Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What every home seller should know

A lot of planning and preparation go into selling a home. Here is what local real-estate brokers, mortgage lenders, contractors and other experts cite as the most essential preparations.

Architect Chris French and his wife, Anya Landau French, turned up the volume on their vacant condominium apartment with designer-inspired contemporary furnishings — leather living-room furniture, glass and metal side tables, a black dining-room table and a fake TV.
The aim of the makeover was to draw a buyer who would snap up the property — a person their professional stager imagined would be in his or her late 20s or early 30s, seeking the stability of homeownership.

“It’s a bit of a mad rush,” Chris French said about his efforts to get a head start on the spring market.

There are plenty of good reasons spring is the traditional start of the real-estate season:
• Sellers’ yards look more photogenic.
• Buyers are more apt to take a fall-in-love-with-the-neighborhood walk in warmer weather.
• A summer move is preferable for families with school-age children.
It may be months until most spring listings go up, but local real-estate experts say now is the right time to get ready. The to-do list is long, from researching agents to painting and planting.

“There are so many things, sometimes you kind of freeze,” says Jennifer Nangle, an agent with Re/Max Realty Services, the Nangle Group. “It can seem daunting, but so much of it is tidying.”

To help you manage all the tasks, we’ve consulted with local real-estate brokers, mortgage lenders, contractors and other experts about the most essential preparations.

Choose agents, contractors and other professionals carefully.

Mary Premtaj, a sales associate with Prominent Properties Sotheby’s in Franklin Lakes, N.J., said it is key for sellers to interview many agents, to find the right one for their needs and to ask the right questions.

Sellers should inquire about an agent’s negotiating skills, experience, handling of situations like bidding wars, where the agent lives, what region she covers and her past transactions.

Ask for references, ask how long it takes an agent to complete a sale and if she works full time.

Many agents have preferred professionals they deal with, including mortgage companies, home inspectors, photographers, stagers, professional cleaners and contractors.

“We can save people a lot of headaches,” says Rachel Valentino, an agent with Keller Williams.

Some real-estate teams offer packages of services, which might include professional photographers and designers or discounts on movers and home warranties.

Although buyers generally get home inspections, some sellers also arrange for a prelisting inspection. (Nangle and some other agents recommend it.)

“They don’t want any surprises,” says Joseph Walker, a home inspector and president of Claxton Walker & Associates in Annapolis, Md.

An inspection provides not only important information — how many years left before a roof needs to be replaced, for example — but also a thorough to-do list.

“That way there aren’t a lot of things that could clog up the sale,” Walker says. “The seller isn’t trying to make repairs at a panic pace.”

Gather paperwork and do the math.-

Now is the time to crunch numbers. What are the comparable sales? What do you owe on the mortgage? How would making various repairs improve your bottom line?
If you don’t decide to make a particular upgrade — replacing a worn floor, for example — Nangle recommends getting estimates for the work.

“I think it’s a good idea to get photos or illustrations of how it would look, and show the numbers,” she says. “It gives [potential buyers] an idea of what can be done.”


While you’re looking through file cabinets and drawers for tax returns and receipts, you might as well clean them out. “Seventy-five percent is a matter of freshening up and de-cluttering,” says Brian Block, managing broker of Re/Max Allegiance.

You probably know the golden rule about clearing off counters, dressers and tables, but don’t forget inside the refrigerator and inside closets, because potential buyers will look in them.

“No one likes to do it,” Valentino says. “We all procrastinate.”

Once you’ve cleaned out, you may need a storage unit to hold items until moving day, she adds.

You have to be ruthless, says Caroline Carter, owner of Done in a Day, a professional-staging company in Bethesda, Md. Perhaps you have lovely china displayed or a world-class book collection, but chances are “they’re a distraction for buyers.”
It’s important for buyers to be able to see themselves, not the current owner, in the home, Carter says.
Make repairs

The Frenches renovated their one-bedroom den condo when they bought it in 2007. They had reselling in mind, adding a window to give the den a source of natural light, reconfiguring the kitchen and foyer, and adding more storage.
“We wanted to make it as functional as possible, keeping it flexible for the next owner, too,” Anya Landau French says.
But renovations don’t have to be that extensive. Carter says sellers can make easy, quick updates.

Some changes that can have a big impact are installing new carpet, replacing hardware and pulls on kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities, reglazing bathtubs and replacing medicine cabinets.

“People tend not to have enough lighting,” says Valentino. Clients may balk at spending several hundred dollars on recessed lighting, “but you get the money back.”

New kitchen appliances are also often a good investment, Carter says.

“Buyers want clean, organized and move-in ready,” she says. “A buyer will often overestimate how much it is to do these repairs.”

Maria Rini of Re/Max Real Estate in Oradell, N.J., said that buyers need to remember that no amount of money they put into the house to fix it up will be fully returned.

This is why homeowners should seek professional advice before throwing money into what may be unnecessary home improvements to sell their home, Rini said.

For example, Rini said she once had a client whose friend told him to spend $4,000 on custom blinds.

“There was no reason for this man to spend a dime in this area,” Rini said.
Some experts say neutral paint and décor are best. But others argue that a little personality goes a long way.

“Another agent might tell you to repaint your red dining-room walls, but I say if it looks good, keep it. At the end of the day, among the three-bedroom town houses, at least you’ll be remembered as the one with the red walls,” says Ray Gernhart, associate broker with Re/Max.

Prepare for rain-

Spring is notoriously wet, so pay special attention to rain gutters and downspouts and sump pumps (and battery backups), says Cliff Kornegay, owner of Capitol Hill Home Inspection, who recommends having your roof inspected for storm damage even if it isn’t leaking.

Check the air-conditioning system before you have to turn it on to keep potential buyers comfortable. Kornegay recommends having the evaporator coil cleaned and drains checked, in addition to changing filters.


Often an afterthought, landscaping is essential, according to real-estate experts.

“A lot of people make up their mind before they get to the front door,” Thompson says.

If you do nothing else, edge the lawn and mulch flower beds, says Donna-Marie Despres, a landscape architect at Sun Nurseries in Woodbine, Md.

“Everything will look tidy,” she says. For a pop of color, pansies, impatiens and nandina shrubs are particularly hardy. “If there is a frost forecast after you’ve planted, just cover with a sheet at night.”
“Landscaping has one of the biggest returns on the investment,” Valentino says.
Start now

The Frenches rented out their apartment for several years and timed the lease to be able to put it on the market early in the season. Chris French says he wanted to get it on the market “ahead of any rush in inventory.”

Some local sellers were surprised last year when the spring season heated up earlier than normal.

“It depends on the weather,” Valentino says. “Traditionally, ‘spring’ starts in mid-March. But last year, it was unseasonably warm, and we started seeing buyers in mid-February. It catches sellers off guard, because it always takes them longer to get ready than they expected.”

Next steps-

The next step is to discuss the bigger picture: Where do the homeowners want to live next?

“Always make sure that the next step is feasible before taking the first step,” said Bill Boswell, a sales associate at Coldwell Banker in Franklin Lakes, N.J.

“There’re people who get caught all the time.”

Before listing their own home on the market, it helps to take a day or two to drive around and see what is out there for them, Boswell said.

“Just so they can feel comfortable to know there is something that they will be comfortable in,” Boswell said.

Then, it may be time to consider setting the asking price.

Marilyn Nuber, a broker associate at Keller Williams in Ridgewood, N.J., said homeowners need to be realistic about the asking price.

This becomes more important for owners looking to sell their properties fast.

“They can’t be emotional about it. They have to look at what other people have received for their home,” Nuber said.
Once the house is fully staged, it is time to schedule a professional photographer, Premtaj said.

“It’s one of the most important aspects,” she said.

“That’s the one way for us to communicate with all these prospective buyers who start their searches on the Internet.”

Rini said Web marketing is crucial. Her brokerage uses about 300 different websites to help sell their homes. Many agents even set up individual websites with video clips, details and photographs to help sell houses.

“It’s supply and demand, so you want to create the biggest demand that you can,” Rini said.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I choose...

A Pep Talk

We all need a little encouragement every now and then. Kid President, knowing this, has put together a video you can play each morning as you wake up or to share with your friend who needs a kick in the right direction. Take a moment and spread some encouragement. "It's everybody's duty to give the world a reason to dance."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"The level of your happiness and success in life is directly proportional to the number of people you serve selflessly." -Thach Nguyen

"Thank you for the experience"

Vision Breakfast

Yesterday, Keller Williams Puget Sound had our Vision Breakfast.  It was AMAZING!  Thach Nguyen was our guest speaker and he was such an inspiration!!!!!  The entire event was great!!!

"When your vision is clear and you know why you want it, all things are possible" - Thach Nguyen

Motivational Quote

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How to Set Goals: 4 Steps to Making Things Happen

We all have things we want to accomplish. We may want to start something, or maybe we want to stop doing something. Perhaps we want more of one thing but less of another. Losing weight, making money, better relationships, obtaining inner peace, all of these things have to start with one thing: a decision. We need to consciously decide we are going to have, be, or do whatever it is that we desire, and then determine the steps that are going to make that happen. This is where good goal-setting comes into play.

Why is it important to set goals? It is important to set goals because in order to make something happen, we need to be able to envision it with clarity before we can make it a reality. What do you want? Ask yourself, what would I go for if I knew I would be successful? Once you have an idea in mind, I have identified four important steps to start making things happen:

1. Identify Your Goals. To identify what specific goals make sense for you, begin first by writing down what specific things you want in your life. How much money do you want to earn? Do you want to lose a certain number of pounds? Do you want a new car? To take a vacation? Maybe you just want to pay off your debt? Decide what you want, and set your goals.

2. Be Inspired. In order for a goal to hold our attention, it must inspire us. Once you have determined what you want, practice feeling what it will be like when you achieve your goal. Attaching a feeling to a goal makes it real. Now, mentally rehearse the feelings you will have once you achieve it. Is it joy? Happiness? Relief? Pride? Remember, your desire to achieve that feeling is why you have this goal. We need to shed the limitations we have unconsciously have set for ourselves by changing the way we think about ourselves and what we can accomplish and always believe that you are confident, capable and worthy.

3. Have No Fear. Sometimes we are afraid to set goals because we are afraid of disappointment or failure. Failure is just an opportunity to redefine our goals. We need to have flexibility to notice that as we move in the direction of our goals, there are sometimes more worthy goals that are revealed. We need to be able to adapt, redefine, and restructure our goals when appropriate.

4. Break It Down. So I don't get overwhelmed, and to better understand the steps it will take to accomplish my goals, I use a flowchart method. I draw boxes on a piece of paper and work backward through charts to better understand the steps I need to achieve the goal. For example: Write your goal down and make a box around it. Now ask yourself, "What needs to happen to make this happen?" Once you have determined what needs to happen, create a new row of boxes underneath the box with your goal, and write down all the action steps necessary. Now, what needs to happen to make that next level of boxes happen? Continue to break down all of the action steps necessary in as many rows as you need. Once you have broken down the action plan to the lowest level, you know exactly where to start and exactly what needs to happen! You have created "mini goals" to help you reach your main goal.

If you want things to change, you have to decide to make things change. Just as we need to establish what our goals are, we also need to make a commitment to those goals. You must set goals that are important to you, and then you need to identify the steps necessary to accomplish them. What can you do now that will move you toward your goal? What kind of positive action will lead you to the attainment of the goal? Break it down and get started!

By Denise Scarbro