Bed bug basics and how to get them out of your home

You may think we have enough to worry about this summer with a world that’s gone just a bit nuts. It is still spinning, however, and whether we like it or not summer is on our doorstep, along with the various pests it brings with it. This includes bed bugs, according to the folks at DC Scientific Pest Control.

“Peak season for bed bugs is from June through October,” they say and look for them to be particularly active, feeding and breeding during this period.

The bed bug, in a nutshell

The most important thing to know about bed bugs is that they’re parasites and they feed on blood. They’re somewhat species-specific, too. The one that loves our blood is Cimex lectularius, found world-wide.

Bed bugs are similar in appearance to ticks. They are reddish-brown in color and are “… about the size and shape of an apple seed,” according to the experts at Terminix. They go on to say that the bed bug may be flat or bloated, “… depending on whether they’ve fed recently.”

The female bed bug continuously lays eggs (if she is feeding regularly), several eggs every day. Thankfully, she’ll only live a couple of months (typical life span is six to 10 months), but then her offspring take off where she left off.

They are primarily nocturnal and require three conditions under which to feed:

  • Darkness
  • Warm temperatures
  • Carbon dioxide

What does a bite look like?

“Unfortunately, you can’t identify the bug by the appearance of the bite,” say the folks at Terminix. “Bed bug bites can resemble bites from chiggers, fleas and other insects. They can also be confused with skin conditions, such as hives, eczema or even fungal infections.”

If you wake up with a bug bite (or several), especially on areas of the body that are exposed while sleeping (face, arms, shoulders), check your sheets and pillow cases for blood spots, feces and cast-off bed bug skins. Bed bug feces, by the way, are tiny (about the size of a flea egg) and black or rust-colored.

How to find bed bugs in the home

The most logical place to start your hunt for bed bugs is near the bed. Check “… near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard,” suggests the experts at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

From there, inspect other areas of the home, including:

  • Between sofa cushions
  • In the seams of upholstered furniture
  • Drapery folds
  • Where the wall meets the ceiling
  • Electrical outlets
  • Drawer joints
  • Under wall hangings
  • Clothing
  • Baseboards
  • Carpet

“Since bed bugs are only about the width of a credit card, they can squeeze into really small hiding spots,” according to the EPA. “If a crack will hold a credit card, it could hide a bed bug.”

How to rid the home of bed bugs

The folks at the EPA caution that it is important to keep the infestation from spreading further. Do this by removing infested items and sealing them in plastic. If the item can’t be treated, it must remain in the plastic for up to one year to ensure all bed bugs, and their offspring, are dead.

When purchasing a pesticide to treat the infestation, ensure that it is not only EPA-registered, but labeled for the treatment of bed bugs.

Find control and treatment tips online at

We recommend hiring a professional pest control company.

Bed bugs are brilliant hitchhikers, so regardless of how impeccably clean your home is, if you travel, use public transportation, frequent laundromats or buy used furniture, you risk an infestation.

How’d they come up with THAT price?

On the face of it, there seems to be no rhyme or reason that home prices are rising and how quickly they’re rising.

Right now, the main reason for this seemingly uncontrollable rise is supply and demand. There are just not enough homes for sale for the amount of buyers in the market.

Whenever anything is in short supply, yet demand is high, it becomes more valuable.

Although mortgage rates are ticking back up as of this writing, they’ve been at record lows. Cheap money draws people into the market.

These factors are two among several other reasons homes are so expensive right now. If you’re in the market to buy, it pays to understand the how and why behind a seller’s pricing strategy.

Let’s take a look at some of the more important factors when it comes to deciding the price of a house.

The Impact of Location: A Lot More Than Just Crime Rates

There are general factors that influence the price of any particular house, such as the economy, the number of foreclosures in the area and current available housing inventory.

Then there are more specific factors, such as environmental aspects and location that may affect, positively or negatively, a home’s value.

The location of a house, above all else, determines its value. “Location” refers not only to region, but also to the neighborhood, the street and even to the location of the lot within the neighborhood.

Homes in regions with steady job growth and rising incomes tend to be worth more than those in areas with stagnant or negative growth. In beach communities, houses with ocean views are worth more than those without. Houses on cul-de-sacs are more in demand than those on busy streets.

A home located near a landfill will depreciate in value much more quickly than one further away, according to Brian Johnson of the Pima County Assessor’s Office.

Location, therefore, encompasses many aspects. Additional location considerations impacting the value of a house include:

  • nearby restaurants and shopping centers
  • proximity to highways or freeways
  • size of the lot
  • traffic issues
  • transit systems
  • zoning issues

A neighborhood’s crime rates do have a bearing on home values. With the advent of the National Sex Offender Registry, created by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2005, home buyers have an easier time of determining the number of convicted sex offenders living near a home they may be interested in purchasing.

Not only is this important information for your personal safety, but homes within one-tenth of a mile of a sexual predator’s residence are worth 9 percent less than those further away, and take 10 percent longer to sell, according to researchers at Longwood University.

While most residents are aware of the crime ridden areas of their city, newcomers are not, so databases such as this, and a phone call to the local police department, can provide the statistics needed to make a better-informed purchasing decision.


While it goes without saying that a well-maintained home is worth more than a fixer-upper, appraisers take far more into consideration when checking a home’s condition.

A home that has been updated, with energy-saving windows and appliances will be worth more than the house next door that hasn’t been updated.

Certain remodeling features add value as well, such as bathrooms and updated kitchens. In an area with older homes, those with updated wiring and plumbing have added value.

A neighbor’s home also has an impact on the value of those around it. A homeowner can sink thousands of dollars into home improvements but if Jack next door has a rusting auto carcass and dying trees in his front yard, all houses on the block suffer, in terms of lower values.

Time of Year

Real estate sales are seasonal, so when you shop for a home may have an impact on its price.

You may hear that the best time of year to buy a home is spring. Remember, that’s when there are the most buyers in the market, so it’s actually the second best time to sell, not buy.

Another good time of the year to sell a home is summer. Most families wait until after the school year ends to make a major move, so homes tend to sell much more quickly and for higher prices in the summer.

But that means competition for buyers. While spring is when neighborhoods tend to look their best, with everything in bloom, winter provides the best opportunity to get a bargain on your home purchase.

If a seller is motivated enough to place his home on the market in the winter, especially around the holidays, he may just be motivated enough to negotiate on price.

Granted, you will need to be able to look beyond bleak landscaping, but, aside from a good price, you’ll face less competition.

These are just a few things to keep in mind when home shopping. If you need to buy or sell now, reach out to us for some money-saving/making tips.


Inspect your deck to keep family and friends safe this summer

It’s about that time of year when homeowners’ attention turns to summer and in which home maintenance tasks are the most pressing.

Typically, the list includes replacing HVAC filters, cleaning out the gutters, cleaning up debris around the property and more.

It’s not enough, however, to give your deck a good sweeping and maybe a fresh coat of varnish. If you’ll be entertaining on it this spring and summer you should also do a safety check.


A wood deck typically lasts between 10 and 15 years, claims the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission. They also say that about half of the 40 million decks attached to U.S. homes are older than their life expectancy.

Sadly, ignoring repair or replacement of decks results in nearly 225,000 injuries and more than 30,000 of these were the result of a collapse or other structural failure.

Let’s walk through the type of deck inspection that the experts recommend.

Inspect the condition of the wood

Weather does a number on wood, causing decay and splitting. Walk around and under the deck, paying close attention to the wood, especially those spots attached to the house.

This is where the ledger board is located. “The ledger provides much of a deck’s strength; it supports the joists at one end, and it provides stiffness to the framing,” according to the folks at

It’s the ledger board that is among the most common sources of deck collapse, according to the National Deck and Railing Association.

They also recommend checking “the support posts and joists under the deck (if you can reach them), deck boards, railings and stairs.”

Not all damage is visible, however, so take a screwdriver with you on your inspection tour. Poke the wood in various areas and if it feels spongy, it may be either decayed or have a pest infestation.

Then, insert the screwdriver into any cracks you come across. Natalie Rodriguez of This Old House magazine suggests that if you can push the screwdriver more than ¼-inch into a crack, or if the wood splinters, there is decay or rot.

Check the connectors

Next, tour the deck with a hammer in hand. Use it to lightly tap on bolts. A hollow sound indicates that the connector may need to be tightened. While you’re tapping, look for rust or corrosion.

Experts with the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors warn that corroding fasteners cause decay and deterioration of surrounding wood.

Inspect the banisters, balusters, railings and stairs

Many homeowners confuse the difference between the banisters and the balusters. The former is the handrail on a stairway while the latter are the vertical structures that support the banister.

Shake the banisters to ensure they don’t wiggle then visually inspect the balusters to be certain there is no decay and that they are securely attached.

Finally, measure the railing. It should be at least 3-feet high and the balusters should be no more than 4 inches apart.

Other risks to the deck

Is the home’s irrigation system hitting the deck? This is a major source of wood decay, so redirect the sprinkler heads to ensure they aren’t wetting the deck. Do the same with the home’s downspouts – redirect them so that no moisture reaches the deck.

Wet landscape plants in contact with the wood deck promote mildew, so keep it cut back during the growing season.

Wrap up the safety inspection by applying a fresh coat of weatherproofing.

Now you can relax into those spring and summer soirees, knowing that everyone who uses the deck is safe.

House Hunting: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Choices – it’s great to have them but challenging to narrow them down. Whether choosing between where to have dinner, which movie to see or something as important as where to live, making up our minds is sometimes quite difficult.

House hunting is either feast or famine: sometimes there are no homes that you like, other times, there may be too many that offer exactly what you want. So, how do you “say yes to one and let the other one ride,” as the Lovin’ Spoonful so aptly put it back in 1966?

Here are some factors to consider when weighing one choice against the other.

Mortgage Costs and Financial Considerations

One of the biggest mistakes people make when buying a home is assuming their monthly mortgage payment is the only financial outlay required when owning a home. The cost of homeownership includes more than the payment – sometimes much more. Consider these additional costs:

  • Association, neighborhood or condo fees
  • Electricity, water and other utilities
  • Homeowner insurance
  • Repair costs
  • Maintenance, such as landscaping, pool service, etc.

TIP: Compare the real costs of owning the houses in question. One may just price itself out of the decision-making process.

The Basics: Location, Structure and Design

Think back to when you first decided to buy a home. While price was most likely your biggest concern, location may have factored into your concerns as well. Many homebuyers end up compromising on location, veering away from their original intent.

TIP: Compare the locations of the houses in question. Which one fits your original intent? Are you compromising on location when you don’t have to? Go over this list and remind yourself of which aspects of location are most important to you:

  • Commuting distance
  • Future nearby development projects
  • Local crime
  • Local economy
  • Neighborhood age and cleanliness
  • Neighborhood traffic noise
  • Property values
  • Proximity to shops, hospitals and schools
  • Nearby features that may drag down property values, such as a landfill

The structural integrity of the house is also extremely important when you choose a home. While it may seem beautiful, if it isn’t well built, home maintenance costs could cripple a new owner’s finances. Here’s another opportunity to compare houses. Which one is more structurally sound?

Something has equally attracted you to more than one home and typically, that something is design.

TIP: What design elements do the two homes have in common and which house presents those elements better? Look at the floor plans and picture yourself using them. Is one more functional than the other? Are there odd shaped rooms that may end up driving you crazy?

Don’t Go Changin’. . .

Still stuck? Ask yourself what you would change about each house, if finances were not a consideration. Allow your imagination free reign on this one and you may find that one house edges out the other.

While we don’t advise you to go with your gut or flip a coin when deciding which house to buy, in the end, it may come down to emotion.

On one level you’re making an investment decision — but you’re also choosing something very emotional ― a home. When all the priorities are examined, and all the pros and cons of each choice are considered, whether or not a house feels like home is an important consideration.

We’re happy to help you find the perfect home in the ideal location.

How to grow better roses this summer

Roses aren’t as difficult to grow as many beginning gardeners assume. The key to growing better roses in the summer is to choose varieties that are proven to do well in our climate.

Keep in mind as well that some roses are more tolerant of cold while others can handle the heat better. There are even a few shade-tolerant varieties (floribundas in pastel colors is an example).

The most challenging time of year for roses is during the heat of summer. Knowing how to care for them during this period will keep them gorgeous and healthy all year long.

Keep the soil insulated

Mulch is like a wonder drug in the landscape. Spread a 3-inch layer of it around the rose (keep it from touching the plant to avoid rot) and you’ll not only insulate the roots from heat, but conserve soil moisture as well.

“The mulch will keep the roots 10 to 15 degrees cooler then the air temperature,” claims rosarian Leonard Trubisky.

How much water to give roses in summer

The biggest favor you can do for your roses is to water them deeply and keep the water off the foliage to avoid mildew.

To determine how much water to provide, stick a length of rebar into the soil. If you hit dry soil (you’ll know because it will become more difficult to push the rod into the soil), pull it out and measure how far it was inserted before it stopped. If it’s not two feet, keep watering and measuring until you hit that depth.

Then, wait until the top two inches of soil is dry to the touch before watering again. It is critical that you neither over- or under-water the roses during the heat of summer.

Get rid of faded blooms

Certain roses don’t require deadheading (the removal of dead or faded blooms) to continue blooming. Known as self-cleaning roses, this group includes the popular The Knock Out® family of roses.

If you need to deadhead, do it consistently throughout the summer. Cut the stem with a faded flower back to a cluster of five leaves, making the cut so that the cluster remains on the plant. Choose a cluster that is facing the direction you want the stem to grow.

Fertilizing roses in summer

Heat and fertilizer don’t mix and you may end up with a burnt rose bush if you fertilize in the middle of a hot day.

Since many rosarians suggest that July 31 should be the final fertilization for the year, many gardeners run into trouble. It’s hot in July!

If this is the case for you, apply fertilizer to your roses early in the evening or morning, before the weather heats up.

Use half the amount you normally do. If you’re new to roses, a 10-10-10 or 5-10-5 general purpose fertilizer is fine. Never apply fertilizer to dry soil and thoroughly water the soil around the roses after fertilization.

This is basic summer rose-growing advice and if you need more information, turn to the experts of the American Rose Society.

Mortgage terms every first-time homebuyer needs to know

Like anything you do for the first time, you’re about to encounter a whole new vocabulary when you purchase a home.

Sure, you’ve likely heard some of these terms, but whether or not you know what they mean is an entirely different matter. We’ve broken down some of the most commonly confused terms you’ll encounter when pursuing a mortgage.

Closing Costs

Closing costs are just what they sound like – the cost to close the purchase process.

These fees range from origination fees, notary fees, local taxes and others and some are negotiable.

Your lender will send you a form, known as a Loan Estimate, within three days of receiving your application. This form contains important information, including estimated closing costs. Use this form to compare this lender’s costs to other lenders when shopping for a mortgage.

Down payment

Most first-time homebuyers understand that unless they’re paying cash for a home they will need a down payment. The confusion centers around who is making this requirement.

Hint: it’s not the home seller.

Indeed, this is a lender requirement and the amount you’ll need to pay varies according to the risk factor you present to the lender. USDA Rural Development and the Veterans Administration require no down payment for the loans they guarantee.

FHA offers low down payment options to certain borrowers.

You may also find that you qualify for municipal, state and federal down payment assistance programs. Work closely with your lender to find all the help you’re entitled to.


Think of “escrow” as a special type of account administered by a disinterested third party (typically an escrow officer) in which all the documents and monies pertaining to the real estate transaction are kept until closing.

Some of the items kept in an escrow account include the buyer’s earnest money deposit and the deed. There is also commonly a second escrow account in which the lender keeps your tax and insurance payments until they are due.


This is your monthly loan payment and it stands for what is included in your payment: principal, interest, taxes and insurance.


You may hear people refer to “buying down” their mortgage rate. What they are referring to is the payment of points, or percentage points of the loan amount.

If you plan on living in the home for a long time, paying a point up front will save you money.


You may hear this referred to as “collateral,” and the words mean the same thing but “security” is more often used in mortgage transactions. The home you are purchasing is the security for the loan.

In other words, if you go upside down in your mortgage payments, the lender reserves the right to take the security (your home).

Title insurance

Since the home is the security for the loan, the lender will want to ensure that nobody else has a claim on it.

A title insurance company will research the chain of title to make sure there are no liens or heirs that may pop up down the line with a claim to the title. The title insurance policy is a guarantee against this occurring.

We aren’t lenders, so if you’re confused about any mortgage terms, don’t be afraid to ask your lender for an explanation. Most are happy to help.

Spruce up your patio this weekend

Whether you beckon your summer guests outdoors for alfresco cocktails or an entire meal, if your patio isn’t up to snuff, they’ll notice.

This is the ideal time to give the spot a refresh or transform it into something worthy of starring on a magazine cover. And, the good news is that doing so only takes a day or two and if you shop carefully, the project won’t break the bank.

Get rid of everything

No, we aren’t talking about dragging it all out the curb for the trash guys to pick up.

Move everything off the patio so you can start the process with a clean slate. And, “clean,” by the way, is the operative word. Get rid of cobwebs, leaves and other trash that blew in over the winter and hose down or power-wash the area.

Then, take a look at the items you removed and determine what you’ll return to the patio and what goes away.

Under foot

Designing your patio décor is a lot like determining how you’ll decorate the interior of the home. Some of the same elements should be considered:

  • Lighting
  • Color
  • Texture
  • Accessories

“Ground your space and give it an instant dose of personality with an outdoor rug designed to withstand the elements,” suggests the experts at Geometric prints, bold colors provide “maximum impact against outdoor greenery,” they conclude.

Patterns and colors shouldn’t be your only guide, however. Try to tie all of your décor elements together. For instance, a round rug looks best under round tables. If you have other types of seating, choose a rectangular rug.

“Around an outdoor dining table, you should be able to pull out all of the chairs and have the chair legs remain on the rug,” according to’s rug-buying guide. A rule of thumb is for the rug to be a minimum of 2-feet wider than the table, on all sides.


Al fresco entertaining is even more interesting in the evening. Make your patio glow with attractive lighting, such as lanterns, candles, torches or, our favorites, string lights.

If you go with the latter, the pros suggest you take into account the total space of your patio before settling on a particular string of lights.

“Larger bulbs have a bigger presence and higher wattage,” according to the pros at, so are better suited to a large patio. The smaller light strings help create a cozy vibe on a smaller patio.

What better way to get ready for summer than with some budget-friendly do-it-yourself projects that will take just a weekend (or less) to achieve? Your patio will be summer-ready, and as a bonus, you may just fall in love with it all over again.

Add life to the space

Greenery and flowers add the final touch to your patio makeover. The pros at offer five ways to decorate the patio with container-grown plants.

Our favorite is the grouping method. “Group containers — tall, medium and small ones — to make a stunning deck focal point.” With the taller containers, use the “thriller, filler, spiller” theme.

The thriller— plants with height—go in the back of the container. Fillers go in the middle, while spillers, or trailing plants, spill over the front of the container. Get tips and ideas at

A few accessories, such as a fountain, lanterns or candles on the table and perhaps some statues and you’re all set.

Find additional inspiration online at:

3 Ways to get your credit ready for buying a home

Probably the least fun part of buying a house are those first steps. Shopping for a lender, applying for a mortgage and waiting to find out how much you can afford to spend on that new house is tedious – especially when all you really want to do is look at houses for sale.

Unfortunately, this is a task that must be taken care of upfront, before looking at what’s on the market. If your credit is ready before taking the step, you’ll be far more successful in obtaining a mortgage with an attractive rate, saving you money on your house payment.

Take the following steps as soon as you decide you’d like to buy a home.

1. Make bill payments on time

One of the worst things you can do is pay bills late or, even more disastrous, not at all. Both will impact your credit score and thus your ability to obtain a mortgage.

“Your FICO Score considers late payments using these general criteria; how recent the late payments are, how severe the late payments are, and how frequently the late payments occur,” caution the experts at

Don’t allow any bills to be sent to a collection agency; “… it is considered a significant event with regard to your score and will likely have a severe negative impact.”

If an unexpected financial emergency comes up, contact the creditor. Let them know your situation and ask if there is a way you can avoid a late payment on your credit.

Your payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO score, so be diligent in paying your bills.

2. Don’t apply for new credit

Keep credit card balances low and pay all credit card bills before they’re due. If you can, make additional payments to bring down the balances.

Avoid applying for a new credit card. Why? Lenders are wary of borrowers who take on additional debt and if you apply for credit, the signal that you’re sending is that you will use it and, thus, rack up additional debt.

While FICO only considers new credit applications for the past 12 months, they account for 10% of your credit score.

New accounts also have an impact on “… your length of credit history.” FICO uses your “… oldest account and the average of all your accounts.” Opening a new account decreases the average age.

The exception to this rule is for the consumer with a spotty credit record. “If you can prove to lenders that you can pay your bills on time, this will help increase your score in the long run,” claim the experts.

And, by the way, credit inquiries remain on your credit record for two years.

3. Lower your debt-to-income ratio

When your mortgage application gets to the underwriter, he or she will examine your debt-to-income ratio (DTI).

Simply, this is a calculation of your income and debt that tells the underwriter how much money comes in and how much goes out every month. Borrowers with a high DTI (more than 43%) present a bigger risk to lenders.

Calculate yours with these tips from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. To lower your DTI, either decrease your debt, raise your income or do both. Find some additional tips on how to lower your DTI at

AC on the blink? How to hire a HVAC company

How’s your HVAC system? Specifically, the cooling aspect of it?

Checking your air conditioning system now is a good idea; you’ll have a chance to remedy any problems before the weather starts heating up this summer. Even if all that’s needed is a tune up, the time for action is now.


“The cost to replace an HVAC system averages $7,000, with a typical range of $5,000 to $10,000,” say the pros at

And, as you can imagine, the most expensive time of year for hiring HVAC technicians is when they’re busiest: the summer.

Be prepared

Check your system for labels that list the model number. Jot that number down for the contractors that you interview.

Next, learn about state requirements for HVAC contractors, including licensing and insurance.

Finally, run the system for about an hour (if it’s in working condition) and check each room of the home, making note of rooms that don’t appear to be cooling as well as others.

Find contractors to interview

Referrals are always the best way to find a good contractor. Ask neighbors, people you work with, friends and family who they recommend.

You might also find referrals if you’re a member of your neighborhood at Create a post asking specifically for referrals to good AC contractors.

Finally, don’t waste time interviewing companies with bad reviews. Check each one on your list by reading the reviews at Yelp and, on Google, search for “HVAC companies” or “air conditioning technicians” in your town and those reviewed by Google appear in three boxes at the top of the search results page.

Finally, head on over to the Better Business Bureau’s website to see if there are complaints against any of the companies on your list.

Make appointments with A/C technicians

When making an appointment with AC company representatives to visit your home, ask them to bring with them the following:

  • List of references
  • Copy of their state license
  • Proof of bonding and insurance
  • Proof of certification to handle refrigerants

During the home visit

The experts at suggest that “… the contractor should spend significant time inspecting your current system.”

This includes checking the duct system for leaks and inspecting your current system’s “… airflow to make sure it meets manufacturers specifications.”

Finally, request that the itemized estimate be in writing and that it should include not only the cost of the work to be performed, but model number of the equipment they will be installing (if applicable).

Request as well that the estimate include a schedule for the project and any warranty information for equipment to be installed.

Making the final decision

Before deciding on a company, call the supplied references for each one. Ask each customer the following questions, in addition to any that you may have after the interview:

  • Was the job completed on time?
  • Did the project go over budget?
  • Was the completion of the project to your satisfaction?
  • Were there any significant problems?

When you finally choose a HVAC contractor, go over the proposal or contract thoroughly, ensuring all of your requests are included.

Summer is almost upon us, so ensure that your home will offer shelter from the heat by fixing air conditioning problems now.

Selling a Home is NOT a DIY Project

No, I’m not going to tell you that “You’ll never be able to sell your home without a real estate agent.”

And, yes, the topic of this blog post may seem self-serving. After all, helping homeowners sell their properties is what I do for a living.

What I will explain is what goes into a home sale—especially its unique qualities that, unlike selling a car or anything else—make it entirely unsuitable for a DIY project.

The DIY process is tainted

If you’ve ever purchased a used car from the owner, instead of from an automobile dealership, you are familiar with some of the same fears many of your potential buyers will have. Especially if you refuse to pay a buyer’s agent commission, homebuyers will be reluctant to work with you.

Their fears are that because you aren’t a professional, but a complete stranger, you lack the ethics that a REALTOR is bound by.

Is the home a “lemon?” They’ll wonder if you’re disclosing everything you know about the home and the neighborhood.

Your inexperience may frighten off some of the best buyers for your home.

DIY home evaluation

There are two critical aspects of every home sale, presentation (how your home is presented to potential homebuyers) and price. Do you know how the market value of a home is determined? And, if so, where will you get the data required to figure out how much your home is worth?

Many homeowners mistakenly turn to the large online real estate portals, which is a big mistake. Sites such as Zillow and Trulia don’t have access to all MLS listings.

Instead, they rely on the use of public records fed into an algorithm that spits out results that have a median error rate of about 8 percent, according to Zillow’s CEO.

That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Consider this: March’s median sale price, nationwide, was $344,625. Suppose you list your home for that but the real estate portal is telling your potential homebuyers that your home is worth 8 percent less.

That’s more than $27,000

Imagine how many people won’t even look at your home, assuming it’s overpriced. Or, worse, the lowball offers you’ll get because of it. It happens all the time.

One economist, by the way, found the error rate of Zillow’s “Zestimates” to be much higher—as much as 20 percent too high or too low.

To determine the current market value of a home requires access to information about recently sold homes near yours. The MLS has this data and one must be a member to access it.

DIY marketing

Unless you work in advertising or marketing, how your home is presented to potential buyers is better left to a professional.

How will your description of the home and your photographs compare to the competition, being marketed by professional real estate agents with all of the tools and expertise they possess?

Since we do this for a living, we are able to analyze your property to determine who your likely buyer will be and focus our marketing to that pool of buyers. We also know which advertising and marketing platforms work best for each type of buyer.

A multitude of details

Do you know how to pick a closing date that meshes with your current financial or homebuying objectives? Especially if you are aiming to close on another home simultaneously, some days, and some parts of the month are better for the seller. This is yet another of the many details to be aware of.

As real estate agents, we juggle what seems like a million and one details for every transaction. Everything from keeping track to when contingencies are supposed to be removed, to scheduling the home inspection and ensuring the appraiser gets his or her work done in a timely manner, we make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Doing it by yourself means you don’t have anyone in your corner

If the homeowner who goes it alone decides to pay a small commission to the buyer’s agent, the playing field is lopsided.

The buyer has professional representation and the seller doesn’t. And, no, the buyers’ agent will not help the seller with the paperwork or anything else.

How will you hold up in negotiations against someone who negotiates for a living?

We understand that it’s tempting to try to go it alone when you sell your home and we’re happy to offer you advice. But we would be remiss in our duties to not explain to you the many things that can, and often do, go wrong.