10 Things to Never, Ever Show When Staging Your Home

taxidermy wall

Selling a home is all about presentation, which is why home staging is such a big deal. A vase of flowers, a bowl of fruit—such details can really draw buyers in. And yet on the flip side, certain items lying around your home can kill any potential for a sale.

While you might think common sense would prevail and prompt people to hide this stuff, we think it’s worth reminding y’all, just in case. Before showing off your home to buyers (or any guests for that matter), make sure to stash these 10 things out of sight.

Drug paraphernalia

Let’s state the obvious, shall we? Even if it’s legal in some states, not everyone approves of marijuana. Get your 3-foot bong off the coffee table and into storage, clean out the ashtrays, and stash the rolling papers. Now is also a good time to remove the “Yes we cannabis!” posters and your stack of “High Times” in the bathroom, too.

Weed isn’t everyone’s thing, so keep evidence of it out of sight.

Mousetraps and roach motels

There’s no better way to say “This place is crawling with critters!” than to display these sure signs of aggressive pest control. Just tuck those items underneath the fridge, and pray the things they’re trying to catch don’t scuttle out when prospective buyers walk through the door.

Evidence of pest control equals this in buyers’ brains.

Cameras by the bed

If you and your partner like to make your own private videos, more power to you. Just remember to move the camera.

Any kind of sex stuff, honestly

Personal massagers, oils, condoms—pack ’em up in a box and stick it deep in your nightstand or closet. Yes, it may sound obvious, but we’ve all stumbled across these items in someone’s home at some point. Awk-waard!

Taxidermy

We understand hunting is a hobby, and we’re not here to judge you (not much anyway). But multiple animal heads on the wall and an upright stuffed badger chillin’ in the parlor can give an otherwise great-looking room a creepy or foreboding vibe.

For buyers, a new home often means the start of a new life, or an infusion of new possibilities. Dead animals, well, they can impose a feeling of dread that can linger throughout the entire showing (and perhaps long after). And those buyers who straight-up hate hunters may make a snap judgment not to deal with you. So even if you stuffed the beloved family pet, just keep it out of sight.

Firearms and other combat weapons

If you’re a gun aficionado, make sure your rifles are tucked away in a safe. For other weapons—like combat knives, throwing stars, swords, great axes, spears—try and clear them from view, or at least put them behind glass. Preferably in a cabinet that locks.

Creepy collections

Rooms stuffed with porcelain dolls, celebrity shrines, human skulls, a vast collection of disturbing cinema—these are things that could put buyers off. Way off! You want them to envision their own lives and family in the house; showcasing a collection of something that could be in a museum of medical oddities will only make people think of “Silence of the Lambs.”

Anything political

With a particularly contentious political season in full swing, you should get rid of any kind of party affiliation or presidential endorsement. The last thing you want to do is bring politics into a home sale, or have that topic come up at closing. Do a political purge, and get rid of any party signage.

You

You’re great, really. But when you’re showing your home, you need to make yourself scarce. Seriously. It’s something real estate agents really hate.

The departed

Not the movie—we’re referring to your loved ones. An urn carrying ashes of the deceased framed by family photos is a touching tribute, but unfortunately not something a lot of buyers want to see. You don’t have to sweep your loved one under the rug, but you may want to temporarily relocate them when home buyers come around.

When thinking of selling contact a professional that cannot advise you the best way to show your house but has connections with staggers at an affordable price to assist you preparing the house to bring you the most money the market allows. Call us at 714-698-9655 we are a full service real estate with stagers, professional photographers, a marketing division and much more.


Posted on October 9, 2016 at 7:09 am
Noemi Cardoso | Posted in Seller's Advice | Tagged , , , , ,

What Do Condo Fees Cover? A Lot More Than You Think

Condo courtyard in evening

alacatr/iStock

If you’ve ever looked into buying a condo, you’ve noted that, in addition to your monthly mortgage payment and property taxes, you’ll be required to pay monthly condo fees. So what do these fees cover?

Generally, they pay for the maintenance of any amenities outside your personal living space that you share with your neighbors—like, say, the hallways, parking lot, and yard.

“Condo fees are your percentage share of the costs to run the building as a whole,” explains Janice Pynn, president of Simerra Property Management.

This is good since odds are, you bought a condo to avoid all the maintenance and yardwork that come with owning a regular house. And in case you think your condo fees are too high, know this: No one pockets a cent of your checks or is getting rich off condo dues.

“They are not a profit source for building management; in fact, each building is registered as a nonprofit corporation,” Pynn points out. In other words, these fees go solely toward enhancing the value of your real estate, which is a good thing!

The breakdown: Condo fees and costs

Condo fees typically range from $100 to $700 per month, varying greatly based on what they cover. At one extreme, Hollywood’s hottest luxury condo building, Sierra Towers, offering an array of luxury amenities like 24-hour concierge service and valet parking, may charge residents up to $4,000 per month. (Suddenly that $250 fee you’re being charged feels a bit more reasonable, doesn’t it?)

Here are the services and amenities you can expect your condo fees to cover:

Interior maintenance: Condo owners share the cost of maintaining common building areas like parking structures, storage rooms, laundry rooms, game rooms, fitness centers, saunas, and hallways, as well as mechanical systems like heating, cooling, electric, gas, plumbing, and elevator maintenance. If a crew comes regularly to clean the common spaces, their fees are also included.

Exterior maintenance: Condo owners also share the cost of exterior common areas like fences, walls, gates, pools, landscaping, window cleaning, and seasonal expenses like snow removal, winterizing, and cleaning out rain gutters. If a gardening crew comes regularly to take care of the landscaping, their fees are also included.

Security: This could range from cameras at the entrance to full-time guards patrolling the grounds. If visitors have to be buzzed in to the building, this system will be covered by your condo fees.

Utilities: Most developments’ condo fees cover utilities such as water, sewer, and trash. Some buildings even include heat, electricity, cable, and Wi-Fi. Remember that the more utilities covered, the higher your condo fees will probably be.

Insurance: Most condo fees include a homeowners insurance policy that covers exteriors and shared common areas. Depending on where the condos are located, the insurance policies might also cover flood and/or earthquake damage. The nice thing here is that condo owners need only to purchase insurance policies that cover the interior of their home and their possessions.

Reserve fund: There are expenses that don’t come up on a monthly, or even an annual, basis that will need attending to, so a well-managed condo board will charge owners a certain amount per month that will go into a reserve fund. It would cover things like paving, reroofing, replacing water heaters, exterior painting, hallway and lobby flooring and redesign, and more.

What is an assessment?

In addition to your monthly condo fees, special assessments might arise. Every once in a while something big (e.g., a roof or an elevator) gives out, and there aren’t enough reserve funds to cover it. In that case, the condo owners will have to pay an extra fee for these additional expenses, typically tacked on to the usual monthly condo fees in small amounts until the assessment is paid off.

At times like these, it’s best to remember that, as with any type of homeownership, unforeseen expenses arise, and making the necessary repairs is in your best interest. In other words, you get out what you put in.

When buying a condo give us a call and let our expertise work in your favor. Noemi cardoso @ 714-698-6655.


Posted on October 8, 2016 at 7:04 am
Noemi Cardoso | Posted in Buyer's Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The New Higher-Impact Way to Hang Art

how to hang photos

British architectural and interior designer Ben Pentreath had finally persuaded an English antique map peddler to part with his last copy of a detailed engraving of 18th-century London’s streets. But the triumphant cartophile faced one problem: how to hang the 24 panels that comprised the 13-by-7-foot map.

Mr. Pentreath turned to a technique designers use on collections of similarly sized art (or large images broken into pieces): Framing each panel identically, he butted them to form a tight grid. This kept the presentation compact and imposed a pleasing geometry over the unruly arch of the Thames. (Antique maps of this size often come ready-made in panels, and Mr. Pentreath doesn’t recommend taking scissors to an image to achieve this look.)

The grid technique is arguably more surprising when you’re framing individual but related images. This refreshing alternative to salon-style hangings has major impact but captures viewers’ attention more quietly than the “trendy, heroically-sized works” that “consume the viewer as well as the room,” explained Manhattan-based designer Jeffrey Bilhuber.

“The individual images draw you in,” said another New York designer, Richard Mishaan,“and when you stop looking closely, they become a wallpaper.” He hung 12 photos by Massimo Vitali in a client’s dining nook. The shots—from crowded Italian beaches to Alpine resorts—share an overexposed, sun-faded quality that unites the group. Any thread, such as genre or color scheme, can unify botanical prints, 19th-century silhouettes, even vintage wallpaper samples.

Explaining why he massed a client’s collection of etchings by German artist Thomas Schütte, Mr. Bilhuber said, “Having them in this grid format creates a dialogue.” Dispersing them throughout the house breaks up the narrative, diminishing their impact.

Thin, equal-sized frames work best. Matting can compensate for slightly different sizes of art. And a second set of eyes will help make sure the arrangement coheres.

Downsizing is completely acceptable. “A 10-by-10 grid of 1-inch-square intaglios,” said Mr. Bilhuber, “could be powerful.”

 


Posted on October 5, 2016 at 7:00 am
Noemi Cardoso | Posted in Home Improvement | Tagged , , , ,

What Is My Home Worth? What Every Owner Should Know

That’s why coming up with a real answer to this question is important if you want to sell your home—and pinpoint the right asking price. If not? It’s kind of fascinating to see how much your investment may have appreciated over the years. But how do you find this magic number? Here are some ways to figure it out.

Get an online home value estimate

One good starting point is to enter your address onrealtor.com®, which will instantly price your home based on data such as its square footage and recent home sales in the area. But while this will help you get a ballpark idea, remember that there’s no substitute for the expertise of a Realtor®, who has access to a vast database of information to help you home in on that number.

Tap a real estate agent’s expertise

Real estate agents specialize in answering the question “how much is my home worth?” for their clients, which they do by running a comparative market analysis. This process involves finding similar properties (“comps”) that sold within the past 90 days.

The most accurate comp is a home that’s nearby, similar to yours in square footage, and has the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms. (Ideally, the lot size is also equivalent, but that’s more important in rural areas, where homes are set on multiple acres.) Once your agent finds a few recently sold comps, then she averages the purchase prices and uses that figure as a baseline for how much your home is worth.

Size up the competition

From there, your agent will size up the current competition.

“You should always look at what other properties are listed for in your community,” says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis. For instance, “if your neighbor’s home is listed for $400,000 and you want to list yours at $500,000, you’d better be able to clearly explain the price difference to prospective buyers.” Or else adjust your price accordingly.

Consider how buyers shop

Sellers need to consider how home buyers search for properties online. Let’s assume your home’s fair market value is $503,000.Yet Dossman points out that many people search for homes on the web using $20,000 or $25,000 increments. The upshot? Listing your home for $503,000 could prevent your listing from being seen by buyers who are searching for homes in the $475,000 to $500,000 bracket, so knocking off $3,000 for an asking price of $500,000 might generate more traffic—and maybe even a bidding war to push that price above your expectations.

Also, avoid listing your home at an odd dollar figure (e.g., $999,000 instead of $1 million). While retailers and as-seen-on-TV purveyors of the Miracle Mop effectively price products ending in $0.95 or $0.99, Dossman says the same approach doesn’t apply to real estate: “It’s hard to justify awkward pricing. It’s just confusing to buyers.”

Try to remain objective

“Sellers always think that their home is worth more than it is, because of their personal attachment,” says Dossman. Indeed, it’s hard to boil down years or decades of memories in a home to a number. It’s also hard to accept that your home is worth less than what you paid for it, or that you can’t just tack on the price of the renovations you’ve made. On average, renovations will reap you only a 64% return on investment, although that varies based on the type of upgrades you’ve made.

Why it’s important to price your home right

Price your home too high, and it could wind up sitting on the market. That’s a big problem, because a property that goes unsold for an extended period of time (e.g., more than 30 days) often becomes stigmatized.

“Buyers get suspicious when they see a house that’s been on the market for a while,” says Dossman. “They think that something is wrong with the home.” If that’s the case, the seller may have to make a significant price reduction—sometimes dropping the price below market value—in order to nab a buyer.

Pricing your home below market value in an attempt to stir interest and generate multiple bids can also backfire. Granted, the strategy that could work in a hot seller’s market, but underpricing your home frequently leads buyers to assume that your home is worth only its list price, says Dossman.

Your best bet: List your home close to what it’s really worth—aka its market value. When in doubt, turn to your real estate agent to help you cut through the haze and help you pinpoint the right price.

When thinking of selling our home, contact us to receive a FREE detailed market analysis of your area, and have a closer look of what you local real estate market looks like. For periodic information in your zip code, please email me at noemic@sevengables.com with your zip code and email and I will send it to you  a monthly information on all the real estate activities.


Posted on October 2, 2016 at 8:00 am
Noemi Cardoso | Posted in Seller's Advice | Tagged , , , ,

9 Home-Buying Myths You Need to Stop Believing Immediately

leprechaun on sold sign

RyanJLane/iStock; PhonlamaiPhoto/iStock

So you think you’re finally ready to make the jump from renter to homeowner? Awesome! In this exciting but admittedly scary time, you might be inclined to turn to friends and family for advice—especially if they own homes.

But beware, dear home buyer of the future: Those close to you might not be the experts you think they are. You could be heeding bad (albeit well-intentioned) advice without even knowing it.

So we’re here to bust the most common misconceptions about home buying so you can do this thing the right way. Because this is what we do.

Myth No. 1: The first step is looking for a house

lillyking

Perhaps you just want to get a feel for the area. You know, have something in mind before you sit down with a Realtor®. I mean, you’re not really looking yet, right?

Stop right there. Even if you think you’re just browsing, you run the risk of setting your heart on something, only to have it broken.

“A buyer might be viewing homes that are in a higher or lower price range than what they are qualified for,” says Connie Antoniou, a broker associate in Barrington, IL.

Browsing is always fun, but when it comes to serious home-buying work, you need to make sure your credit is in top-notch shape before you get started for real. Also, don’t forget to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you embark on your home-buying journey. This will determine what your budget is.

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Myth No. 2: A 30-year mortgage is the best option

rashida shrug

If you think that the longer you agree to invest in your home, the cheaper the mortgage payments will be, think again.

Most people opt for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages and for valid reason: Monthly payments for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage are lower than its 15-year counterpart.

But consider this: You could end up paying more during the life of the loan if you pick the 30-year option instead of the 15-year mortgage. That’s because essentially, with a 30-year loan, you’re borrowing the same amount of money for twice as long—at a higher interest rate.

“If you have $1,000, would you rather put that toward your monthly payment for your house or is there a better place for your money?” asks Samantha DeBianchi, Realtor and founder of DeBianchi Realty in Florida. “If you’re more focused on paying down the house versus the interest, a 15-year option is great.”

No, we’re not saying the 30-year option is a bad one. But keep an open mind toward other loan plans, including an adjustable-rate mortgage. If you aren’t set on staying in your home for the long haul, this could be an ideal mortgage for you.

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Myth No. 3: Your down payment must be 20%

harrison ford

Sure, a 20% down payment is ideal if you want to avoid that pesky private mortgage insurance otherwise known as PMI. But many lenders will be glad to offer up home loans with 10% or 5% down—as long as you’re willing to foot the monthly bill for PMI. Or you can skip the conventional loan and head to the Federal Housing Administration for a government-backed loan with only 3.5% down, if you qualify.

In fact, there are thousands of options for down payment assistance. And while many programs are geared toward low-income home buyers, you don’t have to be destitute. There are lots of different ways you can qualify for help on the local or federal level.

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Myth No. 4: The only up-front cost is a down payment

mcgonagall

As if! For one thing, the seller might determine you’re responsible for closing costs, which can be anywhere from 3% to 6% of the purchase price—and those costs can change drastically depending on your state. And don’t forget the slew of fees, taxes, and other costs for inspections, credit reports, insurance, among others.

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Myth No. 5: You can’t buy with bad credit

HRC

If you’re looking to get a conventional loan, having bad credit might give you a full stop. But FHA loans require only a 3.5% down payment and borrowers with low credit scores—even under 600—can qualify. Keep in mind, though, that FHA loans may look great at first, but they definitely aren’t for everyone.

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Myth No. 6: You don’t need a home inspection

homeinspection

You might be tempted to believe this tall tale, especially if your housing market is hot and you’re worried your dream home could be sold in a split second to someone else whowaives the home inspection.

But beware: Sellers are banking on your skipping this crucial step. It means you’ll get the home as is, including any and all problems that come with it. And sometimes those problems aren’t exactly visible.

“Just spend the money for a really thorough inspection, because in the long run it can save you a lot of money and time,” DeBianchi says.

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Myth No. 7: The asking price is set in stone

kidwhat

Much like buying a car, the offer you make on a house does not need to be the asking price. If you have stellar credit, pre-approval, and a down payment ready to go, sellers might be more willing to negotiate than to wait for another, possibly less awesome, buyer to come around.

Plus, if your home inspection (you know—the one you got because you’re smart) turns up issues, you can use those to your advantage in your negotiations.

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Myth No. 8: You don’t need an agent

good property

You might think you can do this home-buying thing solo. After all, isn’t that what the internet is for?

This is where we tell you to resist the urge to DIY your first home purchase and call a Realtor instead. They’re pros who bring expertise to the table—everything from negotiating chops to turbocharged searching power (yes, they have tools to see stuff you can’t). Trust us: They know more than you do.

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Myth No. 9: Schools don’t matter if you don’t have kids

laurenconrad

We get it: You love the house, it’s in your price range, and you want to move fast. But there’s more to it than that.

The neighborhood you choose matters—both now and later when you might consider selling. Even if you don’t have children, good schools are a sign of a good neighborhood. Also, check out the area’s walkability, your commute to work, and any other features that would make the hood a good fit for your lifestyle—now and a decade from now.

For all of your real estate needs and to make sure you are working with someone who have YOUR best interest in mind call us for a personal interview at 714-698-9655


Posted on October 1, 2016 at 7:00 am
Noemi Cardoso | Posted in Buyer's Advice | Tagged , , , ,

How to Paint a Room Like a Pro

painting supplies 

Painting a room is one of the quickest and most impactful ways to give your home new life. The problem? Most homeowners who hire professional painters will pay somewhere between $380 and $790 for a 10-by-12-foot room. Ouch! Going for a whole house refresh? That could cost between $941 and $2,431 on average, according to HomeAdvisor’s Home Interior Painting Cost Guide.

You’ll slash those costs by doing it yourself, but beware: A bad job could launch you into a vicious cycle of painting again and again (and again) to cover up mistakes. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you learn how to properly wield a brush and roller.

Here’s how to paint a room in a way that will reap fantastic results.

Buy the right materials

Set yourself up for success by buying the right equipment. Aside from paint, of course, you’ll need paintbrushes, rollers, trays, tarps, and painters tape (no, the edger tool won’t cut it). Don’t skimp on what you buy.

“Really cheap paintbrushes do not work. These cause more problems by not applying the paint properly,” says Dwayne Siever, founder of the Real Milk Paint Co. “Buy a higher-quality brush or foam brush, and you’ll save yourself a lot of aggravation.”

Test your paint

Before you jump in and lay down the first coat, paint a sample on the wall and give it time to dry. You want to make sure the texture and color work well in the room, and both can change from how it looks when wet.

To save yourself time, money, and aggravation, buy two or three sample-size paints in varying shades and finishes (paint stores will mix any shade you want for a small fee), and try them all on the wall at once.

Prep the room for painting

Got your paint all set? Hold on, partner—you still have some more prep to do. Start by covering any remaining furniture and the floors with plastic tarps or sheets you don’t mind ruining, and don’t be stingy.

“Be sure to cover the whole floor, rather than moving a painter’s cloth around the room where you’re painting,” says Siever. Moving a dropcloth will interrupt the painting process, which is not good if you want a seamless paint job. Plus, it may get folded and end up smearing paint on the surfaces you’re trying to protect.

Next, run painters tape along the edge where the wall meets the ceiling, making sure the corners are fully covered. Then clean the walls; the cleaner the surface, the smoother your new paint job will be.

“Clean dirt off with TSP (trisodium phosphate) or any other residue-free cleaner,” says Siever. “For painting over glossy paints or surfaces, sand lightly with 220 grit for better adhesion.”

Paint the room

It’s finally time to paint! Just make sure you do the edges first, top to bottom, with a foam brush. Once you’re ready to work on the main part of the wall, use a roller and apply gentle pressure. Keep it slow and steady.

“Rolling too fast will spray paint around the room,” says Siever.

And don’t stop or move to another section before you reach the borders you painted earlier.

“When you are painting a wall you need to keep a wet edge. Do not stop in the middle of a wall,” says Siever. If you stop and come back later, you’ll end up with uneven patches.

Once you’re done, leave it be. Wait for the manufacturer-recommended amount of time before touching the wall or removing the painters tape. We know you’re eager to see your fantastic paint job, but jumping the gun will cause smudges. Wait it out for the best results.


Posted on September 28, 2016 at 7:00 am
Noemi Cardoso | Posted in Home Improvement | Tagged , , ,

What Is a Listing Agent? Why a Home Sale Hinges on Agent’s Expertise

If you’re getting ready to sell your home, finding a listing agent should be at the top of your to-do list. But just what is a listing agent? You might have a vague mental image of someone who plants a “For Sale” sign on your front lawn and shows potential buyers around your place, but there’s plenty more to it.

Here’s a primer on what a listing agent does, how the agent makes or breaks your sale, and how to find the right agent for you.

How listing agents help you price your home

How much is your home worth? That’s a hard question to answer. You can get an estimated value by entering your address on realtor.com®, but from there you’ll want to do some fine-tuning—and that’s where a good listing agent can help.

And the stakes are high: Price your home too low, and you could lose out on a lot of money. Price it too high, however, and the picture isn’t pretty either. While it may be tempting to work with an agent who says he can fetch a fortune for your home, overpricing may mean your home languishes on the market for months or even years—making buyers wonder if something’s wrong with your home and lowball you anyway.

“Listing agents have many duties and responsibilities, but at the top of the list is to properly price your home,” says Janine Acquafredda, a Realtor® with House-n-Key Realty.

To do this, a listing agent will analyze the sales prices of comparable homes, or “comps,” in your area to see where yours should fit in, and advise you accordingly.

How listing agents help you sell your home

After you determine an asking price, a listing agent should provide you with a comprehensive marketing plan detailing how she’ll get your property sold. This plan should include the following:

  • Recommendations for home improvements or home staging, if necessary. Yes, these alterations will cost you time and money, but they will improve your chances of a faster sale and higher asking price.
  • Taking photos or hiring a photographer who will be able to highlight your home’s best features.
  • Adding your home to the multiple listing service, where home buyers and their agents can view your property and decide if they’d like to come visit for a closer look.
  • Advertising and holding open houses.
  • Coordinating showings with prospective buyers.

How listings agents negotiate with buyers

Once you get an offer on your home, it’s the listing agent’s job to present it to you and advise if any haggling needs to be done. For instance, if you get an offer way below asking price, your knee-jerk reaction may be to refuse in a huff. But a listing agent might be able to negotiate with the buyers and bring that price up to a decent level—or, if the buyers truly can’t budge much, find other ways to sweeten the deal like a fasterclosing date or waived contingencies. These compromises can actually save you tens of thousands of dollars.

How to choose a listing agent

If you’re looking for a listing agent, you can find ones in your area at realtor.com/realestateagents, where you’ll find such details as their years of experience, number of homes sold, clients’ reviews, and more. Don’t just move forward with the first agent you meet. Choose at least a few and ask them some questions to assess whether they’re right for you.

Here are some questions to ask a prospective listing agent:

  • How many homes have you sold in this area, and how long did it take?
  • In what price range do you sell most of your homes?
  • Do you have advice for me about the condition of my home, and what could be improved to glean a higher sales price?
  • What is your marketing plan?
  • Can you recommend contractors, photographers, moving companies, etc.?
  • Are you a member of the National Association of Realtors®? (Realtors must abide by the group’s code of ethics.)
  • Is this your full-time job? (A part-time agent is not a problem, but you will want to gauge her availability during off-hours.)
  • How often will you touch base with me?
  • Are you planning any vacations, and if so, who will back you up?

How much listing agents get paid

Listing agents don’t receive a dime unless your home gets sold. If it does, the typical agent commission is 6% of the price of your home (which is typically split between the listing agent and the buyer’s agent). This price may seem substantial, but consider this: For every hour an agent spends with you, he will spend an average of nine hours behind the scenes working on your behalf. In other words, listings agents work hard to earn that commission and get your home sold.

When looking to sell your home, make sure to get references from past sellers to see how your agent truly performs. For any of your real estates needs call us at 714-698-9655


Posted on September 25, 2016 at 8:00 am
Noemi Cardoso | Posted in Seller's Advice | Tagged , , , ,

Cool Home Decor Hacks That Cost $3 (or Less!)

How you decorate can make or break your home’s appearance—but it can also break the bank. On one hand, who doesn’t want to be surrounded by lovely, eye-catching items? But on the other, can you really justify blowing a bundle on pillows and candles?

No, we can’t either. And, thankfully, we don’t have to.

Check out these cool home decor hacks that cost $3 or less for your pantry, pillows, lamps, and beyond.

Pillar candles

Perennially plain ivory pillar candles get a fun and funky face-lift with the help of a little tape. Allison Griffith of Refunk My Junk creates DIY washi tape candles but notes that you can use electrical tape if you have it on hand. Just remember to remove those stripes before you light them.

Adding tape to create a unique candle is a bright idea you'll use again and again.
Adding tape to create a unique candle is a bright idea you’ll use again and again. Refunk My Junk.com

Decorative doorknobs

A $3 can of spray paint is all it takes to elevate these doorknobs from dated to decorativein no time. Rene Peery Beagle, aka the Domestic Lady, notes that this is a perfect project for DIY novices, and can add a touch of elegance to your doors and overall decor.
Add instant character to your door with a bit of paint. thedomesticlady.com

Pantry

If you’ve admired the colorful countertop jars at your local Anthropologie but didn’t want to cough up the big bucks for them, Sarah Khandjian of Sarah Hearts shares the secret to creating knockoffs for practically pennies. Just slap chalkboard adhesives onto jars so you can write (and change) the label based on what’s inside.

 

Chalkboard adhesives take your regular spice cabinet to new heights. sarahhearts.com

Repurposed Mason jars

In case you didn’t already recognize the versatility of the almighty Mason jar, here’s another reason to love the go-to canning favorite. Lauren Shaver of Bless’er House puts the glasses to work as a decorative addition to a vanity light fixture. Spray-painted in oil-rubbed bronze, this light looks like a vintage piece you’d pay a pretty penny to own.

Skip preserving that jam and create this clever sconce instead. www.blesserhouse.com

Cute throw pillows

If you can’t look at a bandana without picturing singer Bret Michaels, we’re about to change that mental image for you. Heather T. of Heathered Nest takes the country-style kerchiefs and turns them into cute-as-can-be throw pillows. They’re available at the dollar store in an array of colors. So go ahead, go bandanas!

Bandanas—they’re not just for pirates anymore!  Heathered Nest.com

Organizer for measuring cups and spoons

If your measuring cups routinely cascade onto your head when you open a kitchen cabinet, or you spend hours looking for a tablespoon, you’ll want to try this clever home improvement hack from Beckie Farrant at Infarrantly Creative. Just grab a yardstick or paint stirrer, and mark where each measuring tool goes, add hooks, and you’ve got anorganized storage solution in minutes.

Find those measuring tools at a glance instead of hunting through drawers.
Find those measuring tools at a glance instead of hunting through drawers. infarrantlycreative.net

Fancy mirror

Transform an old mirror with the help of some colorful clothespins. The tutorial, shared by Aunt Peaches, makes it sound so simple, you may find yourself buying  more clothespins to fancy up other decor.

Dye your clothespin to match or offset your decor, and sit back and watch your guests admire your creativity. AuntPeaches.com

Stylish chair

This inexpensive office chair makeover is an attractive addition to your home office.Allison Murray of Dream a Little Bigger took a seat and gave it a new lease on life with two cans of paint and a little TLC.

This retro desk chair gets a fresh look thanks to a fresh application of spray paint.

Posted on September 21, 2016 at 7:00 am
Noemi Cardoso | Posted in Home Improvement | Tagged , , , ,

What Is a Buyer’s Agent? A Trusted Guide Who’ll Help You Find a Home

Ready to house hunt? It’s a jungle out there: Prepare for a flurry of paperwork, stampedes of buyers competing for the same digs, and other challenges before you get your hands on those house keys. We won’t lie: The process can be complex and stressful—which is why having a pro by your side can make all the difference.

You might have heard of buyer’s agents, seller’s agents, listing agents, and so on. You’re a buyer, so what is a buyer’s agent? True to their name, buyer’s agents assist home buyers every step of the way; they can also save you tons of time and money on the road to homeownership.

Read on to learn how a buyer’s agent can help, and how to find the right one for you.

Benefits of using buyer’s agents

“A buyer’s agent will guide you through the home-buying transaction and be at your disposal for any questions or concerns,” says Shane Wilcox, a Realtor® with Partners Trust. Here are some of the things a buyer’s agent can do:

  • Find the right property. After determining what clients are looking for and what they can afford, the agent will schedule appointments to tour homes that fit the bill. The agent can also explain the ins and outs of various properties and neighborhoods to help buyers decide which home is right for them by explaining the pros and cons of various options.
  • Negotiate the offer. The buyer’s agent will advise clients on an appropriate price to offer and present it to the seller’s agent. “Then they will negotiate on your behalf and write up the contracts for you,” says Matt Laricy, a Realtor with Americorp Real Estate in Chicago. This is where the agent’s experience in negotiating deals can save you money and help you avoid pitfalls like a fixer-upper that’s more trouble than it’s worth.
  • Recommend other professionals. A buyer’s agent should also be able to refer you to reliable mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, home inspectors, movers, and more. This can also help expedite each step of the process and move you to a successful sale all the faster.
  • Help overcome setbacks. If the home inspector’s report or appraisal brings new issues to light, a buyer’s agent can advise you on how to proceed, and then act as a buffer between you and the sellers or their agent. If negotiations become heated or hostile, it’s extremely helpful to have an experienced professional keeping calm and offering productive solutions.

Buyer’s vs. listing agent: What’s the difference?

Buyer’s agents are legally bound to help buyers, whereas listing agents—the agent representing the home listing—have a fiduciary duty to the home seller. “That’s why it’s in your best interest as a buyer to get an agent who is there to represent you,” explains Alex Cortez, a Realtor with Wailea Village Properties LLC in Kihei, HI. “Think about it this way: If you were getting sued, would you hire the same attorney as the person suing you? Of course not. You need someone who will diligently fight for your interests and rights.”

Let’s say, for instance, you walked up to the listing agent at an open house and gushed about how you love the home and want to buy it, but you will need to move soon because you’re expecting your second child and need to decorate the nursery pronto, or the lease on your rental is up in a couple of months. A seller’s agent could then use this information against you by informing the seller that your clock is ticking, so they shouldn’t budge too much on their asking price—or at all.

Yet make this same confession to the buyer’s agent you’re working with, and it’s all fine—this professional would know to keep this info private from sellers (and their agents) so it can’t be used against you.

How to find a buyer’s agent

A good buyer’s agent can ease your way to homeownership—and a bad one can result in a bumpy ride. As such, don’t just take the first buyer’s agent you meet (which is what two-thirds of home buyers do), or blindly accept the recommendation from a friend (over half do this). Instead, it’s best to interview at least three agents and ask them a few questions, including the following:

  • What neighborhoods do you specialize in? Real estate requires local expertise, so you should find an agent who’s extremely familiar with the areas you’re interested in.
  • What’s your schedule and availability? Part-time agents who are committed can do a fine job, but if the house of your dreams pops up or you encounter last-minute closing snafus, you want an agent who will be readily reachable.
  • How long have you been a real estate agent? You ideally want someone with a couple of years of experience, and a proven track record of selling homes.

To find real estate agents in your area, head to realtor.com/realestateagents, where you can also read online reviews provided by past clients and learn more.

The agent/buyer contract

Once you agree to work with an agent, you will have to sign a contract called an Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement outlining the agent’s services and compensation (more on that next). This contract also means that this agent will be your sole representative and that you won’t work with other buyer’s agents.

How much do buyer’s agents cost?

Home buyers need to worry about the expense of hiring a buyer’s agent. Why? Because the seller pays the commission for both the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent. Typically the commission equals about 6% of the home’s sales price, which is split evenly between both agents (on a $200,000 home, that would be $6,000 apiece).

For all of your real estate needs, feel free to contact us at 714-698-9655.


Posted on September 19, 2016 at 2:25 am
Noemi Cardoso | Posted in Buyer's Advice | Tagged , , , , , ,

4 Myths That Could Wreak Havoc on Your Move

moving-day

Peter Dazeley/iStock

If you’ve ever moved, you probably know that everyone seems to have an opinion on the best way to go about it.

Well, don’t let your already tenuous grip on sanity fall prey to their well-meaning moving advice. Because moving is stressful enough without crazy talk and terrible pointers. So here are the four common moving myths that will almost certainly derail you, if you let them. Beware!

1. Free moving boxes are best

Free is good, right?

Not necessarily, when it comes to moving boxes.

While you may be tempted to head to your friendly neighborhood liquor store to plead for castoff cartons, resist the urge. You should never skimp on boxes, even if that means you have to pony up a few bucks for them, says storage and organization expert Emma Gordon of Clutter.com, an on-demand storage service.

“Boxes should have top and bottom flaps so they can be taped shut, handle cutouts on the sides for easier carrying, and be more or less square,” Gordon says.

And they shouldn’t be wider than your shoulders. Any more than that and Gordon says you’ll have to carry boxes by holding your arms out and away from your body, which will wear you out faster.

The ideal moving box should be made of thick cardboard and be easy to stack on a dolly. It should also have a designated area for writing what’s inside the box, and have the weight limit printed on the outside so you know what it can carry without ripping.

There’s an unsuspecting advantage to buying boxes: Their uniform size makes it easy to gauge how many you’ll be able to pack in the truck based on the dimensions of the truck and a little math. Also, they’re way less likely to fall apart at the worst possible moments.

But if you do decide to go the free route, be careful about what you bring home from the grocer. Packing your possessions in free produce boxes could mean you’re joined by unwanted insects in your new home.

2. All markers are created equal

Instead of grabbing any old marker you have lying around, Gordon suggests color coding the writing on boxes so that everyone knows what goes where in your new home.

“Permanent markers are best since they work on a wide variety of packing material,” Gordon says. “Choose a marker with a thicker tip, so it’s easier to read.”

Along with jotting down the contents of the boxes, make sure to put an arrow facing up so everyone knows how the box should be loaded and carried, says Dustin Black, founder and CEO of Dallas-based Black Tie Moving.

“If you have delicate or fragile items in the box, make a note on at least two sides of the box,” he adds.

3. There are some things you can’t pack until moving day

It’s tempting to wait until the last minute to pack up personal items and bedding if you’re using them on your final night in your old digs. But that can create chaos and increase the odds of something getting left behind or misplaced.

Instead, have everything packed up and ready to go on moving day, Black says. Not only will that help reduce the chance for problems, but it’s also good for your wallet, too.

“Lack of preparation is the No. 1 reason why consumers experience higher-than-expected moving costs,” Black says.

That’s because you could wind up paying professional movers to stand around while you pack up those last few incidentals.

“Pack personal items like medicines, pet food, toiletries, school items for kids, a few days of clothes, as though you’re going on a two- to three-day vacation,” Black suggests. “That way it’s easier to find the essentials you’ll need to muddle through a move during the first day or two in a new home.”

4. You should always move on Friday

Perhaps you think Friday is the best day to move because it gives you the whole weekend to unpack.

But here’s the reality: Everybody else is thinking that, too. And that extra demand means higher costs. Movers charge more on weekends and at the beginning and the end of the month because that’s typically when they’re the busiest.

“You can see rates 20% to 30% higher during those times,” Black says.

Most moving companies also charge more in the spring and summer than they do during the fall and winter, Black says.

And it isn’t just your wallet that’ll be affected: If you move during a peak time, it can mean crews are stretched thin and you might have to settle for movers with less experience, Black says.

No matter when you choose to move, you should make sure to book movers three to four weeks in advance to lock in the day and time you want.

“Getting to the heart of move-related myths like these can make a drastic difference on moving day,” Gordon says. “It can be the line between stress and bliss.”

By Gina Roberts-Grey has been covering real estate news since 2000. She also enjoys writing about celebrities and their homes, pop culture, antiques, bichon frises, insurance, and NASCAR.


Posted on August 28, 2016 at 7:02 am
Noemi Cardoso | Posted in Buyer's Advice, Seller's Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,