6 Common Mistakes Made When Selling a Home, and How to Avoid Them

Selling a home can be a complex process. To keep it hassle-free from for-sale to sold, consider these common mistakes people make when selling their homes – and avoid making them yourself.

1. Skimping on necessary repairs

Some sellers ignore major repairs in hopes of closing the sale before anyone notices. However, if the home inspector catches detrimental damage, it will likely halt the sale until repair – or an agreement – can be made.

To save yourself the hassle and to streamline the selling process, assess any serious repairs before listing your home. It may feel unnecessary to repair a home you’re soon to leave, but it could help you pass inspection – and possibly get top dollar – on your property.

2. Not prepping the house for showings

Your home is bound to be filled with mementos, photographs, kitchen magnets and all of the wonderful details that make it unique to you. But an important part of preparing your home for showings is to minimize knick-knacks.

To do so, store away any clutter that would distract an interested homebuyer when they enter a room or open a closet or cabinet. Tidy up all surfaces, including bookshelves, end tables and kitchen countertops. By cleaning up messes, you’ll help rooms appear larger, so buyers will be able to envision their own belongings in the space.

Don’t forget about curb appeal. Buyers will likely form an opinion of your home before they enter the front door. When you clean and stage the interior of the home, head outside and give a bit of TLC to the exterior too. Depending on the season, this could include anything from weeding mulch beds, putting out planters or touching up chipped paint on the house’s exterior.

3. Using inadequate listing photos

Listing photos can make all the difference when attracting homebuyers who begin the homebuying process online. Digital listings for even the most magnificent of homes will receive far fewer clicks if they aren’t presented with high-quality photos.

For example, photos with ample lighting can help a room appear spacious. As mentioned above, prepping the home before listing it for sale by cleaning and decorating helps ensure that photos capture each room looking polished and sophisticated.

4. Listing it FSBO

Sellers who list their homes for sale by owner, otherwise known as FSBO, could face major setbacks along the way and may even end up receiving significantly less money in return. In order to ensure the sale is legally sound, and that you’re receiving competitive offers, it’s important to hire a real estate agent.

As your representative in the sale, a real estate agent will offer guidance and make sure the process goes smoothly. Qualified agents dedicate their lives to helping people navigate the buying or selling process – so why attempt it alone?

5. Setting an inflated price

Be realistic and timely when setting an initial listing price. Read up on your local housing market to learn the current trends of buyers and sellers. For example, selling in a seller’s market may mean that you list your home for sale at a higher price to account for the increased demand.

Hiring a real estate agent, who can help guide you to a fair listing price, can be critical. Sometimes, setting a price that is disproportionate to the value of the property means that the home will sit on the market for days on end. Accordingly, buyers who see a home sitting on the market endlessly without any movement may question the integrity of the home.

6. Underestimating costs associated with the process

Before your home hits the market, make sure you’re aware of the costs associated with the process. While your initial investment may be some routine repair, staging and professional listing photos, bear in mind that, as the sale progresses, you’ll typically be paying for closing costs, moving expenses and fees associated with hiring a real estate agent.

Consider these costs to be investments. The return is when you receive higher value back on your home due to how it was presented to interested buyers or how it was represented by an experienced real estate professional. That said, make sure to budget for these costs in advance to avoid any surprises.

5 Areas in Your House Causing Stress – and How to Organize Them

Here are 5 common areas in a household notorious for causing stress, and how to fix them once and for all!

1. Pantry and refrigerator

With more food staples on hand, now is a good time to clear everything off the shelves and put it all back in a stacked, organized and easy-to-reach manner. A pantry, or fridge, will have greater capacity – and be easier to navigate – once the contents have been rearranged to save space. Check dates for expired condiments, which hog room along the door shelves, and consolidate loose items like granola bars into boxes or jars so no snack gets left behind.

2. Underneath the bathroom sink

This location may not be causing stress, but its underutilized storage capabilities can help alleviate stress by clearing up space in other messy zones.

The cabinet underneath the bathroom sink isn’t just for items like Band-Aids and plungers. Perhaps you have excess paper goods on hand – ahem, toilet paper – so optimize this area by stacking goods in the back you use less frequently and keeping common items toward the front. This hidden gem storage space is the perfect spot for concealing odds and ends.

3. Entryway

So many shoes by the door but nowhere to go! The entry way is likely cluttered with slippers, sneakers, as well as rain jackets and bags hanging on hooks. Store away items used infrequently and allow one pair of shoes per person to live by the door, moving the rest inside a closet – out of sight and out of mind.

4. Kitchen table

Is your kitchen table now functioning as a home office, place to eat, homework spot for kids, craft zone, etc.? By day, this multifunctional area is a hub of the house – so try to keep it as orderly as possible, not allowing clutter to linger when the workday or school day is done.

Unless you’re in the midst of a great big puzzle, clear off the kitchen table at the end of each day so your house feels normal again when it’s time for rest and relaxation.

5. General dust and dirt

Even when order has been instilled upon shelves, countertops and closets, you may still be feeling stress from general dirtiness – especially if you have light-colored floors or carpet. Get in the habit of running a vacuum through high-traffic areas, like the living room, every few days so visible dirt never piles up. Though life is out of routine at the moment, stick to regular maintenance such as wiping down kitchen counter surfaces daily and giving the bathroom a good scrub on the weekends.

A few home upgrades you can do without leaving

With the uncertainty in the world at the moment, you’re likely spending a lot more time than usual in your home. Sharing smaller spaces with family 24 hours per day might be emphasizing areas of mess or chaos around the house. Use this time to do some much needed, always dreaded home maintenance. But no need to change out of your house slippers – all of these upgrades can be done using what you already own.

  1. Spring cleaning

While staying safe indoors, there’s really no way to avoid spring cleaning this year. And spending more time at home may reveal how much unnecessary clutter is taking up space. It’s the perfect time to purge clothes, knick-knacks, papers, books, etc. Give your closets and drawers a proper cleanse and prepare boxes or bags of clothes to donate in a few weeks.

On top of typical surface sanitation, deep clean areas in your home that need some extra TLC. Scrub the shower grout, make the windows shine, and wipe down the inside of cupboards that haven’t seen daylight in years – just to name a few.

  1. Paint touch-ups

Did you hold onto the can of paint you used on your home’s interior? If so, unearth it from the depths of the garage and touch up spots like baseboards, wall corners, nail holes, or anywhere else that has been subject to wear and tear.

  1. Rearrange furniture and decor

Experiment with the layout of your furniture and décor. Chances are, your living room is positioned the same way it was when you first moved in. Give your space a fresh new look by moving around wall hangings and art, and even rearranging staple furniture pieces.

Deconstruct – then reconstruct – your bookshelf. Remove every book, then rearrange them in an updated, creative way. Try stacking some shelves with books vertically and some horizontally. Bookshelves also function as a display case for treasured keepsakes, lamps, photo frames and decorative candles.

  1. Change smoke detector batteries

This is a tedious task – but it’s better than being awakened at dawn to the screech of the smoke alarm on low-battery. Use this time to complete less-fun chores like swapping out smoke alarm batteries. If you also have spare bulbs on hand, replace light bulbs that have been dimming, flickering or even burnt out.

  1. Keep track of any items you’ll want to fix later

Walk around the house and inspect each room for future fixes to complete at a later date when it’s easier to get to your local hardware store. Create a checklist, including tasks like: steam clean the carpet, repaint the front door and swap out cabinet hardware.

Home Maintenance Resolutions for 2020

Homes need continuous maintenance to keep them in good condition. Plan to invest one to four percent of your home’s value in maintenance costs each year to avoid losing home value!

1. Interior
If you invest time in some simple maintenance, you can keep the inside of your home looking like new. Some tasks your home may need include repainting the walls, restripping and resealing wood, or restaining trim and built-ins. Some more complicated repairs may involve replacing worn or outdated floors or rebuilding fixtures.

2. Exterior
Taking time each year to maintain the exterior of your home will help ensure your home doesn’t take in excessive damage-causing moisture. Some tasks you should complete each year include cleaning and repairing your gutters/downspouts, inspecting and repairing your roof, and repainting, cleaning, and repairing your home’s siding.

3. Systems
Part of keeping your home in good condition is ensuring your systems are running safely. Cleaning your chimney flue, replacing air filters, and other inspection and cleaning projects can keep your home and family safe by helping to prevent floods and fires caused by poorly maintained systems.

4. Landscaping
Keeping your outdoor structures and landscaping in good condition is also important. Keep an eye out for erosion issues, rodent infestations, and dangerous trees. You should also refinish your deck, fence, and other wood structures semi-annually.

5 De-cluttering Tips for Your Kitchen

Is the chaos on your countertop out of control? Here are a few tips to conquer the clutter.

  1. Use it or move it
    If you don’t use a mixer, food processor, or other tool more than once a week, stash it in a cupboard. Counter space is precious real estate.
  2. Wall-to-wall organization
    Mount a rack on your wall for storing all those things that tend to pile up on your kitchen table and counters – like mail, to-do lists and receipts.
  3. Look up
    The space on top of your wall cabinets and fridge are great places for wire baskets that let you see the contents, or fabric bins that hide things from view.
  4. What’s behind Door #1?
    Place over-the-door storage racks inside pantry doors to free up counter space.
  5. Hang ten
    Or even a dozen. Keep lightweight items such as aprons, oven mitts, large utensils and towels off counters by mounting wall hooks.

8 Tips for Quick Cleaning Before Guests Arrive

No doubt you’ll want your home to look its best for visiting family and friends during the holidays. Here are a few cleaning tips to minimize the time you have to spend making things sparkle.

  1. Grout and tight corners
    Cleaning nooks and crannies doesn’t require elbow grease. A toothbrush is much more effective.
  2. Showerhead residue
    Fill a plastic bag with vinegar, tie it around the head and leave it overnight to dissolve mineral deposits. A vinegar-soaked rag held in place by a rubber band works, too.
  3. Microwave build-up
    Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a small bowl of water and microwave for about five minutes. The lemon scent eliminates old food smells and condensation from the lemon water loosens caked-on grime, making it much easier to clean.
  4. Garage floor
    Don’t bother sweeping – a leaf blower is much quicker.
  5. Pet hair on furniture
    Wet rubber dishwashing gloves are magnets for pet hair. Put on a pair, rub your furniture, and leave the vacuum extension tool in the closet.
  6. Ceiling fan
    To avoid a shower of dust and dead bugs, use an old pillowcase to clean the fan one blade at a time. Slide the case over the blade and pull it back slowly and the case will capture the dirt.
  7. Toilets
    Dump a spoonful of Tang into the bowl and let it sit for a few minutes. The citric acid scrubs so you don’t have to.
  8. Garbage disposal
    Run baking soda and lemon juice, or ice cubes and lemon peels, through your garbage disposal to eliminate odors. White vinegar will do the same for your dishwasher.

10 Tips for Maintaining a Wood-Burning Fireplace

The fireplace is the focal point of many homes. There’s just something homey about the crackling sound of wood and the glow of fire filling the room with warmth. To help ensure that your fireplace continues to provide comfort in style for years to come, consider these best practices for fireplace maintenance.

6 Tips to Prep Your Home for the Best Summer Ever

You’ve been waiting for summer all year, but just how prepared is your home? You’re probably planning for a beach trip or some time to unplug, not a bug invasion or a sprinkler leak… All it takes is a little elbow grease in the meantime to ensure this summer goes off without a hitch!

1) Service the A/C

Your air conditioner requires regular maintenance but was likely pushed to the wayside at the first sign of cooler weather. To give it a refresh, clean or replace dirty, clogged filters that may be blocking airflow. While you’re at it, check your evaporator coil. Dirt accumulates on the coil, also reducing airflow and ability to absorb heat. Purchase a “fin comb” and comb any bent aluminum fins on the evaporator and condenser coils back into place. Finally, thread a stiff wire through the A/C drain channels. Any blockage in these channels will limit humidity reducing abilities, and risk discoloring walls or carpet.

2) Clean windows

You can’t enjoy the warm summer sun without sparkling, clean windows! Remove dust and lint from the area and mix a solution of white vinegar and hot water. Dip a sponge in the solution and wet the windows, following with vertical squeegee strokes. Finish by wiping sills with all-purpose cleaner and water.

3) Rotate ceiling fan blades

If you’re hoping to keep cool this summer, while also saving some cold hard cash, you’ll want to make sure your ceiling fan is in tip top shape. As the weather warms, reverse the motor and operate the ceiling fan counterclockwise. Stand directly under the fan and feel for a slight cool breeze. When fan blades rotate in this direction a wind-chill effect is produced, subtly making you feel cooler.

4) Pest-proof your home

Nothing ruins summer fun like unwelcome house guests, and when it comes to pest prevention the best offense is a good defense. Store all accessible food in sealed containers and tightly cover trash cans. Don’t let water accumulate anywhere in the home, including sinks and tubs. Seal off places where pests could get in with caulk or steel wool. If you do end up using a pesticide, do your research and spray safely and correctly.

5) Prepare the backyard

If you didn’t get around to spring cleaning the exterior, there’s no time like the present. Whether power washing the deck or installing some tiki torches, your backyard should be the life of the party this summer. You can also check furniture stores for deals on patio decor, or maybe even bust out the grill!

6) Test your sprinklers

Speaking of the yard… If you haven’t done so already, check up on your sprinkler system. Inspect sprinkler heads and replace any that are clogged, broken or missing. Then, check for leaks where they connect to pipes or hoses. Aim each sprinkler toward the lawn, and away from the driveway, house, and sidewalk, and update your system’s watering schedule for the coming months. After all, no summer is complete without lush, green grass!

4 Landscaping Ideas for Your Front Yard

Even if you can’t tell a tulip from a turnip at the garden center, you can still create eye-catching curb appeal by paying attention to the basics of good landscaping, especially in the front yard.

Ignoring your front yard — or doing something that’s out of character with the neighborhood — can jeopardize the assessed value of your home.

Landscape economist John Harris says good landscaping can add up to 28% to the overall value of a house and cut its time on the market 10%-15%.

Here are the top suggestions from real estate agents, appraisers, and landscape designers for boosting the curb appeal of your yard:

#1 Plant a Tree

The value of mature trees is particularly difficult to determine. Lucco says that in his market, mature trees contribute as much as 10% of a $100,000 property’s overall value. In addition, a properly placed shade tree can shave as much as $32 a year on your energy bills. Expect to pay $50-$100 for a young, 6- to 7-foot deciduous tree.

You can make your own initial assessment of the value of your property’s trees by visiting the National Tree Benefit Calculator. For example, a mature Southern red oak tree with a diameter of 36 inches in the front yard of a house in Augusta, Ga., might add $70 to the property value.

#2 Green Up the Grass

If your house has a front yard, make sure it‘s neat and green by following a lawn maintenance calendar. You don’t want bare spots, sprawling weeds, or an untrimmed appearance.

“It’s so simple to go to Home Depot, buy fertilizer, apply it every six weeks, and water it,” says Mitch Kalamian, a landscape designer in Huntington Beach, Calif. “It will green up.”

If the yard looks really scruffy, you may decide to invest in some sod. Sod will average about 15-35 cents/sq. ft., according to the National Gardening Association. If you hire a landscaper to sod your yard for you, labor will add 30% to 50% to the total cost of the project.

Another alternative is to plant low-maintenance turf grasses. Turf grasses are durable and drought-resistant. Expect to pay $18-$30 for enough turf grass seed to plant 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn area.

#3 Landscape Lighting

For homeowners who have made a sizeable investment in landscaping, it makes sense to think about adding another 10%-15% to the bill for professional outdoor lighting. After all, buyers aren’t always looking at houses on a Saturday afternoon.”

The cost of a system runs from $200 for a DIY installation to more than $4,000 for a professional job. If you‘re doing it on your own, the key is to light what you want people to see, such as mature trees and flowering shrubs.

#4 Colorful Planting Beds

Flower beds add color and help enliven otherwise plain areas, such as along driveways and the edges of walkways. In general, annual flowers are a bit cheaper but must be replaced every year. Perennials cost a bit more but come back annually and usually get larger or spread with each growing season.

If you’re not sure what to plant, inquire at your local garden center. Often, they’ll have a display of bedding plants chosen for their adaptability to your area. Also, they‘ll be inexpensive because they’re in season, says Peter Mezitt, president of Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton, Mass. Try pansies in the summer, and asters and mums in the fall to add vibrant color. “That’s what we do around the entrance to our garden center,” Mezitt says.

5 Winter Projects that Prep for Your Best Spring Garden Yet

As winter rolls in, you may find yourself in a funk — especially if you’re a gardener with a green thumb. The growing beds are bare, the leaves have fallen from the trees and the dark skies that roll in a little earlier make you long for sunnier days. Hold on — just because the summer gardening season is over, doesn’t mean you can’t plan to get your hands dirty next spring!

Use winter to evaluate (or re-evaluate) your spring gardening goals – set yourself up for success to grow your best harvest yet! If you’re new to gardening, we have tips to help you get started – read on to learn the five winter projects to do now to ready your green thumb to have the best spring garden yet.

  1. Plan Ahead

As spring rolls around, you could just throw some seeds in the ground and see what happens, but for best results, use a garden planner to map out and maximize your growing space. Now comes the fun part! It’s time to order your seed catalog and decide what varieties and produce to plant. There are so many options to choose from and by spring, the grocery store’s produce won’t be able to compete with your homegrown harvest!

  1. Weeding, Weeding and More Weeding

Fall and winter are the best times to weed the garden. The beds are clear of produce and you don’t have to worry about the risk of accidentally yanking that prize tomato plant out of the ground. Before you reach for the Roundup, consider doing your soil a favor by opting for more natural weed killer options. Once you’ve finished cleaning the beds, fill them with plenty of mulch-utilizing mulch not only helps to keep the weeds out, but it provides your soil with a host of beneficial nutrients.

  1. Show Your Soil Some Love

One of the first things you learn in gardening is that not all soil is alike. Plants can die simply because the soil doesn’t drain well and it doesn’t hold many nutrients. Winter is the perfect time to test and amend your soil mix. There are a variety of soil testing kits available on Amazon, but if you really want to take it to the next level, consider having your soil tested at your county’s local extension office or check out this soil testing laboratory database to find a location near you. Once you have an idea of what your soil needs, get those hands dirty and mix it up. To maintain the quality of your soil, make sure to do ongoing maintenance such as applying compost, cleaning up dead material, practicing crop rotation and growing cover crops for the winter.

  1. Clean ‘Em Up

Don’t just toss your gardening tools in the garage and forget about them, clean them up for storing until the spring. Disinfecting your garden tools is a good way of warding off potential pests and disease and don’t forget to sharpen up any tools that are dull. Nothing is more frustrating than gearing up for some pruning or weeding and the tools are too dull-making it difficult to cut and trim. Tools that are sharpened regularly will last longer, too.

  1. Cover Up from the Cold

Your garden bed clean-up is done and now’s the time to protect any winter plants from the coming frost. Consider investing in portable cold frames or row covers to keep the warmth in and the cold out. Another option is to invest in a greenhouse or build your own. You can start your seeds inside and once the last frost is over, you can move them into the ground. This is a method to use for those that live in very cold regions.