Friday, December 27, 2013

Organizing after Christmas

After Christmas you might find yourself with a bigger mess than before. These tips will help you get organized in the new year.

If you have a fake tree, you'll need to find a good place to store it. Always keep the box it came in, you might just be able to put it back in. Many of the newer models have just a few parts and are very easy to get back in the box.
Ornaments can be tricky, as you don't want them to break. Use bubble wrap or even wrapping paper to individually wrap them so they don't touch. We've had pretty good luck with this tactic over the years, and very little ornaments have gotten broken.
You can also look for special containers to put ornaments in their own compartments for storage.

New Toys (for the kids)
If you have kids, chances are you have lots of new toys to find homes for. This might be a good time to rearrange rooms and buy some new storage units. For the time being, make use of all the boxes you now have left over from gifts. Sort toys by type, getting the kids involved so they know where their toys are suppose to go.
This is also a good time of year to sort through toys your kids don't play with anymore. Get rid of anything they really don't want or need, and give it to kids who need it more. You could donate them to doctors offices, churches, or the salvation army.

New Toys (for the adults)
This one is a bit more tricky, as you can't always just throw your new stuff in a box. But just like the kids rooms, you might have to do some rearranging in the house. You might also need to buy new storage units such as shelves or cabinets. Not only will it get you more organized, but it will add nice decoration to your house as well.

Above all, make sure you take it one step at a time. While it only took a day or two to make this mess, it's going to take a little more time to clean it up. Pick a project and work on it until it's done, then move on to the next.
Follow Vin on Facebook

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Boost Curb Appeal at Christmas

Christmas is the perfect time of year to boos the curb appeal of your home, especially at your entryway. Here are some simple ways to do so:

Add a winter prop

A woven basket hung on the door with fresh greens and a standing sled can help create a charming scene and create the feeling of "home."

Light Lanterns or candles

Lanterns and luminaries are both functional and attractive either along walkways or on the porch, regardless of the season. Those that you buy now can be used year-round. 

Hang a holiday wreath

Nothing could be simpler than hanging a  wreath on the front door. You will find a wealth of options at your local nursery.

Use garland

Garland is another easy way to add some holiday curb appeal.  Use it to wrap around columns, drape over railings and frame doorways. You’ll find fresh varieties at your local nursery and garden center. Natural is always more appealing.

Add traditional holiday color

Want to add some traditional color? You can’t do much better than a potted poinsettia.  Again, these are easy to find at your local nursery and look great when bunched together.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

5 things I wish you knew (from your Realtor)

1. Want to sell quickly? Price it just under the market.

Sellers are optimistic on the value and price of their homes in today's market, but buyers are not. Your challenge as a seller is to price the house so that it is compelling.  For example- if homes are selling for around $350,000 in your neighborhood, price yours at $339,000.
If you think you are leaving money on the table, keep in mind that the longer a house is on the market, the less likely you are to get fair value.  If you're turning around and buying a home, and you already have cash in hand thanks to a fast sale, that puts you in a very powerful position.

2. The preapproval letter is just the beginning

The preapproval letter is just one of the first refreshment stations of the homebuying marathon, not the finish line. It is not the time to start running up the cards and opening new lines of credit to buy things for their home-to-be. Just before closing, a lender will re-examine a prospective buyer's financial situation -- complete with a recent copy of the credit history and other updated information.  If those numbers change for the worse you are looking at a higher interest rate or even a denial of the loan.

3. Selling a house usually takes longer than you think

Here's the breakdown:

• Getting your home in shape: two weeks

• Average time on the market (varies widely with location and price): 2 1/2 to three months

• Negotiating after an offer: one week

• Preparing to close (assuming a traditional transaction): 30 to 45 days  

4. Smell does matter

A buyer needs to walk in and have it look good, feel good and smell good. Here's a checklist for getting your home "show" ready:

• Home: Clean. (And smelling good.)

• Temperature: Heated (or cooled) for comfort.

• Lights: Left on to welcome guests.

• Snacks or soft drinks: A nice touch.

5. We don't make as much as you think

Chances are the agent you hire to sell your house -- or find a new one -- isn't getting as big a cut of the deal as you might think. Usually the two sides (seller's agent and buyer's agent) will split the total commission, but then those agents, in turn, each split their share with their broker. The idea that agents are getting all or even half the commission is a big misconception.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Selling your home in the winter

While spring might be the busiest time of the year for real estate transactions, homes get bought and sold every season of the year. Here are some tips for selling your home in the off-season.

Snow Staging

It gets cold and snowy during the winter, so make sure that you stage the outside of your home accordingly. Shovel the driveways and be sure to clear ice away from walkways and doors. Buyers want to feel safe and comfortable when they're looking around.  Try to highlight the house with tasteful winter-themed decorations like Christmas wreaths and aesthetically-pleasing lighting. Houses for sale in the winter tend to show especially well when they're decorated for the holidays as it creates a warm feeling.

Keep your home well lit

It can get dark pretty early, so consider putting your outdoor lights on a timer. That way, when prospective buyers show up, the house will look bright and cheery instead of dark and dreary.  The same goes for the lighting inside of the house. Make sure that the heat is on before buyers arrive and that the place is clean, smells fresh and is warm. Try and impress a buyer from the moment they pull up and step into your home.

Make your home stand out from the competition

During the winter months, there may not be as many buyers but there also aren't as many sellers. Often times, off-season buyers need to move quickly, whether due to job relocation or major life changes, so be ready for them. Find a Realtor who will consider adding a video to your listing or creating a small website to showcase your home.
Follow Vin on Facebook

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The holidays: preparing for out of town guests

The holidays are coming and for some of us, that may mean hosting out of town guests.  If you are hosting relatives or friends this year, here are some helpful tips for preparing your home for the occasion:

Declutter your home

With a few extra people in your home, you are going to need some additional room. It's time to declutter and create some much needed space. Your living room, family room, and other common rooms used for entertaining should be free of any furniture that you won't use.

Do house repairs

If your family has been dealing with a drippy faucet, squeaky door, or broken steps you should get these things taken care of before your guests arrive. A few small house repairs and improvements can make your home safer and more comfortable for your holiday houseguests.

Childproof your home

If babies or children are among your houseguests, it's time to do some simple childproofing: keep all cleaning products, knives, medications, and other potential hazards in a locked cabinet or out of reach.

Prepare the guest room

If your guest room is rarely used, it's time for some heavy duty cleaning. Make sure all the bedding is fresh, vacuum the floor (don't forget under the bed), and make space in the closet for your guests' clothes.

Cook ahead

Who wants to spend all your time in the kitchen when you have houseguests? Cook ahead and freeze some meals for dinner. Also, make sure your pantry and kitchen are stocked with staple items.


You don't want to be hanging Christmas lights and setting up displays while your guests are in town. Prepare by decorating a little early.


Although entertaining guests can be stressful at the holidays, it can be a lot of fun too. Relax and de-stress a bit before their arrival.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Finishing your Basement

A favorite trend when making home improvements is basement remodeling and finishing.  Here are a few reasons you may want to consider finishing your basement::

 More Space-

The most obvious benefit to finishing the basement is adding more livable space to your home.  It is also much less expensive costing almost half the price of adding out or up. 

Health Benefits-

An unfinished basement can often produce dampness and mold which are associated with common health problems, such as asthma, and other respiratory diseases.  When the foundation is well finished and insulated it can potentially save you from some of the dangers of an unfinished basement.

Improved value-

Most homeowners are looking for ways to improve the value of their homes and give its appeal a boost to potential home buyers.  If you have the means to do so, finishing your basement is a great way to add value to your home without breaking the bank.
Follow Vin on Facebook

Thursday, November 7, 2013

First things first- moving into a new home

When you move into a new house there is always so much you want to accomplish.  There are a few things you should put at the top of your list to get settled and start making your house a home.

Deep Clean-

Cleaning your new home is the first thing you should do so that you feel you are entering a shiny new place. It’s a great way to help you feel comfortable and is also gives you a chance to see the home at every angle so you can start coming up with decorating ideas.

Fresh Paint-

What is the fastest way to make your house feel fresh?  A coat of paint will do the trick. Consider the lighting in the room when choosing colors and try to make a nice contrast with the trim.

Add Light-

Mirrors, lamps, and overhead light fixtures will brighten up dark spaces and will make them feel larger.

Get to know your storage space-

The feeling of having tons of belongings to unpack when you move into a new home can be overwhelming, but   organizing some storage space as soon as you move in will help you quickly sort through things. Look for interesting nooks to turn into storage space like an indent in the bathroom or an opening at the end of a hallway.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Is your house haunted?

Have you ever suspected that your house was haunted? What were the signs? And what can you do to find out more?

Interview the neighbors-

This isn't to say you should scare them by asking if anyone was brutally murdered in your home; that may hurt your chances of making friends!  Instead, try striking up conversation with that 85 year old woman down the road (every neighborhood has one, right?).  Tell her you found some sort of valuable antique hidden away in the attic and want to know more the folks who previously lived in the home.

Call your real estate agent-

Like carefully gathering information from your neighbors about the history of your home, calling up the real estate agent who sold it to you and urging them to spill the beans about whether or not your house is haunted can also be helpful. That said, it varies from state to state as to whether sellers are required to disclose if a house is a “stigmatized property” that falls under the haunted category (but hey, it never hurts to ask).

Do an energy audit-  

A suspected haunting is an excellent reason to finally have that energy audit done. Most professional energy audits include the use of a thermal imaging camera to pinpoint sources of heat loss around the home. This is  helpful if you ultimately decide to better insulate your home and improve its overall energy performance. It could also be effective in locating, you know, any spooky cold spots!  If anything, conducting an energy audit and making the recommended improvements to increase your home’s efficiency can eliminate sources of any unnerving, ghost-like activity: mysterious drafts, slamming doors, banging noises, rattling windows, etc. 

Still think your house is haunted by spirits?  My advice would be to simply ask them to give all that moaning and slamming of doors a rest and to kindly chip in with the mortgage payments. That may do the trick!

Follow Vin on Facebook

Friday, October 25, 2013

Trick or Treat Safety Tips

Before your little ghosts and goblins trick or treat this year, parents should keep in mind these trick or treating safety tips to make sure the only howls are those of fun. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics

  • Make sure children under 12 are supervised by an adult or teen chaperone if you can't take her around yourself. Teens should have a curfew.
  • Round up a group. It's best for kids of any age to travel in groups of three or more—there is safety in numbers., Plan a route with your child, making sure he knows to call you if she deviates from the plan. Keep his route to familiar streets and houses, working up the street then back down without criss-crossing. Set a time limit when he should come home or call you.
  • Tell her to visit well-lit, familiar houses. Make her promise to stick to the stoop — and never go inside unless she knows the grown-ups very well. Remind her to say "thank you" for her treats.
  • Remind him of police and fire safety. Practice the principle of "Stop-Drop-Roll," just in case his clothes catch on fire. Encourage him to talk to a policeman or call you if anything makes her uncomfortable or upset.
  • Review pedestrian rules. It's easy to overestimate your child's ability to remember to cross at corners, wait for walk signals, and stay on the sidewalks. Between the evening's excitement and the novelty of being out at night, reviewing traffic-safety is a good idea. Remind her to walk — not run — between houses.
Follow Vin on Facebook

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ways to baby-proof your home

I am no expert in child safety, however I have been in many homes and seen different ways people baby proof. Being a Dad myself, I try and make note of what makes for a "baby-proof" home.  Here are some common safety measures that I see time and time again:

1. Keep furniture upright by fastening it to the wall with brackets or straps, and place soft bumpers around the edges of tabletops and the hearth.

2. Use a screen on the fireplace (even when no fire is lit), and avoid lighting candles, which are easy to knock over.

3. To prevent shocks and burns, tape down electrical cords and cover outlets with safety plates -- not plastic plugs, which can be a choking hazard.

4. Avoid big falls with hardware-mounted safety gates at the top and bottom of staircases, and mesh fabric netting on all railing or banister openings wider than 4 inches.

5.  Keep floors and surfaces within baby's reach clear of plants and fragile items, as well as small objects such as loose change and toy parts that can cause choking.
Follow Vin on Facebook 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Things to upgrade around your home in your thirties

If you are among the thirty-somethings, than it is time to step it up and make your home more "grown-up".  Here are some things you can upgrade from what you probably had in your twenties:

Mix and Match  Glassware -  It is time  to ditch the mismatched glasses in your home now that you are a grown up!  Wine glasses are not very expensive, and actually, you should not spend too much money on them because they can break.  However,  it is time to step it up and start drinking alcohol from glasses that were made for it, not for jarred sauces! 


The cheap Vacuum- Get rid of that cheap vacuum you used in college and get something that can actually pick up some dirt.  Many of you are starting families at this age, so take it from me, it gets messy!

The shabby bed- Now that you are all grown up, it is time to get a quality mattress, a solid box spring, and a stylish bed frame.  Your bedroom should be a place you can relax and rejuvenate, not a place where you feel lost and uncomfortable.

The cheesy poster art- Get rid of the shiny ugly posters that you framed. You do not have to become an art connoisseur, but having unique things on the wall makes a difference.  You can even find souvenirs around the house that could be worth framing.

Lumpy, dirty pillows- Let's face it, you probably didn't even buy those pillows, in fact, I bet you stole them in your twenties from your parents' house.  Dump them and get some high quality pillows; ones that you actually can sleep on.

Wire & Plastic Hangers- It is time to purchase a set of uniform hangers, which, can actually save you room in your closet, make it look neater, and grip your clothes so that they won't fall off.
Follow Vin on Facebook

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How to deal with bad neighbors

Trying to deal with less than pleasurable neighbors?  This can be frustrating for many of us, but rather than let them drive you out of town, try these few things to make your home life more peaceful:

1. Call ahead and pick a time to talk. 
2. Meet on the sidewalk or on the property line.
3. Don’t accuse; let them know how the problem bothers you and suggest ways to solve it together. 
4. If that doesn’t work, check out local noise and disturbance ordinances and write a personal letter.  Offer a solution.
5. Consult your condo or block association.  Ask them to send a standard letter citing the ordinance or by-law.  A condominium association’s right of first refusal is a little-known clause that can be used to buy your neighbor out.
6. Should that fail, call your local precinct.  Keep a record of your complaint.
7. Call in an expert mediator.  (To find a mediator, check with your local courthouse, police precinct, or bar association).
8. As a last resort, file a complaint in court.
9. For the property line fanatic, walk the property line together to determine what belongs to whom; consider having the property surveyed to nip the problem in the bud.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fall Clean-up Tips

I know we all think we have time to get the yard ready for winter, but all too soon that snow is on the ground and there was still one or two things left to do. So I thought I would post a few tips, that I have found, to make that Fall clean-up go a little easier. Hopefully you will see one or two new ones.

  • Clean out the gutters, but try and wait for all the leaves to fall. This is a great time to check for leaks and any wear and tear.
  • Check the tree branches and trim the ones that are too close to the house. Keep in mind that too much trimming can damage a tree. Keep in mind with winter comes heavy snow and wind. So you want to make sure the branches that could break off in the winter are the ones you want to trim.

  • Before putting the patio umbrella away for winter storage, use a pair of pantyhose to cover the umbrella by putting one leg over the top and the other leg over the bottom. This will protect and help it air out if there is any moisture on the umbrella and prevent mold growth.
  • Clean patio furniture and if you do not store inside(shed or garage) use a tarp to cover them.
  • Put any open containers and pots away or cover them up. This will help when spring comes to eliminate the water needed for mosquitos to breed in the spring.
  • Clean up the leaves. You can use them for compost.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Real Estate Talk

If you are planning on buying home, you may want to brush up on some basic terms that are often used by real estate agents, attorneys, and mortgage brokers. 

Here's a brief glossary of some commonly used terms you should know before jumping into the game:

Appraisal: An appraiser's assessment of a property's value. A home sale is contingent upon an appraisal for at least the amount of the loan the buyer wants to secure.

Closing costs: One-time costs associated with buying a home, disclosed before closing, but due at closing. The costs can include fees for an attorney, recording, inspections, appraisals, title service costs, even pre-paid homeowner's insurance and taxes.

Contingency:Contractual conditions that must be met before a home sale closes. They can protect the buyer or the seller and can include a satisfactory home inspection, secured financing, adequate appraisal, etc.

Earnest Money: A deposit of good faith money, typically included with the offer to buy a house. Earnest money can become part of the down payment.

Points:Sometimes referred to as "discount points" these costs reduce the interest rate and are paid at closing or up front when used. One point is one percent of the mortgage amount.

Pre-approval: An official document and the process by which a homebuyer obtains proof he or she has been approved for a mortgage, pending the home appraisal and other financial contingencies. During the process, the lender verifies the buyer's credit score, income, debts, employment and other factors that go into a mortgage applications. A pre-approval letter says the buyer has been approved for a certain mortgage, again pending contingencies.

 Title:A public records document that proves ownership of the property. A title also includes any claims against that ownership. During a home purchase, the buyer conducts a title search to verify the seller is the owner and if the title contains any judgments or liens against it.

HUD (Settlement Statement): The HUD-1 is a form used by the settlement agent (also called the closing agent) to itemize all charges imposed upon a borrower and seller for a real estate transaction. It gives each party a complete list of their incoming and outgoing funds.
Follow Vin on Facebook

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Alternative ways of coming up with a down payment

Having trouble coming up with that down payment?  Here are 5 outlets you may not have considered, but could put you well on your way to homeownership:

1. Gift Money: Gift money is simply that -- a gift from family or documented close relationship. The giftor needs to provide a gift letter and paper trail for the monies they are gifting for the benefit of the buyer.

 2. 401(k)/Retirement Loan: Typically, borrowed funds for a down payment are a no-go, but the exception is a 401(k) or equivalent retirement account (or current home equity line). If you can borrow money from your 401(k) for your down payment, this is accepted for obtaining a purchase mortgage loan. Note: Depending on the terms of your loan, this could be counted as a liability and factored into your debt-to-income ratio.
3. Sale of a Good: Believe it or not, you can sell your recreational vehicle and use the net proceeds from the transaction as your down payment. Let's say that you decide to sell your motorcycle for $10,000. You'll need to provide the full bill of sale -- as well as the bank statement depositing those funds, matching the bill of sale -- to your mortgage lender. Same goes for any other recreational vehicle, or other item that "makes sense." The key is as long as it's plausible and passes the litmus test and you can paper trail the monies from start to finish, you should have no problem using those monies for the house purchase.

 4. Trust Funds, Settlement Awards, etc.: If you come into a chunk of change via an inheritance, settlement, lottery winning, trust fund disbursement, family buyout, even a gambling victory, all of these monies can be used for the down payment as long as the sourcing of the monies is fully documented from A to Z with no stone left unturned. Matching of the amounts of monies used to the original deposits will be required when it comes time to secure the loan.

 5. Line of Credit: Where a down payment lacks, enter strength in income. You can take out a line of credit or a personal loan, deposit the full funds into your bank account and after two months, the funds will be eligible for use in the transaction.
Follow Vin on Facebook


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How to Prepare for the Fall Real Estate Market

The fall market is the second-busiest time of the year for real estate. People want to conclude their home buying and selling before winter, and the temperatures drop to comfortable levels after months of hot, muggy weather that traps people inside air-conditioned havens. The fall real estate market starts just after the last of the summer vacation wraps up, and it can be a highly competitive arena.

Buyers, what might your to-do list look like for August? A few suggestions: Make sure your pre-approval letter is updated and that your lender/mortgage broker is standing by to customize that letter for the offer that you will be making. Select the right real estate broker/agent to work with, one who is on the same page with how you like to work, and on top of the market, both the inventory and the temperature (important in a multiple-offer situation). Know the inventory; go to open houses on the weekends to finely tune what you want and don’t.   If you do find a home that you're interested in buying, don't wait to put in an offer; make an offer as quickly as possible if you're truly interested in a home, as even a delay of a day can mean someone else gets their offer in before you do.  It is a highly competitive market and you do not want to miss out.

Sellers, get to work putting your house in proper order for your sale. Clean up the yard and do some pre-market planting now so that the plants will look more established when your lovely home makes its debut. Meet with your stager to walk through your house. Together you can determine what painting needs to be done and the extent of cleaning required to optimize the interior spaces for showing. Search real estate listings for homes that are comparable to yours. Note the upgrades, the age of the home, the size of the lot and the curb appeal. This knowledge, along with the help of your Realtor will give you a good idea of how to price your home to sell.

The market is still going strong. If you are considering selling or buying this year it important to know tat interest rates are still incredible.  Homeowners who have been thinking of moving are getting ready to act on their thoughts and take advantage of the fall real estate market, so don't miss this opportunity!
Follow Vin on Facebook

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How to find a good school system

Moving and relocating your child to a new home, a new neighborhood and a new school is always going to be difficult, especially if you've been involved in your child's education by helping out in the classroom. You know every teacher and feel confident your child is receiving a good education.  So, how can you be sure that you can find a home in a good school district?  Here are a few tips:

Start with online research.

The Nation's Report Card provides information on state performances in the essential learning areas, such as reading, math and geography. If you're moving to a new state, this is the place to start. Also go to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to obtain facts such as student/teacher ratio, number of students and enrollment by gender and race.

Take a school tour.

The best way to determine which school is best for your child is to take a school tour. Most schools will accommodate parents. Just call ahead and ask for a staff person to show you the facilities. Try to book a tour when school is in session, so you can observe some classes and speak with students. Ask if you can bring your child with you so they can observe and provide their input as well. This is key to helping your child feel part of the process which in turn will help the transition to a new school.

While on the school tour there are some questions to ask and recommended by

Question: How many classrooms do you have?

Question: What is the average number of students per class?

Question: What facilities do you have, above and beyond the usual?

Question: What extra-curricular activities do you offer? And are students and teachers actively involved?

Question: Can you provide me with a copy of the school's curriculum?

Question: What is the school's approach to reading, writing and math?

Question: What kind of supportive equipment do you have and is it readily available for each class?

Overall, you should get a good sense of the school by just being in it for a day, by listening to students and teachers and by asking lots of questions. And in the end, you should walk away feeling that this is the right place for your child and you are making the right move.
Follow Vin on Facebook

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why work with a buyer's agent?

When you are involved in a business transaction it is always important to have someone working on your behalf.  Although buying a home is personal, it is no question that it is a business transaction.  I am often asked why a buyer would need a buyer's agent working for them.  Many think that just going through the listing agent of the home they would like to buy somehow get them the best deal. It is quite the opposite.  Here are the reasons it is always best to have a buyer agent represent you when purchasing a home:
It's FREE - That's right,  having a buyer's won't cost you a thing. It's the seller who pays the commission, not the buyer.
It's Convenient - Targeting the right neighborhoods,  finding homes that fit your criteria and scheduling showings can be a full time job. If you already work 9-5 it can become daunting and overwhelming very quickly.
Market Knowledge - Understanding the local market is key to finding the best home at the best price possible. And market knowledge is something that isn't easily attained in a short period of time.
Professional Negotiation - Making an offer and negotiating with a seller is by far one of the most specialized parts of the home buying process. A good buyer's agent will be skilled and experienced in the negotiation of the price you will pay for a home.
Professional Connections - Getting to the closing table requires the expertise of a number of professionals. Mortgage brokers, inspectors, contractors just to name a few. Buyer's agents have worked with a number of providers, both great and not so good. When you hire a buyer's agent you get access to their network rather than having to research and build relationships from scratch.
Access to Comps/Sales Info - Comps are extremely valuable when you're considering how much to offer on a home. Agents have access to the latest sales prices of comparable homes and can help you submit an offer that will be acceptable to both parties. This is just one way that a buyer's agent can save you money during the home buying process.
Mitigator of Emotions - Buying a home stirs up a lot of emotions, which is to be expected. However, if those emotions aren't kept in check it can cause many problems that could otherwise be avoided. A good agent removes the 'emotion' in a transaction and helps all the parties keep on track with their goals and more or less 'neutralizes' most situations.
Buying a home can be a long, emotional, expensive process. It is also an exciting, life changing step in a person's life, whether it is your first home or your 10th home. It is important to have expert advice, every step of the way, to make sure that you make a sound investment and get the most from your money. Plus, it can take some of the pressure off while you attend to other responsibilities in your life.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Making Small Spaces feel Larger

Even if your home is not for sale or you do not plan to sell, there are ways to make the best of what you have, and that includes making a small living space feel larger.  If you are selling, then you will want to consider making a small space feel larger so that buyers do not feel cramped.  Here are a few ways to make the best of a small space:

Get rid of clutter. A small room is going to feel even smaller if you have a lot of clutter. Try to  keep a minimalist decorating approach.
Remove all furniture that is not essential. This will depend largely on the type of room that you are dealing with. For example, a bedroom really only needs a bed and a nightstand. Your dresser can be placed in the closet if necessary, and big nightstands can be replaced with smaller versions. You can also purchase a bedframe without doors. You will still have enough room for your clothes, but it won't take up any extra space.
Paint the walls a light, neutral color. Avoid dark colors when you are painting a small room. White, cream or a light tan will make the room seem lighter and bigger.
Replace any dark upholstery or bedspreads. Once again, dark colors make the room feel smaller. Replace any dark bedspreads with lighter colors. You can change the color of dark sofas, couches, and chairs with slipcovers.
Add mirrors.  If you want to make a small room feel bigger, try adding mirrors to one wall. That will give the illusion of having more space.


Consider changing the flooring. A carpeted room can feel smaller than it actually is. Replace it with wood floors and add a small throw rug in the center. This will increase the amount of visual space in the room and it will feel bigger.
Follow Vin on Facebook


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Buying & Selling at the same Time

Now that the real estate market has picked up again, many are taking that leap of faith to sell their homes.  Obviously when you sell, you have to move somewhere, so that usually means purchasing another home. While doing both at the same time can be challenging, a little planning can help for a smooth transition.  Here are 5 things you can do to successfully sell and buy a home at the same time:

Prepare for the stress. Buying a home is stressful, so guess what? Selling a home is stressful too! When both cross paths it can be, to say the least, overwhelming.  It can bring on emotions that can be difficult to deal with on many levels. The potential of two mortgages and trying to time everything just right will probably cause a lot of sleepless nights and pressure on the family.

Part of making it a little easier is accepting up front that it will be stressful. It is best to try and understand that most homeowners go through this, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Do your homework, plan as much as possible, and most importantly, take care of yourself.

Meet with an agent early on.  Researching online tools  will help to guide you,  but a local agent will help you understand your home’s true current market value and marketability. A good agent is in the trenches daily and knows your neighborhood and market inside and out. Many homeowners are far off from what the value of their home is or what the current market will bear. A good agent will put them on the right track.

Learn about the market where you want to purchase. After getting some numbers for your home’s sale you need to do the same on the purchase side.  What are your priorities? Determine your needs and understand what you will get for your money when you buy. You need to know this to factor in how financing will work with the buy/sell. Ask these questions about that market- Is it more or less competitive than where you live now? How long can you expect to search for a home? This will factor into your sale timing. If you’re moving within the city or town where you live, your listing agent will likely serve as your buying agent. If you’re moving just outside your area, you may need to ask your agent to refer you to an agent knowledgeable about that area.

Understand your financial position. Once you understand the numbers on both the purchase and the sale, you need to know your financing options. Most people today do not have the financial means to purchase another home before selling their own, so knowing this upfront can help you plan. Ask a  local mortgage broker to give you an idea of what kind of down payment you’ll need to make a purchase, given the price point and type of home you wish to purchase. How much equity do you have in your current home, and is the equity available? Do you have enough of a down payment already available and would a lender allow you to make the purchase before selling the home? Knowing these things are invaluable and will avoid any unnecessary surprises.

Make a plan. Now that you know your numbers, it’s time to come up with a plan. The plan can vary greatly, depending upon any number of conditions. 
  • Buying in this competitive market?  Adding a contingency that your current home must sell before may not always work.
  • Selling in a competitive market? You may be able to negotiate with the buyer for a longer escrow. This would buy you time on the purchase side.
  • Need temporary housing? Start researching those options now.

  • There are so many variables that can come into play when buying or selling. Each  affect your decision-making process. Planning for the variables as much as possible early on will help you avoid sleepless nights, stressful days, or even fights with your loved ones!
    Follow Vin on Facebook

    Wednesday, June 26, 2013

    Making an Offer in a Seller's Market

    In today's fast paced real estate market it is not uncommon to see multiple offers and buyers are feeling the heat.  Low inventory  has buyers scrambling to put their best foot forward when making an offer.  Sometimes home buyers wonder if it's even worth trying to compete against other buyers in a sellers market and can often get frustrated.  If you love the home, it's almost always a good idea to write an offer anyway. Here are tips to make your  offer more appealing than the rest:

     Submit a good earnest money deposit. 

    Many sellers are worried that once they commit to an offer, the winning buyers might back out of the transactionafter all the other buyers have disappeared. The earnest money deposit is part of your down payment. By increasing it above normal limits, you are showing the seller you are serious about closing. You're only offering the seller more money a little sooner than later, but it shows you mean business.

    Show the Sellers You Are Qualified.

    Almost every multiple offer will be accompanied by a lender letter. To stand out, ask your lender for a pre-approval letter, which is different than a prequalified letter. Being preapproved makes you a stronger buyer in the seller's eyes.

    Shorten Contingencies.

    By federal law, you have 10 days for inspections due to lead based paint, unless you waive that right in writing. Always get a home inspection, but tighten the time period so the sellers don't feel like they have to wait too long.  Leaving less time from offer to close, granted your lender can live up to the deadlines, is a great way to entice sellers

    Write Your Best Offer.

    Last word of advice-don't hope for negotiation. Offer your highest price and make it attractive, even a bit above list price if you know there are multiple offers. Ask your agent for a market analysis to determine pricing. Sometimes sellers deliberately set a price below comparable sales in an effort to generate multiple offers, so paying a little extra doesn't necessarily mean you are paying over market value.
    Follow Vin on Facebook

    Friday, June 21, 2013

    Securing your home while on vacation

    Summer is here which, for many of us, means vacationing and long weekend getaways.  No matter where you  live, you are always vulnerable to burglary when your home is left unattended for an extended period of time. I found some tips from the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies to help keep your home secure while away:

  • Ask a neighbor to take in the newspaper, mail, and any other deliveries.

  • Arrange to have the lawn mowed at regular intervals.

  • Store all valuables.

  • Leave window shades and draperies in their usual positions, but do not close them all the way on the street side of the house.

  • Lock all doors and windows including those in the garage, the basement, and the attic.

  • Disconnect electrical appliances and lower air conditioning/heating units to energy-saving levels.

  • Make sure auto, fire, and health insurance policies are correct.

  • Leave a house key and itinerary with a neighbor, friend, or relative. Be sure someone knows how to operate your alarm system if your home has one.

  • An alarm system is a very effective deterrent to burglary especially if the system is advertised by a window sticker or a sign on the property.
    You've packed up your suitcase and planned your itinerary be sure to take the time to protect your home while you’re away.  Keep in mind that July and August are popular vacation months, and not surprisingly, they’re also the months when home burglaries peak. You want to fully enjoy your trip, so be sure to give yourself that peace of mind that your home is secure.

    Wednesday, June 19, 2013

    How much space do you need?

    I have shown  homes to many different people, whether it be a family of five with small children, or a young professional looking for his/her own space.  I have come to see that space is often the first consideration when choosing a home. While it may be somewhat unrealistic that you stay in one home your entire life anymore,  it is still a good idea to keep that mindset when looking to purchase a home.   Instead of thinking that you aren't going to be in a house for a long , you may want to think about what would happen if you DID stay in a home for a long time. Here are some things to consider when deciding how much space you will need:

    How Often are You or Others in your Home?

    Though most of us would admit to the fact that we want to have the biggest home possible, it isn't usually realistic for most people.  If you're working full time or you travel a lot for your work, you might want to consider whether or not you actually need a lot of space. If you're not going to be around a lot to enjoy it or maintain it, you might want to spend your money on other things that you do have time for.

    In the other respect, if you think you need more space because you want to entertain, you may want to factor in that space when searching for a home. If you have parties on a weekly basis, this is an important consideration in terms of your home purchase. Also, if you plan to have overnight guests on a regular basis, you will need to have space for a guest room for their comfort.

    Any Kids?

    If you have kids now or you plan to in the future, you will want to factor in space for their rooms and belongings. One large extra room can even give you  enough space for up to two children for a time.  Until these rooms become the kids' rooms, they can give you added storage space, another another  room or office.

    Any unique needs?

    The space in your house can also be used for any special needs or arrangements you may have. For example, if you work from a home office, you might want to have a special space for you to set this  up. If you have a hobby that takes up a lot of space, you might want to make sure that you have ample room for this to reside as well.
    Think Long Term

    If you do stay in your home for a long time, you might need to consider adding on additional space if your current space doesn't work out. To make sure you have enough room, you may also want to consider any space for a potential addition down the road.

    When you're trying to envision what your life  your new home, try to map out all of the activities that will take place both now and in the future. This will help you to see just how much space you might need.
    Follow Vin on Facebook

    Friday, June 14, 2013

    Furniture Arrangement that will appeal to Buyers

    Often I have shown homes that loose their appeal simply by the way furniture is arranged.  Good furniture arrangement is the secret to making a room look its best and give it the appeal that a potential buyer may be looking for.  Yet, most people struggle with what goes where. Who  has not stood at the doorway to a bedroom, or the center of our living room, and wondered, “What’s wrong with this room?” We may sense that it is  awkward, but we’re not sure why. Potential buyers may feel this instantly upon entering a room and can leave them with a bad taste in their mouth leading them to overlook a really great home.

    The good news is that every room has an ideal arrangement for home staging, and you can discover it by avoiding the most common mistakes.  Here are a few things to avoid:

    Too much furniture. Select your best pieces. It’s better to have a few great pieces, than a roomful of some good and some not-so-good pieces. Keep the big pieces unless they are in bad condition or very dated. No one expects you to be an interior designer, but colors and styles from a few decades ago don’t make your home look fresh and appealing.

    Remember that potential home buyers are looking at other homes and will most likely compare your home to one with updated, stylish furniture.

    Not enough furniture. When selling a home, no room should be empty. Buyers see an empty room as a problem that may raise red flags.  Buyers may think the ceiling leaks, or that the climate of the room is not livable.

    No Focal Point.  Every room has a focal point, but if you do not arrange your furniture properly, you may be ignoring it. You will want to attract buyers to this when they enter. Find the dramatic element that draws your immediate attention. If your room has an attractive feature, such as a fireplace or picture window, center your furniture arrangement around it.

    Poor Traffic Flow.  Walking through a room should be effortless, especially for buyers.  You do not want them to feel cramped or that they have to maneuver around things to get through the room.  This will lead them to believe that there is actually less space in the home.  Make sure furniture is placed so that people have adequate room to maneuver easily around the room.

    Figuring out how to arrange furniture in a room can be a daunting task, but with a little trial and error you should be able to pull it off.  The best advice I can give would be to view each room as if you were a buyer.  Figure out the pros and cons and work to improve the feel of the entire space.
    Follow Vin on Facebook

    Wednesday, June 12, 2013

    What to look for when buying a house

    Each person has different ideals when buying a home. There are many factors to consider before picking a and purchasing. By thoroughly considering your options and figuring in your personal ideas of a house, you will be able to find and buy one that can be made into a home.

    How does it make you feel when you first see it? While curb appeal is often what sells a home, it is always good for a buyer to stop and look beyond this. If you really love it, slow down and take a good hard look of the reality of the home. Look at the location: convenience to schools, shopping, transportation, sports, etc., whatever you need or enjoy. Is anything changing (new park, new freeway, factories closing down, crime rate rising)?

    Consider which factors will make the house your home: quiet/busy neighborhood, corner lot, distance to neighbors, yard, view, other amenities (parking, fence, landscaping), size and layout of the rooms (bathrooms on each floor? privacy? common spaces? workshop? garage?), general age and condition (Victorian needs rehab, or brand new, move-in condition), depending on your preferences.
    Do you have any furniture that will fit? Can you see yourself making breakfast every day in that kitchen? Ask to come back at a different time of day so you can see how the daylight changes in and around the home. What do you hear when standing in the bedroom (car alarms? traffic? airplanes? children playing? nothing but birds twittering)?

    Consider if it is a good investment: can you afford to purchase it, pay the taxes and other costs, make repairs, do maintenance? How does the value compare with other similar houses recently sold in the area? Is it already the most expensive house on the street? Over-priced "fixer upper"?

    While there are always pros and cons to every property, it is up to you to decide what is most important in a home. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as obtaining too much information. Buying a new house is never easy, but by thoroughly weighing your options and it can be much more manageable.
    Follow Vin on Facebook

    Friday, June 7, 2013

    Organizing your Kitchen

    The kitchen is viewed as the "hub' of the home as it is the most used room in the house.  Your family gathers there, you cook, kids do homework, and everyone raids the cabinets and fridge looking for food!  It is easy to see why it can become unorganized so quickly. It is not always easy to keep the kitchen in order, but here are a few simple things you can do to try and keep organized:

    Clear the counters-

     Having too many items on your kitchen counters will make it seem cluttered and unorganized. Items that are not used often should be stored under the counters in your cabinets. These may be things like a waffle maker, mixer, or a blender; items that do not get used everyday.

    Buy clear storage-

    Using clear, plastic storage bins in your kitchen is an easy way to keep like items together while being able to do a quick inventory before heading out to the grocery store. For your pantry, have bins for snacks, bread and produce. Use over-the-door organizers for canned goods, spices,  pastas and sauces.

    Things that work together should be stored together-

    Pots, pans and cooking utensils should be kept near the stove. This gives you easy access to the tools you’ll need while cooking. Keep bowls, mixers, measuring cups, spoons and other baking items in the baking area. Plates, dishes, cups and eating utensils should be stored close together. Items that are seldom used should go on top shelves. Mugs, coffee creamers and coffee supplies should be stored near the coffee maker.  Seems obvious, right?!

    Install Shelf Organizers-

    Sliding shelf organizers make it easy to get to frequently used items in the cabinets and creates a neater look when doors are open.

    Since you probably do not always have time to do a complete
    kitchen overhaul, you can try doing these few things to keep your the space as inviting and organized as possible.
    Follow Vin on Facebook