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Month: January 2021 (Page 1 of 10)

Do I Need a Realtor to Sell My Home, Or Can I Handle It Alone?Rebecca SandmeyerHomeLight Blog

In a world of self-starters and do-it-yourselfers, you may be curious about adopting a similar approach for your home, wondering: do I need a Realtor® to sell my house? 

With a national average commission rate of 5.8%, the desire to cut out the middleman and march confidently towards the FSBO sale of your dreams is understandable. But the decision could also leave you stressed and frustrated, with pangs of regret that you’re underselling your home.

As you navigate this decision, see if you resonate with one or more of these signs that you should sync up with a professional.

A Realtor working on a home to sell my home.
Source: (Lala Azizli / Unsplash)

1. Your day job would make it hard to market the home or answer calls.

Will you drop everything to respond to homebuyer showing requests when you’re in the middle of an executive review or crunching numbers on a spreadsheet?

We didn’t think so. And you’re not alone.

With the average American professional clocking in over 34 hours per week and 64% of families with two working parents, the intensity of our work culture is alive and well.

When personal and professional obligations abound, you’re lucky if you can squeeze a spin class or quality downtime into your schedule. Either that or you’ve struck scheduling gold and have stellar time-management skills.

The prospect of listing your home, scheduling showings, and navigating paperwork on top of your daily duties may feel unrealistic, which is why 89% of homeowners opted for an agent to sell their home in 2019.

While the life of a real estate agent may seem like a series of champagne-laden lavish open houses, the daily grind of a real estate agent is no walk in the park.

Many people are unaware of the workload involved in selling a home and have misperceptions that being an agent is a part-time easy gig.

“Full-time Realtors® like myself, this is what I do every day, nothing else,” says Martin Tokos, who has 18 years of industry expertise selling homes 52% faster than the average agent in Malden, MA. “Many think of real estate agents who have a license because they like to go look at houses and have helped one or two friends.”

These are just some of the many tedious tasks that your agent typically handles while you are busy at work, cooking up dinner for the night, or taking care of the kids, including:

  • Scheduling and hosting tours
  • Taking calls from prospective buyers
  • Staging and taking photos
  • Creating listings on MLS and other platforms
  • Creating and posting signs
  • Sharing on social media and client network
  • Fielding offers and navigating negotiations with buyers

Having an agent on your team makes for a more efficient and stress-free process, allowing you to focus on your latest S&P gain or perfect your fantasy football lineup while your agent handles the daily duties.

2. You’d like to sell the house for as much money as possible.

Most homeowners consider selling solo in an effort to save money. By ditching an agent, they assume they can leave the commission costs at the door and generate a higher return on their home. However, this is not always the case. Recent reports indicate that the median selling price of FSBO homes is significantly lower than those sold by an agent — by roughly $24,000.

Researchers at leading real estate data source Collateral Analytics, now owned by Black Knight, echoed the same finding. They looked at numerous geographic real estate markets, including Phoenix, San Diego, and Boston from 2016-2017 to study the price differential between FSBOs vs. traditional agent-represented sales. On average, the study found, FSBOs sell for 5.5% less, and in some cases nearly 6% less, than agent-assisted sales.

Remember that 5.8% commission you were worried about? Without an agent, you’re apt to lose that money by underselling your home. Without an agent acting as a buffer in the negotiation process, many homebuyers see FSBOs as a surefire win. Tokos shares how many sellers do not fully understand the market conditions or nuances of the negotiation process, “which can give the buyer’s agent an edge — and ability to negotiate the seller down by a lot.”

In addition to years of professional experience fine-tuning their negotiation skills, the buyer’s agent has expertise in the local market and industry transactions, giving them a significant advantage.

Tokos explains how he helps homeowners protect their price by prepping for inspection – to ensure buyers can’t negotiate and ask for credit down the line: “Buyers are so knowledgeable these days, you also need to know how to prep the house for the market — if I’m prepping the house for the market, I’m getting it ready to be fully inspected so that the buyer can’t negotiate it down.”

3. You’d like to have an expert handling volumes of unfamiliar paperwork.

While it varies by state, a real estate transaction can require up to 180 pages of paperwork — which can feel like a daunting task for many sellers to sort through on their own.

Having an expert to ensure the accuracy of every dotted “i” and crossed “t” will save you the hassle now and headache later.

Mandatory disclosures are another piece of the puzzle that requires a lot of pertinent paperwork. A slip-up can result in the seller being held liable for not disclosing important information to the buyer.

According to the National Association of Realtors®, 30% of home sales were delayed in October 2020 due to various obstacles surrounding contracts, inspections, titles, appraisals, and financing. The documentation associated with each process is complex and extensive — and any mistakes or misunderstandings can negatively impact your end goal of closing the deal.

Understanding the paperwork is also reported as one of the most difficult tasks for FSBO sellers, which is why the services offered by your agent in most states includes an evaluation of all the paperwork you receive. From reviewing offers to sealing the deal, your agent will be there every step of the way to ensure you understand the details of your disclosure documents and fine-print of your inspection forms.

They will serve as your spirit guide through the nitty-gritty negotiation terms, interpreting all of the requests you receive in your mile-high stack of paperwork with suggestions for your best course of action.

What does all of the agent’s hard work mean for you? Less billable hours from your attorney.

Moving boxes used after a Realtor sold a home.
Source: (Karolina Grabowska / Pexels)

4. You’re in a hurry to sell or have a move-out deadline.

Selling within the planned length of time was reported as one of the top five most difficult tasks for FSBO sellers, which is not ideal if you are in a time crunch. Without the help of an agent, finding a buyer is one of the biggest challenges of FSBO.

Aside from their razor-sharp negotiation skills and vast industry knowledge, one of the most valuable assets an agent brings to a seller is their existing network. A top agent will have a network of established clients and prospective buyers ready to pull the trigger on their dream home.

This exposure is something that solo sellers cannot replicate — no matter how impressive their social media presence may be. As Tokos explains, “with top agents, it’s really the exposure you can get for the home.”

If you see a FSBO that sells fast, chances are it’s because the seller already had a buyer lined up before they listed the home. According to NAR, 52% of FSBO sellers sold to someone they knew in 2020, whether it was a neighbor, relative, or friend.

5. Without an agent, you’d rely mostly on the internet to price your home.

Pricing your home with precision is a priority and requires an ability to assess all of the elements that contribute to your home’s value. While home value estimators are helpful tools, understanding how to properly price a home is one of the biggest challenges for FSBO sellers.

Tokos shares how pricing can be a challenging and nuanced process for some sellers, who “might not understand the impact certain elements have, such as a slightly wider driveway, or the slope and size of your lot.”

While your home might look identical to your neighbor’s, there are often subtle differences that drastically change its value. Proximity to a noisy highway or nearby airport are examples of features that lessen the value of your home — and make pricing a challenging and nuanced process.

Enlisting the help of a real estate agent to assess the value of your home will ensure you hit the mark on your pricing strategy with precision from the get-go.

In addition to assessing the value of your home, analyzing recent sales to get a true understanding of the market value is no easy feat. Finding sufficient comparative sales, ensuring all the details of your own home are accounted for, and performing (and understanding) a comparative market analysis can be challenging. While it may be feasible for those with fast Wi-Fi and a tenacious spirit, navigating the nuances of a CMA with the help of a professional may be the better bang for your buck.

Tokos also shares tips with his sellers for touch-ups to increase the value of their home before listing it on the market.

6. You’ve lived in this house a long time and have many memories associated with it.

While we all try not to let our emotions get the best of us, a monumental milestone like selling your home can pull on your otherwise stoic heartstrings.

If your eyes begin welling up with tears as you’re wondering, do I need a Realtor® to sell my house? The answer is yes, 100%, you do.

A real estate agent brings an objective perspective, leaving the emotional baggage at the door and relying purely on professional instincts.

The art of negotiation is a complex creature on its own. Throw some emotions into the mix and you’ve got yourself a whole new animal.

Emotions can often be the cause of overpricing, along with the dreaded dance that follows. A seller setting an unrealistic initial price can lead to them feeling insulted when offered anything less and unwilling to budge.

Tokos shares how some homeowners have a tendency to make emotional reactions during the negotiation process, leading to poor decisions or tricky transactions. At the very worst, “the FSBO seller gets upset and the deal might be over.”

In addition to pricing, an agent also serves as your counsel for constructive criticism and buyer critique. Armed with a fresh set of eyes and knowledge of what local buyers value, an agent provides pragmatic advice to maximize your profit. 

A seller relaxing at a home after a Realtor sold his home.
Source: (Drew Coffman / Unsplash)

7. By taking care of the tasks above, a highly competent agent would reduce your stress and make your life easier.

Look… there’s no law that says you need a Realtor® to sell your home. But there’s also a reason only 8% of sellers go it alone. An agent is there to make sure you sell at the top of your price range, follow the required steps to sell in your state, and protect your sanity by acting as a buffer between you and demanding buyers.

However, as Tokos explains, “the real estate industry is indeed a mixed bag, and not all agents are created equal. You may be on your way to something successful or real estate doom — depending on who you have by your side.”

To make sure your agent selection is tailored and purposeful, it’s helpful to do your homework. At HomeLight, we sort through millions of transactions alongside customer reviews to match you with the best agent in your area. Selling a house and finding a good agent can be hard, but deciding to save your sanity doesn’t have to be.

Header Image Source: (Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock)

In a world of self-starters and do-it-yourselfers, you may be curious about adopting a similar approach for your home, wondering: do I need a Realtor to sell my house?HomeLight Blog

6 Tips for Filing a Natural Disaster Insurance ClaimAllaire ConteHomeLight Blog

After Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, many homeowners found that navigating their insurance coverage was another disaster entirely. In New Jersey alone, over 6,000 flood-insurance claims were rejected, and another 1,500 cases ended up in litigation.

New Jerseyans aren’t alone: In 2019, natural disasters accounted for $52 billion of the total $60 billion in insured losses globally. These cataclysmic events present a unique threat to homes because typical home insurance policies do not cover most of the damage caused by them. Even when homeowners do have catastrophe insurance, many are either underinsured or don’t understand their coverage.

With climate change increasing the frequency of natural disasters, it’s never been more important to get on top of your insurance. HomeLight asked industry experts their top tips for getting the most out of a natural disaster insurance claim.

An insurance policy that covers natural diasters.
Source: (One Stock Photo / Unsplash)

You need additional insurance to file a natural disaster claim

Home insurance is ubiquitous, in large part because lenders require it when buyers apply for a mortgage. What many homeowners don’t realize is that home insurance isn’t all-encompassing. Most home insurance policies cover interior and exterior damage, loss of personal assets, and injury that occurs on the property; but the damage caused by so-called “acts of God”— defined as an uncontrollable event like a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, or flood — are typically excluded from these policies.

That’s where natural disaster or catastrophe insurance comes in. These are separate policies that specifically cover damage caused by acts of God. Unlike home insurance, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to catastrophe insurance. In most cases, homeowners will need to buy specific policies to cover the natural disasters they are at risk for, whether it be flood, wind, fire, or all of the above. While this may sound a lot like Hazard Insurance — a part of most home insurance policies that cover home structure damage — catastrophe insurance policies offer more comprehensive coverage that includes both natural and man-made events.

1. Choose the best policy for your natural disaster risks

Just like home insurance, most lenders will require you to buy flood insurance if your home is in a flood-risk zone. This policy may not provide you all the protection you need, though. Follow these steps to get the most out of your natural disaster coverage.

Research your home’s risks

When it comes to getting the most out of your natural disaster insurance claim, the best thing you can do is to choose a policy that protects against the damage your home is most at risk for. For example, Teresa Cowart, an expert real estate agent with 15 years of experience with a whopping 1,100+ homes sold, shares that flood and wind insurance are a must for her area in Coastal Georgia.

“I am continuously telling people: ‘Protect your investment,” she says. “We have tropical storms all the time, and we have hurricanes that pass by us all the time . . . Unfortunately, if it is a named storm, your regular insurance doesn’t always cover that, and if it does, now your deductible is much higher.”

Cowart is referring to the named storm trigger in most home insurance policies. The World Meteorological Organization began naming tropical storms, cyclones, and hurricanes in 1953 in order to streamline communications around these potentially devastating events. After the record-breaking damage caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, insurance companies began using the naming of a storm as a benchmark for an event that was an “act of God,” and that they could not assume the typical level of risk.

This is where disaster insurance kicks in. When you bought your home, the previous owners should have provided you with a Natural Hazard Report detailing the known natural disaster risks in your area. Review the report and start researching which policies to purchase that match your home’s risks.

Consult an expert

When researching natural disaster insurance, your real estate agent is a great resource, especially if they’re local to your area. Cowart, for example, has a list of insurance vendors she recommends.

“I just know that these folks are reputable and stand behind what they sell, and that’s important to me. And if I’m gonna put my name on it, it’s going to be somebody who’s going to help you.”

Cowart has the experience to back up her recommendations, too. After a hurricane flooded her home, Cowart says her insurance company “was amazing. I had a check-in like three days and had things moving along, but that isn’t always the case.”

Find a local insurance ace

Just like you researched and vetted your real estate agent when buying or selling your home, you’ll want to do the same with your insurance agent. These experts are your most valuable resource when assessing the policies that will best suit you and your home’s needs.

Luis Quintero, an insurance agent in San Diego, California, with both national and local policy experience, recommends finding an insurance agent who is local to your area. He points out that national insurance brokers are often too far away to give clients the attention they need.

“Sometimes you just call an 800-number, and you’re not ever talking to the same person. It’s always a different conversation and a different story,” he says, “Local agents are better able to assist clients. They know the local market where the home is located, so they know the risk better than someone on the other end of the phone who’s potentially not in the area . . .  There’s more accountability on the agent.”

When vetting potential agents, Quintero recommends:

  • Go local and find an agent who works at a branch near you.
  • Choose a company with good financial standing. You can do so by researching their AM Best Rating.
  • And, above all else, “look for an agent who is going to be there when you have a question.”

Conduct an annual review

Many natural disasters are seasonal. For example, the Atlantic hurricane season is from June to November, and the Southern Plains tornado season typically lasts from May through June. If your home is at risk for one of these seasonal natural disasters, schedule an annual review of your coverage with your insurance agent before the start of the high-risk season to ensure your home has the best protection available. Just make sure to give yourself enough time for any new or adjusted policies to go into effect; some policies take as many as 30 days to begin after signing.

If your home is in a risk zone for a non-seasonal disaster like earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, it’s still a smart move to review your coverage every year. Not only will this ensure that your policies are up-to-date and serving your needs, but it will help establish a relationship with your agent, which is vital if ever disaster strikes.

A tv that is part of a natural disaster insurance claim.
Source: (Samuel Regan-Asante / Unsplash)

2. Take a home inventory now in preparation for a disaster

After a natural disaster, one of the first things you’ll need to do is document the damage to your home. Make it easier on yourself by taking a detailed inventory of your home and belongings beforehand.

Take a video

If going through your home item by item sounds too tedious, Quintero has an easier method. He tells his clients:

“‘You probably don’t know what you have — you have a lot, you’re not gonna remember you have it because you’re in a stressful situation [when filing a claim]. But take your video camera or your phone, and whenever you settle in, walk through your house and record how everything looks. Save it somewhere in the cloud and your email somewhere, so that you can go back if you have a loss, and you can remember it.”

For an air-tight inventory, narrate what you see as you record. Detailed, verbal descriptions can help you with the specifics if you ever need to file a natural disaster insurance claim. For example, as you walk through your kitchen, name the appliances as you film them and state their brand, model, and purchase date.

List names and serial numbers

While photo documentation is an important step in your inventory process, you’ll need to record additional information, too. Include the name brand, model, and serial numbers for your high-ticket belongings to ensure that you are reimbursed the appropriate amount. If you simply say “refrigerator” when filing a natural disaster insurance claim, you may find that your insurance approves a $300 replacement for your $2,400 KitchenAid model.

Don’t forget to inventory outside

While most of your inventory is likely inside your home, don’t forget to document the resources you store outside. Most policies offer coverage for personal property inside and outside the home, so including these on your inventory is a must if you want to file a claim for them in the future. Outdoor inventory may include costly appliances like your brand new propane grill, children’s swing set, or patio furniture.

Keep in mind, though, that insurance may not cover additional structures like fences. Ask your insurance agent about insurance options if you feel these structures are at risk.

Save duplicates of your inventory documentation

Documents are at a considerable risk of damage and destruction from natural disasters. The last thing you want when trying to file a claim is to find that your scrupulous inventory was lost, too. To ensure that you have access to this vital resource, consider using an offsite storage solution like apps that store your inventory in the cloud. Sortly is an ideal inventory app since you can access it from any computer, tablet, iOS, or Android device.

If, however, you’re committed to doing things the old-fashioned way with pen and paper, remember to take your inventory with you if you evacuate, and consider keeping duplicates in a safe deposit box or with a trusted out-of-state family member.

3. Document the damage immediately with photos and notes

After you’re able to return to your home safely and before you start cleaning up, document the damage. Just like you did before the disaster, take a video walkthrough of the exterior and interior of your home while narrating the damage that you see — and don’t forget to record the insides of cabinets, closets, and any other niches in your home.

If you took an inventory before the disaster, going through it item-by-item and noting what has been lost or damaged is a good next step. This amended inventory will be a critical resource for you and your insurance agent when filing your natural disaster insurance claim.

And if you don’t already have an inventory, you’ll still need to record name brands, models, and serial numbers for your large appliances and pricier items that have been damaged.

A house with hurricane damage that will require an insurance claim.
Source: (Jeff Albert / Flickr via Creative Commons Legal Code)

4. When disaster strikes, call your insurance immediately and salvage what you can

After Hurricane Irma, the most common insurance complaints were delays in handling claims. Not only do these delays keep needed resources out of homeowners’ pockets, but they can turn into exhausting back and forths with insurance companies, or worse, legal battles. The best thing a homeowner can do to prevent a delay in their claim is to immediately contact their insurance representative.

Quintero says, “make sure your family is safe and then call right away because a lot of the time policies have additional living expenses included.” Your policy may cover the cost of hotels, food, and any other necessities lost in the disaster. Your insurance agent can also help walk you through the steps you’ll need to take to get started on your claim.

Once you’ve contacted your insurance agent and formed a plan about the next steps in your natural disaster insurance claim process, salvage what you can. Throw out food and other supplies that may have been compromised by the disaster, open cabinets to air them out, move any property out of harm’s way if possible, and dry out any areas of your home that may have been flooded. This final task is critical; most insurance policies will not cover damage caused by mold, so taking steps to prevent mold immediately is necessary.

5. Don’t hire-out any work that you want the insurance company to cover

Waiting may seem like the last thing you want to do after your home has been devastated by a natural disaster, but it’s essential to delay repairs until your insurance improves them to ensure they reimburse the costs. Your insurance must assess the damage before they approve a settlement amount. That doesn’t mean you can’t contact a contractor, though; obtaining estimates on damage from licensed experts can give you more leverage with your insurance company if they offer you a lower payout than expected.

Just like you did with your real estate and your insurance agents, start researching contractors immediately. Once your insurance approves a settlement, you can begin rebuilding straight away. Contractors are often in high demand after an emergency, and the sooner you’re able to get in touch, the sooner they’ll be able to start the job.

A computer used to file a natural disaster insurance claim.
Source: (HelpDesk Heroes / Unsplash)

Start preparing now to get the most of your natural disaster claim

Even if a natural disaster feels far away, the best thing you can do to get the most out of your catastrophe insurance is to start preparing now. Any damage to a home is stressful for a homeowner, and the added upheaval of a catastrophic storm only adds to the duress. But taking these steps today can make the process easier, more efficient, and help you get back to normal faster.

Header Image Source: (Nikolas Noonan / Unsplash)

Get the most out of your natural disaster claim with these proven tips from industry experts.HomeLight Blog

8 Ways To Improve Energy Efficiency In Your Home While Adding ValueSharon BrandweinHomeLight Blog

If you feel like you’re spending a small fortune on your heating and cooling bills, chances are your home is not as energy efficient as it could be. The good news is you can invest in a few upgrades that improve energy efficiency while adding value to your home.

For expert insight, we spoke with top real estate agent Justin Willard who works with 87% more single-family homes than the average agent in Pembroke Pines, FL. He advised us that these eight home upgrades will lower your energy bills today and increase your home sale earnings tomorrow.

A window with increased energy efficiency.
Source: (Colin Maynard / Unsplash)

1. Upgrade to double-pane windows

While most homeowners don’t replace windows unless they absolutely have to, new windows can spruce up the look of your home and improve energy efficiency. Energy Star rated windows help maintain a consistent temperature inside your home year-round, but perhaps most importantly, they can help reduce your energy bills by as much as 15%. And when it’s time to sell, window upgrades are a fantastic selling point with buyers. According to a 2019 survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), buyers overwhelmingly cite Energy Star rated windows as an essential feature.

Moreover, window replacements are one of the most popular home improvement projects that increase your home’s value. HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights Report for Q1 2020 shows that while window replacements can cost somewhere in the ballpark of $12,000, homeowners are likely to add around $9,672 to their resale value. That’s a whopping 81% of costs recouped.

2. Add spray-foam insulation to the attic

While the amount of heat loss through the attic tends to vary from house to house, heat loss through the attic is somewhere around 25% for most houses. To curb that heat loss and save yourself some money, consider adding some insulation.

Willard shares that adding more insulation to the attic is “one of the easiest things homeowners can do to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.” The EPA estimates that homeowners can save approximately 15% on heating and cooling costs just by insulating their attics.

Considering how effective spray foam insulation is, it’s relatively affordable, costing around $1,000 to $3,600. When it comes to resale, sellers can expect to recoup the majority of project costs, so long as they clue the buyer into the upgrade.

“It could be an attractive feature, but it’s one that you’d have to really educate them on because buyers don’t go up in the attic when they’re looking at a home. More often than not, they buy the home based on the lipstick — i.e., kitchens, bathrooms, exterior curb appeal, and floorplans,” Willard adds.

3. Replace old appliances with Energy Star models

One of the easiest things homeowners can do to improve their home’s energy efficiency is to replace all appliances with newer, more energy-efficient models. Newer appliances tend to use up to 40% less energy than models that are ten years old. If you plan to upgrade your appliances, start with the kitchen: one of the most important rooms to buyers. In our report, 75% of top agents say that stainless steel is still buyers’ favorite finish. You can purchase a kitchen appliance package at big box stores like Home Depot for as little as $2,500.

A house with solar panels and improved energy efficiency.
Source: (Margot Polinder / Unsplash)

4. Add Solar Panels

Although they’re not technically an “energy-efficient upgrade,” homeowners can reap the rewards of solar panels in the form of clean, green energy and lower electric bills. While the cost of solar panels has fallen about 70% since 2010, they’re still a pretty hefty investment. On average, residential solar panels cost between $15,000 to $25,000, according to the Center for Sustainable Energy.

However, a study conducted by The Appraisal Journal shows that homeowners can expect their home’s value to increase by $20 for every $1 reduction in their annual energy costs. So by this estimate, if the homeowner saves $500 per year on their annual energy bill, they can expect their home’s value to increase by as much as $10,000.

From Willard’s experience, solar panels are hit and miss with buyers. It all depends on how many homes have solar in the area and how familiar buyers are with the benefits of solar — not to mention the age and quality of the solar panels themselves.

“If you’re going to own the home for a long time and you know you plan on staying there, and you take advantage of the energy efficiency, then you will see your money back, and it’s wonderful,” he shares.

On the flip side, some buyers may not want to fork out more money to own a home with solar panels, especially if they’re not the newest, most efficient model. Leased solar panels may deter buyers since the buyer must qualify to take on the solar lease, which can reduce their mortgage buying power. Furthermore, leased solar panels do not add value to the home since the solar company owns them and they are not considered a part of the home.

5. Replace the garage door

When homeowners assess their homes’ energy efficiency, many tend to forget about the garage. A garage with poor energy efficiency can have a spillover effect on the rest of your home, particularly if the garage is attached to your home.

In the winter, an inefficient garage allows cold air to penetrate your heated living spaces. While in the summer, your air-conditioned air escapes through the garage. Don’t let your energy bill suffer all year round — invest in a new garage door. An energy-efficient garage door can lower your energy bills by as much as 15% and help you regulate your home’s temperature.

According to Remodeling Magazine, a garage door replacement can run homeowners about $3,695, but the good news is they can expect to recover approximately 94% of that cost at resale. Your new garage door essentially pays for itself!

6. Add weatherstripping to exterior doors

Also known as weatherstripping or draft stoppers, door sweeps on exterior doors can maintain consistent indoor temperatures and keep unwanted pests out. What’s more, door sweeps on exterior doors can be good sound dampeners for street noise, as well. This inexpensive project usually costs between $20 to $30. And while it’s unclear how much this small project can potentially add to your home at resale (if it adds anything at all), it’s a quick home upgrade that will reduce your energy bills in the short term.

7. Upgrade to an Energy Star certified electric storage water heater

Water heaters are another appliance that homeowners overlook when it comes to evaluating their home’s energy efficiency. According to Energy Star, electric water heaters are the second highest energy users in most homes, costing an average of $620 per year when used by a family of four.

If you upgrade to an Energy Star certified electric storage water heater with highly efficient heat pumps, you can save $3,500 over the unit’s lifetime. Water heaters vary in price: Lower-end models are available for around $400, while higher-end models can cost more than $1,200 at stores like Lowes or Home Depot. If your budget permits, opt for a tankless water heater instead. These models are up to 34% more energy-efficient and can save you $80 to $100 a year.

Energy Star certified electric storage water heaters and tankless water heaters won’t likely recoup your investment dollar for dollar. However, a new water heater attracts buyers to your home, which is key to securing a top-dollar sale.

A basement with insulation that will improve energy efficiency.
Source: (ungvar / Shutterstock)

8. Insulate the basement with wall insulation and a radiant heat barrier

Radiant heat barriers are highly reflective materials that reflect radiant heat away from your home instead of absorbing it, and, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, they can lower air conditioning costs anywhere from 5% to 10%, or $120 per year. Radiant heat barriers can vary widely in price, but homeowners are probably looking at a $700 to $3,000 investment.

Improve energy efficiency for a more comfortable (and valuable) home

Home upgrades to improve energy efficiency range from small projects with small price tags to big projects that cost thousands. Before committing to a home improvement, conduct a cost vs. benefit analysis to determine if the upgrade is the best option for your home. When in doubt, ask your real estate agent if the upgrade is proven to add value to homes in your neighborhood.

Header Image Source: (Antoha713 / Shutterstock)

With expert insight from top real estate agents, we break down eight upgrades that improve energy efficiency and add value to your home.HomeLight Blog

Remodeling? Avoid These 10 Home Improvements That Do Not Add ValueMikayla UberHomeLight Blog

Americans spend $400 billion annually on remodeling, but they’re not all adding value to their homes in the process. Whether you’re dreaming of adding a big-ticket item like solar panels or a swimming pool, or you simply want to upgrade your kitchen, gauge how your project will impact your property value before you commit.

We crunched ROI data and spoke with two top real estate agents to round up 10 home improvement projects that do not add value to your home. We’ll break down why these common home improvements won’t increase your property value as much as you expect.

Tools used to complete home improvements.
Source: (Mitchell Luo / Unsplash)

1. DIY home improvement projects

While it might be tempting to spruce up your space with DIY projects like a faux fireplace or hand-painted cabinets, don’t expect these upgrades to add value to your home. According to top-selling Atlanta, GA agent Madalyn Suits, buyers notice DIY projects from a mile away — for all of the wrong reasons.

“We use the phrase ‘lipstick on a pig’ a lot. When people try to put their hands on everything, it shows that someone tried to make it look good. Buyers might begin to think, ‘Did they do everything themselves?’” she shares.

In one instance, Suits had a client who completed a DIY bathroom remodel with unappealing results. The client attached a frame to a built-in frameless mirror but only added the frame to three of the four sides. They were also considering adding fake linoleum wood to replace the existing tile, however, Suits advised against it. “I recommended they spend their money on doing one project well so they could get more bang for their buck.”

Beyond yielding less than stellar results, DIY projects often cost sellers more than they anticipate. The higher the project cost, the lower the return on investment you’ll see at resale.

“We tend to watch a lot of HGTV, and it’s amazing to see what these people can do to a home. But there’s a lot of risks behind closed doors to those projects. You could easily end up spending more money than you planned,” comments Ray Mihara, a top agent in Tampa, FL, who sells 66% more single-family homes than the average agent.

If you’re thinking of starting some DIY projects, proceed with caution. You’ll need thorough planning, hard work, and solid craftsmanship to pull DIY off successfully.

2. Garage conversions

Whether you need an in-law suite or a home office space, there are plenty of reasons why you might consider a garage conversion. Still, you should think twice before converting your garage into an additional room if you want to sell it anytime soon. On average, homeowners spend around $10,000 to convert their garage into a living space, but, unfortunately, this home improvement does not add value to your home.

The reason? Most buyers prefer a functional garage to an extended living area. In a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders, 25% of homeowners rated garage storage as “essential” while another 56% rated it as “desirable.” Additionally, our agents share that most buyers, especially those in colder climates, want the option to store cars inside of the garage to keep their vehicles clean and frost-free.

3. Solar panels

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint and monthly electricity bills, installing solar panels might seem like a no brainer. However, solar panels do not typically increase home sale prices. Solar panel cost and return on investment vary widely based on location and solar panel type. But on average, solar panel installation ranges between $11,144 and $14,696 after solar tax credits, while the average return for solar panels is around 10%.

The value solar panels add also depends on whether you lease or purchase the panels outright. Since leased solar panels belong to the solar company, not the homeowner, they do not add value to your home. Purchased solar panels, on the other hand, may contribute to your home’s value; however, this value-add decreases over time (as quickly as 9% annually, according to one study) as the panels age and improved models enter the market.

A room with wallpaper that does not add value.
Source: (Photographee.eu / Shutterstock)

4. Quirky wallpaper

Wallpaper might be making a comeback, but that doesn’t mean this home improvement will add value to your home. Most homeowners spend between $800 and $1,200 to wallpaper a room — a cost they’re unlikely to recoup at resale. Wallpaper is highly personal, and a pattern that appeals to you may or may not appeal to a wide range of buyers. Most real estate agents recommend removing wallpaper before selling your home to create a neutral interior with mass appeal. If you’re thinking of revamping your walls, consider hiring a professional to apply a fresh coat of light gray, beige, or white paint instead.

5. Custom luxury upgrades

If you want to make extravagant upgrades to your home, be warned that custom, luxury home improvements typically only recoup a fraction of project costs. For example, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value Report, a high-end kitchen remodel only recoups around 54% of the costs, significantly lower than a minor kitchen remodel, which recoups 77% of costs on average.

Suits experienced this firsthand when she had a client who installed a high-end custom kitchen before selling:

“He put in a great kitchen, but the rest of the house didn’t match. The master bath wasn’t great, and he probably would have gotten more money back if he would have put in more work in other areas of the house.”

Suits explains that the reason luxury home improvements do not add value is because these remodels are often highly personal. Homeowners tend to splurge on high-end materials and finishes based on their personal preferences. When buyers tour the home, they view the luxury upgrade as a “nice to have” rather than an essential feature and often are unaware of the total project cost or significance of material choices.

6. Wine cellars

If you’re selling soon, Suits says it’s not advisable to “spend big money on items like a wine cellar” since even the most passionate wine connoisseurs are unlikely to spend more for this bonus feature. A custom wine cellar can add elegance and a “wow” factor to your home, but for an average cost of $40,000, it’s unlikely to recoup the majority of the respective project cost.

A room in a house with improvements that do not add value.
Source: (Martin Edholm / Unsplash)

7. An oversized home addition

Before you significantly increase your home’s square footage, research the average square footage for homes in your neighborhood. If a second story or home addition makes your home the largest in the neighborhood, you could struggle to sell your home down the line. According to The Real Estate Appraisal Group, most buyers look at homes in a particular neighborhood because it matches their price range. If they have a higher budget, they’ll likely want to live in a neighborhood composed of homes of equal or greater caliber.

“You really have to pay attention to the price range in your neighborhood,” says Mihara. “It’s good not to get carried away. In a lot of cases, the more you do, the more it will sink the bottom line.”

8. Remodeled basements and attics

Are you thinking about clearing out the cobwebs and turning your basement into a cozy living space? Suits says a remodeled basement can help sell your home, but you won’t necessarily recoup all of your money on it. Based on data from Remodeling Magazine, a midrange finished basement will recoup about 70% of what you spend.

A finished attic offers an even lower ROI than a finished basement. On average, a finished attic costs around $80,000 but only adds $45,000 in value — that’s just 56% of costs recouped. For this reason, only 2% of real estate agents suggest sellers renovate their attic before selling.

9. New windows

When it comes to window replacement, a good rule of thumb is to only replace broken or leaky windows. Window replacement isn’t cheap: new windows cost between $200 and $1,800 on average. And while this upgrade increases a home’s marketability, it only recovers a fraction of project cost at resale. If your windows are in bad shape, it’s best to upgrade to new vinyl windows since these offer a 72.3% return on average versus wood, which has a 68.9% return on average.

A pool that does not add value to a home.
Source: (Iosi Pratama / Unsplash)

10. Swimming pools

The last item on our list leaves room for debate: swimming pools. Our Top Agent Insights Report found that installing an in-ground pool costs on average $42,480 and only adds $21,483 value-add (51% of project cost recouped).

However, Suits notes that swimming pools add more value now than they have in the past thanks to the increased demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic:

“I never wanted a pool, but for the first time during a pandemic, I wanted one. We used to say with pools that you wouldn’t lose money, but you wouldn’t gain it either. But outdoor living has become considerably more desirable.”

The Bottom Line: Not all home improvements add value

A final word to the wise: Consider your selling timeline before you embark on a home improvement that does not add value to your home. If you plan to sell your home in the near future, it’s best to spruce it up with a new coat of neutral paint and other improvements proven to add value and increase marketability.

On the other hand, if you plan to stay awhile, Suits shares it’s okay to focus on home improvements that bring you joy, even if they don’t add significant value to your home:

“Do whatever makes you happy. To me, that is really what homeownership is all about. Just realize you might not get every dime back, or you might have to make a modification to it. Chances are, if you love something, someone else might too.”

Header Image Source: (R ARCHITECTURE / Unsplash)

Not all renovations are equal — avoid these 10 home improvement projects that do not add value to your home.HomeLight Blog

Textures, Colors, Prints, and Patterns: 4 Hot Flooring Trends for 2021Kate Van PeltHomeLight Blog

When it comes to remodeling, there are many directions a homeowner can take, but new flooring is one of the most popular and cost-effective ways to give your house a fresh, updated look.

In the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2019 Remodeling Impact Report, 78% of consumers who installed “new wood flooring” reported a greater desire to be in their home after completing the project. And as for return-on-investment, “new wood flooring” had the highest percentage cost recovered (106%) among the interior projects evaluated.

Not only does the technology and quality of flooring materials improve over time, but the trending styles shift at a similar pace. We’ve compiled extensive data and consulted two experts with decades of experience in real estate, interior design, and flooring to provide you with a comprehensive, data-driven guide to the hottest flooring trends in 2021.

A room in 2021 with trendy flooring.
Source: (Jon’Nathon Stebbe / Unsplash)

Cohesive design: An overview of flooring trends in 2021

At one time, residential contractors implemented a variety of flooring textures and materials throughout their builds — linoleum in the kitchen, tile in the bathrooms, carpet in the living room, and so on. But in 2021, mixed flooring is far from fashionable.

“All of those transitions chop up a house,” says top real estate agent Sandee Payne, who has over 20 years of experience in real estate and interior design. “With the trend of homes becoming very open . . . it’s not so easy to break up all that flooring without looking chaotic.”

Today’s homeowners want “clean and natural” in all aspects of their flooring, says Payne, “from the materials to the colors to the patterns.” People prefer the look and feel of simplicity, and a single flooring installed throughout the entire home helps achieve this aesthetic.

Opt for hard surface flooring in the living areas

Although consumers have hundreds of options when it comes to flooring, single-family home construction in recent decades indicates that most homeowners prefer hard flooring throughout the home.

According to 2019 industry statistics from Floor Covering News, while carpet remains the largest flooring segment, its popularity has steadily declined over the past decade, from 66.6% of the flooring market share down to 52.9%. Rich Clausen, co-owner of Thomas Kay Flooring and Interiors in Salem, OR, has witnessed this shift in taste first-hand:

“Until relatively recently, it seemed like people were doing a classic hard entry with a walkway to the kitchen, and then they do carpet in the living room and the den. But we are definitely seeing people do more hard surfaces,” he comments, reflecting on the trend shifts during his company’s 50 years of business. “People [generally] prefer a simple look . . . and that is being achieved often through the use of hard surfaces throughout the house.”

Carpets remain popular in bedrooms

With carpet growing less and less popular each year, carpet flooring dramatically dates a home, especially in high-traffic areas like the living room and entryway. In fact, for homeowners looking to sell, 62% of agents say shag carpeting is one feature most likely to deter buyers, according to HomeLight’s Q4 2020 Top Agent Insights Report.

Payne recommends limiting carpeting to the bedrooms and opting for a longer, looser pile, such as frieze carpeting with some color variation to mask wear. “A lot of times if a carpet is all a solid color and a shorter pile, you start to see that traffic pattern wear much quicker,” Payne comments.

Hardwood that is trendy in 2021.
Source: (Hal Gatewood / Unsplash)

Here are the most popular flooring trends in 2021

If you’re upgrading your flooring in 2021, consider these contemporary materials and finishes to elevate your interior.

1. Lived-in wood flooring

It’s been nearly a decade since HGTV discovered the Fixer Upper duo Chip and Joanna Gaines, but the home design styles they popularized like “vintage” and “farmhouse” are still going strong. One way homeowners achieve a rustic aesthetic in their homes is through subtle details like texture, which can add some visual interest without veering from a neutral color palette.

Embossed-in-register (EIR) finish

Like frayed holes in distressed denim, signs of wear such as scuffs, dents, and scratches are a popular feature in solid hardwood floors. However, not every homeowner is willing or able to fork out the cash for real wood. And with so many manufacturers developing realistic faux wood alternatives, the expense may be even harder to justify.

One way to replicate the look and feel of a true wood is through an embossed-in-register (EIR) finish on laminate or vinyl flooring. An EIR finish mimics the features of a natural wood plank, so you can see and feel the grain, indentations, and more.

“When you do the embossed-in-register finish, if there’s a knot in the print film, you feel a knot in the urethane,” Clausen explains. “In my opinion, [it’s] a nice option because it sells the floor as more believable.”

Laminate typically costs between $2 and $8 per square foot to install, and while you may pay an additional $1.90 to $3.99 per square foot for an EIR finish, it’s an attractive alternative to hardwood, which can cost as much as $12 per square foot. EIR finishes are also available for vinyl flooring products, which, like laminate, work well in all areas of the home.

2. Durability and longevity matters

Hardwood continues to maintain its status as a top flooring choice for modern-day buyers. In fact, real estate agents agree that homes with hardwood floors can sell for up to 10% more than an identical home without wood floors. However, with families spending more time at home, 2021 marks a turning point, with more homeowners prioritizing durability over authenticity.

“We all know hardwood, it wears. People don’t want to sand their floors, and [then there’s] water and traffic and cleaning chemicals . . .there’s a lot of maintenance,” Payne explains.

Luxury vinyl planks (LVPs)

For homeowners who want the look of real wood without the maintenance, luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring is an excellent solution.

In addition to a wide selection of colors and styles, LVP is also extremely durable and 100% water-resistant, making this material an excellent choice for buyers who want the same wood look throughout the entire home. As an added bonus, when compared to solid hardwood, LVP is a fraction of the price, at $4 to $6 per square foot for both materials and labor.

“[It’s] super sustainable. They come in all kinds of variations of thickness and realistic looks,” Payne comments.

“It just helps people not have to spend too much time on cleaning and maintaining their floors, and then they can focus on other things.”

Faux wood tile

Tile takes durability to a new level. Not only is this material waterproof, but its longevity is next to none, lasting as much as three or four times as long as hardwood.

As if this weren’t enticing enough, today, homeowners can achieve the look of real wood with faux wood tiles, including authentic features such as grain texture and knots, without the cons of splintering, sanding, and more.

Faux wood tiles are an excellent choice throughout the home, especially in high traffic areas like entryways and areas prone to spills and moisture, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. The average cost to install faux wood tiles is $7 to $15 per square foot.

Waterproof laminate

Laminate has remained popular, in part due to cost. According to Floor Covering News, a national research-based publication, laminate is the only flooring category with declining prices. However, this flooring has a lot more than affordable prices going for it.

“We’re actually seeing a little more competition from laminate floors with waterproof warranties,” says Clausen. Waterproof laminates come with a water-resistant wear layer on top, which prevents spills from seeping down through the planks and damaging your subfloor. This same layer is also incredibly scratch-resistant, more so than vinyl lookalikes, so it’s a pet- and kid-friendly option for the whole home.

“There’s more work on the install, so that adds a little bit of cost… [but] I think that we’ll probably see more movement in the waterproof laminates,” Clausen adds. Expect to pay $3.58 to $4.86 per square foot, on average, for waterproof laminate.

3. Light, natural tones are in vogue

Gone are the days of rich mahogany and red chestnut floors; today’s homeowner prefers light and bright, paving the way for more natural and neutral wood tones.

Blonde wood flooring

While dark finishes like ebony and espresso have their place among 2021 trends, lighter colors have a way of making rooms feel larger, which complements the open floor layouts that are popular today. This effect has increased demand for more natural tones, including blonde wood finishes.

“We’re seeing more of a trend toward natural wood — kind of mid-grain wood tones to lighter wood tones,” says Clausen. Although states away, Payne has witnessed a similar trend. “I’m not seeing a lot of that cherry wood or super dark wood right now,” Payne notes. “In wood, it’s the blondes.”

Thanks to a lighter finish, blonde tones have a more natural, realistic appearance, adding to their appeal among 2021 homeowners. Additionally, blondes provide a classic feel that suits a variety of home styles, from contemporary to rustic.

For a durable alternative to solid hardwood, try a water-resistant engineered hardwood, like this Ceruse Blonde Oak by AquaGuard.

4. Prints and patterns create visual interest

While 2021’s dominant design trends will perpetuate a cohesive look with a single flooring material throughout the home, homeowners still express their creative side with accent flooring in small rooms.

Artisan tile work

Decorative tiling adds charm and interest to powder rooms and laundry rooms. “While we see people doing that more uniform look throughout the home, I think they’re accenting that with some jewelry pieces,” Clausen comments.

According to HomeLight’s Q4 2020 Top Agent Insights Report, artisan tile work ranks in the top five bathroom upgrades expected to resonate most with 2021 buyers, especially in the Pacific (29%), Mountain (26%), and South Atlantic (22%) regions. From large black and white prints to old-school, encaustic styles and even petite penny round tiles, this is one area of the home where individuals can feel free to go bold without breaking the bank.

While the cost to install porcelain or ceramic tile flooring varies, homeowners spend $10 to $15 per square foot on average.

Patterned wood

As with elaborately tiled bathrooms, patterned woods provide individuals with another opportunity to create the look of luxury in their home. “[Homeowners are] taking a simple product with a neutral color palette, but creating a visual interest by laying it or installing it in different patterns, such as chevron or herringbone,” says Payne.

At one time, you could only achieve a patterned design with solid hardwood. But today, faux wood competitors are changing the game. As manufacturers develop patterned LVP, homeowners can now recreate the upscale look themselves with options like these two from Home Depot in chevron and herringbone. These products have made elegant parquet looks more widely available and, as a result, more popular.

A notebook used to plan a flooring budget in 2021.
Source: (Oli Dale / Unsplash)

Final thoughts: Consider your budget and home before diving into your floor remodel

As you prepare for your flooring renovation, it’s easy to get caught up in the many materials, finishes, colors, patterns, and more, and then forget your budget along the way. With this said, Payne encourages homeowners to anticipate expenses before pulling out the credit card — especially if they’re planning to sell.

“[First,] we want to look at the seller’s budget,” says Payne. “I would definitely recommend removing carpet, especially in the main areas of the home. On a lesser budget, I would say go with a laminate. If you do have the budget, add the luxury plank vinyl, or go with a wood plank tile look.”

Homeowners should also adjust plans based on their home’s age and price, as renovations won’t produce the same return on investment for every property. However, if your living room is decked in carpet or the kitchen floor is warped and scratched, new flooring is one improvement that can dramatically change the look and value of your home.

Header Image Source: (Cinematographer / Shutterstock)

No matter how much modern decor you own, dated flooring can cramp your style like nothing else. Upgrade your interior with these hot flooring trends for 2021.HomeLight Blog

5 Reasons Why Hiring a Bilingual Agent is Your First Step to a Successful SaleKate Van PeltHomeLight Blog

The U.S. Census Bureau reveals that 67.8 million Americans speak a language other than English at home — that’s over one-fifth of the population. With the ever-increasing linguistic diversity in the U.S., there’s a growing need for bilingual real estate agents to guide homeowners through the home sale process in their preferred language.

“There’s no point trying to make it work when you know you have a language barrier,” says Danii Sedillo, a top multilingual agent in El Paso, TX, who speaks English, Spanish, and German.

“For the biggest transaction you’ll ever do in your life, you want to make sure that you understand everything that’s happening.”

If you prefer to sell your home in a language other than English, then this post is for you. We’ll dive into national trends and outline five ways a bilingual real estate can help you pull off the perfect home sale.

A view of homes purchased with the help of a bilingual real estate agent.
Source: (Benjamin Elliott / Unsplash)

Multilingual homeowners in the U.S. are on the rise

The need for bilingual and multilingual real estate agents is more common than you may think. English speakers of other languages (ESOL) and non-English speakers represent millions of homeowners and prospective homeowners in the U.S.

Spanish

Spanish is the most commonly spoken language after English in the U.S., with an estimated 39.2 million residents, or 11.9% of the population, speaking Spanish at home as of 2019. Of those Spanish speakers,

  • 23.1 million speak English “very well”
  • 6.8 million speak English “well”
  • 6 million speak English “not well”
  • 3 million speak English “not at all”

According to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the number of Hispanic1 owner households, many of which speak Spanish, has steadily increased in the past 10 years, accounting for 51.6% of overall U.S. homeownership growth.

The significant rise in Spanish-speaking homeowners has increased the need for bilingual real estate agents, and English-to-Spanish translated real estate content. For instance, in 2020, the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the country’s largest real estate association, launched NAR en Español, a fully-Spanish sub-site to better serve Spanish-speaking real estate agents and clientele.

Asian and Pacific Island languages

Analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Asian American Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), reveals that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (APPI) represent another growing community of ESOL and non-English speaking homeowners and prospective homeowners. Since 2001, the number of AAPI homebuyers has increased 27%. AREAA reports that 77% of APPI speak a language other than English at home. In this group, over 5,597,043 APPI have limited-English, with Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Korean representing their top preferred languages.

Additional languages

The U.S. Census Bureau reveals that more than 350 languages are spoken in American homes. In addition to the speaker groups mentioned above, U.S. households include 11.5 million speakers of Indo-European languages and over 3.6 million speakers of additional languages not previously detailed.

A computer used by a bilingual real estate agent.
Source: (Windows / Unsplash)

Five reasons why you should partner with a bilingual agent

When it comes to selling your most valuable asset, you’ll want to partner with a real estate agent who speaks your preferred language or languages to guide you through the process.

“We have found over and over that the best experience comes from when they’ve been working with somebody that can speak their language,” shares Rick Fuller, a top agent who sells 74% more single-family homes than the average agent in Antioch, CA. “We have team members now and in the past that have spoken Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese, Italian — and I’m probably leaving a bunch out! We’re in the Bay Area, so our community merits that.”

Here are five reasons a bilingual real estate agent can provide unmatched advice and service for a seller whose language preference is not English:

1. Clear communication from start to finish

When it comes to selling your home, real estate agents manage everything from marketing your house to negotiating and finalizing offers. But if they can’t communicate clearly, their expertise and experience are moot points.

“When I take over a listing from somebody else, and I ask, ‘what can we do better,’ communication is the number one thing I hear,” says Sedillo. Her experience is not at all uncommon. In fact, research has shown the number one complaint against agents who represent sellers is their lack of communication skills — and that’s before a language barrier is taken into account.

“There’s a lot of communication in the course of a real estate transaction that, when it’s translated, the full message is not communicated, and not just the message but the intent, and even in some sense the heart behind the message is not communicated,” shares Fuller.

He adds that, from his experience, professional translators who are inexperienced in the selling process often struggle to explain real estate processes accurately to clients. With a bilingual agent, sellers can move through the transaction with one point of contact, knowing they’ll receive clear communication to the day they hand over the keys.

2. Establish trust and an “instant connection”

When it comes to selling the largest asset you own, trust is a necessary ingredient for a great relationship, and finding an agent who understands your language and culture is often a giant leap in the right direction.

“It’s an instant trust, an instant connection,” says Sedillo. “For them, it’s like, those are my people, my culture, my understanding. She gets me.”

The real estate industry isn’t the only one to recognize that sharing a language helps build trust. Medical researchers assert that “language-concordant care” enhances trust between patients and medical personnel, optimizes care and procedure outcomes, and advances health equity for diverse populations. In diverse communities such as Dayton, OH, police officers give safety education lectures to students in ESOL programs in the class’s primary languages; these classroom visits aim to combat fear and build rapport among ESOL and non-English speakers in their communities.

3. Access a network of real estate and home improvement professionals who share your language

Birds of a feather flock together: We tend to gravitate towards people who share our cultural and linguistic background. For example, in NAHREP’s 2019 State of Hispanic Homeownership Report, over half of Latino agents surveyed say at least 60% of their clients are Latino, while another 33% report more than 81% of their clients are Latino. With a bilingual agent, sellers can tap into their agent’s established network of professionals who share their preferred language.

“Naturally, you venture out to like-minded people with the same language, the same culture, so I am able to refer [the seller] to lenders, title companies, cleaning ladies, handymen, and so on,” shares Sedillo, who has strong ties to the German and Spanish speaking communities in El Paso. She adds that these connections make every step of the selling process easier for her clients.

4. Talk through complicated documents in your preferred language

Real estate is a complex industry. Not to mention, every country has unique real estate processes, procedures, and nuances. Even fluent ESOLs may struggle to keep the terms straight when reviewing jargon-laced legal and tax documents.

“I thought I was pretty fluent when I came to the states,” explains Sedillo, who began her real estate career in Germany. “Come to find out, I had no clue about real estate terms.”

Now well-versed in real estate in all of her languages, Sedillo helps her sellers translate documents and communicate far more effectively than they would if they relied on online translation tools.

“When you try to translate word-by-word, you get some funny content out of it,” Sedillo comments. In one particular scenario, she reviewed an unusual email sent to a landlord from his tenants. “They were trying to tell the landlord that water in the pool got bad with algae, but what they said is that somebody had actually flipped that pool upside-down!”

Translation assistance is a key service bilingual real estate agents provide for their clients. For instance, in a recent NAHREP survey, Latino agents share that 40% of their transactions utilize Spanish, and as much as 25% of their transactions use Spanish as the only language spoken.

5. Negotiate offers and contracts

Today’s record-low mortgage rates and lack of supply mean sellers are likely to receive competing offers on a home. In HomeLight’s Q3 2020 Top Agent Insights Report, 88% of top agents say “bidding wars are on the rise or at their peak” in today’s market.

A bilingual real estate agent can help you navigate your offers and advise how to leverage offers to win the best deal possible.

“When you have multiple offers, and you’re presenting it to a seller, that’s another imperative time that you’re able to communicate without any barriers,” says Fuller. “Each of those offers is somewhere between 20 and 25 pages. That’s a lot of information, and those technical terms can be easily overlooked or misunderstood.”

A phone used to find a bilingual real estate agent.
Source: (DocuSign / Unsplash)

We’ll introduce you to top bilingual agents near you

Find top-selling bilingual real estate agents in your market with HomeLight’s Agent Finder. We’ll crunch transaction data to match you with the best three agents for your home sale based on your language preferences and stats like their average list-to-sale ratio, average sale speed, and client reviews. Once you receive your matches, interview the candidates so you can confidently pick the agent most compatible with your needs.

With a top bilingual real estate agent at your side, you could sell your house for 10% more than if you partnered with the average agent!

1The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Agents uses the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” interchangeably to refer to people of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central American, South American, Dominican, and Spanish descent, along with people descending from other Spanish-speaking regions.

Header Image Source: (Pressmaster / Shutterstock)

In real estate, clear communication is essential. That’s why in America’s diverse cities, bilingual agents provide a level of service that’s simply unmatched.HomeLight Blog

The Ultimate New Home Shopping List: Items You Need (And None You Don’t)Astrid StoreyHomeLight Blog

Whether this is your first home purchase, or you’re a veteran at moving, every new dwelling comes with its own set of challenges that require some time spent shopping. (This might come as a relief or completely unwelcome news, depending on your viewpoint.) While you’re focused on closing and packing up your belongings to move into your new home, you’ve probably also been mentally placing your existing furniture in the new space and are determining what’s missing. Hopefully, you’ve already checked out our list of 18 home packing tips to help your move go smoothly and have already purchased your moving supplies using our checklist. But do you have your new home shopping list written out yet?

You should get familiar with the inventory of items that will convey with the purchase versus the items the seller will take from the home before closing. And it’s not a bad idea to think about items you still need to purchase, so that when you’re all moved in, it really feels like home.

To help you narrow down your new home shopping list to the very essentials you’ll need to consider when you move, we’ve collected this list (divided per room) with the building blocks for new-home comfort that you should keep in mind.

Carpeting installed in a new home.
Source: (Andy Dean Photography / Shutterstock)

Before you move in

Nick Waldner, a real estate agent with 19 years of experience in the Baltimore, Maryland, area, says his buyers’ first purchase after closing on a home is usually paint, followed by flooring materials.

“It’s just easier for a new homeowner to get those items in a checklist taken care of quickly. Sometimes they will delay moving in for a week or so and address all the paint and replace all the carpets,” Waldner explains.

The other purchases that usually happen before the first moving box is brought into the space are updated major appliances — “washers, dryers, dishwashers and sometimes an entire matching suite of stainless or upgraded appliances is a purchase that happens before moving in,” as well as window treatments.

Stores like The Shade Store offer an entirely online process that allows you to measure, order swatches, and then place a full order for window coverings. In many cases, the windows can be delivered and installed by the same company.

Kitchen

Also known as the heart of the home, your new kitchen is probably one of the reasons you fell in love with your new home. As a central hub for your family, your kitchen will host family and friends for gatherings and holidays to come.

Regardless of the square footage of your new kitchen, being properly equipped can help you start life in your new home on the right foot.

Small appliances

Small appliances are countertop or table-top electric tools that can be easily moved. They help you speed up the cooking or cleaning process.

Stores like Target, Best Buy, Lowe’s, and Home Depot are great to visit and see options in multiple brands and price ranges. If you prefer to shop online, Amazon and Overstock have a great selection with reasonable shipping rates.

For chef’s quality or high-end small appliances, you’ll want to visit stores like Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table.

Kitchen tools

With the right equipment, you can cook almost anything in a residential kitchen. Below you can find a list of basic tools divided into categories.

Walmart, Target and Macy’s as well as Ikea stores carry extensive selections of basic kitchen tools at affordable prices. In many instances, you can find basic kitchen starter sets with many of these items included for one price, like this KitchenAid 15-piece tools and gadget set for $41.99 or this Essential Total Kitchen set that even includes dishes for $83.26.

Cooking

Wirecutter calls the Tramontina Gourmet Tri-Ply Clad 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set ($479.95) the best “because of its solid construction and affordable price.”

  • Ladle
  • Lockable tongs
  • Metal spatula
  • Rubber spatula
  • Slotted spoon
  • Whisk
  • Skillet
  • Stock pot
  • Saucepan
  • Dutch oven

Baking

This Rachel Ray 10-piece non-stick bakeware set with handle grips is a great selection for a starter set at $99.99.

  • Baking sheet
  • Baking pan
  • Muffin tin
  • Oven mitts
  • Mixing bowls

Prepping

The Wüsthof Classic Ikon 7-Piece Knife Block Set includes the most useful knives, plus handy shears and a storage block for your counter.

  • Chef’s knife
  • Cutting board
  • Grater
  • Shears
  • Potato masher
  • Bread knife
  • Vegetable peeler

Other tools

  • Can opener
  • Corkscrew
  • Instant read thermometer
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Colander
  • Trash bags
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Sponges
  • Kitchen towels

Eating and serving

  • Dishware
  • Napkins
  • Flatware
  • Serving dishes
  • Serving tools
A dining room in a new home.
Source: (Jonathan Borba / Unsplash)

Dining and living room

For a lot of new homeowners, Waldner says, “a lot of times your furniture is not the right size, shape, or style for the new home, whether you are upsizing or downsizing.”

He recommends you don’t rush to fill your home with furniture, and instead focus on the spaces you use every day.

According to Nerdwallet, the best time of year to purchase indoor furniture is in the end of winter (end of January and February) and the end of summer (end of August and September). President’s Day Sales and Labor Day Sales tend to have the best pricing for indoor furniture and decor because retailers are getting ready for new collections to arrive.

Dining room

  • Dining set: Cost Plus World Market (tables starting at $399, chairs at $99 for a set of 2) features styles from all over the world, while Room and Board (tables starting at $459, chairs at $129) specializes in furniture made in the USA and IKEA (tables starting at $39, chairs at $12.50) is our favorite way to seat the most number of guests in a stylish yet affordable way, offering washable slipcovers and different wood colors.
  • Buffet/storage: For a statement piece, visit The Blackout Company (price varies per commission), specializing in upcycled furniture or check out your local listings for furniture consignment to find classic lines and quality furniture.
  • Rug: For vintage, second-hand rugs, visit Sister Golden (starting at $299) or New England Loom (starting at $475). For stylish machine washable or family-proven rugs, visit Ruggable (starting at $199) or Annie Selke’s Dash and Albert (starting at $232) page.
  • Lighting: Urban Outfitters (starting at $10) might sound like an unexpected choice, but their home department has recently had a revamp that’s worth exploring. IKEA (starting at $8.99) has also really stepped up their variety and selection beyond the traditional paper lamps into exciting new shapes at their usual great prices.

Living room

  • Sofa and sitting: AllModern is a Wayfair-owned company specializing in modern lines and offering free shipping on any purchase over $49. Their Tia Leather Sofa ($1300) has transitional lines. Article is an online retailer offering modern lines and great textiles. Their Sven sectional is a great fit for young families and retails for $2099. Joybird offers responsibly sourced materials and more customized lines to fit your specific relaxation needs. Their Eliot Sleeper Sofa ($3233) is a top seller and offers a variety of different styles and colors.
  • Coffee table: Nadeau, a favorite of HGTV stars like the Property Brothers, has locations nationwide and offers solid wood, distinctive pieces. Furniture is only available at brick and mortar locations.
  • Rug: For vintage, second-hand rugs, visit Sister Golden (starting at $299) or New England Loom (starting at $475). For stylish machine washable or family-proven rugs, visit Ruggable (starting at $199) or Annie Selke’s Dash and Albert (starting at $232) page.
  • Lighting: Homegoods is a great resource for brand name products at a steep discount from their retail value, no sales available online. Pottery Barn is a more traditional choice, but their statement pieces tend to be conversation starters. The Murano Metal and Glass Table Lamps come in two sizes and start at $209.
  • TV: The best time of the year to purchase a new TV is the weeks leading up to the Superbowl with retailers like Target and Best Buy putting up their best deals in home theater equipment leading up to the big game. Wirecutters calls the TCL 65” Class 6-Series 4K UHD Mini-LED QLED Dolby Vision HDR Roku Smart TV the best buy for 2021 at $899.
A bedroom in a new home with a shopping list.
Source: (Sidekix Media / Unsplash)

Bedroom

Your bedroom is a sanctuary. And moving is a great time to assess your sleeping arrangements.

  • Mattress: If you’re considering putting a new mattress in your list, May is the best time to purchase a new mattress according to Sleep Advisor. Prices on a new mattress will range depending on the type of mattress (inner coils, memory foam or latex) and average between $750 and $2,000. Denver Mattress is a good choice for inner coil mattresses, completely made in the United States. Casper offers memory foam mattresses with a 100 night warranty or your money back. Idle sells latex mattresses online and in a variety of brick-and-mortar locations nationwide.
  • Bed: The focal point of the room, your bed is what you build your entire bedroom experience around. Crate and Barrel (starting at $699) offers a great mix of materials and models for any budget and a flat fee delivery. Ashley Furniture (starting at $142.99) offers a line of more traditional models and 690 showrooms in North America.
  • Pillows: Good Housekeeping ranks the  Coop Home Goods – Premium Adjustable Loft Pillow ($59.99) as the best purchase for your money. It’s also machine washable and offers an adjustable amount of filling.
  • Closet organizer: From the Container Store (starting at $1212 for the Elfa Classic 8′ White Reach-In Closet) Elfa collection of built in closet organization, to the Rubbermaid Configurations Closet Kits ($96.07), there’s a customized storage solution so you can reach your organization goals.

Bathroom

  • Shower curtain: Anthropologie offers an unexpectedly colorful line of shower curtains in natural woven materials. A favorite is the Hotel Magique at $58.
  • Bath mats: JC Penney features a great selection of bath mats and matching towel sets at fantastic prices. Or you can choose a bathroom starter kit that includes Bath Rugs, Shower Curtain and Curtain hooks for $34.

Maintenance

One quick visit to your favorite home improvement store can set you up for success in the maintenance department.

A smart lock for a new home.
Source: (Sebastian Scholz (Nuki) / Unsplash)

Smart home upgrades

This is the area where Waldner sees the most new homeowner mistakes.

“Some people will go overboard. Where you might use three to four cameras, they will install 20. Yes, you might want to teach Alexa how to turn some lights on with a voice command, but not every single light in your home needs to be smart.”

His best advice for tech aficionados? “Wait to live in the house for a few months, and only purchase what you really need.”

  • Smart Lock: The Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro ($179) is bluetooth enabled with fingerprint recognition and Touchscreen that pairs up with a mobile app.
  • Alarm: Depending on your level of comfort you can hire out a company like Xfinity to install and monitor your alarm or you could opt-in for the Nest Secure Alarm system that you can install yourself with an optional monthly monitoring contract.
  • Doorbell camera: Keep your deliveries safe with a doorbell camera. The two most popular brands are Ring and Nest Hello.

Hopefully this list will give you something to think about when putting your finishing touches on the moving plan. If you want to read more about moving, check out our list of the best moving hacks.

Header Image Source: (Sidekix Media / Unsplash)

We’ve created a new home shopping list, divided by room, complete with all the essentials you should keep in mind for the home you’re about to occupy.HomeLight Blog

8 Factors that Influence How Fast Your Home Will SellMatthew StalcupHomeLight Blog

Wondering “how fast will my home sell?” You’re not alone. Many people who decide to sell their home are eager to get the job done as soon as possible but aren’t sure exactly how long the process will take from start to finish.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) shares that the average property sold within 21 days of listing in 2020. Mortgage giant Ellie Mae reports that the average home loan purchase takes 46 days. Altogether, this puts the average time from listing to closing at around two months.

However, generalized data points don’t give sellers a full picture of the home sale timeline or account for your specific situation. If you want a more precise projection of how fast your home will sell, there are several factors to consider. We dug into research and consulted a top real estate agent to provide you with the eight factors that determine how quickly your home will sell.

A city where a home can sell fast.
Source: (Matt Jones / Unsplash)

1. The average sale times for your area

One major factor influencing how fast your home will sell is location. This is true on a macro level, with homes in some cities selling up to 13% faster than the national average.

On a micro level, your neighborhood and property’s proximity to schools, parks, and other amenities also has a significant impact. Amy Zeits Bailey, a top-selling real estate agent in Louisville, KY, with more than 33 years of experience, comments:

“It’s just like the old adage, ‘location, location, location.’ Homes that are in particularly desirable neighborhoods or near good schools can sell within hours.”

To look up how long it usually takes for a home to sell in your city, you can use HomeLight’s Best Time to Sell Calculator. For a more accurate estimate that takes your specific location into account, reach out to a local real estate agent. An agent with years of experience selling in your area will have an intimate knowledge of how quickly homes like yours sell in your area.

2. Local housing supply and demand

As with any marketplace interaction, home sales are heavily influenced by the balance of supply and demand. When the demand (buyer pool) is greater than the supply (houses), homes tend to sell faster, and vice versa when the opposite is true.

Nationally, the inventory of available single-family homes has reached a five-year-low and is unlikely to recover anytime soon, according to Bloomberg. Likewise, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) estimates that new home construction will not increase during 2021, based on the availability and cost of building materials. On the ground, 87% of agents in HomeLight’s most recent 2020 Top Agents Survey agree that inventory is lower than expected, compared to 47% of agents asked a year prior. However, specific circumstances like a new housing development in your neighborhood might make you the exception that proves the rule.

Buyer demand also influences how quickly homes sell. Nationally, buyer demand is currently high due to record low mortgage rates. Other factors that influence demand include population growth and economic factors such as job growth rate.

Again, these data points are helpful, but general trends can’t exactly describe your situation. For example, Bailey shares that commuters usually want to live within a half-hour of their workplace. So, if a new business or school has recently opened near your home, people will almost certainly want to move into your neighborhood, increasing demand and leading to quicker sales.

3. The condition of your property

A 2020 survey from Coldwell Banker found that 80% of Americans say they’d prefer to buy a move-in ready home that doesn’t require any renovations. Similarly, NAR’s 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers reports that only 6% of buyers say they are looking for a fixer-upper type property. So, if your home isn’t in excellent condition, you’ll have a smaller pool of potential buyers, increasing your probable overall sale time.

Furthermore, if your home is in poor condition, you may run into unknown repair issues during the inspection process. The NAR’s 2020 Confidence index shows that 16% of closing delays are due to home inspection issues. Not to mention, some buyers will walk away from a deal entirely if the inspection reveals that the house needs major repairs.

A bedroom in home that will sell fast.
Source: (Jason Boyd / Pexels)

4. Staging and cosmetic appearance

Your home’s appearance also influences how fast it will sell. You’ll want to make your property look as inviting as possible with light cosmetic upgrades such as fresh paint, decluttering, deep cleaning, and staging.

The Real Estate Staging Association reports that staged homes typically sell 73% faster than non-staged homes. HomeLight’s Top Agent Insight Report echoes this finding, with 83% of agents agreeing that a staged home sells faster than an unstaged home; over 21% of agents say staged homes sell as much as 6% to 10% faster.

“A professional stager can come in and make a huge difference,” Bailey comments. “They have a great eye for it and often have props that they can bring in to bring out your home’s best features.”

5. Your listing price

Listing price plays a key role in how fast your home will sell. In HomeLight’s report, 70% of top agents agree that overpricing is one of the biggest mistakes sellers make. If you price your home significantly above market value, you’ll receive fewer offers, meaning your home will likely take longer to sell than if you priced it accurately. Additionally, an overpriced home may not appear in your target buyers’ online searches if they set the upper price limit filter below your listing price.

On the other hand, listing your home too far below its value can cause buyers to worry that something is wrong with it.

Bailey suggests pricing your home slightly below its fair market value (within 5%) to entice buyers looking for a good deal. Not only will this speed up your home sale, but it can also start a bidding war, potentially netting you even more money for your sale. Our 2020 Top Agent’s Survey found that 87% of homes sell for higher than asking price after a bidding war.

6. The expertise of your real estate agent

Your real estate agent is critical to a quick sale. They’ll help you pinpoint a competitive listing price and market your home effectively to reach buyers. Your agent will also guide you through paperwork, pricing strategies, preparations and repairs, and all of the other hard work involved in selling a home.

Your agent’s expertise in these tasks influences your home sale timeline. Our research shows that the top 5% of real estate agents sell homes for as much as 10% more than the average agent. To find a real estate agent in your area who has a proven record of quick sales, plug your home details into HomeLight’s Agent Finder.

7. Your standards for accepting an offer

At the end of the day, the seller holds the reins on whether or not to accept an offer for their home. Sellers who are focused on getting the highest price possible might choose to wait until they receive the perfect offer. Sellers who want to sell as fast as possible may accept an offer  quickly and attempt to negotiate the terms in their favor.

The strength of the offer you accept also plays a role in how fast your home will sell. Generally speaking, cash offers close faster than mortgage-backed offers since it takes time for a lender to process a buyer’s loan application. According to the NAR, issues with financing cause 35% of closing delays.

A seller meeting with a buyer to sell a home fast.
Source: (Kaleidico / Unsplash)

8. Whether you sell to a traditional buyer or a direct-buyer

According to NAR, 89% of sellers choose to sell their home on the market to a traditional buyer. However, sellers who prioritize speed and convenience over net proceeds may consider selling their home to a direct-buyer instead. Direct-buyers such as buy-and-hold investors, iBuyers, and fix-and-flippers, purchase homes as-is for cash. This means, as a seller, you bypass pre-listing prep work like decluttering, staging, or managing repairs, shaving weeks to two months off the selling timeline. In most cases, sales to investors close within two weeks.

If you want to see what a cash buyer would pay for your home, plug your home details into HomeLight’s Simple Sale. We’ll gather cash offers from our network of pre-approved buyers and connect you with the highest bidding buyer within 48 hours. We’ll also show you a side-by-side comparison against an estimate of how much you could sell your house for on the market with the help of a top agent.

Header Image Source: (Peter Yost / Unsplash)

Wondering how fast will my home sell? We break down 9 influential factors that impact the speed of your sale.HomeLight Blog

32 Ways to Amplify Curb Appeal for Selling Your HomeLori LovelyHomeLight Blog

Buyers scroll past houses lacking star-quality curb appeal. To catch their attention, take a note out of Hollywood’s book and make your home exude elegance, sophistication, and glamour.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 96% of real estate agents advise improving curb appeal before sellers list their home for sale, while 99% believe curb appeal is essential for attracting buyers.

Not only does beautiful curb appeal lure buyers in, but it also encourages them to offer more money for your home. In HomeLight’s recent Top Agent Insights report, 94% of agents agree that buyers are willing to pay more for houses with great curb appeal.

No matter the size of your lot or the style of your house, you can create curb appeal for selling your home that will dazzle buyers and earn a worthwhile return on investment. Here are 32 tips and tricks to design a show-stopping exterior.

A pressure washer used to improve curb appeal.
Source: (sbw18 / Shutterstock)

Scrub-a-dub-dub: Start with a deep clean

Beautiful curb appeal for selling your home begins with the most basic home improvement principle: cleaning. Dirt and grime turn-off buyers and can make your home appear in worse condition than it truly is. If your exterior can’t be new, at least make it shine like new.

“It’s important that sellers clean. Buyers make judgments quickly. If they see blatant neglect, they’re critical,” says Don Hammons, a top agent who works with 80% more single-family homes than the average agent in Bellingham, WA. 

Clean up your curb appeal in four simple steps:

1. Rent a pressure washer to power wash the siding, windows, and gutters. Don’t forget to blast the sidewalk, porch, and deck.

2. Wash the windows, inside and out. Hammons suggests removing the screens if they’re not in good condition and storing them for the new owner.

3. Got mold? There are many spray-and-forget-it products made for vinyl siding that attach to your garden hose and allow you to reach the high spots without a ladder.

4. Tidy up your yard and remove clutter, debris, and dead leaves. You don’t have to lift that barge or tote that bale — just think of it as housekeeping for the outdoors.

Give those green thumbs a workout

And if your thumbs aren’t green, hire a professional lawn care service. Basic mowing, trimming, and edging costs $30 to $80, depending on where you live and how big your yard is. Whether you hire a crew or do it yourself, go beyond merely mowing the lawn to make a lasting first impression.

5. Green up your grass by regularly mowing, fertilizing, and watering the lawn. In NAR’s report, 75% of real estate agents advise their sellers to implement a lawn care routine before listing. A professional weed-and-feed program typically reaps 303% ROI.

6. To avoid excess watering in drier regions, invest in a drip irrigation system. Or, add native plants that require little water to thrive in your local area.

7. In HomeLight’s recent Top Agent Insights Report,  84% of real estate agents suggest adding fresh mulch when listing. Top your beds with two inches of mulch to make beds look fresh and tidy, reduce the need for watering, help ward off weeds, and add nutrients to the soil. Ask your agent what type of mulch buyers prefer in your region. For instance, in the Northeast, homeowners prefer to use wood chips as mulch, and in the South, homeowners often use pine straw. Hammons also recommends cedar mulch for its lovely aroma.

8. Show them the way with a stone paver walkway that winds its way to your entrance. NAR estimates a 105% ROI on adding a stone path. For an affordable alternative, use precast concrete pavers — they’re just as charming as natural flagstones but require less maintenance. 

A house for sale with curb appeal.
Source: (Artazum / Shutterstock)

Entrances should go beyond entry-level

Just like the princess at the ball, make your entrance spectacular. Make it stand out. Make it unique. Above all, make it inviting. If buyers feel welcomed, they’ll want to go inside to see more.

9. Create a calling card for your home by painting the front door a magnificent stand-out color. Yellow, red, and blue are popular door colors, attracting your buyer’s eye to your entry. 

10. Hammons recommends installing a smart doorbell to appeal to buyers who love high-tech items. “It’s the little things,” he notes, commenting that the sum of small details creates great curb appeal for selling your home.

11. Install some look-at-me house numbers — an easy DIY project for the handy homeowner. New house numbers look smart and will help buyers identify your home.

12. Add a new doormat. It’s one of the most inexpensive spruce-ups you can do.  Avoid cutesy designs and silly messages. Stick to a classic, appropriately sized mat that’s at least 80% of the width of the front door.

13. Invite buyers to put their feet up with an inviting seating area on the front porch. For a little country charm, add a porch swing or some rocking chairs and a little table for refreshments. As Hammons points out, a porch swing or a mini bistro set is good for staging, photos, ambiance, and generating an emotional attachment with the buyer.

14. Don’t forget to clean, paint, repair or replace porch fixtures while you’re at it. Brass and copper fixtures resist corrosion better than aluminum fixtures.

Design a lush landscape that complements your home

Evaluate your landscaping. It should enhance, not hide, your home’s best features. Commonly referred to as “softscape,” adding greenery can pay off with a full return on investment, according to NAR. For example, seeding a bare lawn recoups 417% of costs, while sod returns 143% of costs.

15. Add — don’t give — shade. Improve curb appeal with showy, easy-care trees that offer spring or fall color, such as crepe myrtle, red maple, magnolia or weeping cherry.

16. Trees and shrubs are attractive, but not if they’re overgrown. Trim dead limbs using a pole saw or hire a professional to groom the tree for you. Trim back plants to keep doors, windows, and walkways clear. If a tree is blocking the view or is simply too overgrown, it may be best to remove it.

17. Drag out the electric hedge clippers to whittle those bushy bushes into shape. Just keep in mind that some shrubs such as junipers, spruces, and cedars don’t like pruning.

Everything’s coming up roses: Plant some flowers

Foundation plantings are crucial, but sometimes it’s the little details that make the difference. Cheery flowers can brighten even the darkest doorstep and make a buyer smile. Fragrant flowers are an added touch to appeal to a buyer’s senses.

“I tell clients to do what’s in your heart,” Hammons says. He suggests adding potted plants on the front porch, unless the house is vacant with no one to care for them.

18. Plant flowers: it’s one of the easiest curb appeal projects you can do to pretty-up a house. In addition to adding clusters of colorful annuals to the beds around your house, take a twist on a traditional idea with paintable, self-watering PVC window boxes that won’t rot. You can paint them to match your color scheme.

19. Add variety to your plantings. Depending on your planting zone and the amount of light you get, you can mix flowering shrubs, bulbs, perennials, and annuals.

20. Add a mixture of heights, textures, and types of compatible plants for a cohesive look with long-lasting blooms. Try azaleas and tulips for spring, hydrangeas, roses, daylilies. In the summer opt for petunias. You can also plant hostas in shady spots. Don’t forget to add some flowers around your mailbox.

Bonus curb appeal feats worth considering

If you have the time (and budget), revamp your garage and exterior with the following curb appeal ideas:

21. Refresh your garage door with a new coat of paint that matches the front door, or some carriage door hardware.

22. If your garage door is worn beyond repair, replace it. Adding a new door equals added character to your house. According to Remodeling.com, a new garage door costs around $3,500 and recoups 98% of project costs — that’s a lot of bang for the buck.

23. For that extra detail, Hammons advises sellers to add a WiFi door opener. “You want a quiet garage door opener,” he notes.

24. Stone the exterior with manufactured stone veneer. These thin slices of natural rock or molded cement impart an upscale look that mimics real stone construction at a fraction of the cost. 

A house with lighting that increases curb appeal.
Source: (Breadmaker / Shutterstock)

Lighten up, brighten up

If buyers can’t see your home’s exterior in the dark, they’re not going to want to go in. Lighting is a safety issue as well as an aesthetic one. The right lighting can make your home as inviting at night as it is during the day — not to mention look incredible in evening listing photos.

“Lighting is very important for marketing,” Hammons says. He prefers brighter lights in warmer tones for a cozy feel and reminds sellers that all bulbs should match.

25. Light the way with solar or low-voltage lights along the driveway and sidewalks to guide guests securely to the entrance.  “Solar is inexpensive,” Hammons observes.

26. An alternative to installing lights adjacent to the pathway is to place solar-powered spotlights in the flower beds, aimed at the sidewalk. 

27. Moonlighting, or downlighting, is another way to shed light on a pathway. Place solar spots in a tree or porch rafter to light it up.

28. Illuminate key features with strategically placed spotlights to highlight your home’s architecture. Add hard-wired uplighting to show off a specimen tree.  

29. Add sconces or ceiling lights to your front porch for a welcoming glow.

Add flair with some decorative details

Have a little fun with accessorizing your front yard and porch – just don’t go too far. “Get rid of things that turn off buyers,” Hammons advises. “Neutralize.” There’s a fine line between adding items that buyers identify with to create that emotional investment and cluttered or even “kitschy.”

Whatever you add, Hammons says it should be quality: “People remember high quality. They can see and feel it.”

30. Incorporate a yard ornament, such as a gazing ball or a bird feeder.

31. Decorate for the seasons with a grapevine wreath on the door in the autumn or an evergreen garland in the winter. A Halloween pumpkin adds a familiar, whimsical touch. Just remember not to overdo it. 

32. Add a new garden hose in an ornate reel to appeal to buyers who love to garden.

A home with curb appeal that will be selling.
Source: (Tim Arnold / Unsplash)

Curb appeal for selling your home is easy

There are endless opportunities to improve your curb appeal for selling your home. With some ingenuity and elbow grease (or the help of professionals), you can transform your home into the star of the show.

Header Image Source: (Artazum / Shutterstock)

There are endless opportunities when it comes to curb appeal for selling your home. We’ve outlined 32 easy and effective ways to turn up the charm and rope in buyers.HomeLight Blog

What Is Eminent Domain? The Government Can Force You to Sell Your HomeAlesandra DubinHomeLight Blog

Disclaimer: Information in this blog post is meant to be used as a helpful guide and for educational purposes only, not legal advice. If you need assistance with an eminent domain situation, please contact a skilled real estate attorney.

A freeway expansion, a bridge project, a new sports arena, an updated power plant — the government is initiating a new community project . . . on your land. Crazy as it sounds, the government has the constitutional right to acquire your land for public use so long as it pays just compensation for it through what is known as eminent domain.

If you’re subject to eminent domain, you need to learn your legal rights to resolve the situation in the most favorable way possible. We’ll help you get started with a clear-cut breakdown of eminent domain, informed by advice from real estate attorneys from across the U.S.

The Washington Monument which is near a house with eminent domain.
Source: (Clay Banks / Unsplash)

The Fifth Amendment outlines eminent domain

The Constitution’s Fifth Amendment grants the government the right to eminent domain in a provision that states, “private property shall not be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Let’s break down these terms:

Just compensation

Whether federal or state, the government can seize private property if it pays the owner the equivalent of its fair market value. But that’s not an objective figure understood by all parties. Rather, fair market value generally means the sale price that a willing and well-informed buyer would pay to purchase the property on the open market. The amendment also grants property owners the right to challenge the legality of the seizure.

“‘Just compensation’ is a fluid concept and depends on the art of valuation and the costs everyone will invest in litigating,” shares Rajeh A. Saadeh, a New Jersey-based real estate attorney, investor, professor, and an expert on the subject of eminent domain.

Public use

The government can only justify eminent domain if it is seizing private land for public use. Public use includes projects like roadways, bridges, public parks, buildings, schools, and facilities like water, power, and gas. The government may also employ eminent domain in wartime for defense reasons.

Beyond these purposes, public use remains a somewhat fluid concept that may apply to other government projects, as well. In a 2005 ruling, for instance, the Supreme Court ruled that “public use” extends to general benefits a community would enjoy from a boost in economic development. However, in 2006, the Minnesota state legislature enacted a law that prevented eminent domain seizures based on economic benefit alone.

Here’s an overview of the eminent domain process

If you’re the subject of eminent domain, here’s a preview of the events to come:

  1. The government agency first inspects the property to determine fair market value. HUD guidance stipulates that the fair market value “should be determined by an independent state-licensed or state-certified appraiser.” As the homeowner, you will receive notice of the appraisal, so you or your real estate agent may accompany the appraiser while they evaluate your home.
  2. As the homeowner, obtain a copy of the appraisal so you can anticipate the government’s offer and plan with your attorney accordingly.
  3. The government will make you an offer at or above the appraiser’s assessed fair market value, typically within 45 to 60 days following the appraisal. The offer will include a “summary statement” explaining the basis for the offer.
  4. Once you receive the offer, you may negotiate with the agency until both parties reach a satisfactory agreement. You’ll sign a purchase contract and receive payment at a mutually acceptable time.
  5. If you’re unable to reach an agreement, the agency may file a lawsuit to acquire your property through an eminent domain proceeding in court. You have the right to receive notice of the proceeding and the right to a fair hearing before the award is made final. Typically, notice must be sent 90 days before the hearing if the property is occupied, or 60 days before if it is not.
A person negotiating about eminent domain.
Source: (Romain V / Unsplash)

You can negotiate for a higher sale price and better terms

As soon as you receive notice of eminent domain, contact a lawyer who is well versed in real estate law. Your attorney will serve as the liaison between you and government representatives. They’ll negotiate on your behalf to secure the best offer possible and represent you in court if both parties cannot reach an agreement.

“Always negotiate with the government when you are in an eminent domain situation. Many individuals often forget that the government has a budget and could easily exceed a property’s worth,” advises Carlos Del Rio, a real estate attorney in Chicago.

Here are some of the items your lawyer can help you negotiate:

To negotiate the best price possible, you should also hire a top real estate agent to help you identify your home’s fair market value. Your agent will conduct a comparative market analysis, which targets the value of your home by evaluating properties similar to it (these are called “comparables,” or “comps” for short). They can then provide these comps to the appraiser to encourage a higher appraised value for your home.

“A real estate agent is a great investment here because they will know the current market and will know what homes are selling for based on the government’s recent investment in your neighborhood,” Del Rio comments.

Weigh professional fees with the reward

On average, real estate attorneys charge between $150 to $350 per hour for their services, though the cost may be higher depending on the attorney’s experience. You’ll need to weigh the cost of those fees against the potential payoff to determine if hiring an attorney is beneficial for your situation.

In some cases, the cost is well worth the reward. Andrew Winters, attorney and co-founder of the New Hampshire-based firm Cohen & Winters, shares how he supported a homeowner with an elderly tenant in an eminent domain instance: “The initial offering to the landlord of $50,000 was increased to $200,000 plus $51,000 in compensation to relocate the 93-year-old tenant.”

A cabin that has eminent domain.
Source: (Lili Kovac / Unsplash)

Homeowners rarely fight off eminent domain

If you’re dead set against selling your property to the government, you have the right to fight eminent domain in court. However, the only way to pull off this feat is to prove the government does not plan to use your land for justified public use — an unlikely outcome.

“Provided that the government complied with procedural requirements to exercise the power of eminent domain, it is generally very difficult to overcome a claim that the taking is for public use,” explains Saadeh.

In layman’s terms, this means that the government needs to go through layers of internal approval to initiate the eminent domain process. By the time the homeowner is involved, the government’s case is usually airtight — making it extremely tough for the homeowner to fight.

So, if you find yourself in an eminent domain situation, your best bet is to lawyer up, get a skilled real estate agent on your team, and work to negotiate the best price and terms you possibly can in the deal.

Header Image Source: (Ben Turnbull / Unsplash)

If you’re subject to eminent domain, the government has the right to purchase your land for public use. It’s hard to fight eminent domain, but you can spin it in your favor.HomeLight Blog

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