Getting Ready to List Your Home – Steps You Can Take to Add Value for Buyers

Getting your home prepared for a listing with a real estate agency is an exciting time. Of course, your agent will want to be excited about your listing and bring as many qualified prospects as possible. Is your real estate professional providing you with guidance about how to add value to your home? These home maintenance and repair tips will help you increase your chances of a sale more quickly.

De-clutter and organize. No one wants to step through clutter, look in rooms or closets that are overflowing with unnecessary items, or have to imagine what the space could look like without a homeowners personal effects clouding the “scenery.” Before you list your home for sale, start going through all the rooms, from attic to basement, and clean out and organize. You can create piles for discard, donate and store; once you’ve done the first two, it’s time to organize your storage needs. Closet storage systems will help you keep clothes organized and make a great presentation. Garage and basement storage solutions are also available to keep items off the floor and in a safe place.

Refresh rooms with paint. That first impression will be largely influenced by the look and feel of your rooms. After you’ve cleaned and cleared, a fresh coat of paint in neutral colors will help rooms look larger and make prospective buyers feel better about your space. Bright colors might be your style but not theirs so avoid making too much of a “statement” in your color choice.

Update bathroom fixtures. Swap out those tired old bathroom faucets and the old sink; install a new vanity or a shower head; or put on new toilet seats if necessary. You need not spend lots of money to do these simple updates and a little goes a long way. Remember, clean and new is better than tired and worn.

Update kitchen appliances and fixtures. If this is in your budget, it is well worth the expenditure on this end of the sales process. There’s no need for a full remodel but a face lift is well worth it for making a quicker sale. New cabinet doors and hardware or a new sink or new faucet with sprayer (a popular feature) are good investments. If you can swing it and your dishwasher or refrigerator are outdated, consider installing new models that prospective home buyers will appreciate.

Boost your curb appeal. Landscaping and driveway appearance are what prospective home buyers will see first—and will encourage or discourage them about coming inside for a closer look. Get your lawn in shape, plant your garden beds, prune your trees and shrubs. Outdoor lighting is also a benefit, from the front porch to the walkway or gardens. If the driveway is in poor shape, have it repaired.

Make necessary exterior repairs. In addition to the driveway, your front steps should be in good condition; your gutters should be in place and doing their jobs to prevent water damage to the home; missing roof shingles should be replaced; problems with paver or concrete walkways, your sidewalk, patio and deck (where applicable) should be remediated. Remember, you don’t want to give anyone a reason to walk away (and you wouldn’t want anyone to trip and get hurt).

Insulate for energy efficiency. One way to show prospective home buyers that your home is prepared for 21st century living is to add insulation in order to improve your energy efficiency and reduce heating and cooling costs. This is a also good time to look at your windows to see where you can seal any seams or cracks where air penetrates.

At Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty, we guide our clients to make sure their homes are in “ready for sale” condition, in order to make the sales process as stress-free as possible for everyone involved. As part of our client service, our real estate agents will go over what we feel your home needs to prepare it for a listing, and help you hash out the pros and cons of certain upgrades and repairs. Want to find out more about the best way to sell your home in Essex County or other northern New Jersey areas? Call Century 21 Cedarcrest at (973) 228-1050 or visit our website to get started.

Maximizing Cozy Spaces

In the real estate world, nothing is “small.” It quaint, cozy, or comfortable, but never small. Words matter when it comes to how real estate is listed, but they also have meaning. That is why it is important to turn those small spaces into ones that really are cozy. You can maximize storage space, use colors that open the room up, or use other methods that can take a room from cramped to comfortable.

 

Lighten Things Up

 

Light colors make things look bigger. This is true from fashion to home remodeling. If you have a small space that you want to expand on, consider painting it a light, neutral color. You won’t want a bold choice because the buyer may not like that color or theme. A neutral tone gives them a chance to see the space looking as large and open as it can, but it also allows them to consider how they might add some color to the room.

 

Use Mirrors for Deco

 

A limited amount of mirrors on the wall is a great way to enlarge any space. Mirrors not only expand the space, but they are a neutral decorating material, unlike collections or family photos. However, don’t use small decorative mirrors because they don’t really expand the space and might instead clutter the wall. Be sure to pay attention to the reflection in the mirror too. You don’t want to reflect a neighbor’s messy yard to your visitors.

 

Maximize Storage Space

 

It’s time to get creative about clutter. What you don’t want to do is throw a bunch of bookshelves into a small room. You also don’t want to show your existing cluttered shelves. Instead, try putting your things in storage containers, like baskets or pails. This allows you to continue to use your things and the space available, but it also keep the room looking neat. Instead of shelves looking like they are only big enough to hold small things, the baskets and/or pails give the impression that they can create a large, organized space.

 

Expand on your small spaces, but don’t clutter them up. You want to make them look larger than they are, but also keep them cozy and useful.

 

House Flipping: Is It for You?

Maybe you’ve heard of house flipping or seen it on TV. It’s really grown as a method of making money and there are even reality TV shows about it. So how do you know if house flipping is for you? Really, no one else can make that decision except for you. You’re the only person who knows if you can afford it, if you can risk it, and if you will enjoy it.

Here are some situations where house flipping may not be right for you:

  • You don’t have the money – It takes money to invest in real estate and if you can’t afford it, you don’t want to risk it right now. Flipping houses can pay off big but you might also lose in some of your investments and if you don’t have the money to take the risk, you shouldn’t do it.
  • You don’t have the time – Flipping houses is going to take time. To really do this successfully, you’re going to need to invest time. You need to research houses, watch the market for quick sales and auctions and good deals, invest time in doing appraisals and also in putting time and money into fixing up the home. Then, you’re also going to need to invest time in reselling it. So if you don’t have the time, this is not for you.
  • You don’t have the knowledge – If you don’t know anything about real estate, the value of properties and the current market, this might not be right for you. If you don’t have the industry knowledge, you’re not going to know how to find good deals and make profits.

Here are some things that may make house flipping good for you:

  • Have a support network – If you have a good network of friends, family members and associates that can help you, this puts you in a good position for doing something like house flipping.
  • Have a feel for DIY and handyman stuff – If you enjoy DIY and other handyman work, you might enjoy house flipping because you can do a lot of this work hands-on for yourself. If you’re interested in it and passionate about it, then this could be a great choice for you.
  • Experience in real estate – If you already have experience in real estate, you’re going to have the upper hand in the world of house flipping.

With these ideas in mind, you can decide if house flipping is the right choice for you. If you have the money to invest and the time and you enjoy it, this can be a great part-time job or even a full time career for you.

What is Real Estate Leverage?

What is Real Estate Leverage?

When it comes to real estate, finance, and investing, the language used can be a bit confusing and overwhelming. Today we want to take a closer look at real estate leverage and what it means to you, as a buyer and investor.

What is Leverage?

Leverage, by definition, is when you use borrowed money (or capital) or some other financial tool to increase the return you receive on a particular investment. It’s not an uncommon at all. As a matter of fact, most people purchasing homes with mortgages are using leverage.

Take a closer look at the example in this Investopedia article and you’ll see how it works.  The example provided is that you are putting 20% of your own money, or $100,000, down as a deposit on a $500,000 asset or home. The other 80% of the purchase price is borrowed money. If the value of the property appreciates 5% over the course of a year, the net worth of the borrower, as the owner of the property, is now $525,000.

If that same borrower had said, “I only have $100,000 and I don’t want to borrow any money,” and thus purchased a $100,000 home outright, that same 5% appreciation would only be worth $5,000 instead of $25,000.

So if an individual is in a position to borrow, the end return on the investment stands to be much higher.

Accessing Leverage

It takes money to make money, and that is especially true when it comes to real estate. While a mortgage company is the most traditional route, many investors will seek private capital or other means of investment. No matter what you choose, you’ll want to make sure you understand the numbers and negotiate the least amount of interest possible – something that will also help you to maximize your ROI.

There are Drawbacks

There are, of course, drawbacks. You need to have a strong understanding of the home you’re buying, the real estate market in general, and the area in which you are purchasing. While in the scenario above the individual’s net worth was increased by $25,000, a simple deflation in the value of the home could result in a negative impact and a decrease in the net worth.

Talk to your financial advisor or lawyer if you need help understanding your own financial position and whether or not leveraging the money you have to purchase a higher valued property is right for you. Once you’re ready, your real estate agent will be happy to help you find a property that fits the mold.

 

Showing Your Home: What to Do with Your Pets

Showing Your Home: What to Do with Your Pets

You’re trying to sell your house but you have dogs, cats, or some other breed of pet hanging around. While many won’t mind seeing pets around the house, some will, so you’ll need to give careful consideration to what you’re going to do with your pets when your real estate agent is conducting a showing or open house.

General Staging with Pets

Let’s start with everyday staging. If you have small animals that live in cages or aquariums, this won’t be as much of a problem. If you have cats and dogs, you’re going to have to work daily to make sure your rugs are vacuumed and that your furniture isn’t covered with animal hair.

You will want to survey your home to make sure there are no signs of damage caused by your pet (scratches on crown molding, stains on the carpets and rugs, etc). You’ll also want to have a neutral third-party tell you if your home has a pet odor. You’ll need to take care of these things before you can even put the house on the market.

Make sure your pet’s toys are cleaned up – neatly tucked away in a basket or out of sight. Move the cat’s litter box to a more discrete location and make sure you pet’s feeding area is clean at all times. When showing the home, move these things out of sight altogether.

During a Showing

Most real estate agents will recommend that all signs of cats and dogs be removed completely before an open house or showing. This can cause your pet some anxiety, especially cats. If you really can’t get your pets out of the house, try to crate them in a quiet place until the showing is over. Talk to your pet’s veterinarian if you are concerned about how preparations for a showing will impact him emotionally.

If you can take them elsewhere for a while, all the better. Potential home buyers with allergies may not even want to enter your home if your pets are there. Those with animal fears may feel the same.

Some real estate agents will ask you to completely relocate your pets to another home while your house is on the market. We understand that your pets are a part of your family and that this can be especially trying, so we like to review each home on a case-by-case basis. Give us a call for help if you aren’t sure what to do with your pets. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.

Moving? Take this Opportunity to Declutter

Moving? Take this Opportunity to Declutter

Decluttering. You hear this term over and over again when it comes to selling your house and preparing for a move. It’s a nightmare – getting rid of all of the things you don’t want people to see or that you don’t want to take with you. But it’s oh so worth it in the end – a clean start in your new home.

Start Right Away

It doesn’t matter if your move is going to be in 6 weeks or 6 months, start the process of decluttering as soon as you know you’re going to move. Don’t put it off. Don’t tell yourself it will be easier to pack and declutter when you unpack. It’s not easier, and you’ll save money on packing supplies if you have less stuff to take with you.

One Space at a Time

Don’t overwhelm yourself. Take things one closet or drawer at a time – definitely not an entire room at a time. You’ll have more time to focus on what you really use and want to keep and you won’t have to worry as much about making a snap decision you’ll regret later on.

Shred Old Documents

Don’t carry around old documents you no longer need. Put the old, outdated documents that are decades old and no longer necessary for record keeping purposes in their own box. You can either shred them yourself or take them to a secure drop-off point at a local office supply store for shredding.

Prepare Yourself

What will your options for each item be? Create a box for packing, a box or bag for donations, and a box of bag for the trash. Those should be your only options. If you’re really not sure, create one extra box for items you aren’t sure about. Otherwise, pack it, donate it, or trash it.

It’s OK to Let Go

Don’t keep things that have no place in your life simply because they used to have some sort of sentimental value. If they’ve been tucked in a closet or drawer, out of sight, they aren’t doing you much good either way. Sometimes it is better to get a fresh start – away from the memories of old jobs or past friendships and relationships.

The same goes for your collection of gadgets, whatever they may be – household cleaning items, kitchen gadgets, and things that just take up space but were cool in a time and a place. If you don’t use it with some sort of regularity, even yearly, get rid of it.

If you’re selling your home, your real estate agent is going to tell you to declutter anyway. You may as well get a head start on the process. You may or may not decide to get rid of even more stuff when you are unpacking, but getting rid of the clutter before you go will save you a lot of extra work in the long run.

 

Increasing Google Visibility to Gain More Leads

Increasing Google Visibility to Gain More Leads

As a real estate professional, you no doubt realize how competitive the marketplace really is. Everyone wants to make sure their homes are seen. The popularity of the web has made it easier than ever before for you to attract the attention of the web-savvy world, but you still need to make sure your website is as high in the Google search results as possible in order to achieve success. So what can you do to make sure people are actually seeing your website?

Proper Website Optimization

If the thought of “proper website optimization” made you wish you had another cup of coffee, you might want to consider hiring help. In short, you want to make sure that your website is set up in a way that is easy for the search engines to find, identify, and understand. If Google can figure out your site is about real estate, you’re more likely to come up in real estate searches. Most websites use meta tags to show the web crawlers what your pages are about and each page should have one.

You’ll also need to make sure your website is using the right keywords, which means keyword research. Have another headache? Your web designer or SEO expert can help you with that, too. Keyword research isn’t just about knowing what terms are relevant to real estate, but what terms people who are looking to buy or sell houses are actually using when they search the web. Using those terms on your site – especially in the aforementioned meta tags – can help increase your visibility.

Visual Tools

When it comes to real estate, prospective buyers need visuals. You’re going to want to have lots of images, usually in the form of a gallery, for your site – whether they stand alone or link back to your favorite listing sites. You should also have video – tips about buying and/or selling, walk-throughs of homes, etc.

You will want to talk to your web designer about how to make sure your images have the right alt tags. Search engines can’t “read” pictures, so the alt tags will tell them what’s there, especially if they are keyword specific, like your meta tags.

Don’t Ignore Social Media

Social media is a critical component to your online strategy, and the search engines do recognize certain pages and posts within social media profiles. If you’re new to social media, you should not go out and create a profile on every platform at the same time. Start with Facebook and Instagram – the most visual – and make sure your images and posts link back to your website and listing pages. You can add Twitter, Google, and other platforms as you progress.

Truth? As a real estate agent, you have to figure out how to best spend the precious hours of your day. If you aren’t web-savvy, ask a pro for help so you can focus on your leads and business. Just don’t ignore your web presence altogether. It’s definitely important.

Preparing Your Children for the Home Sale Process

Preparing Your Children for the Home Sale Process

Children are often easy-going, but when it comes to moving to a new home you might be surprised at how anxious, worried, and upset they can become. The younger they are, the more difficult things can be emotionally, as they’re confused about change to their routines. Older children are more attached to friends and other people. So what can you do to prepare them for the home sale process?

Timing is Everything

Do you really need to move right now? Are you moving far enough away that your child will have to change schools? If so, can you wait until the school year is over so that your children have time to adjust over the summer? Have you recently had a major emotional event (death, divorce, etc) that your children are dealing with? If so, you may want to postpone a move that isn’t absolutely necessary for a little while as you deal with other emotional issues. Sometimes a few weeks or months can make a huge difference.

If you can’t wait – because of work or money issues – make sure your talk about the move is always positive. Save your concerns and negativity for private discussions far out of the range of little ears.

Communication and Involvement

Whatever you do, don’t spring a surprise move on your kids. Make them as much a part of the process as everyone else in the house. Mark the move date on the calendar and start an exciting countdown. Let the kids decorate their moving boxes and help with the packing of their own toys. You might even consider letting them draw floor plans for their new rooms.  Do whatever you can to make them feel as though they’re a part of the process – even if that means giving them a little bit of healthy busywork.

Socialization

Think about the things you can do to help your children make new friends in your new neighborhood. Find out about clubs, sports teams, social groups, or even summer-camp programs your kids can use to not feel isolated if you move between school years. The sooner they start meeting new people, the more comfortable they’ll feel.

Rituals are Important

Don’t let all of your family rituals go by the wayside during the hectic moving process – packing, unpacking, etc. If Friday is always family pizza night, then make sure you have pizza on Friday. If Monday is always family game night, then pull out a quick game. An hour of family down-time won’t hurt anything and will give you all the break (and reassurance about routine) you all need.

Talk to your real estate agent if you have concerns about your children and the moving process. They’ve worked with tons of families and can give you more tips to make the process a little easier!