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Surviving the Holidays: Crucial Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Guests

December 12, 2012

Many people think of Christmas as an exciting time of year filled with fun times and holiday cheer where families and friends can enjoy each other’s company. However, those planning these celebrations often associate the holidays with stress and tension. With Christmas shopping, decorating, and cooking, there are plenty of tasks that create stress and chaos throughout the holidays. Not to mention, there’s a considerable amount of cleaning and home preparation needed to accommodate guests. However, there are helpful tips that will alleviate stress and facilitate the process of preparing your home for guests to create the optimum holiday experience for you, your friends and family.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Have the furnace inspected and sweep the chimney before you run the heat or light a fire.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Make the small repairs you have been putting off. Inspect the house and fix leaky faucets, clogged drains, cracked windows, creaky door hinges, and loose doorknobs.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Brighten up a dull front door with glossy paint or a holiday wreath.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Make sure the outside lights are on and bright for guests arriving at night.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Sweep up leaves from the yard, sidewalk, or driveway so that guests don’t track it into the house.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Set up coat hooks and a shoe rack to keep the entry way, hallway and stairs free of clutter.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Replace an old, worn doormat with a fresh new one. This not only helps the home look more welcoming, but also protects the carpets from dirty feet.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Invest in tables to provide plenty of counter space for drinks, and make sure you have plenty of coasters!

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470Place newspapers, DVDs, games, and toys in boxes or attractive baskets to eliminate clutter around the house.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Be sure to have enough seating and dishes for every guest, and plan for unexpected guests. Folded chairs are great for additional seating because they can be folded up and stacked neatly when not being used.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Prepare for overnight guests. Provide hangars for clothes, clean the sheets, and leave an open area for suitcases and bags. Inflatable mattresses are nice and comfortable if there are not enough beds for everyone. Leave a magazine or book on the nightstand for some reading options before bed, and provide lighting that can be turned off by the bed.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Provide extra blankets and pillows for guests.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Thoroughly clean the bathrooms. Discard empty bottles of toiletries, and put out a fresh bar of soap, towels, shower gel, and shampoo. Put extra toilet paper in bathrooms.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Deep clean your refrigerator and freezer. Remove any food that is past its use-by date. Throw out what you don’t need and eat up what you can to provide room for the holiday feast. Make basic cooking ingredients easy to find.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Have coffee, tea, orange juice, milk, and necessary sweeteners or cream easily accessible for mornings.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 De-clutter and thoroughly clean all surfaces a few days before your guests are scheduled to arrive and maintain it. This includes dusting counter tops, tables, window seals, fan blades, and baseboards; cleaning all glass with Windex; cleaning out closets; vacuuming all carpets in the house; and making sure that all other surfaces, sinks, bathrooms, and floors are sparkling.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Take an inventory of your cleaning supplies and make sure you have essential supplies, including a sufficient amount of washing liquid, dishwasher tablets, soap powder, and carpet shampoo.

christmas_tree_clip_art_11470 Light scented holiday candles on tables, the mantle, and hearth to create a warm glow to your home once the guests arrive.

While some of these tasks might sound daunting and time consuming, they will make your home inviting and help you avoid dealing with last minute issues that could arise while guests are there. It is important to remember that you don’t have to take on these tasks all on your own. Delegate certain chores like vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning the bathrooms to other family members. Most importantly, don’t wait until the last minute. You can start taking care of some of these tasks immediately to avoid last minute chaos.

Social Media Tips for Real Estate Agents

November 29, 2012

As a Connect Realty agent, it is important to understand the benefits of online marketing and the opportunities available from the internet. Social media is an immensely important aspect of real estate and enables you to stay connected with current and past clients, help gain potential clients, and portray an image of your brand 24/7.

Marketing and prospecting have similarities; however, there are also strong differences between the two. Marketing encompasses the actions involved in purchasing and selling products, while prospecting focuses on the work of narrowing down your probable and potential clientele or demographics. Social media was created to establish and maintain communication between individuals and groups, not just created to post a slogan or property information on a recent sale.

When creating a connection with someone in person, a bond must be made for them to want to use you as their real estate agent. This same association must be made when creating online (or virtual) relationships. Tailoring your site to showcase what you specialize in and your client demographics gives the client personal insight to you and your professionalism while simultaneously strengthening your online connection with the client.

Here are some effective tips and tools for making the most of social media:

FACEBOOK

Design a “Winning” Profile

  •  Create a suitable profile that is professional, informative, and clutter-free.
  •  Facebook has two main photos that are visible when you access a profile page: a header photo (called a “timeline” picture), and a main profile photo. It is important to keep these two images simple, friendly and coherent.
  • Update your photo albums often! These images illustrate what you are selling and who you are – especially if you are posting your listings.
  • Include a link to your individual website.

Strive for Balance

  •  Creating a Facebook account and failing to maintain it could result in lost client potential, poor image representation, and ineffective communication. Keep your site updated by posting pictures and information on listings and open houses.
  • On the other hand, excessive posting, comments, and irrelevant content can serve as a nuisance to those who have already subscribed to you and could deter future “friends” and traffic.
  • If you wouldn’t call, email or text something to a potential client in person, then don’t do it through Facebook either! Treat Facebook communication and interaction as you would a face to face conversation.

Modify and Format Your “Friends” List

  • Narrow down your potential clients by creating a “list” you can easily keep up with.
  • Navigate to https://www.facebook.com/bookmarks/lists and add your top 10-20 people to a “favorites” list to easily keep up with them.
  • Check your “favorites” list often and make an attempt to connect by “liking” their content.

PINTEREST

Pinterest is an excellent tool for creating the perfect “image” and representation of you and your style as a realtor. You know in real estate, you are not only selling a home, you are selling the location and the surrounding lifestyle as well. Pinterest delivers more link traffic than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined. Second to Facebook, Pinterest has become the main social media link available. It is a quick and easy way to generate countless traffic and referrals.

Highlight Your Location & Create Your Image

  • Feature local dining establishments, shopping establishments, attractions, and unique aspects of your city/MLS. Example- “Houston: Features the Galleria Mall, which happens to be the largest mall in the Lone Star State! Everything really IS bigger in Texas”.
  • Turn your listings and location into a “story”.  Showcasing a home is one thing, but creating a board with the property and the surrounding location features really creates a package people will be drawn to.
  • Adding local attractions, entertainment, and recreational activities will make you look like an “expert” in your area and will help attract more clients!
  • Keep in mind that the recreation areas (such as parks, pedestrian trails and more) are the top sought after criteria for the majority of home buyers. If your listing has an enhanced sense of community and recreational amenities to offer such as playgrounds, community pools or lakes, then highlight those attributes!

TWITTER

 Customize & Individualize

  • Keep a current and professional profile picture up. Keep logos and brands visible and consistent with your other sites.
  • Create a bio! Twitter enables you to type a few words as a biography, so this is an excellent way to pitch your slogan or main selling phrase.

Tweet Relevant Content

  • Post your open house dates and locations.
  • Link related news articles or statistics regarding your MLS or the market in general.
  • Encourage feedback and seek to connect with your followers by posting “Question and Answer” type posts.
  • Highlight local events and attractions in your area.
  • Go ahead and brag a little! Post a write up about a success story of a satisfied client.

Quality, Not Quantity

  • Search locally for friends/clients/connections. It is great to have a large number of followers, but remember you are aiming for real client potential, not just anyone and everyone.

Use the Apps!

  • Twitter provides EasyTweets, TweetBacks and Twitterfeed to connect with your followers.

Remember: You can sync all of these sites together, so maintaining posts and content is a breeze. Social media outlets can seem overwhelming, but if you keep it simple by staying true to yourself, your goals, and stay CONNECTED, you will be successful.

Top Reasons to be Thankful for Today’s Real Estate Market

November 15, 2012

Top Reasons to be Thankful for Today’s Real Estate Market

It is no secret that over the past few years Americans have dealt with their fair share of hardships and tribulations. With a floundering economy, high unemployment rates, and a mortgage crisis that seemed inescapable, many Americans have experienced difficulty. However, with a vastly improving real estate market, there are many benefits to reap not only for realtors, but also for the economy as a whole, as housing recoveries typically coincide with broader economic recoveries. A rebounding real estate market has several positive side effects that will provide real estate agents, home buyers, and the economy plenty of reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving!

 Home prices and sales are on the rise! The market is continuing to take steps back toward normalcy.

 Shadow inventory (distressed properties that aren’t listed for sale but will be, i.e. homes that borrowers are delinquent on or already in foreclosure, or that banks have already repossessed) is shrinking. A smaller shadow inventory means there are fewer distressed properties poised to come on the market, a positive for home prices.

 Foreclosures are up. This helps the housing market in the long run because it enables banks to get through the backlog and eventually move on. Foreclosures also create low priced homes that many buyers can take advantage of.

 Low interest Rates! Today’s buyers have some of the best pricing and interest rates that the housing market has ever seen!

 Inventory levels are down which creates a higher demand and more stable prices in the market.

 The number of new home sales is rising. In fact, construction of new homes is up 15 percent. Increasing new home sales has caused the construction industry to grow, which has created new jobs and reduced the unemployment rate.

 The housing market’s demand and supply are reaching numbers that are closer to normal, meaning, more stable prices!

 Modest prices and competition in the market make it a good time to buy a home because both agents and buyers have to compete with multiple offers.

 There is greater interest among potential home buyers as employment and consumer confidence slowly improve in a growing number of markets.

 Home sales are expected to continue to rise 2-5% every year according to Freddie Mac’s U.S. Economic and Housing Outlook Survey, which will be accompanied by a more stable economy and greater income potential for real estate agents.

 New policies for mortgage companies prevent home buyers from purchasing a home they cannot afford; thus, avoiding a relapse of another housing crisis.

 Borrowers are building more equity in their homes through refinancing to either pay down their debt and reduce loans or pay higher monthly payments to pay down the principal quicker, another positive indication of the future of the housing market that benefits mortgage companies, banks, homeowners, and the economy.

With such positive indicators that the real estate market is on an upward climb, the future of the industry and the economy looks bright. While many Americans have withstood difficult times over the years, the climbing market offers a glimmer of hope for our housing market, our economy, and our country that provide plenty of reasons to give thanks this Thanksgiving!

Don’t Forget to “Fall Back” on Sunday

November 2, 2012

For those of you who don’t know, at 2:00 AM on Sunday November 4, 2012, it’s time to move your clock back one hour to end Daylight Saving Time. This not only gives us an extra hour of sleep, but also brings us fewer hours of daylight and therefore, longer nights by the warm fires!

Daylight Saving Time has not always been widely accepted among the public, and regions and countries today routinely change their approaches to it. The concept all started with Benjamin Franklin, and later Britain and Germany began using the concept in World War I to conserve energy. However, Daylight Saving Time didn’t become widely accepted in the United States until after World War II. In the 1950s and 1960s, a lot of confusion was created because each U.S. locality could start and end Daylight Saving Time as it desired. At one point, the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul were even on different schedules! Then, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was implemented. It outlined that clocks should be set forward on the last Sunday in April, and set back the last Sunday in October. In 1986, it was amended to start on the first Sunday of April. Today, Daylight Saving Time begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday of November.

The implementation and ending of Daylight Saving Time has been fought with controversy since Benjamin Franklin conceived the idea. Regions and countries today still routinely change their approaches, and many cities in the past remained on different schedules. Today, each U.S. Time Zone switches at a different time. The universal time of 2:00 AM was chosen for each time zone because it was practical, and it minimizes the disruption. Most people are at home at 2:00 AM, there are few trains running, and it’s early enough that the entire continental United States switches by day break, but before early church goers or workers are affected. Daylight Saving Time is still not observed in Hawaii, Arizona, Guan, Puerto Rico, or American Samoa.
In the European Union, summer begins and ends at 1:00 AM universal time. It begins the last Sunday in March and ends the last Sunday in October, and all time zones change at the same moment, regardless of the time. The United States used to share the ending weekend, but in 2007 a new law extended Daylight Saving Time to the first Sunday in November because it provided more light and therefore more safety for trick-or-treaters on Halloween, thus less traffic accidents. Officials also thought that the elections would receive a higher voter turnout with the longer days.

Today, there are still issues regarding Daylight Saving Time, mainly with trains and the Amtrak system. The ending of Daylight Saving Time causes many to be restless in the afternoon, as well, as sunlight creeps through the windows earlier than normal which disrupts sleep. However, the positives outweigh the negatives, in this case, as people continue taking advantage of their longer, relaxing summer evenings and early winter mornin
gs.

Tips for a Safe and Happy Halloween from Connect Realty

October 23, 2012

Costumes, candy and fun with friends and family are just a few things that make Halloween an exciting day for kids!  However, with all of the excitement, sometimes we tend to use less caution than normal. Everyone wants to have a safe and happy Halloween for themselves, their guests, and most of all, their children.  Here are a few safety tips for both parents and children that will help you make the most of the Halloween season.

For Kids:

Trick-or-Treat in areas where there are a lot of people around, and only at homes that have their porch lights on.  Avoid taking short cuts through alleys or dark places.

Follow all regular rules for walking around the streets.  Look both ways before crossing the street, obey traffic laws, and use cross walks.

Never go inside a stranger’s house.  For young children, make sure parents are within sight before ringing a stranger’s door bell.

Wear costumes made of fire-retardant materials.  Make sure to wear bright, reflective costumes, or add strips of reflective tape to make sure you’re visible.

Make sure costumes aren’t too long or baggy to avoid tripping.

Don’t obscure your vision.  Wear makeup and hats rather than masks that can prohibit clear vision.

Don’t wear decorative contact lenses unless you have seen an eye care professional for proper lenses and instruction.

Some Halloween makeup and color additives can cause allergic reactions on your skin, so read the labels and test any products out beforehand.

Don’t start snacking on your candy until Mom and Dad have inspected it!

For Older Children:

If you are going out with friends, make sure parents know where you’re going and who you’re going with.

If driving, ensure that you have enough gas to get there and back.

For older children trick or treating, use flashlights and stay on sidewalks.

Halloween pranks continue to be popular among older children, but can be costly and result in serious fines or even jail time.

Remember, there is truth to what is said about safety in numbers.  If you’re old enough to trick-or-treat without parental supervision, stay in a group.  Carry cell phones in case there is an emergency.

For Parents:

Remove choking hazards from young children.

Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers.  Throw away any candy that is not commercially wrapped.

Establish a curfew for older children going out or those trick-or-treating alone.  Have a phone close by in case they call with an emergency.

Prepare homes for trick-or-treaters by clearing porches, lawns, and sidewalks.  Place jack-o-lanterns away from doorways and landings.

If driving, watch for children in the street and on medians.  Drive below the speed limit around children and use extra caution.

If driving younger children around who are trick-or-treating, have them get out of the car on the curbside, not on the traffic side.

Although many of these tips are just common sense, they are important reminders for keeping Halloween a fun, safe and happy holiday. Trick or Treat!

Some Things to Consider When Assisting First Time Home Buyers

September 26, 2012

With 40% of the real estate market composed of first time home buyers, the group has become one of the best niches in real estate.  Many first time buyers were born between 1981 and 2000 as part of the Echo-Boom generation, which is larger than the Baby-Boom generation, and will create a huge surge of starter home sales over the next few years.  Working with a first time home buyer is a smart decision for Real Estate Agents not only because they are about to dominate the market, but also because they typically stay in their homes less time, will buy several properties over their lifetime, and are more loyal clients; thus, creating more potential business over the years.  In order to achieve success with this growing market, there are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Be active in finding first time homebuyers.  Many Real Estate Agents find first time homebuyers at FTHB seminars hosted by different organizations.  Introduce yourself, leave business cards or flyers, and ask for their information to build a relationship with them.
  • Improve your online presence.  Most first time home buyers will research the process and search for homes online before finding a professional.  It is important to be active with social media, blogging, and videos so that they can find you during their search.
  • Embrace the new buyer and help the client understand the process.  Set the right expectations for them, explain short sales, normal sales, REO, and turn times.
  • Never rush a new home buyer.  Spend whatever time necessary with them to gain their trust and confidence in your knowledge and your ability to guide them through the process.
  • Uncover any issues they have with buying a home that might keep them unsure and address them. It is important to target any issues that might have them on the fence, and ensure them that this is a good time for them to buy. If the issue can be resolved, help them resolve it. If not, stay in contact until they are ready.  It might be tempting to push them towards a purchase, but waiting until they are ready and confident will establish trust and generate future business.
  • Give the client peace of mind.  Help them navigate the market, identify the inventory of homes, research, and point out the pros and cons of properties to make informed decisions.
  • Be committed to the client.  Get them the best value for their investment.  Be loyal and 100% dedicated to them.  First time homebuyers need a lot of attention and reassurance, so be prepared to spend a lot of time with them on their home search and answer questions.
  • Provide them with access to information.  Information and educational efforts are more important when working with first time homebuyers.  They generally need more information about the process, a slower approach, and feedback throughout the process.
  • Develop a folder of information in print form to help them do their research.  This will save time by helping them learn everything they need to know without you having to explain it all.
  • Be sure to have your first time buyers get pre-qualified.
  • Be prepared to show more homes to a first time buyer.  They will be curious and cautious, so be patient in helping them decide on their first purchase. 
  • There are down payment assistant programs available for first time buyers who do not have money from selling a home.  It is crucial that the Real Estate Agent finds the program that best fits the individual buyer.
  • After closing the sale, keep in touch.  Maintaining a relationship, sending them flyers, or staying connected through social media can generate referrals and prevent them from going elsewhere for their next home purchase or sell.

Buying a home is both a huge responsibility and opportunity.  When helping a first time homebuyers, it is vital to guide them as they go through the buying process from financing, appraisals, property rights, offers, negotiating, scheduling, monitoring closing details, and moving.  Remember, a first time homebuyers is going to make several transactions throughout their lifetime.  Following these tips will help you to establish a business relationship that will a lifetime.

Some Things to Consider When Assisting Senior Home Buyers

September 5, 2012

Buying or selling a home is complicated for anyone, but especially for seniors who have many added issues. Issues facing senior citizens when selling or buying homes are much different than first-time home buyers and young buyers.  With an increasing number of aging baby boomers and empty-nesters relocating and moving into properties for retirement, it is important to understand the unique challenges, opportunities, and preferences of a senior buyer.

 First of all, it is important for anyone who is specializing in senior housing to become listed with the Seniors Real Estate Specialist Council as a preferred and trusted realtor in the industry. The completion of the Seniors Real Estate Specialist Designation Course is essential for realtors in understanding the distinct real estate goals, concerns, and needs of seniors today.

 When approached by a senior home buyer, an agent should first determine whether the senior should really buy or not at that time. Look at it from a wants or needs point of view, not a financial point of view. Many seniors have lived in their homes for a lifetime with built-up memories and may be reluctant to move if they don’t absolutely have to. There are many potential solutions to help them stay in their current home as long as possible. While it might be tempting to encourage them to “make a move” in order to make a sale, if you do what is right for them at that time, they will come back to you when they are truly ready to buy, and may even refer you to others.

 Many seniors need help determining when and where  to move,  decreasing belongings accumulated over the years, and coordinating the details involved in a move. A Real Estate Agent should be prepared to help them, or find an organization that can provide assistance for their particular needs.

 Each situation is unique as not every senior is the same. While many seniors are still in the work force and don’t want to give up their professional lifestyle, some may be retired and need home care. Know the client’s lifestyle before putting together a list of properties. What are their priorities? Where do they see themselves in the next few years?

 Evaluate the level of care the buyer needs. Do they need assisted living? Are they having any issues of mobility? Keep in mind, this is a home the buyer needs to live comfortably in for years to come. The Real Estate Agent might have to locate a retirement community that is designed and maintained with focus on the special requirements of today’s active seniors.

 Helping seniors find a home does not always mean decreasing size. Many senior home buyers want to increase the convenience of their homes by eliminating maintenance while still maintaining the size and luxury they are accustomed to. Do they still need space for grandchildren or children? Each situation is different. It is up to the Real Estate Agent to discover the credentials in order to close the deal.

 Discuss layout options with your clients. While home buyers don’t necessarily want to trade style for functionality, even active seniors will appreciate options like fewer stairs. Do they need in home assistance? What kind of facilities should you find to show them based on their level of care needed? Where will they be in ten years? It is important to discuss these with your client to ensure you find them the ideal residence. Again, a happy client not only closes the sale, but also builds referrals!

 One of the most important considerations for seniors when buying a home is the location. Is it close to family, children, and grandchildren? With increasing issues in mobility, a Real Estate Agent needs to ensure that senior home buyers are in close proximity to good public transportation, medical facilities, and recreation. Are sidewalks nearby? Accessibility to parks and recreation? Street plowing? Provide clients with as much year-round information about the property and area as possible.

 Be considerate and understanding about the concerns of your client. For seniors who have spent a lifetime in their home, leaving memories behind and moving into a new, unfamiliar territory can be emotionally difficult. Make a connection with them and be in tune with their mindset. Comfort them based on past clients and reassure them that they are making the right decision based on their original wants and needs. The harder you work to fit their needs, the more likely you will close the sale and acquire potential clients.

With more than 20% of the United States population aged 50 or higher, Real Estate Agents will be faced with more and more senior home buyers. Moving for this demographic often involves trading homes to better suit needs, and it is important for the agent to understand they are different from the young, first time home buyer in many ways. These tips should help the process move forward as efficiently as possible.

Why Social Media is Essential in Real Estate

July 16, 2012

Social Media is an essential tool for marketing for businesses worldwide with Real Estate being no exception.  With hundreds of real estate agents to choose from, it is important to find a way to stand out from the crowd.  In today’s competitive environment you have to find a way to keep your name active with all possible prospects.   The days of realtors using direct mail to send postcards or expensive pamphlets to entire zip codes of potential buyers is ending.  Instead, they are being replaced by quicker, less expensive Web-based options that many agents believe is more effective.

With over 85% of Real Estate transactions starting online, your prospective clients are on the web, and realtors must be where their past and future clients are.    People looking to buy, sell, or invest in real estate flock to the internet to gather as much information as possible before making one of the largest financial transactions of their life.  In order for agents to stay connected to customers and create new customers in a fun way, social media is not just an option, it is essential for any Real Estate agent that wants to be successful.  For those not familiar with social media, it is important to understand the many advantages that accompany its usage.

  • Referrals are much easier when using Social Media because it helps you create and maintain relationships with people.
  • Agents can post blogs and important industry information and articles to their Twitter and Facebook accounts.  This makes them seem like experts in their field and attracts clients.
  • Social Media efforts can provide you two essential outputs-brand visibility and leads.  Any visibility you generate to your brand has media value.
  • Individuals are becoming less social offline and more social online. This is one of the main reasons you must be found easily on the web, and you must establish yourself as an authority for the services you offer in your area.
  • Social networks allow you to announce property values to the public including important photos, updates, and prices of homes. You can post images of your latest listings with details of the property, and link it back to your website to generate traffic to your page.
  • YouTube has a wide audience, and videos work extremely well when posting on your other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.  This allows you to be interactive while showing video of the neighborhood and home to potential buyers, and brings out your personality.
  • The heaviest Facebook users are also the biggest spenders online – the top 20% of users spend $67 per quarter, compared to $27 for non Facebook users. (Comscore)
  • Databases such as Facebook and Twitter allow you to interact with customers that may have questions through comments and posts.
  • You can post listing information and pictures on a client’s Facebook wall, thus exposing it and yourself to everyone connected to that person.
  • Consumer opinions posted online (70%) are more trusted than information on TV (62%), newspapers (61%) and online banner ads (33%). (Nielsen)
  • Blogs help build widespread reputation and share information in your industry.  Remember – everyone strives to be that powerhouse in real estate.  You can even post blog content to your social media outlets to generate further exposure.
  • According to a Kantar Media study in the US, 35% of social media users say Twitter has influenced their purchasing decisions. (Dirk Singer)
  • Social Media also connects you with other professionals around the world.  It enables you to learn new tricks and key pointers from others.
  • Social sites are straightforward and quite easy to set up.  It doesn’t take a proven expert to start.
  • Mobile applications on Smart Phones can be downloaded for new and creative ways to promote listings and entice sellers.  Mobile apps are essential to connect with home buyers and renters.
  • The best aspect of Social Media like Facebook and Twitter – they are free! If you use them to your strengths, it’s free advertising.  It not only saves you money but time as well.
  • Technology in this world is changing rapidly.  With new innovations in phones, computers, and tablets, old real estate methods will begin to slowly deteriorate.  You need to establish a new ground-breaking presence.

With continuous advances in technology, social media is becoming more important and widespread to acquire clients, generate leads, and build your brand.  Real Estate is a highly competitive industry.  While direct marketing occasionally seems like the right approach, social media has become a dominant force in marketing real estate.  In order to be successful, it is important to use as many avenues as possible, so why not start now

Staging Your Home without Depleting Your Bank Account

June 13, 2012

In the current tough economy, many families do not have the expendable cash necessary to update and stage a home for sale.  However, there are plenty of inexpensive, highly effective, and simple ways to stage your home to make it warm, spacious, and inviting that will add value and more importantly, not deplete your bank account.

  • Mow the lawn, clear the sidewalk, mulch, add flowers and make sure the house number is visible. Remove pet excretions from your entire yard.   Clear any branches, weeds, limbs, and bushes that hide the home.  If needed, rent a pressure washer for $50 or borrow a neighbor’s to clean the exterior, driveway, and sidewalk.
  •  Borrow or purchase colorful, potted plants to place by your front door.
  • Clean your welcome mat, or buy a new one if necessary.  This makes the house feel warm and inviting.
  • Fix the little imperfections of your home.  For instance, add orange oil to dry cabinets to renew their luster.  Use a staining furniture polish to make woodwork look new.  Add lubricant to fix a squeaky door.
  • Remove the clutter from your home. Packing away personal items is one of the simplest and most inexpensive things you can do help your home sell quickly.  Remove all photos, religious items, and clutter including toys, items on counter tops, old books, magazines, CD’s, and decorations that do not add visual appeal to your home.  You can box them neatly in your garage out of sight.
  • Cleaning and deodorizing your home is very important.  Clean carpets, bathrooms, counter tops, dust furniture, fans, and baseboards, organize closets, your refrigerator, kitchen drawers, be sure to remove fingerprints from light switches and around door knobs, and everything else necessary to make your home spotless from top to bottom.
  • Light candles or use plug-ins to add fragrance to your home.  Fresh flowers and potpourri are also inexpensive ways to help your home smell fresh, and add crucial visible elements.  Place scented soaps in bathrooms to decorate and add freshness.
  • Move furniture around to open up space and make the room look warm, spacious, and inviting.   Remove bulky furniture if needed to open up the room.
  • Borrow lamps, rugs, table centerpieces, and small pieces of furniture to occupy an area with too much open space.  These items can be found at many stores for a very low price, as well.
  • Add items to areas that seem dull.  For instance, a bowl of fruit can add color and texture to kitchen counters, pillows or a throw can complement an old, outdated couch.
  • Add greenery; search your yard for colorful flowers to put in a vase.
  • Let natural light brighten every room.  Open curtains and blinds. Replace light bulbs that contribute to harsh or dull lighting.

Following these simple guidelines for staging your home are economical, easy, and effective.  By dividing the tasks amongst your family, borrowing essential items, or finding them at great prices, you can present your home in the most desirable way possible without eating through your savings.

How to Prepare Your Home for a Buyer’s Inspection

May 2, 2012

The purpose of a home inspection is to document the overall condition of the property at the time of the inspection, and to ensure that its major systems and components (water heater, heating and cooling systems, plumbing, electrical, etc.) are installed and working properly.  Informed sellers can make the home inspection process easier and faster.  Preparing for a home inspection not only presents the property in the best condition, but it also helps prevent closing delays due to incomplete or repeated inspections.  If sellers know what to look for, they can resolve any minor issues before the buyer’s home inspection.  Completing repairs beforehand helps ensure that escrow progresses more smoothly.  Even minor blunders can present your home in a less favorable light.  The following are some helpful suggestions to help you prepare for your home inspection.

 Exterior Areas to Check and Fix before an Inspection

  • Remove soil or mulch from contact with siding so that there are six or more inches of clearance.
  • Clean out dirty gutters and any debris from the roof.
  • Trim trees, roots, and bushes back from foundation, roof, siding, and chimney.  Then, check the siding and trim for damages and repair as needed.
  • Paint weathered exterior wood and caulk around trim, chimney, windows, and doors.
  • Remove wood/firewood and other objects from any contact with the house.
  • Caulk all exterior wall penetrations.
  • Ensure that all doors and windows are in proper operating condition, including repairing or replacing any cracked windowpanes.
  • Repair major defects (like roofs) or be straight forward about them and adjust the asking price.
  • Remove trash cans, trim branches and brush, dispose of dead limbs, and clear accessible path around the home.  This helps with the appearance of the house and makes inspecting the foundation, outside electrical outlets, and faucets easier.

Interior Areas to Check and Fix before an Inspection

  • CLEAN!  An unkempt house gives the impression of uncaring owners and neglected regular maintenance.
  • Leave keys to all locked utility boxes and doors.  Inaccessible systems are cause for incomplete inspections and delays.
  • Clean or replace heating and cooling features.  Clean dirty air returns and plenum.
  • Test all smoke detectors to ensure they are working.
  • Have the chimney, fireplace, or woodstove serviced and provide the buyer with a copy of the cleaning record.
  • Replace burned out light bulbs.
  • Have a clear access to the attic, crawl space, the heating system, garage, and other areas that need to be inspected.
  • Make sure all utilities are turned on, including: water, electricity, furnace, air conditioning, and water heater.
  • Ensure access to all rooms and crawl spaces.  There will need to be adequate room to access appliances, electrical panels, and heating/cooling units.
  • Check that all fixtures, fans, and appliances are working properly.

Basement, Crawl Spaces, Attic, and Garage Preparations before an Inspection

  • Check to ensure crawl space is dry, and install proper vapor barrier if necessary.
  • Remove paints, solvents, gas, wood, and other materials from crawl space, basement, attic, or porch.
  • Update attic ventilation if none if present.
  • If windows are at or below grade, install window wells and covers.
  • Ensure that all doors and windows are in proper operating condition.
  • Make sure the garage door is operating properly and repair as needed.

Bathroom Preparations before an Inspection

  • Ensure plumbing fixtures such as toilet, tub, shower, and sinks are in proper working condition.  Fix any leaks and caulk around fixtures if necessary.
  • Ensure GFCL receptacles are functional.
  • Check bath vents to see if they are properly vented and in working condition.
  • Clean out areas under sinks so they can be inspected.
  • Look for floor damage around toilets, tubs, and showers.
  • Make sure all grout and caulking is in good repair.

Following the checklist should help you avoid any unforeseen complications of your home inspection.  However, it is also important that you are ready at least 30 minutes before the appointment, and plan to leave your home for at least three hours.  Inspectors are often accompanied by buyers, and both parties will want uninhibited, free access to ask questions and explore the home.  It is also in the seller’s best interest to secure animals in crates, kennels, or far away from any area where the inspector will be.  This will alleviate any issues with nervous pets that will prevent the inspector from viewing certain areas that would result in an incomplete home inspection.

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