Should You Have An Open House?

Ninety-five percent of homebuyers use the Internet to shop for a home, according to the National Association of REALTORS.® If homebuyers can see your home through multiple photos, videos and virtual tours, why bother with an open house?

An open house can catch buyers early in the home-search process when they’re driving around neighborhoods and getting first impressions. They often choose several homes to drive by, and an open house could tip them favorably toward your neighborhood and home. Open houses allow buyers to view homes without obligation, and an open house helps them form their preferences, compromises and deal-breakers.

An open house is only effective if it shows the home to its fullest advantage. Deep cleaning, de-cluttering, de-personalizing, and staging are imperative, just as they are for showings by appointment. Your pets should be out of the home for the day, and you should make plans to be gone while your home is open to the public.

That said, less than nine percent of buyers chose the home they bought from yard signs and open houses. Instead, 90 percent used the services of a real estate agent, which means an open house is only one piece in the overall marketing plan for selling your home.

Contact me if an open house should be part of your home’s marketing plan. Keep in mind that you may be in a market where homes are selling so quickly that an open house isn’t necessary, but in most markets, you should employ all the ways homebuyers shop for a home.

Don’t forget about the men when showcasing your home.

When selling your home, it’s important to remember that your interior and exterior need to visually attract both male and female buyers. Read on to learn how to make your home universally appealing.

  • Professional home stagers: They consult with homeowners to sell their homes quickly and for the most money possible. They consider demographics, buying psychology, design elements and lighting.
  • Personal space: Men tend to gravitate towards rooms with gadgets and electronics. They appreciate open spaces and high ceilings—clean, streamlined rooms that men can easily walk through without obstructions.
  • Cater to interests: Men don’t generally prefer fancy or frilly. They want to watch the big game with buddies or relax after work.
  • Simplified color scheme: Don’t overwhelm any potential buyers with wild colors or furniture, even if you feel it makes your home “special.” Warm interior tones are generally preferred over cool tones.
  • Garage envy: Think about painted walls, clean floors and enough storage for various hobbies. A built-in workbench, organized shelving as well as clean, spacious areas for tools, equipment and maintenance supplies are a great draw.
  • The yard: A well-maintained lawn can really help boost your home’s appeal along with thick, healthy grass, minimal bushes to trim and easy-to-maintain flower beds.

Staging your home to visually appeal to men as well as women will ensure a better joint response from potential buyers.

Consider staging a vacant home for sale

In today’s market, it’s tough to get the right price for a home, and sellers can’t wait while their homes are on the market. They may have a new job, have already bought their next house or need to move so the kids can start school.

Buyers understand that vacant homes can suffer from a wide variety of ills due to neglect and deferred maintenance. They pose unique showcasing challenges because buyers can’t see beyond the empty home. They’re looking for a “home,” not a “house.” Without furniture, wall art, rugs, lighting and décor, there are few emotional connections. A buyer will be on the lookout for imperfections such as floor scratches, nail pops, chipped grout and other imperfections.

The easiest fix for a vacant home is to bring in a home stager. They can give the property a comfortable, lived-in look. Potential buyers can better visualize how they integrate into the home. When a buyer perceives flaws and can’t visualize a home’s potential, there will be fewer offers, greater price reductions, more days on the market, higher carrying costs and less profit.

A vacant home can also hurt your negotiating power. If buyers know that you are already out and most likely paying another mortgage, they figure you are more motivated and will likely present a lower offer.

Staging will allow you to create a proper vision for the property and achieve a quicker, more profitable outcome.

Should buyer’s agents attend property inspections?

By Andrew Wetzel

  • Buyer’s agents work for (not with) their clients.
  • Representing clients means working in their best interests.
  • The property inspection is a major contingency to work through.

Buyer’s agency creates expectations from and for both parties. Agents need clients to represent (that is how we get paid), and most buyers need guidance to complete a real estate purchase.

Agents and buyers seek a mutually beneficial relationship. This could be the start of a beautiful relationship!

Agency representation involves give and take: What does each side expect, and what are they willing to do to get what they want?

Agents expect to trade their knowledge and time for clients who are willing to do what they need to do to buy real estate.

The buyer wants to hire someone who knows what they are doing, will do what it takes to get them into their next home, will work in their best interests (identifying properties, negotiating the best terms and so on) and will promote and protect their interests every step of the way.

Both want and deserve loyalty.

Once a purchase offer is fully executed, the buyer’s agent assumes the role of director: keeping track of what needs to be done when and providing whatever guidance is needed to complete the tasks required to reach settlement.

The process typically focuses on two major aspects: inspecting the property to make sure that there are minimal surprises (unexpected maintenance can be costly!) and obtaining the financing so that the buyer can complete the purchase.

These are the most likely “deal killers” as sales are contingent on their completion. Contingencies are known events that may occur throughout the buying process that must be satisfied or waived to keep the sale moving, meaning they allow both sides to reconsider their original agreement.

I respectfully suggest that a buyer’s agent must be fully engaged in resolving all contingencies.

The property inspection involves hiring one or more competent people focused on identifying “material defects” (rather than cosmetic or update issues) with the major systems and structure.

Depending on the executed contract, the buyer’s response to the inspection results may include requiring the seller to make repairs and the right to terminate the sale.

Although broker policy may differ, I believe that a buyer’s agent should attend the property inspection to ensure that the inspector clearly explains what he or she is doing and what he or she sees to the buyer and to ensure that the buyer understands the process.

Inspections of “resale” properties usually reveal a list of recommendations that could appear far worse than what they really are, and frankly, I would never assume that even the best inspector can properly portray their findings to most buyers.

The agent is not the inspector and is not expected to act like one — nor should they. To best represent a typical buyer and to be able to best interact with a listing agent if repairs are requested, an agent needs first-hand knowledge.

I have heard a variety of reasons (or excuses) regarding why an agent would consider not attending an inspection. Avoiding liability is one, and I can only wonder how a buyer feels being left on his or her own — especially if problems are found.

Does the agent’s absence really manage potential liability? How does that square with the essence of the agent’s responsibility to their client? Is the agent too busy? Does he or she feel that he or she would be in the way?

At the very least, the client should be told upfront that the agent will not be there rather than face a surprise later.

Here is what I do know: Many buyers feel abandoned, especially if they do not know the inspector. Negotiating repairs, both with a concerned buyer and the listing agent, can be more difficult if the agent is not there to see what the issues are and what the inspector had to say about them.

Given the importance of this contingency, I would never want to miss an inspection. As a listing agent, I fully expect the buyer’s agent to be on-site as an inspection is really a long showing (it is unacceptable to provide access to others without the listing agent’s permission).

Bottom line: What is in the buyer’s best interest?

Andrew Wetzel is an associate broker with Long and Foster Real Estate in Havertown, Pennsylvania. Follow Andrew on Facebook or Twitter

Don’t Make These Three Mortgage Mistakes

For most buyers, the mortgage is the largest monthly expense they will ever have. Yet many borrowers don’t know how to prepare, negotiate or shop for mortgage loans.

  1. Compare lenders. A loan officer works for a bank or savings and loan and offers you proprietary loan packages. A mortgage broker shops your deal around to various lenders and gets quotes for you. You’ll have to share personal financial information to get a realistic rate, and then pick the lender’s offer you like best.
  2. Pay attention to terms. All fees are negotiable. It’s all in your loan estimate and closing disclosure form when you’ve applied for the loan, so ask for a blank one up front so you can compare fees. Ask the reason for each fee if it’s not apparent.
  3. Choose the right type of loan. Current market conditions favor fixed rates, because rates are rising from all-time lows. Yes, they cost more than hybrid loans or adjustable rate loans, but the base amount is fixed and doesn’t change. Only your taxes and hazard insurance will cost you more over the years.

If you get an adjustable rate mortgage, you are at the mercy of market conditions. While there’s a cap on how high your interest rate can go, it’s only a good risk if you plan to occupy your home less than five years.

Ask your lender to explain the risks and benefits of the types of loans available.

Speed Clean for Showings

Life is messy, and cleaning your home in time for an unexpected showing is never convenient. But you can do a speedy pick-up and spot clean so your home sparkles for homebuyers. Here’s how.

  1. Get everyone on board. Selling your home is a team effort. Start good habits now so there’s less for everyone to do later. Remind kids to put their toys away and hang up their clothes before bedtime and to make their beds every morning. For weekends, assign each household member a room to pick up in addition to their bedrooms.
  2. Keep baskets handy. Make a five-minute clean up drill fun. Give each household member a basket. Show them what belongs and what should be put in the basket for each room. Blow a whistle to begin and then a quick pick-up drill becomes a fun race.
  3. Clean litter boxes daily. Pets contribute a lot of odors to homes, so make sure cat litter boxes are sifted daily and wash dog beds weekly. Don’t forget the back-yard dog run!
  4. Shortcuts for speed. It’s crucial that kitchens and baths are spotless for showings. Keep a plastic housekeeper’s caddy loaded with toilet bowl cleaner, bleach wipes, paper towels and glass cleaner. Be ready to go for a five-minute once-over on counters, mirrors, etc.
  5. Reward good jobs. Look over each room before heading out the door with the kids and the family dog. The one who did the best job gets to pick a treat – ice cream, a movie or the park.

Staging in the Spring

Any professional home stager will tell you that the basic principles remain the same throughout the year—keep things clean, clutter free and colorful. But springtime has its own special set of rules. There are a number of things you can do both inside and out to take advantage of the beautiful weather:

  • Add splashes of color to your porch with potted flowers. Larger pots filled with tulips or daisies and accented with greenery makes a nice touch. By introducing seasonal colors to the outside, your home becomes very attractive to prospective home buyers.
  • Bring spring colors into a home with accessories like throw pillows, area rugs, artwork, towels and bedspreads. If you change accessories, the whole house changes.
  • Use decorative knickknacks that speak of spring, such as pears, eggs, and seashells. Add leafy patterns in fabrics and wicker. Use real leather and rusted metal as contrasts.
  • Replace the drapery panels in a home or office.

All rooms are important. There are ways to liven up each as the spring season blooms. You want the buyer to absorb the whole house, not just one or two staged rooms, so it’s important to create a cohesive design.

And how about the great outdoors?

  • Remove fallen leaves and dead plants.
  • Add bright, new plants where you can.
  • Trim bushes and hedges.
  • Scour outdoor furniture.
  • Sweep porches and patios.

Indeed, spring brings more buyers, so take advantage of all that the season has to offer.

How Much Home Should You Buy?

As the spring housing market heats up, you may have to act fast to get the home you want. But that doesn’t mean you should skip crucial home buying steps. Have a plan and stick to it to find the home you want.

  1. Be prepared. Choose a lender, share your financial information, and decide the down payment amount. The lender will come back with the highest amount you can borrow and your interest rate. Don’t fool yourself with a risky loan; get the safest loan for the longest term you can afford.
  2. Shop within your means. By fixing the financial variables, you also fix your price range. While you may be tempted to look at fancier homes to see what they have, but that will only make you less happy with the homes in your range.
  3. Don’t skip inspections. Sellers expect you to examine the home. You not only need to know what the home costs, but what it’s likely to cost soon for repairs, replacements and remodeling.
  4. Think long term. To recover closing and moving costs, you will likely need to occupy the home you buy for five years or longer. Choose the home that is most likely to meet your household’s needs for the longest foreseeable future.
  5. Add value. By adding on or making other improvements, you’re bringing the home up to the area’s best standards, which will help it hold and increase its value and appeal strongly to the next buyer.

The Joy of Older Homes

If you’re planning to buy your first home in 2017, chances are good it will be an older home. The latest American Housing Survey (AHS) showed that 41% of housing stock in the U.S. was built prior to 1969 and that the median age of owner-occupied homes was 37 years.

In most areas, smaller pre-war Tudor cottages, Craftsman bungalows, and mid-century ranches comprise many older homes. Each style has its own charm.

  1. The fairy-tale Tudor revival. The English Tudor revives late medieval architecture popularized during the House of Tudor reign, a period of unequaled enlightenment known for political reformation and the Renaissance. Late Gothic and ecclesiastical influences include charming leaded and stained glass windows, steep-pitch cathedral ceilings, arched doorways and exposed wood beams.
  2. The solid and home-y Craftsman bungalow. Popular as the middle-class retort to the fussy, formal Victorian style, the Craftsman ushered in minimalism, thanks to Frank Lloyd Wright and others. Craftsman homes celebrate wood, stone, iron, ceramic and glass artistry, with wood floors and wainscoting, large windows, built-in cabinets and hand-made Art Nouveau tiles.
  3. The automobile-loving Ranch. The mid-century ranch helped post-World War II families move to the sprawling suburbs while they commuted back to the city for work. Built with speed, ranch-style homes typically have no load-bearing walls in the interior of the home, making them easy and inexpensive to remodel. Get your atomic décor on with low-slung furniture, sputnik light fixtures and abstract art.

No matter which older home you choose, knowing a little history should bring you added enjoyment.

The Craftsman Style

Inspired by the British arts and crafts movement of the late 1800s, Craftsman homes celebrated wood, stone, iron, ceramic and glass artistry and craftsmanship. They had their heyday between the early 1900s and 1930s and were glamorized by leading architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright.

Demand for down-to-earth housing arose after the fussy, formal Victorian age. Instead of separate rooms for every purpose, Craftsman homes featured open floor plans with few hallways. Dining rooms with built-in cabinetry replaced butler’s pantries. Storage and furniture solutions evolved, with more built-in bookcases, closets, benches and banquettes, reducing the need for extra furniture.

Practical bungalows became the rage and expanded into mansions. The original Craftsman homes were unpainted and the natural materials left untreated, including stucco. Emphasis was on the design elements of wood, glass, and metal. The Craftsman movement also called for reduced dependency on artificial light, so homes were designed with numerous windows.

How do you spot a Craftsman home? It will often feature inviting bay windows and a front porch with a low-pitched, gabled porch roof held up by tapered stone, wood or brick square columns. The wide overhanging eaves show exposed rafters.

Inside, all-wood trim, beamed ceilings and built-ins are in natural wood tones or stains and embellished with Art Nouveau wallpaper and tiles. Think Tiffany stained glass, Rookwood tiles and William Morris wallpapers with lush post-impressionistic designs in earth tones of woods, mountains and seascapes.

Craftsman houses feel earthy and homey, and are always built to last.