Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Open House Timeline: Countdown to a Successful Sale

Open House Timeline: Countdown to a Successful Sale

Article From BuyAndSell.HouseLogic.com

By: Dona DeZube
Published: May 06, 2011

An inviting open house can put your home on buyers' short lists.

Get ready for your openhouse-stress-free-by starting early and breaking down your to-do list into manageable chunks. Use this timeline of 35 tips and your house will stand out from the competition on open house day.

Four weeks before the open house

          Ask your parents to babysit the kids the weekend of the open house. Then book a reservation for your pet with the dog sitter or at the kennel. Having everyone out of the house on the day of will help you keep your home tidy and smelling fresh (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/pet-odor-can-chase-away-buyers/). Plus, no dogs and no kids equal more time for last-minute prep.

          Line up a contractor to take care of maintence issues your REALTOR® has asked you to fix, like leaking faucets (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/plumbing-leaks-8-smart-tips-stop-them/), sagging gutters (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/repair-sagging-and-leaking-rain-gutters-save-money/), or dings in the walls (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/repair-walls-give-rooms-fresh-face/).

          De-clutter every room (even if you already de-cluttered once before). Don't hide your stuff in the closet-buyers will open doors to size up closet space. Store your off-season clothes, sports equipment, and toys somewhere else.

          Book carpet cleaners for a few days before the open house and a house cleaning service for the day before. Otherwise, make sure to leave time to do these things yourself a couple of days before.

Three weeks before the open house

          Buy fluffy white towels to create a spa-like feel in the bathrooms.

          Buy a front door mat to give a good first impression.

          Designate a shoebox for each bathroom to stow away personal items the day of the open house.

Two weeks before the open house

          Clean the light fixtures, ceiling fans, light switches, and around door knobs. A spic-and-span house (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/cleaning-house-secrets-truly-deep-clean/) makes buyers feel like they can move right in.

          Power-wash the house (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/clean-and-care-siding/), deck (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/care-and-maintenance-your-deck/), sidewalk, and driveway.

One week before the open house

          Make sure potential buyers can get up close and personal with your furnace, air-conditioning unit (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/appliance-maintenance-heating-venting-and-air-conditioning-hvac/), and appliances (http://www.houselogic.com/categories/maintain/structures-systems/appliances-electronics/). They'll want to read any maintenance and manufacturer's stickers to see how old everything is.

          Clean the inside of appliances and de-clutter kitchen cabinets and drawers and the pantry. Buyers will open cabinet doors and drawers. If yours are stuffed to the gills, buyers will think your kitchen lacks enough storage space.

          Put out the new door mat to break it in. It'll look nice, but not too obviously new for the open house.

Week of the open house

          Buy ready-made cookie dough and disposable aluminum cookie sheets so you don't have to take time for clean up after baking (you can recycle the pans after use). Nothing says "home" like the smell of freshly baked cookies.

          Buy a bag of apples or lemons to display in a pretty bowl.

          Let your REALTOR® know if you're running low on sales brochures explaining the features of your house.

          Clean the windows (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/green-window-cleaning-makes-glass-pane-fully-clear/) to let in the most light possible.

          Mow the lawn two days before the open house. Mowing the morning of the open house can peeve house hunters with allergies.

Day before the open house

          Make sure your REALTOR® puts up plenty of open-house signs pointing in the right direction and located where drivers will see them. If she can't get to it on the Friday before a Sunday open house, offer to do it yourself.

          Put away yard clutter like hoses, toys, or pet water bowls.

          Lay fresh logs in the fireplace.

Day of the open house

          Put checkbooks, kids' piggybanks, jewelry, prescription drugs, bank statements, and other valuables in the trunk of your car, at a neighbor's house, or in your safe. It's rare, but thefts do happen at open houses.

          Set the dining room table for a special-occasion dinner. In the backyard, uncover the barbeque and set the patio table for a picnic to show buyers how elegantly and simply they can entertain once they move in.

          Check any play equipment for spider webs or insect invasions. A kid screaming about spiders won't endear buyers to your home.

          Clean the fingerprints off the storm door. First impressions count.

          Put up Post-It notes around the house to highlight great features like tilt-in windows or a recently updated appliance.

          Remove shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, and other personal items from the bathtub, shower, and sinks in all the bathrooms. Store them in a shoebox under the sink. Removing personal items makes it easier for buyers to see themselves living in your house.

          Stow away all kitchen countertop appliances.

One hour before the open house

          Bake the ready-to-bake cookies you bought earlier this week. Put them on a nice platter for your open house guests to eat with a note that says: "Help yourself!"

          Hang the new towels in the bathrooms.

          Put your bowl of apples or lemons on the kitchen table or bar counter.

          Pick up and put away any throw rugs, like the bath mats. They're a trip hazard.

15 minutes before the open house

          Open all the curtains and blinds and turn on the lights in the house. Buyers like bright homes.

          Light fireplace logs (if it's winter).

          Didn't get those cookies baked? Brew a pot of coffee to make the house smell inviting.

During the open house

Get out of the house and let your REALTOR® sell it! Potential buyers will be uncomfortable discussing your home if you're loitering during the open house. Take advantage of your child- and pet-free hours by treating yourself to something you enjoy-a few extra hours at the gym, a trip to the bookstore, or a manicure.

More from HouseLogic

7 Tips for Staging Your Home (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/7-tips-staging-your-home/)
 Seasonal Maintenance (http://www.houselogic.com/categories/maintain/outdoors/seasonal-maintenance/)
 10 Steps to a Perfect Exterior Paint Job (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/10-steps-perfect-exterior-paint-job/)
 Dona DeZube has been writing about real estate for over two decades. She lives a suburban Baltimore 1970s rancher on a 3-acre lot shared with possums, raccoons, foxes, a herd of deer, and her blue-tick hound.

How to Keep Your House Cool Without AC

How to Keep Your House Cool Without AC

Article From HouseLogic.com
By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Published: March 20, 2013

Want summer comfort but hate the AC? Follow these tips, and you'll keep your house cool without frosty air conditioning.

You don't have to switch on the air conditioner to get a big chill this summer. These tips will help you keep your house cool without AC, which will save energy (http://www.houselogic.com/green-living/saving-energy/) (and avoid AC wars (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/heating-cooling/air-conditioning-temperature/) with your family).
Block that Sun!

When sunlight enters your house, it turns into heat. You'll keep your house cooler if you reduce solar heat gain by keeping sunlight out.
          Close the drapes: Line them with light-colored fabric that reflects the sun, and close them during the hottest part of the day. Let them pillow onto the floor to block air movement.

          Add awnings: Install them on south- and west-facing windows to reduce solar heat gain by up to 77%, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Make your own by tacking up sheets outside your windows and draping the ends over a railing or lawn chair.

          Install shutters: Interior and exterior shutters not only reduce heat gain and loss, but they also add security and protect against bad weather. Interior shutters with adjustable slats let you control how much sun you let in.

          Apply high-reflectivity window film: Install energy-saving window films (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/windows-doors/window-film-energy-savings/) on east- and west-facing windows, which will keep you cool in summer, but let in warming sun in the winter. Mirror-like films are more effective than colored transparent films.

Here's more information about energy-efficient window coverings (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/windows-doors/save-money-energy-efficient-window-coverings/).

Open Those Windows

Be sure to open windows when the outside temperature is lower than the inside. Cool air helps lower the temps of everything - walls, floors, furniture - items that will absorb heat as temps rise, helping inside air say cooler longer.

To create cross-ventilation, open windows on opposite sides of the house. Good ventilation helps reduce VOCs (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/air-quality/how-to-reduce-voc-exposure/) and prevents mold (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/air-quality/how-to-prevent-mold-damage/).

Fire Up Fans
          Portable fans: At night, place fans in open windows to move cool air. In the day, put fans where you feel their cooling breezes (moving air evaporates perspiration and lowers your body temperature). To get extra cool, place glasses or bowls of ice water in front of fans, which will chill the moving air.

          Ceiling fans: For maximum cooling effect, make sure ceiling fans (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/heating-cooling/installing-ceiling-fans-at-home/) spin in the direction that pushes air down, rather than sucks it up. Be sure to turn off fans when you're not in the room, because fan motors give off heat, too.

          Whole house fans: A whole-house fan (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/heating-cooling/whole-house-fans-maximum-cool-minimum-cost/) ($1,150-$1,500, including install) exhausts hot inside air out through roof vents. Make sure your windows are open when you run a whole-house fan.

Power Down Appliances

You'll save money and reduce heat output by turning off appliances (http://www.houselogic.com/maintenance-repair/preventative-home-maintenance/appliances/) you're not using, particularly your computer and television. Powering down multiple appliances is easier if you connect them to the same power strip.

Don't use heat- and steam-generating appliances - ranges, ovens, washers, dryers -- during the hottest part of the day. In fact, take advantage of the heat by drying clothes outside on a line.

Plant Trees and Vines

These green house-coolers shade (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/patios/quick-ways-make-some-shade-dont-forget-trees-are-best/) your home's exterior and keep sunlight out of windows. Plant them by south- and west-facing walls, where the sun is strongest.

Deciduous trees, which leaf out in spring and drop leaves in fall, are best because they provide shade in summer, then let in sun when temperatures drop in autumn. Select trees that are native to your area, which have a better chance of surviving. When planting, determine the height, canopy width, and root spread of the mature tree and plant accordingly.

Climbing vines, such as ivy or Virginia creeper, also are good outside insulators. To prevent vine rootlets or tendrils from compromising your siding, grow them on trellises or wires about 6 in. away from the house.

Speaking of shade, here are smart, inexpensive ideas for shading your patio (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/patios/patio-shade-ideas-under-300/).

Want more tips for staying cool this summer? Substitute CFL and LED bulbs (http://www.houselogic.com/news/lighting/leds-outshine-cfls-consumer-reports-latest-lightbulb-tests/) for hotter incandescent lights.

Also, try insulating your garage door (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/insulation/how-to-insulate-a-garage-door/) to prevent heat buildup.

5 Awesomely Easy Landscaping Projects

5 Awesomely Easy Landscaping Projects

Article From HouseLogic.com

By: Dave Toht
Published: February 26, 2013

Ramp up your curb appeal with cool landscaping projects you can easily pull off in a weekend.

Project #1: Install Rigid Flower Bed Edging

The setup: A crisp edge where the lawn (http://www.houselogic.com/outdoors/landscaping-gardening/lawns/) meets the flower beds looks great and eases mowing. Opt for rigid edging - the flexible plastic stuff looks amateurish from day one.
Use a charged garden hose to lay out a smooth curve.

Tip: A "charged" garden hose full of water makes for a smoother, kink-free curve; charge up by turning on the spigot but leaving the sprayer off.

With the hose as your guide, use a lawn edger or spade to cut away excess sod and make an incision for the edging. Tap in the edging with a rubber mallet and add the stakes. Trim the edging with a hacksaw, using a speed square to mark for cuts.

Specs and cost: Steel -- $1.25 per lineal foot; aluminum -- $2.25 plf; rigid plastic or fiberglass -- $1.65 plf.

Tools: Garden hose, flour or powdered chalk, lawn edger or spade, shovel, speed square, hacksaw, rubber mallet, hammer.

Time: 1 day to edge a typical yard.
Read on for more easy landscaping projects:
Add an Earth Berm (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/landscaping-gardening/easy-landscaping-projects/2/)
Build a Wall for a Raised Bed (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/landscaping-gardening/easy-landscaping-projects/3/)
Install a Flagstone Path (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/landscaping-gardening/easy-landscaping-projects/4/)
Add a Brick Tree Surround (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/landscaping-gardening/easy-landscaping-projects/5/)
 Project #2: Add an Earth Berm
The setup: Create an eye-catching front yard (http://www.houselogic.com/home-topics/curb-appeal/) feature by shaping a few cubic yards of topsoil into an undulating berm. Topped off with mulch (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/gardens/garden-mulch/), groundcover, and bushes, a berm adds interest and buffers street noise.

Use a charged hose to outline the berm. Remove sod a couple of feet in from the perimeter. Add a few mounds, but max out at 3 feet high.

Specs and cost: Three cubic yards of soil is enough for a good-sized berm. Expect to pay $15-$20 per cubic yard and $15-$60 for delivery -- a total of $60-$120.

Tip: Don't be tempted by those bags of topsoil at the home center: At $2.50 per cubic foot, a cubic yard (27 cubic feet) will end up costing you $67.50.

Have a cubic yard of mulch dropped off as well ($15-$20). A dozen periwinkle starts, plus a few boxwood bushes and evergreens, will set you back another $140.

Total for an 18-foot-long berm: $215-$280.

Tools: Wheelbarrow, spade, shovel, garden rake, trowel.

Time: A day to form the berm, another half-day for planting and mulching.
Project #3: Build a Wall for a Raised Bed
The setup: A stacked flagstone wall for your raised beds has an old-world look that mellows any landscape. Best of all, you don't have to be stonemason to build one.

Begin by laying out the wall with stakes and mason's line. Tamp a level bed of sand for the first course. As you add courses, stagger joints at least 3 inches. Set each course back ¼-inch so the wall leans backward slightly. Once finished, back the wall with landscaping fabric before filling with topsoil.

Specs and cost: Choose a stone of consistent thickness. Flagstone might be limestone, sandstone, shale -- any rock that splits into slabs. A ton of 2-inch-thick stone is enough for a wall 10 feet long and 12 inches high.
Cost: About $300 for stones and sand.

Tip: Permanent retaining walls should be backed by pea gravel for drainage. In some locations, walls taller than 3 feet high require a building permit.

Tools: Stakes and mason's line, spade, shovel, a 2-by-4 that's 8 feet long, a 4-foot level, garden rake, tamper.

Time: 1 day for a 10-foot-long wall that's 12 inches high.

Want to see some cool retaining walls? Check out our slideshow, 8 Retaining Wall Ideas. (http://www.houselogic.com/photos/landscaping-gardening/retaining-wall-ideas/)
 Project #4: Install a Flagstone Path
The setup: For a welcoming addition to your yard, add a flagstone pathway. Use a charged garden hose to mark a meandering path about 3 feet wide. Arrange flagstones within the path so they are 2-4 inches apart and mark their location with sprinkled flour.

Tip: Sprinkling flour over the stones creates a "shadow" outline on the ground. When you remove the stones, you'll have perfect outlines for cutting away the sod.

Cut away 3-4 inches of sod beneath each stone, add a layer of sand, and level the flagstones as you place them.

Specs and cost: For a 40-foot path about 3 feet wide, plan on 2 tons of flagstones and about a cubic yard of coarse sand. Cost: About $550.

Tools: Garden hose, flour, spade, trowel, level.

Time: 1 day for a 40-foot path.

Want more detail? Get the inside scoop on our start-to-finish DIY paver project (http://www.houselogic.com/home-topics/diy-paver-project/).
Project #5: Add a Brick Tree Surround
The setup: Installing a masonry surround for a tree eases mowing and looks great. All it takes is digging a circular trench, adding some sand, and installing brick or stone.

Tip: To create a nice, even circle around the base of your tree, tie a big loop of rope around your tree. Adjust the length of the loop so when you pull it taut, the free end is right where you'd like the outer edge of the surround to be. Set your spade inside the loop with the handle plumb - straight up and down. Now, as you move around the tree, the loop of rope keeps the spade exactly the same distance from the base of the tree, creating a nice circle.

Use the spade to cut into the sod all the way around the tree. Remove the rope, and dig out a circular trench about 8 inches deep and 6 inches wide. Add a layer of sand. Set bricks at an angle for a pleasing saw-tooth effect or lay them end-to-end. Fill the surround with 2-4 inches of mulch.

Curious what trees to plant? Our popular slideshow tells you which trees you should never plant in your yard (http://www.houselogic.com/photos/plants-trees/bad-trees/).

Specs and cost: This is an instance where buying small quantities of materials at the home center makes sense. Brick pavers cost $.50-$1 each - figure about 20 per tree. A bag of mulch, enough for one tree, costs $2.50.

Tools: Rope, spade, trowel.

Time: 3 hours per tree.

6 Reasons to Reduce Your Home Price

6 Reasons to Reduce Your Home Price

Article From BuyAndSell.HouseLogic.com

By: G. M. Filisko
Published: March 19, 2010

While you'd like to get the best price for your home, consider our six reasons to reduce your home price.

Home not selling? That could happen for a number of reasons you can't control, like a unique home layout or having one of the few homes in the neighborhood without a garage. There is one factor you can control: your home price.
These six signs may be telling you it's time to lower your price.

1. You're drawing few lookers

You get the most interest in your home right after you put it on the market because buyers want to catch a great new home before anybody else takes it. If your real estate agent reports there have been fewer buyers calling about and asking to tour your home than there have been for other homes in your area, that may be a sign buyers think it's overpriced and are waiting for the price to fall before viewing it.

2. You're drawing lots of lookers but have no offers

If you've had 30 sets of potential buyers come through your home and not a single one has made an offer, something is off. What are other agents telling your agent about your home? An overly high price may be discouraging buyers from making an offer.

3. Your home's been on the market longer than similar homes

Ask your real estate agent about the average number of days it takes to sell a home in your market. If the answer is 30 and you're pushing 45, your price may be affecting buyer interest. When a home sits on the market, buyers can begin to wonder if there's something wrong with it, which can delay a sale even further. At least consider lowering your asking price.

4. You have a deadline

If you've got to sell soon because of a job transfer or you've already purchased another home, it may be necessary to generate buyer interest by dropping your price so your home is a little lower priced than comparable homes in your area. Remember: It's not how much money you need that determines the sale price of your home, it's how much money a buyer is willing to spend.

5. You can't make upgrades

Maybe you're plum out of cash and don't have the funds to put fresh paint on the walls, clean the carpets, and add curb appeal. But the feedback your agent is reporting from buyers is that your home isn't as well-appointed as similarly priced homes. When your home has been on the market longer than comparable homes in better condition, it's time to accept that buyers expect to pay less for a home that doesn't show as well as others.

6. The competition has changed

If weeks go by with no offers, continue to check out the competition. What have comparable homes sold for and what's still on the market? What new listings have been added since you listed your home for sale? If comparable home sales or new listings show your price is too steep, consider a price reduction.

More from HouseLogic

How to ready your home for sale at little cost (http://buyandsell.houselogic.com/articles/5-tips-prepare-your-home-sale/)

How to review offers on your home (http://buyandsell.houselogic.com/articles/6-tips-choosing-best-offer-your-home/)

 Other web resources

More on setting the right price (http://public.findlaw.com/abaflg/flg-4-4a-1.html)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who made strategic price reductions that led to the sale of a Wisconsin property. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.