Archive for Guidance Realty Homes

Improvements That Increase Your Home’s Value

Asian Chinese little girl playing in toy house
This year, if you’re looking to increase the value of your home but are unsure what home improvements to make, think curb appeal.
According to a recent report from Remodeling magazine, curb appeal projects, such as changes to windows, siding, and doors, lead to a higher return on investment (ROI) than interior improvements.
Over the past 30 years, Remodeling has compared the average cost of improvement projects with their value at resale, based on the experience of real estate professionals. The magazine’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report supports the generally held opinion that today’s home buyers, while still enthusiastic about the bells and whistles, want to ensure their homes are structurally sound with all systems functioning efficiently.
Remodeling’s projects include a basement remodel, an entry door that was replaced with 20 gauge steel, and the addition of stone veneer. All of the 29 projects tracked returned on average 64.3 cents per dollar spent.
Among the trends, the higher return of curb appeal projects and projects that required the replacing of windows, doors, etc. Replacement projects generally scored higher than remodeling projects; the ROI of replacement was 74% and of remodels was 63.7%.
As in the previous year, adding loose fill insulation to the attic returned 107.7% and was the only project on the list whose value exceeded its cost. Steel door replacement and addition of stone veneer also paid off, at 90.7% and 89.4% respectively. Interestingly, these are among the cheapest projects, although their costs were up over the previous year.
Those who want to tackle an interior project might do well to consider a basement remodel, providing it’s done well; a high-end basement remodel was perceived as high value, returning 7.4% more than the same project last year, while a mid-range basement remodeling project only increased in value by 3.3% over the previous year.
Something to consider when you’re planning your next home improvement project.
 

Fall Remodeling? A Quick Guide

Interior Kitchen vibrant colors
As temperatures cool down, and we prepare for a season of shorter, darker days, it’s time to think about the inside of your home – how to make it as glorious on gloomy days as it was during the brilliant sunshine of summer. Oh good: Projects!
But wait. Don’t let the excitement of improving your home get in the way of proper planning. Rushing your project list can lead to unnecessary spending and less-than-thrilling final results. Here’s what you need to consider before picking up a hammer or swiping a credit card:
  • Decide on your budget and schedule. You’ll need to know exactly how much money you have available for your remodeling projects and how much time you want to dedicate to it. You absolutely need to have these figures decided before starting anything!
  • Make a list of what needs to be done and what would be nice to have done. It may turn out that your budget and schedule can only accommodate half your needs, or maybe you’ll find you have the time and money to cover your needs and at least one “want.” Look at your list, prioritize and decide which projects to tackle now.
  • Don’t let Pinterest get the better of you; just like a celebrity hairstyle, what looks good in a photo might not work for your space (or your head.) Be realistic about what can be achieved in your home, based on its current “bones” and your budget.
  • For financial reasons, it can be tempting to try to Do It Yourself. But unless you’re extra handy, turn to the experts to make your project dreams come true. An experienced, reputable contractor will find any flaws in your plans, make suggestions and produce a final product that not only looks good, but is secure, safe and strong.

Home Shopping? Ask the Right Questions

Family In Hallway Returning Home Together
When shopping for a new home, it’s easy to fall in love. You can find yourself dazzled by the sprawling backyard, trendy kitchen, or sky-high ceilings, and want to make an offer right then and there.
But it’s important to take a step back and take the time to evaluate the perhaps less-exciting details. These often overlooked details may ultimately lead to significant, costly issues. Here’s what to look for and how to get beyond the WOWs:
  • Windows: Does every window open? For emergency reasons, every room needs a window that can be opened. Do they close and lock securely? Is the glass intact? Is there a tight thermal seal (which is important to regulate temperature)?
  • Flooring: Look for cracks, stains, holes, and warping. Ask if there’s another layer of flooring under carpet, tile, or laminate. Is the floor level? If not, it might be an indication of water, or worse, structural problems.
  • Basement: That beautifully finished basement could be hiding a plethora of problems, from leaks to mold to holes to critter infestations. Use a powerful flashlight to carefully examine corners and walls and look behind and under finishings.
  • Roof: Roof replacements are costly. Find out when the roof was last addressed, and whether it was a patch or a replacement. Look for signs of damage from the street.
  • Neighborhood: Look beyond the obvious into the details: Is local traffic a nightmare in rush hour? Is there reliable transit nearby? Is the home near green space, schools, and recreational facilities?
  • Parking: If the house doesn’t have a garage, will the driveway accommodate your vehicles? Is there good on-street visitors’ parking?
Even after you’ve checked the details, make your offer contingent on a home inspection. A reliable home inspector can dig deeper into the details. Isn’t your peace of mind worth it?

Landscape for Summer Outdoor Fun and Profit

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It’s hard to put a value on landscaping projects. A study by realestate.com indicates the return on investment for landscaping and/or man-made garden architecture can be as high as 150%, while others suggest a more reasonable 15% to 20%.

The bottom line, however, is that everyone wants a front yard with curb appeal and a secondary living space in the back. And while it may increase the value of your home, it also improves your quality of life. Particularly for those in cooler climates, summer is short, and a landscaped outdoors can be, well, priceless.

That said, landscaping can prove a very costly proposition indeed. The generally recommended figure for a landscaping budget is 10% of your home’s value, although that varies according to your local area. The majority of projects reported in a study of landscaping by houzz.com cost from $1,000 to $5,000 for minor planting or mulching, and $50,000 or more for “complete overhauls.”

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Remember, time is also money, and even small projects can take longer than you think. According to the Houzz survey, smaller projects averaged approximately three months of planning and three months of work to complete. Having spent time and money on landscaping, there are ways to reduce future costs:

  • Lawn care alone can cost upwards of $100 a month, so do as much of the maintenance as possible yourself.
  • Construct decks, stairs, and pergolas of maintenance-free materials such as composite decking.
  • Artificial grass can be a big expense up front, but it saves on maintenance (mainly the cost of water) in the long run.
  • Consider using recycled bricks instead of expensive rocks in your landscaping plan.
  • Perennials are a great choice, as they reduce the need to buy new plants every year.
  • Edible gardens can be lovely as well as a good source of delicious vegetables and herbs.

Now, step away from the lawn mower, take a break, and enjoy your newly landscaped property.

Should You Sell Your Home Yourself?

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Despite the prevalence of online tools that can facilitate DIY sales, fewer Americans are choosing to pursue the approach of “for sale by owner” when it comes to selling their homes. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), “for sale by owner” sales represented only 8 percent of the total 5.25 million real estate transactions in 2015. Why? An economy in recovery, a challenging real estate market, and strict laws and regulations could all have Americans looking for security and peace of mind when it comes to selling their homes.
The “for sale by owner” approach does have perks. Private sellers can set their own price. They deal with the buyer directly. In the end, they keep the proceeds instead of paying a commission to a Realtor. However, those very same perks have significant drawbacks.
Setting your own price means missing out on the expertise that a real estate agent has when it comes to pricing a home to sell and encouraging multiple bids. You don’t have the know-how that comes with dozens of successful sales. It’s easier for buyers (and their agents) to undercut private sellers, and it’s difficult for sellers to remain neutral about their own property.
Private sellers also miss out on the strategies and industry knowledge provided by an experienced agent. A real estate agent knows how to market a home properly, how to work with other agents, and how to fulfill the obligations and respect the laws of the real estate industry. It’s very easy for private sellers to misstep, costing themselves time and money.
As a seller, you want every advantage available. That means having an agent by your side. You can find an authorized Guidance Realty Homes agent to help sell your home and advise you on selling your home at GuidanceRealtyHomes.com.

Quick Fixes for a Great Looking Kitchen

Happy young girl with her mother making dough
The kitchen is the heart of the home. The way to the heart is through the stomach. Cooking with love feeds the soul. From countless catchy phrases, to our own experiences at home, it’s clear that the kitchen is one of the single most important rooms we’ll find ourselves in. With this in mind, remember that it’s important to make sure your kitchen is inviting, warming, and inspiring to those who enter.
Here are some great ways you can help sell your home by reaching the hearts of your prospective buyers through one of their most vulnerable spots: their stomachs!
Cabinet Doors
Damaged or dirty cabinet doors are a big turn-off for buyers. But that’s easy to fix. Most cabinetry can be re-painted after cleaning it and applying a coat of primer. Just check that the materials can take paint; otherwise, you’ll need to give some special preparation to the cabinet doors first. Alternatively, you can just replace the doors. There are companies that provide doors to fit existing kitchen cabinets.
Hardware
Another way to fix up cabinets is to replace the hardware, perhaps swapping out-of-date fixtures for sleek, modern ones. This is a very cheap and easy way to update your kitchen.
Kitchen with bar stools at counter
Sinks and faucets
Try trading your faucets for more modern designs and replacing a damaged or very dirty sink.
Appliances
People love modern stainless steel appliances. It could be a good investment to upgrade your appliances to the most modern designs to give your kitchen that ‘wow’ factor.
Backsplash
An easy way to update your kitchen is to replace the backsplash. Subway or mosaic tiles or a sheet of stainless steel are very popular choices right now, and this quick change can really lift the feel of the room.
Flooring
Old, tired linoleum floors will turn off buyers. Try updating with tough laminate flooring or some tiles that tie into the designs choices you’ve made for rest of your kitchen.
Paint
Change the décor easily by repainting in fresh, modern, neutral colors. A coat of paint can be a very cheap way to refresh the look of your kitchen.
Clutter
Just by simply removing the clutter that accumulates on your countertops, you can freshen up your kitchen. Throw out things you don’t need; put away others you use only occasionally.

How to Stage Your Home To Sell Quickly At Top Prices

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“Home staging” was coined by Barb Schwarz back in the early ’70s, and the concept has become well known as “house fluffing,” “dressing to sell,” and “home presentation”.

The focus of staging is to make a home more marketable by creating the most appealing home to the greatest number of prospective buyers. It should be impersonal enough not to infringe on a buyer’s own sense of style.

Decorating is optional. Staging, on the other hand, is essential – that is if you want to sell your house for the most possible money in the shortest amount of time.

You can make at least 3 percent more with home staging. In some areas, that number can go as high as 50 percent! Statistics also show that homes that had not sold in an average of four and a half months after listing sold within a week of being staged by a professional. Homes staged before listing were under contract more than twice as fast as comparable homes that had not been professionally staged. Following the techniques in this guide will maximize your equity while reducing the market time for your home.

  1. Be sure that your home is staged before you or your Realtor take photos for the web. Over 70% of all new apartment/home searches are started on the Internet. It is imperative that the property looks good in the photos so that it can attract as many people as possible to see the real thing.
  1. You should not have one person look at your house until it has been staged completely. It should not go through the broker walkthrough, open houses, or anything. Stage first!
  1. Home staging works for all properties regardless of the price point because home staging is about preparing your home for a faster and more profitable sale and marketing your property to the most potential buyers for its target audience. A home stager who has staged homes ranging from $100,000 to $10 million has had the same result — the homes sell faster and for top dollar compared with the competitors within their price range.
  1. Do not offer money towards painting or installing new carpeting. Remember, if you are not willing to do it, your buyer is not likely to either.
  1. You need to be willing to change paint colors. Paint is very inexpensive and gives you a big bang for your buck. Although a bit labor-intensive, painting is not expensive and gives your home a new, fresh, clean look. There are certain universally accepted colors and these should be used when repainting your home. Yellow or shades of gold are warm and inviting. You should also accent with yellow. The human eye is more sensitive to yellowish-green light. Green or blue in the bedrooms are great colors because they are restful.
  1. It is essential during the selling process to have the toys limited to one area and minimized to a few containers. Not everybody has children and most do not care about the new and amazing things your new baby can do. You just cannot make a home with children turn into a children’s house and expect it to sell.
  1. Recognize that your major competition comes from newer homes. People will take a newer home over an older home if all else is equal. That is why it is essential to give an older home something that puts it above the rest.
  1. Don’t forget about the entryway. If you have a cute little plaque or shingle with your family name on it, remove it. Even if it is just on the mailbox. You can always put it up again once you move. It’s also a good idea to buy a new, plush doormat. This is something else you can take with you once you move.
  1. If you have dark cabinets, a light-colored handle or something shiny will enhance them. If you have light cabinets, you can give them the sleek look by using handles of the same color so that they are hardly noticeable, or using brushed silver handles. With light wood, you can also use darker handles, gold, bronze, or even colors.
  1. Sometimes renovations are needed. However, here are five that you should avoid:
    • Adding high end appliances to a modest home
    • Adding hand painted tiles to the bath or kitchen
    • Adding a central vacuum
    • Adding air conditioning (unless you are in an area that all homes have it)
    • Replacing windows with newer models
  1. Be sure to check with your city or county building inspector before beginning a new project. Many departments require permits, even for things as simple as changing a dishwasher.
  1. Everything in its place is a good motto to remember. Always find appropriate places to store your items. Litter boxes in the kitchen and trashcans in the pantry are just two examples of inappropriate placement.
  1. Do not have any cleaning products visible. You want the buyer to think that the house cleans itself. You do not want to remind buyers that there will be work to do in this house, so put away laundry baskets and dish drainers as well!
  1. Selling an empty home can be a huge mistake. Buying or renting furniture is especially vital in an empty home. Empty homes do not show well and can sit on the market for months until a buyer with a good visual imagination comes along, or until the seller drops the price so low that the home is a steal.
  1. Your refrigerator will need to be cleaned, even if you are not leaving it. People will still look inside and a dirty refrigerator will turn them off. If you are taking it with you, you may as well clean it now. If you are leaving it, then it is imperative to have it sparkling.

Common Mistakes You Can Easily Miss When Selling Your Home

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Everybody has that insider insight when it comes to tips and tricks to sell your house. But, what about what NOT to do? It’s easy to forget the little things that you’ve grown accustomed to since you’ve been living in your home. Once it’s time to sell, you’ll want to make sure that you address all the issues that might get in the way of your greatest opportunity!

Guidance Realty Homes wants to share some great insight we’ve learned about the number one issues that can be easily fixed to make sure your home sells well. Here’s a list of the main elements that could lose you that sale.

Man fixing pipe under kitchen sink

Poor Curb Appeal
Buyers won’t even go inside your home if the outside looks unappealing. Clean up your front yard by tidying plants and pulling up weeds. Make sure the outside of your home looks well cared-for by painting the trim, mowing the lawn, and placing attractive potted plants by the door.
Unpleasant Odors
You may not even notice bad odors, but buyers surely will. Smoking and pets are the prime causes, so smoke outside while you are selling your house and consider what to do with your animals. Allow the house to air out thoroughly before viewings – don’t just try to mask the odor with another scent.
Loud and Scary Pets
Apart from the odor of some animals, a big dog or noisy bird can be off-putting to some buyers. So keep your dog away when you have viewings so your potential buyers aren’t distracted or, worse, scared. Some owners may even like a big, loud dog, but not everyone will so consider who is coming to view your home before locking Spot out back or having a friend care for them.

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Signs of Damp
Problems with damp are a big turnoff to many buyers. Make sure your basement doesn’t smell damp and that there are no signs of damp on the walls. It’s much better to fix problems now than to wait until buyers point them out to you.
Dirt and Grime
Although dirt is usually only cosmetic, it deters buyers, who will start to think the house isn’t well cared for. Make sure your kitchen and bathroom, in particular, are clean.
Bad Décor
Although your home’s décor shouldn’t matter, to many buyers it does. That’s because many want a house they can move into right away. So, replace any tired or out-of-date carpets or wallpapers with a more neutral, modern scheme.
Wrong Price
If your house it too expensive compared to similar properties on the market, you’ll turn away viewers. Take your agent’s advice when it comes to setting a price for your home.

What A Beautiful Outside Can Do For Your Home’s Inside

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Creating an inviting landscape not only ensures a positive first impression with buyers, but may also increase your home’s value and lead to a quicker sale. You don’t have to spend a lot to make big improvements in your home’s curb appeal. Keeping your lawn manicured – mowed and edged – and trimming bushes and trees is an inexpensive way to make a positive impression on buyers. You’ll also want to remove any dead or diseased plants and ensure beds are weeded and freshly mulched.

Before beginning any landscape project, make a plan. And if you live in a neighborhood with restrictive covenants requiring approval by a landscape committee, be sure to follow proper procedures to avoid spending money on projects that you may be forced to undo later. A project plan will also help ensure that you make wise choices and stay within your budget.
Use color and depth to create visual interest, and select a variety of plants that bloom or change color throughout the year so your yard will be attractive regardless of the season. If your yard is open to your neighbors’ yards, a street, or public areas, consider screening to create a more private space. This can be accomplished naturally with evergreen trees and bushes, or with an attractive fence.

Sometimes what you remove from a yard can be as important as what you put in. If the front of your home is obscured by overgrown trees or bushes, remove them or trim them back to help buyers get a clear view of your home. Remember that the goal is to create a welcoming first impression that says, “Come in!”

Trends in Landscaping:

  • Low maintenance vegetation: less lawn to mow, helps keep weeds in check.
  • More trees: enhance beauty and provide shade.
  • Decks, patios, and terraces: an outdoor living space for entertaining and relaxing.
  • Outdoor lighting: provides enticing views of your home and landscaping at night.
  • Irrigation system: costs more but simplifies lawn care and is attractive to buyers.

To Buy Or Not To Buy?

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The decision to buy a home is a complex one with many factors to consider, some of which may differ from person to person. But whether you’re a recent graduate, newlywed, single or single again, married with children, or an empty nester, there are common factors we can all take into account. Don’t just roll those dice!

There are many benefits to home ownership. For starters, it’s a great long-term investment. Although you’re unlikely to see significant appreciation in price in the short term, an increase in value is almost certain over time. But remember: real estate is not a “liquid” investment. Should you find yourself wanting or needing to sell, it could take some time to find a buyer and close the sale, depending on market conditions at the time. Owning a home also offers a number of tax benefits. Interest and closing costs paid on a mortgage as well as property taxes are deductible if you itemize deductions on your federal income tax return.

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In addition to financial benefits, home ownership offers other advantages. Many people experience a sense of pride and satisfaction in owning their own home. For some, it gives a sense of stability, of “setting down roots.” And when you own your home, you enjoy the freedom to improve your property according to your own wants and needs, which usually isn’t possible when renting.

With the great power of ownership, however, comes great responsibility. Maintenance and upkeep tasks that you may be accustomed to your landlord handling will fall squarely on your shoulders. In addition to the time it takes to care for your home properly, you’re likely to encounter both routine and unexpected expenses. It is important to anticipate these occurrences and prepare for them.

Woman fixing sink faucet

How do you know if you’re ready to buy a home? Do your research. Make a plan. Prepare a budget. Here are some questions to consider in making your decision:

1. How long do you plan to live in your next home? Does your job or lifestyle dictate frequent moves? Remember that home values increase more over the long term, so if you’re moving more often than every few years, you may not see significant gain when you sell your home. You will, however, gain equity in your home as you pay down your mortgage, while rent money is gone for good.

2. How healthy are your finances? Do you have money for a down payment, closing costs, insurance, taxes, and a buffer for unexpected expenses that can occur when you own a home? If not, talk with a mortgage lender to learn what steps you should take to put yourself in the best situation to purchase a home. You can use Guidance Realty Homes’ free online tools to help make your decision, including our Rent or Buy Calculator, our Affordability Calculator, or our home valuation tool.

3. What is the real estate market doing in your area? How are mortgage rates? What kinds of homes are available in your price range? Are they located in areas that suit your lifestyle? If you are not able to buy a home as nice as the ones you could rent, consider your willingness to live in a less desirable environment for a time. The equity you’ll gain can help you upgrade sooner than you could if you continued renting and tried to save the additional money. A licensed Guidance Realty Homes agent can provide you with valuable market information and help you evaluate your options.