Listing Photos: Your Home’s First Showing

A picture is worth a thousand words, and could be worth thousands of dollars when it comes to attracting the right buyers to your home.

Let’s face it, buyers form their first impression of your home based on the online listing. As they say, Web appeal is the new curb appeal.

If you are serious about selling your home, you have to take your listing photo shoot very seriously. If your photos don’t excite buyers, they may not step foot inside.

You should prepare for your photo shoot as much as you would for an open house or private showing. Work alongside an excellent local real estate agent, and follow these tips to make sure your home looks its best.

Never list your home online without photos

Today’s buyers get email and text alerts when a new home that matches their criteria hits the market. There is nothing more frustrating than to see the desired address come across as an alert, only for the listing to be incomplete.

Buyers (and agents) will punish you for jumping the gun. Will they go back later and look again, once you have the photos up? Maybe — but maybe not.

You’re adding an extra step for them, and it comes across like you don’t have your ducks in a row. That’s not a great way to start out with your future customer.

Clean, declutter, organize and remove

You should spend a good amount of time preparing for your photo shoot. This means that you fluff the pillows, put toilet seats down, put Fido’s bowl and toys away, and ensure the home is in impeccable condition.

People can zoom in, zoom out and play with photos in online listings. They’ll notice everything. If your photos don’t show your home well, it sends a message to the buyer that you don’t care, and that you are not a serious seller.

The buyer is your customer. You have a product for sale. Take the time to present it in the best possible light.

Poor photos won’t cut it

Images that are blurry, poorly lit, or distorted are not going to sell your home.

It’s a good idea to hire a professional photographer who will take high-resolution photos, and even bring extra lighting or equipment to enhance their work. They’ll also take dozens of pictures and work tirelessly to show your home in the right light and from the best angles.

Don’t skimp on the number of photos

When it comes to photos, the more, the merrier. You want to make it easy on buyers to get comfortable with and learn more about your home.

Not only are the listing photos their initial impression, but they serve to help orient the buyer after the first or second showing. Once they have been through the home in person, they are better able to relate to the floor plan and how it flows. Going back to the listing photos allows them to make connections and dig deeper. Encourage them to do so by posting plenty of photos.

 

Posted by Brendan DeSimone on Zillow

30 Tips for Increasing Your Home’s Value

Learn ways to add value to your home no matter what your budget.

Neutral-color paint is inexpensive and adds style.

HOME IMPROVEMENTS: UNDER $100

Tip 1: Spend an hour with a pro.
Invite a realtor or interior designer over to check out your home. Many realtors will do this as a courtesy, but you will probably have to pay a consultation fee to a designer. Check with several designers in your area; a standard hourly fee is normally less than $100, and in an hour they can give you lots of ideas for needed improvements. Even small suggested improvements, such as paint colors or furniture placement, can go a long way toward improving the look and feel of your home.

Tip 2: Inspect it.
Not every home improvement is cosmetic. Deteriorating roofs, termite infestation or outdated electrical systems — you can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken. Hire an inspector to check out the areas of your home that you don’t normally see. They may discover hidden problems that could negatively impact your home’s value. Small problems (such as a hidden water leak) can become big, expensive problems quickly; the longer you put off repairs, the more expensive those repairs will be.

Tip 3: Paint, paint, paint.
One of the simplest, most cost-effective improvements of all is paint! Freshly painted rooms look clean and updated — and that spells value. When selecting paint colors, keep in mind that neutrals appeal to the greatest number of people, therefore making your home more desirable. On average, a gallon of paint costs around $25, leaving you plenty of money to buy rollers, painter’s tape, drop cloths and brushes. So buy a few gallons and get busy!

Tip 4: Find inspiration.
An alternative to hiring a designer is to search for remodeling and decorating inspiration in design-oriented magazines, books, TV shows and websites. Simply tear out or print off the ideas you want to try and start your to-do list. Keep it simple — when remodeling on a tight budget, do-it-yourself projects are best.

Tip 5: Cut energy costs.
The amount of money you spend each month on energy costs may seem like a fixed amount, but many local utility companies provide free energy audits of their customers’ homes. They can show you how to maximize the energy efficiency of your home. An energy-efficient home will save you money now, which can be applied to other updates, and is a more valuable and marketable asset in the long run.

HOME IMPROVEMENTS: $100-$200

Drought-tolerant plants are an excellent way to spruce up your landscaping and save money on upkeep.

Tip 1: Plant a tree.
If you aren’t planning to sell your house today, plan for the future with a landscaping improvement that will mature over time. Plant shade trees — not only will mature trees make your home more desirable but a fully grown, properly placed tree can cut your cooling costs by as much as 40 percent. Mature landscaping is also good for the environment, providing a necessary habitat for wildlife while adding valuable curb appeal to your home.

Tip 2: Low-maintenance landscaping saves you money now, adds value when you sell.
No question that shrubs and colorful plants will add curb appeal to any home, but when shopping at your local garden center, make sure that you “think green.” Purchase plants that are native to your region or plants that are drought-tolerant; these require less water and maintenance, which means more savings to you and more green in your wallet.

Tip 3: Add a money-saving luxury.
Speaking of water, here’s another way to tap into extra savings; install a water filtration system in your kitchen. Not only do these systems purify your water, they will also lower your grocery bills — no more bottled water. A water filtration system is an inexpensive addition, but it’s the sort of small luxury that homebuyers love.

Tip 4: Improve the air quality inside your home.
Air quality isn’t just about the conditions outdoors. If you have older carpets in your home, they might be hiding contaminants and allergens. The first step to determine if these need replacing is to hire a professional company to test your indoor air quality. If the results prove that your carpets should be replaced, choose environmentally friendly natural products like tile or laminate floors. Hard-surface floors are much easier to keep clean, don’t hold odors, give your home an updated look and, in general, are more appealing to buyers.

Tip 5: Save the popcorn for the movies.
Finally, what’s on your ceiling? Few structural elements date a house more than popcorn ceilings. So dedicate a weekend to ditching the dated look and adding dollar signs to the value of your home. This is a project you can tackle yourself. First, visit your local hardware store for a solution to soften the texture, then simply scrape the popcorn away. Removing a popcorn ceiling may not seem like a big change but one of the keys for adding value to your home is to repair, replace or remove anything that could turn buyers away.

HOME IMPROVEMENTS: $200-$400

If you’re too busy to keep up the yard work, hire a lawn service to keep up your home value.

Tip 1: A messy lawn creates a bad first impression.
Overgrown or patchy lawns and outsized bushes will cause your home to stand out — in a bad way. The good news is that taming your jungle is an easy fix. For a few hundred dollars, hire a lawn service company to trim your lawn and shape your hedges. Your curb appeal will go from messy to maintained without blowing your budget.

Tip 2: Cleanliness counts.
The old adage that you only get one shot at a first impression is true. So, make the interior of you home shine from the moment someone walks through the door. For less than $400, hire a cleaning service for a thorough top-to-bottom scrubbing. Even if you clean your home regularly, there are nooks and crannies that you may miss or overlook. Let a cleaning service do the dirty work to really make your home sparkle.

Tip 3: Visually increase your home’s square footage.
The size of your home dramatically affects the value, but square footage isn’t the only space that counts. Visual space or how large a home feels also counts. The key is to make each room in your house feel larger. Replace heavy closed draperies with vertical blinds or shutters to let light in — a sunny room feels larger and more open. Also, try adding a single large mirror to a room to visually double the space. Finally, clear the clutter. The more clutter, furniture and plain old stuff you have in a room, the more cramped it will feel. For less than $400, add an attractive shelving unit to an underused space and store your clutter out of sight.

Tip 4: Small bathroom updates equal a big return.
Bathroom updates are always a smart move. Even if you can’t afford a full remodel, small changes such as replacing dated wallpaper with a faux or textured finish and replacing old lighting will update the room without denting your wallet.

Tip 5: Add new energy-efficient fixtures.
A functional, decorative ceiling fan is a beautiful thing. It provides necessary light and, in warm months, creates a soft breeze reducing the need for expensive air conditioning. But, an outdated, wobbly, loud or broken ceiling fan is a useless eyesore. Replace old fixtures with new ones to make your home more enjoyable for you now and to increase the bottom line should you decide to sell.

HOME IMPROVEMENTS: $400-$750

Having an organized home saves you time and money and brings in money at the time of a sale.

Tip 1: Even small changes in the bathroom equal a big return.
A great room to update for less than $750 is the bathroom. The two rooms that benefit most from even small renovations are the kitchen and bathroom. One cost-effective change — like replacing an outdated vanity, old plumbing and lighting fixtures or adding a new tile floor — will guarantee a lot of bang for your buck and give your bath an updated, modern look.

Tip 2: Any kitchen update equals added value.
The same rule applies in the kitchen. You don’t have to start from scratch to create a winning recipe. For maximizing your home’s value, kitchen updates are key. Start by swapping out just one item, such as a stained sink or ancient microwave for shiny new stainless models. Even small kitchen updates will add big value to your home.

Tip 3: Replace any worn carpets or area rugs.
Take a look at your home’s soft flooring. Are your carpets and area rugs stained or worn? Nothing turns buyers off more than the thought that they will immediately need to replace all of the flooring in a home. Ideally, you may want to replace them all, but if a limited budget puts a snag in that plan, start by replacing the carpet in the room that shows the most wear and tear and replace the others as your finances allow.

Tip 4: Keep up with regular maintenance and repairs.
Walk around your home and make a list of all the little things that are broken or in need of repair. Individually, small repairs might not seem important, but if every room has just one thing wrong, those small things will add up to create the impression that your home has been neglected. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling the repairs yourself, hire a handyman for a day and watch your “to do” list disappear. Staying on top of maintenance today eliminates problems down the road should you decide to sell.

Tip 5: Get help with getting organized.
Hire a professional organizer for a day. They will show you how to organize various rooms in your home and teach you tricks for keeping it organized. How does this increase your home’s value? Simple — a clutter-free home appears cleaner and larger, which is more attractive to homebuyers and therefore more valuable.

HOME IMPROVEMENTS: $750-$1,000

Installing new appliances is a guaranteed way of increasing the sales price of your home.

Tip 1: Go tankless.
Upgrade your standard water heater for a tankless model. Most old-fashioned water heaters keep 50 or so gallons of water hot, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, whether you use the water or not. Tankless water heaters heat only the water you need as you need it. Not only will they save you money now, but they’re an eco-friendly and cost-effective update that today’s homebuyers are looking for.

Tip 2: Upgrade your appliances.
Eighty-six the old-school appliances for sleek new energy-efficient ones. An appliance with an Energy Star label has been certified by the government to use 10-50 percent less energy and water than conventional appliances. Matching stainless appliances will not only look great now, but will make your home shine brighter than the competition should you decide to sell.

Tip 3: Go for the green.
Everyone loves a yard with thick, green grass. For less than $1000, in a weekend’s time, you can replace your existing patchy mix of weeds and grass with fresh new sod. You’ll be amazed at the difference this one change will make in your home’s curb appeal and value.

HOME IMPROVEMENTS: $1,000-$1,500

An upgrade to the entrance of your home will leave a lasting impression with potential buyers.

Tip 1: Spruce up your ceilings.
One of a room’s most neglected spaces, the ceiling, makes up one-sixth of a room’s total area. Updating your home’s ceilings will net a lot of bang for the buck while adding architectural interest. First, if you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a contractor to scrape them smooth. To add a sophisticated custom look to a smooth ceiling, install crown molding or box beams for a coffered look. Ceiling millwork, an attractive feature prevalent in older homes, is rarely found in newer construction. Adding small touches like these will help your home stand out from the pack.

Tip 2: Update your home’s entrance.
The look of your front door and entrance play heavily into the overall curb appeal of your home. As visitors enter, the front door serves as the transition into your home and is part of their first impression. Entry doors are architectural components that should complement your home’s overall design, not detract from it. If your existing front door isn’t up to par, head down to your local home improvement store for a more energy-efficient and attractive replacement. Whether you choose a solid wood door or one with decorative stained or cut glass panels, a welcoming entrance will definitely increase your home’s bottom line.

Tip 3: Consult a design pro.
If you’re unsure of which design style or paint color to use, hire a designer. They’ll use discriminating taste and a trained eye to help with making the big decisions. Also, remodeling your home with a cohesive plan in mind makes all of your choices easier and ensures a pulled-together finished look. So, when you get the right mix of time or money, you’ll know exactly which project to take on next.

HOME IMPROVEMENTS: $1,500-$2,000

Landscaping makes a huge difference in the curb appeal of your home.

Tip 1: Save on air conditioning costs.
Consider installing a whole-house fan. They’re a great alternative to air conditioning because they use only one-tenth the electricity of air conditioners, saving you money. Whole-house fans are considered a “green” home improvement, which is a popular selling feature with today’s homebuyers. As the cost of electricity continues to skyrocket, green energy alternatives will only gain in popularity.

Tip 2: Brighten up.
A “bright” way to increase the value of your home is to lighten up. Adequate lighting in a home makes a big difference. Not only does a bright, well-lit room feel more cheerful but it also makes spaces feel larger and cleaner. A well-lit room also shows that you have nothing to hide, so should you decide to sell, prospective buyers will feel at ease when touring your home. Hire an electrician to add recessed lights to a dim kitchen or family room or to brighten up a formal dining or living room with elegant sconces. You’ll enjoy the bright effect now and your home will feel warmer and more welcoming to homebuyers.

Tip 3: Add the right landscaping and watch your home’s value grow.
For less than $2,000, hire a landscape designer to create a plan that will make your home’s exterior really shine. For maximum impact, plant mature trees or fast growing varieties; these can be pricy but they will instantly make your home feel more established. As your landscaping grows, so will your home’s curb appeal and value.

HOME IMPROVEMENTS: $2,000-$3,000

Full-view glass doors provide elegance and drama that improve the value of your home.

Tip 1: Kitchen or bath remodels are always a safe bet.
Improving your home is a solid investment at any level — but if you have up to three thousand dollars to spend, a great place to start is by upgrading either the kitchen or bath. Either room is a good choice and you don’t have to do a complete floor-to-ceiling remodel to reap financial benefits. In fact, modest kitchen or bath updates can be your best bet for a big return, netting, on average, an 80-85 percent return.

Tip 2: Protect your investment.
For most people, their home is their single largest investment, so treat it that way. Hire a financial planner to work out a strategy for protecting your investment by analyzing all of the financing options that are available. A financial whiz can tell you if you should refinance to lower your monthly payments or pull out some equity to pay for value-adding improvements.

Tip 3: Bring the outdoors in.
Consider turning two standard windows into an opening for beautiful French or sliding glass doors. Full-view glass doors really brighten up the space and a light and airy room is always more attractive. Also, with a view of the outdoors, the room will feel much larger. Another bonus is that modern doors are energy-efficient, cutting down on heating and cooling costs. That means more cash in your pocket now and a financial bonus should you decide to sell.

HOME IMPROVEMENTS: $3,000-$5,000

You will get extra points by installing eco-friendly flooring.

Tip 1: Add closet or garage storage.
Realtors agree that top on most homeownes’ list of wants is ample storage space. For less than $5,000, consider upgrading your home’s storage by adding custom shelving systems to a closet or garage. The first step to really getting organized is de-cluttering. Start by sorting your belongings, then stash them away in your new organized closet or garage to really maximize your home’s value.

Tip 2: Green flooring choices equal more green in your wallet.
Worn, tired carpet will not only turn off homebuyers, but it can make you feel worn and tired too. Replace it with the hottest trend in flooring: renewable, environmentally friendly bamboo. Solid-surface floors are easy to keep clean and give your home an upscale look and feel. Green flooring choices, like bamboo, minimally impact the environment and are a big selling point to today’s environmentally conscious homebuyers.

Tip 3: Resurface concrete.
Replacing the cracked concrete surfaces around your home can cost a small fortune. But for a fraction of that cost, concrete can be resurfaced in a multitude of colors and finishes. Consider adding a cobblestone finish to your driveway, a brick look to an old walkway or a slate finish around the pool or patio. Whichever texture you choose, it will be a huge improvement over standard concrete and potential homebuyers will really take notice.

HOME IMPROVEMENTS: $5,000 AND UP

A fresh coat of exterior paint will take the home’s curb appeal from so-so to wow.

Tip 1: Refresh the exterior paint.
The condition of your home’s exterior is key to the overall curb appeal, so refresh that facade with a coat of paint. Fresh exterior paint will not only preserve and protect your home’s exterior siding — the right paint color can make a dull home dazzling. By the same token, a house painted with an overly bright or overly bland color will make a house less appealing and hurt the value, so choose your colors wisely. Should you decide to put your house on the market and the exterior paint looks bad, a buyer will assume that the interior of the home has been neglected too and drive right past.

Tip 2: Go solar to save some green.
Save energy bill greenbacks by going green with a solar water heater. The installed price can cost up to $5,000, but these systems can slash your hot water bills by as much as 80 percent and attract energy-conscious homebuyers should you decide to sell. Install a solar water heater where there’s unobstructed southern exposure and you’ll have savings made in the shade.

Tip 3: Kitchen remodels are king.
Hands down, one of the biggest returns on investment comes from a kitchen remodel. Most experts agree that if you plan on updating only one room in your home, it should be the kitchen. Large, open kitchens have become the social hub of the modern home. High-end touches like granite countertops, richly stained custom cabinets and energy-efficient stainless appliances are the gold standard in modern kitchens. Experts agree that kitchen remodels return an average of 80 to 85 percent of every dollar spent. You can expect an even higher return if you are remodeling a really outdated kitchen.

Posted on The DIY Network

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curb Appeal: What It Really Is, and Why It Matters

A great-looking yard and exterior help attract potential buyers, but today’s sellers need to take it a step further.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Let’s face it, first impressions matter. We care about how we dress for a job interview, and we spend extra time in front of the mirror before that first date. When it comes to selling a home, first impressions matter, too.

The term “curb appeal” derives from real estate sales and home design. For years, buyers have formed their first impressions of homes while standing in the street or sitting inside the car, just beyond the curb. Before the advent of text messaging and smartphones, a buyer would get a phone call or fax from their agent about a new listing. The initial drive-by would determine whether or not they would go for an actual showing.

To get that buyer in the door, the seller spent hours, even days, seeding new grass and planting flowers, painting their front door, mulching, weeding and cleaning up the yard. If the home didn’t appeal from the curb, buyers moved on to the next house. Curb appeal was always the single most important piece of the home sale puzzle.

Expanded appeal

Today, curb appeal still matters — but it matters differently. Almost every buyer forms their first impression from a home’s online photos.

Instead of driving to your home, buyers will scroll through pictures of both the outside and the inside, before ever stepping foot inside. What’s more, they may never come to see it if they don’t like what they see online.

While the exterior of your home should be high on your priority list, it is most valuable only when the buyer walks up or drives by. But they may not ever get that far.

The interior also needs to show your home in its best possible light, because Web appeal has become the new curb appeal. And if your home doesn’t photograph well — either because you didn’t have it professionally shot, didn’t post high-resolution photos, or you haven’t taken the time to prep it — then curb appeal won’t even make a difference.

What sellers should do

Sellers need to spend ample time preparing the inside of their home and getting great photos, so buyers will form the best possible impression.

The downside for sellers is that they have to work so much harder than they did just 15 years ago. In our ever-more-visual society, buyers make immediate judgments about a home within moments of clicking on the new listing on their smartphone.

Sellers only have one chance to make a good impression. The home still needs to look good from the curb — but to get the buyers there in person, it needs to look great on the Web.

Posted by Brendan Desimone on Zillow

Tackle These Projects Now For Curb Appeal Through Winter

Baby, it’s (going to be) cold outside, but that doesn’t mean your house can’t be warm and inviting.

Take these steps to ensure your house’s curb appeal lasts through the winter months.

With winter approaching, long days of sunshine, colorful fall foliage, and green lawns are coming to an end. So too are the hours spent outside, raking up leaves and washing your windows. But don’t fully retreat into your humble abode to hibernate quite yet — especially if your home is on the market.

There are projects you can start now, when it’s just starting to get cooler outside, to ensure your home will look gorgeous, warm, and inviting throughout the upcoming winter months — whether you have a home for sale in Burlington, VT, or Seattle.

Plant flowers that bloom in the winter

Fall is the time to plant early-blooming bulbs such as crocuses, which will flower in late winter, even if they’re covered in snow. Other bulb flowers such as daffodils and tulips are hardy enough to survive cold winter temperatures below ground and bloom beautifully in early spring/late winter. Perennials, shrubs, and trees also do well with a fall planting.

According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), the warm fall soil is great for root development, and plants have several months to establish themselves before the stress of the summer heat. Get your early planting done and enjoy a little taste of spring curb appeal while you’re still cuddled up in your flannel pajamas and slippers.

Install landscape lighting

Lighting is often overlooked but can make such a huge difference when strategically placed and tinted correctly. Consider sticking a few vintage lanterns along your driveway, or installing a soft-hued light bulb in your porch light. You could also light up your walking path with solar lights and finish off the look with some statuary or tree up-lighting.

Pro tip: Less is usually more for path lighting; too many lights, and you may create a runway effect.

Lawn and garden maintenance

Now is the time to make sure you’re helping your lawn make it through the winter, so your grass and other plants survive the harsh weather. NALP recommends applying 2 to 3 inches of mulch to protect plant roots from extreme temperatures.

The mulch barrier will also preserve moisture if your region doesn’t receive enough winter precipitation. Bonus: A thick layer of woodsy mulch lends a nice aesthetic touch to an otherwise barren landscape.

There’s not much you can do about brown, unsightly-looking grass during the winter months. But you can rake and remove the leaves that build up from falling foliage and winter storms. The raking work will pay off big time in the spring for lawn health and also keep it looking its best this season and into spring. A tidy lawn is the key for curb appeal in the long winter months.

Small upgrades and holiday decor

Alone, a new mailbox, doorknob, or set of address numbers on your house can seem inconsequential. But when replaced together as a set, these little details can make all the difference in the world — particularly from a distance. Now is the time to make a weekend project out of replacing all the small stuff for a big aesthetic reward.

From lights and greenery to candles in the windows, you can really get creative for the holidays with embellishments that won’t die off when the snow starts. There’s no need to get all Clark Griswold with the front yard, but tasteful, minimalist decor can really beautify your home.

There’s plenty to be done this fall to enhance your curb appeal through the winter months. Work to extend the interior’s cozy, well-kept feeling to the exterior of your home. Not only will you save yourself some maintenance in the spring, but also your home will shine all winter long.

Posted by Robyn Woodman on Trulia

Want to Sell Your House? Don’t Do These 4 Things

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock

When potential buyers drive up to your home, they’re full of hope.

They imagine themselves baking in the kitchen and their kids playing in the yard. Most of all they think: “Could this be my home?”

Then they look closer. They see a mess by the driveway and the peeling paint near the roofline. Very quickly, they decide to keep driving—and keep looking. They don’t want your home. The exterior tells them the interior might have the same negative impact.

They’ve already done research on your neighborhood and know your asking price. Now they’re just driving by to see if your home has that “it” factor—not an “ick” factor.

Where do most sellers go wrong? Here are the main mistakes they make:

1. Ignore curb appeal

How your home appears from the curb is extremely important. It’s the proverbial first impression. If your home looks inviting from the outside—the yard maintained, the garden manicured and the paint fresh—potential buyers will take an interest in it. If not, they might think the interior is likely unkempt, too—and they’ll move on.

2. Crowd the buyer

When you sell your home, take yourself out of the picture. If you happen to be home, greet any potential buyers and then allow them to walk through your home undisturbed. Give them a chance to picture their couches in the living room or their dining set in the dining room. Let them have space to discuss what they’re seeing.

Some sellers crowd a buyer, thinking that any newcomer will want all the details of every renovation and every nook. Don’t do this. Let the buyer be. You can always provide an info sheet to describe anything you feel should be mentioned.

3. Offer that ‘lived-in’ look

Prospective buyers don’t want to see your clutter. It’s distracting and makes it hard for them to picture themselves in your home. A mess can often hide aspects of the home that would entice someone else to buy.

When you’re selling, keep a tidy home and tuck away all your family photos and knickknacks. Try to create as many open, clear spaces as you can. Clean off counters and other surfaces. Even the toaster and blender should be stored away when you show your home.

Ideally you will have time to give all the rooms a fresh coat of paint. You don’t need to hire an interior designer, but do look over your home with an unbiased eye. Is it warm and inviting? Pleasing to the eye?

4. Let odors linger

If you smoke or have pets, your home will likely have an odor. Although you might be used to it, others may not appreciate it.

Removing pet urine smells out of carpets takes care; you’ll likely need to use special solutions or a steam cleaner. With rugs, you may just have to buy new ones. Vinegar will work on most flooring. If you have a litter box, change it daily while showing your home.

If you smoke, try to smoke outside as much as possible. Most nonsmokers are sensitive to the smell of smoke. Not only will they want to leave, they may also find the prospect of cleansing a home of smoke odor a turnoff. You may be so used to it that you hardly notice the odor, but others will walk out the door quickly.

If there is a heavy smell in the home from years of smoking indoors, try washing the walls with vinegar. And don’t forget the curtains, shades and anything else that might collect the tar and resin from the smoke.

For any unwanted smells, try baking soda. Sprinkle it around the house, on the furniture and on the carpets. Let it sit for a day so the granules can absorb the odors and then vacuum it all up. You may have to do this a few times.

Think of it as vacuuming your way to a good deal on your home.

Based on an original article by Laura Sherman. Published by Anne Miller on realtor.com.

10 Things to Do After You Sell

You’ve sold your house: Escrow has closed, and you’ve handed your keys to the new owners. But while the deal is done, you have a few more things to do. In “House Selling for Dummies,” authors Eric Tyson and Ray Brown lay out things you can do to save money and increase your peace of mind, post-sale.

10 Things to Do After You Sell

Here are 10 of their tips:

  1. Keep copies of all paperwork related to the closing and settlement. Although it might be tempting to shred the paperwork or put it in storage, you’ll want to have it handy for April 15. When you file your taxes, you’ll need documentation for the expenses and proceeds of the sale. And after you file your return, you’ll want to keep the paperwork in case you’re audited.
  2. Keep proof of improvements and prior purchases. This is for tax purposes, too. The IRS allows you to add the cost of improvements to your home’s cost basis during the time you own the home, which is nice if you have a sizable capital gain. But to use this tax provision, you need to keep receipts for everything you spent on home improvement.
  3. Stay on top of tax laws. Because tax laws constantly change, you’ll want to keep current to avoid losing money. For example, a recent law allows you to exclude from tax a significant portion of the profits from the sale of your primary residence.
  4. Put your proceeds in a money market fund. If you sell and then don’t immediately buy, you’ll need a safe place to put your money. A money market mutual fund offers safety, a reasonable rate of return, daily access to your money and check-writing privileges.
  5. Choose your next home carefully. Scope out a variety of areas and housing options that meet your family’s needs.
  6. Don’t feel pressured to buy. Take your time purchasing your next home; rent for awhile if you’d like extra time or want to try an area out first before buying. “Keep in mind that you have two years to defer tax on your house-sale profits,” Tyson and Brown point out.
  7. Reevaluate your personal finances. If your situation changes before you buy another house—you get a promotion, have a baby, go through a divorce—you’ll need to rethink your finances and how much you can afford to pay for your new house.
  8. Think about what you need from an agent to help you buy. Carefully consider whether the agent who helped sell your house can meet your needs when you’re buying. Buying and selling require different skills. And, if you’re moving to a new area, you may want someone familiar with the area.
  9. Think through your next down payment. Brown and Tyson recommend putting at least 20 percent down on your next house in order to qualify for the best mortgage programs. If you can afford more than 20 percent, consider whether it’s better to put that money in the down payment or to invest the money elsewhere. “Younger home buyers willing to take on more investment risk should lean toward a 20-percent down payment, whereas older home buyers, who tend to invest less aggressively, should opt for larger down payments,” the pair recommends.
  10. Remember to send change-of-address notices. The U.S. Postal Service recommends you complete your change of address 30 days before you move.

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