What you need to know about buying a home on a septic system

Not all homes are on city services – some have their own systems to deliver water and remove waste from the property. If you’re considering putting in an offer to purchase a home that has a septic system, read on for what you need to know.

General septic system anatomy

Whatever substances go down the home’s drains ends up in the septic tank. This means everything that is flushed, swirls down the sinks’ drains, and the stuff that drains from the washing machine and shower.

This tank is built to be watertight, to trap the solids it receives and then release what’s left (wastewater) into the systems drain (or, “leach”) fields.

Yes, that’s a simplistic explanation and if you’re interested in a more detailed look at septic systems, check out homeadditionplus.com or the U.S. EPA’s “Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems.”

If you buy it, you’ll need to maintain it

One of the biggest benefits of homes on city services is that the homeowners typically don’t have to worry about sewer maintenance. Buy a home with a septic system, however, and those chores are all yours.

And, like all home maintenance tasks, ignore them and you may end up with a rather large repair bill.

In fact, the national average cost for septic system repair is $1,472

according to homeadvisor.com.

So, what’s involved in maintaining a septic system? Ongoing maintenance includes:

  • An annual inspection – A professional will check the system for, among other things, leaks, inspect the scum and sludge levels, check the effluent screens and inspect the mechanical and electrical components.
  • Pumping out the tank – every three to five years

The nationwide average cost of pumping or cleaning a 1,000-gallon septic tank is $378, according to homeadvisor.com.

On the flipside, you’ll save money by not having to pay the city for sewer services (and, possibly water since many homes on septic have well water)

We can ask the homeowner for a ballpark figure of how much he or she pays for septic system maintenance each year and then compare it to what comparable homeowners on city services pay.

Think you can put off taking care of the system?

You don’t really want to find out.

Left unchecked, a leaking septic tank can saturate the leach field. If the field floods, sewage may come to the surface. Most likely, however, it will come back into the house – to the bathtub or sink. Neither a pretty site nor a healthy situation.

Although you may be tempted to put off the system inspection, it’s not wise. You have no way of knowing if everything is working as it should and that the groundwater isn’t being contaminated.

Then, there’s the cost of replacing what you failed to maintain. If you need a new tank, it will cost between $600 and nearly $4,000, depending on size and material. Then, you’ll need to have it installed which will cost between $2,753 and $8,016, according to HomeAdvisor.

The cost of installing a new drain field varies, according to the problem that caused the failure. Plan on spending between $5,000 to $20,000.

Don’t let this scare you off

If you’ve fallen in love with a home that comes with a septic system, don’t let the maintenance requirements scare you away. As mentioned earlier, the annual costs may just beat what you’d pay to be on a city sewer.

We’ll order a septic inspection before you finalize the deal and bring problems found to the seller.

Then, decide that you’ll have the system inspected annually to prevent any large surprises and that you’ll have the tank pumped out every couple of years. This way, the cost of living off the city grid doesn’t have to be a huge surprise of a bill somewhere down the line.

Who Pays for Termite Inspections in FHA Loans?

Warning: We’re about to give you the creeps.

It’s termite swarming season – that time of year when subterranean termite populations within colonies reach the carrying capacity and they swarm out in search of new digs.

Although they may start out underground, a few strategically constructed and placed mud tubes will allow them entry into the home.

They can also gain access to the home through wood that is in contact with the soil. This includes porch steps and supports, doorframes, deck supports and more, according to the pros at Orkin.

Evidence of an infestation can throw a real estate transaction into turmoil. The homeowners may be clueless about it and it scares the daylights out of the buyer.

Termites aren’t a problem in many parts of the country, but if they are prevalent where you live, you’ll naturally want to have the home inspected by a pest control expert before purchasing. If you’re using an FHA-backed loan, get to know its policies when it comes to pest inspections.

What FHA has to say about it

While some states, such as Nevada, require pest inspections, the FHA only requires borrowers to order a pest inspection under any the following circumstances:

  • If the FHA appraiser sees evidence of an active infestation.
  • If state or local jurisdictions mandate the practice
  • If wood destroying pest inspections are customary in your area
  • If the lender requests one

So, what does the inspector look for?

 

  • The mud tubes mentioned earlier are one indication of an infestation. For several reasons (access to a food source is one), termites construct these tubes from the soil to wood. Sometimes the inspector has no trouble finding mud tubes. Sometimes, they are hidden inside walls, behind the homes baseboards, under the floors and behind walls.

Check out Orkin’s website to learn more about mud tubes and to see photos to help you identify them.

  • The inspector will also look for termite wings. Like moths, termites may cluster around light sources, so one sign of an infestation are their wings littering windowsills or stuck in cobwebs.
  • The inspector may check any wood structures on the property, such as fencing, wood mulch in the garden, firewood stacks and wooden structures.
  • Termite damage is a sure-fire sign of an infestation, so the inspector looks for evidence of such on wood surfaces, such as floors.

Who pays for the inspection?

Although FHA doesn’t care who pays for the inspection, and it is a negotiable item, whether the seller or the buyer traditionally pay for it varies by region.

Homebuyers who live in regions with a high probability of an infestation may want to make the inspection a contract contingency, requesting that the seller pay for it.

If, on the other hand, the lender demands an inspection, the buyer will typically pay for it. Again, this varies by region.

What if an infestation is found?

Termite reports are broken down into two parts, Section 1 and Section 2. The former includes a report of active infestation and damage — items that must be remedied now.

Section 2 items are those that may lead to an infestation in the future.

If you have any concerns about wood destroying pests in a home you are interested in purchasing, have the home inspected. The national average cost of the inspection is $537, according to homeadvisor.com.

The national average cost for termite treatment, however, varies according to the scope of the problem, the size of the home and other factors. Plan on paying between $1,150 and $3,300, according to costhelper.com.

Should you sell your current home or rent it out?

There is no one answer and many, many things to consider when deciding about whether to sell or rent out a house that no longer suits you.

First, I urge you to speak with your accountant or financial planner before doing anything else.

He or she will be able to help you determine if keeping the home to rent to a tenant is a sound financial move – whether or not is will produce positive cash flow. If it won’t, and you’ll be looking at a loss every month, consider selling the home.

But here are a few other things you may want to consider while waiting for your accountant to get back to you.

Condition of the home

Selling a home as-is isn’t quite as easy as you may think. If there are significant problems, a buyer’s lender may require them to be remedied before proceeding with the loan.

Even smaller problems may cause a significant reduction in the selling price and a lengthier sale process. Tenants are far more likely to overlook a home’s flaws than a potential buyer.

If you don’t have the funds to make repairs, renting the house out may be the best option, provided your financial counsellor agrees that all other considerations point to renting as well.

Can you tolerate being a landlord?

Now, if your home is in pristine condition and you have even a small emotional attachment to it, you may not want to rent it out. Tenants are notorious for not caring for homes as a homeowner does, allowing problems to fester without notifying the owner, causing additional damage.

Let’s face it, the mere act of living in a home can cause damage, from scuffed baseboards to burnt countertops and dead plants. If the thought of any of this damage breaks your heart, perhaps you should reconsider becoming a landlord.

Then, there is the routine home maintenance that you’ll be on the hook to perform, despite not living in the house. Guess who pays for the plumbing bill when the tenant’s child tries to flush his toys down the toilet?

If the roof leaks, the refrigerator dies or the HVAC unit needs repair, the onus is on you to set things right. If you lack the energy, desire or the funds to make repairs or replacements, landlording is not for you.

Your tolerance for risk

Becoming a landlord is a risky endeavor. What will you do if the rent is late or if it isn’t paid at all? Will you have the money to make the house payment?

Will you have the time and money to spend on protracted and stressful eviction proceedings? If not, you either shouldn’t become a landlord, or find the extra money to pay a professional property manager.

State and federal income taxes

I’m not a CPA, so, again, I urge you to contact yours. Taxes are complicated and become even more so when you own an investment property. I do know that there are many tax deductions for investment property owners, from being able to write off the interest associated with the mortgage to depreciation.

“The cost of repairs to rental property (provided the repairs are ordinary, necessary, and reasonable in amount) are fully deductible in the year in which they are incurred,” claims Stephen Fishman, J.D. at nolo.com.

Your tax professional can let you know what, if anything, has changed in the tax laws.

Selling the home

If you sell the home, you’ll be taking advantage of one of the best seller’s market in history. You’ll no doubt be pleasantly surprised when you learn how much the home worth right now.

Since you don’t need the money to purchase the new home, why not consider investing it for your future? Or, maybe take that family vacation you’ve been dreaming about?

Another real estate term defined: “Agency”

When you list your home for sale or buy a home with the help of a real estate agent, get ready to sign a whole pile of paperwork.

In most states, one of the first you’ll be asked to put your pen to is called the Agency Disclosure and we often see our clients sign it without reading and understanding it.

It’s rather boring, but you need to know what it means

In contract law, “agency” is a word used to describe the relationship created when one party, the principal, grants permission for another party, the agent, to act on his or her behalf (but under the principal’s control) to deal with a third party.

I see those eyes glazing over.

Here it is in English: You are the principal and your real estate agent’s broker is the agent.

“Wait, what about my real estate agent; isn’t he the agent?”

Yes, but not your agent. He or she is the broker’s agent.

Confused?

When you hire a real estate agent to help you sell or buy real estate, he or she is acting on behalf of the broker. You may never meet the broker, but she is, in reality, your agent.

Agents have duties

Agency relationships are fiduciary, meaning that they are based on trust and confidence. Your agent has a fiduciary duty to you to never breach your confidence.

One of the agent’s primary duties is loyalty—he or she is obligated to always act in your best interests, to the exclusion of all other interests. Keep this one in mind as we explore types of agency relationships, later on.

If you are buying a home, your agent has a duty to disclose the following, if it is known to her:

  • If the seller will accept less than the asking price
  • Why the homeowner is selling the home
  • Her estimation as to the value of the property
  • Whether the property is owned or co-owned by the broker or any of her relatives
  • The number of days the home has been on the market
  • Any information she has on other offers presented to the seller

As you might imagine, the seller’s agent has similar duties to his client.

What happens, then, if you go to a Sunday open house, fall in love with the house and you aren’t currently working with a real estate agent?

Will you sign up with the agent at the open house? If you do, this situation is known as dual agency – legal in some states, illegal in others. The agent must disclose to both buyer and seller that he or she is representing both of them.

Dual agency (in some states it is known as “designated agency”) can also occur when two agents from the same brokerage represent both the buyer and the seller.

The bottom line with this form of agency is that the agent’s duties are divided. Acting in his clients’ best interests, “to the exclusion of all other interests,” becomes challenging.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t enter into such a relationship. Take the time to check the agent’s qualifications. Seasoned, professional real estate agents are more likely to be able to handle the challenges inherent in dual agency situations.

When your agent passes the Agency Disclosure form across the table for your signature, take the time to read it and do ask questions about anything you don’t understand.

Learn more about the different types of agency relationships in real estate at realtor.org.

Location: The 3 “Rules” of Real Estate

Real estate has three primary rules:

  1. Location
  2. Location
  3. Location

When something has to be repeated three times for it to sink in, you know it’s an important issue. And, when it comes to determining a home’s value – now and in the future – location is king.

When real estate agents, lenders and appraisers talk about location, however, they aren’t just referring to whether the home sits on a sandy beach. There are many aspects they take into account when determining how a home’s particular location impacts its value.

Commute times

Studies in California show that the most expensive housing markets have the longest commute time.

In San Francisco, for instance, homes in and near “The City” are exorbitantly expensive, so most homebuyers need to buy in the surrounding suburbs in other counties. The average commute time there is “between 45 and 59 minutes,” according to RealtyTrac.

If you want a cheaper home in an expensive market, plan on a long commute, because this aspect of location – proximity to business and retails centers – makes for higher home values.

Proximity to schools

Parents of school-age children naturally gravitate to neighborhoods near quality school districts. These “in-demand” neighborhood homes, in turn, boast higher values than homes located near lesser-quality schools.

Quality, when it comes to local schools’ impact on home values, is typically determined by student test scores. In fact, “economists have estimated that within suburban neighborhoods, a 5 percent improvement in test scores can raise prices by 2.5 percent,” according to the New York Times’ Quoctrung Bui and Conor Dougherty.

The flip side, however, is that studies have found that the closer to the actual school the home is located, the lower the value. This is only natural when you consider the amount of noise and traffic generated by most schools.

The bottom line is that a decent home in a good school district will hold its value better than a comparable home located in a poor school district.

Homes located near open space are worth more

A few years ago, Katherine Kenyon Henderson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill submitted the results of her study of how open spaces impact home values. These spaces include parks, golf course and more.

She found that “open spaces have a statistically significant effect on a home’s sale price,” especially in areas where the homes have smaller backyards. Furthermore, the larger the space, the more value it adds.

The neighborhood’s proximity to commercial amenities

Contrary to popular belief, a new shopping center developed within a community does not negatively impact the value of the homes in closest proximity.

In fact, although a new commercial development does cause an immediate drop in value for homes closest to it (within a .75-mile radius), those values tend to rise by 1.3 percent each year.

Within four years after development, those homes have regained the lost value and more, according to Jonathan A. Wiley, Ph.D. with the Department of Real Estate at Georgia State University.

So, don’t let news of an impending commercial development in the area scare you away from the home of your dreams.

Other location attributes, such as crime, jobs and housing inventory all impact an area’s home values, but location is chief.

Here’s what to kick to the curb and what to keep before you sell your home

If you’ve chosen your listing agent wisely, he or she will determine the most likely buyer for your home and then laser-focus the marketing materials to that pool of buyers.

Various studies of what different types of buyers are seeking in a home help the agent figure out which of your home’s features will attract them.

Now, there’s one more survey to add to the arsenal and it was published at builderonline.com.

Overall, if your home offers better energy efficiency than your competition, expect it to be popular with potential buyers. Other turn ons for buyers include floor plans that can be personalized and a home that is easy to maintain.

All of these features are more in-demand than a home with the latest technology, according to the survey.

Interior features that repel homebuyers

When asked what they dislike most about their current homes, the majority of homebuyers report that the outdated features drive them nuts. In fact, these are the most common features they are fleeing:

  • Linoleum floors
  • Popcorn ceilings
  • Wood paneling
  • Ceramic tile countertops in the kitchen
  • Shag carpet
  • Avocado green appliances

Yes, I’m sure you love that wallpaper you put up in 1988, but buyers will hate it. The same goes for the “gold” bathroom faucets or those with plastic faux crystal handles.

Features buyers love

Wood flooring is still the overwhelming favorite among buyers, with 65 percent of those surveyed showing a preference for it. Internet connectivity (ethernet and USB ports) came in second, with 44 percent of respondents.

Surprisingly, 56 percent said they were willing to give up square footage in a home if it meant having a larger yard. And, across all demographics, the most important exterior feature of a home is “distance from neighboring homes.”

Broken down by generations, here are the home feature preferences:

Millennials

  • Whirpool tub
  • Home theater
  • Wine refrigerator or cellar
  • Dining room
  • Darker, richer wall color

Gen Xers

If you have a larger home in the suburbs, members of this cohort may be your buyer. Gen X homebuyers are seeking:

  • A detached single-family house.
  • A home with lots of square footage (the average, according to study respondents, is 2,315 square feet).
  • A single-level home, or one with the master bedroom on ground level.
  • A home near trails or other amenities to help them keep fit.

Baby boomers

  • A home with 2,000 to 2,999 square feet of living space.
  • Planned community with amenities and a resort-like vibe
  • A community with a diverse age range, or “stroller-to-walker,” Tammy Barry, director of marketing for a marina resort master-planned community near Chicago tells newhomesource.com’s Camilla McLaughlin.
  • Boomers seek low-maintenance homes with large rooms and plenty of storage. 

Even homeowners on tight budgets can make minor changes to the home to attract more interest.

Small changes, such as changing out dated kitchen and bathroom faucets, buying new panels for the front of your appliances and replacing dated flooring with something attractive yet inexpensive can make a world of difference.

Retiring and thinking of downsizing your home?

When the last time you bought a home was far enough back that your mortgage is paid off, or nearly so, can we give you some advice? A lot has changed in the real estate industry since the 1980s, in both the selling and buying process.

First, you’re no longer looking for areas with good schools for the kids or a strong job market for Mom and Dad. So, your priorities have changed as well and you have far more freedom now to live where you want and how you want.

It’s liberating, isn’t it?

If you’re considering downsizing your home, read on.

Right now, half of the “most viewed” articles on AARP’s website deal with romance, sex and vacations. Retirees — or those contemplating retirement — don’t have a one-track mind though.

When they aren’t reading about hooking up, or the birds and the bees, they think about their finances. And downsizing a home isn’t just a way to save on home maintenance costs but also a way to free up all that equity you’ve built up to use during your retirement.

Whether you’ll be shopping for another, albeit smaller, single-family house or a condo, downsizing doesn’t really differ that much between the two. Since it’s a major life event, however, it’s a bit scary, “like having an empty nest after the children leave,” says gerontologist Karen Owen-Lee.

Be that as it may, baby boomers are a hardy bunch and it takes a lot to frighten them off what they truly want. In fact, of the 14 percent of Americans age 65 and older who say they plan on moving in the next five years, 67 percent say their priority is to move to a smaller home.

My best advice to you is to first consult with your accountant or financial adviser before taking any concrete steps toward that new future. Armed with his or her good advice you’re in a far better position to make this move, sans the emotions.

Then, you’ll need to consider whether you want to try to time the sale of your current home with the purchase of the new one. It’s a tricky process but we’re happy to walk you through it.

Consider the advantages and disadvantages

With the home paid off, you’re in a far better financial position than many retirees but you should still consider the costs of selling a home. You’ll pay real estate fees, perhaps concessions to the buyer and mortgage fees. These can add up to a big chunk of money.

The advantages to downsizing, however, may just offset those costs

First, if you don’t pay cash for the new home, you’ll have a mortgage payment. Since you’ll be buying a smaller home, however, your payments may be far lower than they were when you had a mortgage on the current home.

And, because the home will be smaller, you’ll save money on utility bills and, if you choose a condo, home maintenance chores may be picked up by the HOA.

But, before you can make a plan for the future, you’ll need to consider both sides of the issue, the good and the bad.

Yes, there are disadvantages

In a perfect universe there would be perfect timing in all that we do. Selling your current home would coincide with a hot sellers’ market which would magically morph into an equally fiery buyers’ market when you look for the new home.

Ah, that dratted universe – nothing is perfect

And, the late Steven Hawking agrees. “One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist … without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist,”

The upside to this, however, is that one of the markets will prevail so you are ensured of saving money on at least one of your transactions.

Next, consider that condo living offers many advantages (low maintenance, amenities you might not find in a single family home community, etc.) but it has drawbacks as well. Chief among these are the HOA fees and any special assessments which may crop up in the future.

It’ll work with a good plan

My advice is to plan on selling your home as soon as possible. We are still in one of the best sellers’ markets we’ve seen in decades, but interest rates may hike again this year, locking many buyers out of the market.

To make the most money possible on the sale of your current home, get it on the market soon

Then, to really get the most bang for your home-buying buck, consider moving to a less expensive community. AARP’s Shelley Emling compared the “best places to retire” cities from both Forbes and USA Today and found that both lists had three cities in common:

  • Iowa City, Iowa
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Columbia, Missouri

Both publications’ rankings used a variety of criteria, but of the three, the city for retirees on a tight budget appears to be Iowa City.

There, you’ll pay no state income tax on your Social Security income and receive a tax break on what your pension brings in. The median home price there, by the way, is $204,000, according to Emling.

Downsizing, coupled with a move to a less expensive city or even a cheaper community right here in our hometown, may just mean all the difference, financially, during your retirement.

When considering downsizing, it’s important to consider not only the type of neighborhood and home in which you want to live, but the financial aspects of the move as well.

Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to seek counsel from your financial planner or accountant before making any decisions. Then, call me and we’ll get started on the real estate part of your plan.

 

Don’t make these 5 common home staging mistakes

Although DIY home staging may seem an easy project, we see several common mistakes when homeowners make the attempt. Most go about the process as if it were just a matter of rearranging furniture or redecorating.

There’s a lot more to home staging than that, however. The most important aspect is of it is knowing who your most likely buyer will be and then appealing to his or her emotions.

Take a look at the five most common staging mistakes we see so you can avoid them if you plan on going the DIY route.

Mistake number 1: Not cleaning before you stage

There’s a difference between routine house cleaning and cleaning for staging. The latter is a deep clean and serves as the background for the staging. Professional housecleaners suggest that you move around the house, cleaning from the ceiling to the floor, so that you don’t miss any spots.

“Dust and wipe down the baseboards, clean the vents, bleach the grout in your shower, and polish the hardware in your kitchen and bathrooms,” suggests the experts at MHM Professional Staging in Orlando, Florida.

A deep clean also sends a subliminal message to potential buyers that the home is well-cared for and helps them imagine living in the space.

Mistake No. 2: Leaving the wrong furniture in place

Too much (or too big) furniture makes rooms appear cluttered.

“Trying to put too much furniture in one space makes it look smaller than it really is,” Joanna Gaines tells HGTV’s Judy Dutton.

“Try to stick with three large pieces at most per room to keep the house feeling big and open.”

Then, ensure that what’s left in each room advertises the room’s purpose. This means no baby changing table in the home office and ridding the master bedroom of the treadmill.

Mistake number 3: Neglecting to stage storage areas

While the home is on the market, its storage spaces should be highlighted. Remove bulky winter clothes and blanket from closets and cupboards, organize the pantry and store excess linens to make the linen cupboard appear roomy.

“Potential buyers will definitely want to know how much storage space your home has, so no closet will be safe for concealing messes. If you’re in a pinch, a last-ditch effort to hide a mess is under a bed,” according to Gaines.

Mistake No. 4: Ignoring the garage

A National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) study finds that more than half of the homebuyers they surveyed find a home with a garage “essential” or “desirable.”

A 2017 National Association of Realtors survey resulted in learning that more than 30 percent of homebuyers think the garage is the most important room in the home. Baby boomers, in fact, care more about the garage than the living room.

Get ideas for your garage at realtor.com

Mistake number 5: Assuming buyers won’t notice your lack of curb appeal

The exterior of your home can make or break your bottom line. It’s the home’s first impression and, believe me, if potential buyers don’t like what they see from the curb, they’ll drive on to the next home on their lists.

Start with the exterior walls. Sometimes powerwashing is all it takes to make them sparkle. If the home needs new paint, however, you can look forward to an average 43 percent return on your financial investment in the process, according to homegain.com.

Then, turn your attention to the landscaping. “Simple touches like making sure the lawn is freshly cut, power-washing the driveway, or putting a few freshly potted plants on the front porch can make a big impact,” says Gaines.

Staging your home, inside and out, is a wise move. But don’t make common mistakes that might negate all your hard work.

 

Should I sell my home as-is?

Ah, the need for speed in a real estate deal – we’re quite familiar with it. From clients who’ve taken a job out of town with an impatient employer to the need to sell a deceased family member’s home, “Should I sell my house as-is” is a common question.

There are also the clients who tell us they aren’t the best at maintenance and have, sadly, let the home go over the years and they now need to sell, with neither the time nor the money to make needed repairs.

Let’s take a look at some of the issues you should consider before trying to sell the house in as-is condition.

Price considerations

A recent study finds that most homebuyers – especially first-time buyers – want a home that they can move right into and hang up their toothbrush. And, they say they are willing to pay more for such a home.

Face it: many of the competing homes in your area will be closer to this condition than yours if you choose not to make improvements and/or repairs.

Unless your home is priced low enough to compensate the buyer for what he or she will need to spend to bring it to comparable condition, it will sit on the market.

So, if your budget can tolerate a very low listing price, you’ve passed the first challenge of trying to sell as-is.

Lenders have their preferences too

Should you find a buyer who is using a government-backed loan program, such as the VA or FHA, the lender will have a thing or two to say about your home’s condition.

Typically, it’s “fix it or we won’t loan the money to the buyer.” You can almost guarantee this for problems of a health or safety nature.

Considering that the VA grants almost a half-million mortgages a year and the FHA is the preferred program for first-time buyers, that’s a lot of people to exclude from the buyer pool

The FHA-approved appraiser will be the one to determine what needs to be fixed before the home qualifies for an FHA-program buyer. Repairs listed as essential on his or her report are the ones to be most concerned about.

Even a conventional lender may balk at making a loan for your home if the repairs needed include HVAC, roof or structural problems. Some will require that broken window glass be repaired and ask that any code violations in existence be remedied.

By the way, some home insurance companies are also asking for repairs before they will insure the home for the new owner.

Come up with a strategy

Again, it’s understandable that some fixes are just too expensive for some sellers to manage. For these, we can suggest the FHA 203(k) program in our marketing materials.

With this program, FHA will wrap the cost of the home and the cost of rehab in one loan, so the buyer has only one payment a month. There are other rehab mortgages out there as well.

You’ll also want to consider how you’ll deal with the very low offers you’ll receive. The mere mention of the words “as-is” act as a magnet to investors and flippers. Know the lowest price you’ll accept and remind yourself to keep your emotions in check and to not take lowball offers personally.

Finally, despite the problems with the home, the one way you can help boost the price, even a small amount, is to ensure that it’s clean at all times.

If your home will be vacant, consider some inexpensive staging techniques to help buyers overcome the as-is aspect of the sale.

When a home is neat and tidy (both inside and out) it sends a subliminal message to potential buyers that someone does care about the home.

Getting ready to sell? Depersonalize and get rid of clutter first

Think back to a time when you, or someone you know, sold or traded in a car. There was some work to do before advertising it for sale or taking it to the car lot, right? It’s a rare car seller who’ll leave all the fast-food wrappers, empty plastic water bottles and crumbs left behind by the kids.

Why?

Because a clean car gives off an impression of being well-maintained.

It’s the same thing with houses. Sadly, cleaning and decluttering a car about to go on the market is a routine task, doing the same for homes isn’t.

Yet a home is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars more than a car.

First, get rid of the clutter

Scientific studies show that clutter causes anxiety in people who view it. Not a good state for a homebuyer to be in, and reason enough to get rid of excess “stuff” in the home.

If you have a lot of it, the process may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to. Remember the old advice on how to eat an elephant (one bite at a time) and apply it to getting rid of the clutter in your home.

In this case, take it one room at a time. Try to do the entire home in one day and you’ll most likely get frustrated and lose the mojo needed to complete the job, according to professional organizer Nicole Anzia.

“It’s much better to spend a few hours — 2 or 3 — on one project or space. This way you’ll feel motivated to do more, not be burned out by the process,” she tells Apartmenttherapy.com’s Catrin Morris.

For those who burn out quickly, Anzia suggests doing one room at a time, “in 30-minute bursts … work for 30 minutes, take a half-hour break, then work for another 30.”

When tackling clutter, pay close attention to any collections you may have. Too many items in a room makes it appear cluttered and distracting to buyers.

Depersonalizing comes next

Actually, you may end up doing a lot of the “depersonalization” while you’re getting rid of clutter.

In a nutshell, depersonalizing a home involves removing anything of an overly-personal nature.

Think about model homes in new-home communities. These homes are carefully staged to appeal to the broadest number of buyers and they are decidedly depersonalized.

You want buyers to be able to imagine themselves living in the home, with their furniture and their belongings.

Some of what you should remove and store includes:

  • Excess family photos
  • Framed diplomas, degrees and awards
  • Extra toys
  • Magazines and professional journals
  • Craft items
  • Anything on the refrigerator doors
  • Anything that sits on the kitchen and bathroom counters that isn’t decorative
  • Mail
  • Paperwork
  • Anything of a religious or political nature
  • Sports memorabilia

Depersonalization doesn’t just include removing overly-personal items from the home. Consider repainting walls that are currently painted in a bright or odd color and getting rid of odors from cooking, pets, babies and smokers.

Don’t go overboard in depersonalizing the home, however. Leave some traces of your personal statement so that buyers get an idea of the lifestyle the home offers.