Blogs

5 Ways to Outsmart Burglars

Some of us just cannot wait for the holidays and the excitement that comes along with these few crazy weeks: the festive parties, family you haven’t seen in years, and let’s not forget the food. The joyful feeling and comfort food might just help you put your guard down.

Though you may look at this time of year as a time to enjoy what you’ve worked for all year, there are others who see this time of year as an opportunity. An opportunity to easily steal your belongings.

Oh, those long lines at the mall may be a headache for you, but a burglar will be happy to have those extra few minutes to make a clean getaway after cleaning you out. So you might want to think twice about that social media post, telling everyone that you hate holiday lines or traffic or posting what a great deal you got on a new flat screen tv. Remember, not everyone following you is a friend.

Don’t give thieves an annual bonus! This holiday season, outsmart those bandits by finding your homes weak spots and securing them to make your home safe. Fortunately for you, we have taken the time to gather security experts’ top tips to keep your home safe during the busy holiday season.

  1. Lock it up

Nowadays, common sense is not too common. Although your neighborhood is usually safe, these are the times that thieves visit your area. If you’re headed out of town, it’s a good idea to program your outdoor lights to switch on at dusk and off at dawn, of course, keep your doors and windows locked, and make sure to set your alarm system, if you have one.

If you’re going on vacation, put a hold on your mail because piled up mail boxes is a sure sign that nobody is home. Also, stop your newspaper delivery until you return. A stack of newspapers at the front door is also a signal to thieves.

In other words, don’t put a target on your house.

  1. Outsmart package pirates

“Packages sitting outside your door are like a billboard that screams ‘no one is home,'” says Justin Lavelle, chief communications director for BeenVerified, an online background check platform.

His recommendation, “If you live in a city or high–foot traffic area, consider using an Amazon Locker, where you can pick up packages at your own convenience. (You can also have packages sent to your office address or, for U.S. Postal Service deliveries, held for pickup at a post office location.)”

If you’re buying from an online retailer with brick-and-mortar locations in your area, consider having your items shipped to the local store for pickup.

“If that sounds like a lot of work, most shipping providers (including UPS and FedEx) allow you to postpone delivery until you know someone is home. UPS and FedEx also allow consumers to leave directions for where to drop off packages.”, says Lavelle “Follow their shipping details so you know what date the delivery is anticipated, and leave a note attached to your door with where you want the delivery to be left,” he says. “Just make sure you write ‘For UPS’ or ‘For FedEx’ on the outside and fold the note over or put it in an envelope.”  Also, make sure the walkway to your door is open, clear, and visible to neighbors.

“If thieves can shield themselves behind large bushes and decor such as large blowups and Christmas trees, it’s that much easier for them to go unnoticed,” Lavelle says.

  1. Don’t share too much on social media.

This might be too much to ask nowadays, but trust us here: Smart crooks are not just watching your house, but also social media accounts. Be mindful that when you announce that two-week holiday trip to Vegas all over Twitter, you’re telling the world that your house will be unattended.

The same sense applies to sharing photos of your home and your goods: it’s the same as would-be burglars if there’s something worth stealing inside your home.

And while you’re evaluating your account, be sure that you know who can and more importantly, who cannot see your profile.

“Anytime you publicly RSVP to parties, school events, concerts, or any other event, you’re giving an intruder an invitation to target your home,” Lavelle says. “Social media may not give away your home address, but with the internet it’s not hard to find out.”

  1. Smarter is better

If you’ve been contemplating the thought of outfitting your home with the latest smart home technology, the holidays are  perfect time to finally get on board. You’ll have the excitement of a new gadget to play with, and the peace of mind knowing that your home has some extra safeguards—especially when you can’t be there.

The options are virtually endless in todays market: Think about a smart doorbell, more commonly known as a video doorbell, which detects motion and provides a view of your front door from your smartphone. Or try the a smart security light, which sends real-time push alerts to your phone so you can see and speak to who’s lurking on your porch—or expel an alarm directly from an app, if necessary.

How would you like to control your lights with the swipe of a finger? Check out innovations like smart lightbulbs, which allow you to operate your lighting from anywhere.

Or maybe you’re looking for an all-in-one smart security solution, consider a system like Nest Secure, which integrates a variety of self-installable cameras, motion sensors, and alarms and poses a serious threat to traditional alarm companies.

  1. Consider upgrading your home

Wood or glass can break easily under pressure from an intruder, says home security expert Sadie Cornelius of SafeSmartLiving.com. Consider upgrading to a stainless steel door.

If that is not consistent with your aesthetic, make sure your deadbolt requires a key on both sides. Smart locks are easy to install and provide an additional layer of security from would-be thieves.

And to better illuminate burglars, consider motion-detecting lights, which use little energy and are often quite affordable.

 

Are You Ready For Disaster?

 

What would you do if a disaster struck in your home? What would be your course of action?

With recent events, we have learned, that wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes can affect anyone—at any time. Therefore, it’s probably a good idea to be educated on how to help yourself during an emergency. Although nobody likes to imagine themselves in the midst of a natural disaster, its best to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Here are 10 ways to help minimize or even prevent damage to your home in the midst of a natural disaster.

1. Make sure your smoke detectors are working!
Whether a damaged electrical wire or an improperly used generator, “fires tend to happen around natural disasters,” warns Tom Heneghan, senior program manager for Disaster Cycle Services at the American Red Cross.

“Make sure that you have properly placed smoke detectors in working order. If they’re hard-wired, make sure they also have battery backup. Don’t forget to replace the detectors themselves every 10 years—the sensors go bad over time”, Heneghan says.

2. Have an escape plan!

“Everyone in your family should know not one, but two ways to get out of the house fast”, Heneghan says. Make sure everyone in the house knows the escape route or routes. It is also a great idea to have a meeting place. For example, the mail box across the street or the big oak tree two houses down. If you fail to plan, your plan is to fail.

3. Keep your valuables in an easy to reach place!

Valuables are not only jewelry and money. In fact, in the event of an emergency, they are usually not the first to be saved. Social Security cards, baby pictures, insurance policies, and ID’s should be kept in a place where you can get to them fast. Those items will be most valuable in the days to come.

It may be worth investing in a fireproof safe to keep your most important documents and other valuables.

4. Prepare to rough it!

“Have a grab-and-go kit ready to go at the foot of your bed,” Heneghan advises. “A flashlight, water, and all-purpose tools can go a long way.”

It’s always good to have a battery powered radio to keep updated on news or local events.

“It’s important to follow the directions of your local officials,” Heneghan says. They’ll be able to tell you, for instance, if your water is safe to drink, if and when you should leave your home, and where you can go for help.

5. Know how to reach utility companies!

“If you smell natural gas, see downed power lines, or suspect another emergency situation, leave the area immediately,” says Teresa Young, a spokesperson for Pacific Gas and Electric.

If you smell gas, alert everyone around you to move away from the area, call 911, and then call the gas company.

“Don’t use anything that could be a source of ignition, including cellphones, flashlights, light switches, matches, or vehicles until you’re a safe distance away,” Young adds.

Even if your gas can be turned off at the main gas service shut-off valve, experts advise against attempting this unless you smell gas, see a broken gas line, or suspect a leak.

You should know where your electrical panel is. In an emergency, flip the main breaker switch inside to turn off all the power in your house. But common sense should be used. For example, if your panels located in the basement that happens to be flooded, you shouldn’t go anywhere near it until a licensed electrician gives you the go ahead.

6. Make sure to anchor the heavy furniture!

It’s a good idea to anchor your heavy shelves or armoires to the wall. In the event of an earthquake, it will prevent these heavy items falling on someone. Not only will they fall onto someone, the small items in them can become projectiles and really do some damage.

7. Understand your insurance policy!

Are you covered with your flood insurance? Are you protected against earthquake damage? The time to make sure you are covered is before the event, not after.

“If your home was impacted by a major disaster, you may be eligible to apply for federal assistance,” says Jenny Burke, a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman.

Still, any granted funds you’re eligible for might not cover all your damage. Or, you might only qualify for a loan that will have to be repaid.

8. Have an estimate of what your personal property is worth!

A common mistake that most homeowners make is not documenting what their stuff is worth.

Take video or pictures of your property. Preferably, pictures of the serial numbers or product numbers. This also includes everything from your grandmother’s diamond ring to your sectional couch to your juicer. Its just to show your insurance company proof of what you owned and lost.

9. Know thy neighbor!

Get to know your neighbors. Chances are, they’ll be the people who will first respond to your cries for help.

“You’ll really depend on each other during and after an emergency,” Heneghan notes. “Who’s near you who will need help? Who can help you?”
Bake some cookies and take some to them, or have a BBQ and invite them over. In an emergency, a familiar face can do wonders for morale.

10. Keep your head up!

Don’t panic! If you aren’t dead, you made it. Now keep a clear head and figure out how to help if its needed. When you panic, you will make others, especially children, panic. Practice coping strategies such as, taking deep breaths or quick meditation.

It may be a good idea to download one of the Red Cross free apps for advice on dealing with common first-aid emergencies, weather alerts, and tips on preparing for certain types of emergencies.

Remember, its better to be prepared for a disaster and not have one, than to have a disaster and not be prepared.

 

 

Yellow road warning sign , Are You Ready ? , 3d render

Yellow road warning sign , Are You Ready ? , 3d render

Rich Renovations

 

Selling your home in a buyer’s market can be difficult. By investing some money back into your home in the form of some simple renovations can payoff big time. Four “must do’s” are highly recommended, although the extent of the rehab is up to you.

First, fix the obvious things that need to be fixed. A water stain on the ceiling that could be primed and painted, a filthy carpet that needs to be cleaned, and a dripping faucet that takes the attention away from the rest of the kitchen are just a few examples of issues that will significantly discourage buyers from even presenting an offer. If it is obvious to you it will most likely be noticed by others.

Second, give an honest evaluation of what is known to be the “Heart of the Home”, the kitchen. The kitchen is known in the real estate industry as the most influencing room to home buyers. Buyers look for a fluid kitchen layout with sufficient lighting, well finished cabinets, clean looking counter tops and preferably stainless steel appliances. More simple details such as a new faucets, polished floors and fresh paint are highly recommended and will be well worth the effort.

Next up are the bathrooms. New faucets, paint, caulk and possibly even light fixtures are usually sufficient enough to give the bathrooms a fresh feel. In some cases the vanity, cabinets or even fixtures need to be replaced, but thankfully the bathroom is typically the smallest room in the house and therefor will not need much to highlight it.

Last but not least, exterior image. It is no surprise that every home needs curb appeal and that means keeping the landscaping trimmed, the driveway swept and the front of the house rinsed off at least once a week. To really spruce it up a fresh paint job on the front door, shutters and even the garage door is always a good idea. One more simple task that with a little bit of work will ensure a better offer and therefore a better return on the sale of what is to most families your biggest asset.

 

Rich Renovations

 

Myths That Make You Overprice Your Home

It may seem difficult to price your home. Especially since the sentimental value may be high. There is also the fact that you want to make a profit, of course. Let’s not forget all that money you shelled out to install a swimming pool or a half-bath that now needs to be recouped, because you’re leaving the house in better shape than when you bought it. Right?

Well, not necessarily. Far too many sellers fall victim to myths about home pricing that, at first, seem to make sense, but don’t coincide with the real estate markets today. We’ve put a list of some of the most common myths that may cause you to overprice your home.

1. You will always make money when you sell.

Most often, real estate tends to appreciate over time: The National Association of Realtors® estimates that home prices will jump 5% by the end of 2017 and continue rising 3.5% in 2018. But there are no guarantees that you will sell your home for more than you paid for it and where you live can greatly affect the return on your investment.

The NAR also found, for instance, that the cost of single-family homes increased in about 87% of the cites it studied, but prices actually dropped in 23 markets. Don’t assume that you will make a profit until you’ve done your homework.

2. Price high to make big money.

You may be thinking: “Hey, it’s worth a shot!” Well, many sellers make the mistake of starting out high with plans to come down in the negotiations. That may not be the best way to start your home selling mission. In fact it may cause your home to go unnoticed because the real estate agent or the buyer many type in a “max price” into their search, for example, you know that you should list your home at $200,000 but you decide to list at $230,000 to have negotiating room. Buyers may type in $200,000 as a maximum price and your home will not be seen. Do not shoot yourself in the foot by trying to outsmart the market.

“While the payday might sound appealing, you’re actually sacrificing your best marketing time in exchange for the remote possibility that someone will overpay for your home,” says Kathleen Marks, a Realtor® with United Real Estate in Asheville, NC.

It’s possible certain buyers might be suckered in to seeing your home, but an experienced agent will know right away that the house is overpriced and this can lead to problems down the road (next myth will show this).

3. If your home’s overpriced, lower it later.

As mentioned in the previous myth, starting high with the intention of coming down later is not a good idea. One reason in particular is that an overpriced home tends to sit on the market longer than would a fair priced home. Most listing sites show the “Days On Market” and to a buyer, a home that has not sold may mean something is wrong.

Frankly, “Price your home appropriately from the beginning for your best shot at having a quick and easy sale,” Marks recommends.

4. Pricing your home low means not much money.

Have you ever heard of a bidding war? Well sometimes if your house is competitively priced, it may drum up tons of attention. You may end up with 2 or 3 buyers fighting over your home. This can give you much leverage when it comes to which fees you may or may not have to pay for and that will mean more dollars in your pocket at close of escrow.

5. You can add the cost of any renovations you’ve made.

This myth can be tricky. Let’s say you added an island in your kitchen to increase counter space and when you determined your listing price, you decided to factor in the cost of the addition because you see it as an improvement. This means you added an extra $10,000 because that’s what the island set you back. Along comes Mr. and Mrs. Smith who like the layout of your home except for the fact that they want an open spaced kitchen. They decide to put in an offer and deduct the amount that they think it would cost to remove that pesky island.

This just means that what you see as an improvement, some buyers may see as an obstacle.

The reality: While your renovations might see some return on investment, you’ll rarely recoup the whole amount. On average, you can expect to get back 64% of every dollar you spend on home improvements. Plus, that profit can vary greatly based on which renovation you do.

6. A past appraisal will help you pinpoint the right price.

An appraisal attributes to your home a value based on market conditions at a certain date, so it becomes old news very quickly. In fact, lenders typically won’t accept appraisals that are more than 60 days old.
“Since lenders know markets can change in six months’ time, it’s important for sellers to understand that a previous appraisal is never a reliable source for the current value of a home,” Marks says.

7. Your agent might overprice the house to make a bigger commission.

“Don’t even go there”, says Realtor Raena Janes of RJHomes in Tucson, AZ.
“While it’s true that an agent’s commission is based on the selling price of a house, the disparity will end up being negligible,” she says. “For example, the difference in commission between a $300,000 house and one that’s $310,000 is about $150.”

“No real estate agent is going to lose a sale for the sake of a couple hundred dollars,” she explains.

There is also the chance that the agent may not get your house sold just for trying to make an extra dollar. Simply put, your agent wants to sell your house just as much as you do, maybe more.

 

Your Home May Be Overpriced

Strange Housewarming Gifts

It can be a great idea to have a housewarming party after purchasing a home. This is where you can get all the little knickknacks that you wouldn’t think to buy on your own and maybe the more common, coffee maker. Some people take the gift giving to another level and are the reason “regifting” was invented. Whether given as a gag or a sincere gift, some gifts are just too creepy to be taken seriously. Here are five of the strangest gifts given at a housewarming.

1. Stuffed deer head

I guess this means you are literally a “deer friend” to them.

“When my wife and I moved to southern Ohio, some neighbors came over to introduce themselves right when we moved in. Most people brought food and wine as housewarming gifts, but one guy brought us a deer head. A trophy mounted, taxidermy deer head. He said something like, ‘It’s for your living room!’ My wife was so grossed out that we put it in the garage and left it there even after we moved.” – Jeremy Kendall, Putnam County, NY

2. A shower head

Perhaps this gift is more of a message.

“I moved into a place in Queens, NY, and my aunt bought me a shower head for no reason. The weird thing about it was that my aunt was a very ‘frilly’ lady. Everything she wore or owned had sequins or ruffles on it, so to get something as utilitarian as a shower head—wrapped in nothing more than a brown paper bag—was very strange.” – Trish D., Long Island, NY
Although, some shower heads are extremely fancy and have multiple spray settings and would make a nice gift.

3. A broom

It’s as if the giver is saying, “This place is dirty, you’re going to need this.”

“I recently moved to Los Angeles with my girlfriend. A friend of a friend welcomed me to town with a broom. It wasn’t any sort of special broom, but he said he’d recently bought one and it was the best broom he’d ever used in his life. That apartment had hardwood floors, so it did end up being a pretty solid broom. Still, it was an odd thing to receive as a gift.” – Owen Neil, Los Angeles, CA

4. A Plunger

Ok, this one is strange. What was she thinking?

“My aunt gave me a plunger for my new house. If that wasn’t weird enough, she wrapped it in tin foil. There was not gift receipt or tag on the plunger. I really just hope to God, it was new.” – Linda B, Huntington, CA

5. 12 pineapples

Who doesn’t need a dozen pineapples, right?

“When I was a kid, my family moved to South Carolina. About a week after we moved in, a series of neighbors showed up to our front door with pineapples. Whole pineapples. We had more than a dozen at one point. Apparently, the pineapple is a symbol of hospitality. My mom made pineapple everything for the next few weeks.” – Jeff Ashworthy, New York, NY

6. Decade-old spices

“So, you thought I said I wanted to have a good thyme”

“My parents have keys to my place. One day after I moved in, I showed up after they were supposed to feed my cat. There’s this spice rack, from 1993, with geese on it, sitting on my counter with a bow. It was a spice rack from their house—I remember it from when I was a kid. They got new stuff, so they gave it to me. I never asked for it, never wanted it. The best part is that there were spices in it—from 1993.” – Will H., Cleveland, OH

7. Lots of Candy

Was it a gift or an attempt to get rid of the evidence?

“A friend brought us a basket of candy to welcome us to the neighborhood. Not a small basket, it was like the size of a laundry hamper. I think she worked at a candy wholesaler nearby and just decided to load us up. We ate some of it, but could barely make a dent in it. We probably got a few cavities, too.” – Al Crespo, Denver, CO

8. Fish tank, complete with a fish

Just a tip, never give someone a gift that eats. That’s not a gift, it’s a responsibility.

“One of our neighbors gave us a small fishbowl with a goldfish in it. I’m not sure if she thought we needed the company or what. We couldn’t flush him, so we named him Scooter. I think we had him for a full five years before he finally passed away. RIP, Scooter.” – Carlos & Karla M., Plainville, CT

9. A batting helmet

“I moved to Colorado and my neighbor brought over as a gift a batting helmet from the local high school. He talked for about a half hour on how great the baseball program was without ever asking if I had kids of high school age. Needless to say, I avoid making eye contact, especially during baseball season.”— Mike B, Colorado.

10. A dead scorpion

Yes, a dead scorpion…

“I lived in Utah for a little while. An eccentric neighbor welcomed me to the area by giving me a dead scorpion encased in a little glass orb. It was a paperweight, and it was actually pretty cool—something I feel like I could’ve only gotten out West. But, it definitely weirded a lot of people out.” – Morgan Lynn, Atlanta, GA

 

Strange Housewarming Gifts

Buying Don’t’s

Buying a home can be one of the most memorable and exciting times in life. But unless you are extremely wealthy, buying a home is no impulse purchase. It will take plenty of preparation and research. Although it may seem like a daunting task, there is hope. Find yourself a great realtor and you will have a much better experience. As mentioned earlier, you will need to prepare. This means that you will have to avoid some actions, in order to ensure you will even be able to buy a house. We asked some real estate agents to share their views on some of the dumbest reasons people can’t buy a home. Don’t worry, they are avoidable!

Reason No. 1:  Waited to line up financing

“The first step in the home-buying process should be to meet with a mortgage lender to go over your financing options”, says Benny Kang, a real estate agent in Irvine, CA. “You really don’t know what you can actually afford until you meet with a lender,” says Kang. Although you feel confident in your purchasing power, there are factors that a lender will need to factor into your loan that you have never heard of.

Reason No. 2:  Using an unreliable mortgage lender

The mortgage industry is polluted with frauds—including a slew of fake or unreliable lenders. trusting in a bad lender can cause your escrow to fall through and give you an endless supply of headaches.
“Sometimes sellers reject offers because of the buyer’s lender,” says Philadelphia real estate agent Kathy Conway. To make sure your financing is sure and reliable, ask your real estate agent for lender recommendations instead of, you know, Googling it. And inform yourself on some common lending terms and practices.

Reason No. 3:  Thinking pre-qualified is the same as pre-approved

Pre-qualification and pre-approval might sound similar, but they’re not. Think of those credit card offers that say you are pre-qualified. When you call in and actually apply, it turns out you weren’t approved. You were simply qualified to apply. Basically, anyone can be pre-qualified for a loan, because it only involves having a speaking to a lender about the state of your finances (no documents are exchanged). Being pre-approved, meanwhile, involves the lender collecting the necessary documentation such as, your tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs, and more to put your loan together, and submitting the file to an underwriter for review. Once your information is verified, the lender will issue you a commitment in writing up to a certain loan amount that should be good for up to 90 or 120 days.

“When you submit an offer on a home, you’ll need to include a pre-approval letter from your lender”, says Conway.

“Educated sellers won’t even entertain an offer unless the buyer has a letter of pre-approval” from a reliable lender, Conway says.

Reason No. 4:  Shopping above your price range

Have you ever heard the phrase, “champagne taste on a beer budget”? It is common when it comes to buying a home to desire the absolute best. Think of your agent as a “buying coach” who will help keep you in your available market. If you aren’t able to buy a million-dollar home, that’s fine, there are ways to take a subpar home and turn it into a gem. All it takes is a little vision.

Reason No. 5:  Lowballing in a sellers’ market

Rely on your real estate agent to determine whether a house that you’re interested in has an accurate list price. (Agents can do this by performing a comparative market analysis, which requires looking at recently sold properties that are comparable to the house that’s up for sale.) “If a home is fairly priced, it might make sense to put in an offer at full price”, says Kang. Especially, “if you’re in a sellers’ market, making a crazy lowball offer can piss off the seller and destroy your offer”, says Kang.

Reason No. 6:  Submitting a bad personal letter to the seller

When competing against other buyers, you can submit a personal letter with your offer. But be careful not to overshare in your letter.

“Stick to the fact that you love the house and the neighborhood,” says McDonough. “Don’t get into personal details” such as your political or religious preferences. Also, you will definitely want to leave out any remodeling you plan to do to the home.

These are just a few tips on how to get the best homebuying experience as possible. And remember that home is where your heart is, but don’t let your heart in the home until after the close of escrow. Happy hunting!

 

Buying Don't's

 

Making the Right Low Offer!

If you are the type of person who likes to negotiate you purchase prices to the bare minimum, you may be able to “wing it” at a garage sale, but if you are going to buy a house, you will need to get some training. Yes, you weigh all options and do your research on everything you buy, and buying real estate will be your dream come true because everything is negotiable.

This does not mean you submit a lowball offer that may insult the seller. This means you do your homework and make a legitimate offer that your agent can work on. Here are some tips that can help you make a great offer without lowballing.

  1. Keep an eye out for price reduced properties.

If a home has been on the market for too long, the seller may be more eager to sell. This would be a perfect opportunity to get a great deal on the home. Especially if the home is vacant. Nobody wants to have an empty, unguarded property so any offer might be music to the seller’s ear. Another type is bank owned properties. These properties are usually vacant and the bank has no emotional connection to the home. An experienced real estate agent will be a great asset in making your offer look good.

  1. Why ask why?

Understanding why the seller needs to sell is the key to making an offer that will satisfy him/her. Did the seller get a job out of town and now, needs to move quickly? Is the seller someone who inherited the home? Is it a second home and the seller is not in a big hurry?  It never hurts to ask these questions. Once you find out what is motivating the seller to sell, your chances of getting the home at a lower price will be easier.

  1. Look for potential

Finding a home that is cosmetically challenged can be a chance to offer far below asking. There are simple and very inexpensive ways to spruce up a home. Although they may be easy and not costly, some sellers may not want to put in the effort and agree to sell for less to avoid making any repairs or improvements. Here is your chance to capitalize on the opportunity.

  1. Cash speaks louder that credit.

The seller may be frowning as they hear your offer until they hear, “all cash offer”, then they begin to turn that frown, upside down.  An all cash offer will usually mean a shorter escrow period and less chance of the deal falling through. An all cash offer is music to a seller’s ears. Music so loud it sometimes drowns out the sound of a low offer.

  1. Put a higher down payment to avoid paying mortgage insurance.

Speak to your lender and find out how much you would have to put down to avoid mortgage insurance. This will keep your monthly payment lower in case the seller counters with a higher price.

  1. Be one step ahead.

Finding a good lender is crucial in our home buying experience. An exceptional lender will understand that in all real estate transactions, there will be fires to put out along the way. Your lender will work closely with your real estate agent to make sure that your stress level never gets too high. One way to avoid hurdles is to get all your info to your lender as soon as possible. The more confident you can be, the stronger you will stand behind your offer. Understand that a seller’s biggest concern is going 30 days into escrow and have the deal cancel because the buyer could not obtain the loan. A letter from the lender with pre-approval attached to your offer will help to put the seller at ease and be more inclined to accept your offer.

These are some tips on making a solid offer. Your real estate agent will guide you through the steps. Remember, any offer is better than no offer at all.  Happy hunting!

 

Making the Right Low Offer

Bathroom Luxury

It is the one of the most visited rooms in your home. One of, if not, the most useful rooms. Without it, things would get messy. Yes, it is the bathroom. The bathroom is the unsung hero of the house, so why not dress it up? The average bathroom remodel runs about $18,000 but there are ways to fancy up your rest stop for a fraction of that cost.

With help from design experts we bring you some tips for making a bathroom look luxe for less.

1. Tile diagonally (or to the ceiling)

Designer Carolyn Rebuffel of Workroom C recommends diagonal tiling versus tiling along the square in a vertical or horizontal line. This trick will open up the space as well—crucial if you have a smaller loo.

“This will give a custom, bespoke feel to your bathroom,” she says.
Kevin Sawyers, the San Francisco–based founder of Sawyers Design, recommends fully covering a wall in tile—all the way to the ceiling—”to add lot of sparkle and dimension to an otherwise lifeless surface.”
“Material selections are very important, but how you use specific materials is paramount,” he says. “Adding tile to a small area doesn’t use the material to its best advantage.”

Tiling can be expensive if you use a pro—up to $2,000 depending on the size of your space—but this is a job you could tackle on your own if you’re an adventurous DIYer.

2. Add large-scale lighting

One of Rebuffel’s tricks is to use large-scale light fixtures such as flush-mount chandeliers.

“These can make a big impact overhead, but won’t take up any of the room’s physical space,” she says. “Remember, space is your biggest luxury.”

3. Freshen Up with Plants

Fresh-looking plants in galvanized planters draw the eye up, making a small space appear larger, says interior designer Christina Harmon.

You may be hesitant to put a living thing in your bathroom, but it will help to “clear the air”. Try aloe vera, Boston ferns, and even orchids.

4. Use classy containers

A classy container can serve multiple purposes. You can store anything from hair products to cotton swabs in them. They can also be used to accent your bathroom and make it look like a million bucks. Yes a nice shiny container can look flashy or a bright colored box can really make you counter top pop.

“This will make your space feel luxe, special, and thought-out—especially if your toiletries are on the cheaper side,” says Harmon, who loves amber glass containers.

5. Punch up your towels

Find some towels with rich detail like, embroidered edges, initials, and/or monogramming. Harmon also loves Turkish towels, which dry easily and have a luxe, light-weight feel.

6. Think Metallic

Brass, that decor staple from the 1970s and ’80s, is back in a big way, according to Janet Ramin, who teaches the interior design course at the New York Institute of Art and Design. Adding brass can elegantly add warmth to your bathroom.

Using the right shade is very imortant—”otherwise a space can look garish instead of great,” says San Francisco Bay Area designer Cecile Starin.
“The gold of yesteryear, which had a more greenish base, looks dated now,” Starin says. “But fixtures in brushed golds in sleek shapes look warmer, new, and fresh.”

The great part is there is no need to cut or install. A simple soap dish or toothbrush holder can give it a classy touch.

7. Add a mirror

Mirrors are known to make a room appear larger. Adding a mirror with an odd shape can drastically change your bathrooms appearance. Giving it angles and dimensions that otherwise would not be seen. A well-placed mirror can also brighten up your loo.

“Scale can be leveraged to make a strong style statement, so adding an oversized mirror—especially extending all the way to the ceiling—will add visual space and drama,” says designer Sam Jernigan of Renaissance Design Consultations. Her suggestion: have the mirror cut to house a pair of surface-mount sconces.

8. Hang large art pieces

An oversized piece of artwork can increase the luxurious feel to any ordinary bathroom.

“It’ll serve to visually anchor a smaller space,” Jernigan says. “The unexpectedness of seeing a 5-foot framed piece in a smallish room helps reinforce this idea of ‘borrowing’ inspiration from upmarket spaces.”

You want to be sure and find a piece that can withstand the moisture and traffic.

So now you’re only a few steps away from making your simple lavatory into a beautiful bathroom. Don’t forget the potpourri!

Luxury Bathroom

Make A House Your Home

What does it take to make the house you just purchased, into a real home? According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Cambridge, Mass.-based research group, it will take at least $5,000.00, and that is being modest.

New homeowners begin spending on upgrades or changes whether or not the house is newly constructed. Motivated by the desire to make the house appeal more to the homeowners’ taste and not the neutrality that builders use to appeal to all buyers.

Even if the house is complete with appliances, the colors of the interior often will be the first to change in order to make the home in the taste of the homeowner. It’s always a good idea to obtain a color chart from your local paint or hardware store. Buy a sample of the color and sheen you wish to put on the wall before you buy the materials. Most painting contractors charge between $1 to $1.50 per square foot to paint the interior of a home. If you decide to paint the area yourself, you can save yourself a pretty penny. The best way to go about that is visit a paint store and ask for a Sales Representative and some stores will send someone to your home to advise you on the best product and material to use. Free of charge.

If the home is not newly constructed, most likely you will consider changing the flooring. A lot of the previous owner will be left behind on the floor. Especially if they had pets. Vacuuming or mopping will not completely remove the lovely order the last homeowner left behind. With new technology, there are more options than ever. From stick on linoleum tile to snap on wooden planks. Its not just carpet and tile anymore. You can hire a professional to install your flooring but in today’s selection, there are many choices that allow the new homeowners to install the flooring themselves. All that is needed is a basic knowledge of geometry, to figure the areas square footage and a healthy back. Doing it yourself could save you thousands of dollars.

Younger, lower income homeowners, 35 and younger, tend to spend more money than older, wealthier homeowners. This is most likely due to the fact that the wealthier buyer tends to buy homes that are already put together the way they like. Also, the younger buyers have more children than the older buyers.

It’s always good to have some cash on the side for unexpected repairs. You never know what’s hiding under the carpet or beneath the kitchen sink. If it is a previously owned home, there will definitely be some surprise repairs needed. So be ready. A good realtor will encourage you to purchase a home inspection before escrow closes and that will find minor and major defects in the home, but the inspector will not remove flooring or fixtures to find hidden problems. Smaller problems that can become big problems if not addressed. For example, a poorly hung shower door can let water leak and may be absorbed into the drywall, creating mold. A simple adjustment or even a $50 door rail could prevent mold removal which can be thousands of dollars to remove.

Landscaping is another part of your home. On a cool autumn night, after a hard day’s work, sitting in the yard to watch the kids play or the sunset with a refreshing drink in your hand can be just what the doctor ordered. That is when patio furniture will be called for. New patio sets can range from $2000 to $8000. A nice garden to grow fruits and vegetables. Sitting back in a nicely landscaped yard and literally enjoying the fruits of your labor can be very satisfying.

Although the average amount spent on new homes is $5000, that doesn’t mean you will need to spend this amount. There are many ways to give the new home your personal touch without breaking the bank.

Visit your local garage sales. Have you ever heard the saying, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”? Well this could be true and you may find some gems. If you don’t want to spend thousands on patio furniture, find a used one, take it home, and give it a touch up with some paint. Many people save themselves money by doing this. This works a lot better if you are into the antique look. Think of it as giving new life to whatever you buy.

Another way is to let family and friends know what you are looking for. You may get lucky and find that someone is looking to remove that item from their home and you can get it at little or no cost. Most often, people will get rid of an appliance or piece of furniture due to a small/minor flaw or imperfection. You may end up with a practically brand-new piece. Always good to put the word out and keep your ears open.

Whether you buy brand new or second hand, you can put your personal stamp into your new house. Whether you have a large family or you live alone, it will not take much to turn your new house into a home.

 

Make A House Your Home

Subtleties of Home Staging

Staging your home can be intimidating. The feeling of taking your old décor and making it fresh, all without breaking your bank or knowing which colors to put in the entrance to make your home feel more welcoming can surely bring on a headache. Relax, take a deep breath, because you don’t need to be a professional home interior specialist to get the job done.

Sellers who want to present their home in a stylish way can use these tips from the experts. The best news is, they’re all styling tricks you can pull off yourself.

1.Organize your coffee table:
Making your coffee table stand out can increase the feeling of comfort in your home. It can be viewed as the center of future conversations and also a place for close friends and family to gather and spend time with each other. A cluttered or messy coffee table can make your living room uninviting.
Try dividing your coffee table into three sections. You can put a small plant in section one, a book or photo in section two, and maybe a remote control or phone in section three. Remember to keep it neat.

2. Flower Power:
Flowers are pretty. Plain and simple. Arranging a bouquet of flowers in the entry way of your home will work wonders. It will offer a fresh feel and it will stimulate the mind of potential buyers. Try to avoid fake flowers.

3. Pillow Talk:
Pillows can be tricky. You want to have enough to attract the eyes enough to admire but not too much as to create a distraction.
For a long couch, one pillow at each end should do the trick. On a love seat, three or four pillows lined up from end to end will work.
For chair or recliners, two small pillows can bring a “sit here” vibe.
The colors should be in the same color palette and nothing too wild.

4. Nice Fruit:
Fruit, like flowers, can add some fresh color to your home. It can also symbolize abundance and a sense of growth and prosperity.
Fill a bowl of the colorful fruits such as, green apples, oranges, bananas, and maybe even pomegranates.
Be sure to eat or replace the fruit before they begin to rot and attract bugs.

5. Towels Not Towers:
Towels are a staple in any bathroom. Anything that happens in the bathroom should end with use of a towel. Let’s hope!
A common mistake in many bathrooms is the towels being stacked too high. It gives off a sense of anxiety. Especially if someone wants to use a towel and they are afraid of this tower of towels falling on them. It may sound funny but stacking your towels three high is perfect. All the extra towels should be placed out of sight.

6. No Mess at Bedside:
Bedside tables are notorious for collecting clutter. Let’s face it, it is the place where we put things that we plan to put away later because we don’t want to get out of bed and never get to it, right?
Try and keep it simple. A lamp and small scented candle will suffice. You may be thinking of putting a photo on your bedside table, think again. When it comes to personal photos, less is best. You want your potential buyers to see themselves in your home as much as possible.

7. Clean Closets:
Buyers will take a peek into your closets. As you know, it is the hiding place for your mess. When showing your home, be sure to organize your closet and keep it clean.

Stephen Newman, president of Closet Factory in Fort Lauderdale, FL, says that many potential buyers make assumptions based on closets.
“A disorganized, cluttered space says, ‘This home is tight on storage,’ even if that’s not the case,” he explains.

On the other hand, you want to make sure that your closets are not too empty. Make sure there is a variety of clothes in your bedroom closet and blankets in your hall closet. Empty closets may give the buyer the idea that you are desperate to sell and that can produce lowball offer.

These are some ideas that may increase the chances of, not only selling your house, but getting the best possible price. They may seem small and petty but implementing these ideas may ensure that your offer won’t be.

 

Home Staging