How Selling Your House Is Like Making Lasagna

How many layers are there in a lasagna?

There’s no right or wrong answer to that. Other than, “more than one” probably. Even two is pretty skimpy.

So, let’s say three is minimal for argument sake. (But, four or more is better.)

The number of layers probably just boils down to using up all the lasagna noodles and sauce you have, or getting to the top of the pan you have to use. No exact amount. Use what you’ve got.

But, if all you’ve got won’t stretch to make three layers in the size pan you have, perhaps you should use a smaller pan. At least have the three layers.

This isn’t a lasagna lesson.

You could say that it doesn’t really matter how many layers there are, as long as it tastes good.

And, there really isn’t any rule that you can’t have a one or two layer lasagna. So, you’d be “right”.

It just wouldn’t look exactly right. Not a big deal. It’s lasagna.

But, this article isn’t really about lasagna, it’s about real estate. Specifically, the critical “layers” you need to have when you list your house for sale.

Like we were talking about above with lasagna, for the sake of argument, you definitely need three layers. More would be better.

So, let’s look at the three most important layers when listing your home for sale.

The 3 layers

The three “layers” you need to have when you list your home for sale are:

1- Price
2- Exposure
3- Ease of access

Price

The price of your home is the first, and most critical layer when you are listing your home. If you don’t nail the pricing, the next two layers won’t matter a whole lot.

It won’t matter how much exposure your home has if the price isn’t in line with the market. Buyers have a good handle on values, and they won’t waste their time looking at a house if the price is way out of whack.

There’s certainly a little room to be on the “high” side. You don’t need to “give your house away”. But, you really need to be priced well against the current competition, and justifiable against similar homes to yours which have recently sold.

Exposure

Exposure has gotten easier over the years because of the Internet. But the easiest way to ensure you reach every single buyer in the market is to make sure you’re on the local multiple listing service (MLS).

Beyond that, you want to make sure your listing “populates” or “syndicates” to all of the real estate sites out there. Again, the easiest way to do this is typically to list your home on the local MLS. Most agents have a system that then allows your listing to be picked up by more real estate websites than you can imagine.

Beyond that, it doesn’t hurt to have some other exposure in terms of marketing. This will vary from agent to agent, and company to company.

But the bottom line is this — your home needs to be easily found. And since most buyers are actively looking online, make sure it’s on there as “everywhere” as possible.

Ease of access

Your home needs to be easy for buyers to come and see.

Sounds simple enough…

You want your home sold, so of course you figure you’ll make it easy to come and see.

But not everyone does. More people than you can imagine make real estate agents and buyers jump through hoops to schedule a showing.

Saying no to a showing, or trying to corral every showing into a tight window of time during the week is going to hurt you.

So, just make sure you keep your house ready to show at any given moment, and say yes to any request to come see the house. (Within reason, of course…)

If you just do all three of those things, you’re in pretty good shape to get your home sold for as much as the market will bear, in as short a time as possible.

But, it won’t necessarily be as good as it could be if you were to add just a few more layers to your “listing lasagna”.

The “extra” layers.

While the first three layers are more or less non-negotiable, and will most likely get you as close to the highest offer as possible, as quickly as possible, you may want to consider these extra layers.

Adding these into your mix will increase your chances of getting the highest and best offer possible, as quickly as possible.

1- Hiring an agent who knows and understands the market.
2- Hiring an agent who is a strong advisor.
3- Hiring an agent who can negotiate.
4- Hiring an agent who keeps things together.

Knows and understands the market

It’s easy enough to hire a real estate agent. There’s plenty of them. But, you should really make sure to hire one who truly knows and understands your local real estate market.

You want one who can analyze the activity on your house, and the overall market, so that the agent can…

Advise you

There’s a lot of talk about selling homes “as quickly as possible”. The key words there are “as possible”.

Sure, you and your agent want your home to sell, and sell quickly. But “quickly” depends on the market. And you want an agent on your side who, after analyzing the market and activity, can advise you on what to do…

Should you stay firm on your price and just be patient?

Should you lower your price? If so, how much?

Is there something you can change about your house that buyers are getting hung up on? If so, is it worth doing, or will the cost be too much for it to make sense?

There’s way more than that to list, but those are just a few examples of advice your agent should be relied upon for, and be able to provide to you.

Negotiate

This is another thing that gets a lot of lip service. But an agent who negotiates well is a huge asset.

Sure, you want one that will negotiate a “win-win” enough to make a deal come together. But, you really want one that gets you the fatter end of the win. And that isn’t always just about price.

A good negotiator will get you the best price and terms.

And, more importantly, it’s important to have an agent who will…

Keep the deal together

There’s a lot of time, and a lot of things that can lead to a deal falling apart between signing the deal and a closing.

Things go wrong. People get cold feet. Buyers get greedy and ask for credits and repairs, or threaten to bale on the whole deal. Appraisers throw their opinion into the mix.

Again, just to name a few examples… but there are so many things that can make a deal fall apart.

Having a strong agent on your side, who can almost predict and nip problems in the bud before things get out of control, is a huge layer to add to your listing lasagna. And, if things do get dicey, you want an agent who can wrangle it all in and get things back on track.

Looks can be deceiving.

People often look at selling a house as pretty simple. And the truth is, it is pretty simple…in terms of the first three layers.

But that doesn’t necessarily make the best “lasagna” possible. It might look OK enough to be called lasagna, but it’s not gonna be quite as tasty as it could be, if you take enough care to add the next four layers.

What do real estate and Independence Day have in common?

Fourth of July and real estate
Fourth of July and real estate

What’s the first thing you think of when you think 4th of July?

Probably fireworks, right?

Okay, maybe you think about barbeques, pool parties, or parades first.

The point is, the first thought for most people isn’t about the nitty-gritty that we’re actually celebrating — our independence as a nation.

Deep down, we all know that’s what it’s all about. And we respect it. But, we’re also human. Who can blame us for enjoying our freedom watching fireworks, without giving all that much thought about everything our founding fathers did to get us here?

So it is in real estate…

There’s a lot of focus on the “fireworks” in real estate. The big, glorious, flashy, exciting moments. Like…

The moment your house first hits the market.
Seeing the pictures of your house all over the Internet.
Throngs of people walking through your first open house.
Receiving offers from buyers…maybe even multiple offers.
Going under contract.
Walking into “the” house, and falling in love with it.
Making an offer on the house you love, and having it accepted.
Closing on the sale or purchase of your home.

All really exciting “firework” moments.

But they’re not the full story. There’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes in order to get to those fun, celebratory moments. A lot of thought, knowledge, skill, and work… Not necessarily fun, or sexy stuff. But it’s all important. It’s all necessary to get to those exciting “fireworks” moments.

Not that the behind the scenes stuff should be something you think about. As a consumer, you should enjoy the glorious moments. Leave the nitty-gritty to your agent.

Just know that there’s more to it than the “fireworks” you want to see when you buy or sell a house.

6 Reasons Your Agent Wants You Pre-Approved Before Showing You Homes

Ever had an agent deny to show you a home because you weren’t pre-approved for a mortgage? It’s not because they’re mean, or they don’t value your business… it’s actually because they’re looking out for your best interests.

Let’s face it, shopping for a home before getting pre-approved for a mortgage is like walking into a grocery store without a wallet. You may have the desire to buy, but you lack the ability. Let’s cover some basics…

What is a mortgage pre-approval?

In a nutshell, a mortgage pre-approval is written assurance from a lender or broker that you’re able to borrow money to purchase a home up to a certain amount. It’s based on the income, employment and asset documentation you supply at the time of application, in conjunction with your credit history. So let’s look at the 6 reasons you should get pre-approved.

1. It carries more weight than a “pre-qualification”.

A pre-approval differs from a pre-qualification. With the former, the lender has actually checked your credit and verified your documentation to approve a specific loan amount (usually for a particular time period such as 30, 60 or 90 days). A pre-qualification can be useful as an estimate of how much you can afford to spend on your home, but it’s a less accurate indicator of your ability to purchase. A pre-approval always carries more weight.

2. You’ll know how much house you can afford.

Getting pre-approved before you begin house hunting allows you to know how much house you can realistically afford. Knowing this narrows down the options and makes the selection process more efficient. Not to mention, it protects you from the unpleasant surprise of realizing the home you fell in love with doesn’t fit your budget.

3. It adds clout to your offer.

In many markets, homes attract more than one offer. If the sellers are weighing one offer against another, they may lean towards the one accompanied by a pre-approval letter. That’s because pre-approvals instill confidence that the buyer is financially capable of purchasing their home.

4. It could increase your negotiating power.

In addition to strengthening your offer when compared to buyers who haven’t taken this step, getting pre-approved may give you the upper-hand when negotiating the price. If the homeowner is eager to sell, they may be more willing to accept a lower offer from someone they’ve been assured is financially capable of purchasing their home.

5. It saves time.

Obtaining a mortgage is a lengthy process. Getting pre-approved ahead of time shortens the time between contract to close — this way you’re ready to proceed with finalizing the mortgage once you’ve found the home you want to purchase.

6. Without it, most agents won’t work with you.

Makes sense, too. Right? Think about it: when you hire an agent, he/she will invest countless hours showing you homes over the course of your house hunt. If you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you want assurance that your hard work would lead to a favorable outcome for both you and your client?

9 Tips for Summer Home Selling

What’s the best season in which to sell your home? That depends greatly on who you ask, and where the home is located! If you live on the coast, it’s likely that summer is your ideal time, but if you live somewhere where skiing is the main attraction, winter is probably the best time to sell. While spring and fall tend to be the most popular times to sell a home overall, it simply depends on too many factors to be able to give one single answer.

Some Realtors say that summer is the worst time to sell your home. Why? Well, people are distracted by summer vacations, the kids being off school and needing more care and attention, and all the endless summer activities that go on in communities across America. Still, if you find yourself needing to put your house on the market in the summertime, there are lots of ways to ensure that you get the most attention from buyers that could result in a sale.

Here are nine of our best, most effective summer selling secrets!

1. Get your lawn care on

When your lawn looks unkempt, so does the rest of your home. And where first impressions are important, as they are when selling your home, you’ll want your lawn to look amazing. Plan on mowing it twice a week, and keeping everything edged and trimmed nicely to make the greatest impression you can.

2. Up the curb appeal

Trim the hedges, edge and sweep the sidewalks, clean up your flower planters and plant new ones. Get rid of any yard clutter. Create a bright, summery, welcoming entrance to your home that will impress buyers right away.

3. Bright summer accents

Choose a few new, brightly colored accessories such as throw pillows, rugs, or blankets to add summery color to a dark or neutral interior palette. Add bright freshly-cut flowers in vases around the house. Switch out heavy winter drapes for summer sheers that let in more light. Brighten the “mood” of your rooms, and your potential buyers will feel it!

4. The brighter, the better

We’ve already discussed ditching the heavy drapes, but when you’re showing your home, make sure all the drapes are opened all the way. This goes for window blinds too. If you can’t pull the blinds all the way to the top because there is something unsightly outside the window, at least open them partially to let the most light in.

5. Be flexible

Remember that everyone is busier during the summer months, so try to be more flexible when it comes to showing your home. Since the days are much longer, you may have people wanting to make evening appointments for showings. Try to be as accommodating as you can. Remember, the goal is to get your house sold! A temporary inconvenience now could result in an offer!

6. Outdoor living

Pay extra attention to outdoor living areas when preparing your home for a showing. You want to showcase how your home is summer-friendly by calling attention to outdoor cooking and eating areas, and entertainment possibilities. Make sure your grill is sparkling clean on the outside, and that everything in and around your outdoor living areas looks neat and tidy.

7. Open house idea

If you have a summer open house, dress up your outdoor eating area as a picnic, complete with someone manning a grill, and grilling hot dogs and burgers for open house guests. Buy a red and white checkered tablecloth, and fill a cooler with ice and frosty beverages. Make it a happy, positive event that potential buyers will love! Remember that the longer they stick around, the more apt they are to begin seeing themselves living in the space.

8. Citrusy scents

Some people are sensitive to perfumey, flowery scents, but just about everyone equates lemon or citrus with “clean.” Grab a couple of lemon or grapefruit-scented candles, or use a natural air freshener spritz a few minutes before your showing appointment. Remember, subtle is better than overpowering when it comes to any scent.

9. Turn on the air

If you have air conditioning, turn it on, even if you have your windows open. It’ll help circulate the air, and will help keep your potential buyers in your house longer, and will be a nice break from the heat of the summer. It’ll also serve to show them that this major home system is in working order.

Hopefully, these tips will help you as you enter the summer season and try to get your home sold. Be ready, willing and able to do all you can to accommodate your summer buyers. Show them how awesome your home is to live in in the summer, and what fun they can have living there. Let’s get your home sold!

Duchess

I am fortunate enough to work with a company that cares about the community and animals and sponsors #lukesfurryfriend of the month at the SPCA. I have decided to join forces for good with them and start a sister-program to the NextHome Realty Select pet sponsorships.

I will be personally sponsoring the adoption fee for an animal waiting to find their family at the Clarke County Animal Shelter once a month. Helping people find their perfect homes is something I love to do, please help these pets find theirs by sharing my monthly posts and visiting them.

Introducing my sponsored pet for the month of June, Duchess.

She is such a sweet girl and enjoys spending her time taking care of the babies in the kitten room. She take a little while to warm up to new people so don’t be discouraged when you first meet her, a little patience and she will show you her belly and start purring for you. She would do best in a quieter home, so if your house is loud and chaotic like mine is she might not be the best fit.

Duchess has already been spayed, is only about a year old, AND her adoption fee is being completely covered by me! What more can you ask for in a pet?

If you are interested in adopting Duchess please contact the Clarke County Animal Shelter or myself so I can put you in touch with them

Friday Night Live Ticket Giveaway #2 #WheresLuke

Friday Night Live ticket giveaway #2! #WheresLuke? We are excited to be partnering with Old Town Winchester for Friday Night Live on June 15th. We have 5 pairs of tickets to give away. Luke and Clint dropped off the 2nd pair of tickets somewhere on the Old Town Walking Mall. Watch this short video for a clue to their location. (We make it SO easy!) If you are the first person to go in and ask “Is Luke Here?” you will receive a Luke magnet and an envelope with instructions to claim your tickets! We are looking forward to Friday. Our tent will be set up near Macado’s from 5 pm to 10 pm so stop by and say hello. We will have some NextHome Realty Select swag and you can enter a drawing for an Echo Dot!

June is National Homeownership Month

homebuyers-month-cover

Are you aware that June is National Homeownership month?

Probably not. Because you’re too busy working to afford the home you live in, whether you rent it or own it.
Why should you care?

If you poke around and read anything you can find about it, you’re being urged to recognize and celebrate the benefits of homeownership.

That seems kind of a weird thing to ask you to do. Do you really have the time or care? What’re you supposed to do, throw a party? Sit alone and contemplate it? Invite some friends out for coffee and chat about it?

You’ve got to figure that the people who actively promote it probably have their reasons and motives for pushing it. (You know, like real estate agents, mortgage lenders, and the government.)

It makes you wonder…

Why do they push it, other than to make money?

Is it really the “American Dream”? Or is it just a packaged ploy?

Is it all it’s cracked up to be? What about all the people who were recently hurt by the housing market and getting in over their heads?

What about the economy and jobs? What about making enough money to even afford a house?

And, what about all the headaches and worries that come with homeownership?

Are you being sold on something unachievable, or not even all that desirable?
Maybe you shouldn’t own a home

OK, first off…

Homeownership is not for everyone.

There always seems to be this push to increase the percentage of homeowners. It gets wrapped in reasons why it’s good for you, your community, the country as a whole…maybe even the whole universe.

Pushing to increase the percentage of homeownership for the sake of statistics and percentages is wrong.

Lots of people shouldn’t own a home. Maybe some people shouldn’t even be allowed to own a home even if they qualify financially. That’s what leads to problems, because it’s a responsibility not everyone can handle.

Besides, if everyone owned property it wouldn’t be as special. As coveted. As much of a dream.

So, if you do question whether homeownership is “worth it”, maybe it isn’t the worst thing. Maybe you shouldn’t own a home.

It’s easy enough to let the people who really want to own property, and believe in the value of it, own all of the real estate.

Just don’t buy any…
Let them enjoy the “pride”

One of the catch phrases you’ve probably heard is, “There’s pride in homeownership.”

That’s kind of the cover-all reason given as to why more and more people should own their own homes.

You can’t entirely diminish the fact that there is pride and value in owning real estate. There is.

Nor can you entirely diminish the actual benefits of ownership, like building wealth, tax incentives, and not throwing money out the window and building someone else’s wealth.

But there’s certainly an inability for some people to buy real estate. Some people will never achieve homeownership.

And there’s certainly risk and worry involved. Not everyone can handle that.

It’s certainly understandable that lots of people shy away from buying real estate so soon after the real estate bubble burst, and the slow recovery. Some people are still recovering financially. Some people watched their parents struggle and worry, only to lose their home.

But for those who can and do own real estate, there is pride. And there’s appreciation.

Because while not everyone should own real estate…at least now everyone can.
You get to choose, not be chosen to own land

It used to be only a select few who could own land.

Now almost everyone has the right to own property…if they want to and have the ability.

This isn’t the feudal system where there are only a handful of Lords who’ve been granted a piece of land to look after by a King. (Side note: Do you think any Lords ever questioned the value of owning land?)

You can choose to be the lord of some land. You just have to want to, and be financially qualified to.

While you don’t have to be “chosen”…nobody’s giving it to you either.

So, if you can financially afford to, there should be some pride and appreciation in owning a little (or large) piece of this planet, with a “castle” to call your own.

So, when you do decide to buy some real estate, you should enjoy the pride, appreciation, and respect for the right and privilege to do so. You are essentially choosing to be your own land Lord.

There are places in this world you still can’t. So, imagine that. Imagine not having the choice.
Is it worth you recognizing and celebrating?

With all that in mind, is National Homeownership Month more meaningful to you?

Does it put homeownership in an objective light? Is it appealing to you? Does it make you want to own real estate? Does it make you want to own more real estate if you already own some?

Don’t get swept up in the hype of homeownership month, or anyone just trying to persuade you of the benefits of homeownership, no matter what month it is.

The best way to figure out if you should be a homeowner is to speak with a serious, objective real estate agent. One who takes counseling clients more seriously than pushing the pride of homeownership, just so they can make a sale.

Give me a ring if you’re looking for some good, objective counsel. I’d love to be part of that round table.

Where’s Luke Friday Night Live Ticket Giveaway

We are excited to be partnering with Old Town Winchester for Friday Night Live on June 15th. We have 5 pairs of tickets to give away. Luke and Rhi dropped off the 1st pair of tickets somewhere on the Old Town Walking Mall. Watch this short video for a clue to their location. If you are the first person to go in and ask “Is Luke Here?” you will receive a Luke magnet and an envelope with instructions to claim your tickets! We are looking forward to Friday. Our tent will be set up near Macado’s from 5 pm to 10 pm so stop by and say hello. We will have some NextHome Realty Select swag and you can enter a drawing for an Echo Dot!

5 Things Buyers Should Know About Home Inspections

5 Things Buyers Should Know About Home Inspections

Home buyers tend to have a lot of questions about home inspections. Are they required? How are they different from appraisals? When does it take place? Here are answers to these and other common questions.

1. Home inspections aren’t required, but they’re worth it.

There is no law that says you have to have an inspection when buying a house. It’s an option that is generally left up to the home buyer. But while you’re not required to have a house inspected before purchasing, it’s generally a wise idea to do so. Unless you are a licensed contractor or builder, you probably don’t have the experience necessary to evaluate the structural aspects of the home. Home inspectors specialize in that very thing.

2. It’s different from a home appraisal.

Home appraisals and inspections are similar procedures, but they have two very different goals in mind.

  • A home inspector will alert you to any potential repair issues, or other problems with the structure and installed systems.

  • A home appraiser, on the other hand, is primarily focused on determining the market value of the house.

If you are planning to use a mortgage loan to finance your purchase, there’s a good chance the mortgage lender will require you to have a home appraisal. They do this to determine how much the house is worth. But the inspection is usually optional, and it focuses on the condition of the home. They are two different things.

3. It usually happens soon after the contract is signed.

As far as the timeline goes, a home inspection typically takes place shortly after the buyer and seller have agreed on the purchase price and signed a contract. At that point, the buyer will often hire an inspector to perform a complete home inspection.

The seller does not need to be present for the inspection. In most cases, the seller will actually leave the premises so the inspector can come in and do what he/she needs to do. Home buyers are almost always present during this process. The seller’s listing agent might grant the inspector access to the home. Or they might put a lockbox on the door. But as far as the timing goes, it typically takes place soon after the purchase agreement has been signed.

4. It helps you uncover any serious issues with the house.

The inspector will closely examine almost every aspect of the house. That includes the foundation, the roof, the electrical and plumbing systems, HVAC and more. He will provide you with a detailed report of any repair issues or other problems that he finds. This kind of report is invaluable to someone buying a home, especially when you consider how much money is on the line.

5. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

Home inspections typically range from $250 – $400, depending on the size of the house and other factors. When you consider the amount of money you are going to put into the home – and the amount you might be borrowing from a lender – it’s a relatively small price to pay for peace of mind.

How Do I Know the Market Value of a Home?

How Do I Know the Market Value of a Home?

Home prices in the U.S. have risen more or less steadily over the last few years. In many cities, home values are now at their highest point in history — even higher than the last housing boom.

But what determines the “market value” of a home? How do sellers determine their list prices, and how can buyers evaluate a listing based on current market conditions. Here’s a crash course in determining market value, for sellers and buyers alike.

The Definition of ‘Market Value’

Let’s start off with a quick definition. In a real estate context, the “market value” is the most likely price a home will sell for within a reasonable amount of time. It is based on local housing market conditions and recent sales activity.

You’ll notice this definition does not mention the original price paid by the homeowner. Unless they bought the home a month ago, the original purchase price is likely irrelevant to the current market. Likewise, the market value of a home has nothing to do with the homeowner’s current mortgage balance. Some sellers list their homes for the amount needed to pay off their mortgage loans. But that doesn’t always line up with the current market value of the property.

How to Determine Market Value

So, with that introduction out of the way, let’s get to the heart of the matter. How do you know the market value of a home you’re thinking about buying? Or the value of your own property, when listing it for sale?

The first thing you’d want to do is track home sales in the area. The longer you do this, the better. It gives you a good base of knowledge with regard to asking prices versus selling prices (hint: it’s the latter of these two that determines market value).

Next, you’ll want to review sales data on homes that are similar to the one you’re considering. This is what real estate agents refer to as comparable sales, or comps. The more alike the two properties are, the more accurate the pricing comparison.

Try to find as many comparable home sales as possible. This will help you support your offer amount, by showing the seller you’re using actual market data from recent sales in the area. Remember, home prices can change over time. So recent comps will give you a better idea of what’s happening now, in the current real estate market.

When you determine the market value of a home, you also need to take any unique features into account. For example, let’s say I’ve found sales data for two colonial-style homes that are 2,000 square feet. The home I’m considering is also a colonial with 2,000 square feet. But it has a completely renovated kitchen, a pool, and sits on a more spacious corner lot with a great view. The other houses lack these qualities. So the house I’m considering will likely sell for more than the two comps, despite the fact that the homes are similar in size and style.

Here’s a good “formula” to keep in mind when considering the market value of a home in a particular area:

Comparable sale prices + unique features = a good asking price

An Easier Way: Work With a Real Estate Agent

This is just a basic overview of market value within the context of real estate sales. There’s more work involved to properly evaluate the value of a particular property, especially when the market is changing constantly. And that’s where real estate agents come into the picture.

Real estate agents undergo extensive training in this area. Much of their education has to do with real estate market cycles, home prices and values, and related topics. So whether you’re buying or selling a home, you could save yourself a lot of time and energy by having an agent on your side! Call us today to connect with an agent. We are here to help you make the best decision for you and your family.