Great Idea for Homeowners At Christmas Time

Many homes look their best at Christmas time.  Between the wreaths hung on the windows, lawn Santas, and the plethora of little twinkling lights, your home  shines at Christmas time.  Why not capture that essence for the future… perhaps when you decide to sell.  Here’s some ideas on how to take pictures of your home at Christmas for posterity sake and to put a little more cash in your wallet when it comes time to sell…

Great Photos don’t happen by chance…

In order to take some great photos you’ve got to plan.  Here’s an awesome post on digital photography school about Christmas photos.  If you want to get real specific there’s this post on Strobist about photographing X-mas lights which is where the title photo for this article came from.  There’s some great tips in these two articles so make sure to read them if you really want to capture the spirit of your Christmas this year.

Now, once you’ve gotten all that down, it’s time to take some photos of the interior and exterior of your home.  These photos will show your home at it’s best.  Selling a property is all about hooking the buyer into feeling something about the home.  Get them to have an emotional reaction.

Nothing does this better than a well dressed home during the Holidays.  Just a couple of tips for you…

  • Make sure your family isn’t in the photos… you want the buyers to have an emotional response that includes their family… not your Aunt Judith’s horrible Christmas sweater.
  • Take photos when it isn’t completely dark outside and try using the ’slow syncro’ setting on your camera.  You’ll get warm, amazing pictures inside and you’ll capture real details of your home outside… not just points of light.
  • Take some artistic photos.  Have an out of focus foreground or bend some photography rules.

So go take some pictures and store them away for that day when you finally decide to sell your home.  You’ll be very happy you did.

Short Sales in Northwest Arkansas: What You Should Know

A Short Sale is simply when a seller has a mortgage balance that is higher than the home is worth.  If the bank agrees to sell the property, then they short sell it and take a loss to stop a bad situation from getting worse.  While Northwest Arkansas is definitely not in the shape that most major cities are in, we do have a lot of property owners that are under water.  If you are one of those people, don’t wait for a bad situation to get worse.  Get it figured out now.  Here’s a good little video explaining short sales.  Please ignore the barking dog at the end of the video.

n Northwest Arkansas, as of mid December 2009, there are some 180 short sale properties listed on our MLS.  This is a fair share of the 7,000 or so properties listed as current so knowing what is going on with short sales can be a great way to get a home for less than current market value.

18 Things That Will Help You Pick a High Appreciating Neighborhood

oday’s market is different than years past… to say the least.  There are still basic principles of buying that you should follow to make smart choices when buying a home as an investment vehicle for your future.  Here are 18 Things to Look for to Pick a High Appreciating Neighborhood…

Neighborhoods generally appreciate because of…

  1. Great schools or proximity to schools
  2. Pride of ownership
  3. History of high-appreciation
  4. Low crime rates
  5. Economic stability
  6. Employment access and availability
  7. Homogeneity, cohesiveness
  8. well maintained, curving streets
  9. Rivers, mountains, hills, streams, lakes, oceans, or any body of water nearby
  10. Plenty of common area
  11. Parks and green areas
  12. Mature trees or abundance of trees
  13. Properly lit streets
  14. Historical significance (think of downtown areas)
  15. Trendy stores, nearby cultural centers (like performing arts, galleries, etc)
  16. Good infrastructure, roads, fire, police, etc.
  17. Low traffic congestion
  18. Parking

These things, along with a number of other factors, will help you find a neighborhood that will appreciate during your time living there.  Many of these factors are hard to determine without the help of a professional.  Give me a call if you are considering a certain neighborhood in Northwest Arkansas and I will be happy to do a neighborhood appreciation analysis for you.

8 Items Homeowners Need to get a Loan Approval in No Time Flat

Getting a loan these days is a bit harder than it has been in years past. Lenders are now subject to much more regulation so they are quite a bit more careful in the way they do business. Here are 8 Items Homeowners Need to get a Loan Approval in No Time Flat…

1.  Two months’ most recent mortgage statements (if applicable)

Lenders want to see what you are paying currently.

2.  Two months’ checking account statements (all borrowers if separate)

Lenders will look at how much is going in and out of your accounts as well as what kind of balance you keep in each account.

3.  Two months’ savings account statements

These help the lender determine your level of savings.

4.  Two months’ other investment or asset account statements

If you have other investment or asset account, these will raise your borrowing power and possibly lower your interest rate.

5.  Last two  paycheck stubs (all borrowers)

Your pay stubs are a 3rd party record of your income.  They verify what you have told the lender.

6.  Last two years’ tax returns

This will show your income over the past couple of years and help lenders determine your reliability.

7.  Hardship letter (if applicable)

This outlines any credit issues, payments or situations the borrower is in.  This is really only needed in the case of a loan modification.

8.  Financial worksheet of assets and liabilities

It’s good to have your finances mapped out.  Also know your monthly expenses other than the biggies, like groceries, savings, luxury items, etc.

If you have your ducks in a row with all these documents…. getting a loan should be no problem.  If you need some help or advice compiling this list of documents to get your home loan, please contact me for more information.  I can give you a list of very reputable lenders that will do everything in their power to see that your dream of home ownership is realized.

Tricks for Buying a Home at the Bottom from the Today Show

I think it’s safe to say that buyers seem to be looking for a ‘deal’ these days. Whatever that means. Here are a few ways to make sure you purchase a ‘deal’ from Barbara Corcoran with my own bit of frivolous commentary thrown in…

A lot of this advice brings to mind a couple of points…

You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t have representation, on either side.
If you aren’t in a hurry and want the best price for your home… keep it up!
If you are looking for a deal, look for a deal…
contact local real estate companies and banks to get their foreclosure lists.
Search for homes with a low price per square foot compared to comparable properties
Realtors can help you with that. Contact me and my team today to see what the best deals are in Northwest Arkansas right now.

Service For Life Newsletter

“Insider Tips For Healthy, Wealthy & Happy Living…”

Learn Almost Anything

Online For FREE

You don’t have to pay for a college degree program to learn over the internet. Whether you want to fix a leaky faucet, speak Chinese, or listen to a lecture on world history, there’s plenty of educational material available for free. Here are some good places to start (and some you might not have thought of):

 

  • YouTube.  It’s not just for funny videos any more. You can find tutorials on sports and home improvement as well as how to do the moonwalk!  YouTube also has an education channel where you can view content from universities and other institutions.  Go to www.youtube.com/edu and click on a category from Business to Social Science.
  • The History Channel.  On their site at www.history.com you’ll find videos on such subjects as the Civil War, Great Inventions and Space Exploration.  Check out the videos under “Topics” and “Great Speeches.”
  • DiscoveryEducation.com.  Go here for videos on math, science, social studies and more that you can use to help your kids with their homework.
  • University of California-Berkeley.  Go to webcast.berkeley.edu to download hundreds of video or audio courses and on-campus lectures.
  • The BBC.  Visit www.bbc.co.uk/languages to study everything from Italian to Chinese.  Taking a trip? Learn essential phrases in 36 languages.
  • AcademicEarth.org. Watch lectures on subjects from Computer Science to Mathematics and Law given by professors from universities such as Harvard, MIT and UCLA.
  • OpenCulture.com. This site is a guide to thousands of hours of the latest educational content on the web.  Readers will be especially interested in the section on free e-books you can read on your computer.

Maybe you just had a child and you need more space. Or have that nagging claustrophobic feeling. Or maybe you just need a positive change in your environment. Either way, I can help. My service programs can help you find the perfect home. It’s easier than you think.

Protect Yourself: How Credit Card Changes Affect YOU

The new rules for credit card companies that mean more consumer protection went into effect on Feb. 22, 2010.  Here’s what they mean for you:

Your credit card company has to tell you:

¨       When they’re increasing your rate or other fees, giving you 45 days notice.  Also, they can’t raise the interest rate on an existing balance unless you’re more than 60 days late with a payment.  And they can’t increase your rate for the first 12 months after you open an account (with some exceptions).

How long it will take to pay off your balance.  It will say on your bill how long it will take if you only make minimum payments, and how much you’d need to pay each month to pay off your balance in three years.

Monitor your cards closely and follow these tips to protect yourself:

Pay on time.  Companies are required to mail or deliver your bill at least 21 days (instead of 14) before your payment is due.  Plan accordingly.

Stay below your credit limit.  You will, however, be given the choice to “opt-in” to over-the-limit transactions.  If you opt-in and go over your limit, your credit card company can impose only one fee per billing cycle.

Try to make more than the minimum payment.  You’ll pay less interest in the long run.

Shop for the best deal.  Don’t forget to check out local banks or credit unions when you’re looking for a card with the best rate.

Read your mail.  They may give you 45 days notice on a rate change, but you won’t know if you don’t open the envelope if it looks like junk mail.

44 Effective and Inexpensive ways to Prepare Your Home for Sale

Exterior Of Your Home
Overall, buyers are looking for a home that looks clean, neat, and well-maintained. By addressing exterior issues, you immediately give your buyers a positive “first impression.”

Here are 13 first impression items to examine:

Tip #1: Get into your car and drive away from your home. Drive towards your home the way a potential buyer would. Notice your first impressions of your home. Is the landscaping well groomed? How about the driveway and curb? Can you easily see the architecture of the home, or is it blocked by trees and bushes. Notice your roof. Is it in good condition? Make a list of items that need attention.

Tip #2: Paint your front door and mailbox. Polish your door and entry hardware.

Tip #3: Make sure your doorbell is functional.

Tip #4: Wash or thoroughly clean wood, aluminum, and vinyl sided homes. You can hire a contractor to pressure wash an entire house for about $200. Pressure washing can remove dirt, grime, peeling paint, and mildew.

Tip #5: Rake leaves, trim shrubbery and trees, cut the lawn, and plant a few new, fresh flowers. Put down fresh mulch or peat moss around shrubs and flower beds.

Tip #6: Sweep and hose off the walkways and driveways. Pressure wash if necessary.

Tip #7: Clean the gutters and extend downspouts to prevent flooding or basement water seepage.

Tip #8: Organize the garage. Get rid of clutter by either putting it in boxes, or pack ahead of time and rent a storage locker for your garage belongings. Make sure you wash your car.

Tip #9: Check the locks of your home at both the entry, back entry, and garage. Locks can give a first impression of a home that needs maintenance. And they’re the first thing a buyer sees. A small dab of graphite will make them work like new.

Tip #10: Clean oil stains from your driveway and garage. This is best achieved by using poultice with Portland cement. Scrub with a detergent and rinse. Clean rust stains beneath rails with the commercial product, Zud.

Tip #11: Clean up any litter in the yard or walkways. Remove any leaves or debris in the yard or walkways.

Tip #12: Touch-up the paint on the exterior of the home if necessary. In some cases, it pays to repaint the entire exterior if it hasn’t received a coat of paint in years. Hardwood trim on the exterior of the home can make or break its appearance. Make sure it looks clean.

Tip #13: Look for any cracks in exterior plaster, and make sure they’re fixed and repainted to match exterior paint.

Interior Of Your Home
There’s a little known secret about home buyers that you need to know. People buy homes based on the emotional FEELINGS they get from the home. They fall in love, for example, with the kitchen or the master bedroom. Or perhaps the roaring fire in the family room fireplace touched off an old memory.

And while they’re viewing your home, they’re visualizing in their mind’s eye what it would be like to live there – the backyard barbecues they’ll host…Sunday dinners with family…college graduation celebrations of their children. Or simply relaxing in the backyard hammock.

It’s all about emotions. And if your home doesn’t feel right, you will quickly lose interest from buyers.

So remember this: Purchase decisions are EMOTIONAL. Once a decision to buy is made, we usually justify our purchase with logical reasons.

By dressing the interior of your home right, you’ll encourage your buyers to stay. People buy with their eyes, ears and noses, and the longer they stay in your home, the greater the likelihood of an offer.

Here are 18 interior tips to help you “dress” the interior of your house so it feels like home to your buyers.

Tip #14: The entry way sets first impressions. So make sure it’s in great condition with fresh paint and clean floors. If the entry tile floor has build-up, consider using a commercial stripper and re-waxing.

Tip #15: Clear out about one-third to one-half of your furniture. You want your home to look uncluttered, and the rooms to feel open and bright. The average home has too much furniture for showing, and you need to move anyhow. So you might as well pack away any furniture that clutters any rooms in the home.

Tip #16: Put away nick-knacks and items that make the home look overly personal to YOU. You do not want your buyer feeling that they would never fit in the home because it has so many of your personal items in it. Put away cluttered photos and other objects that will detract away from the home.

Tip #17: Do a thorough interior maintenance review. Oil squeaky doors, tighten doorknobs, clean and repair ALL windows, and repair leaking taps and toilets. Look for chipped paint and cracked plaster or drywall that needs repairing.

Tip #18: It is a good idea to have all windows professionally washed. And clean all window shades and blinds.

Tip #19: Replace all burned-out light bulbs and clean lighting fixtures.

Tip #20: GIVE YOUR HOME A SPACIOUS LOOK. If you’ve ever toured a model home, you’ve noticed that the home is spacious and bright. Make your home look the same by: 1) Clear out stairs and halls of clutter and excess furniture, 2) Clear counters in the kitchen and bathrooms, and 3) Make closets and storage areas neat and tidy.

Tip #21: Make sure your home is clean by doing the following: 1) Shampoo carpets, 2) Clean washer, dryer, and laundry tubs, 3) Clean the furnace, 4) Clean the refrigerator and stove, 5) Clean and freshen the bathrooms. Hire a professional cleaning service if needed. The money you spend on these areas will come back to you in purchase price.

Tip #22: Wax or polish floors, and glue down any seems if you have vinyl flooring.

Tip #23: Make sure windows and doors operate properly and lubricate closet door tracks with a silicon spray.

Tip #24: Glue loose wallpaper seams and remove soiled wallpaper.

Tip #25: Clean around fireplaces and remove ashes.

Tip #26: Organize all closets, pack up unnecessary items for storage, and put all toys away.

Tip #27: Make sure all beds are made, bedrooms are neat and clean, and laundry is clean and folded.

Tip #28: Consider holding a yard sale BEFORE you place your home on the market to get rid of excess items that can make your home look cluttered or small.

Bathrooms and kitchen are some of the most influential areas of a home. Spending a small amount of money in these areas frequently nets owners many times their investment. Here are a few suggestions for each.

Tip #29: Your Bathrooms. Repair loose tiles. Remove loose grout using a grout file, and apply new grout. Faded tile colors can be improved using an epoxy spray. Remove old tub and tile caulking with a hooked scraper, install new white silicone tub, and tile caulk. Concentrate on areas such as counter corners, shower corners, and base of toilet. Clean mildewed caulk by spraying Tilex, or use diluted chlorine bleach and let stand for at least 30 minutes before rinsing. Old tubs can often be sprayed with an epoxy coating. Remove all soap scum and dirt build-ups. Again, diluted chlorine bleach will help here. Clean glass doors with vinegar, and replace badly soiled shower curtains. Don’t forget to vacuum exhaust fans.

Tip #30: Your Kitchen. Clean ovens thoroughly. Clean cook tops and exhaust fans. Remember to clean behind your appliances. Double-check all burners to make sure they’re working. Defrost freezers, and thoroughly clean the interior of your refrigerator. Remove mold from refrigerator gaskets. Empty the water collection tray under the refrigerator. Neatly arrange soaps and cleaning accessories. Thoroughly wash fronts of cabinets using Murphy’s Oil Soap or Pine Sol. Cover counter burns with ceramic tile or heat resistant glass. Make sure all handles are securely in place. Install new shelf and drawer liners.

How To Show Your Home For Maximum Profit
There’s a right way to show a home…and a wrong way. Many homeowners lose money, or turn-off buyers because they simply didn’t know how to handle a home showing. Here are 13 tips that will help you show your home for maximum profit:

Tip #32: Save those receipts. If you completed any substantial work on your home, save the receipts and ONLY take them out if someone questions the value of the work performed (in the negotiating process). Many times extra work will increase the value of your home beyond your costs. So only use the receipts if you need support to justify the work.

Tip #33: Save those utility bills. Buyers frequently have questions about utility costs of owning a home. If you have past utility bills, you will greatly increase your credibility and help provide precise answers to important questions. Save electric, gas, water, oil, sewage, and waste management bills.

Tip #34: Go away during organized showings. Three’s a crowd when your home is being shown. The only exception to this rule is if you have specific knowledge about features of the home a Realtor cannot answer. But in most cases, don’t stay.

Tip #35: Turn on ALL lights. Illumination is like a welcome sign.

Tip #36: Open all drapery and bring in as much natural light as possible. Buyers hate dark homes. Anything you can do to brighten your home will help.

Tip #37: Turn off any radios and TV’s. Turn off the football game. Tell the kids that the loud music will need a reprieve while the home is being shown. Occasionally very soft, background music can enhance a showing. But generally, no music at all is your best bet.

Tip #38: Plan a pleasant aroma. Cinnamon sticks or vanilla boiled in a pot of water on the stove emit pleasant aromas and make a home smell inviting. Apple and cherry wood smoldering in a fireplace do the same. And who can resist the smell of apple pie or fresh bread baking in the kitchen. Often, these pleasant smells can override other odors your home may have.

Tip #39: Keep pets out of the home during showings. It’s best to keep them out of the home for an entire day before an open house.

Tip #40: Do NOT volunteer conversation. Be courteous but don’t force conversation with a potential buyer. They want to inspect your home, not make a social call.

Tip #41: Stay positive: Never apologize for the appearance of your home. Let the showing Realtor answer any objections – they’re trained to know how.

Tip #42: DO NOT Tag Along. It makes buyers fearful and uncomfortable. The showing Realtor knows the buyer’s requirements and can better emphasize the features of your home. They will call you if needed.

Tip #43: Never negotiate during a showing. Let your Realtor discuss price, terms, possessions, and other items with any potential buyers. If any negotiations arise prior to an offer, politely request the buyer to submit an offer and you can consider it.

Top 10 Ways NOT to Promote Your Real Estate Career and Listings on Twitter

There are A LOT of real estate professionals using Twitter. There are some great people I’ve met on Twitter that always give more than they receive and some not-so-great people that broadcast and whine like it’s going out of style. Trust me… it’s out of style. Below are 10 Ways Not to Promote Your Real Estate Career or Your Listings on Twitter… paired with some alternative approaches.

1. Tweet Your Lisitings More Than Once a Week
Your followers want something useful out of you. Your a real estate professional, tweeting your listings using Tweetlister or doing it manually is fine… in moderation. Tweeting each of your 5-50 listings more than once a week is just plain broadcasting and plain wrong.

You CAN mention your listing and link to it’s property tour, video, or website if you are showing it, working on it, etc. When you link to something that is related to what you are talking about it adds value.

2. Send the tweet, “I’m in Real Estate! Do any of you have a home I can sell?”
Really? That’s the best you got? You know, I occasionally ask my close followers or people that I am having a conversation with…”Hey, who do you know right now that’s looking to buy or sell a home?” That’s as forward as I ever get… and I never send that message where the general tweeting population can see it. If you do, you are likely to alienate 1/2 your followers in one foul tweet.

3. Ask followers for their address.
I’ve got a better idea… why don’t you just triangulate their twitter signal and stalk them? I know people talk about ’stalking’ others on twitter, but I’m talking “actual” stalking. Don’t do it. If they want to give you their address to list their home… they will.

4. Tell followers what you are ‘getting ready for…’
Example Tweet…”Just preparing some great market data to go list 123 Main Street in Pleasantville…”

My response to that tweet would be… “So? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to be doing? You’re a Realtor right?”

Give me some VALUE. Like this, “Cross Creek in Pleasantville is ripe for a buyer looking for a deal, check out the market data http://tinyurl.com/example.” That tells me something useful and what you’re doing at the same time.

5. Auto-DM new followers with Shameless Self Promotion.
“Thanks for the follow…I’m the best real estate agent around. Are you ready to list?” Bzzzzzzz. Thanks for playing. You officially suck at twittering.

6. Don’t display a picture on your profile.
I love to work with people that I have no idea how they look. I think it’s the excitement and mystery… the thrill and the danger of the unknown. What? I’m the only one like that? Put up a picture that shows your a professional, trustworthy individual. If you can find one that makes you look intelligent too, that’s a bonus.

7. Make sure your profile links to http://yourdomain.com
This is one that lots of people get wrong. It’s a shame too because I love a good landing page that is tailor made for me. If you blog it’s as simple as writing a post about your use of twitter and linking to it. Not that I have the best twitter landing page in the world, but at least you’ll get the idea. This same concept goes for everything from facebook and linkedin, to buyers, sellers, and investors.

8. Only talk about real estate.
You ever notice how boring real estate really is? Market data, Days on Market, Absorption Rates, contracts, inspections, appraisals, I could go on. Now, many of us in real estate find most of this stuff at least a little bit interesting or else we don’t last long but the general population you are tweeting to could probably care less. Don’t be a robotic twit and only talk about the mundane details of real estate. Talk about your kids, the news, things you like and do… people will be much less likely to tune out your “boring real estate tweets” if you have something interesting to talk about at other times.

9. Only follow other real estate agents
While it’s certainly possible to follow no one but real estate agents and follow thousands (if not 10’s of 1000’s) of people. While you might get something out of your interactions on twitter there’s one thing you aren’t going to get…business.

10. Only follow locals who might be prospects
Following people on twitter is kind of like having a balanced portfolio. For big dividends and a safety net, you need to have the right mix of locals and non-locals, Realtors, Mortgage Brokers, other industry professionals, and prospects and clients. When you need a little lift you can lean on your fellow agents for support. When the market is good, your followers that have a real estate need will be contacting you in droves.