Monday, January 21, 2019

50 Things to be Grateful for Right Now

Originally posted Nov 27, 2018

‘Tis the season for being grateful and giving thanks. But, why limit appreciation to only this time of year?

For some people, gratitude flows freely. They understand and feel the benefits of expressing appreciation for life and everything that’s in it. For others, gratitude can be more challenging, especially during difficult or stressful times.

For me, being grateful and appreciative is a cornerstone of my being. I feel a sense of joy for the people and things around me. And according to research by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., being grateful is essential to life, particularly to help & to heal. I must agree with Dr. Emmons on this.

The truth is, “life” happens to us all. Sometimes it’s good; sometimes it’s not so good. Regardless of what’s happening in my life, below are 50 things for which I am grateful. On this #GivingTuesday, perhaps you can find appreciation for these things right now, too, and give back to the world that provides for us.

  1. Acceptance
  2. Helping others.
  3. Community.
  4. Professionalism.
  5. Colleagues.
  6. Dependability.
  7. Education.
  8. Family.
  9. Friends.
  10. Freedoms.
  11. First responders.
  12. Giving.
  13. Generosity.
  14. Health.
  15. Happiness.
  16. Home.
  17. Hope.
  18. Honesty.
  19. Inspiration.
  20. Justice.
  21. Kindness.
  22. Laughter.
  23. Life.
  24. Love.
  25. Loyalty.
  26. Mindfulness.
  27. Motherhood.
  28. Music.
  29. Nature.
  30. Opportunities.
  31. Optimism.
  32. Patience.
  33. Pets.
  34. Positivity.
  35. Understanding.
  36. Quality over quantity.
  37. Victories.
  38. Resilience.
  39. Respectfulness.
  40. Rest.
  41. Safety.
  42. Security.
  43. Self-esteem.
  44. Smiles.
  45. Solid handshake.
  46. Support.
  47. Sunshine.
  48. Transparency.
  49. Compassion.
  50. Trustworthiness.


And so much more…

Being grateful is a choice. An attitude. A way of life. So in the spirit of the season, I would like to sincerely thank you – my clients, employer, colleagues, & referral sources. To all the home sellers, home buyers, homeowners, and professionals who have helped me be successful in my career: I am blessed and I wish you many reasons to be grateful this season and beyond.

Has “life” happened to you? Tell me what you are most grateful for in the comments below.

Friday, January 18, 2019

5 Tips to Selling a Home Due to a Divorce


When I first met my clients, I recall sitting at the kitchen table, talking to them about their plans and goals for selling their home. What I quickly learned was that after two years of going through the divorce process, this couple had finally agreed it was time to sell the family home. As difficult as it was, they knew It was best for everyone to move on. It’s a scenario that happens all too often.
Truth be told, as an agent, this life circumstance always tugs at my heart strings a little because I know these are good people whose relationship didn’t work out for some reason. I am no therapist but, can say that divorce affects the whole family – even extended family. That’s what happened in my family anyway, when a family member went through a divorce with small children in the mix. The process was long. It was emotional. It was hard for everyone. And, it was that circumstance in my own family that made me want to help others similar situations.
Divorce is stressful. So is selling a home, buying a home, and moving. When combined, it can feel overwhelming.
Here are 5 tips that I recommend to clients who are selling a home due to a divorce:
1 – Set realistic expectations. 
Understand that the whole process will take time. Sometimes, you only need to sell a house. Other times, you need to buy a new one. Sometimes, only one person is moving; sometimes, both people are moving. Every situation is different, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.
Up front discussions about ideal timing and plans for the next stage will help you have a clear head when it’s time to sell. I often even suggest couples agree on a minimum selling price, or the bottom line net figure that will be acceptable, along with any absolute required terms for selling before listing the home. This will help with negotiations when you do get an offer.
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2 – Be prepared to do your part. 
At some point, you agreed that selling the home as part of the divorce was a good idea. Understand that selling a home takes more than simply putting a sign in the yard. Selling a home successfully takes both preparation & cooperation from sellers and agents alike.
Preparation from sellers involves cleaning up, clearing out, preparing the house for open houses and buyer showings.  Cooperation involves coordinating who will care for children and pets during showings as well as who will be the point of contact for scheduling appointments, paperwork, giving updates, etc. Many steps are involved in selling real estate so, rely on your agent to direct you accordingly on the things you will need to do to push the process along.
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3 – Meet with and agree upon a real estate agent together. 
No one deserves to feel slighted, like no one is working on their behalf. Whether intentional or not, that can happen when one person picks the “family member” or “friend” who is in real estate to sell the house.
Ideally, you want to hire a neutral third party who understands what you are going through, is empathetic, and patient. Someone who has worked with couples who are separating or divorcing. Someone who understands the local and state real estate laws when it comes to listing a house for sale. Someone who listens to and understands the needs of all members of the family.
A possible source for a professional recommendation in your area: your therapist, mediator, or attorney.
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4 – Communicate as a team.
This goes both ways between you and your agent. When you are honest, up front, and transparent with your agent, he/she can do the best job for you with the aim of reaching your goals on your timeline.
Likewise, you want an agent who will openly communicate with you both throughout the process on the mutual transaction (think: updates, showings, offers). You also want your agent to remain confidential on any separate transactions that involves only one party (think: buying a new house on your own.)
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5 – Listen to the advice of your agent. 
Ultimately, it is your house, your deal, your decision. I get that. And a good agent will not tell you what to do. They will merely offer options and the most fitting advice for your situation. But, divorce tends to be very emotional, especially when children are involved. By remembering that your agent can offer a fresh, strictly professional, less involved-in-the-emotions-of-this-life-change perspective, you may be able to sell the house and be ready to move on faster. Ask yourself if would be best to step back and take the advice of a professional in order to take the next step.
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Sadly, divorce happens all too often these days. For my clients, while there were ups and downs along the way over the five-month span of preparing to sell and buy new, today they took the next steps in their new chapter of life. They got through it. They are grateful for the help provided during a major, challenging time in life; I am grateful to have met them and been able to help them through this life event.
If you or someone you know is going through a divorce and is faced with some big decisions about their housing options, reach out for help. With a good action plan in place, at least one step of a difficult process may not be so difficult after all.
Share your comments below. Until next time…

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

50 Home Staging Tips

Are you selling a home or thinking about it in the near future? Preparing a home to sell is an important first step if you want to attract more potential buyers, sell your home faster, and potentially even sell for a higher price. That’s why I am sharing these 50 home staging tips that sellers can use on any budget.

I recommend starting with the areas people see first as they enter your home and walk through it. Do your best to see things from an outsider’s perspective. What would you want to see if you were viewing this home or others like it? Below are 50 staging tips to consider that you can do yourself.

Exterior
      1.   This is the first impression to potential buyers. If you do nothing else, clean up and clear out. Declutter the outside the same as you would do on the inside. Clean the house with a pressure washer. Mow the lawn. Pull weeds and dead leaves off plants & flowers. Trim hedges. Toss old or unappealing furniture, empty flower pots, etc. Hide trashcans, etc.
2.   Check out my blog post on 12 Ways to Add Curb Appeal On A Budget for more ideas on sprucing up the outside.

Living Room   
3.     Painting a living room in a neutral color helps tone down any dated finishes in the space. These days, the definition of neutral extends way beyond beige, from warm tans and honeys to soft blue-greens. As for bold wall colors, they have a way of reducing offers, so go with neutrals in large spaces. Or if you insist on keeping your favorite bold red, stick to one accent wall and paint the rest neutral.
4.     One of the things that make staged homes look so warm and welcoming is great lighting.  Aim for a total of 100 watts for each 50 square feet. Don't depend on just one or two fixtures per room, either. Make sure you have three types of lighting: ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, under-cabinet or reading) and accent (table and wall). Chic lamps provide both added lighting and appealing decor.
5.     Make your fireplace glow again. Scrub away any stains and replace the old screen. Updating an old fireplace screen is a cheap and easy fix. After removing the screen and wiping it down to get rid of the dust, mask off the windows so you won't get paint on them. Then, using a can of heat-resistant spray paint, give the screen a facelift.  For less than $5, you will have a fireplace screen that looks good as new.
6.     There's a common belief that rooms will feel larger and be easier to use if all the furniture is pushed against the walls, but that isn't the case. Instead, furnish your space by moving furniture away from walls. Position sofas and chairs into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so that the traffic flow in a room is obvious. Not only will this make the space more user-friendly, but it will open up the room and make it seem larger. Whatever amount of furniture you have in your living room, remove a few pieces to make the room feel spacious. 
7.     Another trick to make a room appear to be bigger than it is, is to paint it the same color as the adjacent room. If you have a small kitchen and dining room, a seamless look will make both rooms feel like one big space. Another design trick: If you want to create the illusion of more space, paint the walls the same color as your drapery. It will give you a seamless and sophisticated look.
8.     Help buyers imagine their life in your home. Set the scene by displaying a board game or tea service on the coffee table and arrange furniture in conversational groups. 
9.     Buyers love built-in bookshelves. There's a fine line between filling them with clutter and staging them to sell. The trick is to arrange neutral items in clusters. Make sure that no single accessory stands out too much. That way, you'll show off your attractive built-ins, and not your personal belongings. 

Kitchen
10.  Clear everything from countertops except one or two decorative items, like a vase of flowers or bowl of fresh fruit.
11.  Pack up all the dishes except one attractive, matching set. Do the same with glassware, flatware, and cookware. Pare down all other cupboard and drawer items down to the minimum.
12.  Freshen up and modernize cabinets with a fresh coat of paint or stain and new hardware. Dated kitchen cabinets can be a big turnoff to potential buyers. Instead of paying big bucks to replace them, just stain them. First, apply the stain in even strokes, going with the grain of the wood. Add some stylish hardware, and your kitchen will have the up-to-date look that buyers love.
13.  Stainless-steel appliances are definitely in with buyers. Instead of buying a new dishwasher, here is a low-cost way to resurface an old one: First, remove the front panels, and clean them. Next, apply a stainless-steel stick-on covering, and cut it to size. For just $20 your dishwasher will go from outdated to ultra-modern.
14.  Seriously evaluate your appliances. Can they look new again with a good scrubbing? Studies show that new kitchen appliances bring high returns from sellers, so get rid of old appliances that make the rest of the kitchen look dated. Once you install the new equipment, it will scream "new kitchen," and you will see that spending a little money will make you even more.
15.  Scrub dirt and stains from walls, cabinets, and backsplashes. Empty all trash cans and move them out of sight.
16.  Clean and organize the pantry, leaving some empty space to make it look bigger. Store items in decorative baskets and display a few clear jars of jam, pasta, or colorful jelly beans. 

Bedrooms
17.  The master bedroom is the most important bedroom to stage. Go gender neutral and ditch those floral pillows or sports posters. A master bedroom should appeal to both sexes. Paint the walls a neutral color and choose bedding that coordinates. Then accessorize with items that complement the overall color scheme.
18.  Pack up all but the clothes you’re wearing this season to make you closets look larger. Then swap out the motley crew of mismatched hangers in your closet for a set of wooden ones – or at least some that match - to create a classy, boutique look.
19.  Stage rooms with one purpose so buyers will know what it is. Potential buyers are confused by extra rooms that have a mishmash of uses. To avoid this problem, first clear away clutter and excess furniture. Paint the walls a neutral tone and then furnish the room with the type of furniture for which it was intended. Buyers usually want bedrooms to be bedrooms. However, if you don’t have a separate office space in your home, then using a bedroom as an office can be appealing to some buyers. Adding a desk and chair to stage one bedroom as a home office can show buyers where they can get down to business. 
20.  Potential buyers love homes that have lots of storage space. Since they will open your closets, it's a good idea to clear out unnecessary clutter and organize your shelves to show off how much storage you really have. Plus, it gives you a chance to start purging and packing early.
21.  Remove televisions or video game consoles from bedrooms to depersonalize and create a serene setting. Put jewelry and other valuables in a safe spot.

Dining Room
22.  Style your dining room table. The dining room is often a blind spot in decorating the home. A large dining table can look bare and uninviting, so styling it with visitors in mind can increase the appeal. 
23.  Let buyers entertain the idea of entertaining. Set out some chic place settings around the table or a few wine glasses and a decanter on the buffet.
24.  Strike a balance between overly formal and too casual with an attractive runner and a few, fun, decorative elements — think small floral vases or short candle holders.
25.  Don't be afraid to use dark paint in a dining room (think accent wall) or powder room. A deep tone on the walls can make the space more intimate, dramatic and cozy. 

Bathroom
26.  Remove clutter from the countertop, tub, and top of toilet. Pack up and hide all your personal products.
27.  Create a luxury spa look with a clean soap dispenser, fluffy white towels, decorative baskets, candles, plants, a white shower curtain, and a new bath mat.
28.  Grimy bathroom walls are a major red flag to buyers. Scrub and sanitize the walls, floor, shower door — virtually every surface that comes in contact with steam. Spend extra time scrubbing that tile grout and re-caulk around the tub, if necessary.
29.  Here is an easy way to get rid of surface mold: Mix a spray bottle with one-part cold water and one-part bleach. Spray it on the wall and watch the mold disappear. Give it a fresh coat of paint and your grimy bathroom will go from red flag to red-hot.
30.  A dirty glass shower door can also really wash out your sale. Instead of replacing it, clean it with a mixture of one-part muriatic acid and about 10 parts cold water. Scrub with steel wool. After wiping it down, reinstall the door and you'll have a shower that'll help you clean up at the open house.
31.  Time for a new sink anyway? Pedestal sinks are a big hit with buyers. They show off square footage in small bathrooms beautifully. 

Walls, Windows, and More
32.  Neutralize the walls. If any rooms are painted in dark colors, repaint white or beige. If you don't want to, brighten it up with a decorative mirror.
33.  Fill nicks and holes in walls and touch up with paint.
34.  Paint over wood paneling with a neutral color. To really cover your tracks, use wood filler between panels and paint over the entire thing.
35.  Make sure every switch plate and outlet cover matches and looks brand new.
36.  Wash the windows, inside and out. Repair any holes or tears in screens.
37.  Replace those family portraits with interesting art placed strategically throughout the house. Avoid leaving dead space on walls.

Throughout the House
38.  Pack for your move. Box up books, clothes, and personal items and place them in the garage or a rented storage unit.
39.  Don’t forget to include memorabilia in those decluttering bins. Family photos, diplomas, and the kids’ artwork can all go be packed away.
40.  Keep closets, basements, and attics as empty as possible to maximize the appearance of storage space.
41.  Check every door, drawer, and cabinet to ensure they open and close easily. Swap out any faulty or broken hardware.
42.  Do a deep clean. Hire a professional cleaning service if needed to clean your home from top to bottom, including carpets, before viewings.

For Pet Owners
43.  Scrub any pet stains on the carpets and rugs until totally gone or replace them, if necessary. Try cleaning formulas made especially for pet odors.
44.  Use air fresheners that eliminate odors, rather than simply mask them. There’s nothing worse than the smell of artificial pine mixed with dog. We all love our pets, but unpleasant pet odors can make a negative first impression. Be sure to get rid of old carpet that can trap offensive smells. Replace it with fresh new carpet in a neutral color. Plus, if you paint the walls to match, your living room will look bigger. 
45.  Completely remove pet beds, blankets, toys, play structures, food bowls, and the like. Repair or remove any furniture that’s been scratched or gnawed on.

Day of Showing
46.  Add a seasonal touch. Make sure your garden is in beautiful shape in the summer and that any extra features you have, like a pool or a fire pit, are cleaned and ready to go. Take advantage of the cozy vibe of the season in autumn and winter, by building a fire in the fireplace and simmering hot apple cider on the stove.
47.  Leave a fresh bowl of fruit of vase of flowers on the kitchen counter.
48.  Tidy up the whole house. Pick up dirty laundry, toys, shoes and mail lying around the house. Vacuum or sweep the floors. Wipe down counter tops, faucets and handles in kitchens and bathrooms. Close closet doors and toilet lids. You get the picture.
49.  Let the sun shine in. Buyers love light and airy living rooms. Open up all window curtains, blinds, and shades to let natural light in. Cheat some sunshine with a light-colored paint and lots of artificial lighting. Turn on lights in each room. You can never have too many lamps. 
50.  Spray a deodorizer or room freshener before leaving the house.

Talk with your agent about his/her specific suggestions for your home as there are lots of other tips and tricks that you can do to get your home ready to show and sell. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

12 Ways to Add Curb Appeal on a Budget









Make a good first impression! There are dozens of inexpensive improvements you, as a home seller, can make to ramp up your home's curb appeal. Adding curb appeal to your property makes it easier to sell and also gives your house that finished look that you can take pride in. When you are deciding on which upgrades to make, consider these ways to add curb appeal on a budget:

Paint the Front Door, Door Frame, Trim or Shutters. Exterior paint will only cost you around $30 a gallon. Painting the front door and features on your home will add some brightness and give it life. Choose a bold color that will make your house stick out, and make sure to coordinate it 12 the rest of the colors on your house. If you are having trouble picking a color, the app Front Door Paint gives you a preview of what your home will look like with the new door.

Edge the Driveway. Creating a border along the driveway gives it a crisp, elegant look. Edging materials such as bricks, stone, or a combination of the two, bring a boring asphalt slab to life with color, texture, and decorative designs. The edging can be level with the driveway or elevated to prevent people from driving onto your lawn.

Upgrade the Mailbox. Adding a new mailbox or upgrading your current one can instantly improve your home’s curb appeal. There are many different styles available now to match your home, and you can get them usually starting around $20. This a very inexpensive project that should only take an hour or two and you will immediately see the impact on your home’s curb appeal.

Replace Exterior Lighting. When you are buying new exterior light fixtures, consider both the style of your home and the function of the lights. You want them to look nice, light up your entryway, and make it safer. Look for lights that have the same mounting system as the ones you currently have to save some time. Exterior light fixtures can be found anywhere from $20 and up. Check salvage shops, you might be able to find vintage lighting to match the look of your home.

Install New House Numbers. If your house has old, faded numbers on it, get some new ones to spruce up the curb appeal. Match your numbers with the finish on your exterior light fixtures. Simple house numbers can start at $2.00 for a number or you can look into customized plaques that can cost $50-$100.

Plant Trees. Planting a tree is one of the easiest and most common ways to add curb appeal to your house. When choosing the type of tree and where you are putting it, consider how big the tree will get and how it will affect your house. If you have enough space, plant two trees to frame your house or your entryway.

Install Flower Boxes. If your house is lacking color, adding flower boxes is a great solution. They look nice on the front porch railings and below windows. You can purchase window boxes for very little or you can make them yourself pretty easily. Just remember, you have to maintain the flowers to actually add curb appeal.

Spruce Up the Porch. Adding plants to your porch or entryway is an excellent way to improve curb appeal. There are many different options for any home style. One option is to add layers of potted plants to add some dimension. Other options, if you have limited space, are hanging plants or vertical planters. Another great idea is adding fresh furniture. A pair of matching rockers, or a cozy glider is a must when you have a front porch that is visible from the street.

Pressure Wash Everything. You can pressure wash bricks, wood decking, concrete, stucco, windows, vinyl, metal, plastic garbage cans, grills. Everything looks better with a little hard scrub (even if you use only a water hose and soap) and renting a pressure washer for a couple hours is relatively inexpensive.

Cut Back Trees and Hedges. It doesn’t matter how attractive your home is if no one can see it. Trees, branches, and shrubs can obscure your home’s features and make it seem dark and uninviting. Also, trees that bump against your house can damage it, limit the amount of direct sunlight you receive, and offer an entryway for animals.

Refresh the Garage Door. Your garage door is one of the first things people see so making sure it is clean and updated is crucial. Just renting a pressure washer and cleaning it off can make a huge difference. Other inexpensive ideas include giving it a wood stain for a more rustic look, or DIY projects like these ones. (http://garrdenoflove.blogspot.com/2012/11/garage-door-makeover.html)

Fix Up the Side Yard. Often times we forget about our side yards, but if they are visible at all from the street, they will play a big part in your home’s curb appeal. Camouflage an eyesore like an AC unit or garbage cans with attractive fencing. Also clear out any weeds and lay out a neat path to the backyard.

There are many ways to add curb appeal to a home. Assess your own home by standing outside or driving by and looking at your home through the eyes of a potential buyer. Try some of these or think of your own! In no time your home will have a fresh, clean look.

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