One Chance to Make a Good First Impression

  As we approach the busy holiday season and cold snowy weather, we have limited time to get home listings sold. For those that still want to sell their home this year, it is more important than ever to make a good first impression with buyers. The highest number of showings is usually the first ten days that a home is on the market. Staging or improving your home later, may include a price reduction.

  I was talking with a friend over the weekend that sold her home in another state, and she was surprised when the real estate agent recommended staging her home, as she thought it was perfect. Over half of her furniture and accessories were removed and the home was thoroughly cleaned, prior to the photos being taken. The home was priced competitively, and it sold for full price in 2 days.

  Another buyer, I spoke with felt good about his house and wanted to price it high as he didn’t want to leave any money on the table. He felt he could always reduce the price but couldn’t raise it. This house needed a lot of work as it had been a rental property and virtually no maintenance had been done for 15 years. The seller didn’t have the resources to make any repairs. 

  I knew the buyer, for this home, would be a contractor or someone with extra money that wasn’t afraid of some sweat equity. The property wouldn’t meet FHA or VA qualifications, with peeling paint and other hazards. In this case the property was emptied, cleaned, and priced $25,000 lower than if the property had been maintained as needed. 

    I showed a lake home a few months ago that had a new septic mound installed which created a hill between the house and the lake. Dozens of buyers looked at the house and it sat on the market for months, before the seller hired a landscaper. Had the beautiful improvements been made before it went on the market, the house could have sold faster without the seller having to reduce the price.

 

  With any home we are selling, we try to determine who the buyer will be and adjust our marketing to that buyer pool. A contractor or investor doesn’t care about staging as they see the property as a future investment. Buyers that purchase emotionally want to feel like they can move right in and feel at home. A buyer looking for a lake home or one level living, has specific requirements, and may look beyond staging. 

 

An experienced real estate agent can help you make a good first impression with your home.

Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Burnet. Submit your questions to ckempenich@cbburnet.com. All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.

Cost vs Value for Remodeling Projects

Remodeling Magazine issues an annual Cost vs Value Report outlining the average return on investment for 21 home improvement projects. The 2018 report shows that the average return on investment (ROI) for home improvement projects dipped across the board, with “upscale” projects taking the biggest hit. This can be attributed to the strong housing market with low inventory and the increased cost in building materials and labor.

Improving your curb appeal brings the highest return on investment (ROI). Garage door replacement has the highest average ROI at 98.3%, adding stone veneer 97%, and replacing the front entry door averages 91% ROI. 

Adding a deck is a good investment as well, at 83% ROI. This is an important improvement on a newer home where the builder installed a patio door with deck ledger. It is better to make this improvement long before you sell, so you can enjoy it, but if you don’t install a deck before you sell, it may take longer to sell and for less. Many buyers are using all their cash to purchase a home and don’t have extra money for remodeling. 

Minor remodeling is far more cost-effective than replacement, This year, there’s a 20-point difference in ROI: 76 percent for replacement jobs, versus 56 percent for remodeling. For example, a minor kitchen remodel averages $21,000 with an 81% ROI, and a major kitchen remodel averages $64,000 with a 59% return on investment. 

It makes the most sense to make repairs and improvements as they are needed rather than waiting until you are ready to sell. I have had many clients that have lived in their homes for 10 or more years and haven’t updated anything, and then when it is time to sell they are painting, replacing flooring, countertops, appliances, plumbing fixtures, light fixtures, etc.  Sellers often comment that they wish they would have made the improvements for themselves, rather than for the new buyer.

Some sellers overspend on remodeling projects prior to selling and end up with a very low ROI. If you live in a neighborhood where the homes are similar, and the average value is $300,000 and you spend $75,000 on remodeling projects, you may get an excited buyer willing to pay $350,000, only to have the buyer’s appraiser value the home at $325,000. In this case the selling price typically gets dropped to the appraised value, and seller loses $50,000 in remodeling costs. 

Contact an experienced real estate agent before you make a major remodel if you want to compare your resale value before and after a remodeling project.

Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Burnet, who lives and offices in the Chisago Lakes Area. Submit your questions to ckempenich@cbburnet.com. All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.

Winter Tips for Selling Your Home

  Selling your home in the winter brings more challenges than in other seasons. It gets dark early, it’s cold, snowy and icy, and it creates extra work for sellers to create a positive experience for buyers viewing the home so they can envision living there.

  Start with your driveway. I had an appointment to show a home last week with a steep driveway and the sellers hadn’t plowed. It was to slippery to drive up to the house even with all wheel drive, so the buyer’s decided they didn’t want to own a home with a problem driveway, and we skipped the showing.

   Salt the walkways so the snow and ice melts, especially if you have stairs. One of my clients was on crutches and had to maneuver upstairs that had 4” of snow. Many sellers don’t realize they could be liable if someone falls on their property.

  Turn on the exterior light. Not only will your home show better and feel more inviting, but it will make it easier for agents to see the lockbox to get the keys, especially if a combination needs to be entered.

  Have a large rug in the foyer. Often 3 or 4 people are entering the house with wet or snowy shoes or boots and there is no rug. This makes it slippery, can damage floors, and guests are stepping in water when they put their shoes back on to leave. If you have room, place a bench or chair for guests to sit on while putting on their shoes.

  Check your light bulbs and make sure you are using the highest wattage allowed and none are burned out. Turn on all the lights in the house before a showing. With the sun lower this time of year, rooms can feel dark and less inviting. Sometimes switches aren’t located in a spot that is easy find or lamps are used, and agents can’t find the right switch or don’t bother turning on a lamp. You want each room to show its best.

  Because there is very little fresh air inside your home in the winter, it is important to check for unwanted smells. Clean the bathroom and kitchen well, take out the trash, remove dirty laundry, and check for pet smells. Some sellers simmer lemons, cinnamon, or other spices on the stove before the showing.

  Make sure you have clear wide walk ways through your home. Remove as much clutter from your home as possible and pack it out of sight. We are still seeing Christmas trees and decorations in some homes that should also be packed away.  

  An experienced Real Estate Agent can provide specific tips to help you get top dollar for your home.

 Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Burnet, who lives and offices in the Chisago Lakes Area. Submit your questions to ckempenich@cbburnet.com. All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.

Staging Tips for Your Home

  The number one tip for making your home show it’s best is deep cleaning. This includes clean windows, shower doors or a fresh shower curtain, floors from wall to wall, the trim, doors, and appliances inside and out. Check for damaged window shades or curtains may need to be replaced. 

  Rooms will look larger without rugs, but you should have one in the entry way, which should be replaced if old or dirty. Check the rest of the flooring for damage or maintenance. Wood floors may need to be refinished, or other flooring replaced. Tile grout should be clean and old caulk replaced.

  Organize your closets, cabinets, drawers, and laundry room. Buyers will be looking at your available storage, so find a hidden spot for your detergents and cleaners. Pack away everything you can live without, including personal photos and books you aren’t reading. Boxes stacked in the basement or garage are better than clutter around the house. 

  Make sure your light bulbs work and add table lamps if a room seems dark. It is best to have bright rooms for showings. Changing out light fixtures or globes is an inexpensive way to update a room.

 If your walls are painted a dark color, consider painting them a light tan or light gray, depending on your décor. If painting is too difficult, hang large, light colored art work or a mirror to brighten the room. The mirror should be positioned to reflect sunlight into the room.

  Find a focal point like a fireplace, or outdoor view and position your furniture so if a buyer sits on your sofa, they can appreciate the view. Replace throw pillows and remove excess furniture.

  Remove all personal items from your bathroom for showings. Candles or potpourri can add a touch of color and a pleasant scent. Large white towels, a full roll of toilet paper, shiny faucets, fixtures, and mirrors will give it a spa feel. Don’t forget to close the toilet seat and empty the trash can.

  If the kitchen cabinets are older, you can clean, paint or touch up the wood. Changing out the cabinet hardware can help the kitchen look more modern. If the countertops are worn, replacing them with a standard granite may help your home sell faster. Clear the countertops of food and appliances. You can set the table or simply place a colorful vase with fresh or dried flowers on the table. Find a place to hide the trash and recycling cans.

  Declutter bedrooms, make the beds neatly, add throw pillows and open the shades to let the light in. Pack up as many toys as you can live without, put clothes away, clear dressers and night stands of excess clutter.

  If you have pets, it is important to empty the kitty litter and put it out of site. A subtle plug in air-freshener may help if it is not overpowering, or try potpourri or boiling cinnamon sticks. 

  An experienced real estate agent can provide you staging tips for your home within a budget you can afford.

 Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Burnet, who lives and offices in the Chisago Lakes Area. Submit your questions to ckempenich@cbburnet.com. All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.

Prepping Your Home to Sell

  Sellers are always asking for advice on what to do their homes to get top dollar. Of course you can hire a stager to come in and do a makeover, but many times a stager isn’t needed or a seller doesn’t want to pay for staging.

  Here are some tips you can do yourself: Start packing everything that you can live without; like photos, books, collections, and miscellaneous clutter. Organize your closets and cupboards. This is a good time to donate all of things you haven’t worn or used in the past year.

Remove anything attached to the house that you want to take with you, as attachments are normally transferred to the buyer. If you are taking something, like a light fixture, you will need to replace it with another one.

Arrange furniture so you have at least a 3’ walk way through-out the house. You want your rooms to feel inviting and as large as possible. Arrange your furniture to take advantage of any focal points like a fireplace or nice view.

Paint and repair any damaged wall, trim, or flooring areas. The best places to recapture your expenses are clean and neutral walls & flooring. Replace old or missing light bulbs. You want your home to be light, especially if facing north or there is a lack of windows.

Clean everything, inside and out, including the appliances and flooring so buyers feel your home is move in ready. Hide any trash or recycling cans that are sitting out and find a place for the pet food and kitty litter that isn’t visible as you walk through the house.

Check your curb appeal. This is the buyer’s first impression of your home and it may attract buyers who see the for sale sign as they drive by. Hide the trash and recycling, pick up the toys and tools, plant some flowers, trim trees, mow the lawn, paint the front door, fix broken steps or railings, etc.

Make sure your home smells fresh. Before showings take out the trash, look for pet accidents, hide the dirty laundry, vacuum, open a window-weather permitting, use air-freshener as long as it is not overpowering.

. Most buyers hire a home inspector so you might as well make any known repairs now so the inspection goes smoothly. Do the easy things, like a new furnace filter, check smoke detector and carbon monoxide detectors. If you have a well and/or septic system, you should have a current water test, and septic inspection.

Walk through the house one more time, as if you were a buyer and see if there’s anything you missed.

  An experienced Real Estate Agent can provide specific tips to help you get top dollar for your home.

  Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Burnet, who lives and offices in the Chisago Lakes Area. Submit your questions to ckempenich@cbburnet.com. All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.

Confusion Over Personal Property

  Buyers and sellers often have different ideas of what should be included with the purchase of a home. Often, there are conversations or emails that go back and forth between agents and their clients prior to writing a Purchase Agreement. Once a Purchase Agreement is written, it constitutes the entire agreement between the buyer and seller, which means everything must be written into the Purchase Agreement. No verbal agreements, previous emails, or text messages are part of the Purchase Agreement between the buyer and seller.

  The Purchase Agreement has a paragraph describing items that are always included, unless they are specifically listed as an exclusion. Some examples of the inclusions are; plants, lawn watering systems, window blinds, curtains and rods, towel bars, water softener, TV wall mounts, wall and ceiling mounted speakers, mirrors, air-conditioning equipment, built-in appliances, work benches, and shelving. We tell our sellers that anything attached to the home is included in the sale.

  On a recent transaction, a seller had listed their home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for $300,000 and included the kitchen appliances and the washer and dryer. The buyer’s agent submitted an offer for $280,000 that the buyer signed, without asking for any appliances, and the seller accepted the offer. Before the closing the seller sold the washer and dryer. During the walk through the buyer was upset that they were gone. The seller stated he didn’t know the buyer wanted them and he planned to include them if the house sold for $300,000. The buyer had no recourse with the seller as the washer and dryer were not listed in the Purchase Agreement.

  In another transaction, the seller removed a work bench and shelving in the garage and at the walk through the buyer noticed they were gone. The seller was given the option to return them or pay the buyers $700 to replace them, so he brought them back to the house.   

  Sometimes sellers like to leave additional items that are not attached to the house or written into the Purchase Agreement, like paint, stain, construction materials, garden tools, patio furniture, etc. This can also create a problem at the walk through, because in most cases the buyers don’t want anything left behind that they may have to dispose of.

  An experienced real estate agent can help you decide what personal property items to include or exclude in a Purchase Agreement.

   Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Burnet, who lives and offices in the Chisago Lakes Area. Submit your questions to ckempenich@cbburnet.com. All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.