Selling your house? Decluttering can pay off big with the perfect garage sale

Selling a home and garage sales. They’re like cookies and milk, macaroni and cheese or peanut butter and jelly – they just go together.

Especially if you’ll be staging the home before putting it on the market, depersonalizing and getting rid of clutter are important steps. Plus, those tasks help lighten the load when it comes to packing for the move.

We recommend going through your home, room-by-room, scrutinizing every item. Do I really need/want this? If not, start a “garage sale pile” or box[es].

Whether it’s a giant or moderate purge you’re looking at, holding a garage sale is a great way to rid yourself of unwanted items and make some cash at the same time.

The most successful garage sales begin with a plan, so let’s get started.

Plan for success

I have a friend in San Francisco who is also in the real estate business and, as a new agent, she was so excited about her first listing that she decided to hold an open house the first weekend the home was on the market.

As a rookie, she didn’t have the slightest idea of how to plan an open house – all she did was choose a date and did some advertising.

Not one person attended her open house.

Had she looked at a calendar before choosing which weekend to hold the home open she would’ve realized that the particular Sunday she chose was Super Bowl Sunday and the 49ers had made it to the big game. While she isn’t a football fan, the entire city was glued to the TV during her open house.

The moral of this story for you is to plan the date of your garage sale carefully. Don’t hold it on a day when there’s a major sporting event happening, either nationally or locally.

Check to see if there are other popular local events happening as well – anything that may draw potential customers away from your sale.

The Yard Sale Queen suggests holding your sale on the weekend after payday, which for most folks is the first and the fifteenth.

Additional considerations

  • Make a drawing of how you’ll set up the sale. Ensure that you have room for people to move around between the tables, racks and whatever else you’ll use to display your merchandise.
  • Prepare the night before so that all you have to do is open the garage door and start making money.
  • Ensure that all items are clearly marked with the price and that the most desirable items are out in front where potential customers can see them from their cars. The Yard Sale Queen says that “manly” items, such as power tools, should be among the out-front items.
  • Enlist help, whether it’s the kids, a friend or neighbor.
  • If you’ll be selling electrical items, make sure there’s a place to plug them in, or have an extension cord on hand so that customers can test them out.
  • Save grocery bags and newspaper in the weeks leading up to the sale so that you can wrap and bag your customers’ purchases.
  • Before setting clothing and handbags out for sale, go through the pockets to ensure there is nothing of value in them, recommends The Yard Sale Queen.

What to do the day before the sale

You’ll need to let people know about your sale and there are several ways to accomplish this. One of the best ways is to place an ad on Craigslist, in the “Garage Sale” category, listed under “For Sale.”

If you belong to your neighborhood’s NextDoor app, post it there. Facebook will bring in a lot of folks as well, so be sure to join any local buy, sale, trade and garage/yard sale groups.

Take lots of clear, compelling photos of your merchandise to lure in buyers.

Create or buy garage sale signs to place around the neighborhood. Take a tip from my industry and use arrows on each sign to help guide the customers to your home. sells entire garage sale kits as well as individual signs.

Get cash from the bank so that you can make change. You’ll need coins as well as $1, $5 and $10 bills.

Plan to keep the money on your body during the sale. A fanny or waste pack is a safe and convenient way to hold your cash. We found some inexpensive ones online at, Walmart and at Forever 21.

Yay! It’s sale day!

  • Set up the signs around the neighborhood and on the nearest busy street.
  • Make sure each item has a price tag.
  • Greet customers to make them feel at ease. Keep an eye on them, but not to the point that you’re hovering.
  • When a customer hands you payment for an item, keep the money in your hand until you’ve made change. A common garage sale scam is a customer who claims they gave you a larger bill than they did. If you’ve already pocketed the payment before making change, you have no way to prove how much you were handed.
  • Have your helper keep an eye on large groups that arrive at the same time. Keep an eye out for customers who may be trying to distract you while someone else pockets your merchandise.


Selling your home? How to prepare it for the photographer

American homebuyers primarily shop for homes online before choosing a real estate agent. They crave lots of interior and exterior photos and many won’t read about a listing that doesn’t have them.

For example, a consumer wrote in a forum at “As I am looking at a listing, if there are no photos, I disregard the listing. . . and if the bedrooms and baths aren’t shown, I disregard the listing.”

There are reasons that a listing may not include photos of the home. These include:

  • The seller requests that no photos be published
  • The photos aren’t ready to be published yet
  • Often, homes in foreclosure don’t include photos of the interior

The reasons listed above are rare, but they do happen.

Since your home’s listing will include attractive, compelling photos, let’s talk about how to get the home ready for its moment in the spotlight.

Buyers notice more than you think they do

Cluttered kitchen and bathroom counters. The toilet seat left up. Dark walk-in closets. Dirty baseboards.

While you worry about the color of your living room in your listing photos, potential buyers are wondering if those nasty baseboards are an indication of a general lack of home maintenance

Is your car parked in the driveway a sign that the garage is overstuffed because there is little to no storage space in the home?

Cleaning the home, from top to bottom is the first task to accomplish. A thorough cleaning will help people perceive the home as well-maintained.

After that, it’s time to get rid of the clutter. With no strange faces peering at them from your family photos home shoppers are better able to imagine themselves living in the home, surrounded by their “stuff.”

They can’t imagine that with someone else’s toothbrushes on the bathroom counter. Stash personal items and leave only the decorative stuff on countertops.

Then, play up every room’s focal point. This is especially important in rooms viewed from the entryway. If you need some help with this, check out the tutorial at

Although the photographer will adjust each rooms’ lighting to his or her needs, ensure that there are adequate window coverings throughout the home. Often, a room may need to be photographed with the window coverings closed to avoid glare or the sun streaking on the floors.

Then, ensure that every light fixture and lamp in the home has a working bulb.

The photographer can only do so much

In fact, the experts at prepared a quick list for home sellers:

Photographers cannot do the following:

  • Move or re-arrange furniture
  • Make beds, clean, dust or declutter
  • Pick up toys or yard items
  • Photoshop vehicles, walls, damaged walls, power lines, wall pictures, cords, etc.
  • Touch personal bathroom supplies such as shampoo, toothbrushes, deodorant, towels, etc.”

The latter item, by the way is an important one to consider because “Bright, artificially-colored packaging, like on cereal boxes and shampoo bottles are also very distracting to the eye,” according to the pros at Eddy Photos, an El Monte, California photography studio.

You’ll find additional prep tips online at and

Exterior Photos

The exterior photos are important because they are digital depictions of your house’s curb appeal.

Before the photo shoot, walk around the yard and remove anything that might distract the viewer from the home: cars, garbage cans, kids’ toys and other clutter.

Wash down the driveway and sidewalk and ask the photographer to shoot the photos while they are wet to give a richer appearance.

Please reach out to us if you have any questions about preparing for the photographer.

How to choose your perfect neighborhood

Something interesting happens to folks when they make the decision to buy a home. That decision is like rocket fuel, propelling them into the car and on the road to their local Sunday open houses.

While this may be fun, it’s not an efficient or intelligent way to shop for a new home.

If you had a real estate agent at this point in the house hunt he or she would counsel you to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Only then will you know how much you can spend on a house. But wait – don’t step onto the launch pad just yet.

Have you ever watched that TV show about first time homebuyers? The real estate agent asks the buyers to show her the neighborhood they want most to live in. When they get there, she then asks them how much they think houses in the neighborhood sell for.

Typically, the buyers are way off in their estimation of value and the homes are worth far more than they think.

To avoid such a rude awakening in the search for your new home, choose a neighborhood that fits your budget as well as your criteria. Here are some tips to help you narrow your search:

Where to begin

Compiling lists is a good way to get focused, and during this part of the process you’ll make two lists.

The first list should include everything you don’t like about your current neighborhood. Is it noisy? Are you located too close to a commercial area? Get clear on what drives you nuts about where you live now.

Next, compile a list of features you would find in your ideal neighborhood, if cost weren’t an issue. Let your imagination run free – you’ll be editing the list later in the process. Here are a few items you may want to consider:

  • If you have children, or they’re in your future, you may want to research schools in the area and look at homes in your chosen school districts.
  • If you commute to work, perhaps you’d like to be closer to public transportation or the freeway.
  • Do you want a view?

Now, go over both lists and narrow down your criteria, depending on your housing budget. If you want a tennis court, but your budget makes you an entry-level buyer, knock that item off the list but add that you’d like your new home to be close to a community tennis court.

The final list is an excellent tool for your real estate agent. With the list in hand, your real estate agent can counsel you as to which neighborhoods you should confine your search.

When you find several neighborhoods that fulfill most of your criteria, it’s time to do some detective work.

A few things to consider when weighing your neighborhood choices

  • Property values: Is this an up-and-coming neighborhood where values are expected to rise? These types of communities are typically located on the edges of popular neighborhoods. Those who can’t afford the more popular area naturally try to be as close to it as possible, raising values in the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Crime statistics: Federal fair housing laws prohibit your real estate agent from disclosing many neighborhood factors, and crime is one of them. While the Internet is a great place to find crime statistics (via the FBI database), you’ll get the most accurate statistics from the local police or sheriff.
  • Traffic: How easy is it to access the neighborhood from major thoroughfares? If you commute, this may be an important consideration.
  • Plans: Contact the city planner to get the scoop on any future plans for the area. Certain features, such as a landfill, have a negative impact on nearby property values.

Keep Sleuthing

Now you can ignite the rocket fuel and head Mach speed into your house-hunt.

Drive around the neighborhood at different times of the day and night and on both weekends and weekdays. This will give you an idea of neighborhood activity patterns – how neighbors use the area.

If you have children you’ll want to see if children are actively engaged with one another after school and on weekends.

Maybe you’re trying to avoid a noisy neighborhood. This detective work will let you know quickly whether the area suits your needs.

Talking to neighbors is another way to get a feel for an area and its residents.

While a degree in rocket science isn’t a prerequisite to finding your perfect house in the ideal neighborhood, the process is easier if you approach it efficiently and intelligently.

Do your homework and before you know it, you’ll ignite the solid rocket booster and liftoff into homeownership.


What are loan origination fees?

Let’s get this out of the way upfront: When buying a home, the down payment isn’t the whole ball of wax.

When budgeting for a home, you’ll need to factor in other expenses as well and one of the largest of these are closing costs. Because they aren’t due until closing, many homebuyers don’t focus on them as much as they should.

Yes, they can be pricey but there are ways to save money on them.

First-time buyer?

Closing costs include all the fees charged by the lender and others to help facilitate your purchase of a home.

Before loan approval, you’ll be given a Loan Estimate. This is a three-page form that outlines an estimate of these fees. By law, the lender must supply you with the Loan Estimate within three days after the submission of the loan application. Find a sample of the form online at

Another form of note is the Closing Disclosure, which you will receive at least three days before closing.

“A Closing Disclosure is a five-page form that provides final details about the mortgage loan you have selected,” according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“It includes the loan terms, your projected monthly payments, and how much you will pay in fees and other costs to get your mortgage (closing costs),” they conclude.

Check out the sample Closing Disclosure, here.

How much are closing costs?

There’s no definitive answer to this general and common question. Even the “rule of thumb” varies, from between 2% and 5% to between 3% and 6% of the home’s purchase price.

Putting it into dollars, closing costs on a home purchased for $325,000 would be between $6,500 and $19,500.

What the fees typically pay for

Fees vary according to lender, but if you’d like an idea of what you might pay, see page 2 of the Closing Disclosure, here.

Let’s take a closer look at the most confusing closing costs for buyers and how to negotiate with the lender to lower it. Use the sample copy of the Loan Estimate, mentioned earlier, to follow along.

First, shop around for a lender

Many new homebuyers latch on to the lender offering the lowest mortgage interest rate and that often turns out to be a huge mistake.

As you now know, there is far more to the cost of a loan than interest rate.

First, decide that no matter how tempting an offer is, you will solicit offers from at least three lenders.

Next, compare them according to each lender’s APR or the stated rate. What’s the difference?

The stated rate, or interest rate, states the annual cost of the mortgage.

The APR, “Unlike an interest rate … includes other charges or fees such as mortgage insurance, most closing costs, discount points and loan origination fees,” according to the pros at Bank of America.

Experts are divided over which rate to compare. For a deeper understanding, visit

Origination charges

Loan origination fees are, simply, the fees lenders charge to initiate your mortgage. This is one section of this form you’ll want to compare to other lenders’ offers.

“This is where we’ll find the “junk” fees — the add-ons a lender uses to make more money,” according to Hal M. Bundrick at

You may see other fees listed in this section, such as:

  • Administration fee
  • Processing fee
  • Document preparation fee
  • Appraisal review fee

“Remember, any fee in Section A ‘Origination Charges,’ is negotiable and part of the lender’s profit strategy,” Bundrick said.

He also offers this negotiating trick that can be used even before you receive the Loan Estimate:

“… ask each lender you’re considering: ‘If we proceed, what are all of the origination charges that I will find listed on the Loan Estimate under Loan Costs, Item A?” Use those exact words and get their response in writing.”

Feel free to reach out with any homebuying questions. We’re happy to help.

The home inspection: which repairs are mandatory?

Twenty-five percent of May 2021 homebuyers waived the home inspection in their efforts to win a bidding war, according to research from the National Association of REALTORS®.

It’s a dangerous tactic and one we don’t recommend.

Yes, the results of a home inspection can derail the entire deal. At best, especially if the problems are significant and the buyers are still willing, it can significantly slow down the transaction while negotiations reopen and work gets done.

But waiving your right to an inspection isn’t wise.

Which repairs are mandatory?

Various states require certain fixes before the sale is consummated. California, for instance, requires that the water heater be strapped to the wall (earthquake safety regulations).

In Nebraska, the home must have “… working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors at the time of sale,” Matt Steinhausen, a longtime professional home inspector in Lincoln, Nebraska tells Valerie Kalfrin at

As a whole, there are no federal laws mandating certain repairs in a home sale. This is why many homes are sold in as-is condition. If the problems are serious enough, these homes may only attract cash buyers, typically investors.

And, there’s a reason for this.

Lenders generally won’t lend money to purchase a home with certain problems. Many insurers want their say in the matter as well.

Home inspections that reveal safety and health issues, violations of local building codes or structural problems may not qualify for a mortgage.

The Veteran’s Administration, for instance, requires that the home adheres to its Minimum Property Requirements (MPR). You can find a list of them at

Buyers using an FHA-backed loan may run up against some problems as well because FHA expects the property that they lend money on to adhere to its requirements. These requirements include that the home must offer:

  • Adequate entry and exits (for example, windows) from the bedrooms to the home’s exterior.
  • Non-leaking roof. A roof that isn’t worn.
  • No structural problems.
  • No peeling paint if the home was built before 1978.
  • No “Defective exterior paint surfaces in homes constructed post-1978 where the finish is otherwise unprotected.”

These represent a few examples. For a more in-depth look at FHA requirements, visit

Which repairs should I request?

After the lender and the insurance company have their say on which repairs they require, there may be other issues that make you uncomfortable. Anything that will impact your health should be at the top of the list of repair requests, along with any structural issues.

Check the home inspection report for anything that indicates:

  • Electrical hazards
  • Mold
  • Problems with the heating/cooling system
  • Wood-destroying pest infestations
  • Plumbing issues
  • Water damage

Any of these problems aren’t necessarily deal breakers. Approach all repair requests in a spirit of respect and good faith and be willing to work with the seller on getting them resolved.

Cosmetic repairs, by the way, are rarely entertained.

Repairs aren’t guaranteed

The current housing market strongly favors the home seller. The demand for homes is so high, in fact, that buyers are not only not in the driver’s seat or even riding shotgun; they’re hitchhiking.

Sellers tend to decide what they will fix and what is open for negotiation with the buyer. In any of the common multiple-offer situations, it’s almost a take-it-or-leave-it scenario. There’s always another buyer right behind you.

In the current market, it’s important to “weigh the risk of playing hardball,” cautions Kalfrin, and we agree.

Weigh it against your desire for the home and your budget.

It’s crucial that you work closely with your real estate agent when faced with a repair request. We deal with these requests daily and can help you through the process.

Retiring? Sell that house and buy a condo

It’s wise to have a plan for that day when you say “I’m outta here!” to the work world. Your happily ever after won’t be so rosy if you’ve put off the planning.

We aren’t talking financial planning here; after all, we’re real estate agents, not financial experts.

What we’re talking about is geography–where you’ll live. The lifestyle you hope to pursue will bear on your choice of location. At least it should.

Do you plan on slowing way down or going into this phase of your life with wild abandon? If it’s anywhere near the latter, we have a suggestion for you: Downsize.

Especially if lots of travel is in your future, the last thing you need is a big house and all its accompanying maintenance to anchor you in place.

Consider selling the house and buying a condo. Read on to find out why.

You’ll lower your housing expenses

Whether you’re single or heading into retirement with a spouse or partner, ditching the family home for a condo is a sound financial decision.

First, condos typically cost less to purchase than single-family homes. For example, although condo prices have risen steadily over the past decade, the median sales price in March 2021, nationwide, was $289,000 (

During that same period, the median sales price of an existing single-family home was $334,500, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

This represents a more than 15% difference (or $45,500) in price.

Not only will you save money on the purchase of a condo rather than a single-family home, but you’ll spend less heating, cooling and maintaining a condo.

Yes, there are fees involved in condo ownership. The bonus here is that these fees help cover any major maintenance and repair costs in the community.

You’ll have fewer maintenance hassles

Although some condo communities feature homes with small yards, they pale in comparison to what you may have now. The most popular situation is a community with common areas, maintained by the homeowners association (HOA).

This means you eliminate the exterior painting, lawn mowing and snow shoveling you did when you owned a single-family home.

You’ll enjoy more amenities

Depending on the type of home you currently own, buying a condo may offer you far more amenities.

Even the smaller condo communities tend to offer swimming pools and clubhouses. A slight step-up in value and you may live in a secure community with a doorperson, concierge, fitness center and more.

Most of these goodies cost residents nothing because the fees are included in the HOA dues.

Your home may be safer and more secure

If you plan a bit of a wanderlust lifestyle when you retire, you can’t go wrong with with the home security a condo offers.

Be aware that small condo communities experience more burglaries per year than single-family homes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Condo communities that include 10 or more units, however, have lower burglary rates.

There are several reasons for this. First, larger condo communities typically offer more security features, making it tougher for the bad guys and gals to gain access to the community as well as the individual units within.

The pros at offer another reason. “Single family houses are often attractive targets, as their large size promises would-be thieves greater rewards and their numerous access points make them more difficult to secure.”

Owning a condo will allow you to hit the road for as long as you want with far less worry than if you leave behind a large single-family home.

You couldn’t pick a better time to make this decision. The real estate market still favors sellers. And, the amount of equity you’ll have to work with after the sale may shock you.

Take advantage of that equity to downsize your finances and your life during retirement.


What to expect in the 2022 housing market

If you’re thinking of jumping into the 2022 real estate market, either by buying a home, selling a home or both, understanding what is in store for the market in the future is imperative to making a wise decision.

Since nobody has a crystal ball to help discern the future, we rely on experts in various economic niches for our housing market prognostications every year. Are they always spot on? Nope, but some get awfully close.

So, let’s dive in.

Who are these people and how do they come up with forecasts?

Economic forecasters come in a variety of forms.

“Private sector companies may have in-house economists to focus on forecasts most pertinent to their specific business … Alternatively, they might rely on Wall Street or academic economists, those attached to think tanks or boutique consultants,” explains Daniel Liberto at

He goes on to caution us that “… economic forecasting is often described as a flawed science.” Examples include White House economists who will often publish rosy scenarios in an attempt to get the public onboard with certain legislation.

It’s no different in the housing market. Those with a “dog in the fight,” such as certain large real estate websites, rarely forecast discouraging news. In fact, while researching for this blog post, we found evidence of just that. One large real estate-related company’s 2022 forecast is the exact opposite of what other economists are predicting.

At any rate, economic forecasters, in general, rely on “… statistical models with inputs of several key variables,” according to Liberto. The variables are chosen according to the industry being studied. For instance, when forecasting future housing market conditions, economists use:

  • Interest rates
  • Unemployment/employment rates
  • Impacts on income, such as inflation
  • Supply and demand of homes
  • Housing affordability
  • Availability of mortgages
  • New housing construction data

Learn more about these variables at

Since space prohibits a deep dive into all of these, we’ll concentrate on the ones that our clients seem most concerned about.

Mortgage interest rates

Mortgage interest rates determine the volume of homebuyers in the market. When rates are high, those at the lower end of the affordability scale leave the home-buying process.

Low interest rates, on the other hand, encourage homebuyers and dry up the inventory of available homes.

Danielle Hale, chief economist at® forecasts that mortgage interest rates will “Average 3.3% throughout the year, 3.6% by end of year.”

To prove our economy can change quickly, Hale’s forecast was published prior to the latest news from the Fed: they are anticipating three interest rate increases in 2022.

“New projections based on the median forecast by Fed officials see the federal funds rate rising to 0.9% by the end of 2022, to 1.6% by the end of 2023 and to 2.1% by the end of 2024,” according to Greg Robb at

While the rates expected are higher than we’ve experienced in the past year, they may still remain at historic lows.

And 2022 home prices?

Attempting to time the market is never a good idea. By the time it corrects, it’s too late to take advantage of the previous market.

“Will next year be a good time to sell?” is a question we field a lot lately. Let’s see what economists have to say about it.

Economists that we follow say that prices will soften in the new year, but slowly. experts claim that over the course of 2022, the median existing home price will rise 2.9%

If that projection comes true, it would represent the slowest rate of growth since 2012, according to Lance Lambert at

So, what could change this scenario? Rising mortgage rates could dry up demand, causing prices to plummet.

What may be more likely to occur are changes in the jobs market. The new Corona variant is still quite mysterious and how our lawmakers respond to it could impact the employment scene.

Best guess? It depends …

The housing market’s strength depends on a number of variables, one of the most important of which is the health of the job market.

“The Great Resignation,” new variants of the coronavirus and other factors have thrown all predictions about 2022’s jobs market to the wind.

California, for instance is expecting “… fewer payroll jobs …” in 2022 “… than previously anticipated,” according’s George Avalos, citing the Anderson Forecast.

I know this is a lot to consider as you think about timing your home sale or purchase. Our best advice to you is to jump in as soon as you can.

Feel free to reach out for assistance; we’re happy to help.


Don’t go house hunting without a wish list

Impulse buying. We’ve all heard the term and many of us have succumbed to the temptation to indulge in the act, especially in a retail setting.

It’s why the chewing gum and candy bars are located where folks line up to pay for their groceries. It’s the lure of the basket of low-priced goodies near the cash register at your favorite bath and body store.

Unfortunately, overspending on a home, especially one that may not fit your wants and needs, is far more traumatic to your finances than impulse buying at the grocery store.

Psychologists say that the best way to avoid impulse buying (and, thus, overspend) is by having a clear idea of how much you can spend, arming yourself with a detailed list of what you need and not allowing yourself to be distracted.

This is good advice for house hunters as well

So, step number one, before you dive into creating a wish list, is to visit a lender to find out how much you can afford to spend on a home. There’s no sense looking for a home with tennis courts if you can only afford a condo, right?

Now, on to the wish list.

Make it realistic

Now that you know your home-buying budget, let’s get real on the wish list. To help you get your thoughts flowing, consider the following:

  • What you most deeply value in a home
  • What you cannot tolerate in a home

Think about these items in regards to not only where you currently live but other homes you’ve lived in as well.

If another bathroom is something of value to you, put it on the list. If you need a snappy commute, put that on the list. Avid gardener? Ensure the home has the space for you to create the garden of your dreams.

Remember, however, that this isn’t a fantasy list. Each item on the wish list should be possible to find in a home within your budget.

Which neighborhood do you want to live in?

Once you get the home’s details nailed down, it’s time to figure out where you want the home to be located. Here are some things to think about:

  • Proximity to preferred school(s)
  • Does the area fit your lifestyle? If you have children you’ll want to figure out if there are lots of other kids for them to play with. On the other hand, if you want peace and quiet, you’ll want the opposite in a neighborhood.
  • Crime affects everyone and if it’s a concern, you’ll need to do some research. Regulations forbid real estate agents from discussing crime rates with consumers, but there are other ways to sleuth. Check with the local police department and go online to and the US Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Public Website.
  • Any future plans for the area? Check with the city planning office.
  • What are the neighbors like? You can get a good idea about this by actually stopping and talking to anyone you see outside. Also pay attention to how well nearby homes are maintained because this will impact the future value of the home.

Don’t forget to bring your list with you when we meet. This way we can find (hopefully) exactly what you’re looking for.

House hunting? What to inspect outside that home you have your eye on

When it comes to choosing a home to buy, there are exterior people and then there are interior people.

Exterior/interior describes what turns them on most about any particular home. It’s the gardener vs. the chef, the spring and summer outdoor entertainer vs. the I-need-a-fireplace-in-my bedroom person.

The latter group is far larger than the former, which is why when it comes to advice online, you’ll find lots of it geared toward what to look for inside a home.

Even the number of MLS photos of a home’s exterior pale in comparison to those of the interior.

Which is why today we turn our attention to the home shopper who jumps out of the care and breezes up the walkway to a home-for-sale’s front door with nary a look at the exterior.

Slow down. Take your time when you get out of the car. If the home is appealing to you, check out the exterior before getting back into the car.

Check out the landscaping

Sure, you can always change a home’s landscaping. It can be pricey, but it’s certainly doable.

It’s most important to check out the number of trees on the property. Trees, large or small, can be considered good or bad.

Let me explain.

Large, older trees can be problematic if they have invasive roots and are grown too close to the home’s foundation, swimming pool or other sensitive areas.

Then there are the big trees that were planted too close to the home and now look as if they’re ready to eat the home’s roof.

On the other hand, large, older trees that aren’t posing a risk to the home’s structure actually add value to the home and may even help you save on home energy costs.


See those cracks in the foundation? Before you get nervous about them, keep in mind that they may mean nothing.

Or, they may mean you should run, quickly, back to your car.

Of the five types of foundation cracks, if the one you notice runs vertically on the foundation, there’s nothing to be concerned about, according to the pros at Complete Basement Systems in Colorado.

“… they’re a common sight in many homes and non-threatening.,” they claim. “Vertical cracks tend to slant slightly (within 30 degrees). To seal them, water-resistant epoxy or polyurethane injection is applied to the cracks.”

Diagonal cracks are also among the least dangerous. They are caused by what is known as “differential settlement.”

Although they aren’t among the scariest of foundation cracks, “… cracks that run diagonally at 30 to 75 degrees …” should be checked by a professional.

When buying a home, the most important cracks to have inspected are those that run at a horizontally.

“Several types exist and all indicate serious structural problems,” the folks at Basement Systems warn.

Check out their website for more information.

Ah, a sparkling swimming pool!

Listing descriptions of homes for sale are often tantalizing, right? If the home features a swimming pool, the adjectives come fast and furious.

If you’ve never owned a home with a swimming pool, brush up on their upkeep. From getting the chemicals balanced to skimming leaves and scrubbing the walls, there is a lot that goes into maintaining a clean and hygienic swimming pool.

And how will you know if a pool and its equipment at a home for sale has been properly maintained?

Ask your agent to obtain maintenance records from the seller. At the very least, find out the age of the pool and the equipment.

Look for cracks and, if you find any, have the pool inspected by a professional.

Yes, it’s an additional expense to hire a pool pro. But, consider this:

“A new, energy-efficient heat pump cost $4,500. We bought a pool-cleaning robot for about $800. Just to get the pool running, we spent about $10,000,” Sally Herigstad says of her buying-a-home-with-a-pool experience.

“Last summer, we spent about $500 on repairs, plus another $200 on chemicals,” she continued.

Her advice?

“If you have your heart set on using a pool, consider having a pool expert inspect your property before you buy the house. Be reasonably confident you can afford to fix the pool and maintain it, or no one will be having any fun with it.”

We’re happy to help you find the specialists required to give you peace-of-mind during your home purchase. Reach out anytime.



How to sell a house during a divorce

Although estimates differ depending on who is asked, 40 to 50 percent of all American marriages end in divorce.

There’s a piece of trivia to take to heart during those long, often confusing nights when you stay awake and wonder “What happened?”

But now is not the time to dwell on the past, but to deal with what’s currently happening. As painful as it may be, separating the marriage assets in preparation for the divorce is one of the uglier aspects of divorce.

There are several options as to what to do with the house when couples split up. The most common among these include:

  • One party keeps the home by buying the other’s share.
  • One party retains occupancy of the home temporarily (such as to raise the couple’s children in the family home).
  • The house is sold and the proceeds split between the parties, according to their agreement.

If you and your soon-to-be-former spouse have decided to sell your home, we’d like to help you learn what to expect from the process.

The listing process

Listing a home is typically a pretty straightforward process but, unless the two of you remain on good terms, the “typical” doesn’t apply during a divorce sale.

Every aspect of the listing must be a joint agreement, from how much work you’ll do to prepare the home for the market to how much to ask for the home.

Easier said than done at this point in the marriage, right?

We understand that it may seem impossible to come to a meeting of the minds so what we do is arm both of you with the information that may help you get there.

We’ll tour the home, making note of what we think should be done to prepare. We’ll work diligently to come up with an attractive yet aggressive list price for the home. From there, it’s up to the two of you.

This is the part of the process where, despite the memories the home holds, despite the dreams that may be dashed at this point, you’ll need to also divorce yourself from your emotions wrapped up in it.

Only then will the two of you be open to advice on what needs to be done to sell the home quickly and for top dollar.

The marketing process

We won’t tell other agents or prospective buyers why you’re selling your home, so if you want them to know about the divorce, you’ll need to give us permission to blab.

It’s truly none of anyone else’s business and, sadly, we’ve learned that news of a divorce sale causes many buyers to submit ridiculously low offers.

While living in a home that’s on the market is challenging to most who sell, when there is rancor in the house it becomes even more difficult. Keeping the house presentable at all times is hard even under the best conditions and last-minute requests to view an already disrupted home life need to be expected, planned for and accommodated.

The offers to purchase

Reviewing offers as they come in is probably the most challenging part of the process. Nothing will happen with an offer unless the two of you are in complete agreement.

This agreement extends to everything that a buyer may want to negotiate, from time limits for the removal of contingencies to price.

Discuss this up front. If you can agree to at least put your differences aside during this aspect of the purchase process it will go a long way toward a successful outcome.

Dividing the proceeds

Both of you will need to meet with your lawyers in advance of the sale to determine how to divide the proceeds from the sale. Once we have a buyer, we’ll submit instructions to the escrow company outlining the distribution agreement and the escrow officer will take it from there.

Distribution needs to be determined before we get an offer to purchase.

We have worked with many clients who are in your exact situation so we understand the challenges you face. It’s our goal to make the process as easy on both of you as possible.