Sellers: Making the Most of your First Impressions

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As the old saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. If you’re selling your home, it’s true, except that there are several impressions to be made, and each one might have its own effect on the unique tastes of a prospective buyer. I’ve worked with scores of buyers, witnessed hundreds of showings, and I can summarize that experience down this: a tidy and well maintained home, priced right, listed with professional photographs, enhanced curb appeal and onsite visual appeal will sell fastest. We all know first impressions are very important, but the lasting impressions are the ones that sell your home. It’s not easy, but if you can detach a little and look at your home from a buyer’s perspective, the answers to selling it quickly may become obvious to you.

The very first impression your home will make is through its web presence, whether on Windermere.com, the MLS, Craigslist or any multitude of websites. Fair or not, the price is typically the very first thing people look at, and it will be the measurement by which your home is judged. You can always adjust to the right price later, but the impact is lost. It will take something dramatic to get a buyer to reassess the way they feel about the value of your home.

Closely following price are the listing photos. According to this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, professional photos will not only impact your first impressions, it may also make a difference in the final selling price. Great photos might even overcome those initial price objections. Does the exterior photo capture your home at its hi-res best? Does the accompanying text enhance or distract? Online, your home has only a few seconds to capture the home buyer’s attention. If it doesn’t, they’ll click the “Back” button and resume their search. The goal is to have buyers excitedly calling their agents to arrange a showing.

Another old saying is “Location, location, location,” and sure enough, the first live impression of your home is the location. Forget this one; you can’t move your home. There’s not much you can do about location, right? Actually, there is one thing you can do: price it right from the start.

Let’s move on to the first time a buyer sees your home as they pull to the curb out front. Go stand out at the curb and look at it the way you would if you were shopping for a home. Sometimes, a couple hours of labor and $100 worth of beauty bark can be worth thousands in the sales price. I’ve had buyers choose not to get out of the car when we pulled up to a home that they had once been excited to see.

Likewise, I’ve had buyers say they’ve seen enough simply by peaking into the front door. The nose trumps the eyes when it comes to the first impression when entering the house. Buyers get more caught up in the details. Once the home shopper is inside, it’s easy for them to get distracted and focus on something that seems to have nothing to do with the structure they will be buying, from a dirty dish in the sink to a teenager’s bedroom that’s been decorated in posters and/or melodrama. Do everything you can to set a positive lasting impression. The buyer may look at dozens of homes. What is your strategy to convince them to make an offer on yours?

Guest post by Eric Johnson, Director of Education

Posted on March 22, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Homes for Sale, Housing Trends, Selling | Tagged , , , , , ,

Considering becoming a landlord? How to evaluate whether to rent or sell your property

Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in homeowners choosing to become landlords rather than placing their homes on the market.  In deciding whether or not becoming a Landlord is right for you, there are a number of factors to consider, but primarily they fall into the following three categories:  Financial Analysis, Risk and Goals.

CalculatorThe financial analysis is probably the easiest of the three to assess.  You will need to assess if you can afford to rent your house. If you consider the likely rental rate, vacancy rate, maintenance, advertising and management costs, you can arrive at a budget.  It is important both to be reasonably correct in your assumptions and to have enough reserves to cover cash-flow needs if you’re wrong.  The vacancy rate will be determined by the price at which you market the property.  Price too high and you’re either vacant or accepting applicants that, for some reason, couldn’t compete for more competitively priced homes.  Price too low and you don’t achieve the revenue you should.  If you want to try for the higher end of an expected range, understand that the cost may be a vacant month.  It is difficult to make up for a vacant month.

Consider the other costs renting out your property could accrue. If you have a landscaped or large yard, you will likely need to hire a yard crew to manage the grounds. Other costs could increase when you rent your home, such as homeowner’s insurance and taxes on your property. Also, depending on tenant turn-over, you may need to paint and deal with maintenance issues more regularly. Renting your home is a decision you need to make with all the financial information in front of you.  You can find more information about the hidden costs of renting here.

If your analysis points to some negative cash-flow, that doesn’t necessarily mean that renting is the wrong option.  That answer needs to be weighed against the pros and cons of alternatives (i.e., selling at the price that would actually sell), and some economic guesswork about what the future holds in terms of appreciation, inflation, etc. to arrive at an expectation of how long the cash drain would exist.

Risk is a bit harder to assess.  Broadly though, it’s crucial to understand that if you decide to lease out a home, you are going into business, and every business venture has risks.  The more you know, the better you can mitigate those risks.  One of the most obvious ways of mitigating the risk is to hire a management company.  By hiring professionals, you decrease your risk and time spent managing the property (and tenants) yourself.  However, this increases the cost.  So, as you reduce your risk of litigation, you increase your risk of negative cash-flow, and vice versa… it’s a balancing act, and the risk cannot be eliminated; just managed and minimized.

In considering Goals, what do you hope to achieve by renting your property? Are you planning on moving back into your home after a period of time? Will your property investment be a part of your long-term financial planning? Are you relocating or just hoping to wait to sell? These are all great reasons to consider renting your home.

Keep in mind that renting your family home can be emotional.  Many homeowners LOVE the unique feel of their homes.  It is where their children were raised, and they care more about preserving that feel than maximizing revenue.  That’s OK, but it needs to be acknowledged and considered when establishing a correct price and preparing a cash flow analysis.  Some owners are so attached to their homes that it may be better for them to “tear off the band-aid quickly” and sell.  The alternative of slowly watching over the years as the property becomes an investment instead of a home to them may prove to be more painful than any financial benefit can offset.

In the process of considering your financial situation, the risks associated with becoming a landlord, and the goals you hope to achieve with the rental of your property, – ask yourself these questions.  Before reaching a conclusion, it’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the landlord-tenant-law specific to your state (and in some cases, separate relevant ordinances in the city and/or county that your property lies within) and to do some market research (i.e. tour other available similar rentals to see if your financial assumptions are in line with the reality of the competition across the street).  If you are overwhelmed by this process, or will be living out of the region, seek counsel with a property management professional.  Gaining experience the hard way can be costly.

J. Michael Wilson is the dedicated broker at Windermere Property Management Seattle, and has 17 years of experience managing properties in the Seattle region.

Posted on March 19, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Selling | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Reality of Home Improvement: HGTV Installment

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On any given weekend in my house, at least a couple of hours will be spent watching the designers, craftspeople and entertainers on HGTV or its spunky sister station, the DIY Network.  The premise of these home-centered television networks is that somewhere, sandwiched between long commercial breaks for paint, faucets, flooring warehouses and something called “Slab Jacking”, you’ll find programming about real people making real decisions about their homes. Sometimes those decisions are about buying a home, while other times they may be about selling or remodeling a home.  In all of the situations, experts are brought in to help and a camera crew just happens to tag along, so the rest of us can enjoy the unfolding drama from the comfort of our couches.

Home improvement programming has been around for a long time and is generally considered reality TV, but a lot of the real life is lost between cuts. Here’s a quick guide of some of the more popular programs.

House Hunters – The formula is simple but always entertaining.  Each episode begins with someone unhappy with their living situation, so they call an agent and look at 3 properties.   After weighing the options, a home is chosen.  Of course, this show is over-simplified and leaves out the long weekends the buyer spends in their agent’s car driving from listing to listing.  What you do get is a sense of home values and styles in different regions, the humor of buyers’ reactions to homes, and the excitement new home owners feel as they take the keys to their dream home. You rarely get the type of tension home shopping can bring. The big climax of the show is when an offer is made: the narrator might say something like, “Though their offer was rejected the first time around, the other buyer ultimately backed out and they ended up getting the house for X amount.” But I don’t think they usually talk about it at all. For that kind of tension, you need to check out Property Virgins. The best part of the half hour happens in the last 30 seconds when you see how the new owner redecorates the home in their own style.

Property Virgins– Similar premise to House Hunters, except these first-time homebuyers walk through the basics. The best part about the show is the excitement (and sometimes clumsiness) of the virgin house-hunters. The worst part of this show is when would be homebuyers have unrealistic expectations for their first home.

House Hunters International – Comparable to House Hunters but everyone has accents and the kitchens are shockingly small.

Designed to Sell – Did you know that your spare bedroom filled with Grandpa’s taxidermy and the vintage 1950’s kitchen can be a turn-off to potential buyers? Valuable lessons like these are a just a few of the gems I’ve picked up on Designed to Sell.  Each episode features a home which has been racking up days on the market but no one is interested in buying.  That’s where the army of carpenters and designers step in. When they’re done, the house that looked like Grandma’s musty basement now looks like the lobby of a hip hotel, and they only spent a few hundred dollars.  I love this program for the inspiration but find it short on reality.  The listed prices of these improvements don’t seem realistic, and I often wonder if the costs include the lifetime of carpentry skills, design training, garage filled with power tools and time required to do the job. If you are looking for design ideas and hope for a home that isn’t attracting buyers, you’ll find some great ideas here, but take the true cost of those improvements with a grain of salt.

Real Estate Intervention – Being a real estate agent takes a lot of diplomacy, and this is never more important than that moment they suggest a market-friendly price to a home seller. On Real Estate Intervention, that diplomacy generally fails, sellers are unrealistic, and a stern man with a menacing mustache steps in for an intervention.  He dishes out tough love to the seller and paints a clear picture of market reality.  In a half hour he is able to change minds and make the seller feel good about the decision they made.

This Old House – This PBS staple wrote the book on home improvement programming.  With TOHyou’ll trade commercials for pledge drives, but you’ll also get a more cerebral home improvement viewing experience.  TOH does take patience, as it takes a full season to complete a home improvement project instead of 30 minutes on other programs.  If you are looking for the same quality instruction in a more digestible format, you can check out the spin off, Ask This Old House.

Be warned that the home improvement bug often bites soon after watching any of these programs.  After a long HGTV bender, I find myself wandering through the paint sample aisle and making trips to home improvement stores that aren’t on my way home from the office.  Sometimes life does imitate art and the voice in the back of my head keeps saying, “They make it look so easy.”

What about you? Do you find home-improvement shows useful or do you think they set unrealistic expectations? What are your favorite home-improvement resources?

by Justin Waskow

Posted on March 18, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Buying, Home Maintenance, Housing Trends, Landscape, Selling | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Four In Forty!

Did you know, according to FHFA, prices in Larimer County have dropped more than 1% only 4 times in the last 40 years?

FHFA stands for the Federal Housing Finance Authority. We are one of 261 markets that they track. Since 1978 they have been measuring home price appreciation here.
If you look at the appreciation numbers for each individual year, you will notice that most years the prices go up and some years the prices go down.
But there have only been 4 times in those 40 years where prices decreased more than 1%
Here’s what happened those 4 times:
• 1982 = -3.99%
• 1987 = -1.86%
• 2008 = -2.29%
• 2010 = -1.12%
Sometimes we hear buyers say that they would like to wait for the “prices to come crashing down.” The reality is that the price drops don’t happen all that often and when they do, they don’t drop by that much at all.
If you would like to see a short video with a recap of our annual Market Forecast presentation, watch the video below.
Posted on March 4, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Buying, Fort Collins Real Estate, Homes for Sale, Housing Trends, Northern Colorado Real Estate, Selling, Windermere Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Home Staging Tips

DIY Home Staging Tips:

With a little time, effort and imagination, you can stage your home to showcase its best features, sell it faster and get top dollar.

Clean up, pare down, and toss out: By simply getting rid of excess furniture and clutter, you can make any room look larger and more inviting.

Make it professional, not personal: Remove family photos, mementos and other personal items from the space. This not only eliminates clutter, it helps potential home buyers envision their lives in the space.

Repurpose rooms: Do you have a “junk” room? You can transform a liability into an asset by turning an underused space into a reading nook, a craft room, a yoga studio or a home gym. Just clean it up, add a coat of paint, some furniture and the right accessories.

Lighten up: Light, airy rooms look bigger and more welcoming. You can create a pleasing effect by using the right wattage bulbs and multiple light sources. The right window treatments can also have a big impact. Choose fabrics that are light and gauzy, rather than dark and heavy.

Try a little color: Paint is the cheapest, easiest way to update your home. Stick with warm, natural hues, but try darker colors for accent walls and to highlight special features. You can give old furniture new life with a coat of shiny black paint—and freshen up the front door with a bold, cheerful color.

Add some decorative touches: Art, accessories, plants and flowers breathe life into a home. Make rooms more inviting with accessories that are carefully grouped, especially in threes. Pay attention to scale, texture and color. Bring the outdoors in with plants and flowers.

 

Picture-Perfect Staging:

When it comes to looking for a home most people start on the internet. The photos in your property listing can make a powerful first impression. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, professional photos can increase home views up to 61%. Make sure your home is “ready for its close-up” by following these simple guidelines before the photographer shows up.

For exterior photography:

·         Make sure no cars are parked in front of your house or in your driveway.

·         Sidewalks and streets should be cropped out

·         There should be up-close and angled shots, as well as long shorts that emphasize space.

·         Clear away or trim vegetation blocking the front door or path to the door.

·         Make sure lawns are mowed, hedges clipped, etc.

·         Remove evidence of pets.

·         Put away children’s toys.

·         If you are selling a condo or townhome, such amenities as tennis courts, a gym, a garden patio or clubhouse should be photographed.

For interior photography:

·         Make sure your house is spotless, windows are clean and rooms are decluttered.

·         Repair all visible damage, e.g., bad water stains, gouges, chipped paing.

·         Drapes and blinds should be open and lights on.

·         Remove trash cans, close toilet seats.

·         Use floral arrangements in kitchens and dining rooms.

·         Make sure that interesting details and attractive features—e.g., wood floors, a carved mantel, marble countertops and ornamental tile backslashes, etc. – are photographed.

Posted on March 1, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Homes for Sale, Northern Colorado Real Estate, Selling, Windermere Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Staging Your Home – Pink Flamingos Not Included

It can sometimes be tough to hear an agent asking you to hide your prize possessions when preparing your home for sale. I overheard two agents giving each other advice about how to politely help their sellers relocate their pink flamingo display and car collection off the front yard before putting the homes on the market.

Studies indicate that buyers decide if they’re interested within the first 30 seconds Pink Flamingoof entering a home. You get one chance to make a first impression.

Make sure your house looks attractive, well maintained and move-in ready at a glance. Before you put out your “for sale” sign, put these tasks on your to do list.

•  Get your yard in shape—Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, haul away debris, sweep the walk, porches and patio, and consider adding some potted plants or hanging baskets for a touch of color.

•  Keep it clean—Make sure your house can pass the white-glove test. Polish windows and scrub bathrooms, appliances, counters and floors until they gleam. Vacuum carpets, rugs, drapes and upholstery. Dust shelves, floorboards and molding.

• Give it a fresh coat—Paint the front door, walls leading to entrances, ceiling stains, cracks, chipped or damaged areas. A little paint goes a long way to improve the look of your home.

• Just fix it—Repair anything that needs it, including broken doorbells, torn screens, leaky faucets, broken deck railings or banisters, damaged floor tiles or doors that don’t close properly.

• Lose the chaos—Organize your rooms, closets and basement—anywhere a prospective buyer is likely to look.  And don’t forget to remove pets and litter boxes.

• Set the stage—Help prospective buyers imagine life in your house. Remove excess furniture and rearrange what remains so that rooms look spacious and welcoming. Light scented candles, play soft music, add flowers here and there, you might even bake cookies.

• Hire a pro—Don’t have time to get your house ready to show? Turn to a realtor with an ASP® (Accredited Staging Professional) designation to stage your house professionally.

Posted on February 25, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Selling | Tagged , , , , ,

Going from Homeowner to Home Seller

The following post was written by Kathryn Madison, a real estate broker out of the Windermere  Portland-Raleigh Hills office. You can learn more about Kathryn and read more insightful articles on her blog, GoBeyondtheOrdinary.com.

How do we transition from the mindset of a homeowner to a home seller?  Homes bring us shelter, comfort and are a place to express our individuality. But when it’s time to move on, that same home will now be the financial springboard to the next chapter in our lives.

We start by letting go of the home layer by layer.

Both buyer and seller benefit when the seller- perhaps with some judicious coaching from their skilled Realtor- peels away those things that made their home uniquely theirs. In essence, the serious packing begins once the decision has been made to sell; bookcases and closets should only suggest their function with a few items, rather than store seasons and years worth of books and clothes. Carefully removing prized collections and family photos is also vital- nothing should distract the buyer from seeing the house, and seeing themselves in it.

Personal colors are just as important to remove as objects. After all, if you were serving ice cream to a few thousand people (that’s how many will see your house photographed online)- would you serve them mango flavor? It’s a lot more likely you would choose vanilla- and that’s pretty much what the color of your walls should be- neutral or deep neutral tones.

The last touch is a good deep cleaning- ask your REALTORtm if they have the name of a reputable company.

The seller can then replace those familiar objects with a fresh new welcome mat at the front door.

This process allows the buyer the visual and emotional space to move in.

This process allows the seller to move on.

Posted on February 22, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Homes for Sale, Housing Trends, Selling | Tagged , , , ,

Home Inspections Matter So Be Sure to Get Them Right

For many people, a home inspection is a hurdle that has to be overcome during the process of buying or selling a home. But, in fact, it can be a useful tool for buyers, sellers or anyone who plans to get the greatest possible value from their home.

Find out if the house you are selling has “issues”

When you’re selling a house, a pre-sale inspection can be particularly useful. By uncovering any potential problems your house may have, an inspection can give you an opportunity to address them before your first prospective buyer arrives.

In any market, a pre-sale inspection can give your home a competitive edge. Potential buyers are likely to find the kind of detailed information an inspection provides reassuring—and are encouraged to give your home a closer look.

Get to know a house before you buy it

A home is a major investment and, for many people, the greatest financial asset they have. With so much at stake, it makes sense to do what you can to protect your financial interest. Getting an inspection is a smart, simple way to do just that.

When you make a written offer on a home, insist that the offer provide that your contract is contingent on a home inspection conducted by a qualified inspector. You’ll have to pay for the inspection yourself, but an investment of a few hundred dollars could save you thousands of dollars and years of headaches. If you’re satisfied with the results of the inspection and are assured that the home you’re purchasing is in good shape, you can proceed with your transaction, confident that you are making a smart purchase.

When does a home inspection make sense?

In addition to routine maintenance and pre-sale inspections, there are a number of circumstances in which a home inspection could greatly benefit a homeowner. If you are not sure, here are a few simple questions to ask yourself:

· Was your home inspected when you bought it? If not, an inspection would be beneficial even if your home was a new construction at sale.

· Are you an older homeowner who plans to stay in your home?  If so, it makes sense to hire a professional who can inspect difficult-to-reach areas and point out maintenance of safety issues.

· Do you have a baby on the way or small children? An inspection can alert you to any potential safety issues that could possibly affect a growing family, such as mold, lead or structural problems. If mold or lead is present, be sure to rely on technicians or labs with specialized training in dealing with these conditions.

· Are you buying a home that’s under construction? You may want to hire an inspector early on and schedule phased inspections to protect your interest and ensure that the quality of construction meets your expectations.

What doesn’t your home inspection cover?

For a variety of reasons, some homes will require special inspections that are not covered by a typical home inspection. A specialty inspection might include such items as your home’s sewer scope, septic system, geotechnical conditions (for homes perched on steep slopes or where there are concerns regarding soil stability) or underground oil storage tank. If you have any questions about whether or not your home needs a specialty inspection, talk to your real estate agent.

Hire a professional

If you decide to hire a home inspector, be sure they’re licensed in your state. They should be able to provide you with their license number, which you can use to verify their status with the appropriate government agency. It’s also helpful to ask for recommendations from friends and family members. Even among licensed and qualified home inspectors, there can be a difference in knowledge, performance and communication skills, so learn what you can before you hire a home inspector to ensure that you get the detailed inspection that you want.

What to ask your home inspector

Ask the right questions to make sure you are hiring the right professional for the job.

What does your inspection cover?

Insist that you get this information in writing. Then make sure that it’s in compliance with state requirements and includes the items you want to be inspected.

How long have you been in the business?

Ask for referrals, especially with newer inspectors.

Are you experienced in residential inspections?

Residential inspection in a unique discipline with specific challenges, so it’s important to make sure the inspector is experienced in this area.

Do you make repairs or make improvements based on inspection?

Some states and/or professional associations allow the inspector to perform repair work on problems uncovered in an inspection. If you’re considering engaging your inspector to do repairs, be sure to get referrals.

How long will the inspection take?

A typical single-family dwelling takes two to three hours.

How much will it cost?

Costs can vary depending upon a variety of things, such as the square footage, age, and foundation of the house.

What type of report will you provide and when will I get it?

Ask to see samples to make sure you understand his or her reporting style. Also, make sure the timeline works for you.

Can I be there for the inspection?

This could be a valuable learning opportunity. If your inspector refuses, this should raise a red flag.

Are you a member of a professional home inspector association? What other credentials do you hold?

Ask to see their membership ID; it provides some assurance.

Do you keep your skills up to date through continuing education?

An inspector’s interest in continuing education shows a genuine commitment to performing at the highest level. It’s especially important in older homes or homes with unique elements.

Posted on February 15, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Buying, Home Maintenance, Homes for Sale, Northern Colorado Real Estate, Selling, Timnath Real Estate, Wellington Real Estate, Windermere Real Estate, Windsor Real Estate | Tagged , , , ,