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Top 10 Home Staging Tips

January 13, 2014 5:12 am

With all the competition in today’s marketplace, professionally staging your home has never been more important. Here are some top tips from Sure Fit on how to beat your competition and allure the attention of buyers.

1. Consider curb appeal
You may not have the funds for a professional landscaper, but homeowners should make sure lawns are freshly mowed, leaves raked, and paths cleared. Scrub the front door, porch, railings and steps, pick up a new mailbox and welcome mat, and add a fresh coat of paint where needed. Add seasonal potted plants and a bench to the entryway to welcome visitors into a clean, fresh and relaxing space.

2. Forgo Family Photos
You may consider it the crown jewel of the living room, but future buyers will see outdated family photos as years of wear and tear. Clear the room of family portraits and other items that say "you don't live here" to potential buyers.

3. What Once Was Old, Should Be Newly Slip-covered
No need to splurge on new furniture and home assets when your budget is already tightened up, especially in the midst of a move. Cover up outdated, worn and loud furniture with neutral colors. Even coordinating your curtains and dining room sets can make your home décor look like new.

4. Rearrange Refresh
Arrange the room in a conversational way. You may have preferred for every piece of furniture to face the television, but potential buyers will appreciate more of an open room vignette.

5. Kitchen Clean-Up
Kitchens play a big part in home resale value, so make sure buyers are impressed. Spend extra time scrubbing, cleaning and de-cluttering, and make sure counters are clear of appliances. Re-stain shabby cabinets, replace any mismatched hardware, add fresh cut flowers, turn on lights and open curtains for a clean, bright and attractive gathering space.

6. Let in Some Air
Keep stuffiness and odors at bay by opening windows for at least 10 minutes prior to showing. Go easy on the air freshener, but bring in fresh cut flowers for a natural look and smell.

7. What’s Behind Door #3?
While shoving everything into a closet has been your go-to cleanup plan since your teen years, potential buyers will undoubtedly look behind every door in your home. Keep bedroom, linen closets and storage spaces neat and tidy to avoid any embarrassing surprises.

8. Scrub Until it Sparkles
Clean bathrooms until they look like the model sets at Home Depot. Signs of use, like soap scum and toothpaste stuck to the sink, will turn buyers off. Replace any outdated fixtures with sleek and modern ones, and add fresh cut flowers to help with aroma and appearance.

9. Sleep Tight
Keep bedrooms neutral, comfortable and spacious. Buyers want to picture themselves relaxing here, so use soft colors, light scents and earth tones to “set the mood.” Make bedrooms appear larger by limiting items in the room to a bed, dresser and small seating area for the Master Bedroom. Update any outdated bedding and use a lavender oil diffuser to keep relaxation a priority here.

10. Better Backyard
Outdoor living spaces have become exponentially more important to potential buyers. Treat your back deck or patio like any other room in your home. Scrub down patios, touch up worn fences and banisters, and make sure your yard is free of clutter. A few decorating touches can make your space much more than just a “backyard.” Cover a worn picnic table with a bright tablecloth and replace worn chair cushions with new ones.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fire Safety 101 - Planning Ahead Tops the List

January 10, 2014 6:51 pm

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, an overwhelming number of fires occur within the home. In fact, more than 3,400 Americans die each year due to house fires and approximately 17,500 become injured.

When it comes to fire safety within the home, there are time-tested ways to prevent and even survive a fire. It’s simply a matter of planning ahead.

The most important thing is to install a smoke alarm on every level of the home. Be sure to test them each month and replace the battery at least once a year (a good plan is to make it part of your daylight saving’s ritual.) Smoke alarms themselves should be replaced after 10 years of service.

You should also take the time to design an escape plan from every level of your home. If there’s a fire on the main floor and you’re upstairs, know what you’re going to do. Make sure the windows you may need to escape from will open easily. The last thing you need to worry about is a stuck window when trying to run from fire.

Practice your plan once a year and choose a meeting place for everyone in the family to ensure that no one is left in the house. Don’t worry about gathering your possessions either. The only thing that’s important is getting you and your family out safely.

For those with pets, fire departments now offer “save my pet” stickers that can be placed near the front door, alerting fire professionals of pets that may be inside.

As for safety tips around the home, never overload circuits or extension cords and keep cords and wires from being placed under rugs, over nails or in high traffic areas.

In addition, follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions when using appliances. Overheating, unusual smells, shorts and sparks are all warning signs that appliances need to be shut off, then replaced or repaired. Immediately shut off and unplug appliances that sputter, spark or emit an unusual smell.

While candles add great ambiance to any home, make sure they are kept a safe distance from wood. And always blow them out when not in use, before leaving the home and before going to bed.

When it comes to fire prevention, be smart, take precautions and have a plan in place in case trouble happens. You’ll be glad you did.

For more information about fire safety within your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Furniture Fix-Ups Sure to Enhance Your Space and Attract Prospective Buyers

January 10, 2014 6:51 pm

When preparing your home for sale, no detail can be overlooked when it comes to creating an inviting space that stands out from the rest. From staging the home to updating lights and fixtures to create mass appeal, sellers are pulling out all the stops. And furniture is a great way to set the mood within each room.

Furniture also comes in handy as it gives prospective buyers an idea about the size and scale of the space, helping them envision what their finished room would look like. If you have a loveseat couch across from a big-screen flat-panel TV, chances are, that’s what a house hunter will be envisioning for their future.

Most industry insiders believe that having furniture within the home is actually better than showing an empty space, as rooms with nothing in them appear smaller and don’t spark the imagination as well.

The problem is that many people selling a home plan to buy new furniture when they arrive at their new house, so what’s being shown is often old, worn and dated. Rather than replace everything, a simple solution is to cover chairs and sofas with neutral-colored slipcovers and fix worn wooden furniture with scratch cover formulas that can restore the look of both dark and light finishes.

If you have spaces in your home that are empty—or furniture that’s too old to do anything about—consider borrowing furniture from friends and family. Or take a trip to the local antique store and see if there’s anything you can pick up cheaply. They may even let you rent items.

Thrift stores and furniture rental companies can also come in handy as they sell discontinued pieces at bargain prices. Even if you’re not planning on taking the pieces with you when you move, you can always sell them at a garage sale or even offer them to the buyer as an added extra.

You also have the option of using a professional stager who will come in with his or her own furniture or help you find the best pieces to highlight your home. According to the Real Estate Staging Association, not only do professionally staged properties look better, they also spend 73 percent less time on the market, typically sell for more money and have fewer concessions requested of the seller.

When you’re making decisions on where to place furniture, make sure to keep things open and showcase the finer points of each room. Never hide things like big windows or an antique fireplace by putting a piece of furniture directly in front of it.

Finally, use area rugs to define spaces, but make sure they’re in proper proportion to the furniture and space to create the perfect look.

To learn more about using furniture to enhance your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Tips to Keep in Mind When Purchasing a Home with a Friend

January 10, 2014 6:51 pm

Buying a home is a momentous time in anyone’s life, and today, more and more people are going through the process with a friend by their side. While sharing a mortgage with your best friend may seem like a great idea, there are many things that should be taken into consideration before jumping into a home purchase with a friend.

1. Be absolutely sure. Before agreeing to this life-altering decision, all parties should be willing to disclose their financial information, agree upon the type of home and location they are after, and make sure they are really comfortable with living with one another. If you are having any doubts whatsoever, say something before it’s too late.

2. Hire a lawyer. A contract between the parties is vital, as is listing each person’s name on the deed and the mortgage papers. In addition, the percentage of ownership must be clearly stated in the contract, including details of each person’s share of the down payment and the way in which mortgage payments will be divided. This sets the stage for deciding each person’s share upon sale. Also, have contingencies in place in case the circumstances change for one or both parties.

3. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Mortgage companies aren’t always thrilled with lending to unmarried or unrelated people who are looking to buy a home together. Odds are those buying a home will need to jointly qualify as co-borrowers on a single mortgage in order to purchase a property held in TIC or Joint Tenancy.

4. Understand each other’s wants and needs. House options, mortgage rates and contract terms will be contingent on each individual’s credit history, financial health and both short-term and long-term obligations, so it’s smart to discuss all of this ahead of time. During the house hunting stage, you may run into issues if you’re looking for two different things. Therefore, it’s crucial to sit down before you even begin looking for homes and list what features are most important to each of you, as well as what each of you is willing to give up.

5. Have an exit strategy. There’s always the possibility that a job may change or a surprising romance could eventually evolve and lead toward marriage. What happens to the house then? This is something that should be agreed upon before the house is bought. Additionally, each person should buy a term life insurance policy and name the other as beneficiary so in the event of death, the whole mortgage will be paid off.

6. Consider the negatives. Make sure you really know your friend as you’ll want to be sure they stick it out through problems instead of walking away from arguments. It’s also important to understand that you don’t get the federal and state protection typically given to married couples. Plus, if one party has credit problems, those financial troubles can become yours, too.

Once everything is agreed to and a mortgage commitment is in hand, things still aren’t easy. It’s hard enough finding the perfect home, but to have to find the perfect home for two is even tougher. If you go into the process with a solid plan and a willingness to not let anything affect the friendship, buying a home together could be one of the smartest things you’ve ever done.

To learn more about purchasing a home with a friend, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top 5 Resolutions for Buyers Looking to Get Off the Sidelines and into the Real Estate Game

January 10, 2014 6:51 pm

If 2014 is the year you’re going to jump off the sidelines and into the housing market, the following resolutions will undoubtedly make the home-buying process a little simpler for everyone involved.

1. Hire a Reputable Agent. With the merging of technology and real estate, things often move very quickly during the house hunting process. This means you’ll want an agent to help you identify the best home for your specific needs and the best way to make your dream house a reality. An experienced real estate agent will save you time and money and simplify the stressful nature of the hunt.

2. Know Your Credit Score. Your financial history will be a driving force in your hunt for a house, as this simple number can affect how much banks will be allowed to loan you for your mortgage. Therefore, it’s crucial to know your credit score from the beginning. And if you find any errors within your credit report, start working on getting them fixed immediately. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the credit reporting bureaus once a year from, but correcting mistakes can be costly and time consuming. Don’t wait until you find a house to learn that your credit score isn’t strong enough to let you borrow the money needed to make a purchase.

3. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage. While you’ll want to shop around for the best mortgage, once you find the one that fits your needs, get a pre-approval letter so you can prove to sellers that you are serious about any bids. The last thing you want is to lose your dream home to someone who swooped in with a bid while you were waiting to find out if you would be approved for financing.

4. Assemble a Team. In addition to an agent, you should also have a lawyer, mortgage lender and home inspector on hand who will be at the ready when your search is over. These real estate professionals are a necessary part of completing a real estate transaction, so be sure you have done your research ahead of time and have talented people ready to help.

5. Dare to Dream. If you’ve been dreaming of a four-bedroom house with a finished basement, sunroom and a pool and you’re shown a house you like sans the pool and sunroom, don’t jump at it just because it’s close enough. Search for your dream home and even if you have to make concessions down the line, make sure it’s a house you can see yourself living in for a decade or more. Don’t make any rash decisions and be happy with the house you eventually decide to buy.

For more tips on buying a home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


New Year, New Home: 5 Resolutions Sellers Can't Afford to Overlook

January 10, 2014 6:51 pm

Now that we’ve ushered in a new year, sellers are taking advantage of the promise of new beginnings and ramping up their efforts in order to get their homes sold. Whether your home has been languishing on the market—or you’re in the early stages of preparing for its market debut—the following resolutions should be on your list in order to ensure the process goes off without a hitch.

1. Declutter. This is one of the biggest pieces of advice real estate agents give to clients who are in the process of preparing their home for sale. While getting rid of old clothes or photos is a good start, it’s not enough. If you really want to declutter your space, take the time to go room by room and dispose of anything that isn’t essential for you to live in the house. If you’re not ready to get rid of things for good, think about storing them elsewhere. When going through the decluttering process, minimize the amount of clothing in your closet, throw out any food that’s been sitting in your cabinets for months and store away any exercise equipment that may be sitting in your basement. In the end, the emptier the house appears, the closer you will get to a sale.

2. Stay Positive. Selling a home can be one of the most stressful experiences of your life, and for every house hunter that comes through the door without an offer, your hope diminishes a little more. But don’t give up. Remember, all it takes is one person to like your home for there to be a sale. Keep a brave face and before you know it, you’ll be getting that important call from your agent that your house has been sold.

3. Be Reasonable. If your agent is telling you that your house is priced too high or you don’t want to make the repairs necessary to appease a possible buyer, think again. Not only do sellers often assume that their house is perfect, they also think buyers will ignore its flaws because of its perfection. When going through the process, be sure to keep a cool head and consider what people around you are saying. And try to keep an objective mind at all times.

4. Paint. Spruce up the rooms in your home with some fresh paint. Make sure to use neutral colors and don’t forget about the bathrooms or hallways. This is a relatively cheap way to get your house looking great and can help make a positive impression when someone comes to view the home.

5. Stage Your Home. Whether you hire a professional stager or take the advice of some fashionable friends, make sure each room in the home gives off a look that will make potential buyers want to see more. By adding some eye-catching furniture and decorative accents, each room within your home will look like it belongs in a magazine.

For more tips on preparing your home for sale, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Fire Safety

January 10, 2014 6:51 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines five resolutions every seller should add to their list to ensure a successful home sale. Other topics covered this month include six factors that need to be taken into consideration when purchasing a home with a friend and how to enhance your space and attract prospective buyers through the use of furniture. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips for Protecting a Home from the Ravages of Winter

January 10, 2014 5:03 am

As temperatures across the country reach dangerous levels, now is the time to make sure that your home is prepared to deal with the icy conditions. Fremont Insurance offers a few tips to help homeowners protect their homes against two of the most significant winter risks: ice dams and frozen pipes.

Ice Dams occur when heavy snow buildup melts during the day then refreezes as temperatures drop overnight. After several days of this cycle, the melted water and ice work up under the shingles entering the attic and damaging ceilings, walls and contents. To help prevent dams from forming:

• Keep gutters and down spouts clear of debris, snow and ice, so melting roof snow can flow.
• Keep snow on your roof to a minimum. Roof rakes let you stand on the ground to safely pull the snow off the roof.
• Evaluate attic insulation and ventilation. Good airflow is essential to a cool, dry attic.

Frozen Water Pipes cause extensive damage to many homes and businesses every winter. If you think turning the heat down while you're away or on vacation will save you money, think again. If your water pipes freeze and burst, it could cause thousands of dollars in damage. Homeowners can take some simple preventive measures:

• Locate and insulate pipes susceptible to freezing – typically near outer walls, in crawl spaces, or in the attic.
• Wrap pipes with UL-approved heat tape and seal air leaks.
• Disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
• Drain and shut off the water supply (except indoor sprinkler systems) if you expect to be away for several days.
• Have someone check regularly to ensure the heat is still on and things are okay.
• Make sure you and your family knows how to shut off the water to your home.

If you do discover frozen pipes:

• Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
• If pipes burst, stop the flow of water as soon as possible to minimize damage.
• Be mindful of the risk of electric shock in and around standing water.
• Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent right away.

Source: Fremont Insurance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mortgage Rates Stay Largely Unchanged

January 10, 2014 5:03 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey®, showing average fixed mortgage rates little changed amid a week of light economic reports.

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.51 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending January 9, 2014, down from last week when it averaged 4.53 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.40 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.56 percent with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.55 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.66 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.15 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.05 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.67 percent.

• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.56 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, unchanged from last week. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.60 percent.

"Mortgage rates were little changed amid a week of light economic reports. Of the few releases, the private sector added an estimated 238,000 jobs in December, which exceeded the market consensus and followed an upward revision of 14,000 jobs in November, according to the ADP Research Institute,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. “Also, the Institute for Supply Management reported a greater slowing in growth in the non-manufacturing industry in December than the market consensus forecast."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips for Eating Clean All Week Long

January 10, 2014 5:03 am

With the New Year in full swing, let’s face it: eating healthy is hard work. Sure, eating fruits and vegetables can be healthy, delicious and rewarding, but it’s also a lot of work! It takes lots of planning and shopping to set yourself and your family up for success. Here are a few things you can do on Sunday night to prepare yourself for some home cooked and healthy meals throughout the week.

Take Inventory: Before hitting the grocery store, look inside all of your cabinets, your refrigerator, and your freezer and see what you already have. What items can you make meals with? What do you need to make that happen? Plan for meals based around what you already have and save money while doing it.

Rinse and Chop: Wash fresh fruits and vegetables in bulk and get ready to chop. Using a chopper or a really good knife, chop everything you think you’ll need for the week and store them in individual Tupperware or plastic bags. Having common items like onion and garlic chopped and ready to go will save you precious time midweek and will make it a cinch to throw together quick sauté-based meals during the week. It’ll also be easier to grab fruits and veggies on the go this way and it’ll prevent you from grabbing chips or other salty snacks.

Cook in Advance: If you find yourself with free time on Sundays, pre-cook 1-3 meals in advance. Split up meals into portions using Tupperware or carefully store it for the following night’s dinner. Having a healthy veggie stirfry cooked and ready to go will help you eat healthier come Monday night. Meat eaters can simply cook or grill some lean protein whenever they’d like and add it to the already prepared meal. Cooking in advance is the best way to help you stay on track throughout the entire week.

Pro Tip: Rinse your fruits and vegetables in a solution of 10 parts water, 1 part vinegar. Using this solution will help your healthy snacks stay way longer than simply sticking them in the fridge.

Always remember that a little planning can go a long way. If you put in a little extra time on the weekends, you can be well on your way to clean eating in no time.

Published with permission from RISMedia.