Wednesday, September 25, 2013

21 Staging tips for selling your home fast

If you are planning to put your house on the market this summer, it goes without saying that you are hoping to sell your home as quickly as possible and get your asking price. Set the stage for success with these 21 tips for styling and upgrading your home, and see results -- fast.

1. Boost curb appeal. This is something you always hear, and with very good reason. Many people thinking of touring your home will do a quick drive-by first, often deciding on the spot if it is even worth a look inside. Make sure your home is ready to lure in onlookers with these tips:
  • Power wash siding and walkways
  • Hang easy-to-read house numbers
  • Plant blooming flowers and fresh greenery
  • Mow lawn, and reseed or add fresh sod as needed
  • Wash front windows
  • Repaint or stain the porch floor as needed
2. Welcome visitors with an inviting porch. Even if you have only a tiny stoop, make it say "welcome home" with a clean doormat, potted plants in bloom and -- if you have room -- one or two pieces of neat porch furniture. Keep your porch lights on in the evenings, in case potential buyers drive by. Illuminating the front walk with solar lights is a nice extra touch, especially if you will be showing the house during the evening.

3. Get your house sparkling clean. From shining floors and gleaming windows to clean counters and scrubbed grout, every surface should sparkle. This is the easiest (well, maybe not easiest, but certainly the cheapest) way to help your home put its best foot forward. You may want to hire pros to do some of the really tough stuff, especially if you have a large house. Don't skimp -- this step is key!

4. Clear away all clutter. If you are serious about staging your home, all clutter must go, end of story. It's not easy, and it may even require utilizing offsite storage (or a nice relative's garage) temporarily, but it is well worth the trouble. Clean and clear surfaces, floors, cupboards and closets equal more space in the eyes of potential buyers, so purge anything unnecessary or unsightly.
But it's my style! Guess what? It may not be the style of those seeking to buy a house in your neighborhood. So even if you have an awesome vintage-chic look going on, rein it in for the sake of appealing to the most number of people. You can bring your personal style back into play in your new home.

5. Strike a balance between clean and lived-in. Yes, I know I just said to get rid of all your clutter (and you deserve a big pat on the back if you did it), but now it's time to judiciously bring back a few elements that will really make your home appealing. Think vases of cut flowers, a basket of fresh farmer's market produce on the kitchen counter or a bowl of lemons beside the sink.
6. Style your dining room table. The dining room is often a blind spot in decorating the home. Between dinners, a large dining table can look bare and uninviting, so styling it up with visitors in mind can increase the appeal. An oversize arrangement can look too stiff and formal, so try lining up a series of smaller vessels down the center of the table instead.

7. Take a good look at your floors. At the bare minimum, give all floors a thorough cleaning (and steam clean carpets), but consider having wood floors refinished if they are in poor shape. If you don't want to invest in refinishing floors, the strategic placement of area rugs can go a long way.
8. Rearrange your furniture. In the living room, symmetrical arrangements usually work well. Pull your furniture off the walls and use pairs (of sofas, chairs, lamps) to create an inviting conversation area.

9. Choose sophisticated neutral colors. Now is not the time to experiment with that "fun"-looking lime green. But that doesn't mean you need to go all white, either. Rich midtone neutrals like mocha and "greige" create a sophisticated backdrop that makes everything look more pulled together.
10. Create a gender-neutral master bedroom. Appeal to everyone with a clean, tailored master bedroom, free of personal items and clutter. You can't go wrong with clean, crisp linens, tasteful artwork and a blanket folded at the foot of the bed.

11. Open those closets! Open-house visitors will peek inside your closets. Closet space can be a make-it-or-break-it selling point for buyers, so show yours off to their full advantage by giving excess stuff the heave-ho. Again, this is really important, so even if you need to store a few boxes elsewhere, it's worth it. Aim to have 20 to 30 percent open space in each closet to give the impression of spaciousness.
12. Clean up toys. Of course there will be families with children looking at your home, but just because they have kids too doesn't mean seeing toys strewn everywhere will sell them on the place. When people are house hunting, they are imagining a fresh start. Show them that in this house, it is possible to have a beautifully organized kids' room, and they might be swayed.

13. Use "extra" rooms wisely. If you have been using a spare bedroom as a dumping ground for odd pieces of furniture and boxes of junk, it's time to clean up your act. Each room should have a clearly defined purpose, so think about what potential buyers might like to see here. An office? A guest room? Another kids' room? Whether you buy inexpensive furnishings, rent them, or borrow some from friends, making a real room out of a junk room will have a big payoff.

14. Try a pedestal sink to maximize space. If you have a small bathroom but a huge cabinet-style sink, consider swapping it out for a simple pedestal version. Your bathroom will appear instantly bigger.

15. Use only perfect personal accents. Especially in the bathroom, it is important that anything left out for visitors to see is pristine. If you have a gorgeous fluffy white bathrobe, hanging it on a decorative hook on the door can be an attractive accent -- but if your robe is more of the nubby blue floral variety, you might want to hide it away. Look at every detail with a visitor's eye -- bars of soap should be fresh and clean, towels spotless, the garbage always emptied (you get the idea).

16. Entice people to explore the whole house. By placing something that draws the eye at the top of the stairs, in hallways or in corners, you can pique curiosity and keep potential buyers interested throughout a whole home tour. A piece of artwork, a painted accent wall, a window seat, a vase of flowers, a hanging light or even a small, colorful rug can all work to draw the eye.

17. Show how you can use awkward areas. If you have any room beneath the stairs, or a nook or alcove anywhere in your home, try to find a unique way to show it off. By setting up a small work station, a home command center with a bulletin board, or built-in shelving, your awkward spot becomes another selling point.

18. Beware pet odors. Really, this can be a big one! If you have pets, get all rugs steam cleaned and be extra vigilant about vacuuming and washing surfaces. Also be sure to keep any extra-loved pet toys and doggie bones hidden when tours are scheduled.

19. Create a lifestyle people are looking for. Generally speaking, you want to play up what your neighborhood or area is known for. Have a house in a quiet, grassy suburb? Hanging a hammock in your backyard and a bench swing on your porch could be the perfect touch.
20. Stage the outdoors too. Even if your condo has only a teensy postage stamp–size balcony, play it up with a cute cafe table and chairs, a cheerful tablecloth and even a little tray of dishes or a vase of flowers. When people look at this scene, they won't be thinking "small," they will be thinking, "What a charming spot to have breakfast!"

21. Think seasonally. Make sure your garden is in beautiful shape in the summer, and that any extra features you have, like a pool or a fire pit, are cleaned and ready to go. Take advantage of the cozy vibe of the season in autumn and winter, by building a fire in the fireplace and simmering hot apple cider on the stove.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Existing Home Sales Continue to Climb

Existing Home Sales Continue to Climb

Existing home sales rose 1.7% on a seasonally adjusted basis in August, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). "Rising mortgage interest rates pushed more buyers to close deals, but monthly sales are likely to be uneven in the months ahead from several market frictions," says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR. "Tight inventory is limiting choices in many areas, and restrictive mortgage-lending standards are keeping some otherwise qualified buyers from completing a purchase."

Existing-home sales in August reached the highest level since February 2007, when they hit 5.79 million, according to the NAR's existing home sales report. Roughly 5.48 million homes were sold, up from 5.39 million in July and up 13.2% from the 4.84 million sold in August 2012.

Total housing inventory at the end of August increased 0.4% to 2.25 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.9-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a five-month supply in July. Unsold inventory is 6.3% below a year ago, when there was a six-month supply.

"Limited inventory in some areas means multiple bidding remains a factor; 17% of all homes sold above the asking price in August, although 63% sold below list price," Yun notes.

Metro areas seeing the largest year-over-year declines in inventory in August included Naples, Fla., down 23.5%; Detroit, down 23.3%; and Boston, down 20.7%, according to the report.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $212,100 in August, up 14.7% from August 2012 - the strongest year-over-year gain since October 2005, when the median rose 16.6%. August marked the 18th consecutive month of year-over-year price increases, according to the NAR.

Foreclosures and short sales accounted for about 12% of August sales, down from 15% in July and down significantly from 23% in August 2012. More precisely, foreclosures represented 4% of sales for August while short sales represented 8%.

Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 16% below market value in August, while short sales were discounted 12%.

"As the equity position of most homeowners continues to improve, some who have been on the sidelines will list their home for sale," says Gary Thomas, president of the NAR. "Most of those owners also will be buying another home, but higher levels of new home construction going into 2014, combined with some reduction in demand from less favorable affordability conditions, will help to moderate price growth to more sustainable levels."

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Monday, September 23, 2013

A Jumbo Opportunity: Mortgage Interest Rate Inversion Presents Rare Opportunity For Luxury Buyers

If you've been thinking about buying a more expensive home, now is the time to make a move. That's because interest rates on jumbo mortgages, which are loans over $417,000, have fallen below rates on smaller conforming loans.

How often does such an inversion occur? Try never. Yes, economists believe this is the first time jumbo mortgage rates have gone upside down on conforming rates, which means luxury buyers in Harbor Country have a historic opportunity that probably won't be available for very long.

Traditionally, jumbo mortgage rates are at least a quarter of a percentage point higher than conforming rates. When the housing bubble burst and investor appetite for jumbo loans disappeared, the gap widened to nearly two full percentage points. Gradually, as the market recovered, the spread normalized.
@properties Market Minute:
Market times fall amid buyer demand and low inventory. Watch video.

Market Minute Video

So what caused the recent flip? Sharply rising interest rates on conforming loans coupled with the current inclination of banks to hold jumbo mortgages on their balance sheets. Banks can make these loans at attractive rates and, in the process, establish potentially lucrative relationships with high-net-worth clients.

A few weeks ago, for what is believed to be the first time ever, the average interest rate on a 30-year jumbo mortgage was 2 basis lower than the 30-year conforming rate. It was a similar scenario for jumbo ARMs, which also fell below conforming ARMs.

According to Chicago-based mortgage banker Guaranteed Rate, we can expect parity between jumbo and conforming rates for a few months. But both rates are expected to rise as the economy continues to improve. Interest rates on conforming loans have already increased a full percentage point since May.

So if you're looking to refinance or purchase a more expensive home, you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually borrow more money at a lower rate. Contact me for more information and to learn how @properties' industry-leading sales and marketing programs help buyers and sellers achieve better results.

In the news:
The mystery of cheap jumbo mortgages
By Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin | September 13, 2013

Something very unusual happened with mortgage interest rates this week. The interest rate on jumbo mortgages actually fell below the interest rate of the conventional 30-year fixed-rate loan. Mortgage experts were quick to point out that this latest quirk of the housing recovery had never happened before.

Sellers Test Housing Market Amid Rising Prices
By Nick Timiraos | September 12, 2013

Housing inventories increased in August and stood just 2.5% below their levels of a year ago, offering the latest sign that more sellers are testing the market after swift home-price gains over the past year. Nationally, there were 1.98 million homes listed for sale in August, according to a report released Thursday by Realtor.com.

Another sign of condo comeback: shorter selling times
By David Lee Matthews | September 03, 2013

Selling a condominium in the city no longer takes as much patience as it used to, especially if you live away from the lakefront. Condos and town homes in West Town, the Near West Side and Logan Square sold in 90 days or less on average in the 12 months through July, faster or the same as in more traditional hot spots, including Lincoln Park and Lakeview, according to a report from local brokerage @properties.