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Home Not Selling? It’s Not Personal, It’s Probably Price


Home sellers face a new reality as they look to move up, down, in or out of their American dream in today’s market. Consumers, particularly those who purchased their homes within the last five years, often find their options limited by a lack of equity. Those who can sell are sometimes numbed by deflated home prices and find it difficult to justify yesterday’s valuations with today’s reality.

Many home sellers have dug in on price hoping to lose no additional ground. Others seem to have taken this market personally, letting emotions override analysis when setting price. Buyer sentiment has shifted as well, centered on maximum value with abundant amenities – resulting in stalemates and homes languishing on the marketBoth sides should be realistic as comparable sales and local-market dynamics still determine fair-market value.

And there are compelling reasons to be realistic and make a move now. Sellers, assuming their objective is to buy another home, can capitalize on some of the lowest mortgage interest rates on record and an inventory of homes at attractive prices. So while they will sell for less, they will also buy for less and with significantly cheaper borrowing costs.

Of course, professional sales representation is essential this transitioning market or any other. The Prudential Real Estate Network, recently recognized for “Highest Overall Satisfaction for Home Sellers Among National Full Service Real Estate Firms” in J.D. Power and Associates’ 2010 Home Buyer/Seller StudySM, is composed of true, local-market experts whose experience, analysis and consultation generate results in all market conditions.

As the local experts, they’ll help set fair-market prices using factual reference points, such as an appraisalcomparables sales and personal knowledge to help estimate market value. Today, a house priced at or slightly below market value will attract the interest of real estate professionals and buyers, while overpricing chases them away. Even if the sellers adjust theirprices later, it’s difficult to recapture buyer interest.

Sales professionals develop comprehensive marketing strategies to sell a home. They generally use open houses, yard signs, Internet exposure, MLS, newspaper adsbrochures and other means to market properties.

Beyond that, they counsel sellers on other conditions that may keep sellers’ homes on the market, including:

Condition and appearance. Sellers shouldn’t rely on buyers to use their imagination; they need to capture it. Remember that buyers may see seven or eight homes in a single day. The most memorable home will be the one that seemed the brightest, the most spacious,and the most cheerful. This invariably means rearranging and eliminating furniture, removing excess knickknacks and so on, to create an open, uncluttered look. Outside, do a visual check of the front of the house from across the street. Does it have curb appeal? It should look inviting, with a trimmed lawn and a freshly painted front door. A real estate professional can offer some guidance in this area.
Terms/conditions. Even if the home is accurately priced, and the buyer is delighted with what he or she sees, if the buyer can’t live with the terms of the sale, he or she may walk away. Keep an open mind on terms and conditions and evaluate how they may affect a potential sale.
Incentives. Offering incentives can be just the impetus a potential buyer needs a buyer needs to choose your property over others. Consider offering a carpet or paint allowance. If the buyer knows up front there is allowance for the worn carpet or paint, then may overlook those cosmetic flaws. You could pay for a professional home inspection or a home warranty, or pay closing costs.

Indeed, real estate opportunities abound for sellers and buyers who can come to terms with today’s market conditions. A qualified real estate professional will help you navigate the market, protect your interests and keep you moving toward your housing dreams.

 


Is the Reno worth the cost?


 

A stressful part of putting your home on the market is trying to figure out what to fix and upgrade to get the very best price. An experienced agent will recommend projects to consider and ones to avoid. After all, just because you put money into a renovation project doesn’t mean you will recoup the money in a sale.

You may also want to consult Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report for a breakdown of typical returns on renovation projects large and small. The 24thannual edition published earlier this year contains input from some of the country’s top remodeling professionals and ranked 35 remodeling projects for highest returns.  

In many cases, smaller-scale renovation projects recoup more of their initial costthan larger, pricier onesaccording to the report. For example, a minor $20,000 kitchen upgrade returns 72.8% of renovation costs, but a more expensive $58,000 kitchen remodel only retains 68.7% of its value on resale.

Surprisingly, the report noted that exterior upgrades recoup more of their coststhan interior renovations -- a trend that’s been building for the past five years. What’s the hottest exterior upgrade according to this year’s report? Replacing the front door with a steel entry door, which typically returns more than 100% of its cost.

The report also lists garage doors as a wise investment, returning up to 83% of their original cost when the home sells. Other prudent outdoor renovations include sidingand window replacement, returning 80% and 72.4 %, respectively.

Interior improvements retaining the most value include attic renovations and basement remodels, recouping 72.2% and 70%.

“Just like an addition to the home, an unfinished space—such as the attic or basement—will instantly add value and livability to your home, as it increases the square footage and changes the way your family lives in it,” said Will Tomlinson, owner of North Carolina-based greyHouse Inc. Renovation and Remodeling. “You will be transforming a space that likely gets very little use into a fully functional area for your family to enjoy.”

The report also notes that non-essential features have less resale value. Sunroom additions recoup only 48.6% of renovation costs; home office remodels, 45.8%; andbackup power generators, 48.5%.

Of course, homeowners’ needs and budgets dictate their choice of home-improvement projects. Still, it helps to know projects’ cost vs. return ratio when making the final decisions.


Safety and Homeselling


 

If you’re selling your home, you have enough to think about without worrying that your home isn’t safe, or that your things may be stolen.

Yet, whether from open houses or scheduled showings, strangers are coming and going in your house all the timeBy taking a few safeguards, you can ensure that you don’t need to worry about such things and better protect your belongings in the long run.

Of course, the easiest solution is to remove valuable jewelry, fine art or collectables beforehand, storing them with a friend or family member. If that’s not an option, then find a place to hide valuables in the home or keep them with you in a suitcase and take the suitcase with you in the car every time you leave yourself.  

This should also be done for personal information and file cabinets that may contain papers with your account numbers and/or social security information. And don’t forget the medicine cabinets, as this is often an area that people steal from.

You should always keep your doors and windows locked and when returning to the home following a showing, double-check that they remain secure. Often, prospective buyers will open windows or doors to make sure they work or to see another part of the home. Although it may seem far-fetched, there have been incidents where people unlock doors when looking at a home and go back later to steal things.

One tactic involves people coming to the house multiple times and bringing a new person with them,who explores rooms when the agent is being distracted.

“While one person has your attention, the other raids jewelry boxes and medicine cabinets for narcotics,” said Robert Siciliano, an ADT.com security consultant who offers real estate advice on his blog. “In high crime areas, consider hiring an off-duty police officer to watch the property during a showing. You can’t possibly watch everyone during an open house.”

It may seem like a silly time to install an alarm system since you will be moving soon, but adding a security system will not only deter burglars but can also be a strong selling point of the house. People like safety features in the home.

If you are selling a home in which you’re not currently livingconsider installing motion sensors thatwill automatically turn on lights when it’s dark. You can also put a few lamps on a timer so it appears someone is home when you’re out.

Reach out to your neighbors as well and ask them to keep an eye on your place. It’s always a good idea to introduce neighbors to your REALTOR® so they know things are OK when the agent is on the premises.


Emotional Side of Downsizing

  
 

            People downsize for a variety of reasons, from the "empty nest" syndrome to convenience or hardship. Here are a few things to consider as you contemplate moving to a smaller home.

"Before any move, focus on how you want to live. People don't think enough about why they're moving," said Mary Jo Zeller, director at Gero Solutions, which manages moves for seniors. "Increasing numbers of downsizers these days want to exchange the worry and expense of maintaining a large property, for the luxury of low maintenance and the opportunity for more leisure time."

            Emotional ties to the family home is one of the main barriers to downsizing, but equally, deciding on where to move to, and what style of property will best suit, can be just as daunting a prospect.

            During the downsizing process you may be surprised at how attached you have become to your possessions and how difficult it might seem to part with them. A good tip is to start getting rid of your items a few months before your move so donate, recycle, e-bay and give away some of those items you really don't need anymore. This will make the move much easier and your smaller home less cluttered.

Decorators recommend sketching floor plans for your new home to see where all your current furniture will fit. You shouldn't wait until you move in to discover that there's just no room for that armoire or extra stools.

            For those already on the top of their property ladder, they may find that reversing course and heading down is the right decision for them.


  Thinking About Co-ownership with a Friend?  


 

Friends often share holidays, vacation together and are there for all the important moments in life. So, why not buy a home together?

An increasing number of consumers are considering joint ownership. Such as transaction makes sense, as it can help those who may not have been able to afford a home on their own, it gives each owner a real estate investment, and it can even strengthen the friendship.

But the opposite could happen as well. Friends can feud over the most trivial of things, placing the long-term housing investment at risk.

Here are some tips for surviving co-ownership with a friend.

1. Be sure before agreeing to this life-altering decision that all parties are willing to disclose their financial information, agree upon the type of home and location they are after, and are truly comfortable with living with one another.

2. Consult with an attorney: A contract between the parties is vital, as is listing each person’s name on the deed and the mortgage papers. The percentage of ownership must be clearly stated in the contract, including details of each person’s share of the down payment and the way in which mortgage payments will be divided. This sets the stage for deciding each one’s share upon sale.  

3. Get pre-approved for a mortgage: Mortgage companies aren’t always thrilled with lending to two unmarried or unrelated people. Odds are those buying a home will need to jointly qualify as co-borrowers on a single mortgage in order to purchase a property held in tenancy in common or joint tenancy.

4. Understand each other’s wants and needs: House options, mortgage rates and contract terms will be contingent on each individual’s credit history, financial health and both short-term and long-term obligations, so it is smart to discuss all of this ahead of time. During the house-hunting stage, the friends may have different ideas on what they are looking for. It’s always a smart idea to sit down and list the most important features to each and figure out what each is willing to give up.

5. Have an exit strategy: Jobs change or a surprising romance could evolve where marriage will soon be in the picture. What happens to the house then? This is something that should be agreed upon before the house is bought.

Once everything is agreed to and a mortgage commitment is in hand, things still aren’t easy. It’s hard enough finding the perfect home, but to have to find the perfect home for two is even tougher.

Friendships can stand the test of housing issues, so don’t be scared off; just make sure that when buying any real estate with friends that you don’t let the friendship cloud your judgment.

Home Theaters: Great for the Family, Desired by Home Buyers

            One of the most in-demand requests that real estate agents are getting from those looking for new homes concerns home theaters, or at least the space to add such a multi-media room.

            With home-theater technology evolving and prices lowering over the last decade, the concept has evolved from luxury to near necessity for many households. It’s the place where the family comes together to be entertained, and is the most occupied room in the house after the kitchen and family room. It’s become the focal point for entertaining and showcasing expansive, crystal clear flatscreens and impressive components. It’s why many homebuyers are looking for houses with home-theater spaces or extra rooms to create one.

            Real estate experts agree that home theatres add value to a home. According to the Home Builders Association, most new homes with a $250,000-plus price come with a home theater or media room.

            “Home theater is a way for the homeowner to bring all these cool new pieces of technology together and fit them seamlessly into their lifestyle,” said David Start, vice president of Sacramento, Calif.-based theater-furniture manufacturer California House. “You have Apple, Netflix and now Amazon—all these big tech companies with really fantastic products. Home theater allows you to integrate these products into the way you live.”

            There are several ways one can make the home theatre room more appealing prior to showing a home.

            Start by cleaning all surfaces, keeping wiring as discrete as possible and storing electronics that may look sloppy due to wires or size. Also, although having lots of seating space is practical in a media room, it may be a good thing to reduce the number of sofas to give a spacious look to the room.

            “I think a media room does add value, however, it is truly a personal preference based upon what the buyer wants and/or is looking for in a home,” said Teresa Cwik of Showcase Staging Houston, Houston, Texas. “I have seen a lot of these rooms staged and in my professional opinion I believe the room should be staged with appropriate media room furniture, such as theater seating.”

            There are a number of smart furniture choices to make the room look better and create the movie environment that so many desire.             

            “Customers are looking for furniture that will present their TV in style while concealing many of the other components—DVDs, gaming consoles, speakers—neatly out of sight,” explained David Adams, marketing director for home-theater furniture manufacturer BDI of Chantilly, Va. “Unique features that are integrated into better home theater furniture include hidden wheels, flow-through ventilation, adjustable shelves, built-in media or speaker storage, and integrated cable management systems.”

            Indeed, we’re in the golden age of gadgets and components. Rooms focused on technology can be just as appealing to today’s home buyer as a large bathroom or walk-in closet.
Make Your Offer Stand Out

Real estate consumers are realizing that there has rarely been a better time to buy a home. In fact, historically low mortgage rates coupled with lower home prices have even sparked bidding competition in markets around the country.

A good home in a solid location may attract ample attention only hours after being listed. Home buyers can make their offers stand out from the rest through one or more of the following strategies:

            Price. Obviously, price tends to be the primary consideration for sellers. When you’re competing for a home, to get an edge, think about adding a clause stating that you will beat the highest offer by “x” dollars up to “x” amount. Cash offers can be more attractive to sellers as well. Although sellers will receive their money at closing whether buyers pay with cash or take out a loan, cash offers don’t require lender approval.

Financing. It’s not enough to be pre-qualified. Pre-qualification only tells how much you can afford. Pre-approval goes a step further. Your lender will thoroughly evaluate your application—including verifying employment information and financial disposition—then clear you for a loan of a determined amount. Having your loan pre-approved gives you a sizeable advantage by putting you on equal footing with cash buyers.

Good Faith Deposit. Buyers offering a larger-than-customary amount of “earnest money,” a deposit that accompanies an offer, may get a seller’s attention. By committing more money up front, buyers demonstrate greater sincerity and motivation to close the transaction. Your real estate professional can guide you as to the appropriate sum for your specific transaction.

            Contingencies. Consider minimizing contingencies, those clauses that allow buyers to back out of a contract if certain conditions are not met. For example, it’s common for buyers to make the purchase contingent upon their securing satisfactory financing. Obviously, offers with the fewest conditions tend to be more attractive to sellers.

From a contingency standpoint, first-time buyers are often better prospects for a seller’s home than move-up buyers. That’s because first-time buyers’ offers are not contingent upon the sale of a present home. Even if a move-up buyer has an offer in hand, that buyer’s offer may be contingent on another contingency, and so on down the line. If one transaction derails, they all might.

            Relationship. Help the seller get to know and identify with you by looking for ways to connect. Find common interests, such as a shared appreciation of gardening. You can then persuade the seller that her prize roses will be well tended. Share brief family stories. The more the seller gets to know and like you, the better chance your offer will stand out in a competitive environment. 

            Considerations for Power of Sale and Foreclosure Transactions – Bank-owned properties represent a portion of today’s housing inventory. Competition can be most keen for these homes as their prices can run below current market value.

            Banks conduct extensive research to set these prices and generally base them on current market value less the cost of required repairs. Make your offer based on your own check of comparable sales and other due diligence. Banks won’t get offended by a low offer, yet a realistic offer will more likely keep you in the running.

            Remember, patience is essential when buying bank-owned property.   

 Work with your Real Estate sales professional to buy your dream home or investment property. His or her knowledge, skill and expertise will help you make sound real estate decisions today or any other time.
Use Feng Shui for Balance and Broader Appeal

The ancient philosophy of feng shui, which translates as “the wind and the water,” is the Chinese art of correct placement. In real estate, those who prescribe to feng shui believe that home sales can be better achieved by arranging furniture and décor to establish harmony and energy.

            “In feng shui we evaluate a house and its property for sufficient qi (pronounced chee), the living energy of all beings, but also for the land and even a house,” says Werner Brandmaier, a consultant at the Institute of Feng Shui & Geopathology in Portland, Maine. “When there’s not enough qi, it means the whole land energy is low or depressed and that influences potential buyers.”

            Feng shui promotes well-being by rearranging how qi (energy) flows through a home. Brandmaier recommends before placing your house on the market to find out more about its qi. Is there tension in the house and is the property cluttered? Do people feel exhausted in the house? Are the plants doing well? A careful assessment can make a big difference.

            Feng shui begins with the homeseller, who must be at peace with the decision to place the home on the market. Likewise, feng shui is important for many prospective buyers, who seek a home with harmony and balance.

            In feng shui, energy enters the house through the front door so it’s important that the entryway stands out with contrasting paint. Add decorative plants and a wind chime, but make sure this space is free from clutter. “The perfect entry is one that is clear of obstruction,” says Robin Andrews, a feng shui expert in Los Angeles. “This includes trimming back all hedges and making sure that the path to your door is clear, open and well defined.”

            Bedrooms are considered sanctuaries for privacy and peace. Andrews suggests placing objects in pairs throughout the master bedroom as it’s thought to increase marital harmony and balance.

            “You also want to place the bed in the position that has the most commanding view of the doorway, which is considered the gateway of the qi,” Andrews says. “We are in a vulnerable state while sleeping and it is important that this area affords our being safe and supported.”

            In the kitchen, where energy is imparted in food, the chef’s station should always face the door for a clear view of those who enter.

Throughout the home, remove photos and other personal items so potential buyers can see the property as a clean, fresh start. And since earthy, pleasant aromas enhance feng shui, add cinnamon or pine scents to the home before potential homebuyers’ arrival.

            One last thought: It’s also believed that “For Sale” signs are more effective when placed on the right side of the front door, since that is considered the yang, or energetic, side of the house. 

Feng shui is all about drawing harmony and good health into your life and surroundings. With these simple steps you can bring your home into better balance and broader appeal.

Home Sellers: Five Tips to Make Your Bathroom Stand Out

Every homebuyer has a vision of their perfect house and the rooms that are most important to them. Because of their relatively small size in comparison to the rest of a home, bathrooms are often overlooked in the staging process, but for many, it could be the most important room in a buying decision.

            A bathroom is more than just a place for grooming; it’s a sanctuary. It’s a place one can relax in a hot bath and escape the stresses of daily life for a few moments at a time.

            Updating a tired-looking bathroom is one of the best things you can do to increase a home’s resale value and the fixes are not too costly or labor intensive.

            Easy fixes include adding new, luxurious-looking towels, replacing the shower curtain and adding candles around a bathtub. However, with a little more money and effort, your bathroom can become a talking point of the house.

            Here is a look at five great ways to upgrade a bathroom.

            1. Beautify: By adding decorative glass, stone tile or accents to the bathroom, it will stand out among the other houses in the neighborhood that are for sale. Extra-wide wall tiles are popular these days and wood cabinets can be beautifully embellished with intricately carved wooden inlays.

            2. Lighting: Add more lighting options around the room, especially around the vanity to reduce shadows and glaring. This is something that isn’t too expensive and can really highlight the positive features of a bathroom. Mood lighting around the tub area is also increasing in popularity.

            3. Bath/Shower: It’s not too often you hear someone complaining about a bathtub being too large, and that’s because there’s nothing better than coming home from a hard day’s work and relaxing in a big soothing tub. By putting in a new tub and creating more of a spa-like atmosphere, you will have buyers imagining themselves washing their cares away. Adding a massage element to the showerhead or one that replicates rain showers is also something that will appeal to buyers.

            4. Update Fixtures: Not as costly as some of the other tips, changing out the fixtures in a bathroom can add a great deal. From cabinet handles to faucets, the addition of brushed nickel or other metals that are polished and elegant are always a huge hit. And if space permits, add a second sink.

            5. Think Green: The bathroom is a prime place to start putting those environmentally friendly devices to work. Installing fixtures that save water, such as a low-flow showerhead, a low-flow faucet aerator, and a dual-flush toilet, can save thousands of gallons of water each year. Adding energy-efficient windows is another easy option, since the size of bathroom windows are relatively small. Another fix that is both decorative and energy efficient is the addition of natural stone flooring, which helps the bathroom stay cool during the summer, and warmer during the winter.

            When buyers walk into a renovated bathroom that exudes quality and offers an intimate, contemporary feel, it’s one of the top things that people will remember about a home.

Say it with Pictures!!! Use a Pro!

They say a picture paints a thousand words and when it comes to selling your home, you want those words to end with “sold.” It’s no secret that better-presented homes get more traffic and more buyer interest, therefore selling faster.

            That’s why it is essential that you showcase your home through images in the best way possible.

            According to the National Association of REALTORS®, nearly 90% of all homebuyers begin shopping for homes online. Many flip through photos of the homes and send a list of those they want to see to their agent. In fact, homes with few or no photos are often passed over simply for that reason, even if the home’s description matches a buyer’s ideal listing.

            Many agents believe that apart from staging, no other marketing investment is as important as professional photography in marketing a property effectively. So, to generate more buyer interest, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of professional real estate photographers in the past few years.

            The best photographs are most likely to come from someone who has an eye for the underlying beauty of the home’s structure and spaces; has specialized equipment and techniques for lighting and perspective control; and uses workflow processes for post-processing of the images for use on the Web and in publications.

            Let’s face it, as much as we all like to think we take great photos, a professional has an eye for seeing the best vantage points and lighting options and also has better equipment to make the photos bright, clear and sharp. A professional photographer will most likely use a 10mm lens that can capture up to 85% of a room and lighting that can illuminate the entire room.

            The same holds true with taking video of your home to add to a website listing. An amateur can show what each room and yard looks like, but a video professional will make the strongest elements stand out and provide a much better video narrative of the home. Plus, you don’t have to worry about any shakiness or dullness that someone not that experienced with a video camera may give you.

            Before bringing in someone to photograph or video your home, it’s essential that it is clean and de-cluttered so the pictures entice a buyer to want to see the home in person. You don’t want clothes, pets or anything else distracting people from the photo at hand.

            Indeed, homes showcased with the best photographs and videos will attract more sellers and help speed the home-sale process to a successful conclusion.

Bringing all Generations Together

Although your home may have been housing a traditional family of a mom, dad and two kids, savvy real estate agents will tell you that in order to attract more buyers, staging your house as one fit for multi-generations is the way to go.

            More parents and grandparents are finding a need to move in with family, as many can no longer afford the increasing rates of the adult communities where they once lived. Furthermore, the economic climate is forcing many kids to return home once their schooling is done.

            A recent multi-generational study conducted by the Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C., revealed that multigenerational living has been on the rise over the past decade, fueled by demographic and cultural shifts.

            “One of the things that struck me about this change is that it’s coming from all directions,” said Paul Taylor, author of the report. “More young adults are moving back home, more elderly are moving in with their middle-age children and more middle-aged children are moving back with their elderly parents.”

            Data from the study shows that in the 10-year span between 2000 and 2009, the number of households practicing multi-generational living increased to 33 percent, with more than 49 million Americans currently living in homes with three or more generations.

            Real estate professionals are tending to highlight features such as finished walkout basements and bonus bedrooms today more than ever. That’s why when your agent tells you that switching out your office or transposing the basement play area to one that resembles more of a bedroom is the way to go, you should be listening.

            When selling your home, you need to look at the process from the perspective of all buyers, not just yours. Consider how a multigenerational family might use the various spaces available, and give prospective homebuyers options to easily transform from single-family to multigenerational living.

            Therefore, any home that contains bonus space is a viable candidate for a multigenerational buyer who’s planning to bring an ill or out-of-work family member back into the fold.

            Experts agree that intergenerational living is easier when each family subunit has its own space. “Everyone who is going to share the home should have a private area of their own,” said Amy Goyer, a multigenerational expert at AARP. “It is best if there is more than one common area so that children and adults have spaces to relax in without everyone having to spend all their free time in the same room together.”

            Multigenerational house design can be applied to just one structure or can be accomplished with two or three units to keep families together while preserving their independence and privacy.

            According to Cam Marston, author and founder of the research firm Generational Insight, there are a number of benefits for different generations of a family living together. “It’s less expensive, obviously, but more importantly, they can learn from one another,” Marston said. “Separating generations keeps them aloof from the trends and important things impacting each generation. When they are all under one roof, they can grow up sooner and stay young longer. It works on both ends of the generations.”

            Another thing for home sellers to consider when it comes to attracting multigenerational buyers is the home’s accessibility for people who might be living with aging parents who use wheel chairs or walkers.

            Creating a complete, accessible living space on one level with safety features can make a home attractive to people of all ages.

Smaller Spaces in Demand

Good things come in smaller packages. At least that’s the feeling today among many homebuyers, who are increasingly interested in smaller spaces instead of the gaudy, sprawling homes that were popular in the ’80s and ’90s.

            Many agents believe that smaller homes are more in demand because the Baby Boomer generation is starting to downsize. Boomers no longer need four or five bedrooms and are looking for spaces that are more in tune to their lifestyles as empty nesters. In fact, the latest U.S. Census Bureau reported that a little over 60% of all U.S. households are comprised of just two people or less.

            While affordability is the No. 1 driver for this trend, other factors do play a role, as buyers are more concerned with how much they will be paying each month on their energy, water and heating bills.

            “You can add better insulation, new windows and insulated doors, but nothing saves energy like a slightly smaller home,” said Danny Gough, an energy auditor for the consultant firm, Energy Solutions, based in N.C. “We have seen an interest in smaller homes because of this.”

            Conservation is the new watchword in new-home building and existing home sales, as buyers want to conserve their larger down payments and their future dollars by buying homes they need, not homes that impress the neighbors.

            According to a recent study by the National Association of Home Builders, by 2015, new homes will not only be greener and packed with more technological features than today’s homes, but they will be 10% smaller. In its report, “The New Home in 2015,” the NAHB points to the economic downturn for a “less is more” mentality. 

            “People are looking beyond what they pay in principal, interest and taxes and look closer at what they will be paying each month,” said Stephen Melman, director, Economic Services, Economics and Housing Policy for the NAHB. “Buyers, despite excellent prices and low interest rates, are cautious and are going to purchase the home that they need and not necessarily even the home they can afford. They are very careful.”

            This trend has developed quickly. At the beginning of 2007, the median floor area of new homes started was just over 2,300 square feet. The median floor area of new homes dropped to nearly 2,100 square feet by the end of 2010.

            “That’s close to a 9% decline in floor area over a very short period,” Melman said. “Total floor area isn’t what’s important there, but the amenities inside the home itself.”

            Rooms that are falling out of favor in new homes include media rooms, sunrooms, mudrooms and libraries. Echoing entryways, vaulted ceilings and giant pantries are also less popular.

            The report even said that the living room is dying out and will either vanish, merge with another room or become a smaller parlor.

            “People are asking what they can truly do without,” Melman said. “Almost 50% of buyers surveyed said they would be willing to give up the living room if affordability is an issue.”

Make One Final Inspection!!

In the sales contract, the sellers of your new home agreed to leave the custom blinds, refrigerator, built-in entertainment system and those fine cabinets and workbench in the garage. But when you show up on moving day, all of those amenities are long gone. Moreover, the lock on the back door is broken; there is a huge gouge in the drywall near the front bathroom.

Although these circumstances are extreme, they could happen, which is why it is important to have a final inspection of the home you are purchasing before the closing. A pre-closing inspection gives you, one last opportunity to verify that you are getting all that was promised in the sales contract. Although buyers still have legal recourse if they discover—even after closing—that the condition of the home is not as it should be. Of course, the best time to identify problems is before closing when the seller will be motivated to correct any deficiencies to close the transaction.

Typically, a buyer takes possession of a property one to three months after signing the sales agreement. And a lot can happen before the actual move-in. Appliances and fixtures can break, and walls, carpets and doors can be damaged during the seller’s final weeks in the house, particularly during move-out. Sometimes the seller will simply have forgotten that he or she has agreed to leave the refrigerator or window coverings with the house. Whatever the reason, problems identified before the closing have the best chance of being remedied.

If possible, schedule the inspection right before the closing, such as the day before. Ask your real estate professional to attend the inspection with you. Here’s what to do:

 Using a copy of the sales contract as a checklist, first make sure that all items that should be in place (appliances, built-in furniture, window coverings, fixtures, etc.) are there.

Test each appliance to make sure they work properly. Bring along an electrical clock or radio to test each electrical outlet. Test all electrical switches and the garage door opener. Run the garbage disposal and turn on every water faucet, checking under the sinks for leaks. Flush the toilets. Inspect the floors, carpets, walls and doors for recent damage.

If you discover that something is damaged or missing, make a note of it and inform your real estate professional immediately. In most cases, the seller is usually able to take care of small problems immediately, either by making a needed repair or offering compensation to handle it. And, if there are major problems, the seller can even sign a statement acknowledging the deficiency and agree to correct it. Although pre-closing inspections take time and may be inconvenient, they are important and well worth the buyer’s time.

Handling the Children When Selling your Home

Homeowners with young children face a common challenge when their house is on the market: How do you keep the home clean and ready for prospective buyers while maintaining a kid-friendly and safe environment?

            Keeping that “staged look” as the kids create instant messes can be overwhelming.  Your primary focus should be the kids’ bedrooms, according to two home stagers.

Children’s bedrooms are often problematic when getting a home ready to sell,” said Külli Yee, founder and president of Ilus Design Home Staging and Re-design, Port Coquitlam, B.C., Canada. “They tend to have more clutter than most rooms in the form of toys and activities, and out-of-season and hand-me-down clothes and toys are often stored in the child’s bedroom.”
           
Ye suggests limiting the number of toys and activities that children play with each week and adding and subtracting as the kids get bored.

            “Most kids only actively use three or four favorite toys at a time and the rest just sits there collecting dust,” Yee said. “Pack away extra toys, stuffed animals and books. Organize the remaining toys neatly in baskets, boxes and bins and display only a few items on the shelves.”

            Alice T. Chan, a Fremont, Calif.-based home stager and author of the book 8 Steps for Creating an Irresistible Market Ready Home that Sells, recommended keeping a child’s bedroom floor and closet free of clutter by lightening the load.

            Reduce the amount of items stored in the closets,” she said. “Pack, store or give away anything that the child doesn’t need for the next two to three months. This is also the perfect time to get rid of unused or broken toys and old clothes.”

            For those with infants, a nursery should be kept tidy with all extra diapers, wipes, lotions, baby bottles and clothes hidden away in a dresser. Make sure that the diaper pail is emptied frequently.

            Moreover, remove any furniture that doesn’t serve a purpose in the nursery. Anything beyond a crib, dresser, rocking chair, changing table and small accessories should be packed away.

            If your kids have their own rooms, consider asking them to share a room for a couple of months until the home sells. This allows you to set up the other bedrooms as a guest room or home office, adding extra value to your home.

            Unlike pets, you can’t simply pack up the kids and send them away for weeks at a time. Remind your children that once your current home sells, the new home will bring them exciting new adventures. If that doesn’t make them more cooperative in helping keep the place then there’s always plan B: bribe them with ice cream, outside!

Researching for the "Perfect Neighbourhood" ie. Oakville
Big Smile

There’s an episode of the hit TV series “How I Met Your Mother” where the characters of Marshall and Lily decide to buy a home in a neighbourhood they are unfamiliar with, only to learn later that it sits downwind from a sewer plant. The message is obvious: A buyer must do his or her due diligence on prospective neighbourhoods to make the best real estate decisions.

            For starters, investigate the local school district as good schools boost your property value. Research the closest parks and community centers and consider how busy streets impact the neighborhood.

            Profiling the perfect neighbourhood also involves meeting prospective neighbors. Walk through the area and say hello to people, and ask them for their impressions of the neighbourhood. While you’re at it look around. Are there lots of kids on the block? Do people walk or jog through the neighbourhood at night? A neighbourhood can speak volumes by itself.         

            Don’t forget to map out stores and restaurants in the area. You may be used to a five-minute drive to the local grocery store, only to find out that your new home is 25 minutes away from the nearest place to buy milk. Of course, find out if your potential new home is part of a neighbourhood association bearing regular fees, and if your community has lawn or construction restrictions.

            A good agent can furnish you with a wealth of local information, and will take you on a tour of the closest commerce centers, restaurants and shops.

With a little groundwork you can help ensure that your dream house is surrounded by a dream neighbourhood.