Archive for 2017

20 Apr
Conversations with Alice: The Real Estate Life
Posted On : 04 20th, 2017   By : Alice  |  Real Estate, Real Estate Careers

In the coming weeks, principal agent and team founder Alice Chin will be answering all your real estate questions — she truly is a font of wisdom! To start our conversations, we recently sat down with with Alice to talk about what drew her to real estate and what keeps her going.

What most attracted you to this field? Being able to combine my passion for numbers (my background is in finance) with the opportunity to interact with people on a daily basis.

Is there a typical work week? There actually isn’t a typical work week! However, I would say that I typically work anywhere from sixty to seventy hours a week, depending on the season. One of the reasons I love my work is because every day is different, with new challenges.

What aspect of the work do you most enjoy: customers, relationship-building, the financial end? I most enjoy the relationships and the people I meet — that is really the most rewarding for me.

How do you maintain a good work/life balance? I time-block almost everything, because anything that isn’t in my calendar, I will probably forget. Once something is in my calendar, then I am committed to it, whether it is business or personal.

Is this a good job for those fresh out of college, or does it require more “seasoning”? I think that this career would be good for either, as long as the person entering this field is realistic about it and truly loves real estate. It is a job where you need to be flexible to the client’s schedules — not the other way around. There are some days and weeks where you will literally work until you drop, but if you have a passion for it, then it won’t seem like work.

Have a real estate question you’d like Alice to answer? Email our marketing manager, and she’ll talk to Alice! debra@alicechin.com

Principal Agent Alice Chin has lived in Naperville since 1991. A graduate of Naperville North High School, she continued her education the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, graduating with a degree in finance. Previous to her real estate career, she worked at J. P. Morgan Chase as an underwriter and commercial banking analyst. When she transitioned to real estate, she was Rookie of the Year her first year in business. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and lives in Naperville with her husband and daughter.

18 Apr
(Relatively) Stress-Free Packing for a Move
Posted On : 04 18th, 2017   By : Debra Anton  |  Home Buyers
It goes something like this. You just spent the day house hunting and think you’ve found the perfect home. You’re all excited — this is it! You come home and relax and as you gaze around your current home, reality sets in: “Wait a second! If we move I’m going to have to pack up all this stuff? Forget it!”
Moving is indeed stressful in and of itself, but the packing that precedes can be absolutely overwhelming. To that end, we offer these can’t-miss tips on taking packing one step at a time.
  1. Clean House First. Seriously, are you really going to move all those board games — the ones your adult children haven’t played with since the late nineties? Ditto on the craft supplies you just know you’re going to get around to using . . . someday. We’re all guilty of moving boxes (that never get unpacked) from house to house to house, but let this move be the one where you end that cycle. Hold a garage sale, donate it to Goodwill, or just pitch it if you haven’t used it in years.
  2. Gather Your Supplies. The Alice Chin Team recently spoke to Steven Bonnischen of Prager Moving & Storage in Naperville, and he offered this suggestion: start with the biggest table in your house and put a protective covering on it, such as a plastic tablecloth. (No matter how large it is, Steve advises not using your dining room table.) Among the supplies you’ll need (other than boxes): a big stack of packing paper, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, heavy-duty packing tape, Scotch tape, thick markers, and scissors.
  3. Pack Room by Room. Start with rooms you use less frequently, such as the living room or the dining room. Pack a few boxes a day, starting well ahead of the move.
  4. Heavier at the Bottom. It may seem obvious, says Steve, but it’s worth noting. Pack heavy items at the bottom of the box and lighter items on top. And always remember to pack heavy items in the smallest box that will fit them. This will reduce the temptation to add even more items, resulting in a box that’s even more difficult to lift.
  5. The Dainty Stuff & the Tough Stuff. Do consider having a professional pack your china, crystal, and that delicate chandelier. Conversely, professionals movers and packers are often the best choice for packing extremely heavy and awkwardly shaped items such as gym equipment or computers and their tangle of cables.
  6. Do-It-Yourself Items. Items that are so personal they’re almost embarrassing? Pack them and move them yourself — if they fit in the car. It’s also wise to put important documents and records, jewelry, photo albums you wouldn’t want to be without, and even house plants in the car with you. You’ll feel safer knowing their within eyesight, whether you’re moving cross country or down the block.
  7. Label Everything. Mark all boxes with a room name and a box number. Steve strongly suggests recording the box number on a box identification log that shows the number of boxes packed per room as well as the total number of boxes packed overall. You can use the log for listing what’s in each box (“Books,” “Coffee Mugs,” Shoes”) or you can write a brief description of content on that boxes themselves.
  8. Fill Boxes Safely. Don’t overpack boxes. Use plenty of packing materials and don’t be skimpy. Don’t stuff too many items in one box. A box under 50 pounds is much easier to move, not only for the movers, but for you, as you move things around in the weeks leading up to the move.
  9. Check Box Bottoms. Make sure the bottoms of the boxes are taped securely and will hold the weight of the contents. Again, overdo it if necessary.
  10. First Night in the House. There are some items you’ll need right away. Canned goods, frozen food, your child’s favorite toy or blanket, even basic cleaning supplies. Make sure these items are clearly labeled and put on the back of the truck (keeping in mind the “last on, first off” rule) or put them in the trunk of your car (not forgetting a cooler for those frozen items!).
Packing and moving may never be fun, but with a sold game plan, the finish line of a brand new home will seem closer than ever.
15 Apr
5 Steps in the Home Loan Process
Posted On : 04 15th, 2017   By : Alice  |  First-Time Home Buyers, Home Buyers
Being a first-time home buyer is exciting . . . but nerve-wracking. And though searching for the perfect home is difficult, there are plenty of fun moments. The loan process itself? Not so fun. There’s an endless list of things to do, arcane terms to master, and personal information to provide.
The best thing you can do is to educate yourself, thereby building a mental road map of what to expect at each step along the way. To that end, we recently spoke to Ben Milam, vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate in Naperville, Illinois. He offered the following broad overview of the five main stages that first-time home buyers will encounter as they prepare to finance that all-important first home purchase.

Step One “Get your home loan application underway early,” advises Ben. “Make sure you have your basic personal and financial information at hand when beginning your home loan application. Your credit score, current employment status, debt, and long-term financial goals will all be collected and discussed at this point in the mortgage process.”

Step Two Obtain a pre-approval.  Ben notes it’s important not to mistake a pre-approval for a pre-qualification. “A home loan pre-approval is a mortgage company’s commitment to issue a home loan for a specific property. This will be based off your employment, credit, and debt information,” he adds.

Step Three “The third stage in the mortgage process will involve various documents, such as pay stubs, W2 forms, and bank statements, so please make sure you are as prepared and as organized for the smoothest and quickest experience,” Ben notes. While you may provide documents to your home loan expert at the beginning of the mortgage process, you may also be asked for additional information at any time during the process, depending on your home loan type and financial situation. Be prepared . . . and be patient!

Step Four Once all the documents have been gathered to your loan officer’s satisfaction, an “underwriter” will review your application. “The underwriter wants to make sure that the home and property are in good condition and that you’ll be able to repay your home loan,” says Ben.

Step Five This is the big one, according to Ben. You, the sellers, your home loan expert, and possibly your attorney will decide on a date for a closing. At closing, you’ll sign even more documents. Once complete, you’ll be handed your keys and will have successfully become a home owner!

10 Apr
6 Fun & Easy Ways to Keep Cleaning Supplies Organized
Posted On : 04 10th, 2017   By : Alice  |  Homeowners
It’s hard enough to get up the energy to give your house a much-needed cleaning (unless you’re one of “those people” who really likes to clean!), but it’s even harder to do so when your cleaning supplies are scattered around the house, misplaced, or were simply never restocked when you finished them. (Possibly you haven’t even bought them yet?) Make it easier on yourself by taking one afternoon to organize and re-stock everything first. You’ll be grateful the next time Mom comes to visit and you want the house to look “just so” – and quickly!
Bins & Baskets. The Dollar Store, Target, Amazon: the world of retail is full of canvas and plastic bins just waiting to keep your cleaning supplies organized. Make if fun for yourself and buy pretty ones that match your decor or personal style. Different sizes are a must, from small containers for sponges to larger ones for rolls of paper towels. It’s a good idea to label bins, too, by cleaning function: Floor, Wood, Glass, etc. Keep an empty one on hand, too — think of it as your Work in Progress bin. Each time you tackle a cleaning project, gather the supplies you’ll need that day. ba6fbea702b1d57be48d565afe6ad72a
Lockers. If you’re lucky enough to have a mudroom, entryway, or laundry room with built-in lockers for your kids’ jackets and backpacks, consider adding another one just devoted to cleaning supplies. Rather than lots of open space, as in a home locker, consider several shelves — big enough to hold those bins we’re so fond of — with space for brooms and mops, too.
Peg Board. Julia Child famously kept all her kitchen knives and tools on a pegboard, with the outline of the object drawn right on the pegboard so she could easily return items where they belonged. And, of course, pegboards are an old standby of Dad’s workbench. Consider a similar system for your cleaning supplies. By adding hooks of various shapes and sizes, you can store cleaning gloves, scrubbing brushes, rags, dustpans, and more. uses-for-tension-rods-1
Rolling Utility Cart. Handy if you live in a ranch house, rolling metal carts (IKEA has lots)  allow you to just load up all your supplies and take them from room to room as you clean. Add to your organizational wizardry by loading the cart with the aforementioned bins. If you live in a two-story house and your budget and storage space allow, consider a fully stocked cleaning cart on each floor. After all, you’ll wind up using the same amount of cleaning supplies over time. raskog-kitchen-cart__0144044_PE304208_S4
Shoe Caddy. You already know that a plastic over-the-door caddy is great for storing your favorite high heels and flip flops. But hung on the door of a mudroom, a pantry closet, or a laundry room, that same caddy becomes your new best friend. All those little pockets are great for storing spray bottles, feather dusters, wet wipes, even hand brooms. Genius!
Tension Bar. If your home’s storage space doesn’t run to lots of closets, you probably store cleaning supplies under the bathroom or kitchen sink, right? And you’re probably also tired of all the clutter — not to mention the way the bottles fall over when they’re on the empty side. Here’s an easy fix: buy an inexpensive tension shower rod and place it in the cabinets beneath your kitchen sink or the vanity under your bathroom sink. The nozzles on the spray bottles provide built-in “hooks” for hanging, and they’ll no longer in your way!
6 Apr
8 Reasons to Move . . . and a Plan for Each
Posted On : 04 6th, 2017   By : Alice  |  Home Sellers, Real Estate, Staging and Prepping
The house you live in is no longer the “right” house for you. You don’t necessarily have to move (after all, your company hasn’t transferred you out of state), but your reasons for putting your house on the market are more urgent than merely wanting to.
When you’ve made the decision to sell, take some time to think what the one main reason is. Why? Because once you’ve decided to move, you may hear an endless chant in your head: “I have to get out! I have to get out!” Not good. When emotions start to rule, you can make hurried, risky, and just plain bad decisions.
By being honest with yourself and determining the main reason you want to sell, you can work with your real estate agent to devise a solid sales plan. Together, you and your agent can consider whether you need to sell within a certain time frame, whether you need to make a particular minimal profit margin, and the amount of improvements you’re willing to make to your property before it’s put on the market. You may even decide that the old homestead looks pretty good . . for now.
My House No Longer Fits Me. Congratulations! Your last child just graduated from college and you’re finally empty nesters! Or maybe you just found out that you’re expecting twins . . . your second set of twins. Either way, your house is no longer the right size for your family. Outdoor issues might come into play, too. You thought you weren’t the “outdoorsy” type, but that tiny strip of lawn in the back makes you feel hemmed in.
The Plan: If you’re empty nesters, don’t downsize too much . . . you may need a little space from one another! Rather than pulling up stakes and moving to Arizona, consider being snowbirds, so you can still be close to friends, family, and favorite hangouts. Conversely, a growing family means more than just more space. Think school quality (niche.com is a great source for neighborhood and school info), proximity to weekend fun, and a floor plan that’s truly family-friendly.a
My Relationship Changed. Maybe you got a divorce. Or you’re moving in with your longtime love. Perhaps it’s the second marriage for both of you, and you’re blending your families, Yours, Mine, and Ours-style. Whatever the specific reason, relationship changes are among the top reasons that people start thinking about selling their homes.
The Plan. If you’re on your own now, consider a townhouse, condo, or even living in the city — something you’ve never done before. If you’re blending families, don’t go too big. Ask yourself how long it will be before some of the kids go off to college . . . it happens quicker than you think.
I Make More Money . . . Or Less. If you can afford more than the darling little starter home you’re living in, you’re probably looking to upsize and glam up: a luxurious kitchen, a ritzy master suite. If, unfortunately, your income has been reduced, time may be of the essence for your financial solvency.
The Plan: For upsizing, peruse websites such as Houzz for inspiration on the latest home trends and features. For downsizing, invest some money in making your current home as clean and updated as you can afford (your agent can advise you). The better your current home looks, the closer you’ll get to your asking price.
This House Never Worked for Me. Be honest. Was it a mistake from the get-go? Did all those small, low-ceilinged rooms that once seemed so charming turn out to be dark and gloomy? Have you started to notice how little storage space you really have? Homeowners’ needs change over time, and as we mature, our need for a home that truly “works” — rather than one that just looks good — increases.
The Plan: Relax! Ask yourself whether a room addition or a major remodel will get the job done. If you know it won’t, visit builder’s models, peruse decorating magazines and websites, and have your agent take you to many, many houses. You don’t want to make the same mistake twice.thinkstockphotos-96326229
My Neighborhood Is No Longer Neighborly. If your kids are grown, maybe you no longer wish to be awakened by the roar of the school bus. Maybe the other families you were closest to moved away. Or maybe the city fathers are finally going to widen the road right behind your house, and you want to be gone long before the noise and traffic that the “improved” road will bring with it.
The Plan: Don’t venture too far. If you liked where you lived, you might be able to justify the hassle of a nearby move knowing that you’re eliminating the things that weren’t working for you.
I Retired. Enough said. Whether your reduced income means you can no longer afford your property taxes or whether you just want to move to a warmer climate, retirement is right up there with major life changes that bring a new lifestyle.
The Plan: Research and patience. Today’s mobile home purchase could be tomorrow’s regret. And as much as you might want to put down new roots in a sparkling new location, it might be best to see where the majority of your kids and grandkids settle.
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I Want My Money. You just know your house has appreciated. A lot. All those teardowns on your street were replaced by more upscale homes, driving upthe value of your lot. Or you’ve made well-thought-out improvements to your home — from kitchen upgrades to room additions — that are exactly what home buyers are looking for. Why not sell, you think, rather than just sitting on my equity?
The Plan: Time is on your side, so there’s no need to rush. Do consult a financial adviser, though, on how to best invest the financial windfall you expect.
I Just Want to Move! Okay, let’s be honest. Sometimes you do just want to move. Some people like getting a house “just so” and then moving on to the next project . . . or, in this case, the next house. They don’t have to move . . . they just like to. If that’s the reason, you have all the time you need to prepare the house for a profitable sale. Chances are, it looks pretty good already!
The Plan: We want to meet you! But seriously, if you can afford to move and you actually like to do so, you’re a real estate agent’s dream. Enjoy finding your (new) dream home — you’ve clearly found your calling
4 Apr
Real Estate Buzzwords: Buying, Selling, Who’s Who
Posted On : 04 4th, 2017   By : Alice  |  Home Buyers, Home Sellers, Real Estate

This is the first in a series of blog posts in which we’ll demystify the buzzwords of real estate. These terms are familiar to those who work in real estate but may be confusing and contradictory to “civilians” who only buy and sell homes a few times in their lives. Think of this as our version of Real Estate 101. Below are buying phrases, selling phrases, and a brief “who’s who” of all those titles we like to throw around!real-estate-clip-art-cartoons-buy-or-rent-clipart-panda-free-ONrxyp-clipart

BUYING TERMS

Multiple offers: More than one buyers broker present an offer on one property where the offers are negotiated at the same time.

Net sales price: Gross sales price, less concessions, to the buyers.

Offer to purchase: When a buyer proposes certain terms and presents these terms to the seller.

Preview appointment: When a buyer’s agent views a property alone to see if it meets his or her buyer’s needs.

Walk-through: A showing before closing or escrow that permits the buyers one final tour of the property they are purchasing.

SELLING TERMS

Broker’s tour: A preset time and day when real estate sales agents can view listings by multiple brokerages in the market.

Disclosures: Federal, state, county, and local requirements of disclosure that the seller provides and the buyer acknowledges.

Exclusions: Fixtures or personal property that are excluded from the contract or offer to purchase.

Inclusions: Fixtures or personal property that are included in a contract or offer to purchase.

List price: The price of a property through a listing agreement.

Listing agreement: A document that establishes the real estate agent’s agreement with the sellers to represent their property in the market.

Listing exclusion: A clause included in the listing agreement when the seller (transferee) lists his or her property with a broker.

Open house (public): When a listing that is on market is available to the public for viewings and showings.

Relist: A property that was listed with another broker and is now relisted with a new broker.

Showing: When a listing is shown to prospective buyers or the buyer’s agent, in which case it’s called a preview.

Sign rider: An additional sign placed on a brokerage yard sign; it may include the agent’s name, “open Sunday,” “contract pending,” “sold,” the new price, and so on.

PEOPLE

Back-up agent: A licensed agent who works with clients when their agent is unavailable.

Broker: A state licensed individual who acts as the agent for the seller or buyer.

Buyer agent: The agent who shows the buyer’s property, negotiates the contract or offer for the buyer, and works with the buyer to close the transaction.

Dual agent: A state-licensed individual who represents the seller and the buyer in a single transaction.

Inside sales agent: A real estate team member who services inbound leads generated from sign calls and other internet sources. Converts these leads to appointments for the team’s sales agents.

Listing agent: The real estate sales agent that is representing the sellers and their property, through a listing agreement.

Mortgage banker: One who lends the bank’s funds to borrowers and brings lenders and borrowers together

Showing assistant: Team member who schedules showings, shows homes to prospective buyers, follows up with buyers after showings, finds new properties to show, and keep tracks of where clients are in the buying process.

Transaction coordinator: Handles all the details of transactions from purchase agreement to ensure an on-time closing. Coordinates title/escrow, mortgage loan and appraisal processes as well as scheduling inspections and coordinating any possible repairs.

30 Mar
Buying New Construction? You Still Need an Agent!
Posted On : 03 30th, 2017   By : Alice  |  Home Buyers, New Construction
After months of delving deeply into every real estate website on the internet — possibly even working with an agent and visiting many, many homes — you’ve come to the sad conclusion that your dream home isn’t on the market. Ah, but that cute new subdivision down the road — the one that’s really close to that good elementary school? There’s one model there that’s just perfect!
So what do you do? You stroll into the model home that also serves as the builder’s sales center. You’re greeted by a salesperson who reminds you a little bit of that agent you were working with. So warm! So friendly! So knowledgeable! And oh, the fun of all those selections! What cabinets do you like? Which lot? Best of all, which elevation?
You’re already to sign on the dotted line when . . . STOP! What are you doing? Are you actually thinking of making the most important and expensive purchase of your life without professional representation? Tsk, tsk, tsk!
Remember: the on-site salesperson represents the builder. Who represents you?  In order to ensure the best price, make the process run smoothly, and troubleshoot innumerable problems along the way — in short, to make the sales experience a good one — you’ll need expert advice long before you call in your attorney for closing.
Blog - New Construction Agent
Here’s a checklist of things to consider when getting a buyer’s agent involved in your new construction purchase.
  • Real estate agents are licensed professionals, bound by law and professional ethics. A builder’s rep, while certainly not the “bad guy” is not bound by anything — other than pleasing the boss.
  • Ask a few tough questions of the agent you’re thinking of working with. Have they represented buyers in the new home sales process before? The process is somewhat different than a traditional real estate transaction in which the agent takes buyers from home to home, so make sure you’re working with an authority on the matter.
  • Early in the process, let the builder know you’re working with an agent. Make sure they have the agent’s contact info — a business card will suffice.
  • No, the house will not cost you more if you get a buyer’s agent involved.  The builder will pay that standard 3% commission. In fact, in many markets, builders are paying bonuses and incentives to agents above the standard commission structure. Builders are familiar with what they bring to the table.
  • Think builders don’t negotiate? Think again. An agent will know best which points are negotiable — and obviously, they have the necessary skills and training to negotiate since they do it for a living.
  • From the initial sales contract to any riders along the way, do not sign any paperwork without your agent reviewing and advising.
  • An agent can keep written documentation of all upgrades and features you requested — and even remind you to ask for things you didn’t know were available. Along the way, your agent will warn you of any hidden or unexpected costs that may pop up.
  • During the sales process, an agent can ask questions you might not consider. Are prices going up when the next phase of lots is released? Is it possible to use suppliers other than the ones featured in the model home? How are builder concessions being applied? Are additional warranties available?
  • An agent will insist on and manage the process of a home inspection. Yes, a home inspection — they’re not just for older or existing homes. Many buyers of new construction believe that by purchasing a home warranty or compiling a “To Do” list for the builder at six month and one year anniversaries, they’re covered. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Just because a home is brand new doesn’t mean mistakes aren’t being made during construction — possibly, lots of them. A reputable home inspector — recommended by your buyer’s agent — will discover these problems before closing.
  • Along with your attorney, your agent can smooth all the details leading up to the closing by asking who pays for what. Title costs, inspections, warranties, and surveys are all a part of new home construction costs, too.
So have all the fun you want choosing tile, faucets, and siding. Just remember that a buyer’s agent will reduce your frustration and get you the best price possible. And what’s not to like about that?
28 Mar
Location, Location, Location: It Always, Always, Always Matters!
Posted On : 03 28th, 2017   By : Alice  |  Real Estate
Your dream house. You can picture the cozy window seat, the gourmet kitchen with integrated refrigerator, the outdoor entertaining area with the built-in brick grill. But when it comes to resale value years down the road (or even your own happiness three weeks after you move in),
none of the bells and whistles matter unless your dream house is well located.
The old mantra “location, location, location” is as true today as it ever was, but what specifics are involved? Here are four key points to keep in mind when house hunting.
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EYES TO THE FUTURE
  • Look around. Are people spending money to improvetheir homes in the neighborhood? Are they adding sunrooms, replacing old siding, updating entire facades? Good chance they have faith in the neighborhood and plan to stay. Low turnover generally means property values will rise, in part because inventory will remain low.
  • What about the town itself? Are corporations moving there to set up headquarters or branch offices? Is the city council committed to community projects such as growing the downtown shopping district, prettying up neighborhood parks, or building a bandstand orother community facilities?
  • Some agents even tell their clients to consider the Starbucks Principle, which states that if you see a Starbucks being built (or more than one) in a town or neighborhood, the coffee giant — with its vast marketing research resources — has probably determined that the area is economically thriving and viable for the foreseeable future.
NEIGHBORHOOD & TOWN
  • Obviously, if you have children, you want to be close toschools — exactly how close is up to you. What is the quality of the schools? Your agent should definitely be able to help you determine this, but you can also do your own research on sites such as niche.com.
  • Convenient shopping, especially for groceries and other necessities, is also important. Are these key resources a short drive away?
  • Even better — according to some — can you walk toschools and stores? A neighborhood’s “walkability score” is getting to be more and more important, as many young couples who formerly lived in the city increasingly dislike having to drive everywhere in the suburbs, choosing a “greener” lifestyle instead.
  • Homes will generally appreciate more slowly and in incremental amounts the further you get from a major city. Of course, if you like the quiet life, this might not matter to you. Also, think about the personality of the town itself. Does it appeal to the aspiring country club set, while you couldn’t care less about keeping up with the Joneses? Or is the town well-known for political leanings opposite of yours? In that case, you might not find many people to hang with while watching your daughter’s Little League game.
A LOT ABOUT LOTS
  • When you think about buying a house, you’re no doubt picturing the house itself, but the lot is just as important, if not more so. After all, you can change the house that sits on a lot, while the reverse isn’t true. That being said, do you really want a huge lot? What you gain in privacy, you’ll lose in time spent in yard maintenance and grass mowing — not to mention the additional costs of watering, fertilizing, and landscaping.
  • On the other hand, a big suburban behemoth sitting on a small lot (probably the product of an infamous nineties “tear down”) may leave your kids with no place to play and you with no place to sit outside. Are you prepared to spend a lot of time just looking out the windows for your daily dose of nature?
  • In major cities, where space is at a premium, corner lots are generally desirable. In the suburbs, it could go either way. While some homeowners like having a showplace home on a visible lot (with the bonus of plenty of street parking), others shy away from the excess traffic noise they’ll encounter.
  • There are innumerable aspects of “micro location” to think about, too, which is why it makes sense to visit a property multiple times before making an offer. Does your potential neighbor have two or three barking dogs? Does that beautiful master bedroom overlook the parking lot of a convenience store? In both townhomes and condos, end units — generally larger in size and almost always quieter — not only cost more initially but also appreciate more over time.
VALUE & PRICING
  • You’ll see greater increases in property values when you buy a less expensive home in a so-called better neighborhood, rather than buying the biggest and best home in a less expensive neighborhood. If you’ve found a house that’s almost what you’re looking for, and you’re thinking of making improvements after you move in, think again. You don’t want to improve house “beyond the neighborhood.” Similarly, don’t make improvements that are only meaningful to you.
  • For example: a second story on a former ranch house that still only has a one-car garage, an in-ground pool that takes up most of the backyard on a home in the Midwest (where you can only use the pool a few months of the year anyway), elaborate home theaters in the basement: these are the types of upgrades that may be perfect for you but a nuisance to potential buyers 10 years down the road.
  • At the beginning of your house search, you set yourself a carefully considered price range, and you obviously expect your agent to negotiate on your behalf to get the best price possible. But don’t forget the innumerable closing costs: loan origination fees, home and pest inspection fees, appraisals, moving costs — it all adds up. Finally, that dream house in the ideal neighborhood also comes with corresponding property taxes and possible homeowner’s association dues. What can seem to be an affordable home at the beginning can wind up being a barely affordable financial albatross. You’re responsible for determining what you can afford — not your mortgage lender.
When all is said and done, no one rushes into a decision about a major purchase like a new home. But even if a house has dream features like a wine cooler in the kitchen or a sumptuous walk-in closet in the master bedroom, location-specific problems can make it a financial nightmare. Always be willing to walk away.
23 Mar
How to Create a Luxe Bathroom in 6 Easy Steps
Posted On : 03 23rd, 2017   By : Debra Anton  |  Real Estate
It’s the first place you see in the morning aaroma-therapynd the last place you visit at night. Plus, it’s a great place to read! So whether you live in a suburban McMansion or a just-out-of-college apartment, treat yourself to a bathroom that’s a secluded retreat — without calling in a remodeler!
MAKE SPACE WHERE THERE IS NONE
Unless we’re movie stars, most of us don’t have bathrooms the size of our garages. But you can add space where there is none. Consider a curved shower curtain rod to give you extra elbow room while you’re showering. And a suspension rod inside the shower — along with some “S” hooks — is a great way to hang loofahs, brushes, and spray bottles.
ADD SOME TEXTURE
The thickest, softest, largest bath towels you can afford? Money well spent! And don’t skimp on the hand towels, either — your guests will appreciate them. Nice thick rugs that you can really sink your toes into is a necessity by the tub and in front of the sink. Or forgo comfort for appearances and consider two differing but coordinating mini Oriental rugs.
HANG IT UP!
Tired of folding towels “just so”? Consider ditching the towel rods and replacing them with large decorative hooks. Hooks free up wall space — plus, it’s a snap to just drape towels over them. Don’t forget a hook on the back of the bathroom door for your robe. And finally, consider adding a vintage coat rack to your bathroom. It will take up next to no floor space and is yet another option for hanging towels. The night before, you can even use it to hang the outfit you’re going to wear to work the next day.
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PRETTY UP THE WALLS
Even the tiniest bathrooms will look for distinctive if you paint just one wall. Consider jewel tones, which are all the rage right now: ruby red, sapphire blue, emerald green. All will work their magic when you’re soaking in the bathtub with a good book. And forgo the usual artwork with cute little sayings. Instead, think vintage fashion prints, architectural renderings, or botanical prints to add a touch of class.
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TOUCHES OF (ACTUAL) NATURE
As long as you’re hanging botanical prints on the wall, why not add some actual plants? Small cut flowers, such as lily of the valley, can look pretty for a few days, but a potted plant will last much longer. Consider ferns, cacti, or succulent plants such as aloe vera. Its skin-softening properties alone make it a natural fit for the bathroom.
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REPURPOSED FURNITURE
Pedestal sinks are pretty, but the knock against them is that, by ditching the vanity, you’re losing valuable storage space. Actually, if you’re think creatively, you’re gaining space. Tuck vintage crates or baskets under a pedestal sink — they make great storage for rolled up towels. Slim nightstands with multiple drawers can hide toiletries and medicines in half the space a vanity took up. And if you still want a traditional vanity, why not buy a vintage dresser and turn it into one? Here’s a quick how-to: http://www.hgtv.com/design/rooms/bathrooms/converting-an-old-dresser-into-a-bathroom-vanity
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PRETTY LITTLE TOUCHES
And finally, don’t forget to “add the pretty” by using unexpected elements and unusual storage pieces. Antique sugar bowls and teacups can make great storage pieces for cotton balls and cotton swabs. A small vase can hold makeup brushes. And with so many beautiful soaps and lotions on the market, why limit yourself to grocery store brands? Buy beautiful mini bar soaps and small tubes of lotion and place them on a clear glass dish. They’ll look beautiful against that jewel-toned wall!
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20 Mar
The Yin and Yang of Appealing to Home Buyers
Posted On : 03 20th, 2017   By : Alice  |  Home Sellers, Staging and Prepping

When you’re selling your home, you want two things: to get the best price possible and to sell as quickly as possible. And while there’s an awful lot of advice out there as to what will make your house most appealing to buyers, a lot of that advice may seem contradictory. Well, we’re here to tell you that’s just not so. Read on to see how supposedly conflicting advice is actually complementary. . . it’s all part of the yin and yang of getting your house sold.

• THE PRICING / SPENDING DILEMMA
Respect and trust your agent’s advice. They’re experts. And they want your home to sell, too, because — aside from their genuine desire to help you — that’s how they earn their commission. So really listen to them and study the CMA (comparative market analysis) they prepare for you. If they’re suggesting a price for your home that is lower than you expected, don’t be offended. They’re not putting a price on your memories, your hard work, or your personal taste. They simply know what the market will bear. Remember: a house is a commodity — not a true product — and buyers ultimately decide what a home is “worth.”

On the other hand . . . even if the initial asking price is somewhat lower than you expected, you’re still going to have to spend some money to sell. It’s an inverse version of “you get what you pay for.” Outdated or quirky wall colors? Get them painted! Leaky faucets or shower heads? Fix it yourself or call a plumber. Kitchen wallpaper with a repeating motif of pots and pans? Pay someone to remove it professionally (please!). Whether the questionable home feature was somethin
g you loved or something you merely tolerated, potential buyers may not be so forgiving.

THE DEPERSONALIZE / WARM & WELCOME DILEMMA

Yes, all those cliches you’ve heard are true. Most potential buyers will have trouble “seeing” themselves living in your home if it’s chock full of family photos, sports team memorabilia (what if they favor a different team?), a melterand a few too many pieces of wall art with “cute” sayings. Trim, pare, and reduce as many of these items as you can . . . you’ll enjoy them all the more when you move into your new home.

On the other hand . . . you want potential buyers to feel that they’re walking into a well-loved home. Play to their senses so they form an emotional connection with your home. If seasonally appropriate, have a fire burning in the fireplace. Soft music and pleasant home fragrance (consider scented wax squares in an electric melter for safety’s sake) are welcome no matter what the time of year. And do be aware of smoke, pet, and food odors and do what you can to eliminate them.

• THE DECLUTTER & STORE / DECORATE & STAGE DILEMMA

Yes, you do need to declutter! It’s not enough that kitchen countertops be clean — they must also be empty of even such useful items as toasters and blenders. When you have a showing scheduled, it may be tempting to shove everything in the cla closetoset, but don’t. Potential buyers always check out a home’s closet space. (If you’re in a rush to tidy the house, shove everything under your beds!) In fact, investing in closet organizers is good idea. Most experts suggest that 25 percent of your closet space be unused to create a feeling of space. Your real estate agent will probably also advise that you rent storage space to temporarily rid the house of anything that makes rooms look crowded: heavy window treatments, too many chairs in the living room, boxes of old board games threatening to spill out of cabinets. Heed this advice, because it’s an expense well worth it. And, please — always keep personal items well out of sight! Those sweaty socks lying on the floor from your morning workout? Not so cool.

On the other hand . . . once you’ve stripped the house down to its basics, it may be time to add a few key touches. Yes, we’re talking staging. A pretty throw draped over a chair. An area rug in the entryway. A vase of cut flowers in the kitchen right next to the color brochures your agent provides. The dining room table set for a dinner. Just as you’d want to look your very best for a job interview, make sure your home looks sharp for its “interview.”

• THE OPEN IT UP / TAKE A HIKE DILEMMA

And finally, if you have to choose between dark and cozy and light and sunny, always choose the latter. Before a windowshowings, open houses, and broker tours, open blinds and curtains (and as mentioned earlier, seriously consider getting rid of heavy c
urtains to begin with). Turn on lamps and ceiling lights. On mild days, open a few windows and let a breeze blow through. Make the house feel accessible, welcoming, and friendly.

On the other hand . . . potential buyers are there to make friends with your house — not you. Always leave during showings. Always. Although this can be difficult at times — especially if you have small children — the effort is well worth it. If you’ve put time and money into decluttering and staging so that buyers can picture themselves in your home, it won’t matter a bit if you’re sitting there watching TV (or worse, looking at buyers looking at your house). Three little words: hit the road!

So that’s it. Consider these points, and you will achieve the tranquility of a successful sales experience!