Home Staging – So You Think You Can Stage?

As a preferred home staging specialist in the Orlando and surrounding central Florida area I have encountered many homes where sellers attempted to stage their own home only to be disappointed with a lack of offers. Find out if this sounds like you and why a professional will address all of your needs and get your home sold and fast!

Professional Home Staging is growing steadily as is the amount of listed homes on the market. In Orlando alone we currently have over 9300 homes for sale! Sadly many of these homes show terribly on MLS and other marketing materials. With over 85% of potential buyers looking here first before deciding to view a home, your home had better stand out! This means your home has better show well inside and out as well as online.

Okay, so you know the importance of a show-ready home and what it will do for you. Do you truly have what it takes to stage your own home? Here are some points below that you may not have thought about before. Home Staging is about more than just well placed furniture, the right wall colors and appealing decor, it is as much about the demographics in our area, knowing who is likely to buy your home and what exactly that particular buyer is looking for.

Considerations:

1.Do you know what buyers in particular are most apt to view your home? Do you know what this type of buyer is looking for and what is most important to them? While each buyer is unique there are specific items each type of buyer is looking for. Make sure you know what that is or your staging might actually be turning the buyer off!

2.Do you know what the price range is for homes in your area with comparable square footage, number of bedrooms etc? We hope your realtor will know know this as it is their job but sometimes they can be a bit off. A professional home stager will be your next best bet to determine price. They know your specific areas of town and may have even staged one of your competitor’s homes. If the price is wrong it doesn’t matter how you stage it, it is not likely to sell.

3.Do you truly know why mass buyer appeal is? There are certain trends that apply to home staging. Do you know what they are? There are colors, décor, and small touches that go a long way to win over a buyer. If you aren’t aware how to achieve this it is time to contact a Professional Stager.

4.The most important thing is to see the home through a buyer’s eyes. A Professional Stager can be the eyes of that first buyer as they have never seen your home before. You see, you have lived in your home for quite some time and have become comfortable with it and are far more likely to overlook much needed attention to certain areas. This is because you don’t have an objective eye. This is the real reason why it is impossible to stage your own home. Don’t think for a second I intend on staging my home when I sell! This applies to us Professional Stagers too! I will ensure my home is viewed by a trusted stager before it goes on the market because I too won’t see beyond my own stuff.

Never underestimate the power of the objective eye! Even if it is just a consultation or written report to allow you to do the work yourself, do consult with a Professional Stager before listing your home.

Home Staging on a Budget

Staging is an essential, and cost-effective, part of the home selling process. Staging your home to show off its qualities can only add to your final selling price. On average, people receive $2 in increased sale price for every $1 they put into staging a home.

When staging your home for sale, there are five golden rules to take into consideration as you work your way through each room of your house.

Five Golden Rules:

De-Personalised

The buyer needs to picture themselves in the house – not you. That wedding photo may mean the world to you, but the buyer it’s a distraction that prevents them from seeing a home for their family.

Maximise

Declutter and maximise the space in your home. Closets packed tight with all your clothes make a place like it lacks closet space. Consider temporarily storing the overflow offsite.

Sanitize

This golden rule is the easiest and cheapest way to stage your home – clean it. A sink full of dirty dishes is as unappealing to you as it would be to the buyer. It is well worth the elbow grease in cleaning floors, walls, baseboards, ceiling fans and windows.

Modernise

Unless your home has exceptional period built-ins, all home could benefit from some updating. If someone feels the house is dated, they will reflect that feeling in a lower offer. Consider a few simple changes like swapping out expensive fixtures for nickel or chrome.

Neutralise

Colour can make or break a buyer’s interest in your home. You may love that shocking red wall, but all the potential buyer sees is a great deal of painting in their future because of red clashes with their style. The picture is one of the most inexpensive ways to change a look of a home.

Bonus Tips

Closets

Clear closets of unnecessary clutter, and organise to maximise the amount of open storage space you are showing off to potential buyers. Use boxes stacked together to keep up and hide the clutter.

Use matching hangers for clothes – hooks are inexpensive so splurging on higher quality are inexpensive, so celebrating on higher quality hangers to replace free wire hangers from the dry cleaners will modernise your closets with visual impact and a more luxurious feel.

Bedrooms

A quick and inexpensive way to improve the appeal of your bedroom is to use gender-neutral colours when touching up paint jobs and re-accessorizing to have the broadest possible appeal. Colour coordinate where possible bedspreads, walls, curtains etc. should have a clear theme to their colours if possible.

Bathrooms

If walls are grimy, spray them using a standard spray bottle filled with a mixture of one part bleach and one part water, follow up with a fresh coat of paint.

Clear countertops of everything but the essential to make space look more open and more extensive.

Kitchen

Modernize your dated cabinets; they can be touched up for less than $200 with a coat of new wood stain and or even a good sanding a coat of paint. Replacing brass or wooden cabinet hardware with brushed silver or stainless steel is an effective way of updating dated cabinets as well.

Mistakes To Avoid When Selling Your Own Home

Selling a home by the owner has become quite popular these days. However, there are some common mistakes that first-time sellers tend to make. To maximize the benefits of a property deal without an agent, it is best to avoid these mistakes.

1. Don’t get emotionally attached to the home:

It is beneficial to detach yourself from your home. Being detached helps you look at the deal from a financial perspective rather than an emotional one. It is also a good idea to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. If you think of your house as a dream rather than a piece of property, you will stage your home better.

2. Don’t set an unrealistic price:

Most owners tend to price their houses on the higher side. This discourages buyers. However, an accurate price can be set by analyzing the market. Sometimes setting a low price does help in attracting buyers.

3. Not uploading good pictures:

Buyers judge a house based on the photographs they see on the property listing websites. There you should upload high-quality pictures and videos to attract buyers to your home.

4. Not preparing the home for viewings:

Since approval of the home is based on its appearance, it should be given due attention. It is a good idea to hire a professional home staging company for preparing the home. Though it involves an expense, it may help you fetch a better price for your home.

5. Hiding facts about the home:

There is no point hiding any major problems or defects. This is because they will be revealed once the buyer inspects the house. You have two courses of action that you can take. You can either get everything repaired or you can reduce the price according to the defects.

6. Being rigid about timings with buyers:

It is beneficial to be flexible with your timings when you are dealing with buyers. You should try to make yourself available when the buyer wants to view your home or meet you.

7. Being rigid about the price:

Any buyer will look to negotiate and buy the property for a price lower than the quoted price. If you are rigid about your price, it will be difficult for you to sell. It is a good strategy to price it such that there is a margin to bargain.

If you avoid these simple errors, you will be successful in selling your home yourself.

Sell Your Own House and Pocket the Profits

So you want to sell your own house? Perhaps you want to save money on a commission that would be paid to a broker. Perhaps you are one of those individuals that believe that selling a home is a simple process because it appears so easy on TV. I understand it’s probably not as difficult as performing a root canal on yourself, but if attempted without preparation it might feel like you attempted the aforementioned.

The first thing to consider when selling your own house is to determine what the current market is like in your local area. This does not mean you should buy a copy of the Wall Street Journal and try to extrapolate what your local market is like based on national or worse yet, international trends. Some markets never experienced a large up or down over the last decade despite what was going on elsewhere. So how can you find out information that is pertinent to the local area? One way is to contact a local real estate agent and ask, but that can bring on some unwanted pressure to list with them instead; which I actually suggest for the vast majority of homeowners. Another way is to check local papers that may disclose certain statistics such as average days on market, a comparison of sales prices to listing prices (they are rarely the same, except perhaps in a hot market), and local interest rates. Now what do you do with all this information? For now hold onto it, as we will be using it to help price your home.

Once we have gathered some basic data the next step is to start finding some comparable properties. A comparative market analysis is the most accurate way to price a “normal” home. It may not be the best way to assess the value of a new home, historic home, income property, or commercial property. What you will want to do is gather the SOLD price of at least SIX comparable homes, that have sold in the last 6 months. If you use home sales older than that, you risk the comparison not being very accurate. Comparable homes should be as similar to your home as possible, but do not have to be identical. These homes should be in the same school district, zip code, and if possible same housing complex if applicable. Explaining exactly how to do this process can be very verbose, so what I will say is that for an amateur analysis make sure your home is priced less than homes offering greater amenities and size and greater than homes offering less size or that are not as updated. Knowing exactly how much these differences effect the price of your home from the comps takes market knowledge that most homeowners don’t have. Remember that money spent on renovations does not correlate 100% to an increase in value.

Ok, so we now have an idea about the list price. The next thing we need to do is go back to what is happening in the local market. If homes are selling fast, I would suggest sticking near your estimated price for a quick sale of your home. If homes are selling at an average rate 3- 6 months (again average is different depending on location) I’d consider sticking at your estimate list price or as much as ten percent less if you are hoping for a quick sale. If homes are not selling on average in less than 120 days, as a for sale by owner you will need to price yourself well below the competition 10% or more. My reasoning for this is that highly marketed homes are not selling, where your home will have a fraction of the advertising versus those listed with a broker. You will need an edge to beat out the competition.

Well, we accomplished step one; pricing our home. This is actually one of the easier tasks we will have to do. Step two will be determining our budget for marketing the home. This is actually the main reason I suggest hiring a broker, since advertising if done haphazardly can cost MORE than hiring an agent. Now you can advertise on sites that cater to for sale by owners, but honestly the traffic they generate is simply pathetic compared to many of the better known sites. If you are serious about this, I suggest you list on a big name site. As far as advertising in the local paper goes, it certainly does not hurt, but realize that more buyers find their home online than through the local paper. The local paper though does appeal to the older generations and can help with a cross generational marketing campaign. Another consideration is that according to the national association of REALTORS 89% of surveyed home buyers in 2011 used an agent to buy. That means, whether you want to or not, you will likely have to deal with and or pay an agent. As a for sale by owner you can offer to pay an agent for bringing a buyer to you. This may help you save some money compared to having an agent list it as well. A good number to start with is offering a 2-3% commission to any buyer’s agents. This will ensure that the 89% of buyers searching for a home with the aid of an agent will not totally avoid your home. Another marketing tool you can use is a yard sign. These can be obtained relatively cheap from a local printer or online. If you are gutsy enough to let total strangers roam through your home, you can also host an open house. It is estimated that nearly 5% of home purchases are done on impulse, so it cannot hurt your sales effort. I would like you to consider that bringing strangers in your home can be unsafe so proceed with caution.

Alright, we are moving right along to getting our home sold. We have a price, we know how we are going to market it, and we are ready to list right? No, I’m sorry we still have some work to do. The next thing we have to do is complete a seller’s disclosure form to give to potential buyers. This form can be obtained from a local housing authority or online. In addition, we need to provide potential buyers with a lead-based paint disclosure act if your house was built in 1978 or earlier, thanks to a 1992 law. In addition, this is the time to neutralize your home, fix peeling paint (trust me, fix peeling paint), and complete any other small maintenance tasks that need done.

Ok, now we can go ahead and list the home. The easy part is done, we are moving onto the hard and hardest parts of selling a home. Now if you listed it yourself I suggest purchasing a land line phone number to use for advertisement purposes. There are many places where you can find one cheaply. When your first perspective buyer calls, greet them politely and share whatever information they need. As tempting as it may be, before having them over to view the house, make sure they have be pre-approved, or at least pre-qualified for a loan; ask them to bring their pre-approval letter. People have no problem wasting your time. If they refuse to bring any such paperwork, skip the viewing because it is likely they are not that interested in your house anyways. In fact, they cannot even make a real offer at this point. Show buyers around that have met the pre-qualifications, but refrain from harping about anything personalized within the home, as they will likely be envisioning how they can change your house to suit their needs. If they are interested in making an offer, please do not entertain a verbal negotiation of price. First, their offer is not legally enforceable by the statute of frauds and back and forth negotiations may elicit an emotional response on your part. Instead, insist on a written offer and binding contract. It is likely they will be working with an agent, so this is usually a mute point. When the offer is presented, remain emotionless whether it is more than you had hoped for, or less since most buyers will expect the savings you received from not paying a commission to be passed onto them (Now if you used my suggestion of offering a buyer’s agent commission you might find that you receive a more reasonable offer). You have two options; accept or reject the offer. If you reject the offer, you can always counter-offer. Some things to expect during this time is the buyers wanting you to purchase a home owners insurance warranty (which you should do to save yourself a headache 6 months from now when your water pipes burst or your furnace dies at only 4 years of age). The second is that they will likely place several contingencies on the offer, which are completely normal. These contingences may include a home inspection, land survey, title insurance, dye test, as well as several others.

Ok so you have found a buyer and your home is under contract. The coming 30-90 days will be the roughest yet, but hang on because you are almost there. During this time a home inspector after examining your home will come up with a list of several hundred problems that your house has. If you already disclosed these items in your seller’s disclosure there should be little concern, as they will not be items that your potential buyer could use to back out of the transaction. Now for the things you were unaware of, buyers may try to haggle the price even lower. I suggest for small ticket items, hold your ground. Bigger ticket items will likely require some concessions on your part. Your other option is to not give any concessions and try the whole process over again, disclosing the newfound issues. If things do progress past this point, prepare for yet more expenses at closing. You will need to pay transfer taxes on the property, as well as, prorated property taxes if you have not yet done so for the fiscal year. Again, there will be some other expenses and rather going into detail here, I suggest you take a look at a HUD-1 form to get a strong understanding of what expenses are dealt with at closing. If closing is not being taken care of by their agent, I suggest you hire either a transaction licensee or lawyer to handle the paperwork. DO NOT attempt to complete this stage on your own unless you are an agent or an attorney.

Well if you made it past closing, you have done what only 15% of for sale by owners are able to! Congratulations, and when you go to look for your next home use an agent.

Are Home Solar Power Systems Worth Investing In?

The costs for electricity and other forms of energy are on the rise as of 2016 while the price of solar power and panels is dropping, making many homeowners consider making the switch. However many homeowners wonder if the savings in the long run are worth it.

Consider the following information in regards to the cost, efficiency, tax incentives and more that are associated with installing stand-alone solar power systems to help anyone decide if it’s the right choice for them.

Overall Costs

The cost associated with stand-alone solar power systems has gone down immensely because of the decline in the price of PV panels. Labor cost as well as those associated with inspections have gone down as well but continue to be the bulk of the overall cost.

Installation

The cost of installation has dropped by over 50% since 2008, making it much more affordable for homeowners. However, it still remains to be seen if a stand-alone solar power system is practical for all. Some of the considerations include:

• Hours of direct sunlight each day

• If it’s a stand-alone solar power system or attached to the grid

• The size of the system

• Local permit requirements

As of late, the average cost of a home solar system is around $3.74 per watt depending on the brand used. The average home system is around 5 kilowatts, making the average cost price about $18,000. Of course, no two homes are alike as far as solar needs, and a professional estimate will be more accurate.

Cost to Operate and maintain

A stand-alone solar power system doesn’t need much maintenance aside from regular yearly inspections, and washings every few months. This can be accomplished using a garden hose, or by hiring a professional cleaner. In places where ice can form upon the panels, more inspections may be necessary.

Other operational costs maybe insurance and monitoring performance which is often done from a remote location depending on the contractor. The solar inverter sometimes needs replaced at some point. Expect operational costs to be anywhere from $4,000 to $9,000 total.

Life Span

Stand-alone solar power systems will last up to 30 years, and are typically warrantied and guaranteed to run at almost full efficiency for 10 years, and around 80 % for 25 years. Many companies also off warranties on parts and labor as an added bonus. There’s a separate warranty on the solar inverter that is brand dependent.

Incentives

Tax incentives and rebates greatly reduce the expense of switching to stand-alone solar power systems. The federal tax credit gives back 30 % of the cost of the system. This may change in the future but chances are there will always be a credit of some sort as the country continues to encourage the growth of solar power. Many states also give tax incentives, grants, rebates and a variety of other programs to promote solar use. It seems as though since the cost of PV systems is lowering, so are the associated incentives.

Energy savings

Expect bills to plummet even if the system is hooked up to the grid. The amount is dependent upon the system’s size, how much it’s used and current pricing from a local provider. Most tend to save almost $100 per month.

Solar panels generate plenty of heat on a sunny, winter day just as they do on a sunny summer day since they use light not heat. The only thing that can lower output is a large layer of snow on the panels, which is avoided by a quick sweep.

Increase a home’s value

Solar power has become a great asset for homebuyers. Studies continue to show that stand-alone solar power systems add on average about 25k to a home’s sale price.

Is solar a good choice?

The question remains, if installing solar be worth the cost for the home in question. There are many factors that come into play with this decision. There are environmental and social values that come along with these systems that help those who are pursuing the use of green energy.

A solar calculator is a great tool to get an idea of how much it will cost to invest in a stand-alone solar power system. It will give a ballpark figure if solar is a smart investment.