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A Family Affair: Getting Children Involved in the Home-selling Process

June 6, 2014 5:15 pm

For sellers across the board, the process of preparing their home to stand out among the sea of competition is a challenging feat in and of itself. But when you add children to the mix, it can be next to impossible to keep the space clean and tidy.

While last-minute showings are troublesome enough, when you have kids—and you need to leave the house quickly—it can put a lot of stress on the situation. As any parent knows, keeping children from cluttering up your home is nearly impossible, and having a child in the house will oftentimes hinder your ability to clean.

However, it’s important to remember that you can still sell your home when children are involved. One smart idea is to create a designated play room so that when it comes time to pick up before a showing, there’s only one room you really have to worry about. If you’re looking for a space to transform, go with a game room or even an extra bedroom, as these rooms won’t necessarily make or break a deal.

Now’s also a great time to teach your child the importance of putting away his or her toys when they’re done playing; not only will this keep your house cleaner, it will get your child on the right path when it comes to picking up after him or herself. There are plenty of great children’s videos and songs that deal with cleaning. It can even be a fun game-like activity you can do together.

Keeping a bag of snacks on hand for when you need to sweep the kids away from their toys or the TV is another great idea that will keep them from making a fuss. Any parent knows a good treat can go a long way in getting kids to behave.

For those with babies, try to keep all extra diapers, wipes and lotions hidden away in a dresser or drawer and make sure the diaper pail is emptied. If possible, take out dirty diapers immediately to reduce any odors building up.

In addition, be sure to pay attention to any toys your children have outside so that the yard isn’t littered with sports equipment, bikes and hula hoops. Create a space in your garage where everything can be stored in an orderly fashion.

In the end, the most important thing to remember about selling a house when kids are part of the equation is that you shouldn’t stress too much about making sure everything is perfect. It’s a good bet that those looking at your house will have kids of their own, so they’ll understand a toy here or there or a cluttered closet in the child’s room. Just do the best you can.

For more information about getting your children involved in the home-selling process, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Paying Points May Save Money in the Long Run, but is It Right for You?

June 6, 2014 5:15 pm

When it comes to mortgages, choosing the right one is instrumental to successfully achieving the American Dream of homeownership. And for many buyers in today’s market, taking advantage of points is one way to ensure their mortgage truly fits their needs.

In its simplest definition, a point is an additional loan fee that is paid to the lender in exchange for a lower interest rate. Often referred to as “buying down,” points allow you to reduce the mortgage rate for the life of the loan. Before making a decision on whether or not utilizing points is the best choice for your personal situation, you’ll want to discuss what it all means with your agent and lender.

As an example, if you secure a mortgage loan for $500,000 without points, at 4.6 percent on a 30-year mortgage, your payment would be approximately $2,560 a month. If one was to pay two points ($10,000), the interest rate in this example would go down to 4.1 percent and the monthly payment would be around $2,415, saving you a little over $145 a month.

In this scenario, it would take you about eight years to recoup the money you paid up front. Therefore, if you plan to stay in the home for a period of time, this will save you money in the long run.

Homebuyers should also ask themselves some key questions to determine if paying points is a wise decision: How long will you keep the home? Do you have extra money to pay points? Could that money be better used for something else?

For instance, a savvy investor might be better able to invest that $10,000 and find greater dividends than $140 a month, but you have to weigh the variables, and if you’re not someone who does a great deal of investing, it could backfire.

Mortgage experts have a simple formula for people to follow: If you plan to stay in the house for less than three years, do not pay points. If you plan to stay in the house for more than five years, pay one to two points. If you’ll be in the house for three to five years, paying points doesn’t make a significant difference. Anything more, and paying points is a great idea.

Another positive associated with paying points is that they are interest-payment related, so they’re fully deductible on your taxes in the year that you close.

The decision to pay points is something every buyer will have to make depending on their own individual situation. Mortgage points can add up to valuable savings over the course of your loan, but the future isn’t always predictable. Even if you “plan” on staying in your home for 20 years, changes in your career or family life could alter the plan.

To learn more about points, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips to Keep Your Home from Languishing on the Market

June 6, 2014 5:15 pm

When it comes time to move, sellers are typically interested in two things: getting their home sold for top dollar and getting it sold quickly. Whether your timeline is being cut short due to a job relocation or a change in your personal life, the following tricks of the trade will go a long way toward keeping your home from languishing on the market.

1. Price It to Sell: The most obvious way to sell a house quickly is to price it below the competition. Check out the comps in your area and then talk with your agent about a price that you’re comfortable with, but one that is less than virtually everything else in your market. By doing so, you’ll get more showings and might even incite a bidding war that will get the price closer to what you originally hoped to sell for in the first place.

2. Add Aesthetics: While it’s not always feasible to make large changes at the drop of a hat, putting in new windows or having your landscaping redone can add value quickly and go a long way toward attracting prospective buyers. Other changes that might attract buyers include repaving your driveway, adding shutters and power washing the exterior of your house. You can also buy a new mailbox and replace any address stickers that may have seen better days.

3. Sweeten the Pot: Everyone likes something for free, so offering up some of the furniture, curtains or other items in the home could be a great way to get someone to sign on the dotted line quickly. Another great tip is to offer money toward the closing costs as a way to entice people to buy. Transferable home warranties are also becoming popular, and for as little as $500, you can offer a one-year policy that will cover appliances that fail. Anything you can do to give the buyer a little extra can always speed up negotiations.

4. Use Social Media: Talk with your agent about a solid social media plan that includes utilizing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest in order to help sell your home. Make sure you have great pictures, creative videos and unique descriptions that will get people interested. Use these sites to network as much as possible so you can reach out to new buyers and create interest in your home.

5. Stage a Neighborhood Clean-up Month: Organize a neighborhood effort to clean the streets, parks and community, and make the entire neighborhood more attractive. You can all chip in on a power washer to clean the houses and driveways; hire a landscaper who agrees to add flowers to all the yards; or even have a painting party to spruce up the older looking houses in the area. When house hunters see the quality of the neighborhood, it will make them more likely to want to live there.

For more information about getting your home to sell quickly, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Forging Connections with Men and Women Key to Finding Real Estate Success

June 6, 2014 5:15 pm

We’ve all heard the notion that women typically make the final decision in terms of which house to buy, and that the most important rooms to attract female house hunters include the kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms. However, when preparing to list your home on the market, the last thing you want to do is neglect any potential prospect. This means you must think of both sexes—and what appeals to both—when going through the process.

While most men gravitate toward rooms with gadgets, televisions and electronics, if you have a large entertainment unit in the home, leave it on when showings are scheduled (with the sound off) to truly show off what a beautiful flat screen looks like in the room.

If the home utilizes technology to control the heating, air or lights, highlight it with a pamphlet, or better yet, create a short video showcasing these features. Then leave a QR code on the table so prospective buyers can check the video out on their mobile device. This may take a little extra effort on your part, but the payoff could be huge.

Garages are another area that men typically gravitate toward, especially if they’re clean, have lots of shelves and contain enough storage for tools and sports equipment. Adding a workbench is a great idea as well. If you typically keep your car inside, remove it before a showing. Even if you have a classic car that men will envy, a garage with a car parked inside looks much smaller than one without.

Game rooms are also big when it comes to attracting men who want a place to put a pool table or hang their sports photos or movie posters, so staging your basement or extra room in this way is a great idea. Unlike personal photos that you should always take down, it’s wise to leave up any sports memorabilia in rooms like these that men will remember and want to duplicate when they buy the home.

Open spaces and higher ceilings are also a draw for men, because psychologically, they have a larger sense of personal space. You want to create rooms where a man feels as if he can walk through the house without stepping around all sorts of furniture. Men also prefer that the home doesn’t feel too fancy or frilly. They don’t envision dinner parties, but rather think about getting together to watch football with their friends on the weekends.

Don’t forget about the yard either. Many men would rather have a well-maintained lawn with thick, healthy grass than an area full of fancy shrubs and flowers.

When a couple buys a home, it takes an emotional investment by both, so make sure you forge that connection with both men and women.

To learn more about helping your home stand out among men and women, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Finding the Perfect Home

June 6, 2014 5:15 pm

If a home purchase is on the horizon, you more than likely know exactly what you’re looking for. Whether you desire stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors throughout or a pool in the backyard, letting your agent know what’s on your must-have list is one of the best ways to ensure you find your dream home.

As you go through the process of searching for homes, it’s important to remember that your agent is trained in locating the best properties that fit your criteria, so if your agent isn’t pushing a home that you’ve seen online, there’s a good chance that the house won’t suit your needs.

Sometimes a sort of beer-goggle phenomenon occurs when house hunters look at homes and fall in love with a property that isn’t right for them. When staged properly, a home might appear to be perfect as prospective buyers are often distracted by the cleanliness of the space or even the antique furnishings that have been incorporated into the space to achieve a specific look. Others may be impressed with how much nicer the home is than the rental they’re living in, but again, it doesn’t mean it’s what they truly want.

A good agent will bring you back to reality by reminding you that the house doesn’t have the finished basement or large yard you’re looking for, keeping you more on point in looking at homes that actually meet your specifications.

Another thing to consider when deciding on whether or not a home is right for you is the price. Finding everything in your dream home for a price you can afford may be a little too optimistic, and chances are the right home may come along but at a price that’s a little too steep. Sometimes it’s better to give up one or two items from your list rather than be stuck with a mortgage payment that you can barely keep up with.

Don’t feel like you need to completely overhaul your list of must-haves either. Some features you should stick to your guns with. If you fancy yourself something of a cook and you want a gourmet kitchen, look at houses that only offer these. Has a walk-in closet always been your dream? Wait until you find one. If you’re determined to have a pool, don’t look at houses without them. Why fall in love with a home if it doesn’t have what you really want?

Along the same lines of thinking, if you started your house hunt wanting four bedrooms, you probably shouldn’t settle for less. There’s a reason you came up with this number and the last thing you want is to be in a home that you outgrow quickly because you jumped at a house that wasn’t really what you needed.

Of course, there are some things that can be changed in a home, so if it doesn’t have the spa bathtub you want or the top-of-the-line washer and dryer you have your heart set on, you can always make those changes down the line. Just make sure whatever needs to be added or replaced doesn’t turn into something that’s impossible to afford.

When searching for a new place to call home, take your time so that you end up with a home that’s as close to your dream as possible. Be sure to keep your agent in the loop when it comes to the things you’re looking for—and those that are an absolute must—so that you don’t spend time looking at houses that don’t fit your needs and lifestyle.

For more information about finding the perfect home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Mortgage Points

June 6, 2014 5:15 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 how to manage your expectations when it comes to finding the perfect home. Other topics covered this month include five tips to keep your home from languishing on the market and simple ways to get the whole family included in the home-selling process. 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.


Talk Your Way to the Top: Why Old-School Communication Skills Are the Competitive Edge New Grads Need

June 6, 2014 3:24 pm

You’ve just graduated from college and are (justifiably) proud of your accomplishment. But as you head into the workforce, don’t expect your new credentials or your great GPA to do the heavy lifting for you. Geoffrey Tumlin warns they don’t matter nearly as much as your ability to articulate, influence, persuade, and connect. These days, innovation and collaboration rule, and without the skills you need to do both, even the most prestigious degree is just a piece of paper.

“What stands out to hiring managers are great communication skills,” says Tumlin, author of Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and in Life. “Can you pitch an idea to a supervisor? Can you build a consensus among group members? Can you build rapport with a client?

Here, Tumlin shares eight communication lessons that will give you the competitive edge you need, now and throughout your career:

Take a daily dose of higher-order communication. Most new grads are highly skilled users of social media, text messages, and email. But these modes of communication are characterized by expedience and convenience—it’s easier to send messages this way than to call or to communicate face-to-face.

“Not all of our communication can happen effectively along lower-order channels,” says Tumlin. “Sometimes we need to do difficult things with our communication, like resolve a conflict, persuade someone who’s reluctant, or convey a complicated idea. When we reach for our more difficult and time-intensive higher-order communication skills, we can’t afford for them to be rusty. That’s why everyone should practice higher-order communication every day.

“Even though it takes longer and is more difficult, walk over and talk to a coworker instead of sending an instant message. Call a friend and congratulate her on getting a new job instead of posting it on Facebook. And go visit your client instead of writing him an email,” recommends Tumlin.

Talk (and type) like your grandmother’s watching. While words can build our work relationships only slowly, they can cause damage with lightning speed. A blurted retort, a thoughtless email, or a hasty remark can—and does—land people in hot water all the time.

“A quick and effective way to improve your communication is to pretend like your grandmother—or someone else who brings out the best in you—is standing by your side when you are talking or typing,” Tumlin suggests. “Acting like someone you respect is looking over your shoulder will give you the pause you need to get in front of ill-advised words and provide the space you need to self-correct when you’re frustrated, agitated, or confused.”

Expect less from technology (and more from people). Because technology does a lot for us, it’s easy to overestimate its role in our success. But our enthusiasm for what our digital communication tools can do shouldn’t cause us to lose sight of the people behind the tools. Our devices don’t possess the communication abilities we think they do.

“A tech-centered view of communication encourages us to expect too much from our devices and too little from each other,” says Tumlin. “We assume that hitting ‘send’ means we’ve communicated, when really, the other person may not have understood the message at all. Even with the most powerful connection and transmission devices in human history in the palm of our hands, communication doesn’t happen until the other person understands.”

Listen like you’re getting paid for it. The digital revolution facilitated hypercommunication and instant self-expression, but made it harder for anyone to listen. Between emails, social media, and texts, there’s just too much communication junk getting in the way. Our thoughts are scattered, our minds wander, and ever-present distractions make it difficult for us to focus on the person right in front of us. We need to make a concerted effort to reinvigorate our listening skills.

Assume you’re a terrible questioner (and set out to fix it). Most of us have poor questioning skills because we don’t think twice before blurting out a query. But questions aren’t neutral; they are powerful communication tools because they change the trajectory of a conversation. As you’ve probably noticed, questions often make conversations worse. Even “simple” inquiries can go awry. “Is this your final report?” or “Did you call John in accounting about this?” can cause trouble if the other person thinks there’s a criticism behind the query.

“Faulty questions contribute to many conversational failures and can add anxiety, defensiveness, and ill will to interactions,” says Tumlin. “Use your questions to open up a conversation and learn about the topic you’re discussing. If you take your questions as seriously as you take your new job, you’ll dramatically reduce the friction caused by faulty questions.”

Act like every interaction might be important. Nothing kills a conversation faster than someone who doesn’t care. And it doesn’t take much more than folded arms, a disapproving scowl, a sigh of boredom, or a well-placed eye roll to make someone feel like what she’s saying just doesn’t matter. And the company newbie, who needs to establish connections all over the office, can’t afford to prematurely shut the door on any relationships.

Don’t “be yourself.” “‘I was just being myself’ sounds harmless, but it’s often an excuse to indulge in bad interpersonal behavior,” points out Tumlin. “Authenticity is good in spirit, but in practice it often torpedoes our goals and harms our underlying relationships.

“I’m not suggesting that you become a fake, just that you don’t cloak impulsive—and counterproductive—communication in the fabric of ‘being yourself,’” says Tumlin.

Let difficult people win. Your coworker Jane loves to argue. Your colleague Jim is incredibly stubborn. Your client in Albuquerque is always moody. Whether they’re controlling, critical, or cranky, the behaviors that make someone a difficult person spark frequent confrontations. Even if you fire a barrage of points and counterpoints into Jane’s arguments, you won’t match her debating skills. You won’t change Jim’s mind on anything. And you’ll be unsuccessful in your efforts to offset your client’s mood swings. Don’t lock horns with difficult people, insists Tumlin.

“Your communication—productive or unproductive, healthy or dysfunctional—is a major factor in how successful you will be in any job,” concludes Tumlin. “For the kinds of productive and meaningful interactions you want—and need—at work, pack a few communication ideas you didn’t learn at college in the pocket of your new suit to show you have the communication skills to succeed in business environments where innovation and collaboration are king.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Create a Safer Bathroom

June 6, 2014 3:24 pm

(Family Features) According to the National Safety Council, approximately 70 percent of all accidents occurring in the home happen in the bathroom -- accounting for nearly 200,000 accidents each year.

While it's difficult to eliminate risks entirely, you can make your bathroom safer for the whole family by following a few simple steps:

• Choose a textured floor. The splish and splash of taking a bath often leads to slippery surfaces. When choosing flooring for a bathroom, avoid slick surfaces like porcelain and granite, and look for textured choices with better traction. If ceramic is a must, look for certified slip-resistant options. When in doubt, opt for smaller bathroom tiles. The more grout lines, the more resistance your flooring will offer.

• Make it level. You don't need a large, walk-in shower to get one with a low threshold. As trips can be as dangerous as slips, look for a safe shower pan that is level with the floor, making it easy to step inside.

• Get a grip. Installing grab bars in the shower and next to the tub is a good idea for everyone, but it's especially important for those looking to stay in their home as they age. Some products, such as the new Decor Assist accessories and Decorative ADA-compliant Grab Bars from Delta, exceed ADA load requirements and come in a variety of designs and finishes to coordinate with any aesthetic.

• Keep kids in mind. Locks for every style of cabinet or drawer are readily available at local hardware stores. If you have small children (or if they visit), remember to lock away medications, small electrical appliances and cleaning supplies. Above all, never leave children unattended in the bath or shower.

Don't get burned. Water heater thermostats can be preset up to 140 degrees, a temperature that can easily burn sensitive skin. Reduce the risk of burns by setting your water heater to 120 degrees. For added peace of mind, install a shower system that provides a digital temperature read out. Some shower heads and hand showers, such as the new options from Delta Faucet with Temp2O Technology, indicate the temperature of the water via an LED color indicator, as well as a digital numerical readout, and can be installed within minutes.

No matter what age or stage of life, mishaps can happen to anyone and making a few simple adjustments could make all of the difference for your family's safety in the bathroom.

To learn more about home safety, visit

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Only Certain Home Improvements Pay Off

June 6, 2014 3:24 pm

The Appraisal Institute encourages homeowners to exercise good judgment when deciding which home improvement projects to take on, saying that not all renovations enhance property values.

"It's very important that renovations stay within, but not exceed, community norms," said Appraisal Institute President Ken P. Wilson, MAI, SRA. "If they don't match what's standard in a community, owners could have difficulty recouping their investment when selling the property."

According to Remodeling magazine's most recent Cost vs. Value report, some of the projects with the highest expected return on investment are entry door replacement (steel), deck addition (wood), garage door replacement, attic bedroom and minor kitchen remodel. Other renovations with high expected pay-offs include window replacement (wood and vinyl), siding replacement (vinyl) and basement remodel.

Wilson advised homeowners that it may be best to hold off on major renovations if a homeowner isn't sure how long they will be in the home. The longer a homeowner stays in a property, the greater the opportunity for a return on investment, he said.

"Consumers should be aware that cost does not necessarily equal value," he added.

For an unbiased analysis of what their home would be worth both before and after an improvement project, a homeowner can work with a professional real estate appraiser -- such as a Designated member of the Appraisal Institute -- to conduct a feasibility study.

During a feasibility study, the appraiser will analyze the homeowner's property, weigh the cost of rehabilitation and provide an estimate of the property's value before and after the improvement.

Some green and energy-efficient renovations, such as adding Energy Star appliances and extra insulation, are likely to pay the homeowner back in lowered utility bills relatively quickly. Lower utility costs also are a draw for potential homebuyers. When appraising a home, the appraiser evaluates local supply and demand for green and energy-efficient properties and features.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Survey Says Father's Day Sales Offer Best Time to Find Tool Deals

June 4, 2014 6:18 am announced results from its Tools Shopping Survey* (TNS Global). Of 1,000 American adults surveyed online, more than 8 in 10 said they buy tools every year, with nearly 4 in 10 saying Father's Day is the best time to find deals on tools (compared to 18 percent on Black Friday). Lawn and garden tools were most in demand this year (38 percent) over combination power tool kits (20 percent), while Craftsman leads the way as most popular tool brand (38 percent) over Black & Decker (26 percent) and DeWalt (19 percent).

Overall, home improvement spending is expected to grow 6.8 percent this coming year to nearly $313 billion in 2014 (Home Improvement Research Institute). FatWallet's tools shopping survey also reveals that 87 percent of those that buy tools will spend up to $250 on tools this year (13 percent will spend more than $250).

Key Results from the Survey:

How Often: Eighty-one percent purchase tools at least once this year, and 40 percent more than once (50 percent under the age of 40). Twenty percent buy tools three to four times a year (25 percent for those w/children). Nineteen percent have "never" purchased tools (13 percent of males).

Best Time to Buy: Thirty-nine percent say Father's Day is best time to find deals on tools, more than Black Friday (18 percent), Cyber Monday (1 percent) and December Holiday (12 percent) combined. Thirty percent said Spring Sales offered the best tool deals.

Tool Spend, or Not: One-third of males said the only thing to stop them from buying tools is if they "run out of money." Fifty-eight percent will spend less than $100 while 29 percent will spend between $100-$249 (36 percent under the age of 40). Thirteen percent will spend $250+. On the contrary, one-in-four said they either have way too many tools or are too busy to take on home projects and one-in-five admit they have tools they've never used before.

High Demand: Lawn and garden tools are most coveted (38 percent), especially for females (46 percent) and those with children (44 percent). Cordless-combo power tool kits and hand tools (20 percent) are next followed by power drills (15 percent), tool box/storage (13 percent) and circular saws. Note: two-thirds of respondents say Quality/Durability is the most important feature for power tools.

Top Brands: Four-in-ten choose Craftsman as their most desired tool brand, while 26 percent like Black & Decker, 19 percent go for DeWalt, and 5 percent or less would choose either Makita, Ryobi, Bosch or Milwaukee.

"Technology allows us to build and repair stuff around the home–faster, easier and cheaper than ever before," stated FatWallet spokesperson, Brent Shelton. "Deep discounts online for newer tools and tech gadgets during Father's Day promotions have created a windfall of savings and selection for early June shoppers."

Source: FatWallet

Published with permission from RISMedia.