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What’s the First Step in Buying a Home? (via Realtor.com)

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What is the first step in buying a home? Real estate experts agree that long before you peruse listings or check out open houses, you should talk to a lender about getting a mortgage.

“Talk to your bank or a reputable mortgage company to see what you qualify to purchase,” explains Rosanne Nitti, a Realtor® with RMN Investments & Realty Services, in Laguna Beach, CA.

Why financing is the first step in buying a home

While figuring out financing might not sound like the most exciting way to embark on your house hunt, it’s essential. Unless you have enough cash lying around to buy a house outright—and let’s face it, few do—you’ll need a loan. And lenders don’t just hand out loans to everyone who walks in their door. Rather, they’ll need to review your financial history to determine how much money they’re willing to fork over.

This info, in turn, will help you decide which homes are realistically in your price range and worth checking out.

“Without that step, you have no idea what your purchasing power is,” explains Nitti.

How to qualify for a home loan

If you’re still in more of the window shopping phase with no immediate plans to buy, you might want to opt for mortgage pre-qualification, which gives you a ballpark sense of your purchasing power without promises of a loan. But if you are actively house hunting, you probably want to seek loan pre-approval, where the lender performs an in-depth exploration of your finances followed by a solid promise for a home loan of a certain size.

To get pre-approved for a loan, expect to be asked to reveal your income, the amount of money you have in savings, and your credit history, which will help lenders determine how much money they’re willing to loan you. Consider this step akin to getting a full medical checkup before you train for a marathon. In this sense, a lender can tell you whether you’re truly ready to embark on this home-buying journey or whether you should take a step back and do some prep work first.

For instance? “If you do not have any savings available for a down payment [on a home], then your first step is to save every dime you can,” says Debra Kroon, a Realtor with Yosemite West Real Estate, in Yosemite, CA. Or, if you have blemishes on your credit history (e.g., late or missing credit card payments), you might need to take steps to clean up your credit report before you would even qualify for a loan.

How a loan officer can help

If your financial profile reveals flaws that throw a wrench in your ability to buy a home, your loan officer can direct you on how to make improvements. Or, if you’re deemed to be ready and raring to start house hunting now, a loan officer can give you a heads-up on what to expect on the finance front.

“The loan officer will be able to let you know which loan programs you qualify to use, what your purchase price limit is, what your projected monthly payments will be, and how much cash you will need to have on hand for a down payment, closing costs, and reserves,” says Kroon.

To get started, you can explore realtor.com/mortgage to find lenders in your area, check mortgage interest rates, figure out how much home you can afford, and more.

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How to Stage Your Home for a Quick Sale

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When real estate agents talk about staging your home, they’re referring to a method of decorating that is designed to showcase the home’s best assets, impress buyers and sell quickly for the highest possible price.

Because not all sellers stage their homes, especially homes in lower price ranges, you’ll be at an advantage if you do. Read on to find out how.

Why Home Staging Is Important

Although staging is optional, it really shouldn’t be. When you’re dealing with such a significant financial transaction, you don’t want to be lazy and settle for a lower selling price or a longer marketing period than you have to.

Relative to the amount of time and money involved, staging may be one of the most lucrative projects you ever undertake. Potential buyers aren’t just looking for a structure to inhabit – they’re looking to fulfill their dreams and improve their lifestyles. Staging helps sell those dreams and creates a more emotional purchase that can generate more money for the seller.

Home staging is also beneficial because potential buyers don’t want to see work that needs to be done upon moving into the home. For every problem they see, they’ll deduct its cost from their offering price. If they see too many problems, they’ll pass altogether.

Staging How To
While there are plenty of room-specific staging tips, if you’re on a limited budget, it’s best to focus on big-picture improvements and on the areas that will make the biggest difference in your home’s selling price.

These include the exterior and entryway (both heavily impact a buyers’ first impressions), the living room, kitchens and bathrooms, the master bedroom and outdoor living space, such as a back patio. The following techniques can and should be employed in as many rooms of the house as you can afford and have time for:

Clean
In the kitchen, potential buyers love to see new appliances that come with the home, but if you can’t do that, make the ones you have spotless. No one wants to see splattered spaghetti sauce, films of grease or piles of crumbs in their potential new home. Likewise, make sure your bathroom sparkles, from the corners of the tub to the sink drain to that spot behind the toilet you don’t think anyone can see. Your goal should be to make everything look new.

Declutter
There are two major problems with clutter. One is that it distracts buyers from your home’s features. The other is that it makes it seem like the home doesn’t have enough storage space. Put away knickknacks. Keep in mind that buyers will be interested in your closet space, so tossing everything into the closet to hide it away may not be the best strategy.

Depersonalize
Buyers need to be able to envision themselves in your home, so remove all the family photos, items with family members’ names on them and refrigerator art. Also make sure to put away all the toys and anything else that is highly indicative of the home’s current inhabitants.

Remove Odors
Pets, kids, what you ate for dinner last night, a mildew-covered bathroom and many other conditions can make your home smell. You are probably immune to your home’s smell, so you’ll need to have a friend or neighbor help you out with this one. Inexpensive tricks for ridding a home of odors and giving it an inviting aroma include baking cinnamon-coated apples in the oven, burning vanilla-scented candles, or throwing some slice-and-bake cookies in the oven. It’s also a good idea to grind half a lemon in the garbage disposal to remove sink odors. While you could use a spray to deodorize your home, it might give it a cheap, institutional bathroom smell, which is hardly the image you’re going for. If you’re a smoker and you normally smoke indoors, start limiting your smoking to outside the home and take extra steps to deodorize indoors. Finally, don’t forget to take out the trash.

Define Rooms
Make sure each room has a single, defined purpose. Also make sure that every space within every room has a purpose so that buyers will see how to maximize the home’s square footage. If you have a finished attic, make it an office. A finished basement can become an entertainment room, and a junk room can be transformed into a guest bedroom. Even if the buyer won’t want to use the room for the same purpose, the important thing is for them to see that every inch of the home is usable space. This includes alcoves, window seats, corners, breakfast nooks and so on.

Wallpaper/Paint
It is unlikely that a potential buyer will like your wallpaper. Your best bet is to tear it down and paint the walls instead. Don’t even think about painting over the wallpaper – it will look shabby and send red flags for the buyer about all the work he or she will have to do later.

Custom paint colors are the same way. You may love your orange bathroom, but people’s tastes in colors are very specific and highly personal. While you might think that white walls would be ideal because they create a blank slate that allows buyers to envision their own décor and gives them an easy starting point, it’s actually better to paint your home with warm, neutral colors that appeal to the masses and project the homey image you’re trying to sell.

Flooring
No one wants to live with dirty, stained carpet, especially when someone else made it that way. Linoleum is passé and looks cheap. Though pricey, hardwood floors add value and elegance to a home. They are also low-maintenance, provide great long-term value and are perfect for buyers with allergies. In other words, they appeal to almost everyone, and if not, they’re easily carpeted over by the buyer and preserved for the next owner.

In kitchens and bathrooms, go with ceramic tile or stone if you can afford it. If not, use high-quality vinyl tiles that mimic their more expensive counterparts. If you can’t afford to do that, stick to common areas like the living room, dining room and kitchen. Bathrooms should make the cut too because they have relatively little floor area and therefore won’t be too expensive to upgrade.

Lighting
Take advantage of your home’s natural light. Open all curtains and blinds when showing your home. Add supplemental lighting where necessary. Outdated or broken light fixtures can be cheaply and easily replaced. If you think your existing fixtures are fine, make sure to dust them, clean off any grime and empty out the dead bugs.

Furniture
Make sure furniture is the right size for the room, and don’t clutter a room with too much furniture. Furniture that’s too big will make a room look small, while too little or too small furniture can make a space feel cold. Don’t use cheap college furniture, either. You don’t have to pay a lot of money to switch out your existing furniture and you may even be able to rent it, but the furniture should look nice, new, expensive and inviting. You’ll also want to arrange the furniture in a way that makes each room feel spacious yet homey. In the living room, for example, seating should be set up in a way that creates a gathering area around the fireplace.

Walls and Ceilings
Cracks in the walls or ceiling are a red flag to buyers as they may indicate foundation problems. If your home does have foundation problems, you will need to either fix them or alert potential buyers to the problem. That said, a fix would be better in terms of getting the home sold. If the foundation only looks bad, but has been deemed sound by an inspector, repair the cracks so you don’t scare off buyers for no good reason.

Exterior
Your home’s exterior will be the first impression buyers get and may even determine their interest in viewing the inside. Make sure your lawn, hedges, trees and other plants are well-maintained and neatly pruned and eliminate any weeds. To brighten windows, wash them well, and consider adding flower boxes to brighten them up further. If you can, power wash your home’s exterior – it can make it look almost freshly painted but with less effort and expense. Make sure the sidewalk leading up to the house is clear and clean, and purchase new doormats for the front and back doors. If you have a pool, showcase it by making sure it’s crystal clear. Creating some sort of outdoor living space in the backyard, such as a deck or patio with outdoor furniture, is another way to use the exterior of your home to its greatest advantage.

Last Touches
Just before any open house or showing, make sure that your staging efforts go the full mile with a few last-minute touches that will make the home seem warm and inviting. These include fresh flowers, letting fresh air into the house for at least ten minutes beforehand so it isn’t stuffy, adding a pleasant scent as discussed earlier, and putting new, plush, nicely folded towels in the bathrooms.

Bottom Line
Even if you have plenty of cash, don’t put too much money into the staging process. You want to emphasize the home’s best features, but keep in mind that what sells the home and what will make the home usable for the buyer are not necessarily the same thing. Overall, to get the most bang for your buck, your home staging efforts should be designed to appeal to the widest possible range of buyers. The more people willing to submit purchase offers for your home, the higher the selling price will be.

Once you’ve sold your home for the maximum value, you’ll want to make sure you don’t undo your resale efforts by overpaying on your new home.

For additional advice, contact any of our Realtors at RE/MAX West Branch at 570.321.1010

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4 Reasons to Buy Your Dream Home This Winter

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As the temperature in many areas of the country starts to cool down, you might think that the housing market will do the same. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Here are 4 reasons you should consider buying your dream home this winter instead of waiting for spring!

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise
CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that home prices have appreciated by 6.3% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 5.2% over the next year.

The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates are Projected to Increase
Your monthly housing cost is as much related to the price you pay for your home as it is to the mortgage interest rate you secure.

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage are currently at 4.08%. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac & the National Association of Realtors are in unison, projecting that rates will increase by this time next year.

An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

3. Either Way You’re Paying a Mortgage
There are some renters who have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

4. It’s Time to Move on with Your Life
The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide whether it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

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Whether You Rent or Buy, You’re Paying a Mortgage

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There are some renters who have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to build equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?
Christina Boyle, Senior Vice President and Head of Single-Family Sales & Relationship Management at Freddie Mac, explains another benefit of securing a mortgage vs. paying rent:

“With a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, you’ll have the certainty & stability of knowing what your mortgage payment will be for the next 30 years – unlike rents which will continue to rise over the next three decades.”

Bottom Line

This holiday season, why not give yourself the gift of homeownership? Lock in your housing costs for the next 30 years and guarantee you are the one building wealth.

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2 Tips to Make Sure You Get the Most Money When You Sell

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Every homeowner wants to make sure they get the best price when selling their home. But how do you guarantee that you receive maximum value for your house? Here are two keys to ensuring you get the highest price possible.

1. Price it a LITTLE LOW
This may seem counterintuitive. However, let’s look at this concept for a moment. Many homeowners think that pricing their home a little OVER market value will leave them room for negotiation. In actuality, this just dramatically lessens the demand for your house

Instead of the seller trying to ‘win’ the negotiation with one buyer, they should price it so that demand for the home is maximized. By doing this, the seller will not be fighting with a buyer over the price, but will instead have multiple buyers fighting with each other over the house.

Realtor.com, gives this advice:

“Aim to price your property at or just slightly below the going rate. Today’s buyers are highly informed, so if they sense they’re getting a deal, they’re likely to bid up a property that’s slightly underpriced, especially in areas with low inventory.”

2. Use a Real Estate Professional
This too may seem counterintuitive. The seller may think they would net more money if they didn’t have to pay a real estate commission. With that being said, studies have shown that homes typically sell for more money when handled by a real estate professional.

Research posted by the National Association of Realtors revealed that:

“The median selling price for all FSBO homes was $185,000 last year. When the buyer knew the seller in FSBO sales, the number sinks to the median selling price of $163,800. However, homes that were sold with the assistance of an agent had a median selling price of $245,000 – nearly $60,000 more for the typical home sale.”

Bottom Line

Price your house at or slightly below the current market value and hire a professional. That will guarantee you maximize the price you get for your house.

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10 Home Maintenance Tasks to Check Off Your To-Do List For Winter

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Maintain a safe and healthy home by checking a few home maintenance tasks off your to-do list. From dodging the December chill by protecting your home from icicles to being smart about fireplace safety and prepared for hanging holiday decorations, it’s important to keep your home secure this month before major snowfall.

The following are 10 tasks to check off your to-do list either before winter hits or as soon as possible.

1. Test all alarms and detectors. Check the batteries in your smoke alarms and test any carbon monoxide detectors or security alarm systems. House fires and heater malfunctions are common in winter, and it’s imperative for your safety that all detectors are working properly. A quick check on each system will bring peace of mind in the case of any fires or holiday break-ins.

2. Check for fire extinguishers. Make sure your kitchen is stocked with at least one working fire extinguisher to control any small fires that may occur while cooking your holiday meals.

3. Stock up on firewood. Prepare for a hard winter by stocking up on firewood early, if you have a wood-burning fireplace. If you use a fireplace often during the winter, you’ll want to have enough firewood to last you all season long. Choose seasoned hardwood like oak or maple for a slow-burning and hot fire.

4. Untangle and test holiday lights. If you plan on putting up holiday lights this season, it’s important to test and inspect all light strands. Prep your holiday lights by safely untangling each strand. Be sure to plug in all lights and check that all bulbs are lit, intact and in good working order.

5. Check your gutters. Are your gutters clear of leaves, debris and ice dams or icicles? Cleaning and inspecting your gutters before winter weather hits will prevent any potential damage. Without proper care, loaded-down gutters can pull away from the side of your house, or lead to leaks and water damage as water gets under the roof shingles when ice damming occurs. Hire a gutter cleaning service or gutter contractor for a thorough inspection.

6. Save on heating costs. If you’re worried about racking up heating costs over the winter, try cutting costs with a few simple tricks. Try reversing the ceiling fan, adding weatherstripping to block drafts from doors and windows or lay down rugs to add an extra layer of warmth to your floors.

[See: 10 Ways to Save Energy and Reduce Utility Bills at Home.]

7. Prep for snow removal. Make sure you have shovels, de-icers, snow blowers and other ice-melting products before any serious snowfall. Know where everything is located, and have plenty of gas for any snow blowers or other automated tools to help you clear snow during a storm.

8. Clean your air filters. You’ll want to check your cooling and heating systems before the worst parts of winter to ensure all air filters are clean. Dirty air filters can result in a decrease in indoor air quality and efficiency, ultimately damaging your heating and cooling systems. It’s best to be proactive to avoid a heater malfunction during a snow storm or deep freeze that could lead to other problems in your home, like freezing pipes.

9. Store outdoor water hoses. Store your water hose for winter by turning the spigot off, unhooking the hose and removing any attachments. Next, drain your hose, coil it up and store in your garage or shed.

10. Cover outdoor furniture and grill. Properly store your outdoor items by packing up your patio furniture that can be placed in the garage, along with any umbrellas and chairs. By keeping your outdoor furniture out of the winter elements, it’ll be in better shape once spring comes, and you’re less likely to have to replace pieces every couple of years. For larger outdoor items, such as grills and tables, purchase protective covers to keep safe during harsh winter weather.

As always, count on RE/MAX West Branch to give you great advice, proper guidance and, of course, stellar real estate services. 570.321.1010

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Selling Through the Holidays

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To many homeowners, selling a home during the holidays sounds like a stressful, unproductive experience. The objections come from two categories:

Holiday listings are a hassle:
“Mom won’t be able to put up all of her favorite decorations.”
“The phone will ring all through Thanksgiving dinner.”
“We’ll have to kick Grandma and Grandpa out every day during nap time for showings.”

Holiday listings are unproductive:
“Almost all home sales happen in the summer.”
“Everyone travels during the holidays, so all of the buyers will be out of town.”
“There are very few home buyers in the winter, and they will still be looking in spring.“

While many of these old stand-bys were true in years past, the way real estate is conducted and the way consumers buy homes has shifted dramatically in recent years. There are a lot of significant reasons today to have your home listed for sale during the holidays.

Here are 10 examples, including five describing the utility and five discounting the hassle of a holiday listing:

Moving During the Holidays? Five Reasons the Marketplace Now Demands Your Home Listing Year-Round

1. The Growth of International Buyers

The number of home buyers from foreign nations has increased dramatically as the real estate market in the United States has improved over the past few years. These buyers don’t observe the same calendar of events as most Americans. We’ve seen significant upticks in buyer showings and home sales around holiday periods that traditionally were unofficial vacation periods for the real estate industry. When the foreign buyer comes to house hunt, American holidays are often not part of the scheduling process.

2. American Homeowner Mobility Continues to Increase

Americans are far more mobile in their lifestyles than they used to be. Occupations change at a higher rate. Companies relocate more often. The vast changes in technology create boom scenarios that make one region flush with jobs after another.

Home buyers employed in these business sectors are called to move across the country at any point in the year. Their employers often reimburse them through a relocation package to sell their home and buy a new one. When they arrive in a new city, it doesn’t matter if it’s January or July. They’re going to buy a home fairly quickly.

3. Seller Competition Is Lighter During the Holidays

While these new crops of international and mobile American home buyers are searching for homes at odd times of the year, home sellers are often still reluctant to list their homes during the holidays. This creates a shortage of inventory and a strong seller’s market in many cases. The home seller who is on the market in an area with very few comparable homes can often stick strongly to the price they’re hoping to get. Without a reasonable number of similar, competitive listings for buyers to visit, the seller is in a unique position of power because of the scarcity of comparable homes.

4. Holiday Home Shoppers Are More Motivated

Take the average American home buyer who isn’t relocating. They’d just like to buy a home in the town they live in. Those who aren’t particularly motivated by time will often take a break from searching during the holidays and start again in the spring.

Those home buyers who remain active in their searches, however, are the extremely motivated buyers. They’re willing to alter their holiday schedules and brave bad weather to get into a home. These are the kinds of buyers that home sellers dream about. They want to move right away and are willing to spend significant money to relieve their anxiousness about getting on with the home buying process as quickly as possible.

5. Internet Searches During the Holidays Surge

Many home buyers devote a larger portion of their house hunting time during the holidays to searching online, as opposed to seeing homes in person. The added convenience of whittling down a list of preferred homes from the warmth of the buyer’s home during bad weather makes real estate website traffic kick up significantly when the overall market sales might be slowing down.

To have your home discovered during this timeframe, it must be on the market. Word-of-mouth, drive-by sightings, and other forms of direct-contact marketing diminish significantly in effectiveness during bad weather periods. Homes advertised correctly online during this time get significantly more exposure than the average home, and those sellers that are taking a break from being on the market are as good as non-existent to the online buyer.

Five Reasons That a Holiday Real Estate Listing Need Not Be a Hassle

1. If You’re Traveling, It’s Easy

You leave town, and your REALTOR® is in charge of everything. Not only will your home be vacant and clean, it will also get a nice check-in a few times while you’re gone. Your REALTOR®will be by to see if things are fine. You can keep the heat on and it will not only keep your pipes from freezing, it will keep your potential buyers happy. Buyers’ REALTORS® will be in and out often enough to keep the home looking busy and well-travelled.

2. You Don’t Have to Take Any Calls You Don’t Want To

Who says a home seller has to receive calls 24/7? Every REALTOR®-client relationship is different. You, as the client, can manage how you communicate together. If you’d like to only receive showing requests via email or text, so be it. If you want your REALTOR® to only call between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., he or she can do that. As long as you are reasonable about having a regular communication check-in with your REALTOR®, the way you communicate can be as unique as you’d like.

3. You Can Have a Daily Showing Schedule

Showings don’t have to happen at all hours of the day. While the more your home is available, the better it is for buyers, it’s also understandable to have a limited schedule during the holidays. If every day between noon and 6:30 p.m. is the only time you’d like buyers to come through the home, that can be arranged. If yoga class on Tuesday makes it a difficult day, make that part of the official showing schedule, and have your REALTOR® put it into the listing. It will help buyers’ REALTORS® schedule showings and keep you focused on enjoying your own personal schedule.

4. You Can Create Blackout Dates

When your in-laws are coming to visit for a week, let your REALTOR® know that the entire week is off-limits. Unless a buyer has come in and set a large envelope of cash on their desk, they need to schedule all showings the prior week or the week afterward.

The bonus with this strategy is that your home is still on the MLS and still being advertised online. While it might not be available to see in person that particular week, those holiday home buyers will still see the listing and be aware that it will be available soon. Meanwhile, your family is relaxing at home as if it were just a regular holiday season.

5. Holiday Decorations? Just Go For It.

Very few home buyers are truly turned off by holiday decorations. They might find them tacky, overdone or distasteful, but they’re much like paint colors. They could certainly help if they looked good, but they’re rarely deal breakers.

If you can constrain yourself a bit and keep your Christmas tree from looking like a spinning Wal-Mart rack, you’ll certainly impress your home buyers a bit more. Those 200,000 lights on your roof might also not be the ideal decoration. But, if you really feel the need, just do it.

Home buyers like the idea of a home looking like it fits into a neighborhood. They don’t want to be drowned in your personal treasures, but a little bit of personality is nothing to be afraid of.

Be Proactive – Take Control of Your Holiday Home Listing

Selling your home during the holidays can actually be a well-managed, stress-free experience. If you take the time to set ground rules and boundaries, you’ll find that you and your REALTOR® will benefit from the understanding during the process. In the meantime, you might be the only home on the block that is visibly available for sale to the next out-of-towner or anxious first-time buyer that is out on the holiday house hunting prowl.

Lastly, but most importantly, make sure you have a REALTOR you trust! Count on RE/MAX West Branch to be that Realtor. There’s a reason that no one else in the world sells more real estate than RE/MAX. Let us show you why. Enjoy the holidays!

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Why It Pays to List Your Home in Winter

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If you’re listing your home now, use these ideas to make a great cold-weather impression.

Should you put your home on the market now? Unless you need to sell (say, you’ve purchased your next home or are relocating for a job), timing always depends on supply and demand.

To understand your local climate, check the number of days on the market for current and recently sold listings. If most are sitting for more than 60 days, it’s safer to wait until spring, when more buyers will emerge. Yet if properties are selling quickly, take that as a green light to list.

If you do move forward, these strategies will help make your home a hot seller this winter.

Price It Right

The quieter winter market brings special pricing considerations. Unlike in spring, when there are more shoppers—and it may make sense to price low to try to generate a bidding war—you’re less likely to receive multiple offers.

Winter is also a bad time to test the market and list high. If the house doesn’t sell, you may need to drop below market value to nab a buyer before new properties appear in spring and make yours look stale by comparison.

The upshot: Take a conservative approach and price at market value, Yee advises. Check closing prices of comparable properties sold in the past 30 days, then eye current list prices to make sure your home won’t look overpriced.

Schedule a Tune-Up

Winter buyers are particularly attuned to issues related to heating and maintenance. Get your furnace, HVAC, and roof inspected, and make any necessary repairs. Also on your to-do list: Clean the gutters, change air filters, and weather—strip the windows.

Many cold-weather house hunters will also be thinking about heating costs. Consider low-cost upgrades like insulating the attic or installing energy-efficient windows, which can slash utility bills, says Brendon DeSimone, author of Next Generation Real Estate.

Brighten Your Home

Snow and gray skies make for a gloomy first impression. Warm up curb appeal with basic landscaping, and add inexpensive cool-weather plants like holly to invigorate outdoor space. Fix chipped paint, caulk windows, and repair cracked window seals, which can cause condensation that freezes over and creates an eyesore.

Offset the season’s poor natural light by painting your house off-white throughout—it sets a consistent color palette and makes the space feel larger.

And create a sense of warmth throughout the home, starting with the living room, where staging can have the greatest impact, according to a National Association of Realtors report. Items like a throw blanket can set the tone for the season.  To stay neutral, use such seasonal touches as stacked wood by the fireplace rather than holiday decorations.

As always, de-clutter and depersonalize. Put away family photographs so that buyers can see themselves living in the home; instead display pictures that show what the property looks like when the temperature is warmer, like the garden in full bloom or the backyard in the summertime. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean buyers can’t appreciate what your home has to offer year-round.

Call RE/MAX West Branch and get a FREE Market Analysis to determine the current market value of your property today! 570.321.1010

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Appraisal vs. Market Analysis

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appraisal-vs-market-value

When it comes to real estate, there must be a meeting of the minds for a property sale to take place. The value a buyer
applies to a property can vastly differ from the value a seller or lender places upon it. The seller, the buyer and the lender must find an agreeable value to attach to a property so the sale can proceed. This can be accomplished only when the market value and the appraised value are as close to each other as possible.

Appraised Value

When a potential buyer goes to a lender to get a mortgage for property, the lender will take several factors into consideration when determining the property’s value. The property’s neighborhood, the value of properties of similar size and construction, even such things as the type of fixtures on the premises and layout of the parking lot are considered when determining the appraised value of a property. This is the value on which a lender will determine whether to proceed with evaluating overall creditworthiness of the potential buyer.

Market Value

The market value is the amount potential buyers are willing to pay for property. A seller can set an asking price, but that amount may not necessarily be in agreement with what buyers are willing to pay. The difference between an asking price and the market value is largely out of the seller’s control. For example, one person can view a property, determine it is exactly what they are looking for and well-worth the asking price, whereas another person could look at the same property and feel the asking price is too high.

Differences in Determination

The market value of a property is the amount a buyer is willing to pay, not the value placed on the property by the seller. For example, a seller might list a property for $250,000, but if buyers are only willing to pay $200,000, then the market value is $200,000. Conversely, if property listed at $250,000 has several buyers interested, the market value can meet or exceed the listed price. Appraised value is the value the interested buyer’s bank or mortgage company places on the property.

Warning

A large gap between the appraised value and the asking price can be a problem for the buyer. If the lender thinks the appraised value of the property is not enough to cover the requested mortgage, the lender could require a larger down payment, which can be problematic for a buyer because it could require additional funds of several thousand dollars.

Considerations

When setting a sale price, make sure you are not over-pricing the property for the neighborhood. A common mistake many property owners make is over-improving a property. If the property’s value is well over the average market value of the other properties around it, getting a sale price that will not result in a loss could be difficult. It can also have an adverse affect for the appraisal value. If the property appraises for more than others in the neighborhood, a lender might be less willing grant a loan for the property because it does not fall within the historical trend of the neighborhood.

For more information, contact RE/MAX West Branch. Remember, we offer FREE Market Analysis Reports on any property in the area. Call today! 570.321.1010

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