Photography: Make the Best Impression Online

Often, the first place a buyer will see your home is online.  Having pictures of your home that capture the attention and imagination of potential buyers is crucial. Creating a positive first impression is what helps to ensure that your listing pulls in as many buyers as possible to see your home in person. That is why it drives me absolutely crazy when I see dark or poor quality photography.

When you are interviewing Realtors for the job of selling your property, make sure you review the photography in their recent listings.  Are the photos bright and clear?  Do they give you a favorable impression of the home?  If not, then move on to the next agent. Many successful Realtors hire professional photographers who use their skills to show off the best features of your home.

Family room 1

What can you do to help make sure the photos for your listing look great?

A lot of what makes a photo look good is a clean, uncluttered space. Sometimes a house can benefit from the services of a stager to make sure that furniture and accessories are placed to show off a home’s best features.  Your Realtor can help advise you if this is the case, but there is a lot that you can do to prepare your home for great photography.

Windows should sparkle, furniture should be dust free, and appliances should be clean. Make sure your carpets are clean and that wood floors are polished and shiny.  Your kitchen and bath counter tops should be clear of clutter. You want buyers to focus on the features of each room. We do not want them to be distracted by a pile of paperwork on the counter, perfume bottles on the vanity or magnets on your fridge.

rear deck.jpg

For the best exterior photos, make sure your lawn is cut and planting beds are free of weeds.  In warmer months, plant some annuals for a pop of color.  Clean your deck furniture, especially if you have a glass table, and make sure to place furniture cushions on chairs to make the area look more inviting.

Want some more hints? When my photographer enters a home, the first thing she does is turn on all the lights and open all the window treatments to bathe each room in light.  Some other things she does before taking photos include:

  •  Remove sponges, soap dispensers, small appliances, waste containers & paper towels from kitchen counters
  • Remove scatter rugs, tissue boxes, tooth brushes, toilet brushes, scales, plungers and waste containers from the bathroom
  • Hide remote controls, shoes & small toys from living spaces
  • Smooth bedding and fluff all bed pillows
  • Remove pet bowls, pet beds and litter boxes
  • Hide dirty laundry in bedrooms or laundry rooms

Making the best first impression online is as easy as hiring the right Realtor and putting in some prep work before the photographer arrives.  Great quality photos are key to ensure your home sells as quickly as possible.

Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market

This spring has been an unusual one here locally, but it is reflecting a trend we are experiencing nationwide in the real estate market. There is a notable lack of inventory, especially for homes priced between $125,000-$350,000.  There are many factors contributing to this trend including the high price of new construction, rising interest rates, economic uncertainty, and increase of investor owned rental properties in the wake of the housing crisis.

While this is an excellent time to sell your house, it certainly makes it challenging if you are looking to purchase. Most of my recent listings have sold within the first day or two, many with multiple offers.  Buying a home in a seller’s market requires a different approach and mindset. I have been guiding several buyers through this difficult market, and I thought it might be helpful to share some important tips that will help you buy the right home when inventories are scare.

1. Work with an experienced agent

It is critical to pick an agent with experience to help guide you during a market with low inventories. Having a knowledgeable person at your side who knows the market well and can offer sound advice will keep you from overpaying or making bad decisions.

2. Get a pre-approval letter

Because things move so quickly in a sellers market, you must be prepared to write a good offer as soon as you see a property. No seller will accept an offer without a pre-approval letter or proof of funds (if you are paying cash). Getting this information before you see a home will save you time and allow you to get your offer to the seller as fast as possible.

Front view 1

3. Be prepared to see homes as soon at they hit the market

Your Realtor will set up your client portal which will allow you to see homes as soon as they hit the market. In a seller’s market, time is your chief enemy, especially when homes sell within hours of listing. Getting in to see a home as quickly as possible is key since your “dream home” may already be under contract two or three days from now.

4. Move quickly once you find a home you like

An experienced agent will have all the paperwork ready to write an offer in a tight market.  They will be able to guide you on pricing and will be able to provide advice on condition and insight on competition and recent sales. You will need to make a decision quickly. Taking a day or two to think it over probably means losing the house. This type of market can be very stressful for buyers since it requires very quick decision making. If you are a person who likes to take time to think things through, it may be best to wait until the market settles. Eventually, this market will change and inventories will once again increase, so waiting it out may be a better option for you.

contract_3

5. Present your best offer

If you have found the home you like and are ready to buy, make sure that your first offer is very strong. Keep in mind that when inventories are low, you may be in a multiple offer situation every time you write a contract. This is not the time to try and negotiate a bargain.  Don’t forget that pricing is not the only tool in your arsenal.  Financing, inspections, as well as closing and possession dates are other parts of the contract where you have the opportunity to win the deal. While you do need to be careful not to overpay, you certainly want to present an offer that will be hard for the sellers to refuse.

6. Write a personal letter to the sellers

This is a good idea in a tight market and can make all the difference. I am convinced that a well written letter from my clients to the sellers (written from the heart) won them the house in a recent deal. In a market where buyers are scrambling for the same property, a personal letter may give your strong offer an advantage over your competitors.

7. Be realistic about inspections and repairs

Deals fall apart all the time, especially over inspections and repairs. In a seller’s market, home owners feel emboldened and may be less likely to accommodate requests for repairs. You and your agent need to decide how to proceed once you receive the inspection report. If you are convinced this home is the one for you, you may have to accept that the sellers may do little to rectify problems found in the report, especially if they had multiple offers on the property.

Kitchen 1

8. Be prepared to be flexible

Here I am talking flexibility in two different ways.  The first is being open to a wider range of homes in your search. While a certain neighborhood or home style may be your preference, you will be severely limiting yourself by not widening your view.  If you can be more flexible in your home search, the number of homes available to you will certainly increase.

Flexibility is also key once you find the home you want to purchase.  As I mentioned above, you may need to work with sellers on inspection results, as well as other factors such as closing and possession dates in order to keep the deal together.

9. Miss out on a home you like? Consider writing a back-up offer

I have had several agents present very strong back-up offers even after we are under contract. Those offers include a pre-approval letters, a strong price and in some cases a personal letter to the sellers.

If you see a home you know would work for you even though it is already under contract, have your agent inquire if the sellers would accept a back up offer.  If their current deal falls through due to financing or inspection issues, your offer would be next in line for consideration. If the sellers do accept your counter offer, make sure your Realtor stays in contact regularly with the listing agent to see how the deal is holding together.

Buying a home in a seller’s market is stressful and requires patience, quick decision making and a lot of flexibility. Although it may be tempting, you do NOT want to overpay for your new house, especially if you don’t plan on living there for more than 10 years. Having an experienced Realtor at your side to help you through the process can make it a lot easier on your mental health and on your bank account.

What Do You Really Need in a New Home?

The process of looking for a new home can be overwhelming, especially if you have not thought seriously about your priorities. Before you start looking, sit down and make a list of things that are really important to you in a new home. If you are married, your spouse should make a list separately. As you are putting together your requirements, use the following list to help:

1. Think about where you are currently living.

What do you like about your current residence? If you were change things, what would those things be?  Are you moving to gain more space, to downsize, or for a change in location?

102472-019

2. Consider your goals and plans for the next 5-7 years.

Make sure that your next home is the right one for your both your current and short term lifestyle needs. Will you be moving again? Do you plan to start or expand your family? Is your job and income relatively stable? If you are planning on having children in the next few years, make sure that your home has enough bedrooms or features a yard for playtime. If you think you may have to move for work in the near term, consider renting or make sure that you are buying a home with good resale potential.

3. What physical characteristics that are important to you?

Here I am talking about things like location, property size and neighborhood characteristics.  Also included within this category can be things that would require a lot of money to change like the number of bedrooms, the layout of the house, or overall square footage. While you can add-on to your new home or make structural changes, chances are you will not recoup those costs when it comes time to sell.

Family room 3.jpg

4. Don’t forget about the details

What cosmetic updates or features are most important to you?   Think about the interior and exterior trims. Although new paint and flooring are relatively easy changes to make, you will need to leave room in your budget to allow for renovations. Are you handy? Do you mind living in a space while it is being renovated?  If the answer to either of those two questions is no, you may want to consider a home that has been recently updated.

5. Prioritize Your Needs

Once your list is complete, now it’s time to put it in order of priority.  If you have a spouse, sit together and review both lists. What features are important to both of you?  Think about trade-offs that you are willing to make.  For example, is location more important than granite counters in the kitchen?  Would you be willing to have a longer commute to ensure that you have updated kitchens and baths?  If not, then make sure location gets a higher priority on your list than having an updated kitchen.

Of course all of these priorities will need to fit within a budget and that is why it is so important to rank them before you get started. You will most certainly have to decide what you are willing to give up in order to stay on budget and make sure that your new home has the characteristics that are most important to you and your family.

The good news is that doing all of this ahead of time will make it easier for you to eliminate houses that won’t work for you and allow you to focus on finding the right new home for you.

If you are considering buying a new home, please contact me today.  I would love to help!

 

Survival Guide for Showing Your Home

When you are in the real estate market, few parts of the process are as stressful as living in your house while it is on the market. Making it “model home ready” at a moment’s notice may seem an impossible task.  While I can’t eliminate all of the worries about selling your house, the tips below can make it a much more manageable process.

1. Start packing!

Don’t wait until your home is under contract to start putting things in boxes. The time to start packing is before your house is on even on the market. Go through closets and dresser drawers and pack away off-season clothing and shoes. Not only will you make the job easier when your house sells, but your closets will look more spacious.

If you have children, tackle their toys.  Everyone knows toys have a way of spreading themselves throughout an entire house. Obviously it would be a bad idea to box up all the toys, but do your best to reduce the total number around your house. Toys and games that are not everyday favorites can get packed away while your home is on the market. I had good friends who moved out of state a few years ago. They culled back the number of toys that remained in their house while it was being shown. When they moved and opened the boxes of toys that had been packed away, it was like Christmas morning! Toys that had not seen much action in years became new favorites after they were unpacked in their new home. Not only will your house seem less cluttered, it will be so much easier to clean prior to a showing.

Don’t forget about your kitchen and bathrooms. Pack up seldom used appliances, extra sets of dishes or glassware and anything else that doesn’t get used on a daily basis. Make sure to label all boxes as you pack them so that things are easy to locate in the event you find yourself needing something that you have packed away.

If you are able to afford a storage unit, that is the best option for making your newly cleared home look as clutter-free and move-in ready as possible. If a storage unit is not in your budget, neatly stack boxes in an area of your basement or garage.

Garage 1

2. Donate/Get Rid of Items You No Longer Need

As you are packing up your clothing and household items, make sure to purge anything that you know you do not want to bring to your new home. Donate toys and clothing to a local charity and throw away or recycle anything that is broken or cannot be donated.

Go through your pantry, junk drawers, garage and storage areas. It is amazing what can accumulate over time. Buyers will be looking at every area of your house for showings – even that unfinished space in your basement will get a serious once over. By packing and getting rid of items you no longer need, you are creating a clutter-free, and more spacious home which will appeal to buyers.

3. Give Your Home a Deep Cleaning

According to Trulia, “A clean house can gain you $5000-$10000 in your home sale.” and I can speak from experience that clean and well maintained homes sell for more than comparable homes that are dirty and cluttered. Prior to the listing, it is time to make your house shine. Baseboards, wood trim, doors, walls, floors, and light fixtures need a detailed cleaning. Appliances, faucets, shower doors, sinks and windows should sparkle.  Check corners and exterior light fixtures for spider webs and dust your HVAC registers. Your house needs to be 5-star hotel clean before it goes on the market.

The good news is that maintaining a clean house is much easier if you start with a clean slate. Map out a plan of attack to maintain your clean home and break it down into smaller segments to make it easier on yourself.

mud-room

4. Simply spaces

Work with your Realtor and identify any furniture or decorative items that should be eliminated from your living spaces. Removing furniture or packing away decorative items like pictures and collectibles may make your home easier to navigate and may make it easier for buyers to picture themselves living in the space.  There will also be less items for you to clean while your house is listed and less to pack when it’s time to move.

5. Pets

I know that pets are members of your family, but keep in mind that many buyers may have allergies or a simple dislike of animals. Others feel that animals put a tremendous additional wear and tear on homes. Do you have a friend or relative who can care for your pet while you sell your home? If not, consider other alternatives for removing your pet from the house during showings.  Doggie day-care or even a family walk with your pet during a showing can make your house more friendly to buyers.  A barking dog or an aggressive cat can put off buyers who may avoid parts of your home where animals are kept.

While cleaning your home, make sure to eliminate pet odors.  Having carpets professionally cleaned, washing pet bedding, emptying litter boxes and removing pet waste from your yard will all help reduce the odors that your furry family member may leave in your house.

master-bath-2

6. Some Tricks to Help You Maintain Sanity

Packing away and simplifying your living spaces are the two most important steps you can do to make your life easier during this time. Some other tricks to make your life easier include:

  1. Keep a pack of cleaning wipes in each bathroom to make it easier to do a quick wipe down of the space before a showing.
  2. Covered hampers and baskets can provide you with a quick place to stash things out of sight.
  3. Make your bed every morning before leaving your room.
  4. Wipe down kitchen counters after every meal and get in the habit of putting dishes in the dishwasher right away.
  5. Consider using a bathroom caddy for your shower items and other toiletries. You can then tuck the caddy out of sight in a cabinet to make your bathroom spaces clutter-free for showings.
  6. Get in the habit of putting things away as soon as you are done using them.
  7. Have the whole family help keep the house clean. For young children, consider giving a reward sticker every time a toy is put away where it belongs.
  8. If you have kids, plan fun family activities in advance so that you have places to go during showings.
  9. Work with your agent ahead of time if you would like a 2 hour notice (or more) before showings. Your agent can also block off a specific time of day when showings are off-limits. Just keep in mind, that the harder it is to see your home, the less buyers you may attract.
  10. Make sure to put all prescription medications and sensitive documents in a secure location.
  11. Make sure all laptops and computers are password protected.
  12. Make yourself a pre-showing checklist.

7. A Pre-showing Checklist

I am a list maker by nature. I find that lists help keep me on task and ensure that I don’t forget anything. Make yourself a pre-showing checklist of items to help you remember things to do before leaving the house for a showing. The list may include items like making the beds, cleaning off counters, turning on lights, flushing toilets or even picking up dog waste in the back yard.  Simply identify items that you are most likely to forget as you rush to prep your house and put them on the list.

 

While I can’t promise to alleviate all of the stress involved in the sale of your house, following the 7 steps above will help make the process much easier for you and your family.

Thinking of selling your home? I am happy to help you figure out the value and assist you as you prepare to get it on to the market. I have been in this business for more than 38 years and I would love to be of service.

 

Rediscover Dayton: Dayton Art Institute

Have you visited the Dayton Art Institute lately?  It is one of my favorite places in Dayton. The museum, built in 1930, was modeled after the Villa d’Este near Rome and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Not only do they have a permanent collection that spans more than 5000 years, they also host special exhibitions, concerts, youth programs, art classes and many special events including Art Ball, Oktoberfest, as well as Vine and Canvas wine tasting events.

The museum is divided into three main wings: the Berry Wing of European Art, the Dicke Wing of American Art and the Patterson/Kettering Wing of Asian Art.  They also feature galleries devoted to African Art, Native American Art, Glass as well as their Lange Family Expericenter.

If your visit coincides with mealtime, you can bring a picnic lunch to eat outside on the museum grounds or dine at the Leo Bistro just inside the main entrance.

The Art Institute offers so many programs including summer camps for kids from 1st grade – high school, art classes, lecture series and even Yoga at the Museum events.

If you have a chance to visit this local treasure, you won’t be disappointed.

Here is some information on the Dayton Art Institute that you may find helpful:

ADDRESS:
456 Belmonte Park North
Dayton, Ohio 45405
Phone: (937) 223-5277
info@daytonart.org

REGULAR MUSEUM HOURS:
MONDAY           Closed
TUESDAY           Closed
WEDNESDAY   11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
THURSDAY       11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
FRIDAY              11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
SATURDAY       11 a.m. – 5 p.m
SUNDAY            Noon – 5 p.m.

SUGGESTED MUSEUM ADMISSION:

  • Adults: $8
  • Seniors, Groups & Active Military: $5
  • Members, Students & Youth: Free 

Some special exhibitions, programs and events may carry an additional admission charge.

Why I Work So Hard With My Sellers

In the past three years I have listed more than 70 homes for my clients. Many people assume that when it comes time to sell, all that is required is some light cleaning, contacting a real estate agent and signing some paperwork. But, in truth, selling your home quickly and for the most money possible may actually require a bit more work.

After living in a home for years, it is very hard to see it objectively.  That is why my first meeting with a seller is really more of a walk-through. I take a tour of the inside and outside of the home with the seller looking at it with the eyes of a potential buyer. What am I looking for?  I am looking at the general condition of the home.  Are things in good working order? Have the kitchen and bathrooms been updated? How do the walls, flooring and trim look – are they clean and in good condition? As I walk through the home I talk with my clients and make recommendations on strategies to help get the home ready for the market. I have been selling homes for more than 38 years, so I know the market and what buyers are looking for and most importantly I understand what will help a home sell faster and for more money.

The value of your home depends not only on recent home sales in your neighborhood but on the condition of your home relative to those sales.  In other words, is your house in as good, better or worse shape as the other homes for sale? It is my job to help you get your house in the best condition possible so that we are ready and able to compete for the available buyers and get you the best price possible.

front-view-1

I specialize in making sure homes are ready when they are listed and that is why my listings consistently spend less time on the market than most other agents in my area. In fact, last year my listings spent an average of 60 days on the market while the average listing spent more than 118 days on the market. Making sure that homes are in the best shape possible before going on the market is why my sellers and I have been so successful at selling homes so quickly.

Perhaps the easiest solution to this issue is to maintain and update your home during the lifetime of your ownership. Addressing leaks and maintenance issues as soon as you find them will not only minimize further damage but will be rewarded when it is time to sell. Likewise, if you are able to afford even small updates to your home as you are living in it, you get the benefit of both enjoying those updates, and getting a boost to your home value when it comes time to sell. The real estate market has changed. You can no longer expect your home’s value will automatically appreciate over time. Without some effort on your part to maintain and update your home, you may find that it has depreciated and is no longer worth what you once paid for it.

While not every seller can afford to update their entire house to get it ready to sell, I thought I would put together a list of some important and relatively inexpensive things you can do to get your home ready when it is time to put it on the market. Your goal is to present your home in the best light possible. Make sure there are no glaring maintenance issues and make it easy for a buyer to imagine themselves living in your home:

1. Make the inside sparkle & shine

Probably the most important thing you can do is to really clean your house. Get on your hands and knees to wash baseboards and flooring. Hire a carpet cleaner or rent one yourself. Detail clean the inside & outside of all kitchen appliances as well as the windows in your home. Make sure bathroom and kitchen counters, faucets and mirrors sparkle. Check ceiling fans and cold air returns to make sure they are dust free. Then, once it is clean make sure that you keep it that way until you hand those keys to the buyer.

2. De-Clutter

If you have a lot of nick knacks or collections, it’s time to pack them away. You want buyers focused on the details of your home, not on the things you have collected. Removing seldom used counter top appliances and clearing off other surfaces will make your home seem larger and will better allow buyers to picture their own things in the home. Clean out closets and cabinets to show off how much storage your home offers.

3. Update lighting fixtures

Outdated brass fixtures can be a red flag to buyers. They signal that the current owners have not updated things in a long time. You can purchase updated lighting fixtures quite inexpensively from your local big box hardware store. Don’t go for anything too trendy or modern. Look for something that will go with the style of your home and that will appeal to the most buyers possible. Dining room and bathroom lighting should be your priority followed by entry, hall and exterior lighting. In the photo below we replaced an outdated brass fixture with one that worked better in the space.

entry-4

4. Remove wallpaper

If your home has wallpaper, consider removing it. Buyers today have trouble looking beyond wallpaper. I have had more than one client rule out a house completely because of it. If the whole house is papered and too large a project for you to tackle, at least try to remove the paper in a few of the rooms.

5. Paint

Neutrals are best for appealing to buyers with grey & cool khaki colors leading the way. If you have rooms with vividly painted walls, consider toning them down. If your home is already neutral, look at the walls closely and make sure they are still in good shape. If you cannot clean off the scuff marks, a fresh coat of paint may be in order to make the place look new again.

6. Replace cabinet hardware

If you haven’t been able to update your kitchen and bath cabinetry, you may be able to freshen the way they look with some updated pulls. Chrome, nickel and bronze hardware are popular with buyers and will help improve the look of dated cabinetry. If you are also updating your lighting, make sure you match the color of the pulls to the new lighting for a more cohesive look.

7. Clean & pressure wash exterior surfaces

Make sure the outside of your home is as clean as the inside since it will be the first thing buyers will see. Knock down spider webs, wash your front door and make sure leaves from last fall are picked up. Look at your siding and concrete surfaces. Are they stained with mold or mildew? You can rent a pressure washer or hire someone to do the work for you.  You will be amazed how well the exterior surfaces of your home look with a little elbow grease. (Be careful when using a pressure washer on the siding of your house, especially if it is older. Don’t use too much pressure and make sure to test a small area first.)

Front porch (small)

8. Mow the grass, pull weeds, mulch the planting beds

If you are selling in warmer months, make sure that your yard is looking good. Ensure that the lawn is mowed and that the dandelions and other weeds are gone. Place some mulch in the planting beds closest to the house and if you are able, plant some annuals to help with the curb appeal.

9. Make repairs

Look for items like leaky faucets, burned out light bulbs, and doors that don’t work properly and fix them or have them repaired by a professional. Have your furnace and air conditioner serviced to ensure it is in good working order.

It’s hard to see your home with a critical eye, but it is crucial when you are getting ready to sell your home. Your Realtor can be a great resource to help you decide what items need the most attention. I work hard with all my sellers every step of the way to make sure that we do everything to sell quickly for the highest price possible. If you or someone you know are thinking of selling, please let me know. I would love to be of service!

Rediscover Dayton: Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

For quite a few years, some of my fellow RE/MAX Alliance agents and I have hosted a free family event at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery as a thank you to all of our wonderful clients. It is a popular event and one I look forward to every year.  Not only do I get the opportunity to catch up on the lives of some of my favorite people, but I also get to explore one of Dayton’s treasures. If you haven’t been to Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, you should make plans for a visit soon.

If you are looking for something to do with the kids during these winter months, the museum has all kinds of exhibits to explore. From Discovery Zoo, which allows people to interact with all kinds of Animal Ambassadors to Splash!, an exhibit that explores water around the Dayton area, there is something for kids of all ages to enjoy.  Explorers Crossing is an especially popular exhibit during our client appreciation event. It features a courthouse, veterinary clinic, grocery store & recycling center where kids can role play and interact with these hands-on exhibits.

img_0413

Although it is a fantastic place to bring children or grandchildren, there is something there for people of all ages!  Not only can adults enjoy the exhibits during regular hours, but the museum hosts fun events during the evenings just for adults. They have a fundraising event coming up in March called Eureka: Sip, Savor, Science where guests can eat, enjoy cocktails and learn how investigators use DNA in forensic investigations.

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery also offers a wide range of summer camps and workshops geared toward specific areas of interest. Check out their website for more information.

Address:

2600 DeWeese Pkwy Dayton, OH 45414

Hours:

Monday–Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday:  noon – 5:00 p.m., special exhibition hours (noon – 5:00 p.m.)

Admission:

Children (3-17) $11.50
Adults $14.50
Seniors (60+) $12.50
Children (under 3) Free