Your Guide to Painting Before Selling

We love the idea of painting before selling because it is one of the most inexpensive ways to update, freshen up and add value to your Boston home. Heading to the paint store and standing in front of hundreds (if not thousands!) of colors of paint, however, can be quite overwhelming.

Here is a list of do’s and don’ts that will help you through the painting process:

  • Avoid white – Many sellers automatically assume that white walls make the most sense; but, in reality, they are quite stark and do nothing to make your home more appealing. Instead of white, choose a warm, neutral color (think taupe or beige) that will appeal to the masses. Avoid bold colors, as they are often too subjective, and never wallpaper any room in your home. In fact, if you have wallpaper, it is almost always a good idea to remove it before listing your Boston property for sale.
  • Choose a satin or semi-gloss – Flat paint will show the flaws in your walls and is difficult to clean, while a satin or semi-gloss paint is much more forgiving and easier to clean.
  • Take your time – If there’s one thing that buyers will immediately notice it is a bad paint job. Take the time to properly prep your work area and make sure your paint job is neat and attractive. Freshly painted walls will get you nowhere if you’ve slopped paint on the floor or on the light switches.
  • Don’t forget the front door – If you have a painted front door, take a moment to consider whether it would benefit from a fresh coat of paint. Because your front door is one of the first things buyers will see when they approach your property, it is always a good idea to make sure it looks beautiful.
  • Your deck – if your deck has seen better days and is looking worn or weathered, it is probably a good idea to clean and seal it. A fresh coat of stain on your deck will immediately make it look fresh and new.
  • Don’t forget the tri

What to Look for in a Boston Custom Home Builder

Nearly every neighborhood in Boston can boast luxury custom homes, but it is important to realize that finding a Boston luxury home neighborhood is just the first step in your homebuilding (or in many cases in Boston, home remodeling) process.

In particular, Boston luxury custom homes are not built by production builders (those that build many homes a year using just a few, set floor plans). Instead, they are built by custom home builders who have experience planning, designing and constructing true, custom homes.

If you are interested in luxury custom homes, then you must consider what to look for in your custom home builder. Here is what you need to look for when it comes to finding builders for luxury custom homes:

  • A custom home builder is someone who will either build on your land, in a development, or completely rework an existing home. They build one-of-a-kind houses that are built exactly to their client’s wants, needs and expectations. Builders who build Boston luxury custom homes will build you a home from a unique set of plans conceived and approved by you. Make sure your custom home builder understands your specific needs ahead of time.
  • Look for a custom home builder that focuses only on building single-family, custom homes, or that has a demonstrable track record in high-end complete remodels.
  • A custom home builder is usually one that builds 25 or fewer homes a year, and is therefore considered a “small-volume” builder.
  • Make sure the custom home builder you choose has a strong, local reputation and a history of building homes in the Boston area.
  • Contact your local Better Business Bureau, who can alert you to any unresolved complaints with the company.
  • Ask for a list of previous customers and referrals. If the builder is unwilling or unable to provide you with a long list of previous customers, it should raise a red flag.
  • Before hiring a custom home builder, check out his or her work. If possible, look at both completed and in-progress work and keep a close eye out for the quality of materials used and the workmanship.
  • Make sure you establish a good rapport with the home builder. After all, you will be working closely with your custom home builder for months to come.

When Selling, How Much Should You Repair?

If there are no repairs or upgrades needed in your home and if it is in spectacular condition, you may expect to get very close to your selling price – and you probably will! If your home is in top shape and all that the buyer needs do is bring his or her toothbrush and unpack their belongings, your house will attract a great deal of interest, and many buyers will realize that there is not much room to maneuver on price.  Essentially, this is the goal that every seller is working towards.

However, most homes that go up for sale are not in near perfect condition, or in top shape, and sellers must decide whether to fix a lot or fix a little – keeping in mind that research shows that sellers who do make repairs to their homes only receive a percentage of that cash outlay back at the closing table in the form of a higher priced sale (i.e. return on investment is not oftentimes 100%). You may spend a lot of money on installing floor tiles or re-carpeting the whole house and find that some potential buyers find your choice of flooring not at all to their liking.

If you do decide to make a major upgrade or expenditure, here’s some advice to you that will help you recoup as much of that investment as possible.  Keep the style and colors neutral. Soft, muted colors do not make a strong decorating statement and will allow potential buyers to project their own sense of taste and design on the house. It’s often shown that bathroom and kitchen remodels bring the greatest return on investment.

Don’t forget that a buyer will more than likely perform an inspection on your home, which will oftentimes uncover basic repairs. Please realize that making basic repairs is simply going to bring your home in line with average price per square foot in the neighborhood, rather than inflate the price like some upgrades may allow. Sellers may want to consider obtaining a professional home inspection before you sell.

If you have the skills and are able to make repairs or upgrades on your own without hiring professional help, you will make your money go farther and be more competitive with similar homes in your area, but be careful on what projects you take on, don’t go over your head only to find out that the “upgrade” is actually a “downgrade” because the final product does not look well done.

And finally, keep in mind that you do not want to pay to upgrade your home so that it is the highest priced home in the neighborhood, you’ll have a difficult time maintaining that high price point during negotiations because the neighborhood will provide you little assistance in supporting the price per square foot that the home warrants, perhaps in another higher end neighborhood.

Are You a Seasoned Condo Seller?

Preparing your home for sale is often a tedious process. From cleaning and updating to de-cluttering and preparing for open houses and showings, preparing your home for sale can test one’s patience, for sure.  However, there are a number of things that you can do now, before you list your Boston home for sale, which will save you a considerable amount of time and frustration during the home selling process:

  • Have a pre-sale home inspection – It may be a bit difficult to fork out a few hundred dollars for a home inspection given that the homebuyer will certainly have a home inspection of their own, but the idea is to make your life a bit easier. A pre-sale home inspection can bring problems to light so that you can deal with them before you list your home for sale. In other words, it’s a lot easier to repair a roof without a buyer breathing down your throat. In short, a pre-sale home inspection can make the buyer’s home inspection go off without a hitch –and without a worry on your part.
  • Pay for a termite inspection – It is best to handle this “pesty” situation beforehand so that you’re not unpleasantly surprised when a homebuyer’s pest inspection reveals problems. Plus, a pest inspection report is a great selling feature for your home, as it eliminates one less worry for homebuyers.
  • Fill out your home disclosure form truthfully and completely – Be as forthcoming as possible on your home disclosure form so that you don’t find yourself in a situation where the buyers are accusing you of knowingly hiding pre-existing problems.
  • Repair what you can, and get repair estimates for repairs that you don’t want to address – Doing so can give your buyers a general idea of how much it will cost to address the issue. You may also want to offer a credit in the amount of the repair to the buyer.
  • Organize all the warranties and operator’s manuals for your home appliances, including the furnace, the air conditioner and the kitchen appliances.

Moving? Don't Forget These

You’ve successfully sold your Boston condo and now the only thing left to do is simply make the move to your home. If only it were that easy.

There are a multitude of important things to remember when moving, and some are more obvious than others. We all know to schedule a mover, accumulate a bunch of boxes and get plenty of packing materials to get things underway. However, there are a handful of things that are often forgotten in the flurry of activity that surrounds a move. Here are a few things that are at the top of my list:

  • Cash and Credit Cards – If you must make a long trip to your new property, you will need cash and credit cards to get you there. I suggest stopping by the ATM several days before your closing / move takes place. Make sure you have enough cash to take care of incidentals, such as tipping the movers or paying tolls if you’re driving, enough that you don’t run out and have to use an ATM out of your network and get hit with ATM fees. As well, ensure you have a functioning credit card or two to pay for larger lodging and travel-related expenses.
  • Personal Care Items – Although you may be inclined to pack everything up for convenience’s sake, it is important to keep a certain number of personal items with you. Keep a small bag and load it up with important medications, any other prescriptions or over-the-counter medications that you and your family may need during your transition time between houses. I advise you think about what you might need ahead of your move by creating a list at least one week before the move happens, and think about it in the context of what you will need between now and when all your goods in moving boxes will show up – keep in mind that if you are being moved any significant distance by a shipping company, you won’t have access to your boxes, and there may be delays associated with the arrival of your goods, so give yourself some buffer time on the back end.
  • Your Kids’ Favorite Items – Comfort items for your children are an important part of any move, as they provide stability and comfort kids may need to make the transition to a new home a bit easier. It is therefore extremely important to keep these cuddle items, such as blankets and stuffed animals, with you at all times during your move to soothe and comfort your child. After all, you don’t want to wait weeks for your goods to arrive in your new home, or spend your first night in your new home searching through countless boxes for your child’s favorite doll!
  • Items of Special Importance or Value – If you have special items that are either of great value or great sentiment, consider keeping them safe during your move and/or transporting them yourself (always keeping them in your possession). You may want to hire a specialty moving company to take care of priceless antiques and pianos, verifying that there is proper insurance in place to cover any losses. Additionally, you may want to ask a close family member or friend to take care of your personal items, such as jewelry and china, until you have settled into your new home. Also in this group may be important papers, such as tax documents, receipts, or credit card statements that you would like to keep close to your person throughout the move, decreasing or eliminating the chance that your personal information, such as a social security number or credit card number, be compromised.

These items may or may not already be on your list of to-do’s associated with your move, but they represent a small handful of things that I oftentimes see go forgotten until it’s too late to change. Happy moving!

Mortgage Tips

Ok, so you have finally found that dream house you’ve always wanted. The price is right, and you’re ready to finalize the purchase. But wait! If you are not one of the fortunate few who can purchase the home with upfront cash, then you need financing, right?

Now comes the hard part, what type of mortgage would be a best fit for your particular circumstance? For the purpose of this article, let’s discuss fixed rate mortgages. Hopefully, you have already been approved for a loan by a lender. A preapproval letter from a lender should, in fact, have been in your possession before you even began house hunting.

By the way, forget about a prequalification letter from a lender. It’s meaningless. All that tells a seller’s agent is that the lender has verified that you are accepted based only on preliminary financial information, and NOT preapproved. Preapproval will only be granted if you pass a more detailed financial inspection.

Although negotiating a mortgage that best suits your financial means can be complex, there are a few basics that should be kept in mind:

  • You will have lower overall monthly payments on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage then on a 15-year fixed rate mortgage.
  • A 15-year mortgage will have higher monthly payments, but your home will be all yours in a much shorter time, and you will have saved many thousands of dollars interest.
  • You can pay off your 30-year mortgage earlier as well by doubling up on your monthly payments, which will also save many thousands of dollars in interest.
  • You should carefully scrutinize the terms of your loan to be sure that the lender did not include a “prepayment penalty “clause – prepayment penalties are illegal in Massachusetts. This clause will exact a dollars and cents penalty for an early payoff. This is something you do not want, for sure! For example, if you decide to refinance for one reason or another, the penalty clause would be in affect and cost you money you wouldn’t ordinarily have spent. There should be no penalties whatsoever for paying off a fixed rate mortgage ahead of time.

Homeowner’s Insurance Basics

In most instances, mortgage lenders require that home buyers obtain homeowners insurance as a loan condition. Be sure to research the best premiums for insurance on your own as you will save money. If the lender imposes insurance, it will undoubtedly cost much more, so do your homework.

If you live in a community governed by a Homeowners Association (HOA), be certain that your lender has a copy of the HOA insurance policy covering the home exterior. Reminder: you will still need your own insurance to cover the interior and contents of the unit.

It is important to determine that you have sufficient insurance to cover any and all losses before a problem occurs. You should also be sure to ask if you need special coverage for items like jewelry, art, antiques, computers and the like.

While your home should be insured, the land it stands on is typically not since the majority of home disasters will not affect the land. Be sure to subtract the value of the land when working with your insurance agent to calculate premiums or you will be paying premiums that are too high and not necessary.

“Replacement” coverage will provide sufficient insurance to rebuild your home and replace all its contents. If you opt for “Actual Cash Value” coverage, even though your premiums will be less costly, you will receive only enough to cover what the property is worth at the time of the disaster which equals depreciation for wear and tear plus your cost of the property.

You may be eligible for discounts if you are either a long term customer of the company or are a senior over age 55. Some safety features in the home may also qualify your policy for lower premiums such as smoke detectors, security doors and alarm systems, dead bolt locks, etc.

Power of Curb Appeal: What not to Forget

When considering curb appeal, don’t forget about first impressions!

If you think your buyers’ first impression of your home is realized upon walking in the front door, think again. The moment potential buyers pull up to the front of your home they begin assessing your home. And, if your home’s curb appeal is less than appealing, they may have already made up their minds about your home before they even walk through the front door.

Remember: an attractive front yard not only attracts buyers to your home, but it also conveys pride in home ownership. With that said, you can begin improving your home’s curb appeal today:

  • Check the steps, front porch, and driveway (as appropriate) of your home for any cracks or uneven surfaces. Repair any defects and seal your driveway to make it look its best.
  • The plant and flower beds should be free of weeds and all bushes and plants should be trimmed, neat and attractive. Mulch all of the beds with a natural pine needle mulch to pull it all together.
  • The front door should be free of fading or peeling paint, and it should have updated hardware. Don’t let your home’s first impression be squashed by an ugly front door with rusted hardware.
  • Your outdoor accessories should be tasteful and limited. Yard sculptures, lawn art and various other types of outdoor decorations should be limited. Instead, opt for an attractive door mat made of natural materials and a nice, seasonal wreath on the front door.
  • Make sure your outdoor landscape lighting is attractive and efficient, as it is important to remember that potential buyers will likely drive past your home during the nighttime hours, as well.
  • If you have low-lying trees and shrubbery that are blocking the front of your home, consider having them pruned. If buyers can’t see the front of your home then they are less likely to be immediately enamored by your home as they drive past.

Tips for Sellers: More Staging Advice

As a home seller, you want to showcase your home in the best possible way.  Some subtle staging advice may assist you in getting under agreement, and to closing, faster.

Since it is now Spring, the weather and sunshine may cooperate by allowing you to open windows to let in the fragrance of fresh air. Do not use a perfumed spray or air freshener as some prospective buyers may have allergies that might be triggered by these smells – resulting in an attack of sneezing or coughing instead of an offer to buy your home.

The fragrance of freshly baked bread or cookies is something most people find pleasing. Be sure not to cook cauliflower or broccoli when your real estate agent is expected with potential buyers! I once visited a home for sale where the owner was boiling pieces of chicken in water. The smell was so awful that I hardly looked at the house and could not wait to get outside…..

Many Realtors have taken courses in Home Staging and are experienced in helping sellers emphasize the strengths in their property and minimize the weaknesses.

Let Your Agent Make the Sale

If at all possible, be somewhere else when your Realtor shows your home. Buyers are sometimes reluctant to look as carefully and thoroughly when the owners are home as when they are away.

If you must be at home, smile and be pleasant – but be unobtrusive. Unless the buyer specifically speaks to you, let your Realtor respond to questions. Case in point is a situation where a buyer visits a home in a very nice community with their agent. The owner was home and in the bathroom. When he came out, he sat in a chair reading the newspaper and with his body language, conveyed a message that he was in a bad mood. The buyer spent a few minutes looking around but left as fast as possible – don’t impede the sale of your home by not leveraging some common sense and courtesy.

Tips for Freshening Up Your Home's Exterior

Have the winter blahs got you down? Does the exterior of your Boston home look less than stellar? If so, then join the many other sellers out there who are looking to spruce up their homes and get them sold as the spring months approach.

Luckily, there are a great number of things you can do to spruce up a tired-looking exterior and garner some attention from home buyers!

  1. Freshen up your flower and plant beds by giving them a fresh layer of mulch. Many people are quite surprised to find that this simple chore can make their landscape look so much better. Mulching your beds is also one of the most inexpensive improvements you can make to your landscape, so take advantage of this cost-saving improvement.
  2. Trim back any dead branches or leaves. Nothing can make a landscape more worn and tired than dead branches and leaves. So grab your pruners and head outside to take care of cutting back any dead areas and revel in your renewed landscape.
  3. Decorate your front door with a seasonal wreath. A colorful wreath is the easiest way to set the mood and to welcome buyers into your home. It also creates a warm, inviting feeling, thereby exciting buyers to view your home.
  4. Arrange a few colorful containers of perennials on your front porch. Choose containers of various sizes and place them together in groupings to provide a strong, visual impact. Nothing says spring more than colorful flowers!
  5. Take care of your outdoor living spaces by sweeping up, cleaning the furniture and adding colorful throw pillows and areas rugs. Add lush greenery to the corners and add small accessories, such as candles, to finish it off and make it look like a comfortable, welcoming space.
  6. Give your exterior trim a fresh coat of paint or consider repointing your building (the latter would most likely involve a condo association vote). Consider painting your front door or shutters. Simply by adding a fresh coat of paint you can turn a tired-looking condo or home into a fresh, updated one.