• Aug2018

    If you want to sell your home, it’s a great time to lock in housing value gains and walk away with money in your pocket at closing. But real estate experts warn sellers to have a plan for buying a next home or renting. Housing inventory is low and there are fewer homes in the affordable price range. A lot of people look at the situation and ask, “Home value is rising; is it time to sell or hold out?” According to an article by therealdeal.com, wannabe sellers often feel frustrated because they are eager to sell their homes but are locked out of the game by the inventory shortages. Finding a desirable and affordable replacement for a current home is a major challenge in Ohio, Tennessee, Florida and other parts of the country. According to the National Association of Realtors, listings are down by about 8 percent compared to last year. Moreover, inventory has fallen for the last 33 consecutive months. On the positive side, the price of starter homes are up about 9 percent for the year. People buying trade-up or step-up homes pay about 7.5 percent more compared to last year.

    Figuring out where you will go

    If you plan to stay in your area, expect to make a lateral move. It’s more important than ever to sell a home quickly before the prices of other homes in your area go up. Some people prefer to buy their next home before selling the current home so they lock in at a lower home price as well as lower interest rates. If you plan to sell a home in one part of the country and migrate to Florida, you aren’t alone. The key to making the move work is to downsize or buy in an area that caters to retirees on a budget.

    Knowing about the historical peaks

    Some people wonder whether they should hold out for more money by waiting for housing values to peak. The problem is past patterns do not predict future housing patterns. Home prices continued to go up when interest rates rose in the 1980s, but that doesn’t mean that trend would continue as the Fed raises interest rates. If you can sell your home to buy another home with cash, the rising interest rates are not a factor for you. But if you rely on a mortgage to afford a home, don’t procrastinate. Putting off buying a home means inevitably affording less home because of the higher interest rates. A good real estate professional will help you make an educated guess, though, about the likely top value of your home. Also, some experts predict a pullback to housing values in 2019/2020.

    According to a piece by the ledger-enquirer.com, buyers have to act fast because of lean inventory. Some people sell their home with plans to temporarily move into an apartment or rental home. Of course, for anyone who owns a second home they no longer wish to use, there are few downsides to selling in the current market. If you aren’t desperate to sell, it’s easier to take your time to receive the full offer you desire. If you no longer wish to own a rental property, consider staging and marketing the home to other real estate investors who see the passive income potential of your property. Ultimately, whether you sell a home or hold on to it, depends on your individual goals and visions for your life.

    At Real Estate Pros, we assist aspiring sellers with a full range of real estate services. Talk to us about investing in real estate, working with a listing expert in your area or starting a property searching Columbus or Cleveland, Ohio, Nashville, Tennessee and Jacksonville, Florida. For more information on whether it’s a good time to sell, please contact us.

  • Jul2018

    Baby boomers invented the concept of “nesting” in their homes, but many want to reinvent themselves and their homes in retirement. For boomers, it often boils down to the question of rehab v. building a new home — which the right option for you? Some retirees buy entry-level type homes they can improve by adding exercise and meditation rooms as well as gourmet kitchens for entertaining at home. Others find a new construction home that already has the latest updates. Experts say the oldest of the baby boomers turn 71 this year. Baby boomers seem young at heart, often defying the “elderly” stereotypes. Most want an active lifestyle as well as complete independence which is easily achieved in a new construction home in a master-planned community.

    Statistics show currently there are 76.4 million baby boomers in the U.S. With the growing shortage of foreclosures and fixer-upper homes, many retirees like to visit new home models. Others look for existing homes that don’t need a lot of major renovations such as new drywall, countertops and flooring. Other projects are simply related to universal design challenges such as narrow passageways and lack of good lighting. When house hunting, boomers look for non-slip flooring options and softer surfaces. They often avoid hard ceramic or porcelain tile. Some designers advise clients to imagine navigating a home without assistance during an illness. Think about what kind of features and changes would assist your daily living experience such as grab bars and easier to reach shelves. If you want relatives or home health nurses to help you with medical issues, think about the layout of the home to best accommodate frequent visitors.

    Starting retirement with a starter home

    A recent article by foxbusiness.com pointed out more than one in five people in the United States turn 65 or older by 2035. Since income drops significantly as people age, it’s important to house hunt on the early side of retirement. With the rising costs of housing, the old “starter home” for young families is now appropriate for baby boomers starting retirement. According to Census data, after age 75, income drops by as much as $18,000 a year for the average person. Most senior citizens spend one-third of their incomes on housing. To save money, consult with aging in place general contractors. With high divorce rates and subsequent marriages, think about dating and remarriage as part of your home-buying and renovation considerations. Most retirees value family as well as their special hobbies, activities and adventures.

    Taking advantage of low rates

    Most baby boomers remember when mortgage rates hit the double digits in the 1980s. Now is the time to lock in on lower rates even if you could buy a home with cash. While buying with cash gives you an edge, some rather invest their money in the stock market and take advantage of low interest rates.  A report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies says home improvement spending by baby boomers accounts for almost a third of remodeling dollars by 2025. A Fidelity and Vanguard study showed people over the age of 55 have less than $150,000 saved for retirement. Meanwhile, Social Security pays about $1,300 a month to the average retiree. Buying a home and fixing it up is a great way to build equity and share wealth with future generations.

    Making a resale home more accessible or buying a new one allows you to stay in your home longer and avoid the high costs of assisted living homes and nursing care. Also, most people simply feel more comfortable in their own space. At Real Estate Pros, we help our clients connect with excellent real estate professionals to find their dream homes. For more tips on rehabbing vs. buying new, please contact us.

  • Having an accessible and attractive driveway is an important part of curb appeal for people trying to sell their homes. A well-maintained driveway is also something that keeps the Home Owner Association fines away and pleases guests, relatives and the Amazon delivery person. Although some people don’t need as many parking spaces or a large garage because of Uber and ridesharing trends, a circular driveway makes drop-off and pick-up easier. Whether you have a circular drive or not, maintain your blacktop, cement, paver or gravel driveway. When it comes to the topic of “This is how you should be taking care of your driveway!” it depends on your driveway material. Buying a pressure washer is only one possible step. It’s all about extending the life of your driveway to save money as well as prevent an oil-stained and grimy look.

    The concrete driveway

    According to an article by the concretenetwork.com, a concrete driveway requires little maintenance. But it’s important to reseal the driveway every two years. A sealer helps to guard against stains. Still, remove grease, oil, gasoline and other spills using pressure washing and cleaning products. During the winter, avoid products that contain ammonium nitrates or ammonium sulphates. Instead, use sand for friction in a snow storm. When shoveling, don’t use metal blades that will scratch the driveway.

    The blacktop driveway

    Also called “asphalt,” a blacktop driveway is a lovely, smooth driveway made of gravel held together by a petroleum binder. During the summer, the sun causes the surface to oxidize, according to one The New York Times article. The sun will create hairline cracks in asphalt driveways, which allows for weed infestation. To prevent potholes, use a cold-mix asphalt patch. Since rain washes away the material, wait for a clear day. After filling cracks and holes, use a sealer for the blacktop driveway. In addition to buying the sealer and filler products, buy an applicator such as a squeegee for spreading. After coating the driveway, experts point out it takes about two days for the driveway to cure.

    The paver driveway

    Brick pavers make beautiful driveways as well as outdoor patios. Experts suggest sweeping after every mow as seeds in the clippings sprout weeds. Interlocking paver driveways are made with brick pavers baked at high temperature. Asphalt tends to be used by homeowners living in the north, while those in the south often opt for concrete or pavers. Most paver driveways last 30 to 40 years. It’s important to clean oil spots, take care of weeds, edge and seal the driveway.

    The gravel driveway

    It’s not comfortable to walk barefoot on a gravel driveway, but it’s an inexpensive option for homeowners. Some of the most popular gravel or crushed stone materials include pea gravel, white marble chips, clean stone, bluestone and crusher rock.  According to an article by motherearthnews.com, gravel driveways do need maintenance to last season after season. To prepare for winter, homeowners use a tractor with a rear blade. People tend to add a top layer of gravel to the driveway in the early spring. Gravel driveways are more practical for people who live on farms or have extremely long driveways. They are also the more natural approach.

    Maintaining your driveway pays off when it comes time to list your home. Potential buyers don’t want to fall into a pothole or slip on oil spills on your driveway. Maintaining a driveway pays off with dividends over time no matter which material you choose.

    At Real Estate Pros, we share tips with help potential sellers figure out their property’s value. Talk to us about real estate investments, starting a property search or working with local listing experts. For more tips on maintaining your driveway for life, please contact us. Whether you live in Columbus, Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio, Nashville, Tennessee or Jacksonville, Florida, we provide comprehensive real estate services.

  • Jun2018

    When it’s time to prep your home for sale, it can feel overwhelming to even begin to know where to start. Do you need tear out your kitchen and do a full renovation like they do in the house flipping shows? What about the front yard? Should you rip up the weedy lawn and replace it all with fresh sod?

    As these questions swirl through your mind, chances are good that there will be some hefty dollar signs bumping around in there with them as well, but don’t worry- you don’t have to empty your savings account to give your home a fresh, tidy, well-maintained look. Here are a few high-impact, low-cost options to help you get your home ready to wow prospective buyers without breaking your budget.

    1. Freshen the Flora

    Yes, curb appeal is important. No, it doesn’t always have to involve a total makeover. Now is the time to pull out those clippers and start trimming hedges, grab a rake and start raking up sticks and leaves, and start spraying or pulling weeds from flowerbeds and the driveway. Sweat equity can equal home equity, so don’t be afraid to get grubby!

    Go beyond the basics and order a truckload of mulch and some eye-catching flowers or hedges from your local nursery- those fresh, inexpensive touches are a great way to spruce up the outside of your home without forking over a ton of cash. (Pro tip: before you go, snap a photo of the front of your house and take it with you- the landscaping experts at the nursery can give you some recommendations that will help you maximize curb appeal while staying within your budget.)

    2. Deep Cleaning

    Nothing is a bigger turnoff to buyers than an icky, dirty home. You might think you do a good job of keeping your home clean and tidy, but how often do you clean between your windows and the screens? How often do you scrub your kitchen cabinets? No matter the age of your home, buyers will want it to feel as new as possible, so deep cleaning is key. If you don’t have the time or energy to invest in cleaning it yourself, consider hiring professionals to help out- the extra cost will be more than worth it.

    In addition to cabinets and windows, deep-clean carpeting, scrub down walls, trim, and stair railings, and clear out cobwebs. Vacuum and wipe down the insides of cabinets, drawers, and closets as well, as buyers will likely be looking inside these and will expect them to be as clean as the rest of the home. Also be sure to pay attention to dust-collecting areas like vents and range hoods that may not always get thoroughly cleaned.

    When focusing on areas to deep clean, don’t forget about the outside- power washing hard surfaces like driveways and sidewalks can make them look new again, and a good power wash of your siding will brighten up your whole home.

    3. Painting

    Freshening up your home’s interior with paint is a no-brainer when it’s time to sell, but be sure to invest the time and money to do it right. Choose neutral colors, and use tape and drop cloths to avoid splattering paint on other surfaces. Put on at least two coats, and be sure to check for areas needing touch-ups once the paint dries.

    Don’t forget about exterior painting- over time, mailboxes, shutters, porch railings, and front doors can start to look shabby and faded, aging the look of your entire home. Make them look new again with a fresh coat of paint, but again, keep colors neutral to appeal to more buyers. Ask your local paint store experts about what paint is best for each surface.

    4. Updating Hardware

    If you walked into an entirely empty, freshly painted room with brand-new carpeting, but there was a yellowed switch plate on the wall for a wood-and-wicker ceiling fan, you would instantly feel that the home was dated. A home only feels as new as its oldest fixture- and likewise, it only feels as old as its newest fixture.

    Updating fixtures and hardware is a great way to give your home an overall feeling of newness without spending a ton of money. Think about doorknobs, faucets, light fixtures, ceiling fans, and towel rods. If you’re not sure what’s “in” right now, ask for guidance at your local hardware store.

    5. Fixing Minor Flaws

    Every home has its little quirks and “handyman special” idiosyncrasies that hardly bother the person living there, but they can stick out like a sore thumb to potential buyers. Squeaky or sticky doors, missing window grille pieces, dripping faucets, and loose doorknobs are all little things that don’t take much time or money to fix, but can make your home feel poorly maintained if not addressed.

    It may be helpful to invite a friend over who’s not familiar with the home and have them point out those little problem areas to you- when you live in a home you can often become so used to these things that you might not even notice them, and a fresh pair of eyes can find issues you may have missed.

    Contact us for more great tips on maximizing curb appeal, proper property maintenance, and more budget-friendly ideas for prepping your home for sale without emptying your wallet.

  • With 1,177,000 new construction homes going up in 2017, it’s likely a question on many people’s minds: “Is building a new house the route that I should be taking?” It’s a decision that many Americans will decide is the right option for themselves and/or their families. There is, however, another option that may seem more appealing to those who are ready for a different type of challenge.

    While the new construction path is certainly not for the faint of heart, it could be argued that fixing up a home takes even a stronger one. Rehabbing a home can certainly have it’s pros and cons. But, if you are up for the task, it can certainly reap some hefty rewards! That of which being some serious equity in a home if it’s bought below market value to begin your process. So, which path is for you? Let’s take a look at a list of some negatives and positives of each option.

    Building New Construction Pros:

    • Everything is brand new. This means you will have less problems in the foreseeable future when it comes to plumbing, electrical, etc.
    • You pick everything! This is especially important if you find yourself to be a somewhat particular person when it comes to the home that you live in. If you are up for the challenge of making the 1,000’s of decisions that comes with building a new home then possibly this is the option for you. However, if the thought of making decisions about light switch covers and trim height makes you want to fall asleep, then you might consider an ulterior path.
    • Location. You pick it. Mostly… depending on where you can find ground available to build that is. This is an especially important element when you consider the resale value of your property.

    Building New Construction Cons:

    • Cost. It can be quite costly to build a home this day in age. Especially if you are wanting a decent amount of square footage. If you are needing a lot of space in your home, then building that space will certainly cost you to acquire that.
    • You’ll have to do quite a bit of homework. You have to scope out builders, contractors, prices of lumber, etc. to ensure that you are getting the very best not only financially, but also in quality.

    Rehabbing a Home Pros:

    • With this option you will most likely have a lot of choices for location. Why? Because there are homes everywhere! With people in your corner like those at Real Estate Pros, you’ll have a buyer’s advantage because of all of the tools and wealth of knowledge they bring to the table whenever you are ready to purchase your fixer upper.
    • Are you a handy person? You will be able to cut quite a few costs with rehabbing a home if you have done your fair share of hammer and saw wielding. Fixing up a home takes a wealth of knowledge, and if you have that knowledge along with some skills, then this may be the route for you financially. If you don’t feel like you know much about renovation, however, that’s alright. You can either take time to learn a lot about it, or have it hired out.
    • Options. You still get to make a lot of choices when rehabbing a home. Depending on the scale of your rehab, you could have just as many options as a new build would bring!

    Rehabbing a Home Cons:

    • If you are not a handy person, and truly do not enjoy anything to do with fixing up a home, then this option may not be for you. If it’s difficult to see the vision and big picture that fixing up a home often requires, then you might want to consider a different path for your home journey.
    • You are often dealing with an older home, which can bring unwanted surprises when retrofitting a home to your standards and preferences. Be prepared for this mentally, as well as financially.

    In the end, the decision truly is yours to make. There are wonderful aspects of each no matter which road you may end up taking. For professional advice and further knowledge on your home journey, don’t hesitate to contact us at Real Estate Pros. We are just one source, with unlimited solutions for your every need.

  • May2018

    While making what is likely the biggest investment of your life in a home purchase will be an exciting endeavor, it also can be a stressful time.

    If it’s your first home, you’re sure to be excited about choosing color schemes, finding new pieces of furniture to suit your style, picking out the perfect place for Grandma’s antique hutch (or the most out-of-the-way place for your husband’s ratty recliner). You’re probably also a little apprehensive about some of the new responsibilities that come with your new home: maintaining furnace and air conditioning, understanding plumbing repairs, dealing with a clogged dishwasher, etc.

    One way to ease those apprehensions is to consider a home warranty at the time you purchase your home, which can give you peace of mind about those dreaded maintenance issues. Consider these five awesome advantages of a home warranty:

    Different Than Homeowners Insurance

    A home warranty differs from a homeowners insurance plan, which covers only catastrophic damage to your home. A home warranty covers service, repair and sometimes even replacement of features of your home that wear out from everyday use.

    A home warranty covers such items as appliances (refrigerator, washer-dryer, dishwasher, etc.) to internal systems in your home (air conditioning, heater, hot water heater, electrical, plumbing). Some policies will even be written to cover such large items as a swimming pool.

    You Choose Your Plan

    Home warranties are crafted to meet your needs. If all your kitchen appliances are brand new and still under manufacturers’ warranty, you don’t need to cover them. But a few years down the road when those warranties expire, you can add them to your home warranty.

    Or say you buy a new washer and dryer when you move in and pay with your credit card. Many credit cards offer extended warranties on your purchased items, so you don’t need to include that purchase for double the life of the manufacturer’s warranty.

    You Enjoy the Convenience

    Besides the peace of mind you enjoy when knowing your home is covered with a warranty, the best part of the warranty is the convenient service. When something does need repair, you need to make one phone call, to the warranty company.

    The warranty company will access its array of service providers to quickly schedule your service, assess the problem and advise you on whether the needed repair is covered.

    You just avoided half a day of calling around town to find someone who services your particular appliance, has a technician available and in the end will send you a bill for the service.

    You Save Money

    Most home warranty plans cost between $300 and $600 per year, depending upon how many items in your home are covered. One furnace or air conditioner repair likely will cost you more than your annual premium, even after you cover your deductible and small service call fee.

    A plumbing or electrical issue in your home could run into thousands of dollars in repairs, a savings equal to two, three, four, 10 years of warranty costs.

    You May Not Have to Pay

    If your home is new construction, the builder probably will pay a home warranty that covers not just construction defects, but also electrical, plumbing, AC-heating and even appliances, likely for varying lengths of time.

    Also, many real estate agents offer a home warranty for the first year as an incentive for you to purchase the home.

    In these types of cases, you can pick up the coverage as it’s due to expire once you realize the convenience and peace of mind you’ve come to enjoy with your home warranty.

    When you work with a real estate company like RealEstatePros.com, you’ll also enjoy the peace of mind that come with our home inspection service so you understand the conditions of your home and its working parts even before you move in. The added assurance of a home warranty will allow you to enjoy the fun parts of home ownership with less stress about the responsibilities.

    Contact us today to begin the adventure of finding your dream home and learn more about how to protect it with a home warranty.

  • After assisting in the buying and selling of thousands of homes, we’ve learned to appreciate certain takeaways we’d never really thought much about before. One of these is home warranties, and why homeowners should consider having one despite what there is to not like about them.

    Let’s start with the negative issues some have. “Historically, home warranty service companies have been one of the ‘worst graded’ categories on Angie’s List,” says company blogger Staci Giordullo. Complaints center around misunderstandings of what warranties cover and the quality of the work performed under them. A significant number of homeowners complain that appliances and systems needing replacement are instead repaired. Moreover, the work is sub-par and the contractors are, well, a bit on the scary side.

    There’s a cost factor. A home warranty costs several hundred dollars, depending on what’s warranted. Obviously, the thinking goes, because warranty companies are selling them for that price, they must be profitable, and if they’re profitable, they must not pay out very often. And their contractors levy a per-call service charge to boot.

    But there’s another side.

    First, consider that builders routinely offer one-year warranties on new homes. Why would a new home need its appliances and systems warranted? There are a host of things that can go wrong, such as hurried window installation, poorly-connected light fixtures, overlooked bare spots needing paint, and so on. It just happens.

    Or does it? Brand new appliances and systems can become stressed when used for the first time. Maybe the kitchen lights worked just fine when installed, but maybe not so well when every light in the house got turned on. Builders know it happens and perform repair work, as well expedite contact with subcontractors and appliance manufacturers.

    If a new home experiences breaking in issues upon occupancy, what about existing homes? In fact, they do. People’s habits over a period of years tend to be consistent. They arise at the same time, shower at the same time, cook at the same time, and so on. The furnace and air conditioner get used to going on at the same time year in and year out. But when new owners move into the home, their habits will be quite different from the previous ones.

    That’s why appliances and building systems in homes tend to fail, if they do, in the first year of new ownership. Take the automatic garage door, for example. The big spring tensioning the door’s open-and-close has a finite number of cycles before it pops, and new owners have no way of knowing how many cycles have occurred. Another example is a furnace, with an average life cycle of 10 to 20 years. The number of times it’s turned on and off determines the stress on the heat exchanger. New owners might exacerbate that stress with their on-off times and find themselves with a cracked heat exchanger, and therefore a new furnace, through no fault of their own.

    So many of the problems people report with home warranties are rooted in poor communications. Let’s begin with the name of the product itself. They’re warranties, not insurance policies. As General Motors won’t pay for a replacement automobile if your new car’s transmission goes out and repairs it instead, so will a home warranty company repair your pricey heat pump, if possible. Repair or replace is an area ripe for misunderstanding, as is owner maintenance responsibility, and owners should walk through the wording with one of our real estate professionals to become clear.

    Many home buyers don’t have a lot of extra cash laying around after down payment and closing costs, and a bill for a big repair is the last thing they need. A few hundred dollars for a several hundred thousand dollar home is probably a worthy investment offering not just peace of mind, but extra value for the home. Contact us if you’d like to know more.

  • Apr2018

    Whether you are building new, renovating an existing home, fixing up investment properties, or simply staying put, there is one thing that a lot of houses have in common: a driveway. Often times a driveway is an essential part of a home so that you can have easy access to the home’s entrance. While a driveway may seem like a simple part of a home, there are actually quite a few options that you will need to consider when putting one in. One of them being the type of driveway you will install.

    Depending on where you live and the climate that you deal with most often could help you determine which will be best suited for your specific needs. Four of the common types of driveways available are blacktop, cement, pavers, and gravel. You’ll need to weigh each option out and see which one fits your budget, fits the look of the home, and fits into your schedule to maintain. Since some driveways require more maintenance than others, it’s important to realize this so that you can properly be equipped before installing one.

    Below, let’s discuss four of the different types of driveways that we mentioned previously and how to best care for each one of them.

    Gravel Driveway Care:

    Adding new gravel. Over time, the gravel gets pressed into the ground, spread around, carried away, and dispersed.
    If you happen to live in an area where you find it to be particularly wet with a lot of moisture, then a gravel driveway might be the route for you. This type of driveway typically drains water the best. But, with the draining also comes areas where the stone will become washed away. Grating and evening out the stone could become a common chore for gravel driveway owners.
    Spraying for weeds. Because of the great drainage aspects of a gravel driveway, it also means that there are lots of spaces for weeds and unwanted green life to sprout their way through to the surface. You will have to spray weed killer for these pesky plants to keep them at bay.

    Blacktop Driveway Care:

    Sealing the driveway. Often times, a blacktop driveway will become cracked from wear and tear, weather, and use. You will need to either seal the entire top layer of the driveway every so often, or fill in the cracks so they do not get worse.
    Edging. With grass meeting the very edge of blacktop driveways it is very important to keep it edged so that the grass doesn’t start growing into the driveway and damaging it. This is a relatively simple landscaping job, but is necessary to prolong the life of your driveway.

    Cement Driveway Care:

    Sealing the driveway. This type of driveway also requires a sealing procedure. You can choose a “wet look” sealer, or a “dry look” sealer. You begin by typically power washing the surface of the cement to remove any stains that may have set into the surface. Then you apply the sealer to further protect the driveway from damage.
    Regular shoveling. The worst thing for a cement driveway is water seeping down inside during freezing temperatures. This is typically what causes cracking in cement.

    Paver Driveway Care:

    Regular sweeping. Because pavers will have crevices and cracks where each paver meets, it will be easy for debris to collect and gather. To maintain that clean and crisp look, simply regular sweeping will help achieve this.
    Apply a sealant. Surprise, surprise! Sealing your paver driveway is also an important way to keep it protected from the elements. Upon sealing and hardening, this will also make it easier to sweep as it hardens the surface allowing for a more even sweep.
    Replace pavers. A wonderful thing about a paver driveway is that if one stone is cracked, it’s not a big deal! No need to replace the whole driveway. Within an hour or two you can easily have it replaced and looking as good as new.
    There are plenty of options for driveway materials out on the market, so please do not hesitate to contact us at Real Estate Pros to discuss these options in further detail. Or, hop on over to our website or blog for further information on the best ways you can care for your driveway!

  • When most people think about home improvement projects, they focus on the inside of the house. Repainting the walls, retiling the bathrooms, or replacing the light fixtures. However, whether you love to lounge in a beautiful yard, are an enthusiastic gardener, or you just want to improve the appearance of your home, there are also tons of things you can do with your front and back yards as well, even on a budget. For the avid DIY homeowner looking for some beautifully inexpensive projects to improve your yard space, we have three fantastic ideas to get you started that, hopefully, will turn into a series of enjoyable projects.

    Create New Flower Beds
    Flower beds are a home’s number one way to change the shape and impression of a yard. Most homes come with something like a modest strip near the foundation, partly as a way to keep the foundation accessible and easy to check. However, you can put flower beds anywhere you want (and in any shape you want) with a few simple steps. All you need is cleared ground, soil, and a general idea of what you want to plant.

    Deep Flower Bed
    Step 1: Clear the grass where you want your flower bed to be with a flat shovel.
    Step 2: Spread 3 inches of organic matter (manure or compost).
    Step 3: Till the soil and organic matter down to about eight inches, loosening and mixing.
    Add water if necessary to soften the soil.
    Sep 4: Add a decorative border.
    Raised Flower Bed
    Step 1: Mow the grass very short where you want your flower bed to be.
    Step 2: Lay cardboard to smother the grass roots.
    Step 3: If you’re going to use a portable box, set it in place.
    Step 4: Spread 8-12 inches of organic matter or triple mix (loam, manure, peat), and level.
    Step 5: Wait 1 season (3 months), then plant.

    Build a Tree Bench
    If you have a large tree in your front or back yard with plenty of room around it, this isn’t just a decorative oxygen producer, it’s an opportunity. Trees are great for affordable DIY landscaping because they are inherently beautiful, sturdy, and self-maintaining. They can hold swings, lights, and decorative little doors but one of the most classic and elegant options is a wrap-around tree bench.

    Step 1: Build a 6-sided bench frame and legs on your porch out of smooth wood planks
    Center should be 12 inches wider than the tree’s approximate diameter
    Step 2: Set up the legs around the tree
    Step 3: Attach the seat boards.
    Step 4: Add the apron and backrest.
    Stepping Stone Pathways
    Stepping stones are a beautiful way to reshape the appearance and even the functionality of your yard but they’re also something that many homeowners tend to overlook. You can use them to shore up a soft or uneven part of the yard, define a pathway, or even just to decorate and accent other landscaping features. The best part is that stepping stones are incredibly easy to set up and look amazing when you’re done.

    Step 1: Choose a collection of wide, flat-topped rocks.
    Step 2: Decorate or leave natural.
    Step 3: Arrange on the ground.
    These are only three out of dozens of possible affordable DIY landscaping ideas you can try out. If you like to refurbish old things, you can raid local garage sales for stuff you can turn into trellises, benches, and potting tables. You can plant trees, build zen gardens, and even ‘upgrade’ your trees into reinforced living jungle gyms. What you do with your yard should depend entirely on your preferences, time, and DIY proficiency. For more great tips and tricks for homeowners, contact us today!

  • Mar2018

    With press reports and social media abuzz over the hot real estate market with its ever-increasing prices and multiple backup offers, some sellers speculate about selling their homes without the help of a real estate agent. It seems so easy, and who doesn’t want to try and save a few bucks wherever they can?

    Let’s acknowledge our bias, in that Real Estate Pros are professional real estate agents earning a living through sales commissions. But it’s just as important to remind homeowners that their homes are probably the biggest financial asset they own, and are therefore deserving of professional oversight. A lot of money is at risk, and real estate agents’ training and experience with technical, financial, and legal issues makes them uniquely able to anticipate both routine and unanticipated contingencies and pitfalls.

    A real estate professional protects the sellers’ interests. Agents vet potential buyers, that is, separate those people who are interested in a home and qualified to buy one from perfect strangers with unknown motives. Some self-described buyers may come to the sellers’ table with little but professed goodwill, whereas an agent will insist that a buyer be not just pre-qualified by a legitimate lender, but pre-approved. The difference between the two is huge, with pre-qualification being little more than a nice letter with no lender commitment. A real estate agent will spot the difference between a pre-approval and a pre-qualification letter immediately.

    Agents are not lawyers, but a residential real estate sales agreement is a multi-page document developed and improved by a host of real estate lawyers over many years for agents’ use in protecting their clients. One of the first provisions deals with earnest money. A seller’s agent can recommend an amount that will both indicate buyer seriousness–how “earnest” they are–but also compensate the seller in the event the buyer defaults. After all, the seller’s property will be virtually off the market while the terms of the earnest money agreement run their course, and if the buyer unreasonably walks, the seller is entitled to something.

    Since buyer-seller disputes can be open to interpretation, terminology dealing with earnest money and contingencies of financing, home repairs, close of escrow, date of possession, and others, must be concise and crystal clear. For example, what if a buyer simply changes their mind and says they don’t like the house after all, even though negotiations have been ongoing for weeks? Is the earnest money forfeit? That depends on the quality of negotiations and how the language reflects the parties’ intentions.

    Sales contracts are full of contingencies, and none are routine. The first is financing. Is a ready, willing, and able buyer able to obtain financing, and how do they demonstrate their ability to do so? Does the lender have a unique underwriting process the seller needs to be aware of? What if underwriting requirements delay closing past the agreed date–is the agreement still valid?

    Repairs are another contingency consuming time and causing anxiety. Do repairs have to be made by a licensed professional? What if the seller performs the repairs and the buyer claims not to like the work? What if the appraiser notes an obscure item such as spacing between stair rails as an FHA violation and derails the mortgage loan?

    Close of escrow and date of possession nearly always require negotiations back and forth. What if the buyer has to be out of their rental unit a day or so before the closing date? Should the seller allow early possession (the answer is no)? Usually, everyone’s needs can be met. However, these issues can become contentious, and real estate agents are used to solving them through negotiation.

    The last issue, here, is likely the one most important to sellers: How do you maximize the price of the home and close the sale in the fastest possible time? Pricing is always part art and part science, but in today’s market, artfulness and market experience is more important than ever. Comparative sales are a guide, but they reflect yesterday’s market conditions. The goal in pricing is setting it so that the property competes while taking advantage of demand, but at the same time generates enough buyer interest to induce multiple offers.

    Retaining a real estate agent to sell a home will not only increase sellers’ net proceeds and close the sale quickly, but it will minimize seller anxiety. Do you have questions about your home we can answer? Contact us.

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