here and here.

Getting homebuyers to fall in love with your home is the best way to get the most money you can for it. Appeal to their emotions by freshening up the most popular rooms.