RE/MAX Real Estate Blog

7 Easy Steps to Declutter Your Home Before You Sell


When it comes to preparing to sell your home, the best place to start is clearing the clutter. Clutter includes all of those things we have a tendency to save that we no longer use that just lie around or take over extra space in our homes. 

We're all guilty of saving things in our homes, garages and basements that we forget we even still have. However, the more you declutter, the cleaner and more spacious your home will appear to prospective buyers and the quicker it will sell. If just thinking about it makes you feel overwhelmed, here are a few easy steps to get you started.

  • Step 1: Set a schedule: You are much more likely to stick to a routine, whatever it may be, if you work on a schedule. In addition, this allows you to clean when you can minimize interruptions and maximize your time.
  • Step 2: Do one room at a time: If you can visualize what you want, you will be better able to achieve it. By setting goals for each room, you can note the things that need changing and work toward that goal one day at a time.
  • Step 3: Create a deadline to finish: When do you hope to have your home ready for showing? One week, two weeks or even a month? Depending on your schedule and the amount of clutter that you have, it may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before you can kick back and relax again. You may want to enlist the help of friends and family if you are on a short time schedule.
  • Step 4: Start small: The clutter in your home didn't appear overnight, and it won't disappear overnight either. If you start small, you will be less likely to get frustrated and give up midway through your cleanup.
  • Step 5: Categorize your clutter: When cleaning, it's important to categorize your items into groups. By separating the items that you want to keep, toss and donate, you will be able to move through your clutter quickly and efficiently.
  • Step 6: Letting go: A good rule of thumb for uncluttering your home is to get rid of anything that you haven't used within the past year. If it's still useful, consider donating it to a good cause or having a garage sale. Otherwise, toss it.
  • Step 7: Pack it up: Since you're planning on moving anyway, pack up those items that you can't part with but don't need to use any time soon. You can either put them in storage until your move or confine them to a designated space in your garage, basement or attic. Buyers will perceive that you're a family that is organized, ready to move and it is less to pack once you sell your home.

When you're ready to move, give us a call. We'll help you sell your current home and then find the one you want. 

5 Places You Need to Clean Before Showing Your Home


When you’re selling a home, the elbow grease you put in to keeping it clean and neat can come with an added bonus: a quicker sale.

Even though most homeowners wouldn’t dream of leaving dirty dishes in the kitchen sink or clothes on the bathroom floor when potential buyers will be coming by, there are five areas of the home that often get overlooked.

  1. The garage.To make your garage show well, get rid of everything you don’t need and organize the rest. Hang your tools neatly on a pegboard, arrange paint cans on shelves and suspend holiday decorations from racks attached to the ceiling. This helps the space shout “storage solutions!” to buyers who crave them. Give the space a thorough cleaning, and you’re ready to throw open the doors and entice garage-hungry buyers.
  1. The backyard.Don’t miss the opportunity to wow buyers who want an eye-catching, outdoor living space. Clean the barbecue and set the patio table for guests. If you have a hot tub, run it and leave the top off to allow guests to picture themselves taking a long, hot soak. If you do nothing else, give your backyard a thorough cleaning. Hose down the patio, mow the lawn, rake the leaves, replace dead plants and pick up pet droppings.
  2. The closets, cupboards and drawers.If you could be a fly on the wall during an open house, you’d be amazed at the number of people who open drawers and cupboards. Sure, some of them are just being nosey, but others want to see how much space they offer. Remove as many items as possible from closets, cupboards and drawers. Invest in shoe racks to keep the closet floors clutter-free. Use drawer dividers to separate items as needed. Clean your cupboard shelf surfaces, especially those in the kitchen, to remove dust and food residue. Fold linens and towels and stack them neatly in the linen closet.
  3. The laundry room. Soapy shelves, dryer sheets littering the floor and piles of dirty laundry on top of the dryer are all signs of a well-used laundry room. Unfortunately, these are turnoffs for buyers. Store the detergent and other cleaning supplies in bins or baskets lined up neatly on the shelf. Clean lint and dust off the walls and wash down the washer and dryer.
  4. The appliances.Most owners shine up the fronts of their appliances before listing their homes, but they forget about the interiors. Whether appliances are included in the sale or not, folks will open them to take a peek inside. If anything inside of your refrigerator looks more like a science project than yummy leftovers, throw it away. Wipe down the walls and clean the produce bins. Come to think of it, don’t forget the top of the refrigerator, too. A lot of dust can collect up there. Give the stove and oven the same treatment, wiping off accumulated grease and baked-on food.

House hunters know the minute they walk in the door if they want to see more of the home. A clean house gets them excited about taking a tour and possibly making an offer.

Top Questions To Ask About The Yard


Many first-time home buyers move from apartments or condos to a single-family home, and may have little  background in yard maintenance. If that describes you, here are some questions to help you learn about your target property and gauge what kind of care it might involve.

The homeowners, or their agents, will be a good source of much of this information. You can also turn to the home inspector, or a local gardening center or university extension programs that specialize in local gardening. We’re also happy to help, so ask away!

Questions for homeowners or listing agents:

  • What kind of trees are these, and what care do they require?
  • Are there watering restrictions in this area?
  • Are these flowers annuals or perennials?
  • How much direct light does the garden or lawn get in the winter/summer?
  • Are there other plants you’ve tried, that won’t grow here?
  • What can you tell me about the sprinkler/drip system?

Questions for home inspectors:

  • Are these trees or bushes planted far enough from the house that I don’t need to be concerned about falling branches or roots damaging the  roof, foundation or sidewalk?
  • Should I worry that the ivy along the exterior could damage the walls?
  • Is there good drainage in the yard, or will water pool in the middle of the lawn?

Questions for local gardening experts:

  • Will these trees get much bigger?
  • Will any plants take over and damage other plantings?
  • I have allergies: Can you recommend plants that produce less pollen?

We’re also here to help, so don’t hesitate to ask for guidance when you’re ready to buy a home.

Paint Pointers: Change Things Up With Color


Paint is a terrific way to update your surroundings in a relatively inexpensive way, and we’ve included some tips below on what different colors can help you achieve. However, if you’re selling your home, you probably should save the experiment for your new place, as bold paint choices aren’t usually recommended for home sales.

That’s when you can turn to one of our experienced RE/MAX Realty Affiliates agents for guidance. He or she can advise you on what buyers in your area want and what they don’t want. In many cases, the safest color for a home for sale is a neutral shade with the broadest mass appeal.

Updating a room? Want to bring some new energy into your home? A brush, a roller and a strategically chosen color can accomplish a lot.

There’s no scientific consensus on the psychological effects of different shades of paint, but plenty of interior designers – and Feng Shui practitioners – play by a few basic rules when decorating.

  • Green – It’s associated with relaxation and growth, and green can be used to create an atmosphere that promotes a calm state of mind. Cool shades of blue achieve a similar effect, especially when combined with design elements related to water.
  • Red – Want a call to action? Paint the room red! Symbolizing fire, energy – and some say hunger – red can be effectively toned up or down to achieve specific goals. For example, the darker shade of burgundy expresses richness and sophistication; a bright, apple red is associated with passion.
  • Yellow – It’s an open invitation. Yellow is considered disarming and joyous when it’s bright – and even when it’s muted it evokes an energetic response. Use this color in a reading room or office where your mind is stimulated.
  • Orange – Increase your creativity and action with orange. In its bright shades, orange can be a great mood-setter for a room where you expect company to gather and fun-loving times.
  • White – If you’re looking for a light, airy place to promote order and clear thinking, choose white. If it’s too stark, consider adding an accent wall of a muted earth tone to warm the room.
  • Black – Used well, black can be dramatic. It represents introspection and the mysterious, but for most people, it’s a challenging color. Unless you’re sure it’s what you want (or are willing to repaint if necessary) it’s best to stick to black for accent colors, especially in a white room, where it helps create a timeless, grounded feel.

Pre-Approval 101


If you're thinking about buying your first home (it's certainly a good time for it!), getting pre-approved for a mortgage should be the first item on your to-do list. So, what does that mean and why do you need it?

Pre-approval means that a mortgage lender has gone over your financials and can state, in writing, how much you're qualified to borrow. This is crucial information because it helps you define your price range, the amount of the down payment you'll need in that price range, and even the neighborhoods that are within your financial reach. There's nothing more heartbreaking for hopeful buyers than realizing the home they've set their hearts on is priced too high for their borrowing power. 

But these aren't the only advantages of pre-approval. Having that lender "seal of approval" makes you a more solid candidate in the eyes of sellers. And that can make the difference between moving into and saying goodbye to a home you love. 

More buyers today are competing with each other for properties. In many markets, there is a limited supply of homes for sale. The RE/MAX National Housing Report indicates that across the U.S. there's about a three-month supply. That means it would take just three months to sell every property that's currently on the market in the U.S. That's fairly shocking, considering a "normal" inventory is about six months' worth. In areas with low inventory, pre-approved buyers already have a leg up on the competition, because they're that much closer to being able to complete a sale.

In some cases you have to be pre-approved to even be able to put in a bid. That's typically the case if, for example, you're considering buying short sales and foreclosures. So take that important first step toward homeownership by getting pre-approved. Then give us a call so we can help you find your dream home. 

Smart Ways to Use Your Tax Refund at Home


Wondering what to do with your tax refund? Consider putting the money to good use by investing it in your home. Here are a few relatively inexpensive home improvement ideas most people don't think of right away - yet ones that may quickly boost the look and value of your house.

  • Update kitchen fixtures.You don't have to redo your whole kitchen to give it a new look. A new faucet, cabinet handles and knobs go a long way toward giving your kitchen an updated feel.
  • Freshen up the bathroom. Reglazing and re-caulking your bathtub can make it look like new. Replacing old, mildewy shower doors can make a huge difference, too. And if the toilet's seen better days, it might be worth picking up a new one.
  • Put in garage shelving.The new storage space will help you keep your garage tidy, and it's always a good selling point.
  • Replace the garage door.Replacing the garage door is an excellent investment that recoups more than 80% of the costs in a cost vs. value analysis.
  • Upgrade your front door. You'll see an even bigger gain when you replace the front door; the same analysis shows that with a new entry door you could recoup more than 90 percent of the cost. As long as you're working on the front door, update your doorbell and lighting. They're among the first things guests (and future potential buyers) notice as they enter your home.
  • Plant a tree.Adding foliage will enhance your property - plus, it's good for the environment. If you live in a drought-prone zone, you might want to consider investing in low-water xeriscaping instead.

If you're not necessarily looking to make home improvements, there's another great way to put your tax refund to use for your home: Make an extra mortgage payment. One additional payment a year can trim years from your loan.


We would be happy to discuss your specific situation to help you get the most house for your buck. Just give us a call!

Getting Pre-Approved


Getting approved for a loan prior to your home search is a smart move that offers several advantages. It gives you a benchmark for how much you can afford, helping you narrow down your home search from the start. It also allows you to be taken more seriously in the bidding stage, which can help tremendously in your negotiations, especially when dealing with distressed properties.

Getting pre-approved is simply a matter of your lender checking your financial situation and writing a letter stating that it would be willing to lend you a certain amount of money.

  • You’ll need to assemble several documents to start the preapproval process:
  • Federal tax returns for the last two years.
  • W2s (or 1099 statements) for the last two years.
  • Bank statements for the last two months.
  • Recent pay stubs and proof of any other income.
  • Proof of assets (stocks, mutual funds).
  • Information about your current debts.
  • Information about the source of your down payment, including gifts.

We would be happy to discuss your specific situation to help you get the most house for your buck. Just give us a call!

Home Improvements: What's a Good Investment?



You want to invest in your home – wisely. So how do you decide where to put your money?

Improvement projects don’t automatically increase the value of a home – factors like the state of the neighborhood can be more important to your bottom line. But knowing which improvements give a higher return can help boost your home’s value and save you time and money.

Here’s a quick look at how you could prioritize projects around your home.

Address the small stuff

A home plagued with many minor issues is usually considered less desirable and harder to sell. Those dripping faucets, running toilets, torn vinyl flooring and damaged carpet instantly make a bad impression on buyers. Put your money into those first and use what’s left to make larger improvements.

Boost curb appeal

It comes as no surprise that exterior home improvement projects rank as the most cost effective, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2014 Cost vs. Value Report. It ranks projects based on their cost and how much money they recoup after selling.

  • Replace a wooden front door with a steel security door – 96%
  • Add a new deck – 87%
  • Replace siding – 78%
  • Install a new garage door – 78%
  • Install new windows – 78%

Consider interior investments 

  • Convert an attic to a bed and bath – 84%
  • Minor kitchen remodel – 82%
  • Basement renovation – 77%

If you’re thinking about selling your home, give us a call. We know your neighborhood, and can guide you toward projects that will make the home buyer-ready and also give you the biggest bang for your home-improvement buck.

We’re happy to answer all of your real estate questions. Just give us a call!

How Much Does Your Agent Need to Know About Your Finances?


If you’re concerned about detailing your finances to your real estate agent, rest assured that there’s plenty of privacy in the client/agent relationship.

Contact us if you have questions about buying a house or selling one. Your RE/MAX Realty Affiliates real estate professional can guide you – with discretion – toward your next home.

Real estate agents don’t need, or expect, you to disclose everything about your money. That said, we must understand your overall situation to help guide you to a home that’s within your budget.

An agent’s job is to negotiate a home purchase or sale on your behalf, keep the transaction on track and help you navigate real estate paperwork. Our strength lies in understanding home values, and property and neighborhood features. Home financing is an altogether separate story from a home search or sale; therefore, agents usually don’t delve into your finances to crunch the numbers.

Leave it to the lender

Agents are happy to let your mortgage lender handle the financial questioning. A loan officer at a bank or mortgage company calculates your maximum purchasing power and your monthly payments based on your loan application, financial documentation and debt-to-income ratio.

Be prepared to supply your lender with your last two years of tax returns, recent pay stubs, bank statements and investment accounts. Agents then present a lender-generated preapproval letter to listing agents, indicating the amount you’re able to borrow.

We’re happy to answer all of your real estate questions. Just give us a call!

5 Advantages of Buying a Fixer-Upper


We all have fantasy images of our dream house. These images may be hard to let go of when buying a home, especially when all you can afford are homes that, well, let’s just say need some TLC.

That’s when it’s important to keep in mind that the fixer-upper you’re looking at could have the potential to someday become your dream house. It’s just one advantage fixer-uppers can offer. Below are a few others.

  1. Lower price
    A home that needs work likely will be less expensive. Such properties rarely list at full market price.
  2. Fewer competitors
    Many buyers are unwilling or unable to put a lot of work into a house. This creates the perfect opportunity to snatch a bargain – a major advantage welcomed in particular by first-time homebuyers or house hunters competing for homes in areas with low inventory.
  3. A blank canvas
    With a fixer-upper, you call the shots as to how the house will eventually look. You don’t have to settle for a home that reflects someone else’s taste. Plus, if you do some of the work yourself, you’re automatically awarded bragging rights.
  4. Quicker equity
    If you renovate the home shortly after you buy it, you may increase its value quickly. Equity provides many financial benefits, from raising your personal net worth to giving you an opportunity to refinance sooner, if needed.
  5. The possibility of renovation loans
    Ask your lender about the Federal Housing Administration’s 203k loans that provide homeowners with funds specifically for fixer-upper projects. The loans, the 203k Streamlined Mortgage and the full 203k Mortgage, are available for homes with needs ranging from cosmetic improvements to extensive structural work.

We’re also here to help, so don’t hesitate to ask for guidance when you’re ready to buy. Or sell.

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