The Color of Spring

Despite this winter being remarkably nice and tame, I’m excited spring is here.  Small signs are popping up, quite literally, all around.  Before planting rose bushes in the front bed, I had an assortment of bulbs and perennials.  Each year, one rogue tulip shows up.

All of our fruit trees made it through the winter, too.  It’s interesting how different trees and leaves look, even as buds.  Tight clusters on the cherry trees.

Larger leaves on the pear trees.

The Italian plum trees are the slowest to leaf out.  Look at the small flower-like bunches on our maple trees.

To me, this is the color of spring.  Bright, fresh, and new; not the dark green of summer.

Bleeding hearts are starting to sprout buds, with bright green leaves.

I’m enjoying it while I can, because this fresh spring doesn’t last long.  And, we won’t live at this house for another spring.

How is spring in your area?  Already in full bloom?  Just starting like it is here?  What’s your favorite element of spring?  Fresh flowers?  Warmer weather?  Fresh green leaves?

Tiny Table

While shopping at Ross with my family yesterday, we saw the cutest kiddo outdoor table sets.  So cute that we couldn’t resist buying one for V and E.  Initially, we thought about getting only a bench and table, but thought it was better to round out the set with two chairs.  Here it is.  The boys ate dinner at it last night, too.

 

It wasn’t super cheap at $120 for the four pieces.  When split three ways though, I’d say it was worth it.  It doesn’t look like typical kids furniture, and it can be passed down to my sisters when they have kids.  We can use it at this house and on the deck at the new house.  Win for everyone.

So that’s the latest goings on in our abode.  What’s new in yours, literally?  Any new purchases?  Do you have a patio set for your little ones?

Gimme a Giveaway Winner: Lucius Art & FSBO Tips

It’s a very happy Friday for us.  My family is coming to visit.  Lucky us!  Amber K, you’ve got a lucky break to remember now, because you’re the winner!

Now for the last (very word heavy) installment of our home selling posts.

Selling a home is a big task.  Whether listing with an agent or for sale by owner, here’s a quick list of our tips and experiences to help ease the process.

  • List your home on the MLS and Realtor.com
  • Take high quality, bright photos
  • Load your flyer up with color photos and pertinent information {more on these three points here}
  • Be flexible with your time
  • Call buyer’s agents to ask for feedback about the house
  • Set the right price
  • Host open houses
  • Make contact information prominent and accessible
  • Take kids and pets out of the house during showings  {more on that here}
  • Show off selling features
Now let’s expand on these points.

Tip 1.  Be flexible with your time.  If you are planning to sell by owner, this is especially important.  Buyers have a schedule, so you need to be willing and able to work around their timeline.  Be ready for calls asking to see the house in an hour.  If your schedule isn’t flexible , due to work, living situations, etc., consider a lock box for buyer’s agents to use.

If you are using a lock box, here’s what I’d do when someone calls to schedule a showing:  write down the agent’s name, company, cell and office phone numbers, and time of showing.  Before giving out the lock box info, call the office number (or Google the agent and brokerage firm) to make sure that person actually works for the company.  Keep track of every showing (write it down on a master list) and you’ll have an idea of who was there at what time if anything goofy does happen.

Our Experience:  Most showings were scheduled a day in advance, but we had a few showings set up an hour before.  I expected to have at least one knock on the door asking to see the house right then.  Glad that didn’t happen.

Tip 2.  A day or two after showing, call the buyer’s agent for feedback.  Don’t be afraid to ask what the agent and buyer thought of your home.  All feedback can help sell your home.  New eyes might see something you missed.

Our Experience:  Most everyone had nice things to say about our house.  A few people commented on the garage door or asked questions about our price, but everyone liked the level of finish.  It was wonderful for Ben to hear this as he is his worst critic.

Tip 3.  Set the right price, but remember everything in real estate is negotiable.  If you’re wondering how to price your house, ask a local agent for a free CMA (comparative market analysis).  This will show what similar houses in the neighborhood are on the market and what they sold for.

Our Experience:  We asked an agent to do a CMA and set our price a little higher than the CMA price range simply because a few of our homes features don’t fit the comps.  Ben actually received a call from a local agent questioning our list price.  He had recently sold a few houses in our neighborhood, but each was priced nearly 100k under our list price.  Ben informed him of our updates including the remodeled kitchen, geothermal heating and cooling, tankless water heater, central vacuüm, and such.  Then he understood our pricing, but it was an interesting conversation.  Be ready to answer questions about your pricing.

Edit:  We are not encouraging you to lie to or deceive an agent to get a CMA.  Explain your situation and wish to sell your house by owner to an agent.

Tip 4.  Host open houses on weekends.  Sure you’ll get traffic from curious neighbors, but you need to get people through the door.  Bonus points if you buy flowers and/or cookies.

Our Experience:  We planned to host open houses, but never did.  We spent the first weekend on the market finishing up a few projects.  If we hadn’t received an offer on Friday, we would have hosted an open house the second weekend.

Tip 5.  Make your contact information prominent.  If a buyer or agent doesn’t know how to get in contact, how will they see your house?

Our Experience:  I bolded Ben’s phone number and had it on the MLS, the for sale sign, and both sides of our flyer.  Always double up.

Tip 6.  Get kids and pets out of the house.  Make the experience as professional as possible.

Our Experience:  If your kids are anything like ours, they’ll chat to anyone, but buyers are not there to see your kids.  They’re there to see your house.  So the boys and I stayed away until Ben called to say he was leaving after each showing.

Tip 7.  Show off selling features.  Large closets, built-ins, flooring, lighting, anything nice.

Our Experience:  Ben showed off the accent lighting in the kitchen and master bedroom.  We pulled up bathroom rugs to show off the marble floors.

We also had a question about home improvements and resale value, so here’s our policy:

Bottom line, when making updates to your home, I would highly suggest choosing materials you would like to live with; not necessarily the cheapest materials you can find.  Chances are, if you like higher quality materials, buyers will too, and that can increase your bottom dollar.

Please remember, we are not house flippers and did not make any of the improvements to our home with the sole purpose of selling.  We simply chose items we liked and wanted to live with and it has helped increase the value of our home.  Every situation is different and you have to do what works for you.  

We’ve Got the Routine

Luckily, we sold our house quickly, but I thought it might be interesting to share our routine to get and keep our house show worthy at a moments notice.

Right after waking up, I made our bed.  This is no different than my usual routine, but I made V’s bed and E’s crib when they woke up, too.  Then I got the boys and myself dressed and fed.  After breakfast, I vacuumed the whole house.  I haven’t vacuumed every day since V was a baby.

Shortly before each showing, the boys and I clean up toys, quickly vacuum if they’ve made any messes, run through the house to look for any problems.  I put the toilets lids down, wipe down counters and sinks, and fold towels.

About 1/2 hour before a showing, I took boys out of the house.  We had different activities depending on the weather and time of day.  If the weather was nice, we’d go for walks in the mornings.

 

Over E’s nap time, we drove around looking at houses for exterior inspiration or explore the new neighborhood.  For showings after 4:00, the boys and I ran to the grocery store, for a walk, or play at the park.

Many of our showings were around the lunch hour, but we did have a few around 10:00 and a few more after work hours.

If you’re getting ready or already trying to sell your house, here’s a list of things  have done to get our house ready:

One time:

  • Touch up paint or other problem areas.  Go through your house as if seeing for the first time.  What stands out?
  • Scrub floors, fridge, stove, and wash windows.
  • Clear the visible clutter.  It’s okay if your closets have stuff inside, but not okay to have stacks of paper sitting on the kitchen counter.
  • Clean up your yard.  The front of the house is a buyer’s first impression, so make it a good one.

Weekly or as needed:

  • Clean bathrooms and kitchen.
  • Spot clean floors, walls, and windows as necessary.
  • Put laundry away.  No one wants to see your dirty clothes on the floor.

Daily:

  • Make beds.
  • Vacuum.
  • Clean counters.
  • Clear toys, laundry, and clutter.
  • Wash dishes, either put dishes in the dishwasher or wash by hand.  You don’t have to run the dishwasher, but get the dishes out of the sink.

Before a showing or open house:

  • Do daily stuff (make beds, vacuum, etc.).
  • Turn on lights, especially accent lighting.
  • Remove rugs from bathrooms to show off nice floors.
  • Open all curtains.
  • Park cars on street to leave drive way open.
  • Empty garbage cans.

We try to keep our house as clean as possible regularly, so most of the process was the same or similar to our daily life.  The biggest difference was cleaning up toys and vacuuming more frequently.  And staying out of the house for undetermined lengths of time.  We quickly ran out of errands and often roamed the neighborhood.

Honestly, this was the most difficult part.  Even that wasn’t terrible, just a little more planning and daily work than usual.  However, the boys thoroughly enjoyed the showing stage.  What was most difficult part of the selling for you?  Easiest?

P.S.  Learn how we marketed our house to sell.

High Flyer

Now that we’ve sold our house, we’re ready to share our FSBO tips and experiences.  Let’s start with marketing a home.  When you hire a listing agent, you have an advantage.  Your agent handles marketing for you.  In the interest of saving ourselves several thousand dollars, we decided to try our hand at selling our house ourselves.  Really, who is better suited to sell our house than us?  We’ve been working and lived in the house for the past 8 years and know every last detail.

That’s great, but if we don’t get people in the door, who are we going to share this information with?  So, I researched MLS listings and found a few flat fee service providers, MLS My Home and FSBO.com.  These sites are legit and do get your home on the MLS and Realtor.com.

We used MLS My Home because their rates were cheaper.  To save a little more money, we opted for the 2 month listing for $99.  Then we realized our listing included only four photos.  Sure we could upgrade our service, but why not start at rock bottom and adjust as we figure out what works?  And we couldn’t rely on the internet alone to sell our house.  The internet is simply a tool to get buyer to walk through the door.  A few teaser photos were enough to whet their appetite.

We included this exterior summer shot:

Because this current shot didn’t show the house to its full potential:

Then we chose a few interior shots.  To maximize your photos, take vertically oriented shots and put similar spaces side by side, like these:

You instantly got 7 photos for the price of four.  Take photos in the middle of the day, open all curtains, and adjust camera settings to make photos are bright as possible.  Only vampires like a dark, dreary houses.

Don’t skimp on pictures on your fliers, either.  That is my biggest pet peeve when I see house fliers.  Here’s a modified version of our design:

As you can see, I changed the address, price, and contact number, but the pictures and layout are the same.  I planned to have fliers printed at FedEx Office (to save my time and ink).  At 59 cents each side, I decided to fill the front with pictures and save the easy to print at home text for the back:

I printed 100 fliers, which was about 50 too many.  I’d suggest starting small because you can always print more.

Now you need a place to put these fliers.  Home Depot (and I’m sure other home improvement stores) sell ‘For Sale’ signs and flyer holders.

The MLS and Realtor.com will help dramatically, but you have a few more free or cheap advertising options available.  Craigslist (which we used but got little interest from), newspapers (we didn’t take that step), and open houses can all drive traffic to your home.  We planned to host an open house.  The first weekend on the market, we finished up a few small projects.  If we hadn’t received and accepted an offer, we would have held an open house this past Sunday.  I’d say we lucked out.

Here’s our marketing breakdown:

MLS/Realtor.com listing:  $99.00

100 Color fliers:  $59.00

Yard sign and flier holder:  $24.00

Craigslist ad:  Free

Total advertising cost:  $182.00

Compare that price to a 3% agent commission and we just saved ourselves thousands of dollars.

Any marketing tools or sites I left out?  I’ve got a few more home selling posts, including a selling schedule, general tips, and profit, so this is just the beginning.