Before & After: The Importance of Staging

 

There are a few things I recommend to all my clients who want to sell their home for top dollar. One of them is staging! Failing to “showcase” your home could keep your house on the market longer and may not sell for as much as its worth. First impressions are so important and really help potential buyers to imagine your house as their perfect house.

This charming house in Minnetonka took less than a week to stage and sold immediately over asking! With just a few contemporary pieces can make a night and day difference in the overall feel of a house.

For some more tips on low cost, high-value updates check out my other blog post.

5 Reasons It’ll Pay to Sell Your Home Early in 2018

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Take a look at this blog post from realtors.com. To read the original post, click here.


By Holly Amaya, January 10, 2018

It’s been nearly a decade since the Great Recession delivered the worst housing crash in modern memory. But these days, the fallout feels squarely in the rearview mirror. Markets have bounced back with fervor, and confidence is skyrocketing: From Charlotte, NC, to Stockton, CA—and everywhere in between—homes are flying off the market at record prices, and buyers are still clamoring to get in the game.

One thing is clear: It’s a great time to be a seller.

“We’ve seen two or three years of what could be considered unsustainable levels of price appreciation, as well as an inventory shortage that resulted in a record low number of homes for sale across the country,” says Javier Vivas, director of economic research for realtor.com®.

In other words: Today’s buyers are exhausted. And in many cases that means they’re willing to sacrifice to get a toehold in the market.

Sounds like the stuff of seller’s dreams, right? But know this: If you plan to sell in 2018—and you want to unload your home quickly and for maximum money—your window of opportunity may be rapidly narrowing. Here’s why you should get moving ASAP.

1. Rates are still historically low, drawing buyers into the market

We may not be enjoying the rock-bottom interest rates of yore, but by historical standards, today’s 30-year mortgage rates—hovering just above 4%—are still low. And experts agree mortgage credit will remain relatively cheap for most of the year.

That means the getting’s still good for buyers—and, subsequently, for sellers looking to unload their homes.

But rates are on the rise, and it’s been widely predicted that they’ll reach 5% before year’s end. Buyers know that the longer they wait to buy, the more expensive it will be.

Roughly translated, that means you’d be wise to list your home earlier in the year, before more rate hikes kick in. Not only will you capture the market of buyers scurrying to close a deal, but if you’re buying after you sell, you’ll also benefit from those lower rates.

2. Inventory remains tight—and demand high

Simply put, there are more buyers than available homes—particularly in red-hot markets where land is scarce and it isn’t cheap to build.

And the housing shortage will likely get worse before it gets better: Realtor.com data predict inventory will remain tight in the first part of this year, reaching a 4% year-over-year decline by March.

Sellers, that means this is your opportunity to be wooed. Buyers, their choices limited, are going to great lengths (and making some major concessions) to win the house, says Katie Griswold, a Realtor® with Pacific Sotheby’s in Southern California.

“We’re in a very favorable seller’s market,” she says. “We’re seeing bidding wars—which push up prices—and buyers are submitting offers with very pro-seller terms, like forgoing the repair request or waiving the appraisal contingency.”

And cash investors are in the mix, too, accounting for 22% of all home sales transactions in November 2017 (up from 20% in October), according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Those cash buyers are snapping up homes in an already tight market and keeping some first-time buyers at bay (sorry, buyers!). But if you’re selling, you stand a better shot at an all-cash offer—one you just might be crazy to refuse.

Of course, there’s a catch: Inventory levels are predicted to begin rising in the fourth quarter, marking the first inventory gain since 2015 and setting the stage for more dramatic housing gains to come. So if you’re thinking of selling, start preparing now in order to walk away with a sweet paycheck.

3. Home prices are still increasing

From coast to coast, home prices continue to rise—which translates to more money in your pocket when you sell.

But the gains are predicted to be more moderate than in years past. Realtor.com data suggest a 3.2% increase year over year, after finishing 2017 with a 5.5% year-over-year increase.

Bottom line: You still stand to make a pretty profit if you sell this year, but the earlier you can list, the better off you’ll be.

4. People have more money in their pocket

Record levels of consumer confidence, low unemployment, and stock market surges are setting the stage for high home buyer turnout in 2018. For the first time since the 1960s, the Fed has projected that the unemployment rate will drop below 4%, and the domestic stock market is enjoying a nearly unprecedented rally.

The housing market is already reflecting this boom: Existing-home sales soared 5.6% in November 2017 (the most recent month for which data are available) and reached their strongest pace in almost 11 years, according to the NAR.

“Incomes are growing and people are finding better and more stable jobs,” Vivas says. Buyers “are feeling pretty good about (their) finances.”

And thanks to the GOP tax legislation, which nearly doubles the standard deduction, we’ll see fewer people itemizing, says National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist Robert Dietz.

“The income effect of that is that most people are getting a tax cut—which should help (buyer) demand,” Dietz says.

All of these factors combined mean more buyers could be on the hunt, with more money in their pockets to shell out on a home for sale—possibly yours!

5. Millennials are ready to commit

Millennials, often crippled by student debt, have been especially hampered by rising interest rates and high home prices.

But the aforementioned conditions are ripe in 2018 for these first-time buyers to take the plunge, and experts predict that millennials will make up a vital part of the buyer pool over the coming year: Millennials could account for 43% of home buyers taking out a mortgage in 2018 (a 3% year-over-year increase), according to realtor.com data.

“As people move into their 30s, they’re looking to move from renting to homeownership,” Dietz says. “And we predict that trend will continue even more this year.”

More home buyers flooding the market can only mean good things for sellers—at all price points.

Inventory Crunch Weighing On Sales Activity

Take a look at this blog post from the Minneapolis Association of Realtors from September 18th, 2017. To read the original post, click here.


 By Erin Milburn on Monday, September 18th, 2017

Minneapolis, Minnesota (September 18, 2017) – The Twin Cities housing market continues to show signs of high demand and short supply. While June 2017 marked an all-time home sales record for the Twin Cities, closed sales showed a year-over-year decline for the second consecutive month. The number of sellers listing their homes increased slightly, but that wasn’t enough to counteract the inventory drop. New listings increased 0.7 percent from last year to 7,264, and closed sales dipped 1.4 percent. The number of homes for sale decreased 16.7 percent to 12,602. Factoring out foreclosures and short sales, traditional new listings rose 2.4 percent while traditional closed sales increased 0.9 percent.

With many consumers competing for limited homes, prices remained firm, a trend that should continue into the fall and winter months. The median sales price rose 6.8 percent from last year to $252,000—a new monthly record for August. Home prices have now risen for the last 66 consecutive months or 5.5 years. At 48 days on average, homes went under contract 14.3 percent faster than last August. Sellers who do list are averaging 98.5 percent of their original list price, 0.6 percent higher than August 2016. The metro area has just 2.5 months of housing supply. Generally, five to six months of supply is considered a balanced market where neither buyers nor sellers have a clear advantage.

“The shortage of homes for sale is still driving this market,” said Cotty Lowry, Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS® (MAAR) President. “It’s been the story for years, and it continues to influence prices, sales, market times and other indicators. The graphic illustrates how listings and sales have converged, leaving very little product lingering on the market.”

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The shortage is most acute for entry-level homes. Well-priced, turnkey, well-presented listings are most competitive. Market times and absorption rates are tightest for homes priced under $200,000. For example, homes between $150,000 and $190,000 had 1.4 months of supply. As you move up the price ladder, the market is less competitive and better supplied. Homes priced between $500,000 and $1,000,000 boast 6.0 months of supply, while homes over $1,000,000 have a plentiful 12.3 months of supply.

The most recent national unemployment rate is 4.4 percent, though it’s 3.3 percent locally—the fourth lowest unemployment rate of any major metro area. A thriving and diverse economy has been conducive to housing recovery, as job and wage growth are key to new household formations and therefore housing demand. The Minneapolis–St. Paul region has a resilient economy with a global reach, a talented workforce, top-notch schools, exposure to the growing technology and healthcare fields, and a quality of life that’s enabled one of the highest homeownership rates in the country.

The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate has declined from 4.3 percent to 3.8 percent recently, still well below its long-term average of around 8.0 percent. Although at least one more rate hike was expected this year, the Fed is now focused on unwinding its large portfolio. Additional inventory is still needed in order to offset declining affordability brought on by higher prices and interest rates.

“We’re always impressed by how determined buyers are, despite the supply hurdle,” said Kath Hammerseng, MAAR President-Elect. “That said, prices are rising faster than incomes and builders are focusing on higher-end product further out while the demand is strongest for affordable product closer in.”

Spring Cleaning: 5 Things You Really Should Be Cleaning (but Probably Don’t)

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Spring is upon us! It’s time to open your windows, let some fresh air in, and clean out the nooks and crannies in your home that never get any attention. Below is a list of places throughout your home that could really use some love! All of these tips would also be great to do before you put your home on the market- especially the baseboards and cabinets!

Open the windows, turn up some tunes, and clean away!

  1. Ceiling Fan: Before you risk spreading the dust that has gathered on the blades of a ceiling fan all winter all around the room, it’s time to give your ceiling fan blades a good wipe down.  My favorite way to clean a ceiling fan is with a moist microfiber cloth, rinsing between each blade, but a dusting wipe will work just as well!
  2. Pillows: Make sure to follow the washing directions on your pillow- but in general wash in warm water on gentle and spin dry on low heat. Add in some wool dryer balls to make your dryer more energy efficient as well as to fluff them up!
  3. Washing Machine: Many washing machines come with cleaning directions, so make sure to follow those instructions! If you’ve misplaced the cleaning instructions, run your washer with Affresh Washer Cleaner. This should really be done every couple of months to keep your washer running efficiently! Also, keep your lid open while not in use to help prevent mold issues.
  4. Shower Head: Fill a ziplock back with white vinegar and attach to the showerhead with a rubber band. Let that soak for several hours and then scrub with a toothbrush or cloth.
  5. Baseboards & Cabinets: To clean your baseboards and cabinets, first wipe down with a wet cloth and let dry. Next, remove scuffs and crusted on stains with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. These really are magic!

Happy Spring!

4 Ways to Keep Your Home Safe While On Spring Break

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Heading out of town for spring break? Here are 4 tips to keep your home safe while you’re gone!

  1. Don’t announce your vacation on social media. This is SO important. Even if you limit your account to friends only, you don’t know the privacy settings of all of your friends. It just takes one person who has your home address and travel schedule to make you a victim of home theft.
  2. Close your blinds while you are away and set timers to randomly turn on lights throughout the house. This will hopefully trick thieves into thinking you returned early or never left.
  3. Ask a neighbor to pick up your mail and any packages that may be delivered. Burglars often target houses with mail and packages piled up.
  4. If your home is targeted burglars are most likely looking for big ticket items in a parents bedroom. Protect your valuables by moving them into rooms they might overlook like your kids’ room vs your room.

After you’ve prepared your house for spring break- enjoy your vacation!

The Five Most Expensive Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home

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Mistake #1:

Basing their asking price on needs or emotion rather than market value. Many times, people make their pricing decisions based on how much they paid for or invested into their home. This can be an expensive mistake. Overpriced homes take longer to sell and eventually net the seller less money. Consult with a professional real estate agent. They can assist you in pricing your home correctly from the beginning.

Mistake #2:

Failing to “showcase” their home. First impressions are the most important. Experience shows that for every $100 in repairs that your home needs, a buyer will deduct $300 to $500 from their offer. Thoroughly clean and prepare your home before you put it on the market if you want top dollar.

Mistake #3:

Trying to SELL their house when buyers come to see it. One of the biggest mistakes enthusiastic home sellers make is to follow buyers around and try to SELL them on the property. This can have a negative effect on the buyers. The best thing is to stay out of the way and let people look at their own pace. They’ll get a better feel for the property and whether the house is for them.

Mistake #4:

Choosing the wrong agent or choosing them for the wrong reasons. Many homeowners list their home with the agent who tells them the highest price. Or they list with the agent who works for the biggest company. You need to choose the agent with the best marketing plan and track record to sell your home.

Mistake #5:

Not knowing all of their legal rights and obligations. Real estate law is complex. The contract you sign when selling your home is legally binding. Small items that are neglected in a contract can wind up costing you thousands of dollars. You need to consult a knowledgeable professional who understands the ins and outs of a real estate transaction.

14 Low Cost/High-Value Updates to Prepare to Sell Your Home

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Here are 14 low cost / high impact things to focus on when preparing your home for sale that are sure increase the value!

I call these things the “wow” factor. My experience is that when a buyer is walking through your home and notices these things they will say “wow that’s nice” or “wow I like that…”. Keep in mind you do not need a $50,000 Kitchen remodel to get the “wow” factor. Here are several low cost / high impact things you can do to get some “wows” and increase the value of your home to a buyer.

  1. Your potential buyers will see the outside of your home first. Consider adding some landscaping. Add some color with new flowers; make flower beds look clean by adding some mulch. Keep your lawn and shrubs trimmed.
  2. Seal coat the driveway to make it look pristine. It gives a nice clean look.
  3. Make sure your address is clean and visible from the street. Consider buying new house numbers if needed.
  4. Your buyers will stand and wait at the front door while their realtor unlocks it. This is the first impression for many of them,  so give the front door a fresh coat of paint or even replace it with a new one.
  5. If it’s dark out, you want the walkway to your front door well lit. Consider buying new light fixtures for the outside of your home, or give the ones already there a good cleaning.
  6. Replace any old, dirty or ripped screens on your windows. Make sure your windows open easily and don’t stick.
  7. Declutter! Start packing away anything your family doesn’t use. Consider replacing family portraits with artwork on the walls. Each room should have a focal point.
  8. Paint-choose neutral colors that will appeal to many different tastes. Consider off-white, beige or something light. Dark colors will make your rooms look smaller.
  9. Update / replace your kitchen and bathroom hardware. Also, updating / replacing door handles and hinges throughout (especially if they are brass).
  10. Stain or paint your kitchen cabinets if they are looking worn and out of date and replacing them is not in your budget.
  11. Replacing and upgrading the faucets and shower heads can give it a new look. Make sure to match the style throughout the home.
  12. Replace old and worn out carpet and refinish beat up hardwood floors. If replacing carpet isn’t in the budget, rent a professional grade cleaner and give the carpets a good scrub. Or have your hardwood floors sanded or buffed.
  13. Replace dated outlet switches and outlets throughout the home with new white ones so they all match. Also, replace or paint old vent covers.
  14. Replace the light bulbs in your home with higher wattage bulbs to makes your home look brighter.