Protect your valuables when selling your home

Preparing your home sale is more than just deep cleaning, decluttering, and minor repairs. Prepare and plan how to protect your valuables during the sale.

protect your valuables
Protect Your Valuables when Selling Your Home (infographic from Elders Real Estate realestatesevenhillsnews.com.au)

I often write about preparing your home for a sale.  Of course, that preparation is to make your home sell quicker and get the best price.  However, preparing your home is more than just deep cleaning, decluttering, and minor repairs.  Preparing and planning how to protect your valuables will not only keep the prying eyes of nosey home buyers focused on your home’s spaces – it can also thwart would-be criminals.

Homes for sale are prime targets for thieves, and your home is not an exemption.  Don’t make it easy for them.  It may sound obvious – use common sense.  However, you’d be surprised how many home sellers don’t lock up their valuables.  In my many years of selling homes, I have seen how home sellers can be careless by leaving credit cards, cash, medications, and financial statements on counters and desks.  There was one instance where the owner left their gun cabinet open!

And theft doesn’t only occur during open houses.  Your possessions can go missing at any time.  Anyone can have “sticky fingers,” even rogue real estate agents (agents have been arrested for stealing from a listed home).  A Washington State agent was caught stealing prescription medications last year.  Another agent faced criminal charges for stealing jewelry.

Additionally, criminals take the opportunity of an open house (and even virtual tours) to stake out your home; only to strike at a later time. So think about laying out your expensive china just to stage your home.

Yes, thieves are looking for anything of value in your home.  Besides jewelry and cash, they will take anything they think they can personally use or sell.  Medications are a commodity to thieves; and anything with personal identification can be used in ID theft.

I am often asked, “Should I install surveillance cameras?”  A few years ago, a home with surveillance cameras was not typical.  Seeing the cameras often turned off home buyers because they felt “creeped out” and didn’t like the idea of being watched.  However, in today’s cyber-world, where surveillance cameras are nearly everywhere, surveillance cameras have become increasingly commonplace.  Before you go out and install cameras in your home, you need to understand the legal implications by consulting with an attorney or privacy legal expert.

Don’t just put away your jewelry and other items of importance, lock them up!  If you’re not one of the millions of home owners who has a safe or strongbox, there are other options such as storing items in other locations (safe deposit boxes; someone else’s home; and even a rented storage unit).

Burglar alarms are a mixed blessing.  Besides deterring crime, real estate agents often set them off; which can be a nuisance and possibly result in a fine for you (more info on false alarms and fines can be obtained from the Montgomery County Police False Alarm Reduction Section).

If you haven’t already deployed crime deterrents in and around your home, consider using interior and exterior lighting.  Exterior lights can help identify night time visitors, as well as possibly deterring would-be thieves.  Consider using timers or motion sensing lights.   Motion sensing lights will activate the light when people approach your home.

Would-be thieves casing your home look for easy entry points.  Lock up your ladders and secure your shed so as not giving criminals the tools to get inside.

And although you may be told that lockboxes are fool proof, only allowing agents in your home – it’s the user that is the weak link.  Careless agents sometimes leave doors unlocked or open, or do not fully close the lockbox, leaving the key free to be used by any passerby.

Your agent can be part of your protection plan.  Consider having your agent accompany all showings.  Additionally, have more than one person during an open house.  This can not only help protect your valuables, but the direct agent contact may be influential in your home sale.

For more information on protecting your valuables, check out Montgomery County Police’s brochure “Home Security, Safety Tips to Keep Your Home and Valuables Safe.”

Copyright © Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Feng shui and your home sale

Selling a home with feng shui.

Staging a Home
From greenhomegnome.com

It didn’t seem that long ago when feng shui was important to almost every home buyer and seller. And if Google Trends is an indication of relevance, the diminishing number of searches for feng shui over the last decade indicates reduced interest. Perhaps the bursting housing bubble shifted everyone’s attention; buyers’ were determined to get distressed properties at a deal, while sellers were determined to get a model home look through staging. Although seemingly having lost significance in the housing market, feng shui is once again becoming a top concern for buyers and sellers.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, Merriam Webster (merriam-webster.com) defines feng shui as “…a Chinese system for positioning a building and the objects within a building in a way that is thought to agree with spiritual forces and to bring health and happiness.” The International Feng Shui Guild (ifsguild.org) adds that feng shui is derived from the Chinese philosophy of Taoism and has been practiced for aver 5,000 years. Furthermore, it is based in science and nature to help you live a healthy and prosperous life!

You may already be familiar with some feng shui principles, as a few basics of home staging share similar tasks. For example, de-cluttering, maximizing space and creating a “light filled home” are some of the preparations prescribed to stage a home for sale. And according to feng shui principles, these undertakings are vital in channeling a home’s energy flow. Although there may be some crossover, take caution not to confuse home staging with feng shui; staging a home is not the same as following feng shui principles.

International Home Buyers
From Realtor.org

One of the reasons for the surging focus in feng shui is the increase of home buyers from China. According to the National Association of Realtors® (realtor.org), buyers from China represented about 16% of international home buyers, while purchasing an estimated $28.6 billion of real estate in 2014.

Feng shui is also important to Chinese-Americans, according to a recent survey conducted by Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate and the Asian Real Estate Association of America (Feng Shui a Driver of Home Selection and Investment for Chinese-Americans; bhgre.com; August 11, 2015). The survey revealed that 76% of respondents are familiar with the principles, and half of those respondents practice feng shui, which is “…considered to dictate spatial arrangement and building design to produce a harmonious flow of energy.” When it comes real estate, consider that 81% of respondents indicated that feng shui influenced their buying decisions; and that 79% of respondents indicated that they would pay more for a home that follows feng shui principles. And if you’re selling a home, you should take notice that 75% of respondents indicated that they experienced at least one “deal breaker” conflict of feng shui principles in a home (infographic on home staging and feng shui).

home saleIf your home doesn’t exactly correspond with feng shui principles, consider offering a “Feng Shui Contingency.” Such a contingency was highlighted in a 2014 Realtor®Mag article about the Seattle housing market and the high concentration of buyers from China (Why You May Need the ‘Feng Shui Contingency; realtormag.realtor.org; September 22, 2014). Much like a home inspection contingency, many buyers are including a contingency to have a feng shui master approve the house. The good news is that some conflicting elements may be remedied (such as landscaping); however, others cannot (such as the home’s physical location and direction).

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Home seller expectations are high for 2015 market

Luxury HomesHave you ever waited to be seated in the new trendy restaurant? You’re anticipating the menu, and thinking about what you might eat. If the wait is too long, your patience wears thin; you begin to calculate the time to the next open table. You might even scan the dining room trying to determine how much longer individual diners intend to stay at their table. If your wait is too long, you might even decide to leave. If you do get seated, you might be disappointed with an over-priced and limited choice menu.

Today’s housing market is much like the visit to that restaurant. Home buyers are motivated to jump into the market and eagerly await the next home listing; and like the restaurant menu, are often disappointed with limited choice and high prices. Additionally, low housing inventory, much like the restaurant’s long table turnover, may leave many to look for other options; some would-be home buyers are putting off their purchases and renewing leases for another year.

One of the factors that contribute to low housing inventory is the velocity of home ownership (how often a home gets sold). And indeed, home owners are staying in their homes longer before selling, according to a special study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (nahb.org). Dr. Paul Emrath, of NAHB’s Economics and Housing Policy, provides details in a follow up study showing a decline in home owner mobility since 2007. Single family home owners stayed in their homes for an average of 12 years between 1987 and 2007. However, since 2007 the average time the home owner stayed in their home increased to 16 years. And since 2001, first time home buyers stayed in their homes 4 to 7 years less than move-up buyers.

If you’re one of those who feel that your stay in your home has been long enough, it may seem as if the market would favor a home sale. You might believe that the low inventory environment should make your sale quick, and possibly resulting in multiple offers. After all, the low number of homes listed for sale was cited for price growth by National Association of Realtors® Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in the NAR March 23rd press release (realtor.org). And it makes sense to think that that first time home buyers should be motivated by relatively low interest rates and higher rents.

But before you set your expectations too high, consider that not all homes sell quickly – even in today’s low inventory environment. The Montgomery County average days on market during February exceeded 70 days. And even though the NAR reported a 7.5% increase in the average home prices across the country during February; the Montgomery County average sale price during February decreased 5.4% compared to the previous February and decreased 2.1% compared to January, according to RealEstate Business Intelligence (getsmartcharts.com).

If you’re putting your home on the market, don’t take home buyers for granted. Just like diners at the restaurant, home buyers have high expectations and want choices. Home buyers typically look for a combination of location, quality, and value. And just because inventory is low, buyers are not compelled to purchase your home – especially if the home is perceived to be over-priced.

For best results this spring – work with your listing agent to prepare your home, and price it according to neighborhood trends.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Picky home buyers and real estate slowdown

Real EstateWhy would a major real estate industry player predict a slowdown in home sales? The L.A. Times reported on May 5th (Real estate giant predicts slow home sales for months to come) that Realogy Holdings Corp, the parent company of Coldwell Banker, Century 21 and Sotheby’s, claims that a slowdown in mid and low bracket homes could hurt the brokerage business and could prove to be a difficult 2014.

Meanwhile, a recent “Real-Time Seller Survey” conducted by Redfin (refin.com) indicated that 52.4% of home sellers were confident about selling their homes; however 40.9% of sellers were concerned about affording their next home. This may be why 40.3% of those surveyed planned to price their home above market value – maybe not the best strategy. The May 8th Business Wire article (Redfin survey: 40% of home sellers plan to price higher than market value) quoted Redfin agent Paul Reid as saying; “Buyers this year are far less tolerant of overpricing, and homes that aren’t priced appropriately are likely to sit on the market until the seller is forced to reduce the price … Buyers often interpret a price drop as a sign there is something wrong with the home, leading some to negotiate even more aggressively or lose interest altogether.”

Economics aside, some experts say that a slowdown is in part due to institutional investors having all but left the market as distressed properties are decreasingly a part of the housing landscape; and the housing market is once again reliant on the owner occupant home buyer – who is often characterized as “picky.”

A lot has been said about “picky home buyers” since 2008, and the fact is that home buyers have not changed much – indeed, they may even be pickier today. It could be that the lessons of the financial crisis are still fresh in their minds; home buyers as group seem to be a hardy and savvy group. 2008 was a transition year, as home buyers shirked distressed properties for homes that exuded value. “Cheap” did not necessarily mean the home was a bargain to those who planned to be owner-occupants. Many home buyers were turned off to short sales and foreclosures, not just because of the process but because of the realization that the combined cost of the home purchase with repairs often exceeded the price of a re-sale that was in move-in condition.

Even though there is a perceived dearth of available homes for sale today, doesn’t mean that home buyers will pony up for an overpriced home. Home buyers are typically looking for a combination of location, quality, and value. According to Lyn Underwood (Home buyer turn-ons and turn-offs; McClatchy-Tribune Business News. April 26, 2014), home buyers are attracted to homes for a number of reasons; some of the top home characteristics include an updated kitchen with stone counters and maple cabinets; an open floor plan; new or refurbished wood floors; and flexible spaces (rooms that can be used for a number of uses).

If you’re selling this spring, don’t take home buyers for granted: don’t over price your home; and stay away from cheap renovations meant to look expensive (buyers are turned off by poor workmanship, sloppy installation, or inferior materials); and keep your home neat and tidy when showing. Your listing agent can provide guidance on preparing and pricing your home to sell in today’s market.

Dan Krell ©
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of May 12, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Prepare your home for a sale

by Dan Krell
DanKrell.com
© 2013
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Home for sale

It may be an exciting year, especially if you’re planning to sell your home. If you’re like most home sellers, you’ve got some work to do to prepare your home before it goes on the market. So, let’s get to it…

One of the most important things to do before you list your home is to declutter. Decluttering can be an overwhelming endeavor because of a commonly held misconception that the goal is to make your home immaculate. Rather, the underlying principle to decluttering is to remove items from rooms to give a more spacious feel; you decide what items get thrown out, donated, or kept in storage. So as not to get overwhelmed, plan the decluttering; rather than trying to complete the activity in one weekend, try decluttering one room (or even one part of a room) per day.

After the decluttering, you’re often left with items that need to be thrown out. However, some items require precautions and/or special disposal: some items may need to be recycled; some may need special handling; while some may need to be hauled to a processing facility. The county or municipality may offer special pick up for some items that cannot be disposed of by the regular trash collection. If you’re unsure about the disposal of certain items, call your local “Department of Waste Services,” (like my local Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste Services) which can offer guidance and information for local disposal/recycle procedures, facility locations and hours.

“Neutralize” your home to provide a vision to home buyers how they can live in the home. Although you’ve spent years giving your home a personal touch; items such as trophies, awards, diplomas, family and personal photos should be removed because they can distract home buyers’ attention from the home itself.

Home buyers should feel at ease when viewing your home. Having too much and/or over-sized furniture can make an otherwise large room feel cramped. Eclectic furniture collections and furniture that is wrongly placed can not only make a room look awkward, but can also give people an unsettling feeling.

Does your home need staging? Home staging is a way to create a “vision” for home buyers by adding a modern flair. Some home sellers stage every room, while some only stage featured rooms to be focal points of the home. Although home staging can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes having an extra lamp or removing a painting from a wall can make the difference between shabby and chic. If your furniture is out of date or in poor condition, consider a short term furniture rental for that featured room.

Although we’ve talked about your home’s interior – don’t neglect the exterior of your home. Home buyers’ initial opinions are created as they approach your home; no matter how nice your home looks on the inside, it may not matter if home buyers never make it inside. Simple landscaping can make a lawn appear “manicured.” Make sure that the home’s siding is clean and in good condition.

Your real estate agent should be able to provide guidance to prepare your home for sale. If home staging is a goal, many agents either work with a home stager or have been certified for home staging. You can also research home staging by visiting The International Association of Home Staging Professionals website (IAHSP.com).

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of January 14, 2013. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.