First Impressions – Ready Your Listing for a Great Showing

You’ve decided to market your property for sale… You chose the right agent, someone with experience and a real go getter. Now it’s time for the deal-making or deal-breaking, all important first showings. Thanks to your agent, who’s gotten the word out, taken great photos, spread your listing all over the internet, requests for showings start coming in and your listing shows 4 times in the first week… then you wait. There’s no response from buyers, agents, no offer, and another week goes by with your house on the market. Why? The reason could be one of these so-called showing “killers” that could be sabotaging your hard work and ultimately delaying a good deal:

1.Strong common household odors: Showing successfully is about eliminating the obstacles that prevent buyers from seeing your home’s true value. One huge showing “killer” can be a home’s odor (odors that you’ve become accustomed to.) Whether it’s cigarette smoke, pet odor, a musky basement or strong cooking spices, make sure you remember these handy tricks for eliminating undesirable odors that you can’t see, and may forget are offensive to some buyers. Quick fixes:
• Bowl of Vinegar Overnight — Sit a bowl of vinegar in a smelly room overnight and it will help soak up the unwelcomed odor.
• Happy Hour Spray — Add 2-parts water and 1-part cheap vodka into a spray bottle and spray almost any area in the room. The mixture grabs the smell and evaporates.
• Have Coffee and an Orange — Coffee grounds and orange peels are great odor neutralizers. Add one of them to a bowl in the room, inside the trash can, or down the garbage disposal to help eliminate odors.
2. A Scummy Situation. Another thin layer that can stand between sellers and a sale is soap scum. Two of the most important rooms to “shine” are the kitchen and bathroom. Unfortunately, these rooms are where soap scum tends to accumulate. Try this:
• The Glove and the Dryer Sheet — Grab a plastic glove and a dryer sheet. Cover your hand with the glove and wipe away the scum in a fast circular motion with a dryer sheet. This is one of the fastest ways to clean bathtubs, showers, sinks, and countertops in a flash.
3. Clutter’s a killer. We all know this, but what to do when storage is a real problem? This is especially true when you are packing and preparing to move. Try one or several of these “stylish basket options” for putting things away:
• Wonderful wicker for the traditional home;
• Cool canvas for the modern spaces;
• Rugged rubber boxes for outdoors and/or garages.
AND FINALLY, Learn How to Prep for a Showing Fast — Become a Showing Prep Ninja!First impressions can mean everything. Everyday some buyer prospect spots one decor issue that turns them off and they miss the value of a great house. Seller: discuss with your agent the ways you can have you home “ready to shine” within two hours, a reasonable time to receive notice of a showing request. Here are some hints that I suggest to Sellers: Have plans to secure pets (make arrangements for someone to “put the dog away), or use a crate; keep litter boxes and other “pet areas” clean; Clean-up after each meal, never leave dishes in the sink; Have “new” towels on the racks at all times in the bathrooms and keep the towels you use every day on hooks in a closet; All beds should be made each morning and do a quick wipe of surfaces in both the kitchen and bathrooms before you leave in the morning. These simple and quick tasks will go a long way to have your listing stand out beyond the others.

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Homeownership still offers advantages over renting. Faced with college loan debt and a tight labor market, many Millennials in their 20s & early 30s are putting off purchasing a home. According to U.S. Census data, homeownership for Americans under age 35 declined to 36.2 percent in the first quarter of this year. Another 36 percent of young adults ages 18 to 31 live in their parents’ home. Others rent – which raises the question, “Does it make more sense to rent or buy?” 

Buying a home still makes sense. Although increasing home prices in some areas might make renting seem attractive, homeownership offers many benefits – financial and otherwise. In a recent NY Times article by Neil Irwin “thanks to low interest rates and home prices that remain 13 percent below their 2006 peak nationally, buying continues to look like a good deal in much of the country.” 

Here are 5 Advantages of Buying over Renting Although every market and every prospective buyer are different, some things are true across the board, here are some benefits of buying a home and some disadvantages of renting long-term: 

1. Equity:  In the past 20 years, the median sales price of existing single-family homes rose 81 percent. For those who plan to stay in the same place for at least five to seven years, the increase in value can often offset the costs of buying the home. When that equity grows, the homeowner may be able to borrow against it for major purchases or educational expenses. 

2. Predictable payments: Rent payments can increase steadily or suddenly.  This is especially true in areas where rentals are very competitive, making rent payments higher than mortgage payments.  With a fixed-rate mortgage, buyers pay the same amount each month no matter how many years they live in the home. 

3. Tax deductions: Most homebuyers can deduct mortgage interest and property taxes on their tax returns. Those who work at home may also be able to take home-office deductions. 

4. Control: Unlike renters, homeowners can paint their walls any color they want and don’t need to ask a landlord for permission to hang pictures, renovate or make other improvements. For many, that’s priceless. 

5. Pride of ownership: Purchasing a home is an investment, but also so much more. It’s a lifestyle choice and continues to be part of the American dream.  Owning a home and making reasonable improvements over time can strengthen your financial position in the long-term. 

If you are thinking about buying, your first call should be to an experienced Realtor, the second to a Mortgage Advisor who can help you better understand all your financing options.  Contact me if you’re ready to begin your exploration of opportunities!

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Avoid these Buyer Pitfalls and Reduce Your Stress

1. Missing out on the perfect place.

Hundreds of new homes hit the market every day, and buyers who are not using all of the house hunting tools available, and working with a knowledgeable agent,  could let their dream home slip by unnoticed —or worse, someone else might snatch it up before they even know that it’s for sale. One of the toughest lessons for buyers, especially first-time buyers is that in this market, passive house hunting simply will not cut it.  If you are not prepared to buy within the next 3 months, including being pre-approved for a loan, and marketing your current home for sale, then you are not a serious buyer.  If you’re not ready to make house hunting a top priority, finding the right home is going to be a painful process.  First step is to consult with an experienced buyer’s agent and establish a realistic timeframe for finding your new home; use communication tools available to both buyer and agent to identify brand new listings; and agree to a strategy that will position you as a strong buyer when you do enter the market.

2. Choosing the wrong lender.

Few things are more frustrating (for buyers and agents) than finding the perfect property only to find out that your loan isn’t coming through.  I always tell clients to use a local preferred lender because they’ll get great rates, the VIP treatment, and if there’s a problem they’ll find out early in the process.  Preferred lenders earn their preferred status only after they’ve consistently delivered smooth loan closings and excellent customer service.  Don’t be fooled by “come on” online loan rates and promises.

3. Fixating on price per square foot.

Buyers who search by price per square foot may be prime for disappointment.  Size rarely equates directly to purchase price, except in new construction or commercial properties.  Measurements are not guaranteed to be accurate, and mis-measurements in public records can place appropriately priced homes outside of a buyer’s search parameters.  The market value of any residential property is ultimately determined by a certified residential appraiser, by comparing the subject house to recent comparable sales, and the appraiser uses measurements to find the best comps.  Use the published interior sq. footage as a guide to selecting the homes that are the right size for you, look beyond square footage and use number of rooms, number of baths, room sizes and amenities as a better way to qualify your search criteria.

4. Desperation.

When prices are on the rise, or the market in strengthening, buyers get antsy and sellers get greedy. Some buyers have been outbid on numerous properties and may get tired of looking.  As a result, a frustrated buyer may place ridiculously high offers on properties that just aren’t worth it—just to finally get or “win” a home.   Remember, the fair market value that is the basis for all home loans is determined by an independent appraiser, what a buyer is “willing to pay” doesn’t figure into the lender’s decision to make the loan. If you offer to pay more than the house is worth in the market, your lender may refuse to make the loan you planned on, leaving all parties disappointed and frustrated.  If this happens to you, go back to basics and review your original motivation for buying.  Discuss your search criteria with your agent and have a back-up plan that includes looking at neighborhoods or areas that may actually have the right home at the right price.  Don’t give up what’s most important to you, but be flexible when it comes to criteria that is less important.

5. Foregoing inspections.

In a perfect world, sellers would disclose every single issue to the prospective buyers because “it’s the law.” Since that’s not the case, inspections are an integral part of the home-buying process. Buyers should do inspections as part of their due diligence. Inspections identify red flags and can address the general state of a property. Plus, they can provide leverage when it comes time to negotiate the terms of your contract.  In most cases, once you go to settlement you have accepted the property in “as-in” condition.  Make sure you discuss all the inspections that can be done on the property prior to settlement and any recourse you have as a buyer in negotiating remediation or repairs—“no surprises, no regrets.”

6. Buying a “project.”

The unwritten rule of renovating states that it will take more time and money than expected. So it’s important for buyers to know their threshold for renovations before buying a fixer-upper. Do your homework—discuss referrals to general contractors and specialty tradesmen with your agent.  Get quotes for work to be done after settlement, before settlement. It’s always better for clients to know what they’re getting into before they find themselves in over their head. One word of caution: Sinking $50,000 into improvements after settlement may not make the property worth $50K more when you go to sell it.  Improvements rarely increase the market value of a house dollar for dollar.  The biggest mistake in buying a “fixer upper” is that you over-improve the property for the neighborhood and will not be able to recoup your investment in the future.

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Spring Cleaning Made Easier

Should it stay … or should it go? That’s the basic question when you embark on spring cleaning for any reason. Whether getting ready to move or market your home, de-cluttering or just re-organizing your home space—it’s tough to figure out what to put into storage versus what you should keep at your house, or simply throw or give away.  It’s critical and wise to use some tried-and-true tricks to making spring cleaning decisions quicker and more effective:

  1. Label boxes “keep”, “store”, “donate” and “toss”.
  2. Set a timer for 30 minutes and attack one spring cleaning project at a time, then take a little break to clear your head before starting another.
  3. If you haven’t used something in a year, but you want to keep it in the family, store it in a safe, clean self-storage unit. This goes for any furniture and home goods that will eventually end up in your new home.
  4. Donate anything that’s still usable instead of putting it out for the trash. Goodwill, Purple Heart, and The Salvation Army will take most things if they are in good condition, they also pick-up at no cost in some areas.
  5. Stop buying things! Don’t allow yourself to bring anything new into the house until you have everything organized. This will motivate you to get it done fast! Remember if marketing a home for sale, LESS IS MORE! A de-cluttered house shows better and sells quicker!
  6. When you are all done, take some new photos, have friends over and thoroughly enjoy your fresh living space!
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Mentally Strong People– what they have in common!

I recently found an article that I had saved because the title “Mentally Strong People: Things They Avoid”, written by Cheryl Conner in Forbes online hit a nerve for me.  I saved it because I did not want to make these mistakes, I was determined to strengthen my mind and be a person with tenacity, optimism, competence and someone with a plan for success!  So what are the things that mentally strong people avoid: well here’s a short list that I’m working on–one day at a time:

Mentally strong people don’t feel sorry for themselves, They don’t waste time if things or situations turn out badly, they respond with phrases like “oh well”, “next” and “lesson learned!”  They take responsibility and move on.

Mentally strong people don’t waste time on things they can’t control.  They know their strength is in the ability to manage the way they respond.  They don’t complain about traffic, lost luggage, or other people.  They recognize that many factors are beyond their control, and the the one thing they can control is their response or attitude.

Mentally strong people don’t shy away from change or fear taking risks. They embrace change and welcome challenges, and their biggest concern in not the unknown but becoming complacent, stagnant or bored. These individuals weigh the risks and benefits and even consider the worst-case scenarios before taking action–but they TAKE ACTION.

Mentally strong people don’t worry about pleasing others. They strive to be kind, fair and to please others where appropriate, but are unafraid to speak up.  They can withstand controversy and can handle someone getting upset–trying to approach uncomfortable situations and angry people with grace.

Mentally strong people don’t dwell on the past.  There is strength in acknowledging the past and especially acknowledging things learned, but the majority of your energy should be spent creating an optimal present and future. Mentally strong people don’t make the same mistakes over and over again, instead they learn from their mistakes and have the ability to be self-reflective in a productive way.

Mentally strong people don’t fear being alone.  They even treasure the time alone to reflect, plan, relax and re-group.  They are happy being with others and can also be happy alone.  Strong people don’t depend on others for their happiness.

Mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results.  These individuals are in life for the long haul— in relationships, business, health & exercise, or personal growth, they know better than to expect immediate results.  They have staying power! Genuine change takes time and positive goals are worth waiting for.  

Mentally strong people don’t give up!  Every failure is a chance to improve and grow.  Most successful people are willing to admit that their earlier efforts brought many failures.  They are willing to fail again and again if necessary, as long as they they learn from each mistake.  A successful person knows that each failure brings them closer to their ultimate goal.




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FREE Electronics Recycling Event

IS YOUR BASEMENT becoming an “Electronics Graveyard.” WHAT TO DO with old computers, tvs, phones, cables….. Our Exton office is having a FREE Electronics Recycling Event (pick-up on June 6th) so drop off all the electronics you no longer need between NOW and June 5th, to Coldwell Banker Preferred, 390 Waterloo Blvd #101 in Exton. Environmentally safe disposal and hard drives will be shredded! If your basement is anything like mind–you need to electronically de-clutter!

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As Our Population Ages: Do you know a senior Buyer or Seller?

As we age, our real estate needs change. From renter, to first-time home Buyer, seasoned Seller or buying a vacation home, our needs change and the experience of your Realtor does make a difference. I recently obtained certification in Senior Real Estate Services specialist (SRES) that includes advanced skills training in down-sizing methods, managing a long-distance move, financing strategies for retirement and the role of housing, finding retirement community resources, and mortgage strategies for seniors. Finding an agent who has these advanced skills and someone who understands how seniors need added communication and support, can take the pressure off of other family members and help make any real estate transaction less stressful and time-consuming. If you have a family member who needs a Senior Real Estate Specialist, or you yourself are contemplating a housing change due to retirement, illness or a relocation, contact me for a free and personal housing analysis.

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Staging: Mistakes Sellers Make & how to avoid them!

Staging may help determine how easily a home will sell, and luckily it’s one of the few factors that Sellers have control over. With a little guidance, you can get your home marketing and buyer ready. I’m not talking about major renovations—think deep-cleaning, un-cluttering, and maybe a fresh coat of paint. The point of preparing your home for marketing (staging) is to remove anything that will distract a buyer from all the great things your home has to offer. *Warning—in a competitive real estate market, it’s easy to go overboard. Here are a few of the biggest missteps I’ve seen Sellers make in preparing to list their homes:
1. DON’T BE DULL: are you selling a hotel room? No? Then a home shouldn’t look like a hotel! The purpose of staging is not to make the home boring and bland. The goal of staging is to get the potential buyer to feel that the home looks nice, comfortable and REAL, although incredibly neat. Listing agents typically prefer boring over cluttered and crazy, but a few spots of color photograph well and will stand out in listing pictures. Simple touches add subtle interest, like a colorful throw pillow or a bowl of fresh fruit—just don’t go too wild. Be careful when it comes to painting. Neutral colors or “soft colors” are always preferable, choose one color that will fit in all areas, most buyers want to select their own future color schemes for bedrooms and bathrooms, so give them a neutral canvas to start with and choose a color they can live with for awhile.
2. The SMELL of your home is important! Buyers bring all their senses to a showing, so when you’re listing your home, be aware of how the house smells as well as how it looks. No one wants a home to smell like last night’s spicy meal, but many Sellers overcompensate with potpourri and air fresheners. Beware of overwhelming a serious buyer with seriously strong scents. A home should smell fresh and clean, but not heavily perfumed. A seller’s best bet is to invest in a deep clean to remove lingering smells and avoid cooking anything too potent during the listing time period.
3. THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Ditch the tunes. Mood music backfires more often than not. You can’t guess the buyer’s musical tastes, and it can make some buyers feel like they’re being manipulated.
4. BEWARE of the ELEPHANT GRAVEYARD. Sometimes it’s necessary for you to move out before the house sells. If you have to take your best furniture and possessions with you to a new home, don’t leave behind the furniture you no longer want. In a sparsely furnished house, it’s even more important that the pieces left behind are tasteful or completely empty. The old sectional sofa sitting forlornly in an empty living room will just make the house feel abandoned. The house should be well furnished or completely empty, not somewhere in between.
5. DON’T WASTE MONEY ON THE “WRONG” RENOVATIONS. Many Sellers undertake huge projects right before they sell. Perhaps the bathroom is outdated, and they’ve always wanted to fix it up. But it’s hard for you to guess which renovations will provide the greatest return on investment. Small touches like new cabinet hardware or new light fixtures may go a long way toward making the home feel up to date, without doing a major renovation costing tens of thousands of dollars. Even desirable renovations of kitchens and baths NEVER return 100% of their cost when the house is sold. Sellers should depend on the savvy listing agent to help figure out how much updating is needed so the home will sell easily in the current market.
6. REMOVE CLUTTER, Don’t Just Move It Around. I say this to virtually every client, when it comes to selling a home, LESS IS MORE! An uncluttered home makes listing photos more attractive, which translates to more showings, and it makes the house feel open and airy. But it rarely works to try to hide the clutter. A serious buyer will explore the basement, open up your closets, and even look under your sink. So it’s important to get rid of or store extra belongings, furniture and clothing. It might seem like a lot of work, but it will make it easier to move out once you get an acceptable offer. A cluttered, messy house is often mentioned by buyers as a negative and alternatively, a clean, uncluttered house is cited as a reason for selecting one house over another.

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Buying Vs. Renting: where in the US is it cheaper to buy rather than rent?

Buying a home is cheaper than renting in all of the 100 largest metro areas across the US, but buying ranges from 19% to 70% cheaper than renting. The financial benefit of buying instead of renting is narrowest in San Francisco, Honolulu, San Jose, and New York. Over the past year, the gap between renting and buying has narrowed most in the Bay Area. One year ago, buying was 35% cheaper than renting in San Francisco and 38% cheaper than renting in San Jose; now, the difference is 19% and 24%, respectively. These metros have seen strong price increases year-over-year. In contrast, the gap didn’t narrow at all in New York, where buying remains 26% cheaper than renting, both now and a year ago. On Long Island, the difference actually widened from 34% one year ago to 36% today. New York, Long Island, and other Northeastern metros have seen more modest price rebounds over the past year, despite rising rents. So where is BUYING a home vs. renting a tougher call? In San Francisco the cost of buying vs. renting is -19%; In NYC it’s -26%; In Los Angeles it -35%; and on Long Island, NY it’s -36% (36% less.) I’ve been saying this to my clients for years. If your credit is solid and you plan on being in a home for more than 3 years, you may want to consider buying instead of renting. In some cities, it’s a close call with only a small percentage difference, but in areas of the mid-west and the south, your mortgage payment may be significantly lower than comparable rents. Do your homework, talk to a good mortgage specialist or start with your realtor, with mortgage interest rates remaining at all-time lows, buying may be a viable option for many currently renting.

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Work with a specialist

I am pleased to announce that I have completed specialized education to help clients age 50+ through lifestyle transitions involving relocation, refinancing, selling a family home, downsizing, and buying a home in a 55+ or retirement community.   Experience and specialized training do matter and I am proud to offer my clients the benefits of having a Realtor with the highest practice standards.  

  • CRS (Certified Residential Specialist)
  • GRI (Graduate of the PA Real Estate Institute)
  • CSP (Certified New Home Sales Professional)
  • Now– SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist)
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