7 Tips to Improve Your Property Value

Posted by: Susan Sipich

Do you want to update your home but don’t know what to do? Here are 7 Tips to get you started on your update and increase your property’s salability and value.

 Are you considering selling in the near future, or just wanting to update your home but don’t know what to do?  Consider these tips.

If you have an older home,  what was “in style” 20 years ago, is not in style or desired today.

1. Maintain the exterior.  Repair or replace your old windows, roof and outdoor decks & patio space. Make sure driveways and walk-ways are in good condition and your front door condition is also important.  Landscaping should be free of weeds.  A meticulously maintained exterior lends to a great first impression.

2. Update your interior paint.  Stick with warm, neutral walls.  Paint walls using a warm gray or a neutral wall color. The gold or pinky-beige wall color you chose 10 years ago is going to seem outdated to this new group of home buyers. On-trend neutrals like grays allow potential homeowners to envision bringing in complementary colors and clean-lined furnishings to make it their own.

3. Invest in cabinetry. Many home buyers younger than 40 prefer new kitchen cabinetry. They don’t want to see Honey Oak kitchen cabinetry in their new home! Consider a kitchen facelift.  Shown below are examples of some of the outstanding changes other homeowners have made.

4. Update your appliances. Many younger home buyers cannot fathom buying a home without stainless steel appliances.

5. Look for simple stone countertops.Granite and stone countertops are a must-have for most young home buyers — it will make the difference between whether they choose your home or your neighbor’s home. But don’t make the mistake of installing busy or taste-specific granite that may not appeal to everyone. If you plan to be in your home for a long time, go for it — but not if you plan to sell within the next few years.  Instead, choose a granite that is almost black or something with a minimum of colors and veining. Anything more might be a turnoff to those picky younger buyers.

6. Change the flooring & other accents:  Wood and wood laminate flooring are very popular today and gives a clean look and feel to any home. In addition, changing things like baseboard trim and fireplace surrounds can make a big difference for an updated look. If you still have the original gold light fixtures that were standard 25 years ago, change them to a newer style.

7. Open up your bathroom & shower space. Young professionals love large, open glass showers, stone or tile flooring and bright lighting.


5 Questions to Ask Your Home’s Inspector

Posted by: Susan Sipich

1.  How bad is it – really?  The best home inspectors are all about the facts.  But sometimes, that straightforwardness makes it hard for you, the home’s buyer, to understand what’s a big deal and what isn’t so much – the information you need to know whether to move forward with the deal, whether to renegotiate and what to plan ahead for.

Something might be categorized in home inspection reports under “Health and Safety Hazards” that cost less than $100 to fix, like replacing a faucet that has hot and cold reversed.  And something else might be a one-liner in an inspection reports, like “extensive earth-to-wood contact” result, after further inspection, in foundation repair bids pricier than the whole cost of the home!

In many states, home inspectors are not legally able to provide you with a repair bid, but if you attend the inspection and simply ask them whether or not something they say needs fixing is a big deal, nine times out of ten they will verbally give you the information you need to understand the degree to which the issue is a serious problem (or not).

2.  Who should I have fix that?  Ask this question of home inspectors with dual motives.  First, very often, the inspector’s response is – “What do you mean?  You don’t need to pay someone to fix that.  Go down to Home Depot, pick up a ___fill in the blank__, and here’s how you pop it in.  Should cost you $15 – tops.”  And that’s useful information to know – it eliminates the horror of a laundry list of  repairs and maintenance items at the end of an inspection report to know that a number of them are really DIY-type maintenance items.  Even buyers who are really uncomfortable doing these things themselves then feel empowered to either (a) watch a few YouTube vids that show them how it’s done, or (b) hire a handyperson to do these small fixes, knowing they shouldn’t be too terribly costly.

On the larger repairs, your home inspector  or your real estate agent, might be able to give you a few referrals to the plumbers, electricians or roofers you’ll need to get bids from.

3.  If this was your house, what would you fix, and when?  Your home inspector’s job is to point out everything, within the scope of the inspection, that might need repair, replacement, maintenance or further inspection – or seems like it might be on its last leg.  But they also tend to be experienced enough with homes to know that no home is perfect.  Many times, I’ve asked this question about an item the inspector described as “at the end of its serviceable lifetime” and had them say, “I wouldn’t do a thing to it. Just know that it could break in the next 5 months, or in the next 5 years.

This question positions your home inspector to help you understand what does and doesn’t need to be repaired, and to prioritize the work you plan to do to your home in the future.

4.  Can you point that out to me? Often, when you attend the home inspection, you’ll be multi-tasking, taking pictures of the interior, measuring for drapes or furniture, even meeting the neighbors, or fielding several inspectors at a time.  Worst case scenario is to get home, open up the inspector’s report and have no clue whatsoever what he or she was referring to when they called out the wax ring that needs replacement or the temperature-pressure release valve that is improperly installed.

Your best bet is to, at the end of the inspection and while you’re all still in the property, just ask the inspector to take 10 or 15 minutes and walk you through the place, pointing out all the items they’ve noted need repair, maintenance or further inspection.  When you get the report, then, you’ll know what and where the various items belong. (One more best practice is to choose an inspector who takes digital pictures and inserts them into their reports!)

5.  Can you show me how to work that? Many home inspectors are delighted to show you how to operate various mechanical or other systems in your home, and will walk you through the steps of operating everything from your thermostat, to your water heater, to your stove and dishwasher – and especially the emergency shutoffs for your gas, water and electrical utilities.  This one single item is such a time and stress saver it alone is worth the lost income of missing a day of work to attend your inspections.


How to make an offer on a home

Posted by: Susan Sipich

  1. Set a price

    To write an offer, you need to know how much to offer for the home. To decide on a price, you need to know about the local market.  Your real estate broker can help gather those facts for you by researching local selling prices for homes comparable to the one you’re looking to buy. This will give you an idea of the fair market price for the home.

  2. Get financing

    Unless you’ll be offering to pay cash for a home, you’ll need to take out a mortgage. Arrange to be pre-approved by a lender before submitting an offer. When you are pre-approved, you have a guarantee from a lender that they are willing to lend you a certain amount under specific terms and conditions. A seller will take an offer from a buyer who’s been pre-approved more seriously than one who wasn’t.

  3. Seek help

    You could go it on your own and navigate the process yourself, but you’d be smart to get the assistance of a real estate agent and a real estate attorney to ensure that your interests are protected. You also want to make sure that your written offer meets legal requirements. These requirements vary state from state, as there is no universal contract that’s used.

    An offer can be presented in what’s called a “Purchase Agreement.” Among the information that the document should include are: the date of the offer, the address and description of the property, the price being offered for the home, finance terms (loan details, how much of a deposit/down payment will be made, etc.), escrow details, closing date, possession date and any contingencies (clauses that allow a buyer to cancel a contract without penalty).

  4. Make a deposit

    With your offer, note how much you’ll be offering in a down payment.

    Arrange to have the deposit held in an escrow account (not with the seller) so your money can be returned to you should the offer fall through. If the offer is accepted, the deposit will be deducted from what you’ll owe the seller at closing — when the sale is finalized.

  5. Negotiate and finalize

    Deliver the offer to the seller or to the seller’s real estate agent.

    Once your offer is submitted, all you can do is wait. The seller may be decide to accept the offer, reject it outright, or offer a counteroffer.

    If the seller offers a counteroffer, she will suggest changes such as the sale price or the possession date. You can accept the counteroffer, or submit one of your own.

    This process will continue until the seller and the buyer mutually agree, or until the offer is rescinded. Once an offer is accepted by both parties and signed, it becomes a binding contract, so it’s imperative that you work with your lawyer throughout the process and understand the offer’s contents.

5 Basic Steps to Buying a Home

Posted by: Susan Sipich

The home buying process can be bewildering and stressful. This 5-Step Homebuyer’s Checklist breaks down the process and gives you the tips and tools you need to find your next place:

1.  Contact a Real Estate Broker.  Discuss with your agent your “wish list” of what you would like in a home.  Also request any contacts they might have for a lender, real estate attorney and home inspector.  In other words, start lining up your team of professionals.

Identify your target neighborhood(s), make sure it’s a good fit for your family’s lifestyle. Determine your must-haves and nice-to-haves.  Browse our listing search feature or ask your agent to send you listings for what’s available in your area in your price range.  Make sure you know what you’re willing to compromise on, what you’re not.

2.  Figure out your finances.

Find a mortgage lender and get pre-approved for a loan.  Most buyer’s agents and sellers will take you more seriously if you have a pre-approval letter in hand.  You or your lender should check your credit report.  You don’t want your credit score to hold you back once you’ve found your dream home, so make sure it’s in good standing ahead of time.

Figure out how much you would like to spend.  Think through your family’s priorities, your investment strategy, and your monthly finances to settle on a price range.

 4.Go House Hunting.  Start pounding the pavement with your agent to find the house that will be your next home. 

5.   Make an Offer Work with your agent to research the selling prices for homes comparable to the one you’d like to buy.  Once you’ve determined a price you’re comfortable with, your agent will deliver the offer to the seller’s agent and advise you of the outcome; acceptance, rejection or a counter-offer.  Once you finally agree on price and terms and you have an accepted contract, a real estate attorney can review the contract and make an adjustments that may be in your best interest as far as the language of the contract and line up the closing of the sale.

6.  Get an Inspection Also once your offer gets accepted, many buyers schedule a Home Inspection to make sure they know what they are buying: an inspection will help you understand the overall condition of the home and reveal any significant repair work needed. 

7.  Close the Deal & Move In.  Congratulations!  You did it. 


10 Really Obvious Reasons You Should Hire A Real Estate Agent

Posted by: Susan Sipich

1. A good agent will help you buy or sell a home quickly. You will have help finding properties and if you are selling, you will have marketing tools available to get your property maximum exposure you won’t have by owner, such as the MLS service.

2. Get more money for your property. When you sell on your own, the buyer expects that you are not paying commissions and offers you less, therefore, hiring an agent should net you more money and pay for usually “pay for themselves”.

3. Help in the negotiation process. Your agent will be the “go between” for the negotiation process. This is a process that is usually uncomfortable for any “for sale by owner” to be in.

4. Save you the hassle of difficult buyers or sellers.

5. They have the inside scoop on the market.

6. They have connections in the industry.

7. Getting the Price Right by properly estimating the value of a property. An experienced, qualified agent will know the market value of your property.

8. Handle the Paperwork. Your agent will prepare your offer, any necessary riders and disclosures, saving you time and headaches.

9. Schedule Appointments: Handling all aspects of the showing appointments, the inspections, the walk-throughs, etc

10. Facilitate the closing.

In short, the real estate agent is the coordinator of the entire process of buying or selling a home and their fee is typically built into the sale price, which is paid out at closing.

Rent Vs. Buy – Here’s a quick formula to help you decide!

Posted by: Susan Sipich

Here’s a quick formula that you can use to help you figure out whether it’s better to buy or rent, which works with any duration of ownership (1 year, 5 years, etc)
Calculate: Seller and Buyer Agent Fees When You Sell + Purchase Price You Paid + Maintenance Cost for the Time of Occupancy + Interest Paid on Mortgage for the Time of Occupancy + Investment Gains from Your Down Payment + Property Taxes + Closing Costs – Selling Price. This number could come out negative or positive, but if it’s lower than the rent you would have paid during the same time frame, then you would be better off buying. If the number is higher, meaning that the selling price wasn’t high enough to cover all those costs, then renting would be the more cost-effective choice.


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