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10 Ways to Sell Your Home Faster

10 ways to sell your home faster A few basic elements can make the difference between a quick home sale and a frustrating ordeal. The experts offer their best tips. By Liz Pulliam Weston No matter how long your home lingers unsold, you can comfort yourself that at least you're not Mark Twain. The celebrated author put his Hartford, Conn., home on the market for $60,000 in 1901, according to biographer Fred Kaplan. Despite repeated markdowns, the elaborate house failed to attract a buyer until the price was finally slashed to $25,000 two years later. What was once a much-loved home -- in which Twain estimated he'd invested more than $100,000 -- became a painful albatross. "I would rather go to hell," Twain wrote the friend who was helping him sell the place, "than own it 50 days longer." If you want to avoid Twain's agony, you'd be smart to do some work up front to make sure your house sells fast. 10 tips from the experts Here is some of what experts advise to speed up your sale: Finish the "honey do" list. Just about every homeowner has a string of little repairs that never quite get done. Now's the time. Fix the screens, oil that squeak, patch the cracks, paint the trim. Stuff that you've long since stopped noticing could be shouting "Deferred maintenance!" to every potential buyer. The cost: A few bucks if you're handy, a couple of hundred or so if you hire someone who is. Get inspected. A pre-sale inspection can help in two ways, says real estate columnist Tom Kelly. Professional inspections can identify problems that could thwart a sale in time to fix them. And if there are no major problems, he said, an inspection can publicize that fact to skittish buyers. "Having an inspection (report) right on the counter during the open house . . . shows the buyers that the seller's got nothing to hide," said Kelly, author of several real-estate books, including "Cashing in on a Second Home in Mexico." The cost: Around $400. Pack up the clutter. "Clutter eats equity," said real-estate broker Barb Schwarz, CEO of and a pioneer of the concept of professionally preparing houses for sale. Too much stuff makes rooms look smaller and focuses buyers' attention on your possessions rather than the home you're trying to sell. That's why many professional stagers recommend removing as much as a third of your things to better show off rooms and closets. "Since you're going to have to pack it up anyway, do it now," advised Schwarz, who said she has staged more than 5,000 homes. Buyers "can't imagine themselves living there if they can't see the space." The cost: $150 to $300 a month for three months' storage. Depersonalize and neutralize. The first items that should go in those packing boxes: family photos, collections and just about anything else that says "you." Streamline your artwork and consider toning down bold decorating statements, said Ilyce Glink, author of "50 Simple Steps You Can Take to Sell Your Home Faster and for More Money in Any Market." That means neutral shades if you need to repaint walls or replace carpets. "Buyers have a hard enough time envisioning how their stuff will look on your walls," Glink said. "By neutralizing your decor, you can help give them the blank canvas they need to imagine your house as theirs." The cost: $10 and up for paint; $500 and up for new carpet. Clean like a fiend. "I mean Q-Tip clean," said Schwarz, who recommends taking a cotton swab to faucets and fixtures, scouring fingerprints from all the switch plates, shining windows until they're spotless and vacuuming up every last dog hair from the baseboards. "You should be able to eat off the kitchen floor, the bathroom floor." You'll need to banish suspect smells as well; you don't want your house to become known in real-estate circles as "the cat pee place." If your pets have had one too many accidents, you may need to replace the affected carpet and padding and have the underlying floor sealed. If you're not sure how your place smells, get your least tactful friend to take a few whiffs and tell you the honest truth. The cost: $10 or so in home cleaning products, if you do it yourself; $75 and up if you hire help. Stage the rooms. Stand in the doorway to find each room's focal point, and use furniture placement to highlight that. The back of your sofa shouldn't block the view of the fireplace, for example, and the dining room table shouldn't be sharing space with a stair climber. You should remove any extraneous pieces of furniture, but you may be able to "repurpose" them in another room. A wingback chair that's crowding the family room might help create a nice reading nook in the master bedroom, Schwarz suggested. The cost: Nothing, if you do it yourself; $1,500 and up if you hire a professional stager. Tend to the floors. Keeping them spotless won't help if they're dated, worn or impossibly stained. You shouldn't spend a fortune installing hardwood or tile, though, since you're unlikely to recoup the cost. Look for compromises that can improve the home's appearance without busting your wallet. Carpets should be steam-cleaned to see if they're salvageable. If not, you may be able to reduce the costs of replacement by offering to do some of the work, such as removing the old carpet and moving furniture. And banish scatter rugs, Schwarz advised. Little rugs add to the visual clutter and can be dangerous besides. The cost: Anywhere from a few bucks to a few hundred bucks. Kick up the curb appeal. By now, you probably realize the garden gnomes are a no-no. But you may not realize how many sales you're losing before potential buyers even get to the front door. "Most people will start their search for a home on the Internet. If your house's Internet photo doesn't 'wow' them, they might never call for a showing," Glink said. "That's why your front landscaping needs to be in perfect condition." Given the pressure to make a good first impression, you'll need to do more than trim back the hedges and plant a few pansies. "Hire a professional landscaper to clean up the leaves, plant some fall flowers, trim the bushes and trees, and really manicure your lawn," Glink suggested. "If your front walkway is cracked, now might be the time to replace it." The cost: $300 to $500 for the landscaping, more if you need to fix walkways or driveways. Pick the right publicist. If you're working with an agent, you'll want one who can really sell. That means somebody who knows your neighborhood intimately and who's enthusiastic about your home. That also means someone other agents want to work with; someone who's too abrasive or who isn't trustworthy won't help your cause. Set the right price. A seller may think she's just testing the market with a high price tag, assuming buyers will at least make an offer, but buyers may assume she's unreasonable and move on. Your goal should be a fair price -- something that's reasonable given the price of other homes in your area. "Buyers who are actively searching for a fairly-priced home," Glink said, "will pounce on what they perceive is fair value." Liz Pulliam Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "Your Credit Score: Your Money & What's at Stake." Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. She also answers reader questions on the Your Money message board. Check out the article at :

Seller's Incentives for a Challenging Economy

Seller's Incentives for a Challenging Economy In a down economy, sellers most compete not only with other homes in the market, but also with buyer's fears and concerns. Selling incentives have always been a way to create additional interest in your property. Today, incentives can help motivate reluctant buyers to make that next step in the face of the present environment. Below are a few of the more frequently used incentives that can be used to draw attention to your home. Paying Points Lenders charge fees known as points, with each point is equal to 1 percent of the total loan amount. The base fee charged (called origination points) typically ranges between 0 and 3 points, depending on the interest rate given and other terms of the loan. Points can add up to a significant up-front cost for the buyer, particularly for larger mortgages. Offering to pay some or all of the origination points on behalf the buyer can help generate offers from cash-conscious buyers. Buying Down the Interest Rate Many buyers don't understand that they can receive a lower interest rate from their lender by paying additional points at the outset. Buyers can typically pay up to four "discount points" to bring down the interest rate. Offering to pay discount points can increase your home's affordability for many prospective buyers. Providing a Home Warranty A home warranty can help assure wary consumers that they won't be stuck with expensive repair costs shortly after buying a home. Home warranties usually cover the repair or replacement of core systems such as plumbing, heating and electrical, along with major appliances. Providing the first year (or two) of a home warranty can add to your home's appeal, especially if you are competing against newer homes on the market. The relatively low cost of home warranties ($250 to $600 annually) offers great value as an eye-catching incentive. Paying for Closing Costs Closing a real estate sale can result in a long list of charges, from inspection costs to attorney's fees. Closing costs for the buyer can easily total several thousand dollars - adding to the up-front cash required as a down payment. Sellers can offer to pay for the buyer's side of closing costs to help ease the burden. When doing so it is wise to either put a cap on the dollar amount you will contribute to closing costs, or specify exactly which individual costs you will be paying for. Upgrade Allowances Offering cash allowances for specific upgrades can sometimes be a creative way to appeal to buyers. Upgrade allowances are commonly offered by new home builders, and some homeowners are now employing the technique to help set their properties apart from the competition. For example, if your home has older carpet you may offer to pay the price of new carpet and installation. By not replacing the carpet yourself ahead of the sale, you avoid the hassle of having the carpet installed and the pain of keeping the new carpet clean during showings. You also give the buyer the chance to select a carpet that matches their taste. Other upgrades offered by sellers include allowances for kitchen facelifts, bathroom remodels and new landscaping. New Appliances Another flashy way for sellers to sweeten the deal is to provide buyers with their selection of brand new appliance packages. Updated appliances help your home compete with newly built properties. Allowing the consumer to choose their desired appliance gives them another opportunity to personalize the home to their liking. You can even lay out brochures of some example appliances to help buyers visualize your home improved with the newest gadgets. Back To Top Basic House Hunting Tips Allow Plenty of Time - While it may be tempting to try and visit as many properties as possible on a single day, "overbooking" won't give you enough time to linger and fully tour each individual home. If you find a house you truly like, you will probably spend more time reviewing each room in greater detail. Assume that each house you view will hold your interest enough for a lengthy exploration. Dress Comfortably - House hunting isn't a job interview, so dress casually and comfortably for the season. Wear slip-on shoes and adequate socks - homes with new carpet or flooring will often include "please remove shoes" signs. You will be doing a lot of walking and taking trips up and down stairs, so supportive footwear is a must. Clothing should fit comfortably enough to accommodate reaching up or bending/crouching down to examine cupboards both high and low. Carpool - Taking just one car is particularly convenient when viewing multiple properties on the same day. A one vehicle approach ensures that no one gets separated or lost. Also, by moving over to the passenger seat you're free to consider the merits each last house and pay attention to the neighborhood near each property, rather than focus your energy on squinting at street signs. Pay Attention to the Surroundings - Speaking of the neighborhood, make sure you pay attention to the area close by each home on the way in. What kind of shopping opportunities and facilities are within a short distance? Are there appealing destinations within walking distance? What are the schools like nearby? How far will your commute be? Are many other homes for sale in the immediate area? The idea is to have some feeling of whether or not the neighborhood is right for you before you ever set foot in the actual home. If you're lucky enough to fall in love with the house itself, knowing the lay of the land ahead of time can give you the confidence to make an immediate offer. Use Your Nose - Generally speaking, a bad (or unidentifiable) smell inside or outside the home is not a good sign. Likewise, be somewhat suspicious if the home is overpowered by the smell of potpourri or intense candles in every room, as this can be an attempt by the seller to mask problematic odors. Mildew and mold smells indicate much larger problems - mold removal can cost thousands of dollars, and locating/fixing moisture leaks can be a difficult task. Pet smells or smoke smells can be minimized with cleaning, but will likely take time to fully dissipate. If you are interested in a home with a strong smell, hire a qualified and experienced home inspector who will unmask the cause of the odor.

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The Dangers of an Unreasonable Asking Price

The Dangers of an Unreasonable Asking Price One of the most common and costly mistakes made by sellers is setting an unrealistically high asking price. Every seller wants to receive the highest closing price possible for their house, but losing sight of fair market value can have serious repercussions. In some cases a lack of objectivity results in overpricing the home, other sellers may subscribe to the theory that pricing high initially leaves room to negotiate lower later. Overpricing from the outset could actually force you to end up settling for a lower price than you would have received by setting a realistic asking price based on market research. Common Results of Overpricing Fewer "Eyes" on Your Listing - Mispricing your home can prevent it from ever being seen by a certain percentage of potential buyers who might otherwise be interested in your home. Savvy buyers today research the local market even before acquiring an agent. Buyers will search available listings both online and offline in real estate publications, and in most cases they will set a price range to limit the listings they review. If your home is outside of their range even by a few thousand dollars, it may not be on the buyer's radar. Most buyers will then hire a specialized buyer's agent, and together they will develop a strategy to evaluate homes that match the buyer's needs within their acceptable price range. Occasionally an agent will provide information on a home above the buyer's maximum price point, but rarely will they stray too far above that boundary. Lack of Showings - Agents who work with homebuyers will know local market conditions and the listing prices of comparable homes. If they feel your home is overpriced, they will be reluctant to show your home to their clients for fear of wasting their time. Helping Competing Listings - It may not be your first thought, but overpricing for your home for the market can actually help the competition. Your home's higher asking price will make other nearby homes of equivalent size and quality look steals in comparison. Astute selling agents for other properties will use the price gap between your home and their own a further selling point of their listings. Stagnation and Stigmatization - If your home is priced higher than what buyers in your market are willing to pay, it runs the risk of sitting on the market for a longer period. The longer your home sits on the market, the more likely it will become stigmatized as "overpriced" in the real estate community. Once that happens, removing the stigma and restoring interest in your home can be a difficult task. Even dropping the price later will not have the same level of impact as the initial, negative, impression of your listing. Tough Negotiations - A high listing price can be a warning flag for buyers that they use for leverage during the negotiation process. If the asking price seems high without home improvements or features to warrant the difference, buyers may assume that you are either A) not well informed about the market, B) not a highly motivated seller, C) have a need for money (perhaps forced by a move to a higher-priced area), or D) are simply creating some bargaining room. If the buyer believes any of these, they are likely to fish to determine how low of a price you will accept. On the other hand, if your home has languished on the market as a result of a high price, buyers may believe you are becoming desperate. Interested buyers will make lower offers as a result. Appraisal Problems - Should you be fortunate enough to find a motivated buyer willing to pay your overestimated asking price, you still run the risk of having the deal fall apart prior to closing. Most buyers will use some kind of financing to pay for their home purchase, and every lender requires an appraisal of your home's value. The appraiser will review your home in person to assess its value based on similar homes that have sold (usually within the last six months). If the appraised value is below the agreed selling price, the lender wills only approve a loan for the lower amount. You may be forced to reduce the selling price or risk having the deal collapse, and your home return to the open market. Overpricing and Today's Market Today the tendency to overprice relative to the current market can be even more tempting. Home prices have dropped since the high peaks in the summer of 2006, and as a result many are in denial about the current market value of their home. Homeowners who bought within the past five or six years in particularly may be overly influenced by the purchase price they paid during the real estate boom. This comes at time when overpricing couldn't be a worse strategy. There is a smaller pool of highly motivated buyers, and today's buyers tend to be well educated about the market. Without the assumption of price appreciation, few buyers are willing to gamble and overpay for a home. In addition, credit tightening has reduced both the number of buyers who can qualify for a mortgage as well as the size of the mortgages available. Creating a Pricing Plan When pricing your home, the best strategy is to remain objective and compare your home closely to similar properties on the market. Take the opportunity to visit open houses and pay attention to recent sales in your area. Are you more focused on selling quickly, or on receiving the highest possible selling price? Is the price you have in mind reasonable when compared with what other homes are asking for and selling for? Priced Too High: Corrections If your home has been sitting on the market with few offers or showings to its name, consider whether or not it is priced correctly. Review recent sales of comparable listings, especially those that have sold since your home went on the market. Another method is to ask agents who have shown your property for feedback they received from their clients. Have buyers who looked at your home in person purchase other homes in the area instead? Acting quickly to adjust the asking price is the best way to keep as much of your marketing momentum as possible. Depending on how long your listing has been on the market, additional marketing may be needed to help repair some of the "damage" done to the reputation of your home's listing at the higher price. In some cases, you may be forced to slightly under price your listing to create additional interest.

Real Estate Terminology


Real Estate Terminology for First Timers

First time buyers face a learning curve that can feel overwhelming if the right level of support and education is not available. It's not enough to merely educate one's self on buying strategies, mortgage application, and closing process. Buyers must also navigate through a sea of unfamiliar legalese, home building lingo and real estate specific jargon.
The glossary below is by no means complete and is no substitute for the careful guidance of an experienced real estate agent, but it can serve as a good primer for consumers getting their feet wet in real estate for the first time. 

 Agency - The relationship of trust that exists between buyers or sellers and their agents. The agency is formed via a written contract.
Amortization - The process of paying the principal and the interest on a mortgage through regularly scheduled payments.
Appraised Value - A licensed appraiser's opinion of the current market value of a property.
Assessed Value - A tax assessor's determination of the value of a home in order to calculate a tax base.
Breezeway -
A roofed passage way with open sides.
Capital improvement - Any improvement that extends the life or increases the value of a piece of property.
Comparable sales -
Recent sales of similar properties in nearby areas and used to help determine the market value of a property. Also referred to as "comps."
Contingency - A provision of an agreement that keeps the agreement from being fully legally binding until a certain condition is met. One example is a buyer's contractual right to obtain a professional home inspection before purchasing the home.
Dry Rot - Decay of seasoned wood caused by fungus.
Earnest Money Deposit - A deposit made by the potential home buyer as evidence of good faith that he or she is serious about buying the house.
Easement - A right or interest in the use of the land of another which entitles the holder to some use, privilege or benefit, such as to place power lines, pipe lines or roads.

Abbreviations in Listing Advertisements

The agent shorthand found in listing ads can baffle the average consumer. Below are some of the most common acronyms and abbreviations found on listings.

AGP - Above Ground Pool
ATT - Attached
CA, CAC -Central Air Conditioning
CH/BW - Chain Link/Barbed Wire
EIK - Eat-in-kitchen
FDR - Formal dining room
FP - Fireplace
FSBO - For Sale By Owner
Gar - Garage
HDW/HWF/Hdwd - Hardwood Floors
HVAC - Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning
IGP - In-ground pool
MLS - Multiple Listing Service
NC - New construction
PSF - Per Square Foot
SFD - Single Family Detached
Upr - Upper floor
w/d - washer/dryer
wic - walk-in-closet Egress - The exit point from a property.
Escrow - An item of value, money, or documents deposited with a third party to be delivered upon the fulfillment of a condition. For example, the earnest money deposit is put into escrow until delivered to the seller when the transaction is closed.
Energy Star - A joint program through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that sets energy efficiency guidelines for products, homes and businesses.
Equity - A homeowner's financial interest in a property. Equity is the difference between the fair market value of the property and the amount still owed on its mortgage and other liens.
Fixtures - Those parts of a property affixed to structures or land, usually in such a manner that they cannot be independently moved without damage to themselves or the property housing supporting or pertinent to them. Fixtures are usually included in a sale and commonly include but are not limited to items such as carpets and awnings.
Full Disclosure - In real estate, revealing all the known facts which may affect the decision of a buyer or tenant. A broker must disclose identified defects in the property for sale or lease.
Green building - Also known as sustainable building or environmental building, this definition varies depending on the agency or group. Generally it means to construct a building to the highest environmental standards by minimizing the use of energy, water and materials. A green building, for example, might have skylights, recycled building materials and solar panels.
Ingress - The entry point to a property.
Lien - A legal claim against a property that must be paid off when the property is sold. A mortgage or first trust deed is considered a lien.
MLS (Multiple Listing Service) - An MLS is an organization that collects, compiles and distributes information about homes listed for sale by its members, who are real estate brokers. MLS's are local or regional.
Private mortgage insurance (PMI) - Mortgage insurance that is provided by a private mortgage insurance company to protect lenders against loss if a borrower defaults. Most lenders generally require PMI when the amount borrowed exceeds 80% of the purchase price or home's value.
Plat - A plan, map or chart of a tract or town site dividing a parcel of land into lots.
Subdivision - An area of land laid out and separated into lots, blocks, and building sites, and in which public facilities such as streets, alleys, parks, and easements for public utilities are also planned.
Sweat equity - used to describe the contribution made to a project by people who contribute their time and effort.
Title - A legal document evidencing a person's right to or ownership of a property.
Title company - A company that specializes in examining and insuring titles to real estate.



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