Four Cheap Ways to Spruce Up Your Home for Sale

Most home sellers are eager to garner the highest possible price when they put their home on the market. To maximize profits, your home must be in the best possible condition so that buyers compare it favorably to a model home. At the same time, you should minimize the amount of cash you spend. A free and essential first step is to pack personal items and eliminate clutter.
4 Cheap Ways to Spruce up your Home for Sale

1. Freshen Up Paint, Front Door and Hardware
One of the simplest and least expensive ways to give an instant lift to any room is to apply a coat of paint. Even if you choose not to paint your whole house, touch up the trim near your front door and windows, since buyers will notice those spaces first.

You may even want to replace your front door or at least paint it, since buyers stand outside waiting in that spot while their Realtor fetches the keys from the lockbox. First impressions have a lasting psychological impact. While you’re at it, look at your front doorknob. Shiny new knobs outside and inside can make your whole house seem newer, especially if you opt to switch your brass knobs for brushed nickel or a more contemporary shape. Replacing your switch plates and outlet covers so that they’re all fresh, clean and matching can also have a surprisingly big impact.

2. Let There Be Light
Buyers want homes to be light and bright, so spend a little money to add lamps if you can do so without cluttering your spaces. If more table and pole lamps aren’t an option, buy brighter lightbulbs up to the maximum recommended voltage.

If you have a stale-looking brass light fixture over your dining table, spend a couple hundred dollars or less at a hardware store or Target for a more modern fixture. If you have old ceiling fans that look rusty or outdated, replace those, too.

Clean your windows to make sure the maximum light shines through, and remove drapes and blinds if you can or replace them with lighter window treatments.

When your home is being shown, make sure all the lights are on and all the blinds are up.

3. Focus on the Bathrooms and Kitchen
Home buyers pay a lot of attention to whether the kitchen and bathrooms have been updated. If you can’t afford to replace your bathroom’s tile floor but it looks old, you can dig out the old grout and replace it to make your floor look nearly new. Caulk your shower and tub, too, since dirty or old-looking caulk reminds buyers that the bathroom has been used.

If your bathtub is scratched or chipped, you can have it reglazed for less than $500.

If you’re handy, you can replace your bathroom and kitchen faucets yourself, but you may need to hire a plumber for this quick fix. A new faucet can give an updated look to your kitchen without requiring you to spend much money.

4. Dig In for Curb Appeal
No matter what season it is when you’re selling, take the time to pull weeds, mulch and add colorful plants or flowers (or bushes with berries in winter) to impress potential buyers from the moment they see your property. While you’re outside, patch your concrete sidewalk and steps and power-wash your deck or patio.

While you’ll definitely need to spend time on these simple fixes, they all cost less than $500. You’ll get back your time with a quick sale and recover your money with a higher sales price.

This article was originally written by Michele Lerner on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

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Renovating This Fall? Here’s What You Need to Know

More than half (52 percent) of homeowners plan to make a home improvement or addition this fall, according to the Zillow Digs Fall Home Improvement Trend and Spending Survey. Are you part of the majority? Here’s what you need to know.

How to get started

More than one-third of homeowners find inspiration online, and you should, too. Zillow Digs makes it easy. Users can browse more than 90,000 photos, share ideas, get estimated costs for kitchens and bathrooms, and even connect (via iPad or on the Web) with local home improvement professionals — for free.

What’s hot this fall

Many homeowners will be reworking their office areas (they want quiet, clean spaces that can be used for dual purposes — think an office that doubles as a guest bedroom), and as we transition from outdoor to indoor activities, they plan to spruce up their kids’ playrooms. According to members of the recently formed Zillow Digs Board of Designers, families want play spaces that keep the kids occupied as well as nearby areas for adults to stay active, such as a workout area or pool table.

Who to hire to do the job

Get bids from your top three contenders, and toss out the lowest bid. When a contractor comes in several thousand dollars cheaper than the next guy, there’s generally a reason for that. The contractor may use cheaper materials, or may start the project only to notify you down the line that it’s more extensive than originally assumed — and therefore more expensive. Ouch. Once you’ve selected your top contending contractors, see if they have Zillow Digs profiles so you can check out photos of their previous projects and get an idea of their style and quality of work.

Remodeling returns are up

After years of declining return on investment, remodeling has turned the corner this year. Owners nationwide are recouping 61 percent of remodeling costs when they sell, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2013 Cost vs. Value Report. The best return is on smaller projects and practical replacement jobs.

This article was originally published by Vera Gibbons on Zillow Blog. See the original article here

Want to Sell Your House This Fall?

Fall often signals a slowing down in the real estate business. While steady home sales are expected to continue through the year, many regions will likely slowly shift from a sellers market to a moderate or buyers market, meaning if you’re selling, you’ll want to do everything you can to make you house look its best.
Want to sell your house this fall?
As you set out to put your home on the market and add your home sale to this year’s statistics, keep the following fall tips in mind:

  • Curb appeal. A home shopper’s first impression is everything. The moment they pull up to the curb, they’ll make an instant judgment. You’ll want to be sure it’s positive. You can begin by making sure leaves are raked, and your shrubs and bushes are pruned.
  • Make sure your walkway is free of leaves and debris.
  • Trim trees so unexpected winds don’t knock down branches that could damage your home or hurt anybody.
  • If it is rainy, be sure you have a good doormat so all potential homebuyers can wipe their feet and not traipse mud and water through the house.
  • Make sure gutters are free from debris and are draining properly.
  • If you already have snow, be sure you clear the front walkway to the door. And if you have stairs leading to your front door, make sure they’re not icy.
  • If you live in a warm region, plant a few fall annuals to give your exterior some instant color.
  • Be sure your lawn is mown and fertilized.
  • Make sure your door area is clear from bicycles and toys.
  • Hang a festive fall wreath on your door.
  • Fall is an excellent time to paint your house if you live in a warm region. If your house’s exterior looks drab and you’re in a buyer’s market, you may want to consider painting to raise your home’s appeal.
  • Keep the house cozy. Entering a cold house could leave an unfavorable impression. Instead, set the thermostat at a comfortable temperature.
  • Place a nice fall centerpiece on your dining room table.
  • Decorate the house with festive fall embellishments and bright orange pumpkins.
  • Make sure the back yard isn’t covered in leaves. Also, try to make it look as child-friendly as possible so potential buyers can envision what the space will look like for their own children.
  • If you live in a warm region and still use the patio in the fall, make sure your patio area is inviting and attractive. Clean your patio furniture and arrange it keeping the views from indoors in mind. Spruce up the area with a few container plantings.
  • Windows. Make sure your windows are sparkling clean, especially if you live in a sunny region that doesn’t get much fall rain.
  • Walls. If you’re thinking about touching up the paint on your walls before you put your home on the market, keep the colors neutral and light. A light yellow or beige will make the room feel cooler than a brick red or dark taupe.
  • Let the light in. Open blinds and curtains so plenty of light illuminates the home’s interior.
  • And, just like any other time of year, get rid of the clutter throughout your house. And get rid of any offensive odors that may come from cigarette smoke or pets.

Finally, if you’re selling your home during the fall, there’s nothing more inviting to a potential home buyer than the aroma of a freshly baked, cinnamon-laced apple pie!

Information originally published by Michele Dawson on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

Kitchen Face-Lifts for All Budgets

Your cupboards are tired, your countertops are chipped and your appliances were purchased during the Carter administration. There’s no doubt your kitchen could use a makeover, but that won’t come cheap.

Painting or resurfacing cabinets is an affordable way to update the look of any kitchen.

Painting or resurfacing cabinets is an affordable way to update the look of any kitchen.

According to the 2013 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, the average upscale kitchen remodel now rings up at $107,406. Even a “mid-range” major kitchen update averages $53,931.

For those who don’t have a cool 100 grand to spend on a kitchen redo, there’s hope. Here’s how kitchen designers from across the country would breathe new life into a tired kitchen with considerably less cash.

If you have $20,000

Mark Brady, owner of Mark Brady Kitchens in Simsbury, CT, says you can stretch your budget if you plan wisely. He’d begin by painting and refacing cabinets. New lighting, including under cabinet lights, will make a big impact. A new sink, backsplash and an appliance or two can help revive a dated kitchen. Adding a kitchen island or opening a wall to another room for light and connection might also be on Brady’s to-do list.

“I’d do any of the above, but money probably wouldn’t allow it all to be done,” he said.

If you have $10,000

Jennifer Visosky, principal designer for Grace Home Design in Jackson, WY, is enthusiastic about the big design changes you can make for $10,000.

She advises focusing on a new backsplash, countertops and lighting. Cabinet faces can be painted, and interesting cabinet pulls can be purchased. Want to really shake up the look of the room? Visosky suggests hanging some wallpaper.

If you have $5,000

Amy Hart Key, business manager for Reico Kitchen and Bath in Charlottesville, VA, says $5,000 could go a long way toward updating your countertops and sink. If you’re happy with those aspects of your kitchen, she suggests updating some or all of your appliances.

If you have $1,000

A small budget, well spent, can still have a big impact.

“I recommend that you make the cabinets functional by adding rollouts to your existing cabinets,” said Robin Rigby Fisher, a certified master of kitchen and bath designer in Portland, OR. “The Container Store sells these at a very good price. You want to make the kitchen functional first.”

Fisher also suggests adding new cabinet hardware. Just be sure to measure the distance between the existing drilled holes and buy the same size replacement pulls.

Absolutely no cash to spend on a kitchen redo? Don’t despair. Brady reminds homeowners: “De-junking is free, and a good cleaning goes a long way, too.”

Article originally published by Mary Boone on Zillow Blog. To see the original article, click here.

Mary Boone is a freelance writer for Zillow Blog. Read more from her here.

How to Choose the Right Neighborhood

Any good Realtor will share the mantra, “location, location, location” when talking to you about what attributes help a home hold onto its value and potentially appreciate. However, no one neighborhood is right every buyer. Determining which community meets your needs and your budget requires research and some soul searching about your priorities.

How to Choose the Right Neighborhood

Establish your priorities

Before a Realtor can begin to help you look for a home, you (and your spouse or partner) should develop a list of needs and wants. For some buyers, the home itself is of paramount importance: they want a particular style or size or a big yard. For others, the neighborhood is more important. If you have an unlimited budget you may be able to find the perfect home in a desirable neighborhood, but since most buyers need to meet a budget, you may have to compromise on either the house or the community.

Next, think about what amenities you’d like to have nearby or whether you’d like to live in a rural area without neighbors. If you like to swim or golf or play soccer or your kids do, facilities for those sports should be on the list of things you look for in a neighborhood. On the other hand, you could be more focused on easy access to cultural amenities or nightlife. Think about whether you’d like to live in place where residents interact often or whether you prefer to have cordial but distant relationships with your neighbors.

Schools matter – even if you don’t have kids
If you have children or are planning to have a family in the future, buying a home in a community with good schools is already likely to be a priority. Even if you don’t have children to educate, though, you should be aware that homes located in a good school district typically hold onto their value better than those in less highly regarded districts. In fact, Redfin real estate company completed a nationwide study in 2013 that shows that Americans pay $50 per square foot more for homes served by a top-ranked school than for homes served by an average-ranked school.

The Fair Housing Act prevents Realtors from providing information directly to buyers about specific schools, but they can share links to websites that rate schools and to local school systems.

Transportation issues
A major consideration for most home buyers when it comes to choosing where to live is how they’ll get to the places they go regularly. In communities near or in a city, prime locations are typically close to public transit options. Many suburban communities are being designed around a “town center” concept so that residents can walk to restaurants, shops and entertainment and sometimes even to work.

When you’re looking for a home, you should consider how convenient it is for you and for future potential buyers when you’re ready to sell.

Homes that are located close to a subway station or to popular commuter routes are often more costly than those that require a longer commute to a city center, so ask your Realtor to show you areas that may have similar attributes but are less expensive. Alternatively, if living in a particular neighborhood is your number one priority, you may need to compromise in terms of the size home you buy or its condition.

How to compare communities
It’s important to visit a prospective neighborhood at various times of day and on both weekdays and weekends to get a feel for what it would be like to live there. Look at how the homes are maintained to see if they meet your standards. Try to talk to residents about what the community is like and test out your commute at the time of day you typically go to work.

Finding the right neighborhood takes some legwork, but it’s important to choose a place to live where you want to come home every night.

This article was originally published by Michele Lerner on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here

Homes for Oktoberfest

From enjoying a seasonal brew to dusting off your dirndl, there are countless ways to partake in German-themed festivities this time of year. To spice up your Oktoberfest tradition at home, we’ve gathered a few gingerbread-style chalets and yodel-inducing Tudors for sale around the U.S.

Saratoga, CA

24098 Deerpath Rd, Saratoga, CA
For sale: $1.498 million

from Zillow

from Zillow

With mountain views from every room, this Swiss chalet-style home is an ideal retreat on 1.74 wooded acres. It’s also only 10 minutes from downtown Saratoga, where homes are hitting the market for amedian list price of $2.095 million.

Minneapolis, MN

2504 Euclid Pl, Minneapolis, MN 
For sale: $1.295 million

from Zillow

from Zillow

Parapeted gables and other architectural details reminiscent of a traditional German marketplace add character to this 5-bedroom home. In the market for Tudor? Check out more Minneapolis homes for sale.

Cavendish, VT

1589 Vt Route 131, Cavendish, VT 
For sale: $1.2 million

from Zillow

from Zillow

Located in a small town in Windsor County, VT, this home features the elaborate gables and stone-wall cladding seen in homes throughout Europe. Compared to other Weathersfield homes for sale, this one is on the pricier end but comes with a rich history dating back to 1845.

Leavenworth, WA

1528 Alpensee Strasse, Leavenworth, WA
For sale: $599,000

from Zillow

from Zillow

If you haven’t visited Germany, the next best thing may be Leavenworth, WA. Located in the Cascades, the entire town is Bavarian-themed from the architecture down to the street signs. For just under $600,000, this 4-bedroom, 3.5-bath “haus” has Wenatchee River views from two decks and a detached Alpine-style apartment. For a less expensive option, check out other homes for sale in Leavenworth.

Mound House, NV

400 Hwy 341, Mound House, NV 
For sale: $159,500

from Zillow

from Zillow

Looking for an off-the-grid escape? This Nevada home sits high on a hill overlooking Silver City and beyond. It’s also eco-friendly with solar panels and a well on the property. If you’re not familiar with theMound House real estate market, it’s just outside Dayton, where the median home value is $141,100.

Saint Helen, MI

1589 Stanley Ct, Saint Helen, MI 
For sale: $62,900

from Zillow

from Zillow

This gingerbread-style house could use a few interior updates, but its Bavarian curb appeal is a definite selling point with hand-carved shutters and diamond-shaped panes. The median list price for homes hitting the Saint Helen real estate market is $59,500, so this home is within the expected range for the area.

This article was originally published by Catherine Sherman on Zillow Blog. See the original article here

Security Deposits: Renters’ Rights You Need to Know

A security deposit is an amount of money you pay to your landlord to cover any damage incurred or necessary cleaning of the rental property once your lease has expired. It’s also one of the most common sources of disagreement between landlords and tenants.

Security Deposits FAQ

Rental laws vary from state to state, with some states dictating certain procedures that landlords must follow for refunding, using and accounting for a tenant’s security deposit. The following tips are some of the basics that every tenant should know about security deposits, because what you don’t know can cost you.

Q: Why is my landlord requiring me to pay a security deposit?
A: Security deposits are a guarantee that you will keep the rental in good condition. If you owe back rent or late fees when you move out, your landlord may deduct that amount from your deposit. Your landlord may also deduct from the deposit the cost of cleaning and repairs beyond normal wear and tear.

Q: How much can my landlord charge for a security deposit?
A: Every state allows landlords to charge a security deposit, but how much they can charge varies. In some states, limits are as low as $100, while others allow for security deposits equal to three months’ rent. Furthermore, 24 states have no statutory limits for how much you can be charged for a security deposit.

Q: What does my landlord do with my deposit during my tenancy?
A: Generally, landlords are required to put security deposits in bank accounts and may not commingle deposits with their own money. Many states require your landlord to notify you where the account is kept; this notification is often detailed in your lease. In some states, these accounts earn interest that you may be entitled to, and in some markets, your landlord may be entitled to a small portion of the accrued interest as an administrative fee.

Q: What can be deducted from my security deposit?
A: Landlords bear the brunt of taking care of the things that wear out in the rental, such as carpeting, floor finishes and fading paint. If you damage the property, repairs are your responsibility. If your child colors on the walls or you accidentally crack a tile in the bathroom, those repairs will come out of your deposit. Even if a guest who doesn’t live with you breaks something, you are liable for those repairs.

Q: When will my deposit be returned?
A: Again, this varies by state, but in general, within 14 to 60 days, your landlord is obligated to return to you:

  • Your full deposit (plus interest, in some cases), or
  • Part of your deposit, along with a statement of the costs that were deducted from your deposit, with an explanation of how those costs were used for cleaning, repairs or back rent and late fees

Two states have no set limits: Tennessee has no statutory deadline, and New York only requires that deposits be returned within “a reasonable time.”

Q: What can I do to make sure I get back all of my deposit?
A: Carefully document the state of your rental by completing a move-in inspection form. Take pictures of any problems, and use your camera’s time-stamp function or include that day’s newspaper in the photo. You and your landlord should each sign and keep a copy of this form. Before you move out, ask your landlord to walk through your rental with you so that he or she can point out issues you should resolve before you leave. If necessary, hire a professional to clean your apartment.

Q: What if my landlord doesn’t return my security deposit?
A: When you move out, be sure to give your new address to your landlord, and cover your bases by sending a demand letter by certified mail. A demand letter simply requests the return of your deposit. In some states, if you don’t send a demand letter, your landlord may be entitled to keep your deposit.

If your landlord doesn’t respond, you may sue your landlord in small claims court for the return of your deposit. In some locations, if the court finds that your landlord has intentionally broken the law, you may be awarded two or three times the amount of the deposit, plus lawyer’s fees.

Tasha Schroeder contributed to this post.

Originally published by Neil J. Leitereg on realtor.com. To see the original post, click here.