Home selling tips for the holidays

Home Selling Tips for the HolidaysFor many, the holiday season isn’t always the ideal time to list a house. But don’t let the hustle and bustle deter you from calling an agent and getting that “for sale” sign in the front yard. The housing market keeps going even if there’s snow on the ground—and yes—even during the Christmas season. If now is your time to move, then simply use some of these tips to maintain your sanity and sell your house during this busy season.

  1. Keep decorations to a minimum. We know, it sounds like something The Grinch would say. But limiting all of the holiday extras in your house will help stage your home for potential buyers. The extra decorations make it harder for a buyer to visualize the home as their own, and they create extra packing work for you when your closing rolls around.
  2. Keep the sidewalks and driveway clear. It’s a task you do anyway during the winter months, but putting in a little extra work and planning ahead for weather will save you from scrambling on the snowy morning of a showing. Buyers and agents will appreciate a clear walkway, and there’s nothing like a great first impression.
  3. You can also strike up a bargain to limit the amount of new toys entering the home. Try asking the kids if they’d like a mini-vacation instead of the usual pile of toys. You’ll create new memories and keep the house clutter-free at the same time. It might even become a welcomed tradition for years to come. But that doesn’t mean nothing under your Christmas tree: just try sticking to the magical rule of three. Buy the little ones one thing they need, one thing they want, and one thing to wear or read.
  4. Say no to hosting. This is the one time you have a really valid excuse. Ask a family member to trade with you if it’s “your year” to host, and in exchange you can bring a couple extra side dishes to help out. The last thing you need when you’re worried about keeping the house “showing ready” is extra guests and messes.
  5. Make your home extra appealing with a little extra heat. Remember that buyers will be coming in from the cold, so keep their comfort in mind by cranking up the heat a few extra notches. A cold house won’t feel inviting, and they won’t be encouraged to stay and look around. A nice, toasty home will be a haven from the snow that they just might not want to leave.
  6. Don’t forget to use your resources. Your Realtor will be the best source of information about finding the right buyers, pricing to sell, as well as keeping an occupied or vacant home show ready. Write down a list of questions (and your agent’s answers!) and relax this holiday season.

7 Organization Tips for an Open House

Open House OrganizationGetting a home ready for an open house is a big project and requires proper preparation in order for it to be a successful event. Marketing, deep cleaning, enhancing the ambiance, and repairs are among the many items on the open house to-do list.

Organizing the home and staging the home are crucial to an open house. Follow these handy organization tips that can increase the value of your home in the eye of homebuyers.

Photo by mobilerazzdotcom at Morguefile.comRemove Everything From Countertops

Especially in the kitchen and bathrooms. These places are often the make-or-break point for many buyers. This is also a great time to get rid of paper clutter once and for all!

Tidy Up Shelves

Put away and tidy up books, straighten pictures and ornaments, and remove clutter to leave shelves open and pleasing to the eye. Visit Pinterest for some great shelf decorating ideas.

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Keep Closets and Cabinets Clean

The temptation to stuff everything in closets or bathroom cabinets is real. The problem is, homebuyers like to look there too. Make sure to use baskets, bins, and other organizers to make things less cluttered.

Move Pets and Pet Stuff Out of the House

Get this done a day or two before the event. Having a neighbor or friend take care of your pet makes cleaning easy and rids the home of potential allergens for some buyers. Allowing a couple days between the pets’ removal and the open house would also help eliminate any lingering pet odor.

Spruce Up the Yard

The front of the house is the first thing prospective buyers see when arriving to a home showing. Curb appeal is essential for assessing home value. Mow the lawn, trim hedges, weed the garden, and put toys and equipment in the garage or a storage unit.

Move Vehicles Out of the Garage

I recommend leaving as much open space in the garage as possible because it makes it appear larger. Homebuyers want to know how much space would be available to fit their own stuff. Find a place in the neighborhood where it would be okay to keep the cars parked during the open house.

Push Furniture Against the Walls

This opens up the room and looks tidy. Try moving around excess furniture to lesser used areas, perhaps the basement, if an area is too crowded.

Remember: less is more. Organizing for an open house is typically not the same as how you would organize the place for everyday living. The idea is to keep items away and out of sight and open up the space to a model home status.

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If it Smells Phishy, Don’t Bite

A thief (dressed in black and eye-masked) pops up from behind a laptop's screen and hides the real URL by planting a fake one on it, clumsily written on a piece of cardboard as a visual metaphore for the phishing technique. Then, he "kindly" invites the user to fill in his/her bank account's password.
A thief (dressed in black and eye-masked) pops up from behind a laptop’s screen and hides the real URL by planting a fake one on it, clumsily written on a piece of cardboard as a visual metaphore for the phishing technique. Then, he “kindly” invites the user to fill in his/her bank account’s password.

According to a recent Google study regarding email safety, those phishing emails that slyly show up in our inbox are effective nearly 45 percent of the time. By those numbers, the odds of you falling prey to these—often times convincing—email scams asking for personal information is nearly a coin flip.

Phishing emails are more sophisticated these days than the Prince from Algeria telling you about your inheritance. Of course we all think we are too smart to be duped, but in the middle of a heated real estate transaction is the perfect time for you to get distracted just enough to let your guard down.

The beauty of email is in its convenience. Instead of playing phone tag with your Realtor or sneaking into the break room at work to give them a quick call, you’re probably relying on the ease of email for at least some of your communication needs.

A recent hacking scam preys on this, where a hacker will use a real estate agent’s email address to you send a buyer or seller an email requesting a wire transfer for closings funds. Of course, you trust your Realtor, so would you hesitate enough to consider that your agent practices under strict safety guidelines and would never use email to request funds from you?

The best rule of thumb if you receive any email that just doesn’t sit well is initially do nothing.

Never click links in the email.

Never reply.

Never follow any instructions to send or wire money.

The one thing you should do: call your Realtor immediately. Your agent, as well as your Title Company, are committed to protecting your safety (and your hard earned money). They won’t use email to ask secure information, and they certainly won’t send you instructions for wiring money.

As always, Woods Bros Realty is dedicated to your security. Reach out to us any time an email smells just a little bit too phishy.

Woods Bros Realty knows how to weather the storm

umbrellaWe love our agents! At Woods Bros Realty, we give our agents the support, knowledge and tools they need to be successful. Through good times and bad we are there for them, working behind the scenes.

One example is the recent storms that hit our area. As a part of our commitment to our agents, we believed that it was important to keep them informed, allowing them to provide the best service to their buyers and sellers when it came to handling storm damage, to keep closings together.  Woods Bros Realty agents were prepared to advise our sellers and their buyers about how to approach storm damage and disclosures. And our one-stop shop approach really made a difference to our agents and clients. Regardless of the side of the transaction our agents were on, they knew what to do or where to go to find out how to proceed. Our own HomeServices of Nebraska Insurance provided insurance tips and information immediately the evening of the storm and our general manager’s “snippet” video arrived in our agents’ in-boxes early the next morning regarding reaching out to our clients and updating disclosures. In addition, our in-house legal counsel send out a blog reminding us about our storm addendum form available to address any issues and ease anxiety.

Whether they are seasoned real estate agents or new real estate licensees, our staff did their best to provide a network of helpful information to our agents, so they could continue to provide the best experience and service to our clients.

Woods Bros Realty has weathered many storms in our 127 years, and we are glad we can put that experience and ongoing education to work putting our agents’ and their clients’ minds at ease.

Price your home in the ballpark to sell

baseball-field-wbr-webApril 1 is opening day for Major League Baseball. It’s also the start of the busy Spring selling season, when many people consider selling their homes.

One of the top concerns of home owners when selling is: “For what price should I list my home?” You don’t want to price it too high and end up in extra innings, nor do you want to price it too low and wonder if you could’ve have scored more for your most expensive asset.

Here are some tips to help you price your home in the ballpark of what a buyer will pay:

Start with the stats.

You can get a ballpark figure from any number of computer-generated models these days. The new one at WoodsBros.com will show you three base values. But in order to hit a home run, you then need to …

Put a strong designated hitter in your lineup.

A real pro knows the ins and outs of the field and the strengths and weaknesses of your competition. Knock it out of the park with a professional CMA (comparative market analysis) for the most accurate value of your home.

Play in the big league.

Whether you hire a heavy hitter or a rookie, you can count on the major players having a team of other agents and staff on their bench to help them find the sweet spot for your home price. And likely a buyer.

Go with a pro right off the bat.

It doesn’t pay to try selling on your own first. In fact, sellers who came up to the plate with a pro saw 9 percent higher median sales prices than those who tried to For Sale By Owner first before selling with an agent, and 19 percent higher than those who sold FSBO with no agent.*

Have a rain delay plan.

Come up with a game plan with your agent before listing for strategic price adjustments in later innings. This can help bring new attention to your home and prevent you from striking out.

Overall, a professional can help you pinpoint the winning price strategy to get your home Listed. Shown. SOLD.

* National Association of REALTORS® 2015 Profile of Home Buyers

How to make a buyer fall in love with your home

heart housesBuying a home can be an emotional experience and, as Valentine’s Day approaches, it is a great time to consider how to make a buyer fall in love with your home. Feelings can motivate any decision, especially in a new home purchase, and you want a buyer to feel at home instantly.

A key to preparing your home for listing begins with an understanding of what is most important for your potential buyers to envision their life in your home over your own. What you overlook day to day might be viewed as a flaw by a potential buyer and could leave a negative memory of your home as they move on to another listing.

So remember before you list that it is essential to view your home with an objective eye and consider the top three immediate improvements that can be done in time for a February listing to have your buyer falling head over heels for your home.

While we may more often think about how to prepare our home on the inside, experts note that there are certain external improvements that have been statistically shown to have a greater return value in an offer price and can make that immediate impact on a buyer’s first impression.

The Master Entrance

Recent research has shown that a new master door can be one of the best home improvements to add value to your home. If a new door is not in the budget, experts advise that painting a door in a vibrant accent color to the home’s exterior can have an equal impact for less cost.

Ambiance

Just as the mood set by a candlelight dinner on Valentine’s Day, lighting can have one of the most significant impacts on a home viewing and first impression. Be sure to consider lighting outside and inside as you prepare your home to be viewed by potential buyers. Ensure all external lights are in working order. Light up your home even during a daytime showing­— especially lights that add a decorative value to your home’s exterior—for a lasting image as potential buyers consider your home curbside.

The View

Regardless of whether your view is a neighboring park or your own garden setting, it is important to ensure that the view remains attractive in winter and throughout the transition from winter to spring. While you cannot control the weather, you do have control over window treatments, lighting, and the elimination of any outdoor debris to ensure that a glimpse from a patio door or bay window presents the best scene possible.  A pleasing view may remain in a potential buyer’s mind’s eye and remain there as they write an offer for a new home they love: yours.

5 tips to pack like a pro

moving boxesPacking for a vacation comes down to one simple tip: sit on the suitcase and zip with all your might. But packing for a move can be a little more daunting. Especially when time gets down to the wire and you realize just how much stuff you have. So. Much. Stuff. If the big red Xs on your calendar are starting to stare menacingly at you as your moving date approaches, consider these tips to make packing a breeze.

  1. Simply get rid of the stuff. If there are 27 winter coats in your coat closet, narrow it down. Or sort through toys (when the kids aren’t watching of course). As a general rule, if you haven’t used something in the past six months, pitch it. Post items on Craigslist for a little extra cash, take all of those clothes the kids have outgrown to consignment shops, or utilize one of those new trendy aps like LetGo for a quick sale. Pile all of the leftovers into a box and gift your local Goodwill or the People’s City Mission.
  2. When the real packing begins one word will save your sanity: LABEL. Pack items by room. Keep kitchen items together, bathroom, clothes, etc. But most importantly, clearly write where these boxes need to end up in your new house: “Living Room,” “Upstairs Nursery at End of the Hall,” “Master Bedroom.” The last thing you want to do is rip open a pile of boxes in your entry way like a Christmas gift exchange gone terribly wrong.
  3. Instead of stuffing your entire wardrobe into boxes, with inevitable hours of ironing later, leave them on the hangers! Cover them in a garbage bag if you’d like, then when you arrive at your new home, voila, hang them right back up.
  4. Consider your carbon foot print with all those boxes. Find a friend who has recently moved and ask to reuse their boxes, or check a local grocery store for any extras they’re willing to let you reuse. Your agent might be able to help you find used boxes, too.
  5. Perhaps most importantly, don’t let the packing send you into a frenzy. Set small goals each day, and pack a little each day until moving day.

And when you’re finally moved in, take a moment to relax and enjoy your new home. Good Housekeeping offers this fun tip “Meet your neighbors the fun way. “It’s called a graffiti party and guests are given paint samples or markers to scribble games and notes on the wall.” Don’t be shy about hosting a gig sans furniture; this relaxed party theme is built around pizza and folding chairs.”

Chances are you’ll be painting anyway, why not make it a game and create new friendships along the way? If you don’t plan on painting your walls, turn it into an art project with an old pallet or barn wood. It will be a piece of art you’ll treasure for years to come, long after the stress of moving has passed.

Questions to ask to find the best agent for you

real estate agentWoods Bros Realty has more than 200 licensed Real Estate agents. While that number fills you with confidence in their experience and abilities, it doesn’t quite help you narrow down which one is best for you. Luckily, it helps to know which questions to ask.

Experience:

What areas does your agent have the most experience in? If you are a first time home buyer, ask your Realtor about their experience with buyers. You’ll likely have more questions than a seasoned home buyer. Your Realtor will be able to walk you through everything from disclosures to how to get approved for financing.

Services:

What services does your agent offer? Ask them to present a marketing plan for your home, complete with comparable sales in your area. If you’re a buyer, what is your agent’s availability? If your career keeps you tied up during business hours, are they up for after-hours home shopping?

Communication:

What’s the best way to stay in touch with your Realtor? Is the easiest way to reach them by text, phone call, or email? Do they have specific office hours when you can drop by for a chat? Keep the lines of communication open by knowing how your agent prefers to be contacted.

The Numbers:

Always ask your agent how they plan to price your house, or how they can help you present the best offer on your dream home. You may have your own numbers in mind when buying or selling, but trust the expertise of your licensed professional; they will have the info and track record to back it up.

As you navigate through names and faces of licensed agents, don’t hesitate to make that first phone call. If the face on a billboard, name on a “Sold” sign, or flyer stuck in your door caught your attention, call and get those questions rolling!

Choosing a full service Realtor is the first step to a successful Real Estate transaction, and by knowing the right questions to ask, you’re on your way to finding the perfect agent. As Realtor.com points out, “Remember, the REALTOR® is your advocate in the transaction, whether you are buying or selling. Once you have signed up with an agent to represent you, he or she is your face, your voice and your defense against all involved in the multi-layered home buying or home selling process.”

With so many licensed professionals to choose from, you’re bound to find the best advocate for you.

A Spring sale begins with Winter home repairs

home repairWhile you may be thinking ahead to listing your home for sale as the peak season approaches, these long winter months can be an ideal time to ready your home with any needed repairs, maintenance, or improvements. Making these home repairs now can heighten interest in your online listing detail and likely shorten the listing-to-offer period as the home sales market picks up.

Consider a pre-inspection.

Some experts contend that a pre-inspection can be a powerful aid to reveal issues before a buyer’s inspection ever occurs. A pre-inspection will allow you the time to remedy concerns before your home is listed. Pre-inspections can range from a whole house inspection to those targeted areas you may be concerned about such as a roof or foundation, and buyers are often not interested in deferred maintenance.

A pre-inspection can also alleviate a seller’s unexpected surprise after an offer has been accepted or may be used as a marketing strategy if no problems arise in the report. Be sure to consult your Realtor on your state’s disclosure laws before securing the inspection.

Get organized.

Use the current season to also assess clutter and organization of storage areas such as the basement, closets, or garage. Determine a plan to de-clutter and organize these spaces so they are ready to show well when the house is listed. This can alleviate stress by giving yourself the time needed to sort, distribute, or donate items well before listing crunch time sets in.

Experts recommend that up to two-thirds of items should be removed for a clean showing and for potential buyers to envision your home as their own.

Make repairs.

While in the basement, you might also consider any heating system, water heater, or central air issues that need attention to schedule necessary repairs or maintenance.
Home buyers typically want to see a home that is move-in ready. And as you utilize these strategies, you will begin to see your house with an objective eye before your Realtor does. Quick fixes, organization, and de-cluttering prove to be effective as home selling strategies again and again, so the time spent on these pre-listing activities are well worth the effort and often returned in a higher offer price.

4 factors to consider before building a home

Female-Hands-Framing-House-Drawing-and-House-Above-Grass-webIf you’re in love with details and have always dreamed about designing your own home, building a new house can be an incredibly rewarding experience. But you can also feel bogged down with questions and overwhelmed by the choices available to you. Ease some of that tension with these tips before you embark on your building journey.

Choose Your Professionals:

With all the decisions you’ll have to make, you’ll start with choosing a Realtor and a builder. Your Realtor will help navigate you through all of the lots and areas of town you’re interested in, offering advice about the topography of a piece of land and negotiating price. If you’re unsure where to turn for a builder, your agent will be a wealth of information as well.

Newhomesource.com offers this advice when deciding on a builder: “Choose a builder with strong experience in building on a customer’s land. Many builders specialize in building on improved lots in master-planned communities that already have the infrastructure in place (water, gas, electrical, sewer, etc.). Other builders specialize in building on land that requires improvement. Some builders do both. Make sure your builder has strong build-on-your-lot expertise.”

Location, Location, Location:

Purchasing a lot is just as big of a decision as buying a pre-existing home. Maybe school districts are the driving force behind your choice, or the bright stars of country living are calling your name. Wherever it is you dream of breaking ground, you’ll want to make sure the land suits the type of home you want to build without breaking the bank. Having the right professionals on your team will help guide you to perfect lot for your plans.

Manage Expectations:

A Lincoln Realtor sums up this tip well: “Many times buyers think the greatest advantage of building is getting everything they ever wanted in a home. This is only 100 percent true if you have an unlimited budget. For most buyers, they’ll still need to make sacrifices to accommodate their budget.” Create a “want” list and a “must have” list and be willing to bend a little if it’s in your budget’s best interest.

The Right Space:

Building as many rooms as possible may sound enticing, but to really make your budget stretch, don’t add wasted space to your floor plan.
FreshHome.com says, “The addition of a playroom, game room or multipurpose room sounds enticing, but only plan to build a room that will actually get used. What good is a wasted home gym where the treadmill is used to hold clothes from last season?” And they’re right. Use that money on details you know you’ll appreciate every day.

Once you get the big decisions under control, you can finally get to the fun part. Get out those paint samples, agonize over carpet or wood floors, and enjoy your home building experience!

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