Modest Home Updates to “Wow” Buyers & Boost Value

When selling a home in today’s market, it’s important to consider all the options to help make it stand out and appear move-in ready to selective buyers. Which improvements require the least time, effort and expense but will significantly boost your home’s perceived value? To help prioritize, we put together the following list of modest staging solutions/upgrades that will get your property noticed and cost less than the first price reduction that buyers would expect for dated kitchens and baths.

Dining room staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Freshen Walls With Neutral Color
Our go-to instant fix to brighten and hide dated and damaged walls is neutral paint. It's amazing to see how a dark red or purple room can be completely transformed with a coat of soft "greige" (a combination of taupe and grey) paint that increases the perceived size of the space, doesn't distract from the room's features and acts as the perfect backdrop to a modern furnishings and a décor.

Kitchen staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Re-paint Kitchen and Bath Cabinets

To instantly boost a tired kitchen or bath without a costly investment, start by repainting dated and dark cabinets and vanities with bright white paint. Complete the look by pairing with modern hardware – handles, drawer pulls or knobs for added style.  


Bathroom staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Replace Kitchen & Bath Lighting and Countertops

Lighting is an important design element that can affect the mood of a room more than any other accessory. Adding updated lighting in modern designs and on-trend mixed finishes such as brushed nickel, chrome or soft gold tones will add warmth and sophisticated style. It can also be used to draw attention to certain features in the room such as beautiful new marble or quartz countertop (as shown in photo above), appliances or high ceilings. 

Highlight Key Features

For large windows with attractive molding, remove heavier window treatments or simply frame with floor to ceiling neutral drapes. Remove worn carpeting and expose and polish hardwood flooring. Re-stain stairway steps and railings by painting risers or updated spindles. Enhance a beautiful stone fireplace with molding, mantle or screen.


Living room staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Finishing Touches

Once you’ve invested in cosmetic fixes, be sure to remove dated furniture and accents and replace with more modern style that complement the room (as pictured in living room above). Minimal wall art, vignettes and throw pillows with subtle pops of color and pattern will add depth and warmth so that buyers can emotionally connect and envision living in the home. 

Exterior & Curb Appeal

It’s just as important to update the outside of your home to welcome buyers inside. Remodeling magazine’s “Cost vs. Value” report continues to list replacing entry and garage doors, siding and windows as upgrades that provide the greatest return on investment. However, sprucing up the landscaping, making necessary basic repairs, a fresh coat of paint for the front door and some seasonal potted flowers will go a long way to make a great first impression.

For more examples of interior decorating and home staging, visit www.pjstagingdecorating.com. 

How to Personalize Your Outdoor Space

As the temperatures rise and the days get longer, it’s time to create an outdoor space that’s a welcoming extension of your home. The inside of your home is a reflection of your style, and your outdoor space should be no different. Struggling with how to bring your design taste outdoors in a way that’s unique to you? With a few special touches, you can transform any patio, deck or outdoor room into a personal oasis that reflects your special sense of style

 

Choose Furniture Based on Size and Lifestyle

To get started, consider the size and function of your space to select the right furniture. Whether you have a huge backyard complete with a large patio for alfresco dining or a small balcony in a city apartment, make your outdoor space completely your own by focusing on how you can enjoy it most within the space limitations. For example, your balcony space may not support a dining area, but it might comfortably fit two lounge chairs and a bistro table, perfect for outdoor dining.

If you’re looking to create a cozy, personal getaway to curl up with a book, choose a few chairs, a side table and a chaise lounge. If you love to host outdoor parties during the spring and summer months, consider adding a full outdoor dining set, multiple lounge chairs and even an outdoor bar cart. If you want a place for a large family to gather under the stars, choose a sectional. Everyone’s outdoor style is different, so think about how you envision using the space. Start with what you need, and know that you can always add pieces as your needs change.

 

Select Accents that Speak to Your Decorating Style

Once you’ve chosen outdoor furniture and decided how you’ll use your space, you get to have some fun decorating! This is where you can truly let your personality come through and give your outdoor space the fun touches that will make it shine. Here are the elements to consider:

Colors. Start by choosing your favorite color scheme. If you like bright colors, go for a bold combination of yellows, blues or reds. Navy is a great option for a poolside retreat. For a contemporary look, blues, whites and greys all blend well. Love a minimalist style? You can’t go wrong with classic black and white.

Textures. With your color palette in mind, search for outdoor rugs and textiles that create a cohesive look. Then, add finishing touches such as copper lanterns, twinkling string lights, stylish planters or metal wall art. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you really love and that feels personal.

Add One-of-a-Kind Elements. Of course, no space is complete without a few special touches. You probably don’t want to subject family photos or treasured souvenirs to the elements, but you can still personalize your outdoor space with decor pieces that hold special meaning. Choose touches like a hand-painted birdhouse or homemade musical wind chime. If you have a green thumb, plant your favorite flowers in planters for a sweet reminder every time you see them. However you choose to decorate, you’ll know yours is a one-of-a-kind outdoor space.

All the Ways Your Front Entrance Can Sell Your Home

All the Ways Your Front Entrance Can Sell Your Home

If only selling your home was as simple as snapping your fingers. We’d love that, and we’re sure you would too.
Unfortunately, reality is rarely that kind. Instead, there are a thousand little details that go into selling your home from hiring a real estate agent to home staging and curb appeal enhancements. It’s every piece together that brings in the buyer.

But if you’ve focused mostly on finding the right realtor and too little on curb appeal, you could be putting yourself at a disadvantage. Never underestimate the power of a great first impression, which starts with the outside of your home.

Staging a House to Sell
When getting your home ready to sell, the first area you want to focus on is the exterior. This is what a buyer will see first before they ever step a foot inside, so it needs to look polished and attractive. The question then is, “What should I concentrate my budget and time on?”

1. Create a Gorgeous Front Entrance
Homeowners who update their entry door can recoup a significant amount of the cost of installation. In particular, you should consider installing a steel entry door.

In addition, you want to clean your entire entrance. Remove any clutter around your entrance including furniture, pots, and entry mats and thoroughly clean everything, making sure to repaint or touch up as needed. You’ll also want to polish any metal knobs or fixtures. A great entrance can ensure that every other part of your home is more inviting as well.

2. Repaint the Exterior
Repainting the outside of your home is a big job, but it’s worth the results. A new coat of paint can seriously improve your home’s curb appeal. Just make sure you do your research before you choose your exterior house colors. Not only do you want to choose colors that appeal to you, but colors that fit your neighborhood.

We recommend choosing bright and welcoming colors for your home, especially when it comes to your front door. A bright red or blue door really pops. As for the overall color, we recommend choosing a light gray/blue color. A great color can help you sell your home faster and for more money.

3. Update Your Landscaping
Poor landscaping can distract from an otherwise beautiful house that has exceptional home staging. That’s because no matter how great your furniture and walls look inside, if they can’t get past the lack of imagination and poor curb appeal outside, it won’t matter.

Make sure your shrubs are trimmed and not blocking windows and opportunities for natural light. Add color with freshly potted flowers and plants. Manicure your lawn and ensure there are no weed gardens and all mulch is in place.

A stunning landscape can make a buyer automatically assume and be ready for an equally stunning house.

4. Ditch the Clutter
When prepping the interior of your home, you don’t leave junk everywhere. The same should be said for the outside. Streamline your exterior by removing evidence of a busy family life such as garden tools, bikes, toys, and trash cans. You’ll also want to remove any extraneous furniture. Keep everything parsed down to the minimum.

5. Make it Livable
Finally, you’ll want to make a great outdoor living space, if you can. Outdoor rooms are attractive to potential homebuyers. Consider adding a seating area to your deck or creating a barbeque area with a fire pit. A few small items can expand your home’s living space outside, adding to its attraction for buyers.

The reality is that buyers have very little imagination. If your home looks too much like you, then they won’t be able to see themselves in your home. The goal is to make your home a blank slate that they can see fitting into seamlessly.

By focusing on improving your curb appeal, you focus on making a great first impression that will last throughout the buying process. After all, getting buyers in the door is the hardest step. Once they’re inside, your real estate agent and you can take care of the rest.

How to Sell a House That Still Has a Mortgage Left on It

How to Sell a House That Still Has a Mortgage Left on It

Most people won’t live in the same home for 30 years, the typical life of a mortgage loan. So, when it comes time to sell, many homeowners still have mortgage debt to deal with. Is this a problem? What happens to your mortgage when you sell your home?

Once you sign your name on a mortgage loan, you are responsible for the money—no one else. This means that you must pay it back, which you can do with the money you gain from selling your home.

The truth of the matter is that selling a house with a mortgage is a common occurrence.  Consult with your mortgage lender and your real estate agent to find out how you can sell a home with a mortgage. Here are a few tips that they might share with you.

Check Your Mortgage

The first step to selling a house with a mortgage is to contact your mortgage lender and ask about your current mortgage. You want to know:

  • Your current mortgage payoff amount
  • Your due-on-sale clauses

Your mortgage payoff amount is the exact amount of money, including accrued interest that you owe to the bank. This amount is typically good for 10-30 days and represents the outstanding loan balance that you must pay. The last thing you want to do is default on your mortgage.

The due-on-sale clauses reveal the exact rules of how to sell a house you still owe money on. It covers such information as when the paid-in-full loan is due and what the process is, including any fees. The clauses won’t tell you who you can or can’t sell your home to, but they may need some additional information about the buyer’s mortgage lender. Be sure to ask any questions you might have about these clauses, so you have a full understanding before you take the plunge and start your sale.

Selling Your Home

Once you know the ins and outs of your loan terms, it’s time to get to selling a house with a mortgage, which can get slightly complicated. First, you’ll want to work with a title company.

If your current lender doesn’t set you up with a title company, you can hire an agent on your own. This agent will be responsible for ensuring that there are no issues with your property’s title, and act as the intermediary throughout the entire purchase and sale process.

Here’s what happens to your mortgage when you sell your home and use a title company:

  • The title agent holds the money from the new buyer during the sale
  • After you sign all the documents at the closing table, the title agent uses the sale money to pay your current mortgage holder
  • Once the amount has been paid, the title transfers to the buyer and you, as the seller, are given the leftover money (minus various fees)

If the sale covers the full cost of the current loan, it’s a fairly smooth process. However, if you owe more than your home is actually worth—negative equity—there could be some trouble. In that case, you’ll have to work out a deal with your lender for a reduced payoff amount, or you may need to refinance and stay in your home for longer than you planned.

In the end, selling a home with a mortgage shouldn’t be a problem. The most important thing is to know your options, so that you can make the right decisions.

For help throughout the entire selling process, visit www.coldwellbanker.com and find a real estate agent near you.

How to Choose the Right Pet Door for Your Home

Installing a pet door in your home can remove a little hassle from your daily life by allowing your pet to come and go freely. So how do you choose the right pet door for your home? Here are a few steps that will guide you through the process:

Step 1: Decide on a Budget
Like any other purchase, there are going to be varying costs associated with a pet door. Are you going to hire a pro or install the door yourself? If you’re handy around the house, you can probably handle cutting the opening in a door. It’s always a good idea to call a pro to handle in-wall installations — even if you have the experience. Accidentally cutting wires, pipes or important structural features can severely damage your home.

Keep in mind that pet doors are going to range in price from as low as $30 for the traditional flap and smaller plastic door models, to upwards of $600 for larger doors and electronic/magnetic models.

Step 2: Choose a Location
Many homeowners install their pet doors on a patio or mudroom door. There are also in-wall pet doors that are perfect for homeowners with unusual door locations.

Step 3: Pick a Type of Door
Pet doors range from traditional flaps to magnetic or electronic doors. Here’s a brief rundown of your options:

  • Flaps: There are no frills with this option. The flap is made of screen mesh and does not close tightly against the door or side of your home. Your pet uses the door by simply walking through it.
  • Plastic Doors: These models work like a flap, pushing open from either side as your pet comes and goes. The major difference with this model is the rigid design and the ability to lock these in place overnight to prevent other critters from coming in.
  • Magnetic/Electronic Doors: This option requires an electronic dog collar in order to work. As your dog approaches, the door will unlock or even open automatically.

These are the best models when it comes to convenience and safety.

Step 4: Measure Your Pet
To find the right door size, measure your dog’s width around the chest and its height from the top of the shoulders to the bottom of the chest or belly. With this figure in mind, add one to two inches to each measurement to find the proper door size. Keep in mind that the size of door you purchase can have an impact on its placement. If you have a large dog, there may not be a pet door big enough for certain types of storm doors or single-door patio doors.

Step 5: Don’t Just Focus on Your Pet
There are additional pitfalls that come from the convenience of installing a pet door in your home. Dog doors make it difficult to control the movement of your dog, which is a bad thing if your pet is sick or dirty. Additionally, a dog door could give unwanted animals access to your home. Larger dog doors can also cause problems for your home’s energy efficiency.

Selling? Low-Cost Home Improvement Fixes that Make Your Home Shine

When selling a home, even tiny fixes can have a big impact. Here are 10 of the best low- (or no-) cost home improvement fixes to make your house stand above the competition:

1. Address the Heart of the Home

In real estate, the kitchen is the main selling feature and can be a make or break deal for potential home buyers. If a new kitchen just isn’t in the cards, consider replacing smaller ticket items and de-cluttering. Low- and no-cost fixes for the kitchen include:

  • New cabinet hardware
  • New faucets
  • Installing a new backsplash
  • Storing countertop appliances to create more workspace
  • Replacing dark valances with lighter fabric or removing them altogether

2. Update Switch Plate Covers

Switchplate and outlet covers are brittle and can crack and yellow over time, resulting in a home that, no matter how well updated, still looks dated. New outlets and covers can be replaced in a snap for generally under five dollars, making it one of the lowest cost updates available. Consider flat switches that create a modern, streamlined silhouette and stick to white for a timeless look.

3. Beautify the Bathroom

An updated bathroom comes only second to kitchens in a buyer’s list of must-haves, so showing them a clean and uncluttered bathroom will score points with any potential buyer.

New flooring can give an otherwise tired bathroom a much-needed facelift and create a newer looking bathroom overall. Coordinating linens, a new shower curtain, and thoroughly cleaned grout can top off this easy home improvement investment.

4. Address Storage

Storage is always a concern for buyers. Installing low-cost closet organizers to your existing space will increase storage and organization in your home. Add storage baskets to hide clutter and you will have beautiful storage spaces that will make any buyer envious.

5. Deep Clean for a Good Return

If your home contains wall to wall carpeting, clean carpets can make a world of difference to a buyer. Cleaning carpets can easily be completed in a weekend with a rental cleaning machine, and it creates a noticeably clean, odor-free environment for buyers to tour.

6. Boost Curb Appeal

Nothing boosts curb appeal like a tidy yard. Trim and edge walkways, weed gardens, and trim shrubs for maximum impact. If you have a porch, consider potted, seasonal plants to bring the look together.

7. Improve the First Impression

As buyers approach your home, first impressions matter. Ensuring your entryway is clean and inviting with something as simple as a new mailbox or updated house numbers will make buyers feel welcome. Clean windows and doors for extra impact.

8. Add a Coat of Paint

Freshening up your living space with neutral colors will invite buyers to imagine their belongings in your home and will cover up any nicks, scratches, or dents your wall incurred over years of daily living.

9. Update Lighting

While not the lowest cost solution on our list, you will find that a new light fixture or two really breathes new life into key living spaces. If your budget is tight, look to kitchen, dining, and living rooms for the most bang for your buck.

10. Add Some Decor Pizzazz

Finally, a fresh look can be completed with nothing more than some colorful fabric. Inexpensive pillows and throws in a coordinating palette through your home will create a unified look that will have buyers hooked.

How to Get Wood Flooring on Any Budget

Hardwood flooring is often considered a must-have feature by new homeowners or those undertaking a remodeling project. Wood is a natural, renewable resource. Plus, wood flooring complements all types of home decor, from traditional to contemporary. The downside is that wood floors, especially solid wood floors, can be expensive. Some exotic wood species, such as Brazilian walnut, can cost more than $15 per square foot — and that doesn’t include installation labor. However, you can find alternatives that give you the look of real wood at a reduced price — some as low as $2 or $3 per square foot. Here are some of the best budget-friendly hardwood floor choices.

Calculating the Overall Price

The products listed below go from most expensive to least expensive, but there’s a lot of overlap among the categories. For example, some solid wood products are less expensive than some luxury vinyl tiles. Before you make your final decision, factor in the cost of professional installation, which can add as much as $3 to $10 per square foot to the total cost of a flooring project. Some of the items that can drive up installation costs include:

• Removing and disposing of the old flooring
• Repairing the subfloor when necessary
• The size and shape of the room(s)
• Stair installation

If you’re an experienced DIYer, you can save money by installing the floors yourself. Beginners should leave the job to the professionals, though — you may end up making mistakes that are even more expensive to fix. 

Solid Wood 

This is usually the most expensive option, but there are ways to reduce the cost, especially in the long run. When properly maintained, solid wood flooring will last as long as the house stands. You can freshen up the look at any time by sanding away the old finish and restaining and sealing the floor.  

Some wood species are more expensive than others. Fortunately, many of the most common types, such as oak or maple, fall into the low- to mid-range of costs. Solid wood products can come finished or unfinished. If the floor is unfinished, the installer will stain and seal the floor once it is in place, which adds to the installation costs. On the flip side, the prefinished product may cost more up front. 

Engineered Wood 

These products are constructed of multiple thin layers of material that are bonded together under pressure. The top layer is made from a familiar wood species — such as oak or maple — and is usually treated with a factory-applied finish that resists dirt and scuff marks. Engineered wood floors are less likely than solid wood to wrap and twist because of moisture and humidity, so they can be installed in basements and bathrooms. Some products feature click-in-place installation — no need for adhesives or fasteners — which is an easier, faster installation method perfect for DIYers. However, a vapor barrier needs to be installed or attached to the flooring.

Bamboo 

Bamboo floors are manufactured to either look like traditional wood flooring or showcase their distinctive grass-like look. Some bamboo products are harder than solid wood flooring. They are strong and long-lasting, but are easy to scratch and are not recommended for areas prone to moisture. Bamboo is a type of grass and grows to maturity much more quickly than trees do, which makes it a sustainable, eco-friendly option. Click-in-place installation is available for some products. 


Porcelain Tile 


New porcelain tiles can be made to look like anything, including real wood. Some products are available in planks that have a wood-like texture. Porcelain tiles are an inexpensive, easy way to achieve a “reclaimed” wood look — many tiles mimic the texture and color variation of aged planks. As with regular tiles, they are durable and can be used in wet areas, including bathrooms. They are also stain-resistant and much easier to clean than real wood — spills wipe up quickly, and using just water and a mild soap makes them shine. Porcelain tiles must be installed using mortar and grout. 

Luxury Vinyl Tile 


As with porcelain tiles, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) can look like wood and come in traditional-style planks. LVTs are thicker and more durable than standard vinyl. They are usually waterproof, are easier to clean than true hardwoods, and can be installed in any room in the house. To prolong their durability, many LVTs are treated to resist color fading and scratches.

Laminate 

Laminate floors are composed of a high-density hardboard core protected by a melamine layer that can be made to look like anything — including real wood. The top layer protects against dirt and scuff marks, but the material should not be installed in rooms that are exposed to moisture. Click-in-place installation is available. 

Hardwood flooring is a classic, timeless look that fits a wide range of design options. Thanks to today’s selection of flooring products, it’s easy to get a wood look at a lower cost. When making your final decision, be sure to include both the material costs and the installation costs. That way, you’ll get the look you want at a budget-friendly price. 

Stages of Buying a Home

It may be a goal you have had since childhood. Perhaps, you have rented for most of your adult life and now want to experience the joys and satisfaction of home ownership. Buying a home is a big step and requires a lot of important decisions along the way. With some advanced planning and research, you can be sure your home purchase is something you feel good about for many years ahead. Here are the basic steps that lead you to a successful transaction.

Understanding What You Can Afford
This is different from qualifying for a loan. This is calculating how much of your budget you will devote to your home and how much money you want for other things. For a person who values travel, they can afford more house than they should buy. Some of their money will go toward accommodations on the road or other travel expenses. If you love fishing, boating, or a hobby such as restoring classic cars, factor the required budget for your preferred pastime into your overall household budget. With that in mind, think twice about buying a home the bank says you can afford. You will be happiest in the home that allows you to enjoy life to its fullest.

Review Your Credit Report
Know your credit score prior to meeting with any loan officers or mortgage brokers. A lower score will result in a higher interest rate and possibly prevent you from qualifying for the loan you want. It can take several months to correct any errors in your report. By reviewing your report a few months before home shopping, you could save yourself several thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Choosing Your Professionals
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) advises potential homebuyers to attend a homeownership education class prior to choosing a mortgage. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established to help protect consumers from predatory lending and mandates all required information about your loan and real estate transaction be written in clear, easy to understand wording. It is an excellent resource for home buyers.

Take time to interview several loan professionals before signing with one. You can be pre-qualified by your bank or any loan company. That does not obligate you to choose them for your home loan. Discuss your goals with a Coldwell Banker® brand agent. They are here to consult with you at each step of the process. Also, it is a good idea to know who will be your attorney for the closing. Many builders want you to close the transaction with their attorney. As the home buyer, it is your right to choose the attorney who will represent you in the closing.

Choosing Your Home
Once you are pre-qualified, you are ready to begin shopping for your new home. For most buyers who plan to purchase with a standard 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, there are few restrictions on the houses they view. If you will be using a FHA loan, USDA home loan, or other special financing, you can only consider homes that qualify for these programs. HUD has incentives for first-time buyers and community servants like firefighters, teachers, and law enforcement officers. To see if you qualify for special financing, and to learn if there are any Good Neighbor Next Door homes available in your area, consult with a Coldwell Banker® brand agent.

Take your lifestyle and future plans into consideration as you view homes. If you plan to move in a few years, you may want to choose a simple, easily affordable home that will always be in demand and fairly easy to sell. It is best to have a second and third choice in mind that you can go to if you have to walk away from negotiations on your first choice.

Negotiating the Contract
Buying a home is an emotional experience. Trust your home buying expert with Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC for guidance. They work with lenders, home sellers, and other real estate agents every day. They will advise you on negotiation strategies and be there to provide objective advice that protects your best interest in the transaction. Most contracts have contingencies, and the negotiation is not complete until all contingencies are met.

Home Inspection
A thorough home inspection by a certified professional is crucial for any home purchase. You should attend the inspection and feel free to ask questions about any areas of concern. Once you have received the home inspection report, your Coldwell Banker brand agent will review it with you. You may choose to ask the seller to make some needed repairs, negotiate a lower price, or accept the report and move forward with the transaction as it is.

The Closing
The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) requires that lenders provide home buyers with as accurate of a good faith estimate as possible and that they disclose the nature of all cost. It also prohibits kickbacks and other unlawful payments among real estate professionals and lenders. The TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule combines forms required by the Truth in Lending Act, also known as Regulation Z, and the Real Estate Procedures Act, known as Regulation X, into one simple form. This new document replaces the final document required by the TILA and the HUD-1. You have three days to review and discuss it with your Coldwell Banker brand agent.

For any changes in amounts before or after closing, the lender must provide you with a corrected Closing Disclosure showing the actual amounts. All financial figures must be documented in writing and not delivered verbally. With sufficient communications prior to closing, you know the amount of certified funds (if any) you need to bring to closing. You can relax, sign the necessary paperwork, and receive the keys to your new home.